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.
Katrina Crenshaw Dada
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 the program director with Ed, Katrina is responsible for developing, facilitating, and growing Educate Local programs in Birmingham City Schools.
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) – 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.
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.
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. 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 Southside 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.
Development & Communications Specialist
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.
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.
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.
Hattie grew up in Decatur, Alabama, home of America’s first wave pool, where she first learned the importance of active advocacy and social justice. She is exceedingly proud to be an alumna from Birmingham-Southern College. She received a B.A. in Human Rights, a degree Hattie created in order to most effectively study injustice both in the United States and around the world. The significance of strong education systems was an overarching theme throughout the coursework, inspiring Hattie to pursue education reform after graduation. After moving to Birmingham in 2013, the city and its people quickly became home and family. Enthusiastically giving back to the city through its non-profit organizations has given Hattie the opportunity to learn about Birmingham from some of its most passionate residents. From the Human Rights Campaign to Coosa Riverkeeper to One Roof, Hattie has had the privilege of meeting people who represent true diversity and progress in the city of Birmingham. Hattie is thrilled to continue meeting people that inspire her through the students and educators of Birmingham City Schools.
Program Specialist-Innovate Birmingham
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.
Julianna Schock is currently a Junior from Birmingham-Southern College where she is majoring in History. She grew up in Birmingham, AL and, thanks to her church youth group, developed strong friendships with people across Birmingham that she would not have ordinarily met if she had stayed in her Hoover bubble. It is thanks to these friendships that she first recognized the persisting inequalities between her educational opportunities and her best friends’ opportunities. This realization sparked her passion for education, and it is what compelled her to begin volunteering with Ed Birmingham this year. She is working with the strategy director to investigate strategies from innovative education experts across the country. She is still figuring out what her future plans are, but she knows they will fall in line with her pursuit of her lifelong goal of becoming a real-life Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation.
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.
Program Specialist-AmeriCorps VISTA
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 recently graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a B.A in Theatre Educational Psychology; a major she created which focused on theatre therapy for children and adults with special needs.
At BSC she had the honor of serving two terms as the President of the Cross Cultural Committee, an organization that strives to promote diversity and cultural awareness throughout the campus and community. Through this position she worked with peers, professionals and organizations such as, Planned Parenthood, HICA, the National Women’s History Project, and the Civil Rights Museum, to create awareness and start a dialogue about personal identity, breaking barriers and the importance of education. While at BSC she also worked with Birmingham City elementary schools to incorporate Arts Education.
Over the past 3 years, Meryem has had the opportunity to work with local non-profits such as the Dance Foundation and Central Alabama Theater. As a representative of AmeriCorps VISTA with College Admissions Made Possible; Meryem is excited to get back to working with Birmingham City Schools and working as an Educate Local Program Specialist at B’ham Ed to combine her passions for education and social reform, community and service with her interdisciplinary skills! After all, “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” -Muhammad Ali.
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.