The year 2018 was a big one for Jharrett Bryantt, M.Ed. ‘16, He earned his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy through the Cooperative Superintendency Program and was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education for his work on educational inequity by decreasing the access gap in the Houston Independent School District (HISD).
As the assistant superintendent for the Office of Strategy and Innovation in HISD, Bryantt leads a number of high-priority initiatives for the district. In 2013, Bryantt helped launch the EMERGE program, which was founded by fellow superintendency student Rick Cruz. EMERGE is an initiative that increases the number of high-achieving students from low-income communities that attend highly selective colleges.
Most recently, the Office of Strategy and Innovation in HISD has launched a program modeled after EMERGE that is specifically for middle school students.
"While thousands of students are being served at the high school level, we believe by starting programming earlier, we can create an even larger pipeline of students who can succeed at some of the nation’s top colleges,” says Bryantt.
Understanding the Opportunity Gap
"My teachers would ask me what I want to be when I grow up—I’d tell them that I want to be the president of United States, and they’d only have positive words of encouragement to offer. What I came to understand is that it doesn’t always work that way in our schools. There are fantastic educators in every environment, but there are too many children who never end up hearing that they can succeed in college and beyond.”
In his senior year of college, Bryantt joined Teach for America as a high school geometry teacher. He took as many courses as he could within the teacher preparation and pedagogy department at Yale, which ultimately prompted him to shift his career.
"For the longest time, I imagined that I’d pursue an MD-PhD program and continue to conduct biological engineering research as I had throughout college. What changed the game for me was taking a number of courses in college related to education policy and noticing the opportunity gap that exists for students in our most underserved communities.”
Importance of Closing the College Access Gap
According to Bryantt, HISD leads the nation in providing robust programming for students to pursue a career and technical education, college credit, and even associate’s degrees while in high school. Bryantt strives to continue closing the information gap around in-demand careers in the workforce, financial aid, and college entrance requirements.
"There are thousands of students in Houston ISD who do not go on to pursue or complete a postsecondary credential, and this potentially closes the door to pursue meaningful careers,” said Bryantt. “Students and families deserve to be as informed as possible when making decisions around entering the workforce, or pursuing technical credentials or two- and four-year degrees.”
"What I find exciting about the college access space is that there are many ways to make an impact,” said Bryantt. “College counseling and administration was my path, but I can speak for hours about ways that legislators, test writers, philanthropists, among others can make an impact on access to college.”
He also hopes that his national recognition with Forbes will help him make an even greater impact.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to have a national platform to talk about innovative ways that we can serve students in low-income communities. More so than ever before, I’ve been able to have conversations with other stakeholders about how we can educate and empower students,” said Bryantt.