Fall 2016 Campaign: Meet Emily Heller

When Emily Heller first started teaching high school English in Huntsville, Alabama in 2012, only 10% of her school’s graduates reported going to college. It’s a Title 1 school, which means most of its students live at or below the poverty line. “A few teachers and myself founded the CAP & GOWN Project to make transformational academic pathways open up for our students,” she says. “We realized we were going to have to do more than just teach our classes.” Since Emily and her co­founders started the CAP & GOWN Project and implemented it at their school in 2013, the rate of graduates attending college has skyrocketed to 50­-60%, and the number of scholarship dollars students receive has tripled. “Because I believe so strongly that education opens doors, I also believe that not getting access to the education you deserve can close doors,” says Emily. “Ms. Heller never gives up on any student, no matter what their issue, what their situation,” says Kiara, one of Emily’s students. “If you don’t ever give up on her, she’ll never give up on you.” Her dedication to her students is genuine and palpable. When she’s not teaching, she’s helping the cheerleading team, working with extracurricular clubs and organizing CAP & GOWN Project college tours. “I want my life’s work to be defined by service,” she says. “I will feel fulfilled professionally and personally if I can look back and say that each and every day, I did my best to make people’s lives a little better and a little easier.” emily emily2