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Community Leader Spotlight with the Mobile Area Education Foundation

“Good is not great, and greatness is an expectation.” Chandra Scott

That’s the philosophy that informs every step of Chandra C. Scott’s work. As the director of strategic outcomes for the Mobile Area Education Foundation, she has been an advocate for education equality for more than 16 years.  

The Mobile Area Education Foundation works to build community responsibility for improving public school outcomes in Mobile County, Alabama. Their work is rooted in the belief that the community’s potential will be realized when all citizens have access to high quality public education.

During this Q&A, Scott shared with America’s Promise how her community is coming together to innovate for student achievement, enhance strategic partnerships, and to build a community driven platform. 

How does your work help create a GradNation for all?

In Mobile, Alabama like many cities across the U.S., we celebrate the rise in our high school graduation rates. Contrary to this rise, our local businesses long for a highly-qualified pipeline to fulfill their growth. 

This disconnect led the Mobile Area Education Foundation to convene leaders on the Education Commission (P-20 Council) through a year-long study, which concluded that the ‘finish line’ has moved from only receiving a high school diploma, and 75,000 more degreed citizens are needed by 2030 to meet the present and future needs of the local workforce. 

The 75,000 Degrees Blueprint is the state’s first post-secondary attainment goal in response to building a high-quality workforce pipeline for our Gulf Coast industry. Ensuring our students are equipped with a rigorous education is essential to them getting ready.

What successes in your community are you most proud of?

Leaders of Mobile have truly built a culture of collaboration around education. The shared sentiment of ‘we are they’ resonates as K-12, higher education, and business leaders seek collaborative strategies to tackle opportunities of improvement within our community. 

The biggest success of all is our willingness to look beyond our community and explore regional strategies to strengthen our neighboring communities and our state. Our culture of collaboration has been recognized by Lumina Foundation and has earned our community the Talent Hub designation. 

Mobile is the only city across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia to receive this designation. The Mobile Area Education Foundation takes pride in being able to provide models of lessons learned and best-practices to other communities and surrounding states.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

Mobile’s workforce landscape is comprised of many high-tech, STEM-based international companies that are in constant need of high-quality, career-ready employees. The ever-evolving and fast pace of this industry poses a challenge on how to adequately prepare students for jobs that will either be non-existent in five years or don’t exist yet. 

Developing education strategies and pathways that prepare students to be successful in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce is a top challenge and priority for our community leaders. 

What principles guide your work in education and youth development? 

The evolution from machinery-operated to technology-operated industry has not only created a digital divide, but also an education divide in our state. Research projects that by 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree. 

This projection alone proves that finishing high school is no longer a measure of success, but merely a starting point. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves a seamless system of multi-tiered educational supports. 

Being from Selma, Alabama, I understand the importance of providing all students with a strong foundation in education that is layered with individualized supports with an expectation of greatness. So every idea, strategy, and challenge I put forth is grounded in this: “Good is not great, and greatness is an expectation.”

Describe what makes your work unique in three words or phrases. 

Impacting policy and practice around education can be an overwhelming task. In Mobile, we understand sustainability is rooted in our community-driven approach to developing strategies. 

A call to action is the only thing that impacts hearts and minds. 

Finally, while opinions spark conversation, being data-driven is what leads to change.