Press Releases | June 27, 2019

The Mind Trust selects Far Eastside community leader to launch independent education advocacy nonprofit for families

Indianapolis – (June 27, 2019) – The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit, today announced the selection of Ashley Virden as its next Education Entrepreneur Fellow. Virden will spend two full years creating an independent nonprofit organization that will engage and empower Indianapolis parents and families to advocate for the changes they believe are needed to ensure that every student, no exceptions, has access to a high-quality school.

“We need a transformational improvement in education, especially for communities of color, and we cannot make this happen without giving parents and families a true seat at the table,” says Ashley Virden. “The voice of every parent, family member, and guardian matters, and I’m excited to launch an organization that believes this at its very core.”

As an Education Entrepreneur Fellow, Virden will receive two full years of planning time and resources to launch her independent nonprofit. She will receive extensive training in organizing from national experts and visit top grassroots organizers across the country. She will receive salary, benefits, and customized training for the duration of the fellowship.

“We are very excited to have Ashley as our fellow,” said Shannon Williams, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement at The Mind Trust. “Ashley has a true passion for advocacy and a demonstrated history of organizing in her community. As a mother of three school-aged children, she is also navigating the education landscape in real time. All of these combined factors and many more will serve her well during this fellowship.”

Brandon Brown, CEO of The Mind Trust, said Virden is exactly the type of individual the organization wants to invest in.

“Ashley is a natural leader who deeply understands the power of families advocating for high-quality schools. The Mind Trust is committed to empowering those who are most impacted by systemic inequities to lead the charge for educational excellence, and selecting Ashley as an Education Entrepreneur Fellow is one critical step toward making that goal a reality.”

About Ashley Virden

Ashley Virden is an authentic and self-trained community builder whose entrepreneurial spirit has positioned her as a rising neighborhood leader on Indianapolis’ Far Eastside. When she experienced challenges in her neighborhood and saw an increase in crime, she co-founded Dubarry Determined, a neighborhood association that mobilized community members to get involved in a proactive manner. Similarly, she built the parent-teacher organization at her children’s school from the ground up after seeing the benefits of her own engagement in her children’s classroom. Virden is a single mother of three elementary-aged children who attend Tindley Summit Academy. She served as co-president of the Far Eastside Community Council and currently is co-chair of advocacy for the Indianapolis Urban League’s young professionals organization, The Exchange. She is a graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools. She is the recipient of a Wayfinder Community Activist Fellowship and an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellowship. She volunteers at a number of local community organizations.

Virden was chosen as the result of a six-month selection process that included applicants from across the country. She was interviewed and selected by a committee comprised of the following local and national leaders in education and community organizing:

  • Cassandra Anderson, Community Engagement Manager, UNCF
  • Jose Arenas, VP of Community Organizing, Innovate Public Schools
  • Brandon Brown, CEO, The Mind Trust
  • Chanda Causer, Founder, Shape Your State
  • Tamara Winfrey Harris, VP of Community Leadership and Effective Philanthropy, CICF
  • Bryan Morten, Executive Director and Founder, Parents for Great Camden Schools
  • Earl Phalen, CEO and Founder, Phalen Leadership Academy
  • Shannon Williams, Senior VP of Community Engagement, The Mind Trust

The Mind Trust’s most recent Education Entrepreneur Fellowships supported the launch of Enroll Indy and the Center for Innovative Education Solutions. Founded in 2016, Enroll Indy is an independent nonprofit that provides Indianapolis families with a one-stop enrollment process through its OneMatch application. Launched in 2018, the Center for Innovation Education Solutions is an independent nonprofit center that provides charter schools and Innovation Network Schools access to high-quality, cost-effective operations, financial, and state reporting services to maximize school leaders’ time for instructional leadership.

About The Mind Trust

The Mind Trust is an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit that works to build a system of schools that gives every student in Indianapolis, no exceptions, access to a high-quality education. The Mind Trust does this by building a supportive environment for schools through policy and community engagement, empowering talented educators to launch new schools, and providing existing schools with the supports they need to hire world-class talent and achieve excellence. Since 2006, The Mind Trust has supported the launch of 29 schools and helped place more than 1,400 teachers and school leaders in Indianapolis classrooms. More information can be found at