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Eunice Mitchell

Eunice Mitchell

Regional Director, Big Picture Learning

Working to empower students to achieve their greatest potential with the support of mentors and access to equitable opportunities, Eunice Mitchell says there’s no turning back to the days before the social justice lessons during the pandemic.

Q: Why is now the time, and what do we “double-down” on to leverage this moment to take strides for long-lasting change?

To be honest, now is always the time. Now is the time we have. And if the past two years have taught us anything, it is that change is swift and imminent, making the case for more thoughtful and purposeful actions.

We can no longer rest on outdated dogma about bootstrap-pulling and hard work as a solution to equity.

More than ever before, we have literally seen and experienced too much to believe that our current systems are “right,” and to turn a blind eye on issues of social justice and equity. We can no longer rest on outdated dogma about bootstrap-pulling and hard work as a solution to equity. We have an opportunity to be honest about our history and its impact on the material conditions of those who have been ignored and excluded in this country (or maybe wrongly targeted), as a way of learning how to undo or build a new tomorrow.   

We have an opportunity to double-down on equitable access in the form of resources and opportunities for young people and those in communities that have been disenfranchised. We have the opportunity to reject this fast-paced, one-size-fits-all, dogmatic approach to living. And more than that, we must double-down on real learning by creating learning environments that see, honor, and empower learners fully, intellectually, socially, and emotionally. 

We are doing this in Big Picture Learning (BPL) schools across the globe, empowering students to design their learning and their futures. We have a responsibility to act, from whatever seat we are in and whatever influences we have, to end inequity and injustice by investing in equity and justice. I don’t want to oversimplify, but too often we look to and point outside of ourselves for ways to affect long-lasting change. But truth be told, it starts with us individually and collectively saying no to an economic system that is based in greed and power, instead of integrity and humanity. We can challenge traditions that are outdated and exclusive by supporting and amplifying approaches that seek to bring folks into the fold to wrestle with realities and build collaboratively. 

Q: For real systems change to happen, how must perspectives, and how we approach the economy and education, shift to meet the needs of an inclusive, equitable economy?

Great question! There is no other way around this. Systems must evolve from self-serving and rigid to more dynamic and personal. And we must commit to change like a marathon, not a sprint. There are no quick fixes, shortcuts, or a single path toward building a system that includes (dare I say, honors) people, their needs, their potential, and their hopes. We must divorce ourselves from the current paradigm that seeds education and learning in a box (a schoolhouse) separated from the world around it (including the local and national workforce and communities). We must imagine learning as a life-long endeavor not fixed by arbitrary benchmarks, but part of a living and moving ecosystem. In essence, we need to let go of fixed mindsets that feed on competition. We should be humble and nimble in our approach of building anew, with a healthy sense of skepticism about what is or has been “working” as we make room for people (especially people of color) to engage in crafting a new tomorrow.  

This has been in the DNA of Big Picture Learning from the start. In fact, we have built and continue to build paths forward, not siloed in an educational laboratory or focused on an educational theory. We link up with and trust in people, and partner with them to guide the work meaningfully. We do it in our BPL schools where students build their own “curriculum” driven by their interests and learn alongside experts in the real world, contributing with real work. We are doing it in higher education with College Unbound, helping to steward adult students through a college experience that is not marred by stagnant prerequisites and requirements, but centered on personal projects to launch their lives as well as careers. And we are supporting leaders in communities across the country through our fellowships that serve as sacred spaces for dynamic leaders to wrestle with real community challenges and create more equitable educational opportunities for youth in their communities.

Q: Where do you find hope in the work, conversations, and sifts you see happening, and how does that shape your thinking?

I find hope in the audaciousness and creativity of young people, as they continue to challenge ways of thinking and being.

Inspiration curation: Share who or what you look to for inspiration.

I am paying attention to a few voices that continue to inspire me:

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