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.


Assistant to the ED and Office 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. Along with an inaugural role at Ed, in her spare time Forté leads the UAB Black Alumni Chapter as Chair. She is also a 2016 Leadership UAB Alum. 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.

KC Dada


KC Dada
Educate Local Programs Director

A native of Bessemer, Alabama, K C Dada prides herself on being a positive representation of her hometown and a loving sponsor of the next generation of leaders currently matriculating through local public school systems. Dada is a graduate of Tuskegee University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering.  K C previously worked as an engineer in environmental compliance at Alabama Power Company in Birmingham. But she has always had a passion for student development and preparedness for lifelong success. Through her volunteer involvements with a variety of pre-college initiatives, K C dedicates hours of energy and tons of innate talents to providing programming for students in local communities. She is the current President for Birmingham Professional Chapter of National Society of Black Engineers, a former dance choreographer and coach at Bessemer City High School, and former public affairs chairperson for Alabama Power Company’s annual iCan Girls in Engineering Conference. She is also currently pursuing a Masters in Engineering with a concentration Information Engineering and Management at UAB and a Project Management Professional certification. In January 2018, K C was promoted as a program specialist and now serves as Program Director with the Birmingham Education Foundation where she continues to direct her passion and talents toward the continued development of Birmingham’s students and team members.

K C is a member of 45th Street Baptist Church where Pastor Andra Sparks is the pastor. At 45th Street, Dada currently serves as co-chair of the Vessels of Praise dance ministry. Katrina is married to David Dada who also holds membership with and is active in ministry at 45th Street.

Victoria Caroline Hollis

1E152CAF-3F44-4AA6-85E8-EA072B4111E8Victoria Caroline Hollis
Strategy Director

Victoria was born in New York City and lived in Pittsburgh and Louisville before moving to Alabama in 2003. A two-time graduate from Auburn University, her credentials include twin Bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology; a Master’s in English; supplemental coursework in Graphic Design; and a Doctorate of Education in K-12 Leadership, Policy, and Organizations from Vanderbilt University.  A former adjunct instructor of freshman composition at AUM, Victoria demonstrates a distinct enthusiasm for education reform, progressive teaching strategies, and building relationships with people in the school community. She is the Vice President of the Five Points South Neighborhood Association; on the Board of Directors for the Five Points Alliance and local NPR-affiliate WBHM’s Friends Board; a speaking coach for TEDxBirmingham; an alumni of the Alabama Leadership Initiative; a recipient of the Vulcan Newcomer Spear Award in 2016; and a member of the Birmingham Business Journal’s Top Forty Under Forty Class of 2018. As program director, Victoria designed and built the foundation of Ed’s signature programming, Educate Local, and in her current role as strategy director is researching and developing new opportunities for Ed to innovate around education. In her free time, Victoria enjoys revitalizing her 100-year-old historic home, reading postmodern fiction, and adding to a growing collection of antique and vintage furniture.

Watch “Educate Local,” Victoria’s talk from TEDxBirmingham 2014, here.

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