Access, Equity, and Leadership Development: Key Components for One School Leadermarzo 17, 2021
A zeal to promote change and equity, provide access, and develop leaders drove Aquan Grant, director of school quality (DSQ), to steer herself from pre-med to education.
Grant was born and raised on the east side of Detroit and developed a passion for education at an early age. She was a scholar at heart for as long as she can remember and had planned to pursue pre-med at University of Michigan when a gut feeling told her to do something different. While simultaneously working at the Cranbrook Institute of Science and serving as a tutor at a middle school in Detroit, she had life experiences that cultivated her desire to change the landscape of education.
After receiving her teaching certificate from Wayne State University (WSU), she served in various teaching positions but knew leadership was her goal. Grant went on to receive her Master’s in Educational Leadership from WSU and was in search of an administrator role when a position opened up at National Heritage Academies’ (NHA) Arbor Preparatory High School.
Over the years, Grant went on to transition to the founding principal at Taylor Preparatory High School. “With it being a new school, we had to be able to pivot and pivot quickly,” she explained. “We implemented programs, provided additional training for teachers, and focused on not just pushing students through content. Taylor Prep made so many gains in the three years I was there, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
After leading at Taylor Prep for three years, Grant spent time in principalships at both Canton Preparatory High School and Arbor Prep, then found herself opening Westfield Preparatory High School in 2019. “I have a desire to reach Detroit schools, schools that need me,” she said. “The way I lead is based heavily on the experiences I had as a student myself. Growing up, I had teachers who provided me with the experience of my first plane ride, my first musical, and my first limo ride. Educators have so much power of influence.”
A specific question fuels Grant’s passion for leadership development, “Think of the most important child in your life. Are you comfortable having that child in any one of your teacher’s classrooms?”
Grant explains that every student is someone’s most important child. “We have to approach education with the right lens and be willing to adjust,” she said. “I’m committed to being a lifetime learner and this means outside of the education space, as well. I want to inspire leaders to do better.”
Inspiring others to do better must first start from within. Grant is on fire for promoting access and equity and changing the landscape of education for everybody. It’s about allowing students to reach their full potential and showing them all the paths and choices they have to get there.
“As a leader, I always wanted to expand that reach,” said Grant. “Leadership is about training other leaders to see those paths. I believe in giving students accelerated paths, ones they may not choose themselves. We deliver high expectations and high support for all kids and meet them where they are.”
In Grant’s eyes, the high expectations and support provided at NHA are what sets the organization apart. “We truly show care and concern for students and aim to do what works for our kids,” said Grant. “Not to mention the creativity and innovation. NHA is willing to pivot and change when something isn’t working. That’s why I’m here.”
Grant’s leadership and work to change the education landscape has not gone unnoticed. She was a finalist for the 2018 Michigan Charter School Administrator of the Year, in addition to being asked to speak at various education events.
From serving in multiple roles, Grant is taking countless lessons with her into her new role, one of them being curiosity. “It’s vital to be curious,” she said. “Once I accepted my new role as DSQ, I began listening, shadowing, and speaking with the other DSQs. It’s good to have partners and to promote collaboration.”
A fervent area for Grant is providing a K-13 opportunity for seamless learning and the Early College Program at NHA. “Through these programs, we’re able to provide more support sooner,” she said. “I am passionate about what we can do. I bring high energy into my role and a thirst for high-quality professional development.”
As she embarks on her leadership journey as a DSQ, Grant looks forward to setting bars across the board. “I am here to be a voice of what the bar is and how we can continue to raise it for our kids.”