Mari Muraki is a 2015 fellow on the _[Mari Muraki](http://www.codeforamerica.org/people/mari-muraki/) is a 2015 fellow on the team, developing an integrated data system for the schools in the area. Mari is a data lover and researcher hailing from New Jersey. She studied mathematics and statistics at the University of Chicago and then pursued economics of education research at Stanford University. I had the privilege of asking her a few questions about her career path and the Code for America fellowship.
Why do you think people should apply to the Code for America fellowship?
If you are excited to serve a greater good, to get things done, and co-create with the community (not just for them), apply to be a fellow! Don’t be intimidated by the word “code” in “Code for America”. Code for America provides the opportunity for everyone — technologists and non-technologists alike — to partner with governments to build simple and effective open source technology that serves the needs of the community. On a personal front, you will be inspired and challenged every day by your fellow Fellows, and you will be making friends for life!
Join Mari and fix things that matter. Tell Code for America you want to be a 2016 fellow >
What attracted you to the Code for America fellowship?
Prior to Code for America, I worked with school districts both big and small, all of whom wanted to adopt new ideas and tools to help them better provide quality education to their most vulnerable students. As a researcher at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, I saw the urgency for solutions to address these needs but struggled to find ways to enact change directly. Code for America bridged that gap for me — to translate research into action. As a Code for America Fellow, I feel that each exchange of ideas, each step of the design process, and each line of code is more concretely and substantively tackling an immediate need.
What are you working on right now?
During our February residency, we heard time and time again: “There are so many great services available in Somerville. Help is out there but you need to know where to look and how to get the help.” Such were the sentiments shared by a teen mother who sought help for her struggling toddler but got lost in the transactions, even though she was trying her hardest to get special services for her child. We have been asking ourselves: how can we help families — especially isolated families — navigate the amazing social services Somerville has to offer and connect them to those they need when they need it?
We are currently focusing on two age groups in Somerville: early childhood and school-age children. In early childhood education, we want to streamline the process of identifying children in need of early intervention and connecting them to critical special education services. While still in our early research stages, we want to understand how the special education department is currently reaching out to parents, especially those who have not responded to time-sensitive screening and consent forms.
For school-age children, we are building an interactive data tool to helps teachers identify students struggling academically or behaviorally — both in the past and present — and to assign targeted interventions to address their specific needs. Teachers have voiced the value of knowing not only how a student is doing now, but how s/he was doing before entering their classroom: “I want to know what [my 5th graders] were struggling with, what interventions worked in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade … and what will work now.”
What’s been the most surprising thing about the Code for America fellowship?
During our first month, we spent most of our time on human relationships: how to build trust through even our most difficult conversations. Joining a fellowship with “code” in its name, and coming from a job where I was coding of 8+ hours everyday, I was surprised that we would go many days without writing one line of code. Now four months into the Fellowship, I understand how crucial negotiating and nurturing personal relationships are, not only among the “Team of Three,” but also between our city partners and with our community. Our fellowship year ultimately depends on the empathy, trust, and respect that we forge from the first “hello”.