Last week, Jessie Ryan—a Women's Policy Institute graduate and mentor—was elected to the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) Board. Jessie was chosen to represent Area 7, the poorest, most diverse district in SCUSD. We simply can't think of a more qualified candidate for the job... and everyone agrees.
We first met Jessie in 2009 when she joined our Women’s Policy Institute. She was part of our Education Team and worked on Assembly Bill 440 (Beall), better known as the College Student Access Act of 2009, to create an Associate Degree for Transfer at California Community Colleges. As the Central Valley Director at the Campaign for College Opportunity, Jessie was eager to learn the in-and-outs of public policy and develop the tools necessary to navigate the state legislature.
Jessie was passionate about access to quality public education as a means of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. As a child, she learned from her struggling single mother that education was key to opportunity in life and she was determined to remove obstacles that young people—especially low-income students, students of color and women—often faced when trying to access and succeed in college and realize the benefits that come with higher education.
It was through the Women’s Policy Institute that Jessie developed the confidence and skills necessary to assume the position of Associate Director at The Campaign for College Opportunity where she now leads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts statewide.
Jessie has been an education advocate for more than a decade and just a few months ago she decided to take a leap of faith and run for public office:
“As a woman with two small children, my family factored heavily into the decision to run for school board. I chose to have the courage to take this step because I love our community deeply and believe in the transformative power of public education.”
We’re so grateful for her courage because Jessie is perfect for the job; Sacramento students are lucky to have her. And you don’t have to take our word for it, just read this glowing Sacramento Bee opinion piece:
“It’s rare to find the perfect candidate for any job. But Ryan, a mother of two from Oak Park, is as close to perfect as one could hope to find. She’s deeply involved in the community, has a broad understanding of education policy and works as an advocate for higher education as associate director in the Sacramento office of the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity.”
Accolades don’t stop there. Her fellow advocates only have praise for Jessie and her commitment to quality and accessible public education. A fellow Women’s Policy Institute graduate, Alison De Lucca, had this to say:
“Jessie has always been a strong voice and a powerful advocate for every student. Day in and day out she has been fighting for quality education for all students. Her dedication, determination and passion make her the ideal person for this job.”
Finally, Judy Patrick, our director of public policy wanted to congratulate Jessie on her remarkable victory. Judy has known and worked with Jessie for years and is excited to see her step into elected office and lead—as a strong, intelligent woman and tireless advocate:
“I’m so thrilled for Sacramento that they will have Jessie Ryan on their school board. Jessie brings strong commitment, a willingness to engage deeply, the ability to navigate the space between differences and a completely resilient spirit. In addition to all of this, she is whip smart.”
Jessie explained that her experience in the Women’s Policy Institute empowered her to run for office:
“The Women’s Policy Institute changed my life. It empowered me with the tools needed to take a stand and affect social change through good policymaking. It also gifted me with an incredible network of female change agents that have supported me on my journey towards public service. I will be forever grateful to the Women’s Foundation of California for investing in me and helping me realize my leadership potential so that I can be a powerful advocate for other women and girls who need a champion putting them on the path to success.”