Steering Committee

We are pleased to intro­duce the mem­bers of the Ten­nessee Edu­ca­tion­al Equi­ty Coali­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee. They rep­re­sent a diverse set of com­mu­ni­ties from across the entire state of Ten­nessee, and bring excep­tion­al exper­tise and tal­ents. Togeth­er, they cast a vision for the Coali­tion and how it can best serve stu­dents and fam­i­lies of col­or across the state. The Steer­ing Com­mit­tee plays an impor­tant role in the imple­men­ta­tion of the Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act (ESSA), pro­vides a local con­text for edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy and brings a diverse set of voic­es and pri­or­i­ties to con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered on edu­ca­tion equi­ty.

Meet the mem­bers of the Ten­nessee Edu­ca­tion­al Equi­ty Coali­tion Steer­ing Com­mit­tee:


Lau­ra Del­gado is the pro­gram direc­tor for the Pio­nero Schol­ars Pro­gram at Lip­scomb Uni­ver­si­ty. This ini­tia­tive seeks to increase enroll­ment of Lati­no and oth­er minor­i­ty stu­dents in Lipscomb’s Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion and offers aca­d­e­mic mer­it schol­ar­ships.

Lau­ra, a Cuban-Amer­i­can, came to Nashville from Hous­ton to com­plete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty. Pri­or to her cur­rent role, Lau­ra worked at Conex­ión Améri­c­as and Teach for Amer­i­ca. Lau­ra is pas­sion­ate about col­lege access, suc­cess for immi­grant and refugee stu­dents, and cul­tur­al­ly respon­sive teacher prepa­ra­tion.


Tosha Downey is direc­tor of advo­ca­cy for the Mem­phis Edu­ca­tion Fund, a part­ner orga­ni­za­tion in the city’s effort to trans­form chron­i­cal­ly under­per­form­ing schools. Pri­or to join­ing the Mem­phis Edu­ca­tion Fund, Tosha served as direc­tor of gov­ern­ment affairs a the Noble Net­work of Char­ter Schools in Chicago, Illi­nois. Tosha has spent more than 15 years lead­ing and sup­port­ing non-prof­it teams in char­ter school man­age­ment, col­lege access, stu­dent recruit­ment, com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment and tal­ent acqui­si­tion.

A native of Mem­phis, Tosha com­plet­ed her Bach­e­lor of Arts degree in edu­ca­tion at Clark Atlanta Uni­ver­si­ty. She holds a master’s degree in pub­lic pol­i­cy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and a juris doc­tor­ate from the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na School of Law. She is the only child of William and Geraldine Downey, who still reside in the Soulsville com­mu­ni­ty in Mem­phis. Tosha has one step­daugh­ter, Dana, a col­lege senior at Cor­nell Col­lege, and one god­daugh­ter, Ebony, a recent grad­u­ate of Kala­ma­zoo Col­lege and cur­rent biol­o­gy teacher.


Ter­ri Free­man was appoint­ed pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Civil Rights Muse­um in Novem­ber 2014. As pres­i­dent, Free­man is respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing strate­gic lead­er­ship in fur­ther­ing the museum’s mis­sion as an edu­ca­tion­al and cul­tur­al insti­tu­tion. For 18 years, Ms. Free­man served as pres­i­dent of the Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion for the Nation­al Cap­i­tal Region, the largest fun­der of non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. met­ro­pol­i­tan area. Pri­or to the Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion, Ms. Free­man was found­ing exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Fred­die Mac Foun­da­tion. A grad­u­ate of the 2016 class of Lead­er­ship Mem­phis, Ms. Free­man has served on sev­er­al boards. Free­man received her bachelor’s degree in journalism/communication arts from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Day­ton and her master’s degree from Howard Uni­ver­si­ty. She is mar­ried to Dr. Bowyer G. Free­man and is the proud moth­er of three daugh­ters.


Bet­sy Hurst cur­rent­ly serves as assis­tant direc­tor of Dou­glas Chero­kee Author­i­ty Eco­nom­ic Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She has over 12 years of expe­ri­ence work­ing in a vari­ety of edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams, and she cur­rent­ly over­sees 18 after-school pro­grams in five coun­ties across East Ten­nessee. She also over­sees the teen preg­nan­cy pro­grams in Ham­blen and Han­cock coun­ties. She is an impor­tant lead­er in the emerg­ing Lati­no com­mu­ni­ties in East Ten­nessee, and in par­tic­u­lar in Ham­blen Coun­ty. She cur­rent­ly serves on the board of H.O.L.A. Lake­way and is the coor­di­na­tor of the Lat­in Food Fes­ti­val in Mor­ris­town. Mrs. Hurst was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica. She holds a bachelor’s degree in non­prof­it busi­ness man­age­ment and a sec­ond degree in bible the­ol­o­gy. She also has a back­ground in ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion.

Independent Consultant
C. Johnson Consulting

Can­dy is cur­rent­ly employed by the Nashville Area Cham­ber of Com­merce where she leads edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives such as the Acad­e­mies of Nashville stake­hold­er groups, the Cham­ber Edu­ca­tion Report Card and the report card sub-com­mit­tee. Pri­or to her posi­tion with the Nashville Cham­ber, she was employed for the major­i­ty of her career by the Clarksville-Mont­gomery Coun­ty School Sys­tem, where she served as the foun­da­tion and com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment direc­tor. Can­dy John­son is a Ten­nessee native and she is mar­ried to Dr. Bryan John­son who is chief aca­d­e­mic offi­cer for the Clarksville-Mont­gomery Coun­ty School Sys­tem. They have two chil­dren. Mrs. John­son received a bach­e­lor of sci­ence degree in pub­lic man­age­ment with a minor in lead­er­ship stud­ies from Austin Peay State Uni­ver­si­ty and a master’s degree in pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion from Mur­ray State Uni­ver­si­ty. She is also a grad­u­ate of both Lead­er­ship Clarksville and Lead­er­ship Mid­dle Ten­nessee.

Mary Cypress Metz
Chief of staff
State collaborative on reforming education

Mary Cypress Metz serves as the Chief of Staff for the State Col­lab­o­ra­tive on Reform­ing Edu­ca­tion (SCORE), where she coor­di­nates the work across SCORE’s pro­grams and leads spe­cial projects for the orga­ni­za­tion. In her pre­vi­ous role as SCORE’s Direc­tor of Out­reach, she led the organization’s efforts in out­reach and engage­ment, coali­tion build­ing, and advo­ca­cy. Before join­ing SCORE, Mary Cypress taught sev­en­th-grade math as a Teach For Amer­i­ca corps mem­ber in Nashville. Orig­i­nal­ly from Mis­sis­sip­pi, she earned a bachelor’s degree in jour­nal­ism and his­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alaba­ma and her master’s in edu­ca­tion from Lip­scomb Uni­ver­si­ty.


Phyl­lis Young Nichols is pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive office of the Knoxville Area Urban League. As chief exec­u­tive since 2000, she has expand­ed the Urban League to be rec­og­nized as one of Knoxville’s pre­mier orga­ni­za­tions. The Knoxville Area Urban League serves over 9,000 indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies each year through its 24 pro­grams to provide a skilled diverse work­force, to increase and retain home own­er­ship, to sup­port eco­nom­ic and small busi­ness devel­op­ment, and to advo­cate and enhance edu­ca­tion efforts for stu­dents of col­or. Phyl­lis is a grad­u­ate of ETSU and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, Knoxville. Mrs. Nichols has com­plet­ed edu­ca­tion and lead­er­ship cours­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, Whit­ney M. Young, Jr. Cen­ter for Urban Lead­er­ship, the Tex­a­co Man­age­ment Insti­tute for Lead­er­ship Train­ing, and the Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Exec­u­tive Lead­er­ship. She is a 2003 grad­u­ate of the Lead­er­ship Knoxville and the FBI’s Cit­i­zens Acad­e­my.

Gladys Pineda-Loher
Director of International Community Outreach
Chattanooga State Community College

Gladys Pineda-Loher has spent the past 17 years focused on work­force devel­op­ment and edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties that sup­port the His­pan­ic and inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ties.

Gladys began her work at the Knoxville’s His­pan­ic Cham­ber of Com­merce of East Ten­nessee in 2002. She moved to Chat­tanooga in 2009 to serve as the Busi­ness Diver­si­ty Coor­di­na­tor for the Chat­tanooga Area Cham­ber of Com­merce where she found­ed the Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Coun­cil. She became the Direc­tor of Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ty Out­reach at Chat­tanooga State in 2013, and the col­lege received the 2014 Urban League’s Inclu­sion by Design Award for her pro­gram “Cul­tur­al Ambas­sadors and Inter­na­tion­al Achiev­ers.”

Gladys was rec­og­nized as one of the top 10 Most Valu­able Play­ers who impact­ed Chat­tanooga in 2017 by the Edge mag­a­zine, a month­ly busi­ness pub­li­ca­tion pub­lished by the Times Free Press. Each year they rec­og­nize indi­vid­u­als who have been influ­en­tial in the past year in shap­ing busi­ness and our local com­mu­ni­ty. She was added to the list for her work in pro­mot­ing diver­si­ty and orga­niz­ing a num­ber of Lati­no and mul­ti­cul­tur­al events local­ly.

Gladys was cho­sen as the 2017 Lati­no Com­mu­ni­ty Cham­pi­on dur­ing the Lead­er­ship Awards from La Paz Chat­tanooga, where she was rec­og­nized for cham­pi­oning ser­vices and for mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant impact on Chattanooga’s Lati­no pop­u­la­tion.

Gladys is active in the com­mu­ni­ty, serv­ing on a num­ber of lead­er­ship roles includ­ing a mem­ber of the City of Chat­tanooga Office of Mul­ti­cul­tur­al Affairs Advi­so­ry Board, and board mem­ber for the Chat­tanooga Con­ven­tion & Vis­i­tors Bureau, Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion of Greater Chat­tanooga, and YMCA Met­ro­pol­i­tan Chat­tanooga, among oth­ers.

Gladys is a native from Colom­bia, South Amer­i­ca where she grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­iza­les with a B.A. in Account­ing and a Master’s degree in Health Care Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty Jave­ri­ana of Cali. She is a grad­u­ate of Lead­er­ship Chat­tanooga 2012 and 2017 Chatt-LEAD Pro­gram at Chat­tanooga State. Cur­rent­ly, she is part of the Mosaic Fel­low­ship-an ini­tia­tive of Conex­ión Améri­c­as that con­ve­nes edu­ca­tion lead­ers of col­or across Ten­nessee. Gladys lives in Chat­tanooga with her hus­band and four chil­dren.


Gini Pupo-Walk­er is a native Nashvil­lian and Cuban-Amer­i­can and has been an edu­ca­tor for over twen­ty years. Through her role at Conex­ión Améri­c­as, Gini builds upon their strong rep­u­ta­tion as a respect­ed con­ven­er and col­lab­o­ra­tor, and will con­tin­ue to accel­er­ate their tra­jec­to­ry of growth in the edu­ca­tion are­na. Her tasks include iden­ti­fy­ing, con­ven­ing, and build­ing part­ner­ships, local­ly and statewide, to devel­op a com­mon edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy agen­da that improves out­comes stu­dents of col­or across Ten­nessee. Pri­or to tak­ing this posi­tion she was the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Fam­i­ly and Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ner­ships for Metro Nashville Pub­lic Schools where she worked with fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­men­tal enti­ties and foun­da­tions in order to improve edu­ca­tion in Nashville. She also worked as a teacher at the high school and col­lege lev­el for over 10 years, in Seat­tle, San Diego and Nashville. Ms. Pupo-Walk­er serves on the Exec­u­tive Board of Trust of the Memo­ri­al Foun­da­tion, and on the board of FUTURO. She is a Mas­ter Fel­low for NCLR’s Nation­al Insti­tute for Lati­no School Lead­ers and she enjoys spend­ing time with her hus­band and two chil­dren, vol­un­teer­ing, trav­el­ing, gar­den­ing, and danc­ing sal­sa. You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @ginipupo


Glo­ria Jean Sweet-Love is pres­i­dent and direc­tor of the Ten­nessee State Con­fer­ence of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (NAACP). Glo­ria is a life­long advo­cate of edu­ca­tion. She served for two decades as a mem­ber of the Hay­ward Coun­ty Board of Edu­ca­tion, serv­ing as vice-chair. She also served as dis­trict direc­tor of South­west School Board, a mem­ber of the Ten­nessee School Board Asso­ci­a­tion (TSBA) and was the first African Amer­i­can wom­an to be elect­ed as pres­i­dent of the TSBA. She cur­rent­ly serves as a mem­ber of the NAACP Nation­al Board of Direc­tors and also serves as a mem­ber of the NAACP Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee. Glo­ria is a grad­u­ate of Ten­nessee State Uni­ver­si­ty and has done post grad­u­ate stud­ies in busi­ness man­age­ment.