by Roger Drouin
While at New College, Maxeme Tuchman ’00 took a course in American Government taught by McGee Young. During that course, she read “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools,” by author and educator Jonathan Kozol.
At the time, Tuchman planned to focus on international politics, and Cuban-American relations in particular. As Tuchman read “Savage Inequalities,” however, she learned how problem solving was required in the United States if vexing and complicated challenges, such as erasing the educational divide, were going to be addressed.
She decided to shift her focus to the domestic arena, and has since dedicated herself to trying to solve the most complex challenges facing the country—the kind of problems Kozol highlighted.
“I wanted to help people in developing countries, and yet reading the chapter on a school in East St. Louis [in Savage Inequalities] showed me that there was still a lot of work be done here at home in terms of issues such as socioeconomic disparities and educational equality,” Tuchman said.
After graduating in 2004, she taught social studies for two years at an inner city high school in her native Miami, with Teach for America. During that time, she taught 480 12th-graders and coached an award-winning Urban Debate League team.
She went on to get a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School, both in 2012. Now 34, Tuchman recently concluded a year serving as a White House Fellow, considered government’s most prestigious program for leadership and public service.
For the 2015-2016 year, Tuchman served in the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a strategic policy advisor, providing guidance, coordination, and strategic planning on financial inclusion initiatives. Each year, only about 16 aspiring leaders are appointed by the president of the United States to serve as White House Fellows.
Tuchman saw first-hand how “incredibly dedicated” people —both career officials and political appointments—work hard to address the most complex problems. “It was incredible to be up there to see how much good work is being done and how many people care so much about the lives of 318 million people here in the U.S.,” Tuchman said.
The experience confirmed for Tuchman that despite oft-repeated rhetoric about lassitude and inaction in Washington, there is a unified effort on important projects, such as connecting private investment to public infrastructure projects—an initiative that Tuchman worked on.
As her time as a White House Fellow winded down, Tuchman recognized that she would be most comfortable returning to work at the grassroots level to try to solve the problems that the Treasury and other government departments view from a strategic “30K point of view.”
She recently honed in on the potential of technology to improve the educational experience and lives of students. “I started searching for ways to make a bigger impact, faster, and I started to see that possibility in the education technology space,” Tuchman said.
After a three-month leave to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, she is back at work as co-founder and CEO at Caribu — an innovative educational start-up. Caribu integrates children’s books into a child-friendly video calling app -— think “Facetime meets Kindle” -— providing an engaging communication experience for kids and their families.
Currently, she’s collaborating with educators, parents and students to improve the app and facilitate its use as an educational tool. “We are starting to work with nonprofit volunteer reading programs, where the app can help cut down on travel time for volunteers who want to read to children,” said Tuchman.
Tuchman recalls that many of her 12th-graders were reading at a fifth-grade level, so she is excited to be involved in a company that’s using technology to address childhood illiteracy.
“Caribu focuses on three to seven year olds,” Tuchman said, “and builds not only the love of reading, but soon, the foundations of literacy, and for me, I couldn’t imagine a more important place to be right now.”