Joshua Thompson – CUP Leadership Spotlight

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

I work in education policy in Newark, New Jersey, with a major focus on Institutional Advancement for Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School, one of the city’s most accomplished and storied institutions.  My focus has always been on education.  I came to my position through my relationships with and guidance from highly respected individuals including the President of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Rachel Robinson; Mayor of Newark Cory A. Booker; former President of the Newark Public School Advisory Board and current Seton Hall Law School Professor Shavar Jeffries; and Headmaster of Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School, Father Edwin Leahy.  My current role was made possible, in many ways, through Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million grant.  I worked intimately with Mayor Booker and Shavar Jeffries on the beginning of community outreach and policy approaches for the city of Newark, as they pertained to this generous and much appreciated gift.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

The biggest challenge of my work is drawing consensus among and connecting influential education leaders.  There are no shortages of public, private, independent, and charter schools that produce great results and have structured wonderful staffs and curricula.  Sadly, they all operate as islands of excellence; that is, there is not enough communication and collaboration between all the networks.  My colleagues and I must continue to strive on harnessing why we entered this profession--namely, for our youth, not for our own egos or self-promotion.  With consistent efforts, we are making progress to bring everyone together.  We need to keep in mind that not only do we need to talk about best practices, but acknowledge our greatest weaknesses to eventually provide the greatest results for our youth.

What is your proudest achievement?

I am most excited about being part of an educational movement and initiative that has created more choice for our youth in the city of Newark.  There is no “quick fix” to the status of America’s public school education, however, creating more opportunities and choice for families is a good place to start.  I am humbled to have been able to play a direct role in creating both awareness and options for Newark’s children.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?

Robert Kennedy.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

As a United States Senator.

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?

To know that your passion can be your life's work, not just your hobby.  Remember that no one has gotten anywhere without a mentor or someone opening a door; if someone tells you differently, then they are not telling the truth.  As you move forward in your own career, remember that young people will always admire you and look for your guidance and help.  Please, always answer their calls.  Maintain a focus that this life is bigger than yourself, as this ethos will ensure that your life has nothing but a positive impact on our society.