Marissa Mikoy is being honored as a Champion of Change for her time and effort in AmeriCorps.
The year of service I dedicated to AmeriCorps truly set the course of my career. As my college experience was nearing its end, I found myself at a fork in the road with one arrow pointing to the corporate sector and the other towards a career dedicated to social justice. At 21, I wasn’t sure whether to follow my heart or my head. Looking back, I would not change a thing.
Sometime during my senior year of college, I realized that I wasn’t going to put my soon to be earned Business Administration and Management degree to use in the corporate sector. I knew my heart was not calling me to work in a for-profit organization. I had always been drawn to social justice work and spent a significant amount of time throughout college volunteering for various causes in Austin. My mentors and professors counseled me to find my place in the corporate sector, build a strong financial base then spend any extra time I had volunteering. I would then be able to fulfill my passion for service. It seemed like a practical solution, however, the plan still didn’t sit well with me. I reflected on my service experiences and just wasn’t sold on the idea that I could fulfill my service “fix” by volunteering when I had the time. When all of my friends from the business school were interviewing with Arthur Anderson, Price Waterhouse and Deloitte, I found myself applying for the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
In the summer of 1998, I went to work with an amazing team for the nonprofit, University Settlement in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I was given the opportunity to teach job readiness classes for individuals that were living in transitional housing and received government assistance to help them cover basic needs. I taught computer literacy classes as well as worked one on one to prepare them for the job market. This included job interview role-playing, instruction and coaching in how to write a cover letter and resume, coaching on “soft skills”, as well as in how to search for job opportunities. The impact I saw was immediate and amazing. I saw families gain stable employment with a sense of pride and confidence, slowly begin to transition out of temporary housing and ultimately begin a new life with their families. It hit me that I was a small part of the collective effort to help better someone’s life. Beyond that, I realized that education was the highest leverage tool in eradicating poverty and in transforming a community. After completing my experience with AmeriCorps, I knew without a doubt I wanted to dedicate my career to helping make my small corner of the world a little better.
Over the last 14 years, I have worked with various nonprofits in Washington, DC and in Dallas. My experiences have spanned from heading up an Even Start Family Literacy program in West Dallas, to raising over $1 million for local and national non-profits, to founding a bilingual early childhood program for under-resourced families in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, DC. Each one of my experiences has been fulfilling and inspiring. I feel very fortunate that AmeriCorps gave me the opportunity listen to my heart and follow my passion in social justice. I love the work I do and I am inspired on a daily basis.
I currently work in Dallas for the newly formed nonprofit, Teaching Trust and serve as the Director of Operations & Evaluation. Teaching Trust is an independent 501(c)3 organization singularly focused on transformational leadership in public education, so that all children can attend a school were the adults have the courage, commitment, and capacity to close the achievement gap. A central belief of the Teaching Trust is that high performing schools require leaders who are strong in instruction, the development of teachers, and organizational leadership. We teach those leaders to model the values and principles that are needed to insure schools have a culture of high expectations and achievement. By addressing instructional, campus, central office and policy leaders, Teaching Trust believes our vision of schools where talented professionals have the character and competence to ensure each student achieves at an extraordinary level is achievable.
At the Teaching Trust I am charged with developing an evaluation framework and system that will support our effort to measure the effectiveness of our program and to strengthen the program along the way. I am also developing all aspects of our human capital pipeline, inclusive of heading up the candidate selection process for the Master’s program.
I am honored to have been selected as a AmeriCorps Alumni White House Champion of Change.
Marissa Castro Mikoy is the Director of Operations and Evaluation for the Teaching Trust, an education reform and principal preparation non-profit.