“I’ll never forget the time Brother Michael Schmelzer invited me and two other students to spend a Saturday with him on campus. We spent the day eating, tending the garden, and talking about everything from servant leadership to sports to teaching as a career.”

Andy Bobowski has committed his entire career to “quality education,” while steadfastly tying it to “respect for all persons” and “concern for the poor and social justice.” Andy spent the first 13 years of his teaching career in Title 1 schools in North Memphis, first with Teach for America and then moving on the KIPP Memphis charter school network — where, at the age of 26, he became the youngest person ever selected to found a new school in the network.  Andy founded KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School in North Memphis and spent 12 hours a day on the campus, building relationships with students, families, and community stakeholders. He worked tirelessly to provide an equitable education to his students and to ensure they had access to postsecondary opportunities to them.  He was then asked to take over and turn around the adjoining KIPP high school, where he increased the graduation rate, the ACT score, and the state test scores. Most importantly, he created a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for all students and families. 

After 13 years in the K-12 public education system, Andy recently became a member of the founder team of Backrs and serves as its Director of Community Engagement. Backrs is a tech startup and crowd-backing platform that helps young people build and engage with a team of supporters who back them financially, emotionally, and personally on their life’s journey to achieve their aspirations. The company is made up of people from both business and education and combines both viewpoints into a new platform that aims to remove hurdles that stand between kids and the everyday champions they need.

On a personal level, when Andy was in the process of getting his MAT at CBU, Ashley Shores (MAT ’10) was his girlfriend and was enrolled in the same program. Hoping to win Ashley’s heart, Andy looked for every excuse to spend more time with her. One idea was to schedule the same courses and be in the same classes as Ashley. Spending more time together worked. They got married in 2013, have been partners ever since in their education and leadership journeys, and have two awesome small children. Ashley is the Managing School Director at the Soulsville Charter School in Memphis.

Dr. Ellen Faith and Brother Schmelzer were fantastic models for what it means to build strong relationships with students. They cared deeply about their students and pushed me, as a new teacher at the time, to focus on building connections with and among my students. I have carried their kindness combined with high expectations into every role where I’ve had the opportunity to serve amazing kids and families.