Jennifer Early

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?

I work for Teach For America, the organization aimed at building a movement of champions committed to bringing about fundamental changes necessary to ensure excellence and equity education. I entered this work seven years ago because I believe that the absence of universal access to a high-quality education is the civil rights issue of my generation, and I honestly can’t imagine devoting my time and energy to a different problem. I have had the opportunity to hold several different roles in Teach For America’s movement, first as a corps member teaching in San Jose, CA and Brooklyn, then as a program team member designing professional development experiences and corps culture-building events for 1,000 teachers in New York City. Two years ago, I transitioned onto our local development team, where I head up individual giving efforts for New York.

What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?

My strengths lie in relationship building. As a teacher, I focused on building excellent relationships with my students and their families, as well as the other teachers in my school. In my previous roles at Teach For America, I relied heavily on relationships built with other corps members and alumni of the program, as well as partners in the NYC Department of Education. Now I have the opportunity to build alliances and networks among our base of champions in New York.

Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?

  • Lesson #1 – Within every crisis, there is opportunity.
  • Lesson #2 – The foundation of a strong relationship makes positive interactions more productive and negative interactions more manageable.
  • Lesson #3 – Aim high and plan well.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

Learning how to be a good teacher and knowing that I helped lead some of my students onto a completely different academic and life trajectory has been my greatest accomplishment.  I have never worked as hard or been more satisfied, because I know that every ounce of effort I put forth had the potential to provide my students with a greater chance to succeed in life.

What have you learned about politics and civic life through the fellows program?

Before I joined CUP Fellows, I can honestly say I was intimidated by politics and wasn’t sure how to navigate or even enter the political sphere. I have always cared deeply about community service, but most of my engagement happened through the Teach For America network. Through the fellowship, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and engage with elected officials, peers running for office and other key players in New York political landscape.  My key takeaway in this area is that access to political and civic networks and influence is much more open than I previously thought.

What advice would you give someone running for office for the first time?

Apply for the CUP Fellowship!

What do you do in your free time?

I love to travel, and I love spending time with my family and friends in my native state - New Jersey!  I have a fascination with the Latin culture and I am still working to perfect my Spanish skills (a lifelong endeavor).  I love being outdoors and I am currently in the market for a bike.