Former Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius is one of three finalists for Boston Public Schools superintendent. She also emerged as a finalist for the superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education.

Cassellius said she wants to be in a place where there’s an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of diverse populations and poor kids. Both Boston and Michigan offer those opportunities, she said.

“I grew up poor and in public housing and to a single mother,” Cassellius said. “I want to develop young [people] of color to ensure that they can aspire to these positions.”

In 2010, Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Cassellius as head of the Minnesota Department of Education, making her the first person of color to lead the organization. Cassellius stepped down in January.

Among her top priorities: closing the achievement gaps between white and minority students, advancing all-day kindergarten, renewing the focus on equity in schools, and creating new opportunities for early childhood learning.

Before taking the helm at the Department of Education, Cassellius was a social-studies teacher, principal and administrator in the Twin Cities. She also worked as an administrator in Oklahoma City before becoming an assistant superintendent in Minneapolis and in Memphis.

Cassellius recently withdrew from the running for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District superintendent position. Both Boston and Michigan school officials are expected to make a decision in the coming weeks, she said.