Birmingham Education Foundation’s (Ed) Connect Local Manager, Dee Manyama, never imagined that she would discover her passion for unearthing people’s potential and purpose while working in mortgage banking for BancorpSouth. During her 15 years in the industry, Manyama received insight into the discrepancy between individuals who felt dissatisfied with their careers but needed the money to provide for their families and those who found overwhelming joy and fulfillment in their jobs. As she worked with both groups, she wanted to “fill the gap and bridge the disparity” to help people devote their life to their passions. However, in helping her clients to find their niche, Manyama realized her own was in educational training. 

After pursuing an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Business Administration, Manyama applied for AmeriCorps and worked as a Data & Materials Specialist for Ed. Manyama evolved from survey creation and reporting to planning conferences and curriculum. As she transitioned into a full-time role, she wanted to revamp both initiatives to feel more like an experience than a session for students. Thus, the curriculum transitioned from teaching directly in the classroom to a digital platform, and rather than facilitating seven conferences, this year there are four: seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth and tenth grades, and eleventh and twelfth grades. Manyama also worked with her team to build out the conferences and emphasize a more holistic focus.

Before and after receiving the Connect Local Manager position, she most enjoyed witnessing the growth and excitement in the students she worked with and the gratuitous support she received from Ed as an organization. Manyama noted the dedication she saw in Ed’s Executive Director, JW Carpenter, who “believes in and advocates for the work Ed is doing and is so involved . . . in almost every aspect of Ed. He has a genuine heart for people. You don’t find that atmosphere everywhere.” As Manyama continues to search for the untapped potential in others, she recognizes the complexities that accompany such a task. Due to Birmingham’s size, gathering volunteers from disparate industries is difficult, as is telling an interesting, cohesive story. Manyama possesses a genuine heart for kids, especially those in Birmingham City Schools, and nurtures a sincere belief in the city’s potential for progress and greatness. She knows that once its talent and innovation are tapped into, people will begin to recognize Birmingham’s brilliance.


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