Meet our Team – Rachel Yanof
This is the 14th in the series of interviews with people working to increase the attainment rate in Arizona.
Continuing with this feature, we’re be taking a closer look at the College Success Arizona team, the people that make all that we do happen. We’ll be asking the normal “tell us a little about yourself” questions, but also delving a little deeper into each team member’s personality, and what makes them who they are.
This month’s subject is Rachel Yanof, Executive Director of Achieve60AZ.
What is your role at College Success Arizona?
I am the executive director of Achieve60AZ, a grassroots movement of over one hundred community education, business, and government members. And, I am supported by the College Success Arizona program, in that the organization serves as the backbone support for the work of Acheive60AZ.
Please share with us a little bit about your background.
I was born in Alaska and attended college at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. It is there that I became very interested in what happened in education to allow such deep inequalities to exist in many communities – as to who gets access to a quality education and who does not. Luckily “Teach for America” was recruiting on my campus at that time, and I joined Teach for America, and they placed me in South Phoenix, where I taught history. I ended up staying there for four years and was thinking that the way to drive change is through the classroom and through the community. But, I found that the thing that is needed is a longer K-12 pathway, and I then founded a charter school, Phoenix Collegiate Academy, in order to create that pathway. So, I did that and watched my first group of students graduate from high school in 2016 with 100 percent of them having postsecondary aspirations And, 85 percent of them are still persisting today. After watching two classes graduate, I decided that it was time for me to graduate as well, and I then went to work for a foundation briefly, and now I find myself here at Achieve60.
How did you come to be associated with Achieve60AZ/College Success Arizona?
Achieve60AZ has a small executive board who agreed that is was time to formalize a structure for the organization and decided to hire their first executive director. And, I happen to know most of the board members and I was asked to apply, and found myself successful and landed the job.
What is the best thing about or your job?
The best part of my job is knowing that this work has real impact on the economic viability of the State of Arizona, and I want every person to the have the economic opportunity of their fullest potential.
Why do you feel increasing Arizona’s College Attainment Rate is so important?
It’s literally the only way we will achieve the image of a thriving Arizona. Without a workforce that’s earning living wages, we cannot even collect enough taxes for basic governmental services. I also fundamentally believe that every person deserves to have a pathway available to them to achieve their greatest potential, and I believe that that’s always through education.
What other projects, activities, groups, are you involved in?
I serve on the board of “First Things First,”which is focused on zero-through-five quality daycare and opportunities for young people. I’m also on the board for “Support My Club,” which is an organization that matches donors to schools and clubs that need support for their materials. And, I also serve as the vice president of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.
What is your vision for the Arizona of the future?
My vision is that every person has the opportunity to reach their highest potential, and that all people see Arizona as a great place to work, live, and raise a family.
If you had a message for a student just beginning their college career, what would that be?
Find the problem that you want to solve and then pursue it doggedly.
Basic stats (hometown, family, etc.):
I live in Tempe with my husband Joe, and we have three small children – they are six, four, and two. They keep us on our toes and everyday remind us why education really matters.
What was your First or most interesting job:
It was when I was 21 years old and I walked into my very first classroom ever. I was teaching 14- year-olds and I realized quickly that I was shorter that almost all of them, and I was charged with the task of making them care a whole lot about the history of America. So, it was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.
What are your hobbies/favorite pastime:
My favorite hobby is playing with my kids, and I also love to read and someday I hope to travel again.
What is your favorite quote or motto:
It’s by Agatha Christie, “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly despairingly acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
What is your Favorite TV show:
Grace and Frankie.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without:
I could not live without books and chocolate.
What is your Culinary specialty:
Anything that is microwavable.
What’s your guilty pleasure:
Do you have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (or other!) social media account:
I just have Facebook.
What’s the band you’d listen to for the rest of your life:
What is your proudest moment:
My proudest moment so far is seeing the first group of students at the school I founded graduate from high school and to see them all wanting to postsecondary education.
“When I’m not working you’ll find me..”:
With my kids in the backyard digging in the dirt.
If you had a theme song, what would it be:
“Seize the Day” from the Newsies Musical.
What would you want your superpower to be:
I would like to be able to control time.
What’s your favorite movie:
Name a game show you would win:
Pretty sure I could win the game show “Price is Right”