Summit Panel Announcement: Getting Real About Grassroots and Parent Advocacy

Grassroots. Parent advocacy. Though these words easily flow from the lips of many education reformers, if we are honest, they are words that are easier said than done – and done well. Join us and learn from these great leaders what true inspiring and impactful parent advocacy and grassroots could look like from the continent of Africa, to the blue state of Massachusetts, down to the Southern state of North Carolina.


Darrell Allison
National Director of State Teams and Political Advocacy, AFC

Darrell Allison is the National Director of State Teams and Political Advocacy, overseeing the work of state teams and partner states on legislative policy, grassroots advocacy and electoral efforts. As the founding president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (2005-2018), Darrell Allison worked to reform and redefine K-12 education.  His work, focused on expanding educational opportunity for all children, is based on a fundamental premise: Parents, regardless of address or income, should be free to choose the best school for their child. Darrell’s belief in the power of parental school choice has served as a catalyst for building bipartisan alliances that promote and effect legislative change. As a results-driven reformer, Darrell has also pushed to increase school choice access and resources for families. In 2012, he launched the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator, an innovative schools project to create and sustain new public charter schools in underserved communities. In 2016, Darrell led the development of PEFNC’s location-based school choice web application, NCSchoolsAroundMe; the app provides parents with critical school report card data and customized information about their private and public charter school options.


Co-founder and Chief Connector, mothers2mothers
Robin Smalley

Robin Smalley enjoyed an award-winning career as a television producer/director/writer before recognizing that the legacy she wanted to leave had nothing to do with entertainment. Turning her attention to the non-profit world, she became the Executive Director of The Media Project, incorporate healthy messaging around reproductive health into America’s most popular television shows. A partnership with long-time friend, Mitch Besser, led her to uproot her family to South Africa to follow their dream of ending pediatric AIDS. As m2m’s first Executive Director, she played a pivotal role in establishing m2m’s first office and staff, scaling the Mentor Mother Model in her first year to 73 sites in three countries. Moving back to the Los Angeles as the Director of m2m U.S she expanded m2m’s funding base and developed key global programmatic partnerships. Robin’s work on behalf of Africa’s mothers has been documented in a number of books, including Laura Bush’s memoir “Spoken from the Heart,” Kenneth Cole’s “Awearness,” and Harriet Cabelly’s “Living Well Despite Adversity,” highlighted at the White House Conference on Literacy and the Clinton Global Initiative Conference, and recognized with a number of prestigious awards and honors. In her current position as Chief Connector, Robin supports fundraising, partnership development, advocacy, program strategy and serves on the Board of Directors of m2m U.S. Like the Mentor Mothers who continue to inspire her, Robin takes her greatest pride in her children, Hannah and Sophia.

Director of Community Engagement,
Parents for Educational Freedom North Carolina
Kwan Graham

Kwan Graham has an extensive background serving parents and advocating for the educational needs of children. Kwan oversees PEFNC’s Parent Liaison Team and works diligently across the state to educate and empower parents to become better advocates for their child’s educational needs.  As Director of Community Engagement, Kwan also supports and promotes both public charter school and private school educational options. She is a former Governor appointed member of the NC Public Charter School Advisory Council. Kwan is also a founding Board member of PAVE-Southeast Raleigh Charter School and currently sits on Board of Trustees the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Her passion for this work shines through as she leads PEFNC’s NC School Accelerator efforts. Kwan has bachelor’s degree from The University of South Carolina and lives in Charlotte with her husband and two sons.

Founder and Mom-in-Chief, Massachusetts Parents United
Keri Rodrigues

Keri Rodrigues is Matthew, Miles and David’s mom—an awesome family that lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She is founder and Mom-in-Chief at Massachusetts Parents United, a parent advocacy group bringing together thousands of parents across the Commonwealth to fight for safer neighborhoods, stable and secure homes and high quality education for every child. Keri began her career as an award-winning journalist and radio broadcaster, recognized for her political reporting both nationally and internationally and host of a popular daily political talk show and newspaper column in Southeastern Massachusetts. She then continued her career in advocacy as a long-time labor activist, communicator and organizer with the world’s largest local labor union, 1199SEIU, taking on major campaigns across the country. After facing struggles navigating the education system with her own children, she then turned her focus to education reform to help families across the Commonwealth to find their voice at the table and to put kids back at the center of the conversation about education. Keri currently serves on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the advisory board of Democrats for Education Reform. She has also worked as a senior advisor on dozens of Massachusetts nonprofit, ballot-issue and political organizing campaigns, and serves as a Justice of the Peace for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A Secular Franciscan, she also devotes much of her free time to volunteer work at Saint Anthony’s Shrine in Boston where you can catch her serving at the 7:30 a.m. mass on Sunday mornings.

Have you registered yet? 

Registration closes April 22.

Room block at Loews Chicago Hotel closes April 16.

Register for the 10th Annual National Policy Summit

Click here to book your room at the Loews Chicago Hotel.
Block closes on April 16.

Questions? E-mail Jana Gregg at


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