An Interview with Daniel Alter
What community issues/projects are you working on?
My community engagement focuses primarily around issues in education. When I served a gap-year as a City Year corps member in an inner-city elementary school in Washington DC, it opened my eyes to the glaring inequalities in education.
Now, as a student at Amherst College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, I found myself in a unique position to impact the teaching profession pipeline. I co-founded a student group called The EDU that prepares Amherst College students to be the world’s next leaders in education through critical debate, classroom experience, and career counseling.
How did you get involved in activism work? What do you like best about it?
My upbringing on the North Shore — my teachers, my rabbis, and my family — taught me to be aware of social justice issues around me and give back in impactful ways. It’s our responsibility and privilege to think about the community we belong to and how we can improve it, and I believe that process starts with each and every one of us.
Tell us about one or two of the people you work with and the importance of working with a committed group, with a community.
I co-founded The EDU with an incredible classmate of mine, Daniella Fragoso, who comes from a different background than I do, has had different experiences in the field of education, but shares my commitment to the cause we promote together. She’s been an inspiration to me throughout the two years I’ve worked with her and is representative of the many amazing young leaders that form The EDU. As a community, we learn from each other, have fun together, and get things done that we never would have accomplished on our own.
What does a welcoming North Shore look like to you and how do we get there?
To me, a welcoming North Shore begins by recognizing how much the city of Chicago and the entire Chicagoland area gives to us. We would be nothing without it — I can’t imagine a North Shore that existed without downtown commerce and museums, without O’Hare and Midway airports, without inner-city culture and hustle, without Polish sausages or deep-dish pizzas. We are but one part of a great metropolitan community. Out of our own best interests or the goodness of our hearts, we ought to look out for the rest of our community members, especially those most in need. That’s what communities do.
How has Open Communities supported or influenced you?
I worked with Open Communities on their United We Learn initiative last summer, which helps spread awareness of education inequalities across the state of Illinois and find solutions for them.
What in this work gives you hope for the future?
Open Communities seems like more than just an organization. It’s a community in itself, a network of passionate people committed to building a better Chicago. Any time you can bring great people, great minds, great ideas into one room, there is tremendous potential for change.