Student Focus: Rashaun Bennett ’16 Pursues Passion for Education, Public Policy

Within a year of coming to Davidson, Jackie Robinson Scholar Rashaun Bennett '16 spent a semester interning in the mayoral office of now-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx '93.

Bennett, a political science major and economics minor, knew in high school that he wanted to pursue a career in government and policy, but working in local government on youth initiatives helped him fine-tune his interests.

"Attending meetings and speeches with Foxx's staff allowed me to see the inner workings of a mayoral office – the decision-making process, how to deal with controversial issues, and Foxx's ability to stay calm under pressure," he said.

Bennett's desire to explore the public education system in particular led him to participate in the college's Education Scholars program this past summer. He worked under Deputy Superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Ann Clark '80 to create a comprehensive overview of advanced placement classes at CMS high schools and recommend ways to increase the number of minority students taking the classes.

"I was able to have great in-depth conversations about how the education system has evolved and to learn how complex the system is, because there are so many players involved," he said. Living in Charlotte with the other Education Scholars allowed him to learn more about how they all of the players interact.

Being the Change

Bennett's passion for education stems from the disparities he saw in the public school system while growing up. His desire to know more about the causes of disparities and how they can be resolved has shaped Bennett's personal and professional aspirations.

A Bonner Scholar, Bennett volunteers with organizations in the Davidson community that address education-related issues. Bennett's focus on improving secondary education is born out through his volunteer work mentoring high school students for the Youth Development Initiative and service on the Ada Jenkins High School Expansion Committee, which focuses on identifying ways to provide the nonprofit's resources to high school students.

On campus he serves as the Student Government Association representative for the Black Student Coalition. When he isn't in meetings or classes or serving the community, Bennett enjoys attending campus lectures. He said, "Hearing speakers such as Angela Davis is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I'm glad to be able to take advantage of here."

Bennett also has worked with the college's Young Democrats to take groups of students to the "Historic Thousands on Jones Street" march in Raleigh, N.C., an annual demonstration of support for progressive ideas in education, anti-racism laws, marriage equality and women's health rights.

Most recently, Bennett participated in the Public Policy and Leadership Conference at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The conference prepares students to study public policy.

"From furthering my career ambitions to allowing me to work with great professors, Davidson has provided me with resources to pursue my interests," he said.