Meet Our Team: Marcus Blanks, President & COO
In this blog series, we are interviewing a member of the CT3 team about their background in education as well as the expertise that they each bring to their work with educators across the country. This is an excerpt from Marcus’ interview with The Boreland Group.
What about CT3 made you move from a successful career at Proctor & Gamble (P&G) into a totally different work environment and sector?
I had my first conversation with the former CEO and founder, Kristyn Klei Borrero, around this time last year. I took her call initially because when I read through the CT3 website, the mission really spoke to me. I know we did great work at P&G — we had a mission to touch and improve the lives of more of the world’s consumers — but CT3’s vision really spoke to my heart: “To transform the quality and culture of education for youth, especially in disenfranchised communities.” It felt very purposeful, and I knew that I could take some of the skills that I’d learned at P&G in growing businesses and market share and apply them to enhance this mission.
When you speak about CT3’s mission, I hear your dedication and commitment to it. What are your priorities and passions that guide you in your work (there’s CT3’s and there’s your own), and how do they meld together for maximum impact, both internally and externally?
I feel fortunate in my upbringing. The different teachers and coaches I’ve had over my lifetime have shaped me into who I am. I believe that everyone should have an opportunity to form the same kind of impression from teachers and coaches as I did. Everyone. And so, to the extent that our work enables that — that is where I think the mission comes together with the things that drive me personally.
What kind of change, especially now, do you intend to make within the company in your position as a person of color in America during a time of racial unrest, and as the president of a leading organization?
Again, the mission of the company really spoke to me at the time, and still, the opportunity remains: “How do we really take our mission out into the world and reach more scholars with this mission?” The first thing we did collaboratively with the team was to create a new vision and growth strategy for the company. We crafted a vision that guides the work that we’re doing to grow. It’s around building capacity with our partners to implement anti-racist practices and dismantle systemic structures that have really impeded the confidence of the many scholars we hope to help. It’s also thinking about how we can better utilize data to understand and increase the impact that we’re having within schools. We’re building up our marketing capability to improve the awareness of our brand and our mission.
Let’s talk a little bit more about that vision and CT3’s pivot to anti-racism.
Historically, this company has always worked in marginalized communities. That’s something that is kind of a bedrock, the belief that every child deserves a world-class education and teachers who are dedicated to each of their student’s well-being and success. The realities of COVID-19 and police brutality roused the senses of our organization. As we sat at our our desks every day, watching the news, having conversations about these events, it felt like an inflection point — not only internally in our company and how folks were feeling about the work that we do and wanting to make an even bigger impact but also externally in the conversation around the U.S. We felt like things were moving in the direction where talking about anti-racist practices and being an anti-racist is something folks are now more open to. As a result, we want to push as hard as we can to bring to life the anti-racist core of all of our work.
How would you define anti-racism education?
I hate to give an answer that’s really a nonanswer, but the truth of the matter is that this is a journey for us. We understand how important it is to be clear and resolute in our pivot with anti-racism. For us, our commitment isn’t just a marketing ploy. We’re doing the deep and uncomfortable work of making a change that literally has people investigate and interrogate the things they’ve been taught and have believed over their lifetimes. I’m talking about internally, folks in our company. Our team members are having internal conversations that focus on learning about the history of racism, sharing how it shows up in their lives and experiences, and learning how to talk to one another. These spaces are often uncomfortable and difficult. So once we’re through this part of the journey, we’ll be able to more quickly and completely crystallize the pivot that we’re making in our bodies of work that directly touch our partners. That’s a long way of saying we’re all on a journey, and as we continue it, we will be coming to the broader world with what that definition is and the specific areas of oppression that we seek to dismantle. Stay tuned!