ED. Magazine

Study Break: Ryan Shepard, Ed.M.’11

By

Program:
Tool for Change: Advocacy
Hometown: Los Angeles

Kids need to be given chances. Student Government Association president knows this. He’s seen it in the classroom during his two years with Teach For America. He’s seen it in his own life. It’s what drew him to the Ed School. “Access can transform lives,” he says. “I have faced significant obstacles, but my success is a direct result of the chances I have been given.” It started his freshman year in high school, when his parents lost their home in Los Angeles and, for a year, their family, which includes five kids, floated from one relative’s house to another. “It’s one of those things that typically surprises people because the stereotype of homelessness in America tends towards the extreme,” he says. “We were a middle class family with five kids and two hardworking parents who did everything they could to hold things together. Unfortunately, our situation got worse before it got better.” But the next year, his mother helped get him into a program in the city that allowed kids to enroll at high-performing public schools on conditional bases. “El Segundo High School was only 10 minutes from my house, but seemed like a different world. The opportunities at the school were eons greater than the prospects at my assigned school.”

By the time he was a senior, he had moved from remedial math to AP courses, even becoming a math coach for a struggling student. College as a goal seemed, for the first time, possible. He eventually enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta and became, he says, “like a scout” for friends back home who didn’t have the same opportunity to leave but wondered what life could be beyond California.

Your parents struggled but also played a key role in your ability to have chances.
During elementary school I attended a churchsponsored private school that charged about $300 a month. Between my parents working multiple jobs and contributions from my grandparents, my family found a way to make the payment each month. I know how tough it was for my mom to make ends meet, but she never complained. If she had to pick up an extra shift when she worked at McDonald’s or put in overtime on her city job, she did it.

Besides your family, what motivates you?
The moving hands on the clock. It reminds me that good or bad, nothing last forever.

If you could meet with President Obama and convince him to implement one education policy, what would it be?
I think the federal government is limited in its impact on education, but I’d encourage the president to use his influence to promote increased accountability in public education. Race to the Top is a great start.

Most important acronym in the history of education:
NCLB, ESEA, IDEA, other

Lots of U.S. presidents have called themselves the “education president.” Who really was/is?
Obama.

Your long-term plan is:
To move back to Los Angeles. I’d like to dive into local politics as an advocate for education. I haven’t figured out what title I want, but my dream role will allow me to craft and influence policy that improves access to quality education for the most disadvantaged students in L.A.

You’re a big L.A. sports fanatic. If you were starting a new team, Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell?
Wilt. Better scorer and rebounder. Plus he scored 100 points in a game.

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  • Bborders12

    I am very poud of you man. You are going to bring alot back to L.A. I know your mom, dad, and sisters are just glowing because of your achievements. Keep up the transformaion. It’s just began.

  • Brian Braddy

    Yeah boy!!!! Bang bang bang *pops voice*

  • Kennyb_57

    Ryan you continue to amaze me. Everyday you make me proud to say your my son. You are on the the path to do great things. Love You, and I’ll see you on Thursday, another day that you will make me proud of you, Graduating From Harvard University with your Master Degree what else parent ask for. Continue to be the Great Man that Morehouse University taught you to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1589792636 Alfreda Curry-Jackson

    Ryan so proud of you. You have a voice and everyone is listening….Stay True!

  • Tristan

    Good job man… This is winning!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Isata-Yansaneh/35602084 Isata Yansaneh

    Ryan this is so awesome I’m so happy and proud of you!

  • Anthony Jewett

    We’ll be lucky and happy to welcome this gentleman into the ranks of policy maker and education advocate for our kids! Congrats Ryan and great story HGSE team.

  • D Thomas

    Congrats Ryan, I read your article and I am very proud of you! Keep up the work and God will continue to bless you!

  • Misgana

    I really like your response for what motivates you. I can truly relate to the internal clock that indicates our progression, and I feel that in order to reach your purpose you must be intimately insync with that clock. Good luck with the LA move, I know you will make a significant impact in the community.

  • Alharris06

    Congrats, Morehouse brother. I love seeing my Spelhouse fam doing great things, especially in education!

    Alison Harris
    Spelman C’06
    Harvard C’07

  • Abi M.

    All the things you plan to do with your opportunities are really inspiring, Ryan :-) I have no doubts that you serve as a great role model for people in Los Angeles and all around the country. Keep going with your successes, we’ll be here cheering you on!

  • Sean

    Congratulations!

  • Rls357

    Thanks for all the kind words… truly means a lot to hear from you all!

  • vanessa

    what an amazing story!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cece.dunn.90 Cece Littlefeather

    Wow Ryan Your story is truly inspirational, Thanks for sharing it with the world. I am proud of you and I don’t even know you, it gives me hope that someday others can live and achieve their dreams.

  • Man Lu

    Ryan, long time man. I remember you from that time when you came to South Africa in 2008, right in the heart of our beloved township called Katlehong. We toured around with you, Garret, Clayton and Stephaney. I made you guys a dvd from our NPO called NHLUVUKO ENLIGHTENMENT PRODUCTION.

  • Dr. Shari Sweetnam

    Nothing is more powerful to struggling inner city student than stories like yours. Students identify with you, the work ethic of your amazing parents, and the sheer possibility. Thank you for who you are… But an even bigger shout-out to Kenny b – feelin the love!

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