Melvin Freeman studied physics and mechanical engineering during his undergraduate years. Upon graduation, he took a position in analytics at the Wall Street bank Barclays where he acted as intermediary between client-facing personnel and developers, drafted technical requirements, developed project timelines, and monitored implementation. At the same time, he volunteered and did after-school tutoring at the Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy. Melvin felt that his after-work activities were making an impact, while his day job left him feeling unfulfilled.
At a critical crossroads, Melvin discussed his career reflections with a friend who was also a teacher. That friend encouraged Melvin to check out Education Pioneers and apply to become a Fellow. When Melvin looked into EP, he was elated. He says, “I knew that EP was my way out of the banking world and into the education space where I could make a difference, while still using my analytic and technology skills.
He adds, “The EP program and Fellowship experience lit a fire in me. It re-asserted that I wanted a career in education, while getting me up-to-speed on the important issues in education, connecting me with other Fellows with similar goals, and allowing me to visit schools, attend critical workshops, and talk to education leaders in the field.”
- Data & Analysis
- Program & Project Management
During his Fellowship, Melvin was placed at The Next Step Public Charter School in DC, a school that offers bilingual adult basic education, GED, and ESL programs for all youth between the ages of 16-24. At the school, Melvin was tasked with leveraging his technology and analytics skills to build student information systems to track individual student performance.
Melvin’s experience solidified his hunch that he wanted to make an impact in the education space, but he believes even if he chose to go back to banking, the experience would have been transformative. “I think there is huge value in people working in non-instructional positions and getting the experience of how schools work, even for those who don’t stay working in education. For example, if an accountant does EP, works in a school, and really sees what that looks like, that person is going to be way more invested in education reform overall for the rest of his or her life. I am so appreciative to EP for giving me the big picture landscape of education, locally and nationally.”
Inspired by his work, Melvin did stay at The Next Step Charter School for more than three years as the Director of Data and Analytics. His team designed, built, and maintained data systems while working to fully integrate the digital ecosystem of instructional software, administrative applications, and business intelligence tools with the goal of creating a personalized learning environment for students and increasing staff effectiveness.
Eventually, Melvin hit a ceiling with the amount of new data projects needed at the school and was eager for more meaty assignments. He and five other EP Alumni launched a consulting group in hopes of using their varied skillsets to expand their reach in education. The value proposition was to provide education organizations with solutions to big problems without breaking the bank. The consulting group, called avant-gardED, was successful and the EP Alumni worked in schools across the U.S. and across the pond in London. Melvin enjoyed consulting for almost four years, but eventually began to feel he was not making the long-term impact he hoped for. His consulting projects, like creating a data dashboard, were of a short-term nature and didn’t allow him to see his creations put to use or how they impacted results over time. He says, “I wanted to get inside of an organization and see the long-term impact of my projects.”
Today, Melvin is the Director of Data Strategy at KIPP DC, where he helps KIPP’s 16 DC schools analyze their data. “Schools are big data producers, but they don’t have the time to sift through and analyze it all. I create tools to make it possible for schools to analyze data in real time.”
Melvin finally feels that he is in the right place. He says, “I do this work for my son. I want my son to have equitable access to a high-quality education. I have the opportunity to ensure that happens for him and kids just like him regardless of where they live or what they look like. Every day I work to move education in that direction."