As a proud product of New York City public schools and a teenage idealist, I moved to Atlanta in 1992 with the intention of pursuing law as a doorway to being a public servant in service of those that had not been served by our society and its systems.  However, in my sophomore year of college, I read Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities and realized for the first time how dramatically different my educational experiences were, as a white person, from those less than 10 miles from me based on race and socio-economic status. 

While this outraged me, it also fueled me to engage in public service through education.  After almost 20 years of work in education and private sector (non-profits and for profits) focused on racial justice and intersectional leadership, I feel even more strongly that we must engage tirelessly in our governmental and educational systems with an emphasis on interrupting our personal and systemic perpetuation of historical disparities. 

Maureen Benson, M. Ed


University of California, Berkeley

Master of Arts in Education, Behring Fellow, Principal Leadership Institute

Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Bachelor of Arts in English, Minor in Education


Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Education is a Vital Sign 

Leading a movement to powerfully honor the teaching profession, Education Is A Vital Sign is an emerging think tank of educators, economists, policy makers, community organizers and teacher union leaders working to create the highest levels of qualified teachers and partnering with cities to significantly increase quality of compensation and working conditions that make exceptional results the norm.

Chief Operating Officer and Director of Summit, Pacific Educational Group

"Founded by Glenn Singleton in 1992, Pacific Educational Group is committed to achieving racial equity in education. We engage in sustained partnerships with educational organizations to transform beliefs, behaviors, and results so people of all races can achieve at their highest levels and live their most empowered and powerful lives."

Founding Principal, Youth Empowerment High School; Oakland, CA

"The community of Youth Empowerment School applies the principles of Personal and Academic Empowerment, Social Empowerment, and the development of Critical Communication and Critical Consciousness to create a healthy learning community that fulfills our vision and evolves positive social change. YES is a school where students, staff and community have significant roles in the governance, planning, decision making, advising and processes of continual improvement that is embedded in the culture. It is a place where all people feel safe to commonly reflect on and challenge current practices, promote the expectation of constant learning for everyone, and incorporate the valued input of the multitude of cultures and lenses in our school family. This principle will allow students and family members to see the power of their communal input and of each others' ideas and strengths, while pushing us forward at all times. Students will feel supported and successful as they apply their learned skills to empowerment projects in the local area that will challenge them, enhance literacy and numeracy skills, develop critical thinking habits, set goals, time lines and benchmarks and prepare them for a successful post-secondary experience as they will have learned the techniques necessary to achieve their goals."

Reform Coordinator, Fremont HS; Oakland, CA 

"In 1999, a group of mothers from the flatlands of East Oakland saw their children languishing in overcrowded, chaotic schools while their peers in the hills received a far different kind of education. Through Oakland Community Organizations, an alliance of community and religious leaders, those concerned mothers and thousands of others pushed for the creation of new, small schools — excellent schools, with innovative practices and high expectations — in their own neighborhoods. At that time, a movement to create small schools was beginning to catch fire in urban districts across the country. Small schools were touted as a tool to curb sky-high dropout rates and the growing "achievement gap" between poor, often minority students and their middle-class counterparts. John C. Fremont High School was one of the first schools in the United States to have been divided into a campus of separate small autonomous schools. The purpose of the small school is to allow personalization of instruction, due to concern that students may become academically lost in a large, or augmented, campus."

English Teacher, Fremont HS; Oakland, CA 

English Teacher, Cross Keys High School; Atlanta, GA

Director of HIV/AIDS Educational Youth Outreach, Emory University/Red Cross; Atlanta, GA