Virgin Islander Dykisha Potter is one of two recipients of the 2021 Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship from the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute. The fellowship program was created in collaboration with the mayor’s office and other community leaders to educate, train and prepare future Black leadership in the north Florida area.

Fellowship recipients receive a full-tuition scholarship to earn their master in public policy degree at Jacksonville University, including a books and materials stipend, internship opportunities provided by the city of Jacksonville and mentorship by community leaders associated with the program. In return, fellowship award winners agree to spend at least three years after graduation in northeast Florida.

“Now in its fourth year, the Jacksonville University Master in Public Policy Minority Fellowship has helped numerous students achieve their higher education goals and prepare for careers in public service,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “My team and I remain committed to this program and its goal to expand access and opportunities for promising young leaders looking to contribute to our region’s success. I am grateful to Jacksonville University for their continued investment in this exemplary fellowship.”

Potter, valedictorian of the All Saints Cathedral School’s Class of 2011, graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in economics, with minors in accounting and English. She took a year off to work with the AmeriCorps-affiliated City Year program, a nonprofit education organization providing in-class and after school tutoring at Title 1 schools for students who place in the bottom quarter in testing scores. She went on to earn a master of arts in teaching degree in secondary education from the University of North Florida.

“I’m just very proud of her,” said her mother, Evelyn Venner-Potter. “Not only is she constantly trying to learn and advance herself, but she’s also thinking about how she can make life better for the less fortunate. She always said she wanted to give younger people opportunities and the kind of support they may not have, but she had throughout her life, and she wanted to be able to offer that.”

At the Communities in Schools of Jacksonville, Potter worked as a graduation coach and achievement advocate. She is currently working on their launch of a Bridge to Employment college and career preparation mentoring program in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, in which she will facilitate student-mentor meetings, events, college tours, company tours and more. Bridge to Employment has programs all over the world and Potter is working on the pilot program for Florida at Englewood High School in Jacksonville.

Potter also serves the community in the ampED National Fellowship, the Junior League of Jacksonville and Jacksonville’s City Year Alumni Board. In addition, she partnered with a current school board member to offer a virtual summer fellowship program for young Black educators to build their network and their capacity to enact education policy initiatives in 2020. The second summer fellowship program was held in July.

As she begins her MPP degree, she looks forward to seeing every way that public policy can meet and support education. Her long-term goal is to get involved with the City Council.

“In general, getting more representation with more African-American leaders in policy is really what drew me to the program,” said Potter. “To me, it’s all about getting the content knowledge, the practical experience and the network that the Public Policy Institute here provides. It’s really great to get that network and that knowledge from people who are currently in the roles that we are aspiring to be in. I think that local government is what I’m really striving for. I think my long-term goal is City Council,” she said.

The fellowship program was established through the collaboration of community leaders, the mayor’s office and Jacksonville University. According to Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney, the program “has already diversified and enriched enrollment in the MPP Program, provided a unique opportunity for graduate study in public policy, and will help ensure more diversity among community leaders and policy makers in the future.”