First Weston Education Policy Intern tackles NYC education reform

December 8, 2015

Matthew Mellon (MPP/MPH ’16), the first Ford School student to receive support from the recently established Margaret E. Weston Endowment for Education Policy, found the perfect internship. He interned for the city with the largest public school system in the world: New York, New York.

Matthew Mellon (MPP/MPH '16)
Photo of Matthew Mellon

Mellon conducted policy research for some of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s newest education initiatives—his recently established Children’s Cabinet, his Community Schools Initiative, and his drive to offer free, public pre-kindergarten programs for any four-year-old in the city: Pre-K for All.

Mayor de Blasio’s Children’s Cabinet, explains Mellon, brings together 22 city agencies and offices that serve children and families. The goal: to streamline services, identify service gaps, and launch new programs and partnerships.

For the cabinet, Mellon compiled a list of all city services, then conducted research into age-based, developmental milestones for children in the areas of health, education, career readiness, and more. Ultimately, Mellon’s work will inform a simple-to-navigate website that will connect families with city services—from mentoring programs to volunteer opportunities, summer vacation programs, and parenting support.

Mellon also supported Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to establish 128 new community schools—schools that partner with optometrists, dentists, counselors, wellness coaches, and other service-providers to offer the kind of wraparound services children need to thrive both personally and academically.

The Margaret E. Weston Endowment for Education Policy was established by Kate and Larry Weston in memory of their daughter Maggie, a 2008 graduate of the Ford School who passed away in the summer of 2014.
Photo of Maggie Weston with parents Kate and Larry Weston

And he supported the mayor’s new universal pre-K initiative. When de Blasio was running his campaign, only a quarter of the city’s four-year-olds were attending pre-kindergarten programs. By the end of Mellon’s internship, some 70,000 families had been paired with free pre-K programs.

For the Community Schools Initiative and Pre-K for All programs, Mellon drafted a number of policy briefs reviewing and synthesizing research on the effects of school-based mentorship programs, on developmental standards and risk factors, and on group and individual behavioral and mental health interventions.

Mellon, who had worked in federal policy advocacy in the past, had hoped to find in city government a more nimble policy-making environment. He was not disappointed. “Being able to witness the incredible scale of the pre-K expansion was truly energizing,” he says. “It was a thrill to be a small part of the effort.”

Mellon Photo: Almond Leaf Studios

Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Fall 2015 State & Hill here.