Impact Spotlight: Nicole Fulgham
Nicole Fulgham’s educational story could have turned out very differently. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, she was afforded the opportunity to go to a selective charter school, the good fortune that many of her peers, the same children who shared her neighborhood block, did not receive.
This primary distinction in life experience altered the trajectory of Nicole’s life. While low expectations were assigned to her childhood peers, Nicole was expected by her teachers and community to pursue higher education and to aspire to a vocation where she would meaningfully contribute. Nicole’s educational path allowed her to attend some of the country’s best schools, eventually attaining a Ph.D. in Education Policy from UCLA.
The high expectations demanded of her created unique opportunities that led Nicole toward advocating for education equity for all students regardless of zip code, based on the understanding that we all live up to the expectations that are placed on us.
Today, Nicole is the Founder and President of The Expectations Project, a national advocacy organization that believes that all God’s children deserve a quality education, regardless of background or geography. Nicole launched The Expectations Project out of a desire to do what was done for her -- to raise the bar of expectations for all public school students.
Nicole believes that a child’s zip code should not determine their destiny. Unfortunately, the inequities that exist in our public school system create unjust opportunities for those who can afford to live in neighborhoods with quality schools in contrast to those who cannot.
Nicole has long been an advocate for this issue beginning with her time as a teacher at an underperforming school in Compton, California with Teach For America. Teaching in Compton further underscored the disparities within the nation’s education system that she had experienced growing up. She saw that the kids in her classroom were full of dreams for their futures with incredible potential, but that their life paths were dependent on whether they would obtain access to the resources needed to achieve those opportunities. Her students’ lives were products of the low expectations that were put on them, a very different reality than that which wealthier suburban students were living into.
Nicole served in leadership at Teach For America for over a decade, working to reduce the constraints of low expectations from our public education system for all children, particularly for children of color.
Today, The Expectations Project advocates for education equity through the following focus areas:
Early Childhood Education - every child should have the opportunity to attend a high-quality preschool
High Standards & Expectations For All Children - holding all students to measurable and tangible high expectations and aiding them in achieving their goals
Quality Teachers & Leadership - establishing that all children have access to high quality educators given the enormous impact that one teacher has on his or her pupils
Access To Quality Schools - quality education should not depend on a zip code
The organization champions a holistic approach from a faith-based perspective to education reform, stressing the need for both faithful advocacy as well as compassionate service. In the words of Nicole, “when people of faith get both of these right, it’s a reflection of God’s heart and a powerful force of good.” To Nicole, advocacy done well consists of three parts working in unison - education on the issues at stake; learning about policy changes that are proven to make a difference; and joining with other voices to inform leaders on the need for change.
Pomona Society is proud to highlight Nicole and her organization, The Expectations Project, because of the tremendous work that they are doing within Early Childhood Education, and as a primary advocacy partner for members to use their voice and influence to affect change on behalf of children.
The Expectations Project is active in petitions and/or open letters. One example of this is Nicole’s open letter to Secretary DeVos on racial justice in school discipline. The Expectations Project blog is consistently updated, giving members insight into current legislation towards more equitable schools. Additional Washington, D.C.-based organizations working towards similar goals as The Expectations Project are Safe Shores and the Wendt Center For Loss And Healing.
We are excited to host Nicole Fulgham at our next Pomona Society event on June 13.
Nicole Fulgham, Founder and President of The Expectations Project
A Detroit native, Nicole graduated from the University of Michigan and joined Teach For America (TFA) where she taught 5th grade in Compton, CA. Nicole received her doctorate in education from UCLA with a focus on urban education policy and teacher preparation. She joined the national staff of TFA and held several key leadership roles before starting The Expectations Project. Nicole has written two books: Educating All God’s Children (Baker) and Schools in Crisis (Barna) and has appeared on CNN and ABC. Christianity Today named her one of, “50 Women Leaders Influencing the Church and Culture”. She lives near DC with her husband and their three children.