“Who remembers reading the book Goodnight Moon as a kid? Or better yet, who remembers having their parents read Goodnight Moon to them?” I, along with most of the other 15 college students seated around the wooden discussion table, raised my hand. I attended the same competitive, private school from kindergarten through 12th grade. Although I recognized I was lucky to have attended such an institution, I didn’t realize just how lucky I had been until I was asked this question.

It was my freshman year of college and it was the first time I was really beginning to think about education. Spurred by my Poverty & Human Capabilities class and particularly Sean Reardon’s article, No Rich Child Left Behind, I started to understand the tremendous obligation our education system has to provide equitable experiences for all students.

In his article, Reardon emphasizes that achievement disparities are often present between high- and low-income students before the students even enter kindergarten. Regularly, this growing gap can be attributed to income inequality and the subsequent time and money families are able to allot towards “providing cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children,” such as reading Goodnight Moon. However, Reardon highlights how sometimes the achievement gap between high- and low-income students actually shrinks during the school year and widens during the summer months. This is when my interest in education truly peaked. What if there was a way to focus time and energy on improving public schools to further reduce achievement gaps?

Roughly one year later, I learned about an internship opening at SCORE, an organization that sought to do just that. While I was originally drawn to SCORE because of their goal of reducing student achievement gaps, I soon realized this was but one of SCORE’s three main goals. My time at SCORE exposed me to two tremendously important things.

First, I saw an organization that deeply cared about the work that they were doing for students. On my first day of work, a team member explained to me that even in the most mundane tasks, the strong attention to detail and outstanding work ethic displayed by SCORE is the result of knowing that their work will have ripple effects into principals, teachers, and subsequently, students across the state. Second, I saw an organization that daily lived out and referenced its core values of collaboration, optimism, courage, excellence, and innovation.

While I did learn a remarkable amount about Tennessee’s public school system and various school districts through my time at SCORE, to constantly remember my overall purpose and to live out my personal values on a daily basis are the two most important lessons I will take with me as I move forward in life. After graduation, I plan to attend law school with the hopes of using that degree, along with the lessons learned at SCORE, to advocate for various social justice issues, including the closure of achievement gaps.