2020 Tillman Scholar

Daris McInnis

University of Pennsylvania

“Education is an ever-evolving, unbelievably complicated field. As a researcher and educator, my dream is to discover new ways to support marginalized communities by providing rich and rigorous education opportunities.”

Born to a teen mom in Flint, Michigan, Daris understood the importance and value of education at an early age. Graduating with his undergraduate business degree in 2008, Daris was inspired by his mother’s sacrifices and father’s military service, and was commissioned to the Army Officer Candidate School in the Ordnance Corps. While stationed at Fort Lee, Daris volunteered at failing schools in the local Petersburg area and found inspiration to serve in a new capacity.

In 2013, Daris transitioned to work on a school turnaround in the inaugural New Orleans Education Pioneers Fellowship. Shortly after in 2014, Daris earned a teaching certification and became an early childhood teacher in Washington, D.C. Daris was also recognized for his determination to transform education and was invited to personally meet Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as he was sworn in as an Americorps service member at the Americorps 20th Anniversary.

While teaching, Daris sought ways to support students beyond the classroom. He brought play opportunities to families at local D.C. shelters and later volunteered to teach at a Kenyan orphanage. Through Daris’ challenging yet fulfilling urban classroom teaching and volunteer experience, he was compelled to embark on a new journey in education. Daris currently studies reading, writing and literacy at Penn Graduate School of Education. He employs his experience and research to support literacy programs throughout Philadelphia. Upon program completion, Daris aspires to become a professor of education and use practice and research to advocate for early literacy programs in marginalized communities.