This time last year, I was getting ready to fly out to Nashville from San Jose, California, and do some apartment searching, as I would be enrolling in Vanderbilt University’s Master in Public Policy program in the fall. Today, I find myself looking for a (temporary) apartment in Denver, where I will be completing a summer internship with the Urban Leaders Fellowship before I begin my second year at Vanderbilt. It has certainly been a year of transition and change—but it has been a fantastic year, as well.

One of the best experiences I’ve had since relocating to Nashville and entering graduate school has been my experience as a Policy and Research Graduate Fellow with SCORE. I had heard of the organization from afar, and I knew it had a terrific reputation as a leader in education reform. But I didn’t know how deeply relevant working here would be to what I was learning in school and to the policy work I want to do for the rest of my career.

Tennessee and its students have a lot going for them. And many of those opportunities are thanks in no small part to organizations like SCORE. Groups that aren’t willing to just produce good research or advocate for policies that reflect best practices, but organizations that work hard to bring all players to the table. True innovation and leadership first require collaboration, and this, I think, is something that everyone at SCORE understands deeply. I felt privileged to be just one voice in those discussions—one individual who could lend a hand to improving educational opportunities for Tennessee students.

The best part about working with SCORE was that it allowed me to connect everything I was learning my classes with practical applications based on real-world policy problems and opportunities. This interplay between the “theoretical” or the “academic” with the practical aspects of policymaking allowed me to learn more in the past eight months than I have in perhaps the past eight years.

As far as an individual experience I enjoyed most at SCORE? Well, that would probably be the work during legislative session and getting to assist with legislative analysis and advocacy. Legislative analysis was not something that many graduate fellows had worked on in the past, but SCORE knew this was a passion of mine and allowed me to support the team in these efforts. Again, the opportunity greatly enriched what I was learning in school and allowed me to get real-world experience with the policymaking process. This was invaluable development for me.

Finally, I must acknowledge that what really makes SCORE such a great place to work are the talented, hardworking, and passionate people who work there. It is just simply a phenomenal team. The kind of team that has the intelligence and insight to recognize what is needed, the courage to do the right thing (even when it is hard), and the commitment to bring people together to tackle difficult, but important problems in order to raise all boats.

I’m excited about my upcoming summer in Denver, I’m excited about starting year two of my MPP program, and I’m excited about continuing to follow and support the great work that I know SCORE will continue doing.

Interested in apply to the SCORE Graduate Fellows Program? Click here for the application and more information.