Early in June 2013, Daris McInnis embarked on the 15-hour drive from Fort Lee, VA, to New Orleans to begin his Education Pioneers Fellowship – still dressed in military fatigues and combat boots. Only three days after separating as an active duty logistics officer Daris joined EP’s first New Orleans Fellowship cohort.
Five years after joining the army, where he lead 88 people –including cooks, chaplains assistants, medics, the fuel dispensary – Daris sought a different leadership challenge, and one that would impact the lives of students.
While stationed at Fort Lee, Daris had volunteered with local schools and found a love and passion for education. When some schools closed or lost their accreditation, he was deeply affected by it and wondered what would happen to the students. Daris realized then that his purpose was to serve in education.
Education Pioneers provided the support he needed to transition into the sector. “EP was the perfect bridge, and provided me with the critical, hands-on experience in education that served a phenomenal purpose,” he says. “EP staff supported me in my placement, military transition, and overall education experience. And I made lasting connections in the education network and lifelong friends in my cohort. The EP Fellowship experience was one of the best of my life!”
- Strategy & Planning
As an EP Fellow, Daris served at Crescent City Schools in New Orleans, a charter management organization that creates life-changing educational experiences for students by developing open enrollment charter schools to raise student achievement and prepare students for college.
There, he worked with Crescent City Schools’ Chief Operating Officer to launch the Paul Habans Charter School. Daris served as project manager and directed the school’s setup, developed efficient administrative systems, and managed complex logistics and operations.
Working in education, Daris found that he was relying on some of the same skills that made him successful in the military. “In the military, I had to think on my feet while remaining calm,” he explains. “Now when I have to make snap decisions in high-intensity environments in education, I’m prepared.”
Daris appreciated the opportunity to work inside of a school for the very first time. He also used the EP experience to learn whatever he could. “I had the opportunity to pick the brains of education powerhouses throughout New Orleans to learn more about the achievement gap, pedagogical practices, and how to bring my skills into the education space,” he says.
Post-Fellowship, Daris stayed in education as a pre-K resident teacher at The Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Today, he's a doctoral student at Penn Graduate School of Education. He encourages other military leaders who have an interest in education to jump in.
“Everyone in uniform will eventually make the transition back to civilian life, and the process is anything but easy,” he says. “For those like me who are drawn to education in any capacity, I would highly recommend the Education Pioneers Fellowship.”