My name is James Doyle and I am thrilled and honored to join the Higher Achievement team as the new Executive Director. My first day was February 2 and I have already been impressed with the terrific staff and scholars I’ve met. Some of you may know me from my time with Pittsburgh Public Schools, but I wanted to share a bit more about why I am so excited to join you all in support of our scholars in Pittsburgh.
I am a lifelong Pittsburgher by choice. My family here goes back generations (in fact, I grew up across the street from my grandparents who still reside in the home that my mother grew up in!) I graduated from Pittsburgh Public Schools and the University of Pittsburgh, receiving both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Pitt. I am also a current Pitt student pursuing a doctoral degree focused in out-of-school learning.
I often reflect on my time as a youth from Kindergarten to college and, without exception, the most difficult times I can vividly recall were during my middle school years. I had challenges with being in a new, much larger school with students from all over who I didn’t know. I felt as though I needed to be different than myself to fit in. All this made me feel confused, rudderless, and uncertain as to what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go next. However, what helped me persevere through this – and all other challenging times in my young life – were consistent, positive adult mentors. These mentors were steadfast in encouraging and supporting me to succeed academically. As early as I can remember, graduating college was not optional, but instead required, and my parents, grandparents, and every other positive adult in my life ensured that I was on an appropriate track to do so.
This is what excites me so much about Higher Achievement. I know firsthand that many of our scholars do not have these supports in their lives – those who will always push them for excellence despite external obstacles. For too many of our young people, college is viewed as unattainable, as “not for them,” or as impractical. Higher Achievement’s work to close opportunity gaps for students to ensure that they are prepared academically and socially to excel in high school and beyond is amazing, and I look forward to continuing the great work that the team has already started in making this goal a reality in Pittsburgh!
I have spent my entire professional career supporting students and schools. At the beginning of my career, I served as an outreach director for a crisis hotline promoting positive mental health and suicide prevention strategies in Pittsburgh high school health classes. Afterward, I worked in human resources and was responsible for staffing Pittsburgh schools with the most effective and excellent teachers. Most recently, I have supported after and out-of-school time programming and opportunities across all Pittsburgh Public Schools as Coordinator, Out of School Time.
I look forward to working with you and appreciate all that you have done to support our work thus far! I hope to see you at our annual Love Out Loud poetry perform ance.
With respect and excitement,
James E. Doyle