6 December 2023 • Alums From Empowering Students to Empowering Educators By Paige Cooke
An HWS bond reconnected two alums. Now, they’re working to recognize innovative educators and amplify their impact on students.
The Yass Prize was founded during the height of the pandemic to honor a different type of frontline worker — the education leaders working to deliver the best possible educational experience for their students.
Caroline Dosky Allen '12, MAT ’13, vice president of the Yass Prize, says that since then, "our work has had an exceptional impact on students, school leaders, families and future generations” with millions in annual awards for education innovators and entrepreneurs.
“It isn’t about the size of the school or community or the club or organization; if you dive in, are present, connected and dedicated, you can make an impact anywhere.”
Josephina Rago ’11
After seeing a photo of Allen on the Forbes stage during a Yass event, Josephina Rago ’11 reached out to reconnect over their shared passion for education. (Allen previously worked as a special education teacher for Teach for America and taught at Brooke Charter Schools; Rago served with City Year after graduation and taught in public schools in Chicago and the Bronx.) Soon after, Rago joined the Yass Prize as a consultant, and before long, she and Allen were working together to expand the prize’s reach.
Through the generosity of benefactors Janine and Jeff Yass, the prize launched in 2021 with the $1 million STOP Award (Sustainable, Transformational Outstanding and Permissionless education”), established “to honor and advance the work of education providers who delivered a best-in-class experience during the Covid pandemic,” as the Yass Prize website notes.
Today, in partnership with Forbes media and the Center for Education Reform, the organization awards more than $20 million annually to provide education leaders with the resources to accelerate their impact on students’ lives.
At HWS, Allen majored in dance and psychology and earned her master’s in teaching. Rago, who majored in media and society and women’s studies, went on to earn her M.A.T. in special education at National Louis University and her M.S.Ed. in higher education administration at CUNY Baruch College.
Drawing on their experiences at HWS, both alums have carried forward the lessons of service and community engagement, both in their work in the classroom community and in the broader community of classrooms across the country.
“You can make an impact wherever you are,” says Rago, who now serves as the Yass Prize’s senior partnership manager. “It isn’t about the size of the school or community or the club or organization; if you dive in, are present, connected and dedicated, you can make an impact anywhere.”
In October, the Yass Prize held the inaugural Yass Summit and Semifinalist Celebration in Cleveland, celebrating educators, advocators and entrepreneurs, and revealed the new Yass Center for Education ahead of the December announcement of the finalists and winner. Learn more about the Yass Prize 2023.