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Thea MacFawn G’20
Thea MacFawn G’20
Dean of students at Shaker Middle School in Loudonville, New York

MacFawn started her career as an English teacher before transitioning to administration last year. She wanted to be an educator because her own teachers had helped to show her that she could use her voice to make a difference. Inspired by the notion that students don’t have to wait until adulthood to make an impact on their communities, she and a librarian with the North Colonie Schools co-founded the Capital Region Institute for Human Rights in 2014. The organization holds a leadership program for students and teachers showing them how they can create change.

What do you love about your work?
It’s those moments when you’re working one to one with the student and helping them to resolve a question, or to address a problem, or to develop a new skill. The work is in really providing access and tools and resources to every young person. So that way when they graduate, they’re able to define their path, to choose their route to success, and to feel confident in doing that.

You founded the Capital Region Institute for Human Rights with your colleague, high school librarian Kelly Wetherbee. How did it develop from the idea of a class to a full-blown organization?
Through working with students, initially, we thought about having a class that was sort of more of a combination of social studies and English, and we would have a community service component. And then over time, I started to think, “No, this can’t fit in a unit.”

What I thought about was, what if we created, essentially, a teen leadership camp?

It was really important to me that at the end of the day, students saw themselves as able to have a positive impact on their community, on the world. They didn’t have to wait to go to college and didn’t have to wait to grow up to be able to use their voices to advocate around issues important to them.

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