The Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI) provides young leaders with hands-on experience supporting organizations working to create school systems that give Black and Brown children access to the educational opportunity they deserve. In 2019, over 200 students applied for this competitive fellowship, with 20 stellar candidates rising to the top of the pool. The 2019 Cohort of exceptional young leaders represent 18 schools across the South, including 5 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. During their fellowship, these SELI fellows will work in nonprofits, state agencies, school districts, and universities on issues of education equity. They will learn about the South’s most pressing education issues and grow as change agents for social justice.
SELI Placement: Gwinnett County Public Schools
CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY
Alexis Astrop is a graduate student at Clark Atlanta University majoring in Educational Leadership. She graduated from the great Bethune-Cookman University, with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education K-12 with a minor in Psychology in 2015. After graduation, she lived in West Melbourne, FL, where she began her teaching career at Sebastian Elementary School as a Music Teacher and the 21st Century Community and Learning Program Site Coordinator. She is currently in her fourth year as a music teacher in Fulton County at Campbell Elementary, where she has led her students in a variety of musical performances at local school and community events. Throughout her college and professional years, she has been a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity for Women, Bethune-Cookman University Marching Wildcats, Bethune-Cookman University Symphonic Band, Bethune-Cookman University Music Outreach Program, The National Association for Music Educators, Florida Music Educators Association, Florida Elementary Music Educators Association, Georgia Music Educators Association, and the Educational Leadership Student Association.
SELI Placement: SC Commission on Higher Education
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
Kanesha Barnes-Adams is a Ph.D. student in the Instructional Leadership program with a concentration in Social and Cultural Studies at the University of Alabama. She currently serves as a Literacy Specialist in the Watson Chapel School District in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and as a humanities content leader for Teach for America. She has served with the Arkansas Teacher’s Corps and believes that learning is a life-long process. Kanesha received her undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) where she studied Criminal Justice and Sociology. While at UALR, Kanesha joined the Epsilon Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, was a member of Friday Fellows, worked with Americorps-Children International, served as Miss Black and Gold, and conducted research as a McNair Scholar. Upon graduation, Kanesha decided to attend Oklahoma State University, where she received her M.S. in Education Psychology. She finished two years with Teach for America and a 2nd master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas after graduating from OSU. Kanesha is the executive director of a non-profit organization, Colorful Classrooms, and a small business owner. She aspires to serve as a professor at a research institution. She currently resides in Pine Bluff, AR, with her husband Nicholas Adams.
SELI Placement: Center for Public Policy Priorities
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
Rachel Boggs is a doctoral student in the Education Policy and Planning program at The University of Texas at Austin. She earned a B.A. in Political Science and M.Ed. from The University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include school choice policy, teacher turnover, and improving school culture and leadership. In particular, she studies school culture and the ways responsive school leadership can foster more stable K-12 classroom environments. Before studying at UT, Rachel helped cultivate the minds and hearts of students, families, and teachers across her five-year teaching career. Experiences in urban Catholic and charter schools informed her perspective on the challenges communities face when addressing educational inequity and increasing opportunities for all children. Currently, Rachel works as a graduate research assistant and intern in the Texas House of Representatives.
SELI Placement: Annie E. Casey Atlanta Civic Site
UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
Kimberly Clarida is a native of Nakina, NC. She has always had a passion for education, education policy, and empowering minority communities. At the age of 19, Kimberly founded the Tarq Shamar Clarida Scholarship Foundation to support the academic achievement of minority high school seniors in her hometown. Throughout her undergraduate career, she has completed research and project-based work with nonprofits and educational institutions. One of her most memorable accomplishments was a research presentation entitled, “Every Boy Needs a Man: An Analysis of the Rise, Fall and Rebirth of African American Male Educators,” which Kimberly delivered at UNC’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2016. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Public Policy degree and minors in education and entrepreneurship, she worked as a College Counselor at T. Wingate Andrews High School in High Point, North Carolina. Kimberly is now attending the University of Georgia to obtain her Master’s in Educational Administration and Policy. She currently serves on the board of Healthy Girls Save the World, Inc. Kimberly aspires to use her gifts and research skills in education to wholly empower and transform communities.
SELI Placement: Alabama Possible
Bailey Deavers is a Political Science major and a History and Spanish double minor at Samford University. He is a member of the Micah Fellows Honors Program that focuses on issues relating to social justice, especially those with a history proximate to the community surrounding Samford, AL. He is also the president and founder of Samford’s disability advocacy organization known as DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring), which has been the highlight of his time at Samford thus far. Finally, he is the oldest of eight siblings and a son to two of the most amazing parents a guy could ask for. He is blessed beyond measure and humbled by opportunities like SELI that allow him the avenue through which to serve and do his part in forming a society that lifts up all people, all the time, unconditionally.
SELI Placement: Georgia Dept. of Education
UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS
Matthew Farley is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Orleans. The bulk of his work, both inside and outside the classroom, has focused on PK-12 pedagogy and research with an aim to address systemic inequities for historically marginalized populations. Having interned and worked in a variety of school types and grade levels, Matt has seen the impact of how equitable resources can promote significant student outcomes. He has also worked in Higher Education and would like to advance research concerning equity in the PK-16+ pipeline and its implications for students with disabilities. Matt received a Master of Science in Education in Childhood Special Education from City University of New York-Hunter College and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Williams College. His current research focuses on school finance and how to create equitable policy initiatives for students with disabilities to improve their educational outcomes.
Jasmine Anita Harris
SELI Placement: Bibb County Public Schools
Jasmine Anita Harris was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is a rising senior and Mathematics major at Spelman College. Outside of her academic studies, Jasmine is currently in her second year of serving as a mentor and tutor for the HBCU Rising program under the National Cares Mentoring Movement. Additionally, she is a mentor and tutor to a select group of students at Brown Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia. Jasmine characterizes herself as a God-loving individual, who is driven toward the purpose of making a difference in the lives of others through mathematics and the education sector more broadly.
SELI Placement: Public School Forum of NC
Carlos Jamieson has completed his second year as a doctoral student in the Education Leadership and Policy Studies program at Howard University. Before attending Howard University, Carlos taught for three years as a Physical Education teacher in Washington D.C.. He attended Teacher’s College-Columbia University, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Physical Education. Carlos attended American University for his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and served as a team captain and scholarship athlete for the cross-country team.
Aja Johnson, 2019 Ginny Looney Servant Leader Award Winner
SELI Placement: DeSoto Independent School District
Aja Johnson started her career writing and producing news for organizations such as The Root, CNN, and Hearst News Network. Leaving journalism to pursue a career that was more aligned to her morals and passion, Aja’s journey into the world of education started with being a teacher in two of Washington D.C.’s most high-poverty neighborhoods. During her graduate school studies at Howard University, Aja worked with the National School Boards Association in their Equity and Member Services department. Originally from Chicago, IL, Aja is a double alumna of Howard University, where she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (’13) and a Masters of Education (’19) with an emphasis in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. In addition to her work to provide equitable access to underserved students, Aja has also conducted education-related research on the ineffectiveness of school discipline policies for African-American female students in K-12 settings. She also collaborated in the development of an asset-based framework for school and district leaders to use as a guide that specifically promotes equity and builds capacity for the aforementioned learners.
SELI Placement: Foundation for the Mid South
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Philemon King is an Orange Park, FL, native who has lived in Greenville, MS for much of his life. He currently attends Mississippi Valley State University, where he is a rising junior majoring in Computer Science. Despite the high demands of his major, he is both a member of the Dean’s List and a proud new member of the prestigious fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Incorporated.
Christopher L. Mathis
SELI Placement: Southern Education Foundation
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Christopher L. Mathis earned his law degree in 2017 from the University of South Carolina and is a freshly minted member of the District of Columbia Bar. Currently, Mr. Mathis is a lecturer/instructor of education law and second-year doctoral student in the Higher Education program at the University of Virginia. His scholarly interests, stemming from his undergraduate tenure at Oakwood University, are grounded in the intersection of law and higher education policy, with a focus on access, diversity, and equity in higher education, and the use and influence of social science research in the law.
SELI Placement: Achieve Escambia
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI
D’Andre McIntyre is a recent graduate of the University of Miami and a Georgia native. His studies focused on Journalism, Political Science, and Africana Studies. During his undergraduate career, he served as the Africana Studies Department Student Coordinator as well as a Student Assistant in the Butler Center for Service and Leadership. During the summer of his junior year, he interned in the office of Congressman Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr.(Ga-4) through the Congressional Black Caucus. His work in the office focused on Immigration, Judicial Affairs, and Constituent Concerns. D’Andre also has experience working on the Florida District 27 Congressional campaign. D’Andre is a 2015 recipient of the Bill Gates Millennium scholarship and a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Higher Education before going to law school.
SELI Placement: Virginia Union University
Terrance McQueen is a proud 2019 graduate of Morehouse College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Born and raised in Fort Pierce, Florida, Terrance, at an early age, learned that excellence is an expectation and should be a habit. Terrance is a Gates Millennium and Horatio Alger Scholar. At Morehouse, Terrance was a member of the Morehouse College Glee Club, Project House, and the Host Brothers Program. Terrance completed his senior research on how mass incarceration affects Black families. He is passionate about educational equity, mental health, child development, and advocating against sexual violence. He attributes his success to his parents, village, faith in God, and hometown. Terrance is excited and honored to join the 2019 cohort of SELI. After his time with SELI, Terrance plans to pursue a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Michigan.
SELI Placement: United Negro College Fund
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK
Janai Raphael is a first-year master’s student in the Higher Education program at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). Prior to enrolling at UMD, she served as a full-time college adviser at a high school in Atlanta, GA, on behalf of the Georgia College Advising Corps (GCAC). While there, she diligently worked to increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, and first-generation students who enter and complete higher education. After GCAC, Janai worked as a Summer Transition Specialist with Achieve Atlanta to provide outreach and scholarship assistance to program scholars to prevent summer melt and encourage college matriculation, persistence, and graduation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Georgia in 2016.
SELI Placement: Oklahoma City Public Schools
OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY
Megan Ruby taught in the public education system from 2010-2018, where her tenure in the classroom included garnering experience in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 8th grade. This experience offered tremendous insight on the various phases of student development as well as the experience of teachers in those classrooms. As a result, she is currently researching the emotional aspect of teacher burnout and is also interested in critical whiteness studies. She is currently a full-time graduate student at Oklahoma State University and is two years away from finishing a doctorate degree in curriculum studies. She characterizes herself as a lifelong learner and a pet mom of one beautiful black Labrador named Ben and two feisty cats named Sadie and Zatara.
SELI Placement: UnifiEd
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE AT KNOXVILLE
Wesley Smith is an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Through the College Scholars Program, Wesley has designed an interdisciplinary major in education policy with a minor in leadership studies. A graduate of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Wesley plans to advance education equity and excellence in his future career. Having been a student at a priority elementary school and blue-ribbon high school, Wesley understands the systemic inequalities perpetuated by the education system. As a SELI fellow, he looks forward to serving UnifiEd while developing advocacy and policymaking skills. Wesley currently serves on the Dean of Students’ Mattering and Belonging Campaign, Honors Leadership Program Council, Student Government Association, and Baker Ambassadors Program. Also, he is a research assistant to Dr. Marianne Wanamaker on the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board (AWPAB), where he studies education and workforce coordination.
SELI Placement: VOX Atlanta
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL
Hannah Snow is a junior Public Policy major at UNC-Chapel Hill concentrating in Education Policy, with minors in Entrepreneurship and Spanish. She is an active ESL/ELL volunteer for her local public school district in Chapel Hill, through the organization that she co-founded in 2017, Carolina T.E.L.L.S. (Tutoring English Language Learning Students). Throughout her time at UNC, she has been heavily involved in Student Government, social justice activism, and community service efforts. In addition to her passion for human rights advocacy, she is extremely passionate about the arts – she listens to music most waking hours of the day and has been a dancer since age five. She hopes to dedicate her professional career to combating the inequities students of color face in the pursuit of public education, as every student deserves a personalized, quality schooling experience and the social mobility that education can provide.
Clarence Sutton III
SELI Placement: Stand for Children Memphis
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
Clarence Sutton III is a graduate of Alabama State University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Throughout his tenure at Alabama State, Sutton was involved in many different campus organizations and student advocacy groups. Clarence has had the opportunity to work in a myriad of communities including Tuscaloosa, Prattville, Selma, Baton Rouge, Washington DC, and Syracuse, NY and has constantly made an effort to affect these communities through research, advocacy and creating meaningful connections and partnerships. Clarence is currently a master’s student in the Public Administration Institute at Louisiana State University where he continues to work throughout the community as an organizer for LSU’s Office of Community-University Partnerships, the primary contact between LSU and the neighboring “Old South Baton Rouge”. In this role, Clarence has worked with developing and maintaining a free food program, a local community closet, a youth literacy program, as well as a black male barbershop health initiative. Clarence looks to continue his education and community work upon completing his master’s program.
SELI Placement: Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA)
Alexa Yanar is a rising senior at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her academic life mirrors her extracurricular life, complimenting the experience she gains from the various positions she holds on campus. Alexa double-majors in Quantitative Social Sciences and Sociology, an endeavor which builds knowledge to holistically understand how people interact with institutions and are then socialized and influenced by these interactions. On campus, she is the president of the First-Generation Low Income Partnership, serves on the Centro Latinx Advisory Board, counsels in Dean Elliott’s Commission on Racial and Social Justice, is a Diversity Fellow in the Office of Undergraduate Admission, and is involved in campus activism via teach-ins, die-ins, social media campaigns, and other tactics. Her passions all revolve around the various ways in which hegemonic societies create and exert power structures in a lens as intersectional as possible–as it reflects her own experiences as a person occupying multiple marginalized identities.