FAQ - SFER Action Network

Frequently Asked Question - Fellowship

Q: How long is the fellowship? What are the days like?

A: The fellowship ranges from 12 to 16 weeks, depending on the location. Fellows engage in direct community contact and build the skills necessary to campaign for change long after the fellowship is over. Each day will be structured to include a combination of canvassing or phonebanking, meeting with community leaders and partners and diving deeper into the issues in education that our communities face. Fellows will receive guidance and training throughout the fellowship and grow to be true community organizers. This is an intensive fellowship and we’re proud of our rigorous schedule -- for the personal and professional development and for the opportunities it provides to make change in your community.

Q: What am I doing every day during the fellowship?

A: While daily activities look different in each site to meet the needs of that local community, each fellow can expect to participate in some of the following activities...

  • Canvassing (door-knocking) in your city's neighborhoods
  • Phone-banking to build voters' awareness of endorsed candidates and the election
  • Tabling on campuses and local events
  • Planning community events, like a candidate forum or workshop
  • Supporting local SFER chapters in their annual planning
  • Meeting with community leaders and partners
  • Conducting Issue research and building campaigns

Q: What makes a good fellow? Am I qualified?

A: Here are a few qualities of amazing fellows: passion, self-motivation, strong interpersonal skills, team player, commitment to educational justice. You must be at least 18 years old and preferably enrolled in a US college or university local to the site you're applying for. We seek individuals of all racial, socioeconomic, gender, and sexual orientation identities to apply for this position. In our Twin Cities site, we are also accepting applications for community members wanting to get involved as fellows. We are committed to maximizing the diversity of our organization and recruiting a team that reflects the diversity our movement.

Q: What can I expect to gain from the fellowship?

A: As part of a team of community organizers, you will learn what it takes to make a lasting impact in K-12 education. You will gain the personal and professional skills necessary to not only evaluate local issues facing education but also have the groundwork to build a strategic campaign to support change. By engaging in regular training and hands-on activities, you will learn how a campaign is run and play an integral role in its success.

Frequently Asked Question - SFER Action Network

Q: What is SFER Action Network?

A: Students for Education Reform Action Network (SFER AN) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that supports, trains, and coaches a community of student leaders who demand policy change, hold elected leaders accountable at the polls, influence the platforms of candidates running for office, and build power in communities that have historically been left behind. As part of our mission, SFER AN runs annual fellowships at local sites around the country.

Q: How do SFER AN’s campaign contributions work?

A: SFER AN does not make any direct donations to candidates. The resources go towards the support of our student fellowship, and our fellows then decide which candidate to endorse.

We make sure our student fellows have a voice and have the resources to compete with establishment groups to support their chosen candidates. Status quo groups shouldn’t be the only ones with money to advocate for their ideas. We’re proud that we can support students, who are the closest and most affected by the impact of schools, to get involved with education politics.

Q: Do you endorse political candidates?

A: Yes, SFER AN endorses and supports candidates on the local and state level who are committed to fighting for pro-student policies like high standards, restorative justice discipline reform, school choice, career and college readiness, and racial justice.

Our student fellows drive endorsements at each fellowship site. Fellows research local education issues and candidates. Depending on the race and location, students also send candidates questionnaires about their experience and interview candidates in person. Following this process, fellows discuss the candidates in each race, debate their merits, and endorse their chosen candidate.

Then, fellows hit the ground and organize! SFER AN supports the fellows by providing literature (like brochures and handouts), access to databases with call lists and canvassing maps, and other materials.

Some of our fellowships are focused on community organizing rather than electoral campaigns. Fellows at these sites organize to build demand for better education policies, register voters, and find out which issues are most important to community members.


Q: What is the fellowship?

A: The fellowship is an intensive 6-to-16-week program in which students receive guided campaign and leadership training, build and organize community power, and apply their training through direct community engagement. Fellows work 20 - 40 hours per week on a variety of activities including phone banking, canvassing (door-knocking), meeting with community leaders, planning community events, and researching education issues in each community. The program has a rigorous schedule and is meant to give fellows the expertise and tools to become skilled grassroots organizers.

Through SFER AN, student organizers have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in their neighborhoods, increased voter turnout in low-income neighborhoods, and built new political power in their communities. Our goal is to build a pipeline of passionate, progressive, diverse young organizers who will lead the movement for radical change and educational justice.

To recruit students of all racial, socioeconomic, gender, and sexual orientation identities, our fellowship is paid. Unpaid internships and fellowships are often inaccessible to many students. Having a paid fellowship not only ensures our fellows are as diverse as our movement, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Q: How are you connected to Students for Education Reform? What is a 501(c)(4)? What’s up with all the numbers and letters?

A: SFER AN, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, is the sister organization of Students for Education Reform (SFER), which is classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Both organizations are student-driven nonprofits and have the same values, but they are categorized differently by the tax code. They use different methods to advocate for K-12 educational equity and a public school system that works for everyone.

The numbers-and-letters part seems complicated, but it’s easy to understand once you learn the lingo. As a 501(c)(3), SFER is a nonpartisan organization and donations to SFER are tax-deductible. As a 501(c)(4), SFER AN can do direct advocacy, lobbying, and endorse candidates, and donations to SFER AN are not tax-deductible. Other well-known 501(c)(4) groups include the Americans for Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the League of Conservation Voters, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Q: So, you mentioned donations. Who are your donors, and why are they supporting SFER AN?

A: SFER AN donors are a diverse group from different backgrounds and different political parties who believe in our mission. They know that the current public school system wasn’t built to serve all communities, and that change is urgently needed for students and families who are trapped in failing schools.

More importantly, they know that systemic change won’t come from the status quo. That’s why our donors are endlessly inspired by SFER AN student members and fellows, many of whom are from communities that are chronically underserved by the public school system and by the political establishment. By building political power in these communities and bringing student voices to the forefront of the education reform movement, SFER AN organizers can revolutionize public education.

SFER AN donors take their cue from these passionate students, and want to give them the resources they need to lead the movement for educational justice. Donors don’t dictate SFER AN’s policies, endorsements, or membership – they just give SFER AN the resources to amplify our students’ stories and pay our student fellows for their hard work.

Q: Who is on your board, and what is their role?

A: You can find a list of our board members and our staff members on the homepage of this site. Our board and staff are an incredible group of people, dedicated to educational justice and lifting up our student members.

Our board members provide guidance on nonprofit governance to our staff, and do not dictate endorsements, political policies, or fellowship membership. We draw on their expertise to make sure that SFER AN is run efficiently and is in the best position to support our students.

Staff members, with the support of the national leadership team, manage each local fellowship site and act as mentors for the students. They provide organizing and leadership training, answer questions from student fellows, and make sure the trains run on time so that the fellows can focus on organizing.

Q: Are you pro-charter?

A: Yes! Above all, SFER AN members are fans of high-quality public schools, whether they are charter schools, magnet schools, or traditional public schools. We support any school that offers a rigorous public education and a positive cultural environment for all students, especially students of color and low-income students. Based on our own experiences and education research, we know that every student can learn and achieve at high levels, regardless of zip code or background. Often, charter schools offer innovative models that do more for chronically underserved neighborhoods than traditional schools.

We believe that families should be able to choose which school is the best fit for them, especially if their traditional school is not working. Depending on the needs of a particular neighborhood, charter schools can be the best option. In other neighborhoods, magnet schools or traditional public schools might work better.

Importantly, we also support high standards and accountability for all schools, including charters. SFER AN’s goal is to make sure the public school system works for everyone, and we’re open to any school model that achieves that goal.

This sounds great! How can I apply for the fellowship?

We’re so excited to meet you and hear your story! You can find more information about the fellowship and the application process here. Get ready to organize!