Meet Board Fellow: Rhianna Scyster


Earlier this year, JPEF welcomed Rhianna Scyster as the first Board Service Fellow with JPEF, where she is being mentored by Board Vice Chair Buck Williams. Rhianna currently serves as the Research and Policy Analyst at Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center. Prior to accepting her current role, Rhianna was an ESE teacher for 3.5 years and most recently served as the Student Data and Evaluation Manager at Cathedral Arts Project. During her time as an undergraduate student at the University of North Florida, Rhianna served as a Student Ambassador for the College of Education and Human Services and was also awarded a two-year scholarship from the Florida Funds Minority Teachers. She most recently presented at the WJCT TEACH conference, where she provided insight on the intersection of equity and policy in education. 

JPEF recently sat down with Rhianna to learn more about her and the Board Service Fellow experience.

Can you tell us a little about your background and interest in public education?

Public education has always been close to my heart. My teachers and the classroom had always been my safe space because of a traumatic household, and I had always wanted to be a teacher because of their positive influence in my life. I graduated from UNF in 2017, where I earned my degree in Special Education. Immediately after graduation, I taught middle school for three years before understanding that the change I was passionate about seeing in K-12 public education didn’t happen from the classroom, but relied on policy and creating equity through policy work. I have a deep passion for educational equity, specifically for historically marginalized youth and their communities. In 2020, I was awarded the Public Policy Fellowship from Jacksonville University and focused my studies and research on education policy and discipline practices. I believe in the public education system and that education advocates can shift the culture of education into a more efficient and positive standing.

What does a Board Fellow do?

  • Accepts mentorship and guidance from experts on how to be an involved and effective board member.
  • Attends board meetings and other events for their partner organization.
  • Documents their progress and knowledge of board service
  • Communicates with their board mentor and asks questions
  • Demonstrates their expertise and provides valuable insight to the board.
  • Engages with peers and aims to build a well-rounded network. 

What has the experience been like for you so far?

So far, the experience has been fulfilling. We’ve completed the three program days and we’ve taken in a lot of knowledge from local experts. I’m excited to work under my board mentor, Buck Williams, and take in all that I can from such a diverse board. I really appreciate the thoroughness of the Nonprofit Center in ensuring that fellows and board hosts understand the fellowship and that fellows have the support we need to navigate this space. I feel even more supported because Buck and I serve on another board together and Rachael and I have such a close relationship; I don’t feel like a stranger at all.

How do you plan to use the experience and information you gain from being a Board Fellow in your life/career?

The Board Fellowship is critical in my role as a non-profit advocate and what I plan to do to uphold my involvement with other nonprofit boards. My work with the Jacksonville Urban League Young Professionals, Sanctuary on Eighth Street, and Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center depend on my knowledge of board policy and operations. The fellowship will equip me with the tools to communicate effectively, build a strong network, and deepen my community impact.

Go here for more information about the Nonprofit Center Board Service Fellowship. 




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.