Alumni Spotlight – Jarvis Prewitt

The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. – Steven Spielberg

IMG_1803Months after graduating from Huffman High School as the class of 2019’s salutatorian, Jarvis Prewitt raved over the phone not about football games or newfound independence, but about his love for the Birmingham Education Foundation. During Jarvis’s three years in Ed’s programs, he gained career and life readiness skills that inspired him with a clear sense of motivation and excellence. Sophomore year, through the Career Education program, Jarvis and a few other students enrolled into the Academy of Architecture and Construction, Continue reading

Accepting Applications for the 2020 Walter Carr Award!

The Walter Carr award was announced in 2018 and named in honor of Walter Carr, who is a graduate of Carver High School. The award will be presented to a graduating senior from a Birmingham City School who demonstrates grit, hard work, and character during their time in high school. In order to apply for the Walter Carr Award, please submit the following to Continue reading



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 Continue reading

Policy and Advocacy Manager – Corinn O’Brien

What after all has maintained the human race on this old globe despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities and courage to advocate them. – Jane Addams

Before becoming Birmingham Education Foundation’s (Ed) Policy and Advocacy Manager, Louisiana native, Corinn O’Brien, spent ten years in public schools and education systems. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University, O’Brien witnessed Hurricane Katrina’s devastation as the storm made landfall on Louisiana’s coast. As she observed the calamity’s effects on New Orleans, she knew that she wanted to remain in the city and further develop her interest in teaching. In 2008, O’Brien began working for Teach For America as an eighth grade math teacher and saw the unimaginable inequities in New Orleans; she instructed 17-year-old students who performed math on a first- or second- grade level and who would age out of the system before completing their education. As O’Brien struggled to reconcile how a world existed where such inequity occurred, she joined a team of teachers who were turning around a failing charter school in New Orleans.  Continue reading

Work Local Manager – Emily Burt

Education is important no matter what you do. It makes you feel secure, independent, and confident in yourself. . . So, if it starts at the basic level . . . a lot will change. –Kriti Sanon

For schools to engage in constructive conversations about education that empowers and inspires its students, the dialogue must remain student-centered. When Birmingham native, Emily Burt, applied for a Program Specialist position at the Birmingham Education Foundation through AmeriCorps State, she discovered that the role not only aligned with her graduate studies in School Counseling, but also revealed the organization’s dedication to keeping students at the forefront of discussion. As Program Specialist, Burt delivered the College and Career Preparation Curriculum, and enjoyed serving in this capacity so much that she applied for a full-time position. Continue reading

“Diary of Ed” – Ed Family Game Night

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. – BrenéBrown

Each packed hitting bay on Top Golf’s first floor emanated an exhilarating energy as seniors from seven Birmingham City high schools networked with local partners. Departing from Game Night’s recent family feud tradition, Development Manager, Brad Jennings, organized the annual fundraiser at Top Golf, creating a relaxed, engaging environment for relationships new and old to grow through community and competition. Students from a wide variety of Birmingham City schools joined together to compete on teams with executives from Regions, UAB, Engel Realty, C-Spire, SlateXP, Birmingham Athletic Partnership, American’s First Federal Credit Union, The Edit with MDL, Oakworth, Jones Walker, Christian & Smalls, and other community leaders.  “Every time someone came down here, you could feel the energy,” exclaimed a Top Golf worker. Continue reading

Program Specialist – Carolyn Williams

Carolyn Williams’ role at the Birmingham Education IMG_1757.jpgFoundation is Program Specialist. Her responsibilities include creating and delivering curriculum to 6-12th-grade students within the city of Birmingham. These in-school sessions focus on college, career, and life readiness. Within her role, one of Carolyn’s favorite tasks is to go into classrooms and provide students with access to resources that can help them reach their maximum potential. Through the help of the team, she is able to match students with local professionals for mentorship, provide resume preparation for future job opportunities, and help students financially prepare for college, as well as any other needs they may have. Continue reading

Development & Communications Specialist – Brad Jennings

D72ABBA3-3749-4397-88A8-A0516A974AE8Brad Jennings joined the Birmingham Education Foundation team during the 2017-2018 academic year as the Development and Communications Specialist. In this role, Brad identifies and researches state and federal grants and local, state, and national opportunities to support Ed’s fundraising activities. He also supports the Development and Communications Director, Whitney Williams, in implementing Ed’s communications strategy through social media and marketing materials. Continue reading

Accepting Applications for the Walter Carr Award!

The Walter Carr award was announced in 2018 and named in honor of Walter Carr, who is a graduate of Carver High School. The award will be presented to a graduating senior from a Birmingham City School who demonstrates grit, hard work, and character during their time in high school. In order to apply for the Walter Carr Award, please submit the following to

  • Resume’
  • 1 page typed essay stating how the applicant represents the qualities of “grit, hard work, and character”
  • At least 1 recommendation from a non-related person who can speak about the applicant’s grit, hard work, and character
  • Short statement on the applicant’s plans for next year
  • Headshot or other photo of the applicant
  • Optional – video essay

Finalists will be asked to participate in an in-person interview. Finalists will be notified via email during the week of April 22nd and interviews will take place the week of April 29th. Continue reading

Ed Chat

In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the educational ecosystem in Birmingham, this year, the Birmingham Education Foundation dedicated capacity to the research and analysis of education policy for the first time through the creation of Ed’s Policy Project.  Our strategy manager, Corinn O’Brien, and a team of policy fellows, Maureen Moose, Nathan Yoguez, and Aditi Prasad, have been researching and writing policy briefs that focus on 1) the analysis of the current Alabama education policy landscape and 2) the exploration of effective education policy & best practices from around the country and potential for application in Alabama.   Continue reading

Program Team Lead – Cristal Brister

unnamedCristal Brister, a former Program Specialist, has really owned her role this year as the Program Team Lead with the Birmingham Education Foundation (Ed). As the new Program Team Lead, she will be managing the Social Emotional Learning partnership with the Birmingham City School district, managing curriculum development, facilitating in-school programming, and building relationships with community stakeholders. While she notes how stretching the experience has been, she gladly welcomes the continual growth. Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight – Juahmun Sturgeon

Juahmun Sturgeon is a 2018 graduate of Wenonah High School and is currently working on an associates degree in Business Administration from Lawson State Community College. Juahmun became involved with the Birmingham Education Foundation (Ed) as a unspecifiedsophomore in high school. He was first introduced to Ed through Wenonah’s Birmingham Academy coordinators, Angela Smith and Juanita Harris. Throughout his high school career, he participated in Ed’s Network Nights and was a contestant in the 2017 Ed Family Game Night. While participating in Ed Family Game Night, Juahmun had  the opportunity to team up with the University of Alabama at Birmingham(UAB). Juahmum along with his UAB team ended up placing third in the competition, allowing him to win scholarship money. Continue reading

A Letter on Community Engagement – Shannon Ellis

Our history, as a city, comes from communication and collaboration. Our future is whether we can continue this tradition.

Community engagement is the enactment of providing branches for conversations to establish the collective future envisioned. It is a right, a privilege, and my pleasure to be involved in the facilitation of engaging my community. Continue reading

Community Engagement Manager – Meryem Tunagur

During the 2017-2018 school year, Meryem Tunagur served the Birmingham Education IMG_1576Foundation 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  Continue reading

Joy’s Network Night Experience


I attended the very first network night of the year on Tuesday, October 30th and itexceeded any/all expectations! This network night was held at Ramsay high school. I’m a proud alum of Ramsay High School so I was excited to see what was in store. When I entered the school I was greeted by a group of student volunteers. They assisted me with signing in and directing me to the table of food provided by Ed. Once the program started, things began to take off! The Network Night was hosted by a teacher of the school who did a wonderful job engaging the audience. The first activity was “New and Good.” The host asked everyone to get into groups of 6 and share with each other  Continue reading

Alumni Relationship Manager – CeCe Lacey

Change is underway for CeCe Lacey who formerly served as a program specialist and is now turning her focus to alumni relations. This new position is focused on serving graduates of Birmingham City Schools who participated in Educate Local programs. Lacey’s transition comes as part of the Ed team’s desire to constantly give and receive feedback in order to best work with their stakeholders. “We always need to have an idea of the best direction for our work,” she explains. “Our mission is to increase the number of BCS students who graduate career, college, and life ready and we we want to know how many students actually do graduate career, college, and life ready.” By transitioning Lacey’s focus to these alumni, the hope is Ed can better serve students before and after they graduate. Continue reading

Meet DeCarlo Howard – 2018 Ed Family Game Night Contestant

DeCarlo Howard is a Huffman High School senior, where he’s a member of the swim and wrestling team, a former linebacker and defensive end on the football team, and an active member in his school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Outside of school, DeCarlo participates in Miles College Upward Bound and with his church, New Rising Star. DeCarlo is a student in the Academy of Architecture and Construction at Huffman, where he specializes in electrical training. Last summer, he worked with Bright Future Electric, an electric contract company for construction, as an apprentice to earn his electrician’s license. He also worked with the Division of Youth Services in City Hall to complete a paid internship in the engineering department of the Mayor’s office. DeCarlo’s interest in electrical work has lead him to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) because of their great engineering and business programs. DeCarlo eventually wants to own his own electrical engineering business. Continue reading

Meet N’Kayla Slaughter – 2018 Ed Family Game Night Contestant

N’Kayla Slaughter is a P.D. Jackson-Olin High School senior, where she’s the president of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), where she and other students compete in project-based competitions that showcase their skills in athletic training. N’Kayla has gained on-the-job skills in her role as the student athletic trainer for the Jackson-Olin football team. Her time spent working with Jackson-Olin’s athletes has inspired her to continue her education at the University of Georgia or Kennesaw State due to their excellent athletic training programs. N’Kayla wants to make a career out of athletic training because she loves learning new things about the body and how it functions during sports. Continue reading

Meet Ciele Williams – 2018 Ed Family Game Night Contestant

Ciele Williams is a Wenonah High School senior, where she’s the captain of the cheerleading team. Ciele is part of Wenonah’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. Outside of school, Ciele is a member of the Mount Olive Baptist Church youth choir, praise team, and she serves as the secretary of the youth department. Her dedication and love of cheerleading has inspired her to continue her cheerleading while pursuing her career in education at Tuskegee University. Ciele says she’s interested in Tuskegee for its strengths in both of her areas of interest. Ciele wants to major in psychology and ultimately become a child or school therapist,  because she loves working with kids. She realizes kids have a lot on their minds and are full of things to talk about, but often some young people don’t have that person to talk to; Ciele wants to be that person for children. Continue reading

Meet Emilee Burrell – 2018 Game Night Contestant!

Emilee Burrell is a Ramsay High School senior, where she’s the treasurer of the Key Club, member of Future Business Leaders of America and Ramsay Changemakers. Outside of school, Emilee is a member of the Mount Pilgrim District Youth Council, which puts on programs at different churches in the Birmingham area to promote community. She’s also been a teen volunteer at The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) Hospital for the past two summers. While volunteering, she’s worked in the pre-op area and with overnight patients by checking their charts, vital signs, and preparing patients for surgery. Emilee’s volunteer work with UAB’s hospital may have sparked her love for the school as well. Although she’s considering Clark Atlanta University and The University of Alabama, UAB is her top choice for college next year, because they have a good school of business, they genuinely care for their students, and it’s not that far from home. She believes that it’s the best place to provide her with a great education in order to become a certified public accountant and help people financially with managing money. Continue reading


The Birmingham Association of Realtors (BAR) gave multiple students the opportunity to work with them through Ed’s Executive Internship program in Spring of last year. The Executive Internship gives students real-world experience in their field of study through the Academies of Birmingham, while also allowing them to make connections with business professionals throughout the community. Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight – Mohamed Jalloh

Mohamed Jalloh is an Electrical Engineering major at Lawson State Community College and will be graduating at the end of the year.unnamed He also works at Jones Valley Teaching Farm, where he began working as an eleventh grader in Wenonah’s Academy of Business and Finance.
Jalloh was one of the students picked to design the farm.  During the summer, he and the other students met once a week to see how they wanted the farm to look, and he took a leadership role in the formation of the farm. He and other students also planned the best way to introduce the farm to the students and faculty at Woodlawn High School. Although Jalloh graduated after the farm started, Jones Valley Teaching Farm invited him to continue working at the farm, where he is now the Woodlawn farm manager. He also designs curriculum for Jones Valley. Mohamed credits Ed for playing a major role into where he is today. He says that Ed “helped me learn through first hand experiences and by talking to people who have been working with their jobs for 15 to Continue reading

Letter From Ed: Forte’

Intrigued by the command lines of the Commodore 64, Instructor Forte’ developed an
interest in technology at 10 years old in the Black Belt. With an earned Bachelor of
Science and Graduate Studies at UAB in Criminal Justice, Forte’ has a sincere
passion for cultivating student success. Continue reading


Seven years of Jesuit education is challenging. Even before I arrived on Boston College’s campus, I knew the Jesuit motto, “Men and women for others,” because it’s always front and center. Boston College wants students thinking about its motto, but what they really want is for you to get busy doing something about it. And they are perfectly willing to physically drag you there if necessary, which is what they more or less had to do with me when I was 18. Throughout my time at Boston College, the mission and the message were clear: on your path to the immense opportunities that a college graduate receives, the most important part is the “for others.”
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Letters from Ed: Whitney Williams

I first learned of the work of the Birmingham Education Foundation the way you are now–by following along online. While living in Washington, D.C., I spent a lot of time visiting the website and Facebook page of the Birmingham Education Foundation. I was in awe of the work Victoria Hollis was doing as Educate Local Programs Director at the time. I wondered how a team of only four people was able to put on a professional conference for high school students,who then got to speak to the Rotary Club of Birmingham and on the program alongside Condoleezza Rice. Continue reading

Ed Alumni: Jamerial Gardner

Jamerial & Victoria checkA 2016 graduate of Carver High School, Jamerial Gardner currently studies Biology at Wilberforce University, a private historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio. There she is a member of STEM, a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics club for students who are STEM majors, which consists of groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers, Biology, and Information-Technological students. Continue reading

Letter from Ed: Dasha Shaw

It is with great excitement that I give you a glimpse of my life with Ed. I am from Greensboro, NC although I have lived all over because I come from a military family. I went to school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am a Tar Heel through and through! It was at UNC that I really found my passion for education.

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Ed Alumni: John McCall-Pitts

John McCall-Pitts is a current UAB student, in his junior year of studying business management. He’s also an alumni of Ramsay High School, where he finished in 2015. Eager to get started on his education, John started at UAB immediately in the Fall of 2015, entering with 8 AP classes worth of credit he’d earned in high school.

21270782_1972364426339961_5162035188819753049_nJohn is the youngest, and one of the founding members of Ed’s Junior Board. He joined because he liked the organization, and wanted to give back to the programs he’d benefitted from while he was a student at Ramsay. He remembers career conferences hosted at the Harbert Center that allowed him to start networking with professionals very early in his career. He also adds that his first experience on a board encouraged him to think more collaboratively. John says the Junior Board of Ed is his first look into what a board (and a board member) can do.

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Ed Alumni: Triniti Williams

Triniti Williams is a Sophomore and Exercise Science/Pre-Health major at Troy University. Triniti graduated from G.W. Carver High School in 2016, and got her start working with Ed as a student in the Health Sciences Academy at Carver. At Troy, Triniti is on the Troy University Student Advisory Council and a member of the NAACP, Sparkle Volunteer Group, and the Black Student Union. Continue reading

PARTNER POST: YouthServe & Student Changemakers Councils

E7205905-3AF8-44CF-A277-2B259975DC7AStudent Changemaker Councils (SCC) began in the Spring of 2016 with the idea to create student-led councils that focused on serving the community in positive ways while creating space for students to have time and resources to research, plan, and implement a project that supports the communities around their schools. Student Changemakers Councils Prepares third through 12th grade students to be civically minded and engaged in their community.

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Letters from Ed: Katrina Dada

With great enthusiasm, I offer a few words about why I engage in the work we do at the Birmingham Education Foundation (Ed). I am always reminded of how privileged I am to work on behalf of students when I’m ask, “So Mrs. Dada, what do you do?” to which I respond with the utmost excitement “THIS is my job!” Ed provides the chance for me to build a network of great stakeholders and partners who work together to offer opportunities to prepare our students for college, career, and life after high school graduation.

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Ed Alumni: Aspen Gorman

Aspen Gorman is a Freshman and a Business major with a concentration in Supply Management at Tennessee State University. Aspen graduated from A.H. Parker High School in 2017, and got her start working with the Ed Foundation as a student in the Academy of Urban Educators at A.H. Parker. At Tennessee State, Aspen is a Supply Chain Ambassador and a member of the Pep Club, and even after attending college out-of-state, Aspen continues to participate with Ed by being one of the Ed Alumni Group founders.

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Letters from Ed: CeCe Lacey

Student, parent, educator, community partner, teammate, or friend:

It is with gratitude and pride that I write to you today to share a tiny glimpse into my life at the Birmingham Education Foundation. The beauty of this opportunity is that it reiterates how much this team truly values bringing all voices to the table. Just as much as we want to share our stories, thoughts, and ideas with you, we want to hear yours even more. This is a journey we are taking together and it would not be able to be successful any other way. Continue reading

Ed Alumni: Robyn Gulley

For the first Alumni Feature of the school year, Kendal Harris sat down with Robyn Gulley, a Political Science major and sophomore at Birmingham-Southern College. Robyn graduated from Ramsay High School in 2016, and during her time at Ramsay, she was very active in Ed’s programs, including Ed Family Game Night.

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Educate Local: Building Skills with BCS Seniors

On Friday, October 13, seniors from all seven high schools in Birmingham City Schools met at the Harbert Center for the skill-building conference on public speaking. Participating students had worked with volunteer presenters, Ed staff, and their teachers to produce personal commentaries, which they wrote, practiced, and perfected through in-school sessions, before giving presentations to volunteers from Rotary Club of Birmingham.

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Partner Post: GEAR UP Birmingham

GEAR UP Birmingham Prepares Birmingham City Schools 9th and 10th Grade Students for Collegiate Success

GEAR UP Birmingham (GUB) is a federally funded initiative, currently serving a cohort of 9th and 10th grade students attending Birmingham City Schools. The initiative began in 2014, when the current cohort of students were just entering 6th and 7th grades.

“The grant was written with longevity and sustainability in mind”, said Dr. Kisha Tolbert Simmons, NBCT, Project Director, GEAR UP Birmingham. “It offers cohort students opportunities to participate in college awareness and preparation services throughout their middle and high school years, in an effort to promote and support postsecondary education attainment”, she said.

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A Letter from Ed

This Letter from Ed comes from Strategy Director Victoria Hollis. To learn more about Victoria, visit our Staff page here. To learn more about her role as Strategy Director, go here.


Ask me why I do what I do and I’ll hand you a list like a phonebook. 25,000 names of kids in Birmingham City Schools and I am not lying when I tell you I do it for every single one.

I met Triniti and Josselyn when they were in the tenth grade. Continue reading

Lessons in Game-Changing: Three Internship Short Stories

Imagine us last summer, our program staff of six – the Hexapod – spread out across the city in different board rooms and different office buildings, sitting across a conference table or a desk making the same ask to twenty different partners:

“We think this idea is the game-changer. Are you in?”

What we were talking about, of course, was Ed’s Executive Internship Program (EIP), a pie-in-the-sky idea four years in the making, a seed planted on our first site visit to UAB Hospital, the answer to the questions we’d been asking ourselves since 2012: “How are we making a difference in the lives of our kids in Birmingham City Schools?” Continue reading

Educator Spotlight: Erik Batson, Academy Coordinator, Jackson-Olin High School

Despite the impressive list of places where he has taught—from the Bronx, to Austin, Texas, to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina—you’d be hard-pressed to
find a teacher anywhere that has as much enthusiasm for their system as Erik Batson has for Birmingham City Schools.

Sitting at a table at Starbucks in Five Points South, wearing cycling clothes complete with a “Brooklyn”-emblazoned cycling cap, he professed, “I love my job. I love working for Jackson-Olin, and I love working for Birmingham City Schools—much better than other places I have been.” Continue reading