Frankie Assaf's Passion for Education Leads to Harvard Kennedy School

July 20, 2011
from the Institute of Politics Newsletter

As a Harvard undergraduate, there were two places – other than the classroom – that Francis “Frankie” Assaf called home: the Institute of Politics (IOP) and the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA). Assaf’s dedicated work at the Institute and PBHA helped turn his personal passion for urban education reform into a career path focused on ending inner-city educational inequity.

A Boston, MA, native, Assaf witnessed firsthand education challenges present in urban areas, where he “struggled to understand why many of my fellow classmates and friends fell through the academic cracks and could not fulfill their potential” in the classroom and took his interest in improving inner-city education to Harvard.

At PBHA, Assaf focused throughout the year in the Franklin neighborhood of Dorchester, where he identified a real need for urban education reform. “The solution to this need,” said Assaf “came from the IOP.” Assaf relished discussing education and other key issues as a member of the Institute’s student Harvard Political Union, one of the College’s premier associations for political debate, and took advantage of the opportunity to engage with government leaders at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, where he gained “a keen awareness of the power and potential for politics and public policy to affect significant social change.” These experiences led Assaf to work in the education policy arena after graduation in 2008 and inspired him to apply to the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Master in Public Policy (MPP) program.

In recognition of his commitment to improving education and the lives of America’s urban youth, the Institute named Assaf the 2011 Institute of Politics Alumni Scholarship winner in support of his work toward a two-year MPP degree. The IOP Alumni Scholarship is a merit-based opportunity for students active as undergraduates with the Institute’s programming to receive financial support toward a graduate degree at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). As the Institute is dedicated to inspiring students to a life of politics, public service and leadership, the scholarship furthers that mission by providing a full, two-year scholarship to IOP alumni to enhance their educational experience at HKS.

“The non-profit management, policy development, and political leadership skills that I gain at Harvard Kennedy School will be instrumental for successfully achieving my future goals in public service,” said Assaf. “Drawing on my MPP training, after graduation, I want to continue to affect education reform in New York by working in an education non-profit that will help state government and local school districts implement more effective academic practices and public policies.”

Past recipients of the IOP’s Harvard Kennedy School scholarship include Quinnie Lin (MPP 2012), Meghan Haggerty (MPP 2010), Emily Nielson (MPP 2009) and Eli Rosenbaum (MPP 2009).

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“The non-profit management, policy development, and political leadership skills that I gain at Harvard Kennedy School will be instrumental for successfully achieving my future goals in public service.”

—Frankie Assaf