Sade Cole
Centering Inclusion
Student Experience

Resiliency, patience and faith drive McCourt student’s commitment to community service

Sade Cole (MPP‘24) shares her passion for social justice and how she hopes to utilize her McCourt School education as a future changemaker.

Sade Cole (MPP’24), a first-year student in the McCourt School’s Master of Public Policy program, devotes most of her time to social justice work. Her journey to McCourt started with an internship at the Department of Social Services in Montgomery County, VA, where she specialized in foster care and child protective services. Over the course of Cole’s frequent home visits, she discovered a number of systemic issues facing the families with whom she interacted.

“It wasn’t just one family going through something,” said Cole. “A majority of the families seemed to be facing similar challenges — from the lack of resources and support to the insurmountable hurdles they had to overcome.” 

Sade Cole (MPP’24)

Inspired by the advice and support of an undergraduate professor, Dr. Brandy Faulkner , Cole decided to explore public policy and opportunities to advocate for people’s rights at the macro level.

A “drum major” for justice

As a Black American, Cole finds it hard to see certain realities over and over again, but she grounds herself in resiliency, patience and faith.

“It is easy to feel overburdened and almost hopeless as a Black woman working to address the many injustices facing marginalized communities,” said Cole. “But it’s exciting to be a part of the story, the advocacy, the change, the work.”

Cole draws inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr., and his ability to envision a future better than the world he lived in. She looks up to him, not simply because he was a visionary or a major civil rights leader, but because he was driven by his faith to seek justice.

“MLK took the desire for justice and turned it into a tangible fight for people’s rights,” said Cole. “One of my favorite quotes is from a 1968 sermon of his: ‘If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.’”

Following Dr. King’s call and her Christian faith, Cole pursued internships at YouthWorks, a faith-based organization that empowers young people to serve communities, the Child Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that coordinates the investigation, treatment and prosecution of child abuse cases, and Flikshop, a criminal justice organization that connects incarcerated individuals with their families.

In 50 years, I want to be able to say that I was someone who fought tooth and nail for the rights and justice of others. I want to be able to say that I was a drum major for justice.

Sade Cole (MPP’24)

Building a career centered on community impact

Cole doesn’t know exactly what her future will look like, but she envisions herself continuing advocacy work and providing communities with the tools and support they need to thrive.

“I came to McCourt to become a better advocate,” said Cole. “I especially want to work with marginalized communities whose voices and issues are often overlooked.”

Cole hopes to utilize the skills she’s gained at McCourt, particularly those that have been strengthened by her involvement in the Policy Innovation Lab , to continue finding solutions that are community-centered and focused on community care. “A lot of people want to tell communities what to do, but the community members are the experts,” she said. “The Policy Innovation Lab teaches future policymakers to ask what communities need, rather than tell them.”

Sade Cole and members of the McCourt School’s Policy Innovation Lab

Despite growing up in close proximity to the District of Columbia, Cole said she was “unaware of the realities of the DC experience, especially in marginalized communities like Wards 7 and 8.”

“There’s just so much to do right here in DC,” she said. “On one end of the city, you have the most influential and powerful people, and on the other, there are families fighting for the rights they deserve.” 

Following graduation, Cole aspires to be remembered as an advocate for justice. “I want to be able to say that I saw a system that needed to be changed, and I fought for that change,” she said.

This story is a part of our Student Spotlight series , in which the McCourt School showcases the inspiring stories of emerging policy leaders who are making an impact in their academic pursuits, extracurricular activities and communities.
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