Meet the Team: Dryden Mills, Senior Associate
Dryden works to support JPEF's strategic initiatives to bring best practices to parents, teachers, and principals.
The JPEF Board of Directors and staff are excited to welcome Dryden Mills, who joined JPEF last week as Senior Associate: Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships. Dryden will be working to support JPEF's three leadership initiatives for parents, teachers, and principals, as well as our research and advocacy work. This summer, she's diving in to a very busy time, when we're launching our School Leader Summer Residency, mobilizing community support for the half-penny for public schools and hosting School Board candidate forums to engage the public in School Board elections.
To welcome Dryden, we asked her to share a little bit about herself.
Tell us a bit about your story and how you came to work at JPEF.
Throughout high school and college, I grew increasingly engaged in the political/government sphere, and really felt a calling to use my privilege and energy to help build up my community around me. In college in Colorado, this took the form of nonpartisan election work, engaging young people in politics and getting them excited to use their voices to vote. While I have loved that work, and will continue to focus on it in my personal life, I wanted to really figure out the root of many of the systemic problems I was seeing in my communities, and education felt like a great place to invest my energy. Living in Colorado the past four years has been great, but I wanted to come back to the state that raised me to help make lasting change here, and JPEF felt like the perfect fit. I am so excited to really get into the work to help build stronger leaders in our parents, teachers, and school leaders, to close the opportunity gap for children of color and those who are economically disadvantaged. I have continually been motivated to do the work that produces real results for real people, and that is what JPEF is all about, and I am so happy to be here.
Who is your favorite teacher and what did they teach you?
Choosing a favorite teacher has always been difficult for me, because there are so many that have helped shape my life in positive ways. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be Amanda Geiger, my Advanced Placement Government teacher from my senior year of high school. I had always had a passion for politics and public service buried in me somewhere, but Ms. Geiger really helped me find it. Something that really sticks out to me about her and her class was that she was always truly excited about what she was teaching. She fostered in us a sense of civic duty, and helped us understand the current system and the power that we had to shape it. One day, she even brought voter registration forms into our class to make sure those of us who were 17 and 18 years old were ready to vote and make our voices heard. Without her, I don't know if I would be where I am today.
Why are you excited to work at JPEF?
I am excited to work at JPEF, because they are getting so much work done on the education front here in Jacksonville. Absolutely everything we do is equity-focused and research-driven, which is what really drives change for our schools and the lives of our children. In this increasingly polarized political climate, it can be so difficult to get things done or to even start the conversation on what needs to be worked on, but because of the nature of the work at JPEF, we are able to get past that and focus on what is best for the kids of Duval County, and I am so proud that I am able to be a part of that.