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An announcement from our CEO

By Mohan Sivaloganathan

I always wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.

 

Much of my life was a story of opposites. I was taught to succeed through determination, ambition, and force of will. It was the solo journey of the tortured artist; I found myself on the outside looking in, always measuring how I’m different from everyone else. When I started to pursue belonging and connection, I discovered a symphony. Some of my most joyful and proud experiences occurred in community, in political campaigns, on dance floors, within schools, and more. They are moments of cosmic harmony, transcending ideologies and identities, and this soundtrack is more fulfilling to me than any individual, virtuosic performance.

 

When I joined Our Turn in 2019, I saw an opportunity to be a part of something big, something significant: the movement for education justice. But it wasn’t long before I started to see the trees within the forest, striving to see, support, and lift up the individuals who make up the movement. Inspired by our community - the young leaders, our staff, our allies, and students across the country - I (privately) established three goals. First, we needed to ensure that Our Turn would be a place where young people from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, First Gen, and LGBTQ communities could thrive. We needed to create an always-on megaphone and platform for young people to celebrate their stories and catapult their impact. Second, we needed to build the national case for student engagement and equity, ensuring that young people had runway to exercise their leadership. And third, we needed to build Our Turn’s resilience. From COVID-19 to economic turmoil to a democracy in danger, we’ve seen every political and cultural curveball possible, and we needed to be able to not only survive, but thrive. 

 

Today, from coast to coast, I see our community thriving. I see young people inspiring bipartisan legislation and receiving standing ovations in national events. I see a team that consistently strives for wellbeing, humor, and growth. I see allies knocking on our doors, wanting to co-conspire to reimagine the education system. I see that I am a part of something bigger than myself.

 

With satisfaction with what we’ve accomplished, and deep gratitude for this journey, I write to inform you that I am stepping down from my role in March 2024.

 

I would never be so naive to claim that “the job is done.” Nevertheless, I am proud of the role I have played in this movement, and I am ready for the next chapter. I am ready for my family’s next chapter, to pursue new avenues of abundance (more on that later). And, Our Turn is ready for the next chapter, for the next wave of leaders to take the baton and push the movement forward. A movement is inherently beyond the power of any single person. It is organic, entrepreneurial, and ever growing in people and impact, and that is why I know that Our Turn will reach new levels of thriving in the coming years.

 

To the young people both inside and outside of the Our Turn community, you have made it clear that you are hungry to raise your voices, build community, and maximize your ability to influence change. Our Turn is here for you. 

 

One of my favorite songs is “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead. On that note, the movement is truly on the move because we are prepared. As a team, we built our 2024 strategy to ensure organizational resilience, in preparation for a long-term strategic planning process to commence next year. Soon, we will launch a renewed Student Agenda, which will serve as a blueprint for youth- and equity-centered change in education. Our full- and part-time staff are dynamic, talented, and forever ready to ask and answer the tough questions. In parallel, I’ve been honored to partner with our Board of Directors and senior staff over the past few months to plan for my transition. Collectively, we know that the show will go on - bigger, brighter, bolder.

 

So what’s ahead? The Board of Directors will soon share details on plans for hiring a new CEO. In parallel, I have expressed my commitment to a healthy transition to the board and staff, which includes overlap time with the new CEO to help them to hit the ground running. I am also excited for folks to spend more time with Kayla Romero Morais, our one-of-a-kind Chief Growth Officer who will partner with me to guide Our Turn’s programs, partner engagement, and culture during this transition period. If you know Our Turn, you know that we pride ourselves in being present for the cause, so you can continue to reach out to us if you are a student interested in leadership opportunities or an ally that wants to advance a shared cause. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, our Board Chair Josh Joseph ([email protected]), or Kayla ([email protected]if you have any questions.

 

As for my next chapter, I aspire to more directly uplift emerging leaders on the front lines of social justice work, and hope to contribute through movement building, culture shaping, and strengthening the wellbeing + impact of philanthropies and social impact organizations (stay tuned).

 

I started this letter by talking about internal conflict and turmoil, in my efforts to find footing during my early life and career. As I close this letter, I feel peace. I feel a unique form of calm that I have felt a few times in my life, during moments where I have known that I am exactly where I need to be, and doing exactly what I need to do. While I don’t want to underestimate my transition, I know that Our Turn - and the movement for education justice - will leap forward. This work is bigger than me, and I look forward to the brush strokes, musical notes, and stanzas that will vibrate and resonate for generations to come. 

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