Alumni of Color Conference 2017

steering committee

Kimberly Osagie (AOCC Tri-Chair)

Kimberly Osagie studies Education Leadership as a doctoral candidate at Harvard, focusing on developing educators' ability to teach and lead for racial equity. Formerly, she worked in various capacities at Relay Graduate School of Education. Kimberly joined the organization in 2010 as designer and instructor of the Diversity in the American School and Child Development graduate courses, creating practical learning experiences for new teachers to both discuss and implement culturally responsive pedagogy. She led professional development stateside and abroad, from Harvard conferences to South Africa's Lebone College. In 2012, Kimberly found the organization's partnership with the New York City Teaching Fellows program, focusing on supporting secondary teachers in traditional district schools. In two years, she oversaw the program's tripling in size, serving more than 200 new teachers in nearly 100 district schools across three boroughs. n 2014, Kimberly’s role expanded to Associate Dean – continuing to teach while developing a team of 15 faculty members. Before joining Relay, Kimberly began her career in education in Harlem – first as a middle school Humanities teacher at a traditional public school, then as a Founding Reading Department Lead and high school Reading teacher in the charter arena. Kimberly received a Distinguished Majors BA in Political and Social Thought, English, and French from the University of Virginia, and holds a Master of Science in Teaching Adolescent English. She is a proud Nigerian American, a lover of Louisiana cuisine, and a member of the inaugural Pahara-Aspen Nextgen Fellow cohort.

Alfatah Moore (Aocc Tri-chair)

Al is an educator, entrepreneur, and researcher who is passionate about reading and the mechanisms by which it develops for atypical readers. He is interested in how cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology and learning theory inform the conceptualization of automaticity and the interventions to support it for struggling readers. Al is Founder & Executive Director of Acelin Learning Solutions, a company that provides support to students who struggle academically; in particular, those with reading disabilities. Acelin provides programs for students and families, and training and professional development to school teams. Al has also served as Executive Director for Johns Hopkins University’s Talent Development Secondary, an organization that improves education for students in low-performing schools through research-based reform and student supports. Al managed Talent’s programs and operations in the Boston region, including city-wide implementation of Diplomas Now, a $30 million DOE study. Al is Harvard Presidential Fellow and has earned distinctions such as The 40 Under 40 Award for Extraordinary Philanthropic and Professional Work and the Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute fellowship. Al holds a Master of Education Degree from Harvard University and obtained his undergraduate degree, as well as a Master of Science Degree, from the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C. 

Rashaida Melvin (Aocc Tri-chair)

Rashaida Melvin is from Atlanta, Georgia and received a B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences from the University of Georgia. After joining Teach For America, she moved to North Carolina where she taught elementary, middle, and high school students. Rashaida received a M.A. in Middle Grades Education from East Carolina University and has experience founding a school and creating curriculum. Currently, Rashaida is pursuing an Ed.M. in School Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rashaida is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She enjoys dancing, reading, watching movies, exploring new cities, and spending time with family and friends. Rashaida is honored to serve HGSE as a chair for the 15th Annual Alumni of Color Conference.


Tony Emerson (Programming + Proposals Committee lead)

Born into foster care, Tony Emerson was introduced to social systems built for the structurally vulnerable at the earliest possible age.  When reflecting as a young adult on his childhood and the opportunities he faced therein, Tony discerned that his purpose was to fight to produce just, equitable opportunities for those like him.  This in mind, he became an educator directly after graduating from college and has spent the last decade leading students, teachers, and communities in areas hardest hit by legacies of inequity and discrimination. His professional roles have focused on the intersection of racial justice and classroom pedagogy, recruiting and developing teachers of color, advocating for equitable policy change, and most recently, workforce development for young people of color.  The structures and spaces for his work may vary - from schools to non-profits to social enterprises - but the core values of equity, leadership, and progress continue to unify Tony’s efforts behind the central task of social justice.

Manya Singh (youth Empowerment + Engagement Committee lead)

Manya Singh is the Youth Empowerment and Engagement Committee Lead for AOCC 2017, and is currently in the Ed.M. Prevention Science and Practice program at HGSE. Manya’s passion for youth empowerment came from her pre-HGSE work in an education non-profit – Minds in Motion – where she designed and implemented STEM workshops for low-income and First Nations/Aboriginal schools in Calgary, Canada. This year, she is incredibly excited to lead a committee that is dedicated to providing spaces for youth empowerment and engagement within an integrated adult-youth conference format. In her spare time, Manya loves to explore the outdoors through hiking, camping, and kayaking.  

Crystal Palmero Ward (Awards committee co-lead)

Crystal Palmero Ward developed a fire for social justice and education as a teenager while attending an all-girls private preparatory school. It was here she discovered the “gap” in education and opportunity that exists along lines of race, socioeconomic status, and zip code. The disparity between her public and private education experiences felt unfair and unacceptable to Crystal, and she knew this was something she was committed to changing. Crystal started her career in Washington, DC with Teach for America. Though many kids thrived in her middle school classroom, she witnessed other students entangled in unfair disciplinary policies that kept them out of school and negatively impacted their grades, investment, and self-esteem. This drove her to seek a seat in leadership as the founding dean of school culture of Achievement First Endeavor Elementary. Using her position of influence, she worked hard to promote positive student-teacher relationships and support the systems that increased student engagement and investment. Crystal’s school quickly gained recognition for top academic achievement, strong parent satisfaction, and high teacher retention. Her unique approach to school culture has become the blueprint for deans across the network and has been replicated for existing and new schools alike. Most recently, Crystal led a network of 30 schools as the director of school culture. In two years of network leadership, suspensions dropped by 50% while student enrollment grew by 12%, to serve over 10,000 students. Crystal is currently a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Education Leadership Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. 

Joiselle Cunningham (Awards committee co-lead)

Joiselle Cunningham is a federal policy advisor, award-winning educator and consultant who has worked in the United States, Europe and Latin America. Joiselle currently serves as a Senior Advisor and consultant at Teach For Sweden, Empieza por Educar as well as other social impact and education organizations. Joiselle recently served in the Obama Administration as a Special Advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the United States Department of Education and managed educator engagement for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Joiselle led diversity and inclusion policy and launched Our Students, Our Leaders an initiative dedicated towards closing the demographic gap between education leaders and American public school students. This initiative brought together Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, Kaya Henderson, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary John King, and over 200 national leaders to develop and implement solutions. The initiative helped to create or support initiatives to increase the number of senior leaders of color in organizations across the country, including philanthropic organizations and large education nonprofit organizations. She holds an MST from Pace University and is currently a doctoral candidate at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, where she continues her work with social impact organizations within the Harvard community. 

Akiesha Ortiz (Keynote Speaker committee lead)

As a teacher who dreamed of giving back to students with a similar upbringing to her own, Akiesha Ortiz began working in Durham Public Schools immediatly after graduating Magna Cum Laude, from North Carolina Central University. During her time with this system, she upheld her students to high expectations as she thrived by writing grants for original programs that she felt her students could be enriched by, earned a spot as a Fulbright Educator taking a professional sojourn to Japan, and was honored by her peers with the title of Teacher of the Year for her school. She later transitioned to Wake County Public Schools where she held various leadership positions for her school community. At one point she was honored to be in the top 10% of the state behind the success of her student's assessment scores. During her time with DPS, she became connected to Harvard Graduate School's READs Summer Literacy Program in collaboration with Communities in Schools as a pilot teacher. A short while later, the READs team recruited her to be a model for their teacher training videos, a teacher trainer, a family engagement educator, and a consultant. She is currently in the Human Development and Psychology program under the Child Advocacy Strand earning her Ed.M. degree.

SERGIO MARÍN (FINANCE committee lead)

Sergio Marín Luna is the eldest son of immigrant parents, and was born and lived most of his life in Los Angeles. His experience growing up in one of the largest multicultural cities in the United States has helped shape his social viewpoint, and his work in education, human relations, and social justice. Sergio has served as a program manager with Public Allies-Los Angeles, a program specialist with the National Conference for Community and Justice Education Department, and as a classroom educator at the intermediate level. Before coming to Harvard, he focused on educational justice as Assistant Director at the Draper Center for Community Partnerships at Pomona College where he directly supported and collaborated with the college community and a diversity of local youth and communities to advance sustainable change. He has also designed and implemented engaging diversity and equity programs for various organizations in the public and private sector, such as the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, Shakespeare Center Los Angeles, Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations Program, UC Riverside, the Museum of Tolerance, Outfest LA, and the City of Culiacán (Mexico) Mayor’s Office. Program topics have included race, age, gender, im/migration, the arts, leadership development, bias, privilege, and dynamics of oppression. Throughout his career, Sergio has maintained an unwavering commitment to dialogue, education, and systemic change.


 Kidus Mezgebu is passionate about identifying behavioral interventions that help address critical issues in education and in organizational efficiency. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Kidus works as a faculty assistant and is currently an Ed.M. candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. He has done research on the Stereotype Threat and the effects narrative constructions of group history has on intellectual performance. Kidus is currently doing a study on the effects of loss and gain framing on charitable giving. Kidus attended Denison University as a POSSE scholar and currently serves as on the Board of the POSSE Foundation as well as the Haddis Girma Continuity Foundation.