The National Parents Union (NPU) is dedicated to ensuring that Everyday Parents Impact Change (EPIC) – and we are putting our money where our mouth is! Parent activists in communities nationwide applied to NPU’s EPIC grant program to hold their local school boards and districts accountable for transparently engaging families in decision-making. We are inspired by your energy and ideas and desire to see your child’s education reimagined!
Now, without further delay, we are delighted to announce our $5,000 EPIC Grant Winners from cities across the country!
We are inspired by their energy and ideas and desire to see their child’s education reimagined!
Dr. Jessica Page Bergeron has a PhD. in Special Education and currently serves as the Outreach Director for the Division of State Schools at GA Dept of Education. She started her career as a special education teacher at the Atlanta Speech School. She later moved into a research position at Georgia State University to conduct research and create a curriculum in early literacy for struggling readers and students with special needs. More recently, she held an executive position as the lead of innovation and learning for the nonprofit Operation HOPE, which provides financial education to families in need. Dr. Bergeron believes that parents are a huge key to student and school community success.
Her dissertation research studied opportunities for families to learn more about how to support literacy development at home. She has deep knowledge of special needs supports that can prevent challenges in school (rather than remediating challenges after they have already appeared), particularly for children with sensory disabilities and children with dyslexia. She also studied literacy development in diverse families with story-telling as an intervention to build language and vocabulary for families unable to access literacy in written English or Spanish. Dr. Bergeron has worked in education administration for 10+ years and has a clear understanding of developmental milestones for elementary learners, educational assessments, and how to use data to inform instruction/decision-making. She worked closely with the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy to develop the Read Right from the Start professional development training that is currently being implemented as a part of MCS’s literacy initiative.
Dr. Bergeron is a parent of a current 4th grader in MCS and a strong supporter of MCS programming. She has deep roots in the Cobb Co. community through advocacy and volunteerism. She has two older children and a passion for reading, gardening, and hanging out with friends.
Cemelli de Aztlan, a community organizer with La Mujer Obrera who is engaged in advocacy, grassroots community organizing and movement building to defend the earth and our most marginalized populations. As a mother, she advocated against school closures and demanded clean-up of contaminated public school playgrounds, joined parents on a week-long hunger strike encampment and organized parents during the covid crisis to demand safe schools.
The Central Labor Union honored her with the Outstanding Labor Achievement award in 2017 for serving as the lead organizer of the local labor rights border coalition. She was recently appointed to the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to represent the border community and address the negative environmental impacts of NAFTA. Cemelli received her Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University at Austin, and a Master in Divinity with a focus on Women in Religious Studies & Indigenous Religious Studies from Harvard University.
Letitia Dowling has earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Coastal Carolina University. She has 15 years of experience across the education spectrum as a teacher in public and charter schools, drop-out prevention specialist, school principal, director of alternative teacher certification, senior operations manager for national nonprofit of grantmaking organizations. Letitia has facilitated trainings and sessions on first year teacher development, coaching and evaluations, developing and managing hiring processes for school leaders. Her experiences include project management, revision of policies for school boards and teacher certification regulations and school district accountability systems. She has worked as consultant for the Georgia Department DOE as grant evaluator to award technology and innovation grants to more than 100 schools across the state. As a director with a national nonprofit for education reform, Letitia managed a statewide RT3 grant for six school districts, conducted trainings for KIPP principals and worked as a project manager on a team to reform Camden, NJ School District.
As a community advocate, Letitia has established a community nonprofit, Denmark Cares to address water quality concerns, equitable access for resources with secondary education, recreation and social services. As the founder of this organization, Letitia has spoken before the SC Legislative Oversight Committee, SC Senate Subcommittees, SC Rural Infrastructure Authority and SC DHEC Water Bureau Officials. Denmark Cares has successfully worked the SCELP as a partner to issue a rulemaking order to SC DHEC for the improvement of regulation and oversight of rural water systems and other water quality concerns.
Since the establishment of Denmark Cares, the primary focus has been programs and resources to uplift the youth of our community. Denmark Cares has facilitated many sessions to serve youth for academic remediation and support. This has included afterschool and out of school programs for remediation and enrichment. Denmark Cares has also led the efforts to re-establish the youth recreations programs. Some of the programs that we are most proud of includes: Adopt a High School Senior, Girls Empowerment Sessions, Christmas Angels, fundraisers for youth travel and Back to School initiatives. Denmark Cares has also managed satellite sites to offer assistance with funding and resources for energy and rental assistance.
The successes of Letitia’s career and life are grounded in a strong belief in Christ as a life long member of the Church of God in Christ. As a member, Letitia serves as an administrator for her local church, appointed as clerk for the general assembly of the SC Jurisdiction Church of God in Christ (state level) and the national coordinator of COGIC Ladies for Church of God in Christ, Inc. (national level). Letitia Dowling is more than blessed to be the mother of two sons and one grandson who inspire her to be a Proverbs 31 Virtuous Woman.
Shanee works United Healthcare Group and has previously served as a policy analyst for the Virginia Employment Commission, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as the Virginia Department of Health. Additionally, she has served as the President of the Urban League’s Young Professionals Network and as a key person on local charter school matters. She has significant experience in public policy, data analytics, grant writing and charter school policy. She received her Master’s degrees in Education and Data Analytics from New Hampshire College.
A lifelong Waterbury resident, LaToya Ireland is a Democratic Commissioner on the Waterbury Board of Education. LaToya attended the Waterbury Public Schools and graduated from Wilby High School, and attended the University of Bridgeport where she received a degree of Bachelors of Science in Human Service in 2018.
LaToya believes strongly that parents and guardians should be at the table when important decisions such as budget, teacher recruitment, policies & procedures, etc. are being made and voted on. The Board of Education must be responsive and receptive to parents, staff and the community at large.
As a parent who is active in the schools and in the community, the volume of challenges that we face as a district there is no skill that is a greater demand than that of advocacy.
A seasoned leader, LaToya wears many hats in service of the City she loves. She is the founder of For Right Now, a local non-profit incorporated in 2017 to help individuals and families with basic needs. She is a member of The Waterbury Democrat Town Committee 73rd District, a member of the Waterbury Black Democratic Club, a member and 2nd Vice president of the Greater Waterbury NAACP Branch, also serving as the Co-Advisor for the Waterbury Pride NAACP Youth Council. LaToya also serves as a Parent Leader for Parents of Waterbury (POW), a Waterbury Bridge to Success Family Engagement CAN that seeks to provide parents/caregivers with concrete tools and resources that can best support their children, families and their communities. LaToya Ireland still resides in Waterbury with her husband and their two daughters. Their oldest, Kayla, is a graduate from Wilby High School, while their youngest, Shamira, attends North End Middle School; both schools are in the Waterbury School District.
Shirley Irizarry is a single mother of two daughters and has lived most of her life in Camden, New Jersey. Having grown up in a city that for years had failing schools, Shirley knew she wanted better for her daughters. However, without the financial means to move to a “better” school district, she was determined to have better options within her own community.
For years, Shirley volunteered in any way she could with local initiatives and nonprofit organizations that helped to bring the community together, all the while advocating for better schools for Camden. In the Spring of 2021, during the pandemic, Shirley launched the nonprofit Parents Invincible. The organization seeks to represent parents across the entire city, regardless of school type. Parents Invincible’s outreach involves effective grassroots strategies such as phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, community events, and has evolved to include case management, newsletters, and strategic partnerships with other community organizations and leaders.
Shirley believes in parent power and works toward informing, empowering, and elevating their voices, one family at a time! The work she and her team do on a daily basis, allows them to have a reach of over 7,000 parents in Camden, New Jersey.
Mary Johnson is a national speaker, author, and award-winning business results expert living her purpose and passion. Mary Johnson serves as Chairperson of Parent-U-Turn conduct workshop and keynote speaker at conferences. She is also is the former Chairperson for LA Parent Collaborative that represents over 760,000 parents in Los Angeles Unified School District.
She speaks at colleges, universities, churches and events. Her experience includes: working in the classroom with teachers, serving on school councils/committee, coordinating activities of parent liaisons, conducting parents meetings, mentoring students, training staff, and leading instructional audits.Currently, my services include- Organizing team building, online parents and students surveys, resource, training and individual coaching.
Shanai Lee, MBA, Ed.D. has had a successful career in urban education and local government spanning two decades. Most recently Shanai was the Regional Senior Director for Uncommon Schools in Rochester where she managed the external affairs and stakeholder engagement initiatives for True North Rochester Preparatory Charter Schools. Prior to joining Uncommon Schools, Shanai served the children and families of Rochester for more than a decade as the District Clerk and senior staff member to the Rochester Board of Education. She has also worked as a Marketing Specialist for the city of Rochester, assisting neighborhood commercial businesses by determining need and securing resources for technical and financial assistance and implementing business and neighborhood outreach programs.
Shanai recognizes that education is a key determinant in an individual’s success and the viability of a community—all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, are entitled to a high-quality public education that prepares them for college and careers. She exercises her commitment to education and empowerment through community involvement. In her professional work and in service to the community, Shanai has had the opportunity to engage and equip community members with information to shape the future of education in Rochester. She has served as a board member for Connected Communities, Inc.; advisory member to the Rochester Teacher Pipeline Strategy Group; founding member of 100 Women Who Care; and advisory board member for the ROC City Learning Pods.
A Rochester native who was educated in the Rochester City School District, Shanai earned her doctorate degree in Educational Administration, a master’s degree in Educational Policy and an MBA in Finance and Accounting from the University of Rochester. She also holds a B.A. in economics from Cornell University.
Myra was born in Fresno, Califonia, but grew up in a small town in Michoacan, Mexico. She is of indigenous origin. Thanks to the support of her mom, she went to school and was able to study political science, which is her passion. When she turned 27, she decided to live in the United States to give her children a better life. And she found herself with the problem of communication because she did not speak English.
Currently her children attend school in Raisin City, a community made up primarily of immigrant indigenous families. Her intention is to promote the participation of families in the active life of their children’s education.
Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Jamilah is an activist, advocate, organizer, and CEO of Parent Impact, an organization dedicated to providing resources that support families’ needs for greater outcomes in education and in their communities.
Having experienced first-hand the negative impact of failures in education as well as the benefits of quality education and social emotional support, Jamilah is committed to empowering parents to advocate for themselves and their families so they can give their children their best chance at thriving in school and beyond. Her advocacy began in middle school when she tutored a classmate struggling with illiteracy. Jamilah has spent more than thirty years volunteering, organizing, and campaigning for quality education, access to resources and funds, and safety—both emotional and physical—in schools and education systems.
As a single mother to a strong, driven, and aptly disruptive daughter, it is her mission to provide resources and spaces where parent and student voices are elevated and where they not only demand seats at tables where decisions and policies are made about them, but have the necessary tools and support to build their own. Jamilah holds a Communicator Certificate from Rutgers University and a Bachelor of Science in Health Services Management from Berkeley College, having also advocated for patients’ rights, transparency in health records, and access to quality healthcare. When not fighting for parents and children, she enjoys reading, television, film, trivia, board, and card games. Jamilah is an experienced project manager, communicator, and trainer known for her astuteness and attention to detail but above all, she values people and relationships.
Hello, my name is Tramena O’Neil and I am a mother of five children one deceased, I have four boys and one girl. I am a graduate from Martin Luther King Senior High in 1990 and I am a certified Notary for the State of Michigan. I work for the Detroit Public School Community District at Southeastern High School in Detroit, Michigan as a School Parent Outreach Coordinator.
I am also President of Detroit PTA/PTSA Council Area4 which I have 18 schools under my council, as well as PTSA Treasurer at Southeastern which my first son graduated from in 2011 and now my last son who’s in his Senior year this fall will be the class of 2023. I have been a Parent Leader since 2013 when I started as a volunteer, then PTA Secretary, then President. The District provided the opportunity for parents to become employees and that’s where we first were PAL Parent Action Leader receiving a stipend to a part time employee as a School Parent Action Leader.
I enjoy helping people and I enjoy the job that I do. I run a Parent Resource Center in the school where I have various of resources for my parents as well as the students, from housing to jobs. I have a small business that I am starting called Pretty N Scents, LLC and I will be making candles, body scrubs and body butters. I want to try to make every parent that I know voice counts for something and to let them know that they have the power to turn things around, it’s just that have to be willing to do the work and be fully committed, I hope that I can be that motivation that they need to speak up and be heard.
Almyt Cuts LLC is a community Barbershop in the inner city of Rochester, New York servicing a diverse group of community members of different backgrounds cultures and races– young and old. At Almyt cuts barbershop we believe in the power of optimism and inspiring a healthier more vibrant community by building self-confidence. Almyt Cuts has the goal of spreading self-love and connecting people one haircut at a time.
Samuel L. Radford III is the CEO of INPOWERMENT TRAINING AND CONSULTATIONS. He hosts a weekly radio show “We The Parents’ ‘ on WUFO Power 96.5 FM. A native of Buffalo NY, Mr. Radford served honorably in the United States Marine Corps, and he attended Erie Community College and State University of NY Empire State College. Professionally, Mr. Radford has worked as a block club organizer, Senior Trainer for the NYS MLK Institute and Commission for Nonviolence, Director of the Berkshire Farms Buffalo Youth Detention Center Education Organizer for the Alliance for Quality Education, Regional Director for Citizens Action of NY, and as a Middle School Math teacher until starting in his current position as Director of the Community Action Organization of WNY Masten Resource Center.
Mr. Radford has consulted trained and/or lectured for Miami Police Department, Buffalo Public School District, University of Buffalo, Buffalo State College, SUNY Albany, Howard University, Morehouse College, Spellman College, NYS Department of Labor, MLK Center in Atlanta, among over 100 other organizations and institutions nationwide.
Mr. Radford served as Student Government President at Erie County Community College and State University of NY Statewide Student Association Vice-President. He has served on every level of Parent leadership, including PTA President, District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo – President. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Radford to serve on the NY Statewide Education Commission. He was also chosen to serve on President Obama’s White House Community Leadership Council for Education.
He is the recipient of many community awards; he has been awarded with the Umoja “Man of the Year Award, Assoc. of Black Social Workers Community Service Award, Harriet Tubman Award, African American Historical Society Award, Black Achievers
Award, Phi Beta Sigma Education Community Service award, The Buffalo News 2011 Citizen of the YEAR, Mayor Browns Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, True Bethel Educational Excellence Award, DPCC Lloyd Hargrave Lifetime Achievement Award, to name a few.
Laura was born and raised in San Sebastian de las Grutas Sola de Vega, Oaxaca, Mexico, on February 25, 1988. She is the daughter of Macedonio García and Hilda Reyes. She is the last of 13 siblings. Her mother decided to die when she was 18 years old. When she was 20 years old, she decided to go to California. She got married and was blessed with 6 beautiful children, 3 boys and 3 girls. She has worked in the fields and cleaning houses. For economic reasons, she and her husband moved to Huron, CA seven years ago. In Huron, she was able to go back to school and discover her passion for advocacy to empower Latino parents who are often ignored due to their inability to speak English.
Hilda Villegas is the lead organizer of Familias Unidas del Chamizal, an organizing project of La Mujer Obrera. She works diligently to ensure that residents — in one of the poorest areas in Texas — have the resources and support they need. Through her leadership, Hilda organized residents and city officials to help secure her neighborhood’s first public library and community center.
Hilda works with parents trying to navigate the school system, helps families in need of housing, translates for elders seeking healthcare, works to be a resource for youth in her community. Through her leadership, Hilda ensures parents and single mothers can participate in community meetings and advocacy.
Hilda’s commitment, determination and care for her community has a long and established track-record. She is driven by her love for her family and her community. Hilda was born and raised in barrio Chamizal and is a single mother of 4 children.
Ashley was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN, and now raising three beautiful children here as well. She is the founder of Education Freestyle, which is community of families who are learning, growing, and building together while healing and affirming who we are as parents and the role we play in and out of the school system. Education Freestyle was created to meet the critical need she noticed for an organization that genuinely encouraged and supported the choice herself and other parents have, and further encouraged them to participate in education in a way that best meets their children’s needs.
Her primary goal is to create pathways to organize with other families to address inequities and shortcomings in the education system, and have their perspectives accounted for. Historically the diverse needs of parents across the education spectrum haven’t been accommodated equitably, leaving many to believe they don’t have a voice in a system that should be working for their families. She would like to help change that.
Ashley started a family engagement organization called PEAK (Parents and Educators Alongside Kids) in 2018 to get parents and educators at Tindley Summit to work together to create social capital events to encourage parent-teacher engagement. She also founded a city-wide organization called EmpowerED Families in 2020 to work together with other parents around the city to advocate for higher quality education.
When she’s not working alongside other parents or being a mom, she loves to explore the city, playing her saxophone, dancing, painting, and working out.
Anashay Wright is a mother, national award-winning educator, speaker and a true disruptive leader. She is the founder & Chief Disruptor of Disruptive Partners, a Black-female led social Impact firm. She brings nearly two decades of experience in the K12 sector in various leadership roles for national organizations like TNTP, Leading Educators and the Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes Foundation. However, her roles as wife, activist and mother to two joyful, peaceful & powerful Black children fuels her work in Black communities and schools. Anashay is unapologetically committed to elevating the Collective brilliance of Black communities, starting with her own Metro Atlanta community.
She has also served as an adjunct professor, education advisor to elected officials, founding board & advisory member for organizations like Relay Graduate school and Compass Rose Academy (a BES charter school) in Texas & Georgia. She is also a certified Power & Influence executive coach and system-level strategist.
Anashay’s work has resulted in national recognition from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC founded by Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.),.,NPR, The 74million,Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, Good Day Atlanta, and numerous media outlets. Anashay leads with the promise of every child and elevates the role of education’s true shareholders: students, parents & families as featured in this recent article from the Atlanta Journal & Constitution (AJC).
While her experiences within the non-profit, political, and education spaces run deep and wide, what remains consistent is her deep love and passion for her own DeKalb County, GA community and elevating the collective brilliance, peace and power of students and families in predominantly Black, Brown and economically diverse communities and schools. Anashay leads with the promise of every child and elevates the role of the most critical disruptors: students, parents and families.