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FPG welcomes fourth cohort of Marvin H. McKinney Scholars

two young women smil at camera; zairen jackson on left and sydney shepherd on right

FPG welcomes fourth cohort of Marvin H. McKinney Scholars

May 15, 2024

The UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) is proud to welcome its fourth cohort of Marvin H. McKinney Scholars. The Marvin H. McKinney Scholars Program in Research, Practice, and Policy was established to offer hands-on research experience in child development to undergraduate students from North Carolina's historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The program honors Marvin H. McKinney, PhD, a former postdoctoral fellow at FPG, longtime educator and collaborator, and longstanding member of FPG's former Executive Leadership Board.

The summer program, which is an eight-week paid internship program, provides students an opportunity to participate in meaningful, project-based work in pursuit of their professional interests and in preparation for their careers. McKinney Scholars will gain familiarity with how FPG contributes to positive outcomes for young children and their families through research and evaluation, implementation, technical assistance, and policy engagement. In particular, they will further their understanding of the importance of research, practice, and policy, as well as the interconnections and pathways between each of these areas of work.

“We are excited to host the students in-person this year for the first time,” said Sherra Lawrence, MA, lead of the scholars program, “and hope to provide an enriching experience.”

Meet the 2024 cohort

Zairen Jackson

Zairen Jackson (pictured above at left) is a rising junior attending Bennett College majoring in elementary education and minoring in journalism and media studies.

From as early as middle school, Zairen knew she wanted to go into teaching and when she was in high school, participating in the Education Careers and Technical Education Program, this idea became solidified. In that program, Zairen learned how the fields of psychology and child development dovetail with education. The path she currently sees before her includes being a special education teacher and eventually taking on a role in administration as a principal or board of education member.

Zairen is passionate about inclusion in early education and is excited to participate in the McKinney Scholars program to learn more about conducting research.  

"In the future it is my hope that I can serve as a role model for education, opportunity, and fellowship," said Zairen. "It takes dedication and passion to inspire change and I plan on leaving my mark on not only [the field of] education but, my entire community."

During the program, Zairen will be working with EMERGE, the Equity Research Action Coalition, and the Impact Center at FPG.

Sydney Shepherd

Sydney Shepherd (pictured above at right) is a rising junior at North Carolina A&T State University studying Elementary and Special Education.

When asked why she was interested in being a McKinney Scholar, Sydney replied, “I applied to the McKinney Scholars Program because I wanted more guidance and experience in the areas of autism and intellectual disabilities. It is easy to study and take Special Education classes, but I wanted to go a bit further.” She continued by sharing that she believes you must be well-rounded and knowledgeable about a subject in order to make a positive change. “By providing mentors and hands-on research experience,” said Sydney, “I know that this program will guide me in the right direction of my professional goals.”

Sydney would like to work in the field of educational policy after spending time as a Special Education teacher. “With the help of the McKinney Scholars Program, I hope to enter the field of education as a special educator for several years,” says Sydney. “Down the line, I hope to move into a position where I can create equitable, inclusive, and impactful change for Special Education learners. Specifically, I want to advocate for resources within underfunded school districts to level the playing field for all learners.”

During the program, Sydney will be working with EMERGE, Trohanis Technical Assistance Projects, and the National Implementation Research Network at FPG.