During the 2017-2018 school year, Meryem Tunagur served the Birmingham Education Foundation as an AmeriCorps VISTA Program Specialist and the Network Night Manager. Serving on the Educate Local program team gave her a great introduction to the Birmingham City Schools (BCS) community and helped her establish relationships with families, teachers, and students. Her new role as the Community Engagement Manager is an extension of her work from last year. In August, she launched the “All In” Campaign – an information gathering campaign that serves to better understand the experience of families and students in Birmingham City. She also helped launch the Birmingham Network Council (BNC) a cohort of BCS stakeholders, ranging from current students, alumni, teachers, community members, parents, and community leaders, who will be hosting events around community engagement. These initiatives will hopefully help the school-based Network Nights and engage the Birmingham community around schools and school-based issues.
For Meryem, Ed’s mission is to “put the students first in every decision, every meeting, every program, every new initiative. We are never satisfied and constantly trying to improve because the students deserve that. We demand excellence for our kids because they deserve it.” According to Meryem, Ed does this through “the power of the Network. The individuals that Ed leverages, not only for the Ed staff but most importantly for the families and students, is so incredibly powerful.” Meryem’s new role stems from Ed’s desire to ensure that all Birmingham City School students graduate from high school and are college, career, and life ready. Her role will build a diverse network of individuals and help gather a wealth of information to help achieve Ed’s mission.
As the Community Engagement Manager, Meryem will be able to tap into “the largest group within the Network: families and students, teachers and administration, residents and business owners.” These network members are “motivated by their belief in and love for our students, and they intentionally connect through a set of relationships, take advantage of opportunities to act together, and exchange value between individuals and groups.” Meryem’s previous work on the program has gave her strong foundation in what community engagement could really look like, and this new role is just a natural progression. She believes that through her role, she “will be able to intentionally improve and focus on two-way communication between Ed and our communities in order to elevate the voices of the members of the community and ensure that their opinions are represented in future decisions made by Ed.”
When asked about her biggest goal in this new role, Meryem says it’s to “share the stories of our community members. It is not my job to tell their stories, rather to let them tell their stories themselves.”