After 8 incredible years leading Californians for Justice, Executive Director Taryn Ishida is moving on to the next adventure. Read her letter below and stay tuned for more info about the transition plan as we gear up for the next chapter at CFJ.
I knew about Californians for Justice long before I had ever considered a role on the team. CFJ organizers roped me into phone banks, fundraisers, providing rides, and volunteering in a variety of ways. Along the way, I began to understand the true power and potential at the intersections of racial and educational justice, powered by young people.
That’s why when I had the opportunity to become the Executive Director of CFJ after a decade of volunteering, I couldn’t imagine putting my heart, soul, and hustle into anything else. The incredibly rewarding work that I’ve been part of ever since is and will likely remain the most memorable and inspiring chapter of my career, even now as I make plans to depart.
When I joined CFJ, we were facing very difficult and different circumstances including a major deficit and big questions about the future of the organization. Our smaller and mighty team were determined to save the best parts of CFJ even as we had to make hard decisions to shrink our staff and reimagine our programs. With renewed focus and strategic direction, we made it through.
Soon all of our hard work began to pay off as our youth leaders led the way to major victories around school funding, student voice and relationship centered schools. Our growing impact and visibility brought new funders and larger grants to the organization allowing us to once again begin to grow. I’m proud that CFJ is a thriving, innovative, statewide leader for students and families of color, because when the most impacted people thrive, all of us will thrive and experience true liberation.
Over the past 8 years, I’ve had the chance to see us engage and support the development of over a thousand youth of color to become lifelong racial justice movement leaders, and engage tens of thousands more to take action through our civic engagement work. I’ve seen youth forever change the way decisions are made in CA through LCFF and the Student Voice Campaign, and then proactively put out a youth-led vision of racially just schools through our Relationship Centered Schools and Reimagine and Rebuild Campaigns– all of which have become roadmaps for the field to advance system transformation.
Along the way, I’ve loved the innovations and creativity in organizing that we built out with our own know-how and scrappiness. We’ve built transformational alliances like the CA Partnership for the Future of Learning to make wins real, fund the movement, change the narrative, and rebuild an education system that works for all. I’m also proud of what it is like inside of CFJ. We’ve expanded the holistic supports we can provide our staff and youth leaders, engaged in critical culture work centered in racial justice, diversified and grown our revenue, and built our strategic muscles to imagine, vision, and win.
Being a part of CFJ has transformed me. I’m emerging as a better leader and a better human being with a treasure trove of beautiful and hilarious memories.
While there’s never a perfect time to leave doing something you love, this feels right for me and for CFJ because we are in such a strong place. We are making bold leaps for racial justice with our campaigns, are financially strong, including our reserve fund built over the last 5 years. And we have an amazing staff, board, and cohort of student leaders that bring love, commitment, and leadership to our work every day. Without all of you, CFJ’s growth and impact would not have been possible- you have my deepest gratitude.
I’m still figuring out what is next for me, though I plan to be part of the vibrant CFJ family forever. First, I’m hoping to spend more time in my home state of Hawaii having quality time with my children and extended family.
I’m confident about where CFJ is and our ability to remain strong and strategic through this transition. I’m also excited to see all the new and exciting things in store for CFJ as part of this leadership change. I’ll remain in my role as Executive Director through the end of March 2022- stay tuned for our formal job announcement and the opportunity to be part of my transition and the welcome for CFJ’s next leadership.
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