Empowering Students to Shatter Expectations

January 8, 2020

Penn GSE alumnus Eduardo (Tony) A. Alleyne, GRD’16, works to help first-generation, low-income high school students prepare for college. We spoke with him to learn more about his path and his dedication to empowering students.

When thinking about your career in education, what accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

Earning the Penn GSE Recent Alumni/Early Career Award of Merit stacks up very high for me, as does the early success of Delaware College Scholars (DCS). As founder and executive director, I built DCS into a leading college preparation and persistence program in the State of Delaware over the course of six years. To know that I am helping first-generation, low-income high school students shatter expectations and negative stereotypes truly empowers me to continue my work.

When did you first know that you wanted to be involved in education? Why?

I initially became interested in education through my involvement as a Charlotte corps member of Teach for America. I taught middle school math and science and coached track and field. Through this experience, I became dedicated to acknowledging and fixing inequities in our educational system, especially because many students affected by this injustice reflect my own racial and/or socioeconomic background.

What led you to pursue a degree from Penn GSE?

After earning my master’s degree at Columbia University’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, I knew that I wanted more resources in my toolkit to truly create sustained change and a programmatic impact in our educational system. I realized that the nonprofit space could benefit from a well-researched program that emphasized a public-private partnership. It was also important that I do this work while being an engaged young father of two daughters. With the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Penn GSE, I was able to pursue a full course load while working full-time in a very practitioner-friendly doctoral program.

Share an experience, person, or class from your time at Penn GSE that helped shape your views on education.

Penn GSE consistently taught me the importance of diversity of thought. It was great to be in a very intense learning environment with so many people representing so many perspectives. Listening to those with opposing opinions allowed me to widen my own perspective and directly encouraged me to strengthen my ability to be articulately rooted in my beliefs while welcoming the beliefs of others at the same time.

How did your time at Penn GSE prepare you for your profession?

Penn GSE, and the dissertation process in particular, helped me hone my ability to start any inquiry with the right set of questions. It is not enough to have energy and passion; you must be methodical in your approach in order to produce consistent and sustainable results. The recursive nature of the dissertation gave me an opportunity to really think hard about what I wanted to do and study, and this carried over in the way I developed and now lead my nonprofit program. For the transformational outcomes I desire, I’ve learned the importance of making sure we are asking the right questions at the onset. 

How would you describe the impact of Penn GSE students and alumni like you on the future of education? 

We are living in tumultuous times, and we need innovators who can revamp the educational system and find ways to give voice to the voiceless. With what one learns at Penn GSE, we have the tools to do just that. It is not just an option for Penn GSE alumni to do what they can for the public good—it is our responsibility.

Tony Alleyne, GRD’16, is founder and executive director of the Delaware College Scholars Program and previously served as senior associate director of admission and college counseling at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and African American history at Wesleyan University, a master's degree at Columbia University’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, and a doctorate from Penn GSE. He received the Delaware Business Times’ 40 Under 40 award in 2017, the Penn GSE Recent Alumni Award 2018, the Columbia University Teachers College Early Career Award 2019, and the Teach for America Delaware Markell Leadership Award 2019.

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