Annice Fisher knows that when it comes to education, most parents want what’s best for their kids. She experienced it growing up after her mother moved their family from Englewood, a deeply troubled neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, to the North Side so that Annice and her brother could go to better schools.
More recently, Fisher witnessed it after spending 10 months at the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) for her third-year residency, where she helped the famed organization examine student preparation for high school and college, including what was working and what wasn’t. The parents she met there, she says, did what they had to for their families.
“Our parents are hilarious and want what is best for their kids,” she says. “They can be challenging, but when you consider the ecosystem around them — dense poverty, lack of access to resources, gentrification, failing schools, subpar housing — in essence, generations of racism and systemic inequality that surrounds them, I came to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind it all.”
Knowing this motivated her even more during her time in Harlem.
“I felt the pressures of getting it right every day I walked through the St. Nicholas Community Houses to get to work,” she says. “Even with frustrations, I always understood the congruent and competing interests that shape the ecosystem surrounding our children, HCZ, and the Harlem community. With compassion, I led on the line with empathy even while challenging those around me to step out of their comfort zone to prioritize what is best for the students and their families.”
How did you end up at Harlem Children’s Zone? I had a unique background for the Secondary and Collegiate Programs area which focuses on the high school through college pipeline at HCZ. I spent more than 10 years in higher education focused on assessment, academic engagement, student persistence, and leadership development. That coupled with years of leading community-based education programs for low-income African American girls and my most recent work at HGSE around reimagining high schools and PELP (Public Education Leadership Program) made me an attractive hire. … I honestly felt like this was divine intervention because it aligned with why I came to Ed.L.D. and was the topic of my sector-change project from year one of the program. It feels unreal to see how these things were a part of a greater plan and preparation for residency.
What was the biggest reward from your residency? The young people, their families, and the staff at HCZ. I love our kids. They overcome immense odds every day — things I could not imagine handling as an adult. They are full of life and have a bright future ahead of them and it is up to HCZ to deliver high-quality programs and services to ensure they access that future. I see myself in many of their stories so working at HCZ was also personal for me. I didn’t have an HCZ in Chicago so we had to move across the city for a good education. It is beautiful to see a multimillion-dollar school in the middle of the housing projects in New York City, a school that becomes a community center and can be accessed by the entire community.
What initially brought you to the Ed.L.D. Program? I started my career as a higher education administrator. A faculty colleague at UNC-Chapel Hill’s business school encouraged me to consider Ivy League schools for my doctorate. I came across the Ed.L.D. Program while searching for programs. It immediately caught my eye because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program. I came to the diversity preview weekend and it solidified my decision to apply. My interest at the time focused on fixing the leaks in the high school to college pipeline. I saw this program as a vehicle for increasing my understanding of K–12 that would complement my higher ed background. Together, I planned to reimagine the possibilities of creating a P–16 educational pipeline, rather than the current fragmented approach to secondary and postsecondary education.
Why do you think you were chosen to be a marshal this year? Wow, that is a difficult question. I believe my cohort selected me because I served as a bridge builder while simultaneously challenging and supporting the group to have difficult conversations around issues like equity. I also think they saw me as a leader within the HGSE community who advocated for change and attempted to improve our educational experience. I was willing to challenge the system so that everyone could have the opportunity to actualize their full potential. I often encouraged cohort members to have grace with themselves and each other as we developed through our personal mastery work. I am deeply honored to represent cohort 5. I couldn’t imagine this Ed.L.D. journey without this amazing group of individuals. To cohort 5: I love each and every one of you. Our genuine love and care for one another is simply beautiful. With cohort 5 out in the world, I know that educational equity is possible.