Deputy Director

Jennifer Ellis was born in Chicago, Illinois, and the combined adventures of her and her military family led her to live in Texas, Washington, D.C., New York and Washington State, before moving to Connecticut. Jennifer came to ConnCAN from Success Academy Charter Schools in New York, NY, where she served as head of policy and assistant general counsel. Jennifer headed Success Academy’s policy team in their efforts to enact meaningful education reform on the city, state and federal levels. In her role, Jennifer engaged with all aspects of policy work, from elected official outreach to advancing complex legislation, and played a critical role in expanding Success Academy’s policy work to the federal sphere. Before joining Success Academy in 2014, Jennifer worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, for a U.S. Senator and served as a White House intern under the Obama administration.

Jennifer is a graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington and received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Washington State University (Go Cougs!). Jennifer has a wide array of hobbies and interests, which have led her to volunteer with big cats at a tiger rescue, perform improv comedy, sing in a large choral group, learn archery, soap-making and welding. She is a bookworm and lives with Pippin, her 13-year-old rescue dog.

I aspire to be like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here’s why:

Justice Ginsburg has spent her life as an advocate. She was an advocate for herself as a young lawyer, fighting to be heard and respected at a time and in a career where she was often not welcomed by her male colleagues. She was an advocate for other woman, forging a pathway through the legal profession for others to follow and using her voice to bring needed diversity into courtrooms across the nation. And she has continued to be an advocate for equity and justice, refusing to step away from this critical fight at an age when many would be content to retire and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Justice Ginsburg’s life and work is a testament to the importance of following your passion and using your skills to make the world a better place than you found it. In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, Justice Ginsburg was asked how she would like to be remembered and her reply spoke to me on a deep level as something I aspire to emulate every day:

“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”

Why I love my job:

Every day I get to wake up and pursue meaningful change for children and families. I get to use my skills to make complex policy and government processes accessible to families so they are empowered with the tools to advocate for their children and the needs of their communities. Every day I get to fight for policies and legislation that will have immediate impact on the future of our state and on the children currently in our education system.

My connection to public schools:

I attended public schools throughout my life and graduated from a public high school in Washington State. My brother and sister-in-law are public school teachers, as are many of my close friends and colleagues. I have always been a passionate advocate for public schools and the critical importance of a free, high-quality education for all.

What I’m bad at:

Patience and slowing down to enjoy things. Anyone who has endured one of my packed weekend or travel itineraries can attest to the fact that this is an ongoing struggle.

This image represents why I work at 50CAN: 

Books have always been an important part of my life. Books have opened my mind to new ideas, introduced me to new and challenging topics and allowed me to travel and experience new places. I have a special shelf in my house that displays a few books that are particularly important to me at the moment. These include “War and Peace,” which I read for the first time last year, “The Phantom Tollbooth,” my favorite childhood book, and two travel guides I used on a trip to Cambodia I took with my father.

I can’t image my life without books and the world of possibilities they open. I want to ensure that no child faces a future where that is their reality. Through the work 50CAN does every day, more children have access to an education that will open their minds and their world.