NLPeople: Ebonee Otoo, senior vice president of educator engagement
Ebonee Otoo, Dallas, Texas
This is part of a series that introduces you to the people behind the scenes at the News Literacy Project.
1. Can you tell us what brought you to NLP?
NLP was the perfect marriage between my background in journalism and love for education. I was working for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in D.C. when a former colleague told me she saw a role I’d be perfect for. I applied the same day. Between my applying and getting the job, the pandemic began. I thought it was surreal to work for this cause in 2020 during the middle of the perfect storm of misinformation: the COVID-19 pandemic, a contentious election and a racial uprising following the death of George Floyd. I knew immediately I’d made the right, and most necessary, choice for such an unprecedented time.
2. How has your background as a coalition builder and community engagement expert influenced your work at NLP?
I’m proud to have spent my career working for causes I’m passionate about. I have worked with some of the best coalition builders in the country. Throughout my career, building and working directly with the community, I’ve learned that it’s important to listen to what the people want. If you pay attention, communities know what they need. My background has given me the courage to believe in the power of communities. I see value in every educator we encounter, and I am eager to co-create a future with them that we can both be happy to live in.
I’ve learned that people don’t need to be empowered. They have power. They often don’t have the resources to harness that power. That is where NLP comes in. We offer support, training, resources and a community platform that enables educators to teach the skills learners need to know. Now that is a lot of power!
What I love about my work at NLP is that I get to listen to educators and help meet their needs. We are a solution to a problem they’re facing every day. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life than building a movement of educators passionate about creating a more news-literate nation.
3. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about mentorship. I have been mentoring since 2013. Being a mentor is an important part of my personal ideology for a life of service. There is a lot of evidence that correlates mentoring with positive outcomes for young people. And since I’ve benefited so greatly from mentors, it’s only fitting that I extend that same opportunity to someone else. I recently traveled with a mentee to Ghana in June 2022. It was her first time in Africa. We visited several parts of the country, including the slave castles on the coast. It was one of the most memorable trips of my life, and I think the same is true for her.
4. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or do you prefer stuffed animals to pets?
While I love cats, I’m team dog. I have a pandemic puppy named Psalm. She’s a small land shark, but we’ve braved the last year and a half together.
5. What item do you always have in your fridge?
BBQ sauce. I put it on everything.