WA Charters Launches Aspiring Leaders Program

For Immediate Release | May 28, 2019

Contact | Maggie Meyers at maggie@wacharters.wpenginepowered.com or 724.263.9826

WA Charters Invests in Diverse Leadership for the Future

Seattle, WA—This month, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) announced the launch of the 2019 Aspiring Leaders program – a fellowship model designed to cultivate the next generation of leaders of color in and beyond the state’s charter public school space.

“The fundamental goal of Aspiring Leaders is to develop the capacity of community, business, education, and policy professionals of color to lead within the Washington charter school sector,” said Derek Dias, Family and Community Engagement Manager at WA Charters, who is managing the program, “because representation influences academic and non-academic outcomes for students and diversity within teams catalyzes innovation.”


The 2019 program reflects learnings from previous iterations of Aspiring Leaders led by the organization. In 2017, WA Charters held a community design session in Seattle to listen to members of communities of color about what type of leadership pathways and programming would be most valuable. From this, a model with rich professional development and mentorship components was born.

Aspiring Leaders explore the charter school sector and engage with peers on a six-month learning journey which includes a $2500 professional development stipend, opportunities to visit and work with high-performing charter schools, and networking opportunities with key players in the education sector.

Through meaningful in-person and virtual programming, professional development, 1:1 mentoring, networking opportunities, and support from WA Charters, the Aspiring Leaders program model combines data with real world experience to bolster the knowledge and skills of emerging and future leaders.

By the end of the program, participants will be equipped with the tools to find their place in the Washington charter school sector and may elect to do one or more of the following:

  • Apply for the WA Charters School Leadership and Design Fellowship (SLDF)
  • Apply for 4.0 Schools’ Tiny/Essential Fellowships
  • Apply for a role on a charter school board
  • Apply for an operations, community engagement, or other position at a new or existing charter public school
  • Be an advocate for all public school students and ally for education equity in and beyond the charter public school space

Originally scoped as a cohort of eight individuals, WA Charters received double the number of applications than anticipated, and expanded the cohort to 12 individuals from across the state. Meet the fellows:

  • Alexandra Barraza, Sunnyside
  • Jimmy Brown, Federal Way
  • Carolyn Chuong Holgate, Seattle
  • Maxim Etilé, Tenino
  • Louis Guiden, Jr., Federal Way
  • Aimee Kelley, Seattle
  • Arlando Lara, Wenatchee
  • Charmane Marshall, Bellevue
  • Karla Soto Mullins, Wenatchee
  • Stephen Pham, Seattle
  • Carla Rogenmuser Willard, Tacoma
  • JT Williams, Skyway

Each fellow has been carefully matched with a mentor based on needs, types of expertise, and overlapping interests. 2019 mentors, who all identify as people of color, offer deep local context, broad national experience in education, and experience holding various leadership roles ranging from school leaders and founders to folks that work in the leg and policy arena.

“Community-driven solutions are the best ones,” according to Dias. “By creating real pathways and providing resources for community stakeholders to generate ideas and solutions together, we are at the same time cultivating critical leadership capacity to execute on these solutions.”

Fellows, mentors, and WA Charters spokespeople available on request for interview. To follow developments at WA Charters, visit www.wacharters.org/blog.