My name is Cameo Kendrick. I am honored and ready to work with you as the newly elected Chair of the NEA Aspiring Educators Program. Joining NEA Aspiring Educators has changed my life. Our program has given me the tools, support, knowledge and opportunities to use my voice. Our members have inspired me to not only be a future educator, but to work alongside countless other Aspiring Educator leaders and create the change we want to see in the world.
A class of 2020 graduate, I joined the rest of my peers in a living room ceremony and received my degree in middle school English and social studies from the University of Kentucky. Majoring in education as a woman of color and raising two beautiful daughters on my own, my eyes have been opened to the bigger picture and have shown me my other life's calling. I want to be an advocate for others and for public education. These two callings are intrinsically linked, and I look at public education as a keystone institution in the fight for a more equitable society.
Learning and growing together with my little squad has taught me so much about what education should be, both for them, as well as my own higher educational experience. I strive each day to teach them that they should work hard to reach for their dreams and continue to say yes to opportunity, even when it is scary. Being a member of NEA has taught me the power of collective voice and action. NEA-AE has introduced me to members who also feel the passion for the work ahead to create equity in our public school systems and in our communities. These two essential lessons will be the blueprint and guiding principles for my term as Chair.
During my term, I will work to find ways to elevate Aspiring Educator voices in our national association. I will work to help members across the country grow our leadership skills, and then use those skills to be agents of change in our state and local associations. I will work to strengthen the Aspiring Educator program by recruiting new members and helping to give members the engagement, training, tools and support they need to be better educators and public education advocates.
With the need for more educators of color on the forefront of our minds, I will work to find new ways to recruit and support more educators of color on their journey through teacher preparation and early career in our profession. I believe that the vision for the NEA Aspiring Educators program should not only be an incredible source for activism around education and social and racial justice, but also a place for self-improvement for future professional educators. There are many parts of the system that contribute to the lack of educators of color in our profession, and as an Aspiring Educator of color myself, I too have had to find ways to hurdle over the inequities that impair our success in diversifying our workforce.
As the future leaders of our profession and of our association, I will work together with union leaders and Aspiring Educators to address the long-standing issues with teacher preparation programs across the country. The equity that we demand for our schools is the equity that we also demand for the programs that are preparing us to be the educators that continue the push for generational change, and a great public school education for all students. The time we spend in our programs is what equips us to be educators that are deserving of our students.
Inequities exposed by this global pandemic have always been a part of the society in which we navigate, but they are more evident now than ever. America’s story has always been that of those who are fighting to advance the rights of others and some who are clinging to a past that preserved the rights of a few. Over the next two years we will work together to fight societal inequities, recruit and support educators of color, learn and develop ourselves into better professional educators, and fearlessly use our voices collectively to help take our country and NEA into the future. If one thing is for certain, it is that the world will change, and it is US who get to decide HOW the world will change. I look forward to joining you in the work ahead, as we find ways to lift each other up along the way and create a future that is deserving of our students.