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Our mission is to strengthen and sustain values-driven leaders who are transforming public education so that every child is prepared to lead a free and fulfilling life. 



American public schools are not delivering on our promise to prepare every child to achieve prosperity and success. Children from low-income and underserved communities do not have access to the quality of educational resources enjoyed by peers in wealthier communities.

To achieve educational excellence and equity at the same time, and to live up to our aspirations as a democratic society, we must make bold improvements to our public schools so that every child in America has access to the tools and skills they need to be successful in life.

The Pahara Institute seeks to strengthen the movement for educational excellence and equity by:


  • helping to develop and sustain experienced, innovative leaders;

  • identifying and developing the next generation of leaders; and

  • better connecting leaders across the field, and across traditional silos and stakeholder groups.

Our work is to support exceptional, innovative leaders who bring urgency and dedication to ensuring that all our children have access to an excellent public school.



The Pahara Institute was founded by education innovator and entrepreneur Kim Smith in 2007. Having previously co-founded NewSchools Venture Fund and also serving as a founding team member of Teach For America, her involvement in both illustrated her passion for developing programs that attract bold and ambitious leaders to the education field - particularly those with entrepreneurial mindsets who wanted to make the system better for low-income students and students of color. 

Pahara provides transformational leadership development opportunities for leaders who are reimagining the public education system for all children. Pahara was founded on five main pillars, which have informed our approach to the Fellowship programming:

  • increasing diversity of leadership in education

  • expanding the definition of student success

  • strengthening parent power and choice

  • increasing sustainability of leaders working in education

  • nurturing innovation

The Pahara-Aspen Fellowship, launched in 2007 and modeled after the Henry Crown Fellowship Program, was designed for senior education leaders in the public, non-profit, and private sectors to reflect deeply on their own leadership as well as the values tensions facing public education. During the program, Fellows stepped back from their day-to-day leadership to engage in diverse learning communities across multiple lines of difference with a hope for organic collaboration in the field.

Building on the model of the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship, the pilot Pahara-Aspen Teacher Leader Fellows program convened participants for thought-provoking reading and discussions about leadership, diversity, and important issues in public education and social change. In addition, Teacher Leader Fellows designed and undertook projects aimed at strengthening the teaching profession and the capacity of educators to improve student achievement.

Launched in 2014, The Pahara-NextGen Fellowship was designed for emerging senior leaders strengthening and shaping the future of the educational excellence and equity movement to reflect on their leadership identity and the role they want to play in meeting the challenges in our education system. Pahara-NextGen Fellows represented a diverse array of perspectives, and came together in learning communities to engage in dialogue about values tensions in education with an emphasis on challenges faced by underrepresented groups.

Taking the best of the Pahara-Aspen, Teacher Leader, and Pahara-NextGen Fellowships, Pahara began offering one Fellowship experience in 2021: The Pahara Fellowship.

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