Design to Edrupt: Dedicated Fellows Turn Ideas into Action with a Mission of Equity

Opportunity 180 is proud to welcome fellows into the second cohort of its Design to Edrupt “Explore” fellowship. Design to Edrupt looks to disrupt the current educational landscape by surfacing and supporting education leaders from underrepresented backgrounds and helping to reimagine the future of learning. During the fellowship, individuals will have the opportunity to explore the idea of designing and launching a new learning environment, such as a school or program. Explore is the first of three stages in the Design to Edrupt fellowship.

This year’s Explore cohort is comprised of five educational leaders, all with the goal of launching new learning environments to improve student outcomes, providing pathways for great ideas to lead to great schools and programs that impact student success.

These fellows were selected based on their commitment to continuing their professional development in the following areas: Entrepreneurial Mindset, People Leadership, Strategic and Operational Leadership, as well as Instructional Leadership. 

 “Our fellows’ diverse leadership matched with the development this opportunity offers will help create new learning environments our students, educators, and families deserve,” said Tamara Shear, Chief Program Officer for Opportunity 180.  

The “Design to Edrupt” Fellowship was built from Moonshot edVentures, which was designed and launched in Denver, CO in 2017. This fellowship is invested in educational design, new learning strategies, as well as the needs of students and families and has supported more than 100 leaders in six cohorts, with 25 ventures formally launched. 

The core values the fellowship represents are respect, trust, love, equity, collaboration, and paying it forward. The fellows will co-create a classroom or learning environment that challenges traditional education using a liberatory approach. The liberatory approach includes practicing empathy and problem-solving to help others understand equity values, awareness, as well as the impact of one’s own beliefs and biases. 

Fellows will also have access to community leaders for support in order to launch their school programs. Design to Edrupt’s Explore cohort will culminate with the Showcase event later this year, when fellows will present their finalized school concepts to community leaders and stakeholders. 

We are excited and honored to announce the 2023 Cohort for the Design to Edrupt Explore Fellowship:

Akiko-Ayalla Cooks

Middle School Teacher

Venture: Liberated Minds Community Liberation School 

Grade Level(s) Served: 6-8 

Akiko-Ayalla Cooks, mother of three, left her native California in 2006 to move to Las Vegas, Nevada. She completed training as a psychiatric technician, and was set to pursue what she thought was her calling as the founder, owner, and operations executive of two large behavioral treatment facilities. Unfortunately, in 2019, photos of her son and other Black student at his school were targeted on social media, calling her into action to co-found NO Racism in Schools #1865 with a fellow parent. 

From the efforts of No Racism in Schools #1865, legislation was passed in 2021 to require any racially motivated incidents to be reported as well as an anti-racism policy in Clark County School District. Cooks has received recognition from organizations such as American University and the Southern Poverty Law Center for her involvement in equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. 

Fun Fact About Akiko-Ayalla: She has been swimming since she was six months old, when her dad was the only father in the “Mommy and Me” swim class.

Connect with Akiko-Ayalla!

Earl Turner III


Venture: Integrated Technology, Entrepreneurship & Policy (iTEP) Public Schools (Charter School) 

Grade Level(s) Served: K-8


Earl Turner III holds a BA in Business Administration from Nebraska Wesleyan University, an MA in Digital Learning from Loyola Marymount University, and a Doctorate of Education from Johns Hopkins University. Turner currently conducts research regarding equity in K-12 schools, and he is an associate consultant and founding member for a 12-member innovation team that developed a new instructional technology program set to be released in Spring of 2023. He has also spearheaded the development of a research platform to analyze students’ digital behaviors. He has led the development of digital animations, been the lead author and principal investigator on six research studies with large school districts, sat on numerous charter school boards, and used his experience in business and education to build social impact on education policy in Los Angeles. 

Turner has founded organizations that focus on restorative justice, such as the Angelenos Organizing for Education (AO4E). He has worked as a policy analyst for LAUSD’s school board president, as well as analyzing expenditures for the district’s $7.6 billion budget. Mr. Turner has drafted a research report highlighting factors driving down achievement in mathematics. His proudest accomplishment however, was building a construction company in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.  

Fun Fact About Earl: He drove over one million miles between 2002 and 2013. 

Connect with Earl!

Erik Simpkins

Educator & Youth Mentor 

Venture: Achievement Now! (Program) 

Grade Level(s) Served: 3-8 

Erik Alexander Simpkins is an educator who wears many hats. He is an 8th grade history and geography teacher for Clark County School District, an instructor with the Workforce Development Department at the College of Southern Nevada’s Adult Career Education Services, as well as an afterschool Youth Mentor for the City of Las Vegas’ Youth Development & Social Innovation. 

Simpkins has 17 years of teaching experience, as well as prior experience working as a Curriculum Coordinator, Lead Teacher, School Improvement Team Member, and Non-Profit Board Member. He has extensive training in technologies such as effective Professional Learning Communities (PLC), Response to Instruction (RTI), data driven decision making using MAP metrics, and Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT). 

Fun Fact About Erik: He loves Led Zeppelin.

Connect with Erik!

Leondrus Wright

Elementary School Teacher & Executive Chef

Venture: Purpose Academy for Young Men 

Grade Levels Served: 3-12 

Leondrus Tramaine Wright is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, with a daughter named A’kalia. He is a 4th grade teacher at Ann Lynch Elementary School in Clark County School District. He has a BA in Political Science from Morris College, an MA in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Bowling Green State University, an Associates in Applied Science in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute, and a MA of Education in Curricular Instruction from UNLV. 

Wright has worked in restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and catering companies in North and South Carolina as an Executive Chef. He is a proud member of organizations such as Co-Founding and Brothers with Purpose, which promotes and uplifts Black men. 

Fun Fact About Leondrus: He is an amazing chef.

Connect with Leondrus!

Ursela Garvin

STEM Teacher 

Venture: STEMbotics Learning Center (STEM & Vocational School) 

Grade Level(s) Served: K-12

Ursela Garvin has a BS in Business Education and Information Technology, as well as a MA in Art and Teaching in Business Education from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. She is a seventeen-year veteran educator who currently teaches robotics at Jim Bridger STEAM Academy in Las Vegas, NV. The goal of her STEAM program is to promote healthy living and community gardens through the use of robotics and agriculture. 

Garvin has served on many education councils with a goal of supporting schools in North Las Vegas and computer science courses. She has been featured on Vegas PBS twice with panels centered around equity and diversity in computer science. She has many endorsements in North Carolina and Las Vegas in areas such as business education, administration, and computer programming.  She is also passionate about bringing new clubs to students in their schools. Her hobbies include volunteering, hiking, gardening, spending time with family, and playing old school computer games.

Fun Fact About Ursela: She has hiked to the top of Lone Mountain twice.

Connect with Ursela!

Interested in participating in a future cohort of Design to Edrupt? Click here to connect with our team and learn more!

Response to State of the State Address

Opportunity 180 has released the following statement in response to Governor Lombardo’s State of the State Address on January 23:

“Opportunity 180’s North Star is ensuring every kid graduates from high school college and career ready. We appreciate Governor Lombardo affirming that ‘every Nevada child has the right to a quality education and should be college or career ready by time they graduate high school’ during his State of the State address. We look forward to working collaboratively with the Governor’s office, the 2023 Legislature,  students, families, and other stakeholders on equitable and consistent policies, pathways, and solutions that will ensure access to a high-quality public education is the reality for every single kid in Nevada.”

To watch Governor Lombardo’s entire State of the State Address, click here.

Nevada Legislative Building Photo courtesy: Chanilim714, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Where We Go From Here: Exploring NAEP Results

The latest state and district level results from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – sometimes referred to as the Nation’s Report Card – were released on October 24. We already heard the painful reality that we, as a nation, lost 20 years of academic growth in just two short years. The local results, while not unexpected, are alarming. 

There were significant drops nationwide, and Nevada saw a similar decline. But it also shows that while kids’ academic progress suffered during the pandemic, Nevada students have been struggling far longer. So what do we do with this information? We use it to understand our baseline, and we look to it to guide us and to focus our next steps to ensure that as a state, we improve outcomes for every single kid. 

​​Why do NAEP results matter? 

  1. It is the most extensive assessment of how American students perform over time on critical skills necessary to compete in the global economy.
  2. For this most recent test, it is the first comparable national measure of how their performance was impacted during the pandemic. 
  3. It’s a strong indicator of how kids did; now it’s up to us to decide what to do now. It is our responsibility as a community to ensure kids have a fighting chance to make up ground they lost and ensure they graduate ready for college and career – whatever path they choose.

What does this data tell us? More students than before do not have general literacy or numeracy skills. When a kid can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, they fall further behind because after that point, other subjects rely on reading to learn. This snowball effect is also experienced with eighth grade math; after this point, students are expected to use what they’ve learned for higher level math classes. The impact of these results are long term systemic issues where kids fall further and further behind, with potentially catastrophic results for students, schools, communities, and our future economy. 

Our future workforce will depend on kids being able to think critically, perform math and science functions demanded of the 21st century economy, and be able to learn new concepts and applications as quickly as our world is shifting. And with more of our students falling further behind, our state will lag in competitiveness, workforce readiness, and economic livelihood. As an example, a recent estimate from Harvard University placed the US learning loss in math at $900 billion in potential lost earnings.

In fourth grade math, only 28% of Nevada participants were at or above proficient levels, with peers like Texas performing a full 10 points – or about one grade level – higher, and Florida, performing 12 points higher. Clark County School District (the fifth largest school district in the US) fourth graders scored an average of 225 in math, compared with Miami-Dade, FL students (the fourth largest school district in the US) averaging a 241; about 1.5 grade levels above CCSD students.

In fourth grade reading, only 27% of participants in Nevada were at or above proficient levels, with Texas performing two points higher, and Florida a full 13 points ahead of Nevada.
Eighth grade scores provide a similar picture. The average Nevada student is just barely above basic proficiency in math, at numbers reflecting a nearly 20-year slide in achievement, but also reminding us that in the history of NAEP, Nevada students have never persistently performed as well as the national average. These are the students who will be transitioning into college and the workforce in just four (4) short years.

Eighth grade reading scores are about the same as the national average, reflecting a slight increase from 2019, with 29% of students at or above the proficient level. In eighth grade reading, Nevada outperformed Texas by four points, or nearly half a grade level, with Florida just a point ahead of us.

When we explore different student groups, achievement gaps that have long existed have widened. In the most recent administration of the NAEP, Black and Hispanic students performed worse than their White counterparts, and students eligible for free and reduced lunch fared similarly. Clark County School District is one of the most diverse student bodies in the U.S. Efforts locally to prioritize reducing these gaps, however, have not historically had a lasting impact. As we think about interventions to raise student performance, we must include measures that address these gaps on an intentional, widespread basis.

So where do we go from here? We can look to states that improved their NAEP results over time, such as Mississippi, which realized significant gains over the last decade due to a statewide strategy on literacy, higher academic standards, and aligned assessments, among other policies enacted.

We can collectively recognize that this is a pivotal moment for education in our state, and advance a common vision to ensure kids graduate from high school college and career ready, prepared to participate in the workforce and our economy. We can celebrate our wins – like the increase in eighth grade reading scores – and where we are seeing progress, but keep in mind that we have a long way to go.

And we can put every intervention on the table – from tutoring to college and career readiness, to technological infrastructure and more – to make up ground, push forward, and make sure every kid in Nevada has a chance to succeed.

This is not the time for a one size fits all, single strategy approach. This is the time for sweeping change.

Explore the Data

Note: All charts and graphs courtesy of the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Loud & Clear: Why We’re Focused on Amplifying Student Voice

We are at a pivotal moment regarding the future of our students, our workforce, our communities, and our economy – both locally and on a broader national level. With new data pointing to nearly two decades of growth in math and reading wiped away by the last two years, with student achievement gaps continuing to widen, and with ongoing concerns about the impact of current events, we must unite for student success. We have a small window of time to address large scale learning loss and the tremendous impact it has had, and will continue to have, on our state’s long-term goals. Now is the time – to try both new and existing interventions with a potential to combat learning loss and put every single kid on a path to  live the life they dream and that our economy demands.

Student voices must be heard loud and clear as we continue to make the necessary changes in an inclusive, meaningful, and impactful way and as discussions evolve into actions, policies, and practices. “Students have the biggest stake in the outcome of our approach to education and engaging them in conversations about what they need is critical,” said Jana Wilcox Lavin, CEO of Opportunity 180. “When kids have a voice in their educational experience, they can activate authentically around new ideas and practices to  ensure we keep student outcomes, and our students’ futures, as the focal point of decision-making.”

As we continue to amplify student voice, we are engaging in several upcoming events and projects. This week, on September 29th, we are hosting our annual North Star Summit, bringing together members of our community, including parents, business and education leaders, and elected officials. The purpose of this year’s Summit is to examine how broad, diverse groups of stakeholders have developed a common vision for student achievement and how they advanced key policies and practices that aligned to a vision grounded in student voice. From there, attendees will work collaboratively on identifying ideas and advancing next steps for improving educational outcomes in Nevada. Speakers include the CEO of TeachPlus, Kira Orange Jones, and “B is for Black Brilliance” CEO Shawna Wells, who will address developing and executing large-scale community activations with lasting, meaningful impact on educational outcomes for kids. We will be distilling and sharing some of the key themes and ideas from the event on this blog, so be sure to stay tuned.

Opportunity 180 is also supporting the Nevada Independent’s  IndyFest and the education-focused content on October 1-2, including the K-16 education panel and the student-led debate. Both of these programs will feature students either leading or playing a key role in the conversation around education. When we give students a seat at the table, they have new ways to shape the dialogue around their success and what it will take to get them there, as well as identify resources and practices that support their success – both academically and socio-emotionally. 

And on October 6, tune in for Flip the Script where we will welcome students from CCSD schools to interview CCSD Board of Trustee candidates in advance of the general election. This live-streamed event gives students an opportunity to develop their own questions, and then ask them to candidates seeking to represent their district. “Flip the Script gives students a direct line to candidates to share what is important to them and what they want to see in their schools,” said Wilcox Lavin. “Any opportunity to advance and celebrate student voices represents an opportunity for all of us to learn more about how we can better support kids in their educational experiences.” You can sign up to receive more information on the event here, but be sure to tune in to the livestream on our Facebook page or YouTube channel from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. on October 6. 

Keeping student voices at the forefront of these conversations and as new policies and practices are developed and shaped must be our number one focus if we are to confront the gravity of this moment and forge a new path to improve educational outcomes for every single student in Nevada. In doing so, we ensure that they are supported as they graduate from high school college and career-ready, prepared to live the life they dream.

Want to learn more about why student voice is important? Take a look at the below articles and resources, and sign the I Stand With Kids pledge to add your name to a growing coalition of Nevadans united for student success!

Meeting the Needs of Nevada Students

Four Nevada Public Charter Schools Awarded Funds to Serve High Need Students

The Federal Charter School Program (CSP) Grant is administered by Opportunity 180 to expand access to high-quality public charter schools in the neighborhoods that have the least access to quality options.

With the goal to make sure every kid in Nevada has access to quality schools that meet their needs, four (4) public charter schools have initially been awarded funding through the Great Schools for Nevada Charter School Program (CSP) Federal Grant administered by Opportunity 180. Opportunity 180 was awarded these funds in 2020 by the US Department of Education through a highly competitive application process and has since completed three rounds of awards to schools dedicated to providing quality education to kids in Nevada.

The Great Schools for Nevada grant provides funds to new, replicating or expanding public charter schools that demonstrate success or evidence-based plans to successfully serve historically underserved student populations.  Schools must articulate a clear plan to serve a student population that is greater than or equal to the average underserved student population served by the district in which the school is located. 

“Opportunity 180 is committed to ensuring every kid has access to a great school,” said Jana Wilcox Lavin, CEO of Opportunity 180.  “These schools have innovative learning models, as well as a strong focus on college and career readiness, and have demonstrated significant engagement with students, parents, and potential community partners. We look forward to welcoming them to Southern Nevada.” 

The awarded schools are:

3551 N Ferrell St, Las Vegas, NV 89032

Focus: Implementing the Explore Learning model, an educational framework that promotes student growth and responsibility while providing an individualized educational path for each student

4280 West Craig Rd Suite 102/103, North Las Vegas, NV 89031

Focus: Providing real collegiate experiences for high school students through students taking on-campus college courses and professors, giving students the opportunity to earn college credit and ease the transition to college while earning their high school diplomas 

1580 Bledsoe Ln., Las Vegas, NV 89110

Focus: A unique curriculum that prepares students for success in construction professions and post-secondary education while meeting all the Nevada Academic Content Standards (NACS), advised by leading industry associations and stakeholders to inform and fill future workforce needs and provide direct career pathways

Address TBD, serving zip codes 89156, 89110, 89115 

Focus: Providing historically underserved youth with opportunities toward financial freedom and academic success, as well as pathways to careers that enable financial independence and wealth accumulation

“Southern Nevada Trades High School is incredibly grateful for the funding from the CSP grant. It will allow us to provide increased Special Education, English Language Learning and counseling services for our students. It will also enable our faculty to engage in extensive professional development to prepare them for our unique integrated career and college ready curriculum.  We look forward to welcoming our first class of Freshmen and Sophomores to SNTHS in the Fall of 2023.”

Julie Carver, Executive Director of Southern Nevada Trades High School.

Upon submitting an application, schools were selected via a 12-week external review process, in which they were required to demonstrate their commitment to serving high-need student populations through their mission, curriculum focus, and physical location. All awarded schools will be strategically placed in areas that align to the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority’s 2022 Academic and Demographic Needs Assessment and Opportunity 180’s Priority Footprint

The Great Schools for Nevada grant aligns directly with Opportunity 180’s mission to invest in great schools and put students on track to graduate high school college and career ready. These funds will directly impact nearly 2,100 students over the course of the grant, contributing to Opportunity 180’s overall goal of ensuring 100,000 more students have access to a high-quality school by 2030.

Designing & Launching the Learning Environments of Tomorrow

Opportunity 180 has launched applications for the second cohort of its Design to Edrupt (ODE) Fellowship, to begin January 2023.  The fellowship looks to disrupt the current education landscape and ensure every kid graduates college and career ready by identifying and supporting a diverse pipeline of leaders to design and launch tomorrow’s learning environments. These learning environments are applicable in both district and charter schools. 

During the Explore phase of the Design to Edrupt fellowship, participants assess, explore, and develop their leadership readiness to design and launch a new learning environment, like a new school or program, co-create their vision for education alongside students and families, and explore multiple pathways and strategies to launch their idea.

“Opportunity 180’s Designed to Edrupt was the catalyst that shifted my thinking of leadership and entrepreneurship. I left Explore with greater capacity to fulfill my role as a school leader,” said Cesserly Rice, a member of the first cohort. “I have also developed a stronger drive and tools to launch a program for impact in education. It was truly time well spent.”

The successful fellowship strategy was originally designed and launched in Denver, Colorado in 2017 by Moonshot edVentures. Over the last five years, Moonshot has supported nearly 100 leaders through five cohorts, with >85% identifying as people of color and >65% identifying as women or non-binary. About half of their fellows are currently founders, executive directors, or school leaders. O180 was selected by Moonshot to adapt the successful fellowship to specifically serve Clark County in addressing the deep disparity between the student population and the teachers and leaders that are present in our schools. Its first cohort of five diverse leaders presented their program and school concepts at the conclusion of the experience in May 2022 (learn more about them here!). 

Through a variety of workshops with education leaders and experts, information sessions that explore both professional and personal development, a national school visit, and the program’s Showcase event to community leaders and stakeholders, fellows gain deep understanding of themselves and their goals, strategies, and plans for launching their school or program. 

“The fellowship not only exposed me to other change-minded professionals with a passion for improving education, but it also introduced me to entrepreneurs and experts who have either done the work themselves or who have helped others who have,” said Mike Taack, another alumnus of the first cohort. “If you are serious about getting the tools and experiences needed to start (or continue) down the path of starting a charter school or an educational program, this is an opportunity that you cannot afford to miss.”

The fellowship seeks applicants who demonstrate:

  • New ideas and unique ways to improve outcomes for students and families.
  • A deep belief in the power of community, family, student, and teacher input to co-create a learning environment.
  • Cultural competency, including a sense of commitment to anti-racism,  unpacking bias, developing a vision with integrity, and creating the systems that improve learning outcomes for underserved communities.

“With over 20 years of classroom teaching experience, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous professional development activities over the years. But none have been as impactful on my growth, professionally and personally, as the Design to Edrupt Fellowship,” said Dr. Jeff Hinton, an alumnus of the first cohort. “It wasn’t always easy,  but it was always worth it.” 

Want to learn more? 

Applications open September 1, so be sure to check the website for updated information on application instructions and a direct link to the application once live. The priority application deadline is September 30, 2022,  with the final deadline being October 14, 2022. The program begins in January 2023.

If you know someone who would be a great candidate for this fellowship, click here to complete the referral form. Those who refer candidates who are accepted into the first phase of the application stage will receive a gift card!

Individuals interested in learning more are encouraged to attend an information session. Click here to RSVP.

  • Thursday, September 8, 2022 – 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. (Virtual)
  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022 – 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. (In-person, at Opportunity 180’s offices – 732 S. 6th St., Ste. 200D, Las Vegas, NV 89101)
  • Thursday, October 6, 2022 – 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. (Virtual)

Strengthening Parent & Family Voices in Education

Opportunity 180 announced four grantees for its inaugural Family Power Impact Grant totaling $1.8 million over multiple years, with the goal of providing support for family-focused organizations dedicated to education, programming and capacity-building to increase families’ voices in education. This first-of-its-kind grant opportunity will give organizations capacity to  develop programs, events and outreach tools to keep families engaged with their students’ educational experiences as the 2022-2023 school year begins.

According to the national leader in investing in family voice, the Flamboyan Foundation and its “Family Engagement Matters” publication, family engagement leads to increased student achievement rates, higher graduation rates, reduced absenteeism, better student-teacher relationships and more cultural competence — all of which can have significant results on long-term student achievement and success. Creating these opportunities to support family voice is a critical component of engaging the community towards a North Star of ensuring every kid graduates from high school college and career ready.

“Opportunity 180 is committed to elevating student and family voices to ensure students are at the center of solutions to educational challenges,” said Jana Wilcox Lavin, CEO of Opportunity 180. “Through the Family Power Impact Grant, we are supporting organizations that will bolster student and family voices and provide meaningful, targeted resources to support diverse communities, increase understanding and communication, and ultimately have an impact on student success.”

The four grantees are: 

  • Parent Leadership Team of Nevada, which will use grant funds to form their own 501(c)(3) organization and deepen their impact on our community, as well as provide training, volunteer materials, and programming to support their efforts in developing and organizing families seeking better educational outcomes for their children, particularly in immigrant and under-resourced communities in Southern Nevada 
  • No Racism in Schools, which will establish its first two programs, Kids Corner (a mentorship and life coaching program) and quarterly workshops for families and other community stakeholders, as well as build capacity for future growth and family engagement efforts
  • Power2Parent, which will bolster its team in support of its education, training, and communication initiatives with parents, including effectively advocating for children through Parent Leadership Academy training and building family connection points through new and expanded programming
  • Rise Up Nevada, which will use its grant to expand its Project 3E (Engaged, Equipped, & Empowered) to provide data-driven support and education to families, as well as promote a culture of continuous improvement through engagement and advocacy.

“The Nevada Parent Leadership Team (PLT) believes that parents are the first link in the chain of their children’s success. Our team works hard so that immigrant, emerging bilingual and low-income families benefit and learn that education is the best equalizer. The Nevada Parent Leadership Team wants to build an organization focused on informing, empowering, organizing, and advocating for families seeking better educational opportunities for their children,” said Selene Lozado, Founder and Executive Director of the PLT. “We are grateful to be part of a diverse cohort of grantees who are focused on building the power of families in our community. With this generous grant, the PLT now has the resources it needs to help low-income families (regardless of race or language) provide the tools so these families can change their children’s future through education.”

Please note, funding cannot be used for lobbying activities, and funding is not an Opportunity 180 endorsement of specific issue areas on which the project or organizations are focused.

Supporting Schools, Supporting Teachers:

New Grant Program Invests in Great Ideas for High-Quality Teacher Retention and Recruitment

As part of our North Star – ensuring every kid graduates from high school college and career-ready – Opportunity 180 invests in great schools and educators providing educational experiences that give students a foundation for their success. 

A major challenge that schools face today is an ongoing teacher shortage, and moreover, a shortage of teachers a TNTP study calls “Irreplaceables.” According to the study, “Teachers of this caliber provide more engaging learning experiences for students and help them achieve five to six more months of learning each year than students of low-performing teachers – academic results that can be life-changing.” 

Therefore, to further the pipeline of quality teachers in Clark County and build the conditions that support and strengthen them, we are thrilled to announce four grants totaling nearly $500,000 to be used specifically to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, with an emphasis on ensuring more teachers represent the backgrounds of their students and cultivating more “Irreplaceables” right here in Southern Nevada. The grants begin this summer. 

“This is the first time Opportunity 180 has awarded these types of grants, and we are so proud to do so with four of our partner schools: Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, Futuro Academy, Nevada Rise Academy, and TEACH Las Vegas,” said Jana Wilcox Lavin, CEO of Opportunity 180. “These grants will be specifically directed towards initiatives that give educators and school leaders the resources they need to teach effectively, stay in Nevada schools, and help our kids graduate from high school college and career-ready.”

These four schools are located in economically disadvantaged areas of the Las Vegas Valley where the majority are students of color, underscoring the importance of ensuring teachers represent their student populations. A recent discussion at Brookings Institution’s Brown Center for Education Policy noted that diversity can be a “critical element of a quality education,” and, “one of the ways to close long-standing race-based achievement gaps is to expose more students to teachers who look like them.” Working to intentionally address representation and voice will impact academic outcomes for these students, making it an important focus for teacher retention and recruitment efforts in these historically marginalized communities. 

To cultivate these high-performing learning and working environments, the grantees will incorporate new, as well as tried and tested, ways to recruit, develop, and retain high-quality teachers at their campuses, including:

  • Creating and incubating an induction and mentoring program to promote growth and development of teachers early in their teaching careers. 
  • Connecting instructional design opportunities through peer mentoring, classroom observations and feedback, coaching on formative assessments, and case/lesson studies on instructional design
  • Providing additional pathways for teachers to be cultivated into administrative and leadership roles
  • Engaging staff in various professional development opportunities, including coaching, curricula development, and a mini-residency program
  • Providing performance-based retention incentives to teachers
  • Working with organizations to set aside time for dedicated time on a regular basis for educators to help formalize development tools and programs geared towards collaboration

Creating conditions for great teachers to stay in classrooms and cultivate engaging learning experiences and environments is a critical piece to improving student outcomes, as well as ensuring that teachers represent their student populations. These grants will pilot retention strategies that keep our “Irreplaceables” in the classroom, demonstrating firsthand that great teachers and great ideas make way for great schools and better student outcomes.

Congratulations to Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, Futuro Academy, Nevada Rise Academy, and TEACH Las Vegas on this exciting funding opportunity. Stay tuned for more updates on these programs as we share learnings, progress, and outcomes!

Opportunity 180 Partners with Surge Institute to Launch Program in Southern Nevada

The Surge Academy, a national program that develops, elevates, and unites leaders of color within the education and youth-serving space, will be expanding to two new cities in 2022: Las Vegas and Philadelphia.

Designed by the Surge Institute, the Surge Academy program provides an intensive leadership experience, packed with powerful content that explores executive skills such as finance, strategic planning, and change management. In addition, throughout the program, fellows engage in a deep and unflinching dialogue about personal growth, trauma, and the true state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the United States.

Mathew Mauricio Rojas (IND ‘21), an alum of the program and Assistant Professor of Practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, shares what he gained.

“Because of my experience with the Surge Academy, I now am a fuller version of myself,” Rojas said. “I feel confident in my leadership and don’t feel like I am asking for permission to be who I am becoming. I am now surrounded by people who believe in me and see me for who I was, am, and hope to be and know they will be there to support me.”

In September, thanks to a partnership with Opportunity 180, Surge will also start recruitment for a Las Vegas Surge Academy, which will develop, elevate and unite leaders in the city, as well as all of Clark County, Nevada.

“In an ongoing effort to strengthen and accelerate the pipeline of education leaders who represent the diversity of Southern Nevada, we are thrilled to partner with the Surge Institute team to provide the opportunity to launch the Las Vegas Surge Academy,” said Jana Wilcox Lavin, CEO of Opportunity 180. “The Academy is a momentous step forward in building out the region’s educational ecosystem to better reflect that diversity, and will have a significant impact on students, families, and our community.”

Originally launched in Kansas City, the six-month fellowship has grown into a signature program of the Surge Institute. To date, the Surge Academy has graduated three cohorts, two in Kansas City and one in Indianapolis respectively, totaling 44 leaders who have transitioned into Surge’s National Alumni Network of more than 200 leaders of color. More recently the Academy has kicked off a new cohort in Indianapolis and launched a new fellowship experience in Washington D.C.

Upon graduating from the Surge Academy, fellows maintain a deep connection to the Surge national movement, united in the purpose of building an equitable future for communities of color.

To learn more about applying to the Surge Academy, visit the Surge Academy homepage. Applications for the Las Vegas cohort will open in the fall.

Sign up for the Surge Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter and follow the Surge Institute and Surge Academy on social media to stay informed about upcoming events, news, and related developments.

About The Surge Institute:

The Surge Institute is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established with a simple but important mission to develop and elevate leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities. Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the organization was designed to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience. To learn more about The Surge Institute, please visit:

Design to Edrupt: Fellowship program helps educators turn ideas into action with a mission toward equity

To bring the change that our kids deserve, it takes a team of dedicated leaders who are willing to shift the standard approach to learning. 

Engaging students in thinking big about new learning experiences during Student Design Day

To further support educators across the  fifth most diverse and dynamic school district in the nation, Opportunity 180 launched a new fellowship that will provide focused support to five underrepresented educational leaders across Clark County, with a goal to launch new learning environments for students. The combination of diverse leadership and the build out of equity-based learning models through this fellowship will help to launch new schools, modify the current education environments, and provide new opportunities for educators, students, and their families. 

The 2022 Explore Cohort for the inaugural “Design to Edrupt” fellowship was built from Moonshot edVentures which was designed and launched in Denver, CO in 2017. The fellowship is an investment in educational design, and presents new strategies for learning while aiming to ground these approaches in the needs of students and families. 

Following the main core values of the fellowship—respect, trust, love, equity, collaboration, and paying it forward—fellows will experiment with learning environments they co-create with students and families, in order to design a new school or an internal program for students in Clark County. The participants chosen are among teachers, school administrators, and nonprofit members from across the county.

“Fellows will use the liberatory approach to design-thinking and listen to what students and families need,” said Tamara Shear, Senior Director of Great Schools Portfolio. “(They will) use this practice to design a learning environment that meets those needs and disrupts the traditional education system.”

The liberatory approach is an equity-centered practice that creates opportunities for the equity practitioner and the designers. Together, they will build skill sets that will enable them to develop a new approach to designing learning environments. Some of those examples include practicing empathy and problem-solving to help others understand their equity values, awareness, and reflecting on the impact of one’s beliefs and biases. 

The fellows for the program were selected based on the following criteria: Entrepreneurial Mindset, People Leadership, Strategic and Operational Leadership, and Instructional Leadership. Fellows also will have access and opportunities to connect with local leaders that are interested in supporting them on their journey to launch their  school program or learning environment. 

We are honored to announce the 2022 Explore Cohort for the Design to Edrupt Fellowship: 

Cece Rice – Principal and Business Owner

Venture: Educators of Color Alliance (Educator Support Program) ∙ Projected Launch Date: June 2022 ∙ Grade Level(s) Served: Educators in years 3-5 of their career ∙ Target Geography: Las Vegas Valley

Cesserly Rice is the current principal at Nevada Rise Academy in Las Vegas, with a Masters in Educational Administration. She served in several leadership capacities over the past six years, including K-8 instructional coach, director of achievement, and assistant principal. She also worked with a local Alternate Route to Licensure program that prepares aspiring educators to fill roles as teachers across the Las Vegas Valley. Through this work, CeCe discovered her inclination and desire to develop and support educators.

Jeff Hinton – Teacher and Consultant

Venture: Entrepreneurial and Leadership Academy of Las Vegas (Charter School)  ∙ Projected Launch Date: TBD ∙ Grade Level(s) Served: 9-12 ∙ Target Geography: Las Vegas, Nevada

Dr. Jeff Hinton is a blogger, writer, and video content creator. He believes that all students are uniquely special and are capable of learning deeply through relevant, hands-on, student-centered approaches that fosters high cognitive demand, creativity, and a love for learning.

Joseph Orosco – Teacher and Non-Profit Founder

Venture: Warriors of Light Family Inc. (Program) ∙ Launch Date: August 2020 ∙ Grade Level (s) Served: 8-12 ∙ Target Geography: East Las Vegas

Joseph Orosco is the Founder and Executive Director of Warriors of Light Family Inc., in Las Vegas. He is also a Mathematics Teacher at Equipo Academy, where he teaches an Algebra 1 curriculum he created. Joseph completed his Undergrad at Trinity College with a dual B.A. in Urban Studies and Engineering Science, followed by his Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Joseph also serves as a foster parent and received several awards such as SIC Community Award, Coca-Cola Scholar, and NBA Latino Night Awardee.

Kendrick Kumabe – Educator and Business Owner

Venture: Champions Classical Leadership Academy (Private or Charter School) Projected Launch Date: August 2024  Grade Level(s) Served: K-2  Target Geography: North Las Vegas 

With more than 20 years of experience in the field, Kendrick Kumabe is a distinguished member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., a historical association launched by African Americans, and is currently serving as the President of the Nevada African American Administrators and Superintendents Association, Teachers Chapter. 

He is the acclaimed author of “Coaching Young Champions: Social Emotional Learning Considerations for the Virtual/Hybrid Educator”; and is also the founder of Kenzumi Education Consulting, LLC. 

Kendrick is now serving as the President of Superior Substitutes, a Las Vegas based education staffing firm committed to filling critical teacher shortages in underserved communities. 

Mike Taack – Educator and Community Outreach Coordinator

Venture: Western Youth Leadership, Engagement, and Empowerment School (Middle School) ∙ Projected Launch Date: TBD ∙ Grade Level(s) Served: 6-8 ∙ Target Geography: Central Las Vegas

With more than 12 years of experience in the education field, Mike Taack is a graduate of Clark County School District and a two-time graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Before becoming an educator, Mike worked in restaurants and insurance companies. He completed his student teaching at Fremont Professional Development Middle School while working on his Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. He immediately fell in love with both the profession and the neighborhood, and has been at Fremont for nearly all of his career. He has taught English, explorations, publications, and computer science, and has mentored many student teachers and practicum students as a part of Fremont’s unique relationship with professional development schools and UNLV.  

We can’t wait to see what the fellows in partnership with the community design and develop. We are on a journey to learn alongside. If you are interested in learning more about upcoming workshops and cohorts, please visit our website or contact Tamara Shear at