Rico Francis is an Indy transplant who grew up just outside of Washington D.C. Rico is a student advocate and works to support the Indianapolis education landscape as the Program Manager for Indianapolis Teaching Fellows; he’s passionate about diversifying the teacher workforce and collaborating with communities for mission-aligned youth development. When he is not supporting school partners and Indy educators, Rico serves as a Big Brother for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Indiana, and is always walking his dog Bubba Gump on the Monon Trail.
The 1828 Leadership Project, presented by Citizens Energy Group, is a civic leadership tract for Indy’s young leaders with the goal of fostering intentional relationships with a cross sector of Indianapolis’ thought leaders and decision makers. Rico is a part of 1828’s Class X– learn more about him below!
How do you spend your days? For example, you can tell us about your career, side hustle or exercise routine whatever you want to share here we’re ready to listen.
I spend most of my time supporting the Indianapolis education landscape, specifically Indianapolis Teaching Fellows and our school partners. I have found so much joy meeting Indianapolis residents who are passionate about both education and youth development in Center township. Every morning I walk or run the Monon Trail with my dog Bubba Gump, I always need this to clear my head for the day ahead. When I am not working, I am hanging out with friends downtown or by a bonfire. I love to volunteer so if I ever find any free time outside of hanging with friends, I am with my little brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana.
Where are you from? What made you choose to move here?
I grew up just outside of Washington D.C. in Silver Spring, Maryland, and attended college in Newport News, Virginia. My first job was as a leadership consultant for my fraternity, this was a one-year commitment until I was welcomed into the Far Eastside community as a teaching assistant. Through my work as a leadership consultant, I realized I wanted to facilitate leadership development opportunities for students in K-12. My life was forever changed by the scholars, parents, and school leaders I worked with who affirmed my passion for youth development and equity in education. When I knew I wanted to make Indy my home, I had plenty of support from the community to make the transition.
You’re off the clock, there are no expectations. What are you doing?
Happy Hour and Appetizers followed by a night of dancing and hanging out with friends. To top it all off, a bonfire and s’mores to end the night.
When thinking about the future of Indianapolis, what are you most looking forward to in the next 5 years and why?
In the next 5 years, I am looking forward to becoming more embedded in the Indianapolis community. As an Indy transplant, I have found a profound respect for those who have grown up in the city and can speak on the challenges and frustrations that have happened over time. I have a strong desire to serve Indy’s education community intentionally and that means getting to know the many communities that make up our city. As a young professional in education, I have found renewed hope in speaking to other Hoosiers who are resilient in our effort to bring equity to our schools across Indianapolis. Educators are an asset to any city, and I hope to play a role in raising Indianapolis educators to become a leading city in collaboration across education.
Are there any local causes that you support? What are they and how might others learn more or get involved?
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Indiana – Growing up, mentors played a huge role in my life and the development of my identity. The mission of BBBSCI is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of our youth. To get involved you can become a Big or donate to the organization to support relationships across our city.
The Mind Trust – Talent Strategy – Our city has a diverse education landscape that offers both district and charter school options. It’s important that we have a place to come to learn, recognize, and get involved with our schools. Most importantly, we need to acknowledge that there are human beings involved, all with a shared mission to support equity in schools. The Mind Trust is working to create a city where educators lead and thrive. To get involved you can follow The Mind Trust online or support one of their many ongoing efforts by donating.
The Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation – Education Equity Fund – The fund is designed to complement local relief efforts and to expand the capacity of IPS to meet the needs of IPS students, staff, and families who will be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. To get involved you can follow IPS, donate, or fill out a volunteer form to get involved with a local school community.
Do you have a favorite local place in town (restaurant, bar, park, etc.) that you love going to? Where is it and why should other people try it out?
My favorite local place to visit is Tea’s Me Café, it has an overwhelming sense of community and the staff is incredible. I was never a tea fan before I came to Indy, however, Joi DeFrantz at Tea’s Me Café took time out of her day the first time I walked in to give me a full tea tasting. When I first got to Indy I really wanted to find places that made me feel like home, Tea’s Me Café is that feeling and more.
Indianapolis is a sprawling county, what’s your favorite part about our city?
My favorite part about our city is that change is radiating from multiple points in the city, this collaborative effort is infectious and makes you want to get involved. I am also excited about the innovation in public transit and the push to make more walking space across the city.
If you were a superhero what would be your special trait? Why?
To be in two places at once. I am overwhelmed by how much opportunity there is as a young professional, not to mention when dinner specials at your two favorite restaurants are on the same night.
You’re hosting your own music festival with three artists – Who’s performing?
Galantis, Kendrick Lamar & Bad Bunny
If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?
Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice. This is my go-to karaoke song and I can’t think of any song I have listened to or sang.
Mornings or evenings? And Why?
Evenings. This is selfish but I really love sleeping in with my dog haha.
How do you define success?
Success is acknowledging that learning is a lifelong process. When we approach reality with a desire to understand, connect, and collaborate we can begin to form roadmaps to a better future.
What would you name the autobiography of your life? Feel free to give us context here.
(Change Isn’t What I Asked For, It’s What I Needed.) – I always questioned why I found myself away from my family and friends when I arrived in Indianapolis two years ago. After the work and experiences I have had I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Learn more and connect with Rico on LinkedIn.