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Entrepreneur, K12 technology veteran, former GSV Innovator of Color Award Winner, DreamBox Learning Chair, CEO & President Jessie Woolley-Wilson and former U.S. Secretary of Education and Managing Partner at Emerson Collective, Arne Duncan Sit Down for Fireside Chat

  • April 24, 2018
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The final day of the ASU + GSV Summit began with a discussion between Jessie Woolley-Wilson, the chair, CEO and president of DreamBox Learning, and Arne Duncan, the managing partner of Emerson Collective and a former U.S. secretary of education. On the heels of the passing of former first lady Barbara Bush, the pair discussed the state of the nation and how far — or not — the country has progressed on issues of education, tolerance and violence.

Duncan grew up in Chicago in a family that was deeply involved in the community and focused on expanding educational opportunities for students from all walks of life. As an adult, his desire to have an impact led him to work with Emerson Collective, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, provides an alternative to a life of crime for at-risk and incarcerated individuals by offering job skills training and legal employment opportunities.

According to Duncan, addressing educational attainment issues in Chicago begins with addressing the pervasive, violent crime that plagues schools and neighborhoods and traumatizes students, families and communities. Duncan noted that for the seven years he was the head of Chicago’s schools, they lost a student to gun violence every two weeks. At the Chicago high school he founded, 17 students were shot last year.

In the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, Duncan facilitated meetings between survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez and some of the participants in his organization — many who had experienced gun violence throughout their lives — to learn from one another and discuss solutions. “We need math and science and STEM. But we need to find ways to bring kids together and find some common ground that is not around losing your best friends in shootings.”

In spite of the statistics, Duncan remains optimistic. “I’m hopeful. In every crisis there is an opportunity. Our country is strong, and I think it’s an amazing opportunity to do this leapfrog to a better place together.”

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