Introducing the 2018–2019 Fellows

The Mosaic Fel­low­ship, a trans­for­ma­tion­al strat­e­gy led by Conex­ión Améri­c­as, is designed to con­nect and empow­er a net­work of lead­ers from diverse back­grounds across the state of Ten­nessee. Lead­ers of col­or must play an inte­gral role in the k-12 edu­ca­tion ecosys­tem in Ten­nessee, both to bet­ter reflect the com­mu­ni­ties served by our pub­lic schools, but to also bring an essen­tial mix of expe­ri­ence and insights that are required for long-term improve­ment in stu­dent achieve­ment. The Mosaic Fel­lows are reimag­in­ing and improv­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion in Ten­nessee, and have a track record of action and a sense of urgen­cy, as well as a demon­strat­ed com­mit­ment to results that ensure edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty for all chil­dren.

East Tennessee Fellows

Janine Al-Aseer
New Hopewell Com­mu­ni­ty School Site Coor­di­na­tor
Great Schools Part­ner­ship

Janine Al-Aseer is in her 3rd year as a Com­mu­ni­ty School Site Resource Coor­di­na­tor with the Great Schools Part­ner­ship in Knoxville, Ten­nessee. She cur­rent­ly serves at New Hopewell Ele­men­tary School in South Knoxville, the first rural site added to the net­work of Com­mu­ni­ty Schools in the city. Janine, the daugh­ter of a Pales­tini­an father and a rural Appalachi­an moth­er, was born and raised in Cal­i­for­nia. After grad­u­at­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, she spent 3 years teach­ing abroad in Japan. Upon her return, she start­ed her work with non-prof­its first in an urban cen­ter in Augus­ta, Geor­gia and then in minori­tized Knoxville com­mu­ni­ties. After attain­ing her master’s degree, she began vol­un­teer­ing with a local Com­mu­ni­ty School. Her inter­est led to her doc­tor­al work engag­ing rural com­mu­ni­ties to iden­ti­fy best prac­tices for Com­mu­ni­ty School imple­men­ta­tion. Janine, who will com­plete her PhD in Edu­ca­tion next year, sees Com­mu­ni­ty Schools through an equi­ty lens, bridg­ing the gap between com­mu­ni­ties and edu­ca­tion. With more than ten years of expe­ri­ence in youth advo­ca­cy and edu­ca­tion­al ser­vice, Janine fos­ters a deep pas­sion for facil­i­tat­ing com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships, rais­ing resource access, and work­ing toward edu­ca­tion­al equi­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly for minori­tized com­mu­ni­ties. She cur­rent­ly lives in South Knoxville with her part­ner, Richard, and dog, Linus.

Denise Dean
Project Direc­tor
East Knoxville Free­dom School

Denise Dean is the Project Direc­tor of three Chil­dren Defense Fund’s Free­dom Schools® pro­gram sites in East Ten­nessee. Estab­lish­ing and grow­ing Free­dom Schools pro­grams is her dream come true. Through this pro­gram she con­tin­ues to help young chil­dren know them­selves, their gifts and pas­sions, and have the con­fi­dence to fol­low their heart so they are able to live the life they dream.

In 2003 Denise left IBM where she had worked for 20 years in the areas of sales, train­ing, coach­ing, and Orga­ni­za­tion Devel­op­ment (OD). She left to become an ele­men­tary school teacher. To explain the change, Denise would say she was going from “cure to pre­vent”. In 2008 she became an ele­men­tary school teacher in San Jose, CA and taught fifth grade. Many geo­graph­ic moves fol­lowed and she deliv­ered pro­grams and tutored chil­dren at ele­men­tary schools in Con­necti­cut, Dubai (U.A.E.), and Knoxville.

Denise’s IBM career and teacher train­ing and expe­ri­ence have pre­pared her well for her cur­rent jour­ney. Mak­ing the CDF Free­dom Schools® pro­gram avail­able to chil­dren in neigh­bor­hoods across East Ten­nessee is how she will lever­age her expe­ri­ence to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence.

Brook Den­nard Rosser
Tal­ent Acqui­si­tion and Reten­tion Liaison
Knox Coun­ty Schools

Brook Den­nard Rosser, was born and raised in Atlanta, Geor­gia. Brook attend­ed Van­der­bilt University’s Peabody School of Edu­ca­tion where she com­plet­ed a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence Degree in Human and Orga­ni­za­tion­al Devel­op­ment in 2006. Brook went on to attend The Uni­ver­si­ty of Geor­gia, where she com­plet­ed a Mas­ters of Edu­ca­tion in Human Resources and Orga­ni­za­tion­al Behav­ior in 2008 and com­plet­ed her Doc­tor­ate of Edu­ca­tion in Orga­ni­za­tion­al Lead­er­ship and Devel­op­ment in 2017 at The George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty.

Brook relo­cat­ed to Knoxville, Ten­nessee in 2017 and cur­rent­ly serves as the Tal­ent Acqui­si­tion and Reten­tion Strate­gist for Knox Coun­ty Schools. Pri­or to her work with Knox Coun­ty, Brook spent almost ten years work­ing in man­age­ment con­sult­ing indus­try, pri­mar­i­ly serv­ing non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions, K-12 dis­tricts and insti­tu­tions of high­er edu­ca­tion. Brook’s con­sult­ing work focused large­ly on strate­gic plan­ning, change man­age­ment, diver­si­ty and inclu­sion, lead­er­ship devel­op­ment and train­ing.

Despite being a new com­er to East Ten­nessee, Brook has wast­ed no time in get­ting involved in the Knoxville com­mu­ni­ty. Brook is a mem­ber of The Muse Knoxville’s Board of Direc­tors, the Knoxville Cham­ber of Commerce’s Diver­si­ty Cham­pi­ons, Con­nect Knox’s Plug In Com­mit­tee and is a Com­mis­sion­er for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tennessee’s Com­mis­sion for Blacks.

Brook also remains very involved in serv­ing her home­town com­mu­ni­ty, and is a mem­ber of the Children’s Health­care of Atlanta at Hugh­es Spauld­ing Com­mu­ni­ty Board (2012-present) & the Children’s Health­care of Atlanta Emerg­ing Lead­ers Board (2015-present). As a mem­ber of the Emerg­ing Lead­ers Board, Brook cur­rent­ly serves as the Alum­ni Com­mit­tee Co-Chair, and pre­vi­ous­ly served as the Events Com­mit­tee Chair & Vice-Chair in 2016 and 2017 respec­tive­ly. She is also a mem­ber of the Ronald McDon­ald Care Mobile Advi­so­ry Coun­cil (2016-present).

When she’s not serv­ing her com­mu­ni­ty and advo­cat­ing on behalf of under­served chil­dren in both Ten­nessee and Geor­gia, Brook enjoys all things foot­ball and spend­ing time with her hus­band Bryson and their dog Luke.

Middle Tennessee Fellows

Indi­ra Dammu
Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy Advi­sor
Office of May­or David Bri­ley

Indi­ra Dammu is the Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy Advi­sor for Nashville May­or David Bri­ley. In this role, she leads the Mayor’s pol­i­cy agen­da relat­ed to sup­port­ing Metro Nashville Pub­lic Schools. She also works as a liaison between the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Nashville School Board as well as oth­er agen­cies and com­mu­ni­ty part­ners. Pri­or to this role, she worked as a Senior Pol­i­cy ana­lyst for SCORE, a statewide edu­ca­tion research and advo­ca­cy non-prof­it in Nashville. There, she led pol­i­cy work relat­ed to teacher qual­i­ty and equi­ty and inclu­sion issues. Indi­ra serves on the Board of the Ten­nessee Edu­ca­tors of Col­or Alliance, a statewide non-prof­it ded­i­cat­ed to ele­vat­ing the expe­ri­ences of teach­ers of col­or in the state. Indi­ra is a for­mer class­room teacher who taught in Louisiana and Con­necti­cut. She earned her Master’s in Pub­lic Pol­i­cy from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and is a first gen­er­a­tion immi­grant from India. 

Lau­ra Del­gado
Pro­gram Direc­tor, Pio­nero Schol­ars
Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion, Lip­scomb Uni­ver­si­ty

Lau­ra Del­gado, a Cuban-Amer­i­can from Hous­ton, Tex­as, moved to Nashville to pur­sue her edu­ca­tion at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty. She is now in her ninth year of work serv­ing the Lat­inx and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties of Nashville. Through her pri­or work at Conex­ión Améri­c­as Lau­ra found her pas­sion for first gen­er­a­tion col­lege access and suc­cess. Lau­ra leads the Pio­nero Schol­ars pro­gram at Lip­scomb, which is a grow your own pipeline for MNPS grad­u­ates who want to become teach­ers. Her work helps her think sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly about the bridges between high school and col­lege, and how to retain first-gen­er­a­tion stu­dents of col­or in col­lege. She found­ed and co-chairs the Col­lege of Education’s Diver­si­ty Task Force after her work co-found­ing the Trail­blaz­er Coali­tion in 2016. She is a found­ing board mem­ber of the Ten­nessee Edu­ca­tors of Col­or Alliance (TECA).

Chris Echegaray
Com­mu­ni­ty Achieves Site Man­ager
Whit­sitt Ele­men­tary School, Metro Nashville Pub­lic Schools

Chris Echegaray is a jour­nal­ist-turned-edu­ca­tion advo­cate. After years of report­ing at sev­er­al media orga­ni­za­tions, Chris joined the MNPS com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment. He lat­er embraced the school district’s Com­mu­ni­ty Achieves ini­tia­tive as a site man­ager (sug­gest­ed by a men­tor) at a strug­gling school. He was part of a suc­cess­ful turn­around of an ele­men­tary school in pri­or­i­ty sta­tus.

Before that, he cov­ered sto­ries in some intense sit­u­a­tions— inter­view­ing groups of heav­i­ly armed gang mem­bers, rid­ing bus­es filled with labor­ers rolling across the U.S. bor­der and talk­ing to par­ents still reel­ing from the kid­nap­ping of their baby. He con­tin­ues to work at Whit­sitt Ele­men­tary School– a school that is now becom­ing a mag­net school.

He has free­lanced for many pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing his home­town paper, the New York Dai­ly News, The Boston Globe, US Week­ly, and Lati­na Mag­a­zine, writ­ing a cov­er sto­ry on Shaki­ra, the inter­na­tion­al super­star. He also has done reports on immi­gra­tion and inte­gra­tion for Har­vard Law School’s Charles Hamil­ton Hous­ton Insti­tute for Race and Jus­tice.

Kar­la Cole­man Gar­cía
Direc­tor of Strate­gic Align­ment for Adult Learn­er Ini­tia­tives
Ten­nessee High­er Edu­ca­tion Com­mis­sion

Kar­la Cole­man Gar­cia is the Direc­tor of Strate­gic Align­ment for Adult Learn­er Ini­tia­tives for the Ten­nessee High­er Edu­ca­tion Com­mis­sion. In this capac­i­ty, Kar­la focus­es on build­ing part­ner­ships with oth­er state agen­cies and local orga­ni­za­tions and cen­tral­iz­ing infor­ma­tion about sup­ports and resources for adult learn­ers pur­su­ing degrees in Ten­nessee. Kar­la was for­mer­ly the Asso­ciate Direc­tor of Pol­i­cy and Advo­ca­cy at Conex­ión Améri­c­as.

Kar­la was born in Mex­i­co and raised in Tex­as. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bay­lor Uni­ver­si­ty and a Master’s degree in high­er edu­ca­tion admin­is­tra­tion from Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty Peabody Col­lege. Kar­la is the chair of the Nashville Com­mu­ni­ty Edu­ca­tion Com­mis­sion, serves on the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee of Com­plete Ten­nessee and on the Immi­grant Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee of the Nashville Pub­lic Library. Kar­la was a mem­ber of the Com­plete Ten­nessee Lead­er­ship Insti­tute Class of 2017 and the Nashville Emerg­ing Lead­ers 2018 cohort.

Keilani Gog­gins
Direc­tor, Ten­nessee State Teach­ing Fel­lows Pro­gram
Hope Street Group

Keilani has many years of expe­ri­ence work­ing close­ly with mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers to launch and active­ly man­age large-scale projects. As Direc­tor of Youth at the YWCA of Nashville and Mid­dle Ten­nessee, she helped launch of Girls Incor­po­rat­ed in Nashville. She was also Assis­tant Direc­tor at Van­der­bilt University’s Cen­ter for Stu­dent Pro­fes­sion­al Devel­op­ment. Born and raised in Ten­nessee, Keilani is a pro­duct of Tennessee’s pub­lic schools. She is com­mit­ted to empow­er­ing teach­ers, build­ing part­ner­ships, and strength­en­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion in the state. Keilani is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, Knoxville, received her grad­u­ate degree from Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty, and is cur­rent­ly pur­su­ing her doc­tor­ate at Trevec­ca Nazarene Uni­ver­si­ty. She resides in Mid­dle Ten­nessee with her hus­band and two chil­dren.

Joseph Gutier­rez
Pro­gram Asso­ciate
Dan and Mar­garet Mad­dox Char­i­ta­ble Fund

Joseph Gutier­rez works at the Dan and Mar­garet Mad­dox Char­i­ta­ble Fund, man­ag­ing edu­ca­tion grants that help sup­port the work of non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions through­out Mid­dle Ten­nessee.  He is orig­i­nal­ly from south­ern Cal­i­for­nia and grad­u­at­ed from UCLA with B.A.’s in Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture and His­to­ry in 2009.  Joseph’s pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ences have cen­tered around edu­ca­tion. He worked in South Korea for four years as an edu­ca­tor in pub­lic school and after­school set­tings. After mov­ing to Nashville in 2014, Joseph con­tin­ued doing after­school work while work­ing with NAZA.

Most recent­ly, Joseph com­plet­ed his Master’s in Edu­ca­tion through the Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment and Action pro­gram at Van­der­bilt. His inter­ests are in orga­ni­za­tion­al stud­ies, com­mu­ni­ty-based school reform, and racial jus­tice.

LaK­ishia Har­ris
Direc­tor of Equi­ty and Access
STEM Prepara­to­ry Acad­e­my

I am a grad­u­ate of Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty (2014) in the area of Mas­ter of Sci­ence in School Psy­chol­o­gy.  Born in Num­berg, Ger­many with a pinch of New Orleans roots, I have gained the under­stand­ing that any­thing done with dis­ci­pline on a dai­ly basis pre­pares you for your des­tiny. A pro­duct of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Nashville Pub­lic Schools and a grad­u­ate of East Lit­er­a­ture Mag­net High School (2005). For near­ly fif­teen years, I have advo­cat­ed for youth and their fam­i­lies across Mid­dle Ten­nessee. While pur­su­ing my doc­tor­ate in Lead­er­ship & Pro­fes­sion­al Prac­tice, my goal is to make the future brighter by con­tin­u­ing to edu­cate the next gen­er­a­tion. My mot­to is, “ To whom much is given, much is required; there­fore we must meet one, reach one, and teach one to change the world.” In my spare time I enjoy blog­ging, shop­ping, trav­el­ing and binge watch­ing the lat­est Net­flix series.

Tomás Yan
STEAM Teacher
Anti­och Mid­dle School, Metro Nashville Pub­lic Schools

Tomás Yan is a Metro Nashville Pub­lic School teacher, and he cur­rent­ly teach­es Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, Art and Math (STEAM) at Anti­och Mid­dle School. The sci­en­tist turned-teacher is always find­ing cre­ative ways to inspire the next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents into STEM relat­ed fields through the district’s STEAM ini­tia­tive, which is engag­ing stu­dents in devel­op­ing their cre­ative, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and crit­i­cal think­ing skills. He designs his class­es around exper­i­ments and hands-on activ­i­ties to bring STEAM to life for stu­dents. Tomás Yan also works with many orga­ni­za­tions such as 21st Cen­tu­ry, NAZA, Urban Green Lab, Nashville Tech­nol­o­gy Coun­cil and Conex­ión Améri­c­as. Dur­ing the sum­mers, he works with Conex­ión Améri­c­as as an inte­gral com­po­nent in plan­ning, lead­ing and con­duct­ing sum­mer camps for migrant stu­dents across Ten­nessee.

Tomás Yan also enjoys being the soc­cer and robot­ics coach at Anti­och Mid­dle School. He is always excit­ed to be work­ing with stu­dents, teach­ing them about cod­ing, 3D print­ing, hydro­pon­ics, rock­etry, elec­tric­i­ty, vir­tu­al real­i­ty, robot­ics, physics, etc.

West Tennessee Fellows

Jaques Hamil­ton
Pro­gram Coor­di­na­tor of School Qual­i­ty and Part­ner­ships
Ten­nessee Char­ter School Cen­ter

Jaques Hamil­ton is a pas­sion­ate advo­cate for urban edu­ca­tion, com­mu­ni­ty, and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and has a wealth of knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence in the areas. Pro­fes­sion­al­ly, Jaques has gained more than 10 years of expe­ri­ence. His main area of inter­est is urban eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. Hav­ing ground­ing in this area has allowed him to make an impact in urban plan­ning, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and edu­ca­tion in pover­ty.

After years of com­mu­ni­ty and school involve­ment, estab­lish­ing rap­port with the pub­lic and strate­gi­cal­ly lever­ag­ing rela­tion­ships on both the local and nation­al lev­els, Jaques is ready to turn his tal­ents and efforts toward edu­ca­tion reform. As Pro­grams Coor­di­na­tor for the Ten­nessee Char­ter School Cen­ter, he coor­di­nates and man­ages sup­port ser­vices and resource acqui­si­tion of char­ter schools statewide.

His thirst for knowl­edge and desire to have a mean­ing­ful and pur­pose­ful impact on the com­mu­ni­ty guid­ed him to serve as class pres­i­dent of his Mas­ters’ Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago. Dur­ing his term as pres­i­dent, he empow­ered the stu­dent body to strive for social and polit­i­cal change.

Jaques earned a B.A. from McNeese State Uni­ver­si­ty and a M.A. from Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago. Out­side of his work life, he enjoys spend­ing time with fam­i­ly, read­ing and trav­el­ing.

Lin John­son
Chief Finan­cial Offi­cer
Shel­by Coun­ty Schools

Lin John­son, III has been Chief Finan­cial Offi­cer at Shel­by Coun­ty Schools Dis­trict since Octo­ber 2015. Mr. John­son served as Direc­tor of Spe­cial Ini­tia­tives at the Ten­nessee Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and as Direc­tor of Finance and Oper­a­tions on the DC Pub­lic Char­ter School Board. Mr. John­son holds Master’s degree in Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion from Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty and Master’s in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from MIT’s Sloan School of Man­age­ment.

DeVon­té Pay­ton
Advi­sor, School Devel­op­ment
Shel­by Coun­ty Schools

DeVon­té Pay­ton is a native Mem­phi­an and a proud ambas­sador of the city. He is a pas­sion­ate com­mu­ni­ty lead­er who uses his edu­ca­tion­al and mar­ket­ing exper­tise to serve as an advo­cate for engage­ment and devel­op­ment in the com­mu­ni­ty involv­ing schools, fam­i­lies, non­prof­its, and the pri­vate sec­tor. DeVon­té earned his B.B.A in Mar­ket­ing Man­age­ment from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mem­phis and has over 10 years of expe­ri­ence work­ing in edu­ca­tion. As an edu­ca­tion advo­cate, he has worked close­ly with schools and dis­tricts to devel­op and imple­ment strate­gic plans for com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment, tal­ent recruit­ment and reten­tion, stu­dent recruit­ment and reten­tion, and high school/college place­ment.

DeVon­té recent­ly joined Shel­by Coun­ty School’s Office of Char­ter Schools as a School Devel­op­ment Advi­sor where he leads the new schools review process to eval­u­ate high qual­i­ty school options for appli­cants inter­est­ed in open­ing a char­ter school with­in the school dis­trict. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he served as the Direc­tor of Exter­nal Affairs for KIPP Mem­phis. In this role, DeVon­té led exter­nal part­ner­ships, brand man­age­ment sup­port, and stu­dent enroll­ment dur­ing the network’s rapid expan­sion of edu­cat­ing near­ly 3000 stu­dents.

In his spare time, DeVon­té enjoys explor­ing the Mem­phis food scene, watch­ing Mem­phis bas­ket­ball, and spend­ing time with his wife, Alyssa, and their three chil­dren– Dylan, Alyson, and Alaina.

Joshua Perkins
Advi­sor, Aca­d­e­mic Account­abil­i­ty and Qual­i­ty
Shel­by Coun­ty Schools Office of Char­ter Schools

Joshua A. Perkins is a proud native of Jack­son, Ten­nessee. He has a pas­sion for serv­ing stu­dents and fam­i­lies in the city of Mem­phis. He began his jour­ney ear­ly teach­ing Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion at var­i­ous SCS dis­trict schools. Joshua was the found­ing Dean of Schol­ars at Lead­er­ship Prepara­to­ry Char­ter School and cred­its Lead­er­ship Prep for his devel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­al­ly. Joshua attend­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of Mem­phis grad­u­at­ing with a B.A. in Busi­ness and received a Mas­ter of Arts in Teach­ing at Cam­bridge Col­lege. He is the Pres­i­dent of Mem­phis Urban League Young Pro­fes­sion­als where he vol­un­teers his time in the com­mu­ni­ty. He is devot­ed to mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the city of Mem­phis through men­tor­ing and pro­vid­ing resources to those in need.