jwJ.W. Carpenter
Executive Director

J.W. Carpenter has served as Executive Director of the Birmingham Education Foundation (BEF) since September 2013. Before coming to BEF, Carpenter served as the founding Executive Director for Teach For America Alabama-a branch of the nationally-recognized organization committed to providing and advocating for high quality education for students in low-income communities.

Prior to his role with Teach For America, Carpenter was a litigator for the Birmingham law firm of Walston, Wells, and Birchall, LLP. Carpenter earned a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College and J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. He serves on the boards of A+ Education Partnership, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, Operation Hope-Alabama, and k12 Lean Labs, and is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Birmingham, the PARCA Roundtable, and the GEAR UP-Birmingham Advisory Board. He was named Top 40 under 40 in Birmingham in 2010, and is an alumnus of Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Alabama, and Leadership UAB. In 2016, Carpenter was selected for a weeklong fellowship in Strategic Nonprofit Management at Harvard by the Alabama Association of Nonprofits and the Birmingham alumni chapter of Harvard Business School.

k-crenshawKatrina Crenshaw Dada
Program Specialist

A native of Bessemer, Alabama, Katrina Crenshaw prides herself on being a positive representation of her hometown and a loving sponsor of the next generation of leaders that are currently matriculating through local public school systems. She is a graduate of Tuskegee University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering. Katrina previously worked as an engineer in environmental compliance at Alabama Power Company in Birmingham and brings a wealth of technical and leadership experience that is tremendously beneficial to her work with Ed. 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, Katrina dedicates hours of energy and tons of innate talents to providing programming for students in local communities. Katrina is a mentor for National Society of Black Engineer’s Future Engineers of America, a dance choreographer and coach at Bessemer City High School, and previously the public affairs chairperson for Alabama Power Company’s annual iCan Girls in Engineering Conference. As a program specialist with Ed, Katrina is responsible for developing, facilitating, and growing Educate Local programs in Birmingham City Schools.

MAENGLE Head Shot 1Mersedes Engle
Research Fellow

Mersedes is a junior at Birmingham-Southern College and is pursuing a major in psychology, minors in economics and human rights and conflict studies, and a Distinction in Leadership Studies. She first got involved with Ed this past summer through the Hess Fellows Advocacy Internship Program at BSC’s Hess Center for Leadership and Service. Throughout her life, Mersedes has cultivated a passion for pursuing post-secondary education opportunities, experiential learning, and achieving a career that makes a difference.

After her summer fellowship with Ed and gaining a first-hand experience on the inner mechanism of a non-profit, Mersedes is looking forward to working with the Educate Local team to better understand and document the student experience as a research fellow for the 2016-2017 school year.

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 17 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) , taught for two years in a therapeutic correctional classroom at J.F. Ingram State Technical College in Columbiana, and has supported Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) efforts across the United States, as an Eureka! Technology Instructor with Girls of Central Alabama. Along with a new role at Ed, in her spare time Forté continues as a Professional At Home Scorer for Pearson and ACT Prep K12 Faculty for Kaplan. The Aliceville native and Birmingham resident enjoys giving back to the community, volunteer opportunities, and leading fitness activities.

Autumn Foster
Program Manager

As a design researcher and strategist, Autumn brings her experience in journalism and design as well as her passion for storytelling and social change to her work at Ed. Through primary and secondary research methods, she helps clients understand the needs, values and experiences of the people they serve in order to develop innovative solutions for intractable problems. She has worked with clients across a range of industries including education, arts, and health care; has coached budding design thinkers through Design for America at Northwestern University; and created a design curriculum for elementary students at Doolittle Elementary in Bronzeville, IL. Autumn holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University and master’s degrees in design management and graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. At Ed, Autumn is one of two program managers, overseeing Educate Local programs at 14 Birmingham City Schools.

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Program Manager

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.

1E152CAF-3F44-4AA6-85E8-EA072B4111E8Victoria Hollis
Program 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 an in-progress Doctorate in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations in K-12 Education from Vanderbilt University.  As 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 on the Board of Directors for Growing Kings, Inc. and ACE Mentoring, Chair of local NPR-affiliate WBHM’s Junior Board, a speaking coach for TEDxBirmingham, an alumni of the Alabama Leadership Initiative, and a recipient of the Vulcan Newcomer Spear Award in 2016. At Ed, Victoria oversees development, logistics, and assessment for all programming under the heading Educate Local.  In her free time, Victoria enjoys tending to her patio garden, reading postmodern fiction, and perusing thrift stores to add to a growing collection of antique and vintage furniture.

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

CeCe Headshot_FotorCeCe Lacey
Program Specialist

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.

_mg_4833_fotorAndrew Mitchell
Program Manager

Andrew is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. His passion for education and education reform was solidified during his three years as a high school science teacher in Greenville, AL with Teach For America, where he was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year. After his time in the classroom, Andrew transitioned to a statewide education nonprofit where he served as the lead researcher for the inaugural Alabama Education at a Glance publication.

Andrew is a proud resident of Birmingham, and serves as the Membership Director for Young Education Professionals – Birmingham. He was a 2015 Senior Education Fellow for TEDxBirmingham and is a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Andrew is also an active member of First United Methodist Church, where he serves on the Justice and Mercy team, as a tutor for Birmingham City elementary students, and as a musician. In his first year, Andrew was responsible for developing and growing Educate Local initiatives within seven middle schools as part of Birmingham City Schools participation in the federal GEAR UP grant, and now oversees Educate Local programs at 14 Birmingham City Schools.

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Rhianna O’Reilly 
Innovate Birmingham Program Specialist

Rhianna O’Reilly is a Colorado Springs, Colorado native and recent graduate of Birmingham’s first Generation IT initiative. As a social work student, she cultivated a passion for social justice and education advocacy studying at Alabama State University via community service and curriculum. Rhianna is ecstatic to join Ed, as well as merge her Generation IT experiences and newfound knack for information technology with her foundation of community, education and justice advocacy. Learn more about how Innovate Birmingham can help Jefferson County residents from ages 17-29.  Tech Ed and Opportunity = a better Birmingham.


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Dasha Shaw
Program Specialist

Dasha lives for service, creativity and exploration. It is because of this that she chose to become a Venture for America Fellow and explore her passions for both entrepreneurship and service. Through VFA, she discovered the Birmingham Education Foundation and felt by compelled but the organization’s mission of equipping students with the necessary skills to be college, career, and life ready. Dasha’s interest in education began with community service in high school and was solidified during 3 years with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools as both a Servant Leader Intern and Ella Baker Trainer. At University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dasha earned a B.A. in Rhetorical Communications and minor in Social and Economic Justice, and devoted her free time to elevating and encouraging black women through an organization that celebrated natural hair and beauty and founded an affinity group for elementary-aged black girls called QUEENS. Although Dasha will always be a Tar Heel at heart, she is ecstatic to learn and grow with the Birmingham community as she develops and implements Educate Local programming in Birmingham City Schools. 

 203-whitneywilliams-headshotsWhitney Williams
Development Manager

Whitney returns to her hometown to join the Birmingham Education Foundation as Development Manager. Whitney has experience teaching both urban and rural students, and found her passion for urban education in Washington, D.C., where she worked in Georgetown’s Institute for College Preparation teaching a very special group of seventh graders over three academic years.

In her work with middle- and high-school students in a 21st Century Community Learning Center, Whitney implemented a technology- based initiative to  connect her students in the Black Belt with tutors at Alabama’s universities for individualized study in reading and math.  Whitney earned her B.A. in English at Birmingham-Southern College, where she was a Charles B. Vail Distinguished Teaching Fellow, and her M.A. in English at Georgetown University, while on teaching fellowship in the Community Scholars Program. She also served on the inaugural Junior Board of the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and was part of the Alabama Leadership Initiative in Spring  2015.