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

Brad Jennings

BradBrad Jennings
Development Manager

Brad is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While at UAB, Brad served as a member and Liaison of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA). Brad has participated in the MLB’s Diversity Economic Impact Engagement Diversity Business Summit as well as Plank Center Challenge for Emerging Leaders. He has a passion for growing while also helping others grow. Brad became interested in education after visiting schools around Birmingham and realizing that so many students have a desire to succeed, but don’t have the support or resources they need.

Suzy Harris

View More: Harris
Program Manager SAIL

Suzy joined Ed in January 2016 after over 24 years in education program management at the Birmingham Museum of Art. She was responsible for developing programming for teachers and schools as well as public programming and outreach to community groups and other cultural institutions. She received her undergraduate degree in art history from the University of the South and her Master’s degree in art history from Vanderbilt University. She believes strongly in community service and currently serves on the Advocacy Task force of the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education, the CTE Advisory Committee for the Carver High School Animation Program and as Treasurer for the Alabama Art Education Association. She was a founding board member of Heart Gallery of Alabama and has served on the boards of the Jefferson County Children’s Policy Cooperative, the Nia Institute and the Junior Board of Gateway. In addition, she served as Board President for VSA arts Alabama, a statewide non­profit group that serves people with chronic illnesses and disabilities through the arts. She is an alumnus of Leadership Birmingham.

Corinn O’Brien

Corinn HeadshotBorn and raised in Louisiana, Corinn comes to Ed with ten years of experience working in public schools.  She began her career in education teaching 8th-grade math in New Orleans as a 2008 Teach For America corps member.

In 2010, Corinn became a founding team member and math teacher at Phillis Wheatley Community School.  For the next five years, Corinn continued to teach and share her passion for middle school math. She also served as the 7th Grade Level Leader, co-founder of the JDCS Outdoor Education program, and the girl’s soccer coach.  Most recently, Corinn worked for two years as Assistant Principal of Upper Middle School of Nashville Prep, where she coached a team of twelve teachers on instruction, systems, and family engagement.

Corinn earned her B.A. in Economics from Louisiana State University and an M.Ed. in Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies from Vanderbilt University.  As a newly minted resident, she is looking forward to getting to know Birmingham and the state of Alabama.


Meryem Tunagur

In 2007, Meryem and her family moved to Birmingham from the Middle East. After a short adjustment period, Birmingham quickly became home and she found herself staying in the city for an Undergrad. Meryem graduated from Birmingham-Southern College Cum Laude in 2017 with a B.A in Theatre Educational Psychology; a major she created which focused on theatre therapy for children and adults with special needs.

This past year Meryem served as an AmeriCorps VISTA on the Ed Program Team. Taking on her new role as Community Engagement Manager, Meryem feels extremely grateful and humbled by the opportunity to continue to learn and grow from the inspiring students, teachers, parents and community members in Birmingham City. In her new role, she extremely excited to continue to build on established relationships, grow the Ed Network, strengthen our understanding and deepen our roots. After all, “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” -Muhammad Ali.

Cristal Brister

Cristal Brister is a California native who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She brings 10 years of non-profit and youth development experience to Ed. She has utilized her theatrical training in developing Project Open Heart, a program which works to assist youth in developing and finding their personal, unique voice through the arts. She is an alumni of Project Corporate Leadership’s 30th class and served as the Project Manager for her group. Cristal is passionate about education, social justice, and youth and community development. She is thrilled to be a part of an organization that is impacting the lives of Birmingham City School students in such an integral way.

Adrian Jones

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Operations Manager

Adrian is originally from Marion, AL, but spent the majority of his childhood in Tuscaloosa, AL. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While at UAB, Adrian served as Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) President and a student representative to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. He was also co-founder of the REACH Initiative, an organization that provided ACT prep to students in the Birmingham City School district. Adrian was recognized as a Distinguished Leader of Tomorrow, Outstanding Student Leader, and received the UAB Impact Award. He returns to Birmingham after working as a high school math teacher in Oklahoma City for two years with Teach for America. In addition to teaching, he also served as an afterschool enrichment instructor and tutor for the Urban League of Greater OKC. Adrian is passionate about social justice and education reform and is excited to assist with developing Educate Local programs within Birmingham City Schools. He is currently pursuing Master’s degree in Public Health at The George Washington University.


Chief Joy Officer and Project Manager

Commonly known as Forté,  Forté cultivated a commitment to educational success while growing up on the soil in a Black Belt county. For over 20 years, she has remained dedicated to raising student achievement in various secondary and postsecondary educational projects to include managing multiple projects simultaneously. Forte has been a member of the U.S. Army Reserves (1996-2006) as a Personnel Management Specialist at 5th Medical Unit in Birmingham, AL. While working on her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Forté launched a social service career with Behavioral Guidance – a wrap-around service that supported Jefferson County DHR and Birmingham City Schools through academic remediation, parenting, and student behavior modification.

With a keen interest in crime and education correlates, Forté served as the lead ACT Prep Instructor to Jess Lanier High School’s Class of 2008 cohort in Bessemer, AL for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) – The Class of 2008 set a school scholarship record of $5.4M, achieved daily attendance gains, increased postsecondary entrance, and changed the “drop out label” for Jess Lanier High School.  Forte’ taught for two years in a therapeutic correctional classroom at J.F. Ingram State Technical College in Columbiana. As an Adult Education, Workforce Development, and Computer Instructor, she helped to implement a curriculum to create an all-time 50% GED passing rate for offenders. She has supported Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) efforts across the United States, as an Eureka! Technology Instructor with Girls of Central Alabama and Kaplan ACT Coach.  To help bridge the digital skills divide, Forte’ is a Computer Scicence Champion as a Regional Manager with Microsoft TEALS via Experis.  Along with an inaugural role at Ed, in her spare time Forté leads the UAB Black Alumni Chapter as President. She is also a 2016 Leadership UAB Alum and 2019 UAB National Alumni Society Volunteer of the Year. The Aliceville native and Birmingham resident enjoys giving back to the community, volunteer opportunities, and leading fitness activities.

CeCe Lacey

CeCe Headshot_FotorCeCe Lacey
Alumni Relations Manager

After completing her masters in Education Policy and Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in May 2016, CeCe moved home to Birmingham to pursue a path in education reform. She comes to Ed with 4 years of education and non-profit experience as well as an effervescent tenacity for this work. CeCe graduated Cum Laude from Birmingham Southern College in 2012 with a B.A. in Spanish, a minor in psychology, and a Distinction in Leadership Studies. After graduating, CeCe taught elementary and middle school Spanish at LaGrange Academy in LaGrange, GA. She returned to Birmingham after her time at Lagrange Academy to serve as an Americorps member with Impact Alabama. During her time at Impact, CeCe first served for a year as a Regional Coordinator, and subsequently managed Impact’s SpeakFirst Middle School and CollegeFirst programs. Most recently, CeCe worked with Empower Schools, a Boston based non-profit, where she facilitated district reform efforts in the Springfield Empowerment Zone to compliment her graduate coursework. CeCe is thrilled to be back during such an exciting time for growth and change in Birmingham. She joins to the Ed program team to implement Educate Local programs within Birmingham City Schools.