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McNair Scholar Gets an Education behind the Scenes

Profile Jenna Sablan

As an intern fielding complaints on behalf of Michele Rhee, DC Public Schools’ (DCPS) controversial Chancellor, Jenna Sablan knows what it’s like to be in the hot seat.

Sablan is part of the “critical response team” Rhee created to deal with all questions, complaints and concerns related to the DCPS system. Sablan’s team handles more than 100 requests a week, from teachers complaining of late paychecks to parents caught in the sometimes-sticky web of bureaucracy.

“I once spent the whole day dealing with a mother who was trying to transfer her child to a public school. At the time the kid was staying at home while the mother was trying to get the paperwork through. Those are high priority cases – we don’t want kids to go days without being in school,” she said.

A Scholar in the McNair, Frederick Douglass, and Asian-Pacific Islander American programs, Sablan grew up “appreciating education and realizing how it fit into the bigger picture,” she said. “Neither of my parents never finished college, and my dad always talked to us about how important it is to have a college degree.”

Sablan is on track to not only get that degree -- a B.A. in a self-designed major combining Social Policy and Political Science -- but also shape the policies that will help other future students along that path. She hopes to attend graduate school in education policy, with the goal of working on higher education reform. “I want to help students make the transition from high school to college -- not just to get accepted into college but to be equipped for success.”