Blog | December 2, 2020

Advocating for all children: a conversation with Chelsea S. Reed

This is the third story in a series titled “Pandemic on the Mind” where we explore the experiences of our staff during the coronavirus pandemic through a professional and personal lens.

Role: Manager of External Communications

Joined The Mind Trust: February, 2020

New year, new job. For Chelsea S. Reed, 2020 started off full of possibility and excitement. Following nearly two decades of work in marketing and public relations for organizations like Zion Hope Church, Indiana Black Expo, and the Indiana Repertory Theater, Chelsea was eager to bring her talents to bear on education in her new role at The Mind Trust. Yet barely three weeks into the job, the pandemic turned the world, and what she thought her new role might entail, upside down.

“When I came on board I expected to be able to visit schools and build relationships in-person. But with everything that’s happened, I’ve had to build connections from a distance. Lots of emails, lots of phone calls.”

But even as the how of her work shifted, the what and the why remained the same: storytelling about the victories our students and schools are achieving on a regular basis. “It’s so important to tell the story of the work we do. It’s been really neat to have a hand in presenting educational success stories and guiding leaders and educators in telling the story of their schools.”

Arguably, she noted, it’s even more important now for schools to be able to communicate their success stories. “And that can then empower schools to better understand the perspective of their communities and the parents they serve who might not otherwise know about the depth and importance of their work.”

One school whose work stands out to her in light of the pandemic’s challenges is Arlington Woods School 99 operated by Sankofa School of Success, an IPS Innovation Network School led by Innovation School Fellow alumna Tihesha Henderson. Chelsea believes the work they do to address student trauma is critical, citing the difficulties 2020 has brought for everyone. “What is happening right now is traumatic for us as adults. We know there are things that happen that effect kids and they are having to function and push through and learn even as trauma impacts them.”

Sankofa recognizes the barriers trauma creates for students and seeks to address them. Chelsea sees their approach to immersing students in social-emotional learning as a key component. “Sensitivity is intertwined through everything they do; nobody gets singled out or neglected no matter what walk of life they are from.” For Chelsea, Sankofa is one of many schools that prove students don’t have to compromise between receiving a quality education and being cared for as whole humans.

Thinking outside of just Sankofa, Chelsea is struck by how schools and their communities have “worked their tails off” to address 2020’s challenges. Some early examples included Matchbook Learning and Enlace Academy making decisive shifts in the way they served families as they recognized the normal modes of doing school wouldn’t cut it for families. That agility and willingness to meet the community’s needs also showed up in large-scale projects like the Indiana eLearning Lab and Community Learning Sites.

Among The Mind Trust’s team, she’s witnessed a creativity that goes beyond everyone’s core work. “All the work we do is such a team effort, which is why I believe we have been able to achieve the success that we have.” It’s been deeply meaningful for her to see The Mind Trust and other entities around Indianapolis rising to meet this year’s challenges, getting creative when necessary, and remaining committed to serving students through it all.

In considering her hopes for the future of education in Indianapolis, it is impossible for Chelsea not to think of her son, James, who will turn two later this year. “I hope for my son to have a school where he is respected for who he is and where educators encourage him to become the best version of himself he can be.”

But if Chelsea’s career has shown her anything, it’s the importance of advocating for others’ children just like you would for your own. “I wholeheartedly wish that all kids have access to education, opportunities, and experiences that prepare them for the future. When I think of James in daycare or at church, I also want the kids he is with to be enriched and get an excellent education, just like I want that for James. I want to play a role in making that happen.”

Pictured above: Community Learning Site at Christamore House

Read the previous stories in this series: “Innovating during a whole pandemic” and “Equality is not enough.”