AEC speaker preview
Two award-winning authors share their stories of struggle and triumph through education
A portrait headshot photographic perspective of Brandon P. Fleming in a blue suit and mixed color bowtie
Brandon P. Fleming
Brandon P. Fleming, a renowned speaker, nationally acclaimed educator and author of Miseducated: A Memoir, will open CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show on the morning of Dec. 1. His story of struggle, success and service has inspired millions around the world. An at-risk youth and college dropout turned award-winning educator, Fleming is a former debate coach at Harvard University and founder & CEO of The Veritas School of Social Sciences, formerly known as the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project. Over the past five years, Fleming has raised over a million dollars to enroll over 150 students of color into Harvard’s international summer debate residency on full scholarship. Fleming recruits under-served youth with no prior debate experience who he then trains to compete against hundreds of elite debaters from over 25 different countries around the world.

California School News asked Fleming some questions prior to AEC to set the stage.

Can you tell us a little about your background and what your K-12 experience was like?

I was labeled an at-risk student growing up. Teachers thought I was inept, but the truth is I was simply disengaged. I was shuffled along throughout high school and my teachers gave me grades to keep me on the basketball court. As a result, I struggled severely when I went to college and subsequently became a dropout.
How has your personal experience in K-12 education influenced how you approach education and youth today?
My life was changed in college when I finally met a professor who knew how to meet me where I was. It would have made all the difference had I experienced this in high school. But I did not. So, I decided to be for others what I once needed.
Can you tell us about the Veritas School of Social Sciences and its mission?
Veritas is currently a Saturday school. We train Black students to compete in an international debate competition at Harvard each summer, which we have won for five consecutive years. Our mission is to show the world what is possible when the playing field is leveled for Black youth.
How can board members create an environment of support?
The best way board members can create an environment of support is by ensuring that both teachers and students have the resources to make learning efficient. This means making quality professional development accessible to teachers, and ensuring equitable programming is available to students.
A portrait headshot photographic perspective of Tara Westover grinning in a black jacket
Tara Westover
Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, Tara Westover never attended school. An older brother taught her to read, and the rest of her education was erratic and haphazard, with most of her days spent working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother. She was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She received an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009 and in 2014 was awarded a PhD in history.

In 2018, she published her memoir, Educated, which explores her struggle to reconcile her desire for education and autonomy with her desire to be loyal to her family. Educated was an instant commercial and critical success, debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and remaining on the list for more than two years. The New York Times named Educated one of the 10 best books of 2018, and the American Booksellers Association voted it the Nonfiction Book of the Year. To date, Educated has sold more than 8 million copies and has been translated into 45 languages. For her great impact, Time magazine named Westover one of the 100 most influential people of 2018.