In His Own Words: CSF Alumnus Francis on Becoming a School Choice Advocate

CSF New York Alumnus and Young Leaders Board member Francis Connolly (second from left) is pictured here at the recent American Federation for Children National Policy Summit with CSF of Omaha Alumna Nyarok Tot, CSF’s VP of Strategic Planning and Development Michele Mitola, and CSF of Omaha Alumnus Jacob Idra. Nyarok, Francis, and Jacob are all AFC Future Leaders Fellows.

By Francis J. Connolly

Advocacy is something I’ve always been passionate about. As a product of school choice and after learning that it helped me graduate elementary school and supported me through high school and college, I’ve became a stark advocate for school choice.

Like many of you reading this, I was a product of the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF). CSF allows families the ability to choose a private school of their choice while giving incentives for businesses and individuals who donate to education reform programs. In return, the corporations and individuals receive a state income tax credit. 

After reading CSF’s alumni e-newsletter promoting the American Federation for Children’s (AFC) Voices for Choice series, I submitted my educational story. In the coming weeks, I was invited to apply for the 2020 Future Leaders Fellowship. The fellowship brings together and trains young people who have benefited from school choice from around the country, to advocate so more children get the same opportunities. I wanted to be a part of the movement, knowing that New York did not have a state-run school choice program. It’s my hope, with advocacy and awareness, that local and state officials will see that school choice is important for a child’s educational success. As many legislators and champions of the school choice movement say, the future of school choice is in the hands of the Future Leaders. It’s our job to advocate for our generation and generations after us.

As part of the yearlong fellowship, I was taught by experienced advocates, educators and elected officials who all support the school choice movement. The program allowed me to better understand the school choice wave (in the past year, 18 states have passed new or expanded choice programs). The fellowship has several deliverables which include traveling to different school choice events, writing and publishing an op-ed, and organizing a grassroots event. While traveling around the country, my cohort spoke at different events, including the FreedomFest in Rapid City and the National Policy Summit in Milwaukee, learned key ingredients of advocacy during virtual training sessions, and honed the ability to tell our stories though published work and press conferences.

The fellowship is not only a learning experience, but also a family that will nourish your knowledge of school choice and advocate in your path to spread the word about school choice around the country!

NOTE: This blog post was originally shared with CSF alumni. If you or someone you know is interested in applying for the AFC’s Future Leaders Fellowship Francis writes about, please click here to apply and watch the video below to learn more!

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