A Deeper Look at Noble Schools’ Diverse Leaders Fellowship

In this graphic, there is an image in the background of the 5th cohort of Noble Schools' Diverse Leaders Fellowship program posing for a group photo after their graduation ceremony. On top of that photo is a dark blue transparent layer. On top of that and in the bottom left corner is a yellow box with blue text on it that reads "A Deeper Look at Noble Schools' Diverse Leaders Fellowship". The Noble Schools logo is in the bottom right corner.

On the heels of Noble Schools announcing the members of this year’s 6th annual cohort of our Diverse Leaders Fellowship (DLF), we’re taking this moment to dive deeper into the history and impact of the program.

DLF has been one of the most impactful professional development programs at Noble – helping employees of color step into leadership roles and succeed. D Nigel Green, the head of the DLF program and Noble’s Director of Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity, has been involved with the program since day one. DLF is close and dear to his heart and an important part of his DEI work.

“It’s important to put our staff of color who identify the same as our children in leadership positions to give our children something to aspire to,” said Green.

In this photo, D Nigel Green, Director of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at Noble Schools, sits at a small table, smiling gently and looking to the right at something off camera. He is a Black man with his hair in short cornrows on the top and shaved on the sides. He is wearing glasses and a peach long-sleeved sweatshirt. He is watching the graduation of the 5th cohort of Noble Schools' Diverse Leaders Fellowship.

D Nigel Green attends the graduation of the 5th cohort of DLF.

Despite the positive impact that leaders of color have on our kids, we see low numbers of Black and Brown leaders in education. The purpose of DLF is to change those numbers at Noble. Thus far, we have seen excellent results.

DLF first started in 2018. Since then, we have seen DLF fellows lead at higher rates than their peers of color—both inside and outside of Noble Schools. Our data has also shown that DLF fellows stay longer at Noble and are generally happier in their work.

“I would say Noble is more colorful because of DLF,” Green said, “It’s one of the key reasons why Noble looks the way that it does now in terms of its leadership.”

Our DLF fellows also have great things to say about their experience in the program and how it has helped them become better leaders. Take a look at the stories of three members from last year’s cohort:

Isaiah Martinez | Alumni Success Coach Lead | Noble Support Team

In this photo, Isaiah Martinez, an alumni success coach at Noble Schools, is smiling wide with his arms spread out slightly at his waist. He is a young Latine man with short brown hair and a beard. He is wearing a black polo shirt and pants. In this photo, he is clearly in the middle of presenting to a crowd. His body and face are turned to the left as he looks at the not-pictured crowd. He looks like he is in mid-sentence and is holding a projector screen remote control in his right hand. Behind him, you can see a white wall and a large TV screen.

Isaiah Martinez presents his personal story at his DLF graduation.

Like many Noble Schools employees, Isaiah Martinez started at Noble as a student at Pritzker College Prep. While he graduated from Pritzker in 2013, he never entirely left Noble. Martinez worked for ITW David Speer Academy through college. After graduating college, he was hired as a college counselor at Speer. He transitioned to the Noble Support Team as an alumni success coach in 2019. Last summer, he was promoted to alumni success coach lead.

For Martinez, his work to support alums in getting through college is personal. When he started at the University of Illinois, many of his peers from Pritzker started alongside him. But, by the time he graduated in May 2017, only about five of his Pritzker peers were left. He attributes a lot of this to a lack of support with getting through college, especially as a first-generation student.

“I didn’t really have an alumni success coach… I didn’t know that if I needed to talk to somebody or if I needed advice on my schedule, I could pick up the phone and call somebody. It wasn’t like that. And now it is,” Martinez said, “I feel like I’m a big catalyst for the success of our alumni.”

In this photo, you can see Isaiah Martinez sitting at a table with a young Noble Schools' alum, walking her through something on a laptop. He is looking at her as he points at something on the laptop. She has her head leaned forward as she looks at the laptop and takes notes with pen and paper.

Martinez works with a Noble Schools' alum.

A close friend and colleague of his, Lisette Hernandez, had participated in DLF in 2018 and encouraged Martinez to apply. Martinez wasn’t sure at first because he feared putting himself out there as a leader. However, as his peers encouraged him to apply and as he read more about the program, he realized that leadership was something he wanted to pursue more.

He applied and was accepted into the program. Right before sessions started, he was promoted to a leadership position where he would support and manage other alumni success coaches. Through DLF, Isaiah said he was able to refine his leadership skills and gain confidence in his career. Martinez particularly appreciated the guidance and advice of his DLF mentor—Jacob Goldstein, assistant principal of culture at Chicago Bulls College Prep—as he navigated his new leadership role.

Martinez and Goldstein instantly connected over their shared experience of coaching sports. Throughout DLF, they discussed several topics, from coaching to managing people to adulting. Both Martinez and Goldstein profoundly appreciated the time they spent together.

“I learned things from Jacob, like how to coach effectively, that I’m applying to how I check in with my students that are in college. This year, I feel way more comfortable with being able to teach students and being a little bit of a life teacher-—and I feel like that was a big thing that came from that mentorship,” Martinez said.

“Just being able to talk him through things that I’ve gone through to help guide him was absolutely amazing,” Goldstein said, “I got to go to the DLF graduation and just sitting there and watching him go through the ceremony and getting his plaque… that was just a really proud moment for me.”

In this photo, you can see Jacob Goldstein, assistant principal of culture at Chicago Bulls College Prep, sitting at a table with other people and looking to the left at something off camera. He is a Black man with a beard and black hair that is closely shaved. He is wearing a black Nike athletic jacket and khakis. He is smiling slightly in this photo as he watches the Diverse Leaders Fellowship cohort 5 graduation.

Jacob Goldstein (center) attends Martinez's DLF graduation.

Martinez is excited to jump into the rest of this school year with his new skills and connections. He’s particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to advocate more powerfully for multigenerational change because of the storytelling skills he gained from DLF. He feels better equipped to present the data he collects about our alums’ college and career outcomes.

“I’m gonna have to stand up in front of groups again and talk about the data—paint a story for the data. I feel like I got that piece from DLF specifically. I’m actually kind of excited about that and can’t wait for it,” Martinez said.

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Photo shows two students at UIC College Prep in Chicago, Illinois standing in the hallway of the school building. The student on the left is a young Black man with medium-length locs. He is wearing a light grey sweatshirt with the dark blue UIC College Prep logo on it. The student on the right is a young Black girl. She has long black and blue braids. She is wearing the same light grey sweatshirt and holding a binder, a folder, and a laptop with one arm. They are leaning into each other and smiling at the camera.

Tanisha Hall | African-American Literature Teacher & Advisory Lead | ITW David Speer Academy

In this photo, you can see three women of color standing in a room, presenting crystal plaques in their hands. They are smiling at and posing for the camera. On the left in Tanisha Hall, a teacher at ITW David Speer Academy. She is a Black woman with curly mid-length black hair. She is wearing a long-sleeved black sweater dress and big earrings. To her right are two other members of the 5th cohort of Noble Schools' Diverse Leaders Fellowship—Joy Pryor, a Latine woman, and Dr. Alyssa Hamler, a Black woman. They are both also wearing formal wear. Behind them all, you can see a bright sunny room where other people are mingling in groups.

Tanisha Hall (left) poses with her DLF graduation plaque with two of her fellow cohort members: Joy Pryor (center) and Dr. Alyssa Hamler (right).

Tanisha Hall was born and raised in Chicago and started her journey as a teacher in CPS. After two years in CPS, she took a break from education to be a stay-at-home mom. Ten years later—she was ready to return. It was then that she found her way to Noble as a substitute teacher at Gary Comer College Prep in 2011. 

Impressed by the academic rigor at Noble, she stayed and graduated from the first cohort of Noble Schools’ Relay program—a teaching residency and master’s degree program. She became a full-time teacher at ITW David Speer Academy after completing the program in 2014. She has been teaching there ever since, spurred by her passion for helping Black and Brown youth succeed in life.

“Like Dr. Marian Wright Edelman said—it’s hard to be what you can’t see. I did not have a single Black teacher in high school. I think it’s important for kids to see representations of themselves,” Hall said.

In this photo, you can see Tanisha Hall posing with Ruby Bridges. Hall has her arm over Bridges' shoulders as they both smile at the camera.

Hall poses with Ruby Bridges during Bridges' visit to Speer several years ago.

In this photo, you can see Tanisha Hall dressed up as Ms. Read from Arthur with some of her Speer students, some of them also dressed up in costumes, standing behind her. They are all posing for a selfie together in the school hallway.

When Hall heard about DLF, she instantly wanted to be a part of it because she loved the idea of a space committed to cultivating talent of color. While Hall wasn’t sure about how she wanted to engage with leadership, she was excited to connect with her mentor and other fellows. For Hall, the most important thing she took away from her DLF experience was community.

“It felt like sacred ground, just being in that space. As a first-generation college student, there were many times when I was the only person of color or one of a few—which can be very jarring—so, to be immersed in color is enriching in and of itself,” Hall said, “One of my favorite things was the kinship circle where we sat in a circle and just shared and got really gritty and authentic.”

Hall also appreciated the relationship she built with her mentor, JuDonne Hemingway, principal of Gary Comer College Prep. Hall spoke about how they connected deeply across several shared identities and roles–like teaching the same subject, growing up in Chicago, and raising kids.

“JuDonne is phenomenal… I know that I can text her and call her if I need her,” Hall said, “I got to shadow her and see what it was like to be principal. It was an empowering experience.”

“It was such a special experience – one that is mutually beneficial as I learned just as much from my mentee as I hope she did from me,” Hemingway said, “Our partnership created space for us both to lean into our greatest selves in our work, and we will always be connected because of it.”

While Hall doesn’t have any specific plans for leadership past her current role as an advisory lead, she wants to continue impacting school structure at a higher level. Hemingway encouraged her to apply for Noble’s Principal Fellowship. While Hall did not apply, she said she felt honored that Hemingway thought she could do it, and it is still on her list as a possibility for the future.

Sbeydi Gonzalez | Assistant Dean of Culture | Pritzker College Prep

In this photo, you can see Sbeydi Gonzalez, assistant dean of culture at Pritzker College Prep, holding up her crystal plaque for completing the Diverse Leaders Fellowship program. She is a young Latine woman with long, straight dark brown hair with a few blonde highlights. She is wearing glasses and a nice short-sleeved black blouse with a few pearls attached to the shoulders. She is smiling and posing for the camera. Behind her, you can see a table with gift bags on it, a wall, and a few other folks who are walking around and mingling.

Sbeydi Gonzalez poses with her DLF graduation plaque.

Sbeydi Gonzalez, like Martinez, started as a student at Noble Schools. She graduated with the founding class of Muchin College Prep in 2013. Gonzalez worked at Muchin through college and was then hired as a Spanish teacher there after graduating. As a first-generation college student who received so much support from Muchin, she is passionate about giving back to her community.

“I told myself that, one day, I was going to be that mentor for students who looked like me, who deserve a seat at a college campus,” Gonzalez said.

In this photo, you can see Sbeydi Gonzalez standing with her family outside after her college graduation ceremony. She is wearing her college graduation robes and cap.

Gonzalez poses with her family after her college graduation ceremony.

In this photo, you can see Sbeydi Gonzalez standing on top of her college's campus entrance sign—which reads "Knox College, Founded in 1837". She is wearing her graduation robes and cap and is holding a little handheld sign that reads "Be Noble".

Gonzalez holds a Noble Schools sign as she stands on top of her college campus sign.

Gonzalez knew Green, the head of DLF, from when he had served as the assistant principal at Muchin. Green encouraged her to apply. Gonzalez was nervous but excited when she applied. She had been taking on several leadership roles at her campus—like serving as a grade-level lead and head coach for the cross country and track team—but she still wasn’t entirely confident in herself as a leader. Gonzalez felt that DLF would be an excellent opportunity to develop her leadership skills. When she got her acceptance email, she was proud.

From the very first session, Gonzalez said she appreciated the intentional space to connect with other leaders of color.

“I’ll never forget the first session. We met Claudia Rodriguez, who was very inspiring. Hearing her story and how I can connect with her was like—wow!—she’s doing amazing things,” Gonzalez said about Noble’s chief of public affairs.

Gonzalez also spoke highly of her experience with her mentor, Brenda Cora, Chief Schools Officer at Noble Schools.

“Meeting my mentor has been a life-changing experience… it was amazing because I never really had a mentor who I could check in with consistently,” Gonzalez said, “I want to be like her one day. She’s a great role model for me.”

Ultimately, DLF was the final push Gonzalez needed to step into a bigger leadership role. Through the inspiring DLF sessions, networking opportunities, and mentorship chats, Gonzalez gained the confidence and connections to apply for the assistant dean of culture position at Pritzker College Prep.

“It made me come out of my comfort zone and take the risk to be in a new role,” Gonzalez said.

Cora said she was so proud to watch Gonzalez grow over the course of the program and get hired into the assistant dean position.

“She reached out to me for advice, and I coached her the best that I could to prepare her—but she definitely was already ready. It was just nice to know that she trusted me enough to engage me in the process,” Cora said, “Now, she’s a school leader, which is what she aspired to do. I’m really proud of her, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

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