Lanai seeks to make an impact in K-12 education policy for immigrant communities.
Headshot of Evy Lanai
Evy Lanai

”Education and community have been at the heart of my policy interest for many years,” said Evy Lanai, MPP Class of 2025. “I grew up in Franklin, TN, and its small-town feel definitely instilled a sense of community in me. While I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in international relations and Spanish, one of the ways I started engaging with the local community was through tutoring programs—primarily teaching elementary schoolers how to speak Spanish.”

The Spanish language—which served as the foundation for much of Lanai’s tutoring and mentoring experience—first drew her in during high school. “Picking up languages was something that came fairly easily to me, and soon I sought out and was absorbing Spanish media, mainly TV and music.” 

Lanai eventually studied abroad in Spain while in college and also volunteered in a Spanish outreach program at a low-income school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “I was paired with Spanish-speaking elementary school students who were new to the area, facilitating classroom interactions and helping with homework. I think having someone they could speak to in their native language helped them feel more comfortable and navigate school a bit better.” 

In her junior year, Lanai interned for Conexion Americas, which serves the LatinX community in Nashville. There, she helped create a summer program for low-income high schoolers who identified as Latinx who were going to be first generation college students.

Those two experiences, she said, also helped her pinpoint some career goals. “I saw firsthand the types of education obstacles that immigrant communities face in the United States and realized that education policy was where I could make the most valuable impact."

Lanai also realized she needed some quant skills to make this impact.

“As a humanities major in college who hadn’t taken math or science since high school, I recognized—even while I was applying to internships in college—that it would be really helpful if I had some hard skills.” Harris, she said, spoke directly to this need. “I really appreciated that Harris was transparent in emphasizing coding and quantitative analytical skills—and that they provided the resources for students to succeed.”

Math & Coding Camp, Lanai said, was a particularly invaluable resource before classes got underway. “Math & Coding Camp focuses on the basic math and coding concepts so that we’re ready for the Core. And even though learning coding was like learning another language, conceptualizing it took some time… the supplemental DataQuest coding practices were extremely helpful.” Lanai also appreciated the community building aspect of Math & Coding Camp. “Most assignments were group-based, so you lean on your friends and classmates for help. Everyone here is very eager to help each other out.”

Given Lanai’s interest in education policy, it’s not surprising that her education policy course with Professor Derek Rury has been one of her favorites so far. “It’s a small class, so Professor Rury knows what each of our policy interests are and will call on us to share our experiences because he considers them relevant. Plus, the small class size also facilitates rapport with a professor whose work I'm interested in, which is really valuable to me.”

As for future plans,  Lanai is leaning more towards the nonprofit/NGO space—"just because that's what I have experience in,” but isn’t ruling  out the private space or a research position at a think tank. “Hopefully, my skills and experiences will help me serve the greatest quantity of people in the most efficient and effective way possible.