Broad Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Gray (TBR 2017-19)
Daniel Gray (TBR 2017-19) is the Managing Director for College and Career at Uplift Education in Texas. Read about his work to expand college and career opportunities for students.
What's your current organization and role?
Uplift Education; Managing Director for College and Career
What is something you're currently working on in your professional role?
We are making strides toward ensuring that every student at Uplift has impactful and effective work-based learning experiences before they graduate. We know from our own experience and from research that when students have clarity about their own career goals, they are more likely to succeed early in their career journey. We are expanding the number of students who have a deep work-based learning experience, like an internship aligned with their interests.
We are also extending these experiences beyond high school. Middle school students are working with local businesses to help them develop creative solutions to a challenge they face – and then presenting those solutions back to the business. It allows students a real-life look into the world of work. We are starting with a few campuses next school year and hope to expand to all of our campuses three school years from now.
How has your experience as a Broad alum influenced the way you approach your work?
Through my experience with Broad, my desire to understand spaces outside of my own has grown tremendously. I am able to take learnings from other disciplines and imbue them into the work that I am leading at Uplift. So much of what Broad offers is the opportunity to challenge preconceived notions and to push your thinking – the opportunity to be challenged is so hard. It’s even harder to find a space where you are both challenged and where you trust and care about the others around you the way you do for your cohort.
What is one place where you/your organization has been working to increase equity for the students and communities you serve?
We've been working to create more equity and opportunity in our postsecondary support space. As an organization, our focus for many years was around ensuring that every one of our scholars went to college because we believed that was the great equalizer in society. While we are still convinced that a college education is the most likely way to help individuals into a middle-class lifestyle, we also realized that it couldn't be the only path that we offered because it wasn't the only path that our scholars and families recognized as having value.
We've leaned into helping alumni find great careers through partnerships and through our Career Services team. When a student leaves our schools, they have the support of career coaches who give them guidance and support as they are embarking on their career pathway. We’ve seen alumni find incredible opportunities that have contributed to growth in their current salaries and their ability to be in positions of access across the country.
We’ve also been working with PelotonU to create a hybrid and accessible college experience for students and others in the Uplift community – parents and Uplift staff – at a lower cost than a traditional four-year degree program.
What do you think school system leaders should be thinking more about right now, as the United States works to stabilize and recover from COVID-19?
In just two years, the economy looks very different than it did before the start of the pandemic. The number of entry level jobs are going to continue to disappear, and with that, the opportunity for individuals to find well paying jobs right out of high school. If those jobs continue to disappear, what does that mean for students leaving our schools? In Texas, 60 percent of jobs will need some type of postsecondary credential or degree by the year 2030, and we are currently nowhere near that number. What steps can and will we take as school system leaders to ensure that our students, families, and communities are successful in a rapidly changing future?
The jobs of yesterday and today will not exist tomorrow. The training programs that we invested in back in 2019 may not serve the same purpose three years from now. We need to think towards the future and establish partnerships with the industries and employers around us to create viable lifelong career opportunities.
What is a thought-provoking education-related book or article you've read recently?
Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems has been a great read for me this year. During the pandemic, it seemed like many school systems and teams (including my own) focused on finding something that stuck and moving forward. Frankly, that means we’ve had inconsistent priorities and strategies built in the moment and not truly integrated into the core of what we want to accomplish. It was a beneficial read for me as we drive some challenging priorities and create a sense of collective purpose within our team and organization.