What Does It Mean To Be An Agent of Change?

Agents of Change is a beloved tradition among EP Alums. They gather to reconnect, hear from transformational leaders in education, and leave feeling inspired and renewed to be agents of change. In Chicago, the EP Chicago Alumni Board has amplified this annual event to celebrate the impact of our most EPic Chicago Alumni and EP Chicago’s work to drive improved educational outcomes for students. This event is open to all and happening on Friday, June 14, 2019. Save the date and join us!

As a middle school teacher for fifteen years I'd often tell my students that if we all worked on trying to make a difference in the world, the world would ultimately be a much better place. As we discussed rights and the way people have fought and continue to fight for equity, we talked about how we could be a change agent in helping to make that happen. We discussed the power of one person starting a movement and how that often leads to the power of many people making a change.

When asked by Education Pioneers what it means to be an agent of change, I think the motto I taught my students, “find your passion and act on it” embodies my definition. An agent of change is someone who sees a problem in their community, large or small, and does something to take action for substantial change. This person is someone who listens to the people in the community where the issue exists and makes sure that they truly understand the root of the problem before implementing a new idea. This person is someone who is willing to take risks and doesn’t always claim to know the answer. They are willing to ask hard questions and help find creative solutions. An agent of change has the courage to think outside the box and makes an impact that is greater than themself.

As we get ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Education PIoneers in Chicago, I can’t help but reflect on my own journey over the last ten years. Ten years ago I had just had my second child, John, joining my daughter, Molly, who was almost two at the time. I was teaching seventh grade social studies and comfortable in that work, which was good because the journey of parenting was challenging enough. I wasn’t taking any significant risks in my work life but still felt good about the impact I was making. When I returned to the classroom in August 2009, I didn’t realize I would have the opportunity to support many agents of change. My students that year learned about child labor in my class and wanted to do something more than just discuss it and feel sad. They translated that sadness into action by writing letters to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and ultimately, creating a service organization (Aiding Children Together) that mobilized a community and ultimately raised over $20,000 in less than five years for A Better Life for Kids, an organization that supports children and families in Ghana. I joined the board of directors, and in this last year, traveled to Ghana to see the impact of the organization my students founded.

I left teaching in 2015 to follow my passion at another nonprofit, Umoja Student Development Corporation, as a Social Emotional Learning Manager.  This work and continued thirst to learn more led me to a Fellowship at Education Pioneers and a recent appointment to their Chicago Alumni board. It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the last ten years, but it certainly makes me excited to see what happens next.

JENNIFER CIOK, 2018 EP Fellow. Jennifer is a former teacher and now works at Umoja Student Development Corporation at an Social Emotional Learning Manager.

2019 Chicago Alumni Board members submitted their own definitions for what they believe it means to be an Agent of Change:

“An agent of change believes that continuous improvement is required for lasting, meaningful impact and recognizes that complacency is the enemy of progress. He/she faces the toughest of challenges with determination, zeal, openness, and commitment to ensure that the future is filled with opportunity and promise for everyone.”

—  BRIANNA TERRELL, 2017 EP Fellow

“An agent of change is someone who recognizes that we can do better or that a problem needs to be solved. S/he is able to craft a roadmap for change while galvanizing people, gathering resources, and generating the will to see it through.”

—  CAROL LARSON, 2018 EP Fellow

Carol is a former teacher, researcher, and school administrator. She is currently working as a consultant.

"An agent of change is a transformational leader working tirelessly to make bold ideas a reality in order to create a more equitable, effective educational system. Regardless of their background or job profession, these trailblazers are making an impact to improve the lives of students across the region and beyond."

-— EMMA LOFGREN, 2018 EP Fellow

Emma is a graduate student at the University of Chicago pursuing a joint-degree in Business Administration and Public Policy, she hopes to return to the public sector after graduation. 

“An agent of change is someone who is willing to stand in the gap, spark tough conversations, and encourage their network to improve our system for the greater good. These galvanizing leaders empower their peers, stakeholders and partners to join the coalition that moves the needle toward equitable change from neighborhood to city to state.”


Rashida is the Associate of Data & Policy at The Chicago Public Education Fund.

"An agent of change is someone who doesn’t let fear stop them from standing in their truth. They are both a lover and a fighter. They know hard things are hard, yet they persevere. They balance diplomacy with an ability to have the hard conversations, and meeting people where they are. They not only pursue their truth and destiny relentlessly, but also help others fulfill theirs."


Patricia is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Coly Consulting. She is also a volunteer with Northwestern University’s Career Services Department and with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) with their high school to college transition program, Ascend. 

"An agent of change is someone who identifies areas of need and takes action to address those needs. They work to create change that addresses systemic barriers, but also engage in continuous self-reflection to ensure they maintain an accurate assessment of ways they need to personally grow and improve in order to evolve as an agent of change."

LAUREN KING, 2018 EP Fellow

Lauren is the Quality Improvement Manager at Youth Guidance and also a Co-Facilitator of the YNPN Leadership Institute.




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