Every child deserves a quality education and to live in healthy communities, but our systems too often fail those who need them the most. We need leaders who are committed to a different future. Our goal is to create an ecosystem of Black and Latino leaders who may not typically have the opportunities and institutional support to run for public office, develop the skills and leadership needed to win and deliver on education and community equity.
The Leaders of Color program is part of Education Reform Now, a national think tank and advocacy organization that develops and drives forward bold, new ideas that can transform the American public education system from pre-school to and through higher education to better serve all students, especially low-income students and students of color.
In 2018, we launched Leaders of Color in Memphis, TN with a cohort of 15 community leaders. Since then, we have expanded our work to Louisiana, New York, and Washington, D.C. Our goal is to train 500 Fellows by 2027 across the U.S.
Each member of the Leaders of Color team leverages a passion and commitment for educational and economic change for communities of color in their work. Together, they bring over 110 years of collective experience in political campaigns, community organizing, and civic engagement experience. They lead this work with deep experience in systems change, coupled with lived and learned knowledge about national inequities.
Michael Bland hails from Long Branch, New Jersey and has committed his entire career to public service. Before joining the DFER team, Michael served as the campaign manager for Jahana Hayes in her 2018 Connecticut 5th Congressional district, making her the first African American woman elected in all of New England to Congress. Prior to his time with Rep. Hayes, Michael worked as a deputy chief of staff for the Majority Conference leader in the New Jersey Legislative Assembly (Shavonda Sumter D-35) and the deputy district director for Congresswoman Elizabeth Etsy of New Britain, Connecticut. Most notably, Michael contributed to the incredible success of the Obama for America Campaign where he served as the Northeast Regional Field Director in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and conducted region wide plans for voter registration and event organizing for volunteers.
He currently serves on the boards for Monmouth County - Mental Health Association, Two River Theater and The Welcome Party.
Mrs. Amber Davis-Prince was born and raised in Birmingham, AL and moved to New Orleans in 2012. She holds a BA in Speech Communication from Berea College, a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from Eastern Kentucky University and is currently completing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Xavier University of Louisiana. Amber has worked in higher education for over 15 years, creating programs and services to support students in achieving their post secondary education goals and advocating for student needs - with an emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Victor Horton is a native Virginian and has called Washington DC home for almost a decade. Over the years in DC, Victor has made a name for himself in the realms of politics and education. He has spent several years on Capitol Hill handling the education portfolios of electees, as well as assisting various non-profits with hearings on education and other advocacy efforts. He has also served as an elected official after he successfully ran for a Commission seat in the Nation’s capital. During his tenure as Commissioner, Victor was able to increase partnerships for the city, successfully oversee the renovation of a public library, advocate for equity in school funding, and organize and manage neighborhood beautification projects.
Victor’s most recent professional experience include work for Leadership for Educational Equity, where he was charged with inspiring and coaching educators to become civically engaged by either participating in the policy making process, organizing, or running for elected leadership. Victor holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Virginia State University, a Master of Public Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Master of Education with a concentration in Public School Leadership from Columbia University.
Justin "JMc" McCorkle is a proud father, husband, brother, and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. He attended public schools in New Orleans and earned his Political Science degree from Southern University and A&M College's highly regarded Nelson Mandela College of Government and Social Sciences.
McCorkle began a private sector career after college, where he mastered customer service, sales, marketing, and client relationship management. Justin learned to put customers first and streamline business operations for maximum profit in these roles. Justin was successful professionally and politically. He volunteered for political campaigns and worked his way up to field operations director and campaign manager. Justin "found his mission:" working to improve the lives of African Americans politically. "This is how I can better my daughter's surroundings."
Justin wanted a career where he could be a reconciling collaborator and help the Black community advance. In 2019, he learned the New Orleans public schools needed a Community Relations Director. When he was employed with NOLA Public Schools in early 2020, no one realized COVID-19 would spread globally.
Justin has committed himself to serving as a systems-level change agent in order to make a greater positive impact on the black community. Every day, he collaborates with Black and Brown leaders around the country to improve the lives of young people in New Orleans by advising elected officials, grassroots projects, non-profits, and other organizations.
Terrell Wilson serves as the Alumni Engagement Coordinator for Leaders of Color where his goal is to grow and build alumni engagement and be a part of the support system as post-Leaders of Color fellows build upon the foundation they’ve gained.
His time serving in the United States Air Force developed his appreciation for structure, support, planning and development. He carried these values into his career in the nonprofit and municipal sector furthering his commitment to serving his community and in turn building up a strong staff as the Member Engagement Director at the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County. And, later becoming a core part of the Long Branch Municipality providing families with access to programs regardless of their circumstances. Now with over 11 years in the nonprofit industry, he’s been able to support underserved communities through data-driven planning and actively developing relationships with stakeholders and community leaders. In his work, Terrell is honored to have played pivotal roles in the diversity conversation while spearheading inclusion programs that eliminate barriers of entry. He takes pride in providing access, mentorship, clear communication, thought leadership, and being a resource. Terrell combines his lived experience and extensive time in program development and engagement to support and connect alumni as they grow and execute their roles as leaders of color.
Maria A. Oceja identifies as a Latina who is also an experienced community organizer, skilled artist, and visionary based in Memphis, TN. In her professional work, Maria led the Shelby County Youth Council and supported the Bridge Builders CHANGE program, which are youth groups under BRIDGES that foster youth advocacy and organizing to make impactful change in their communities. She’s trained high school youth to facilitate and host youth town halls and summits, so that youth voices can truly be represented by the council in local politics. She also supported the Shelby County Youth Council in creating two policy briefs for local policy change in Memphis, TN. Many of those policy recommendations regarding mental health were actually implemented by Memphis Shelby County Schools!
She also co-founded and organizes with Vecindarios 901 in her free time, which is a local rapid response team responding and intervening with ICE raids to combat ICE intimidation in and around the city . Maria also supported the founding of NTV Rites, which is a local non-profit aiming to support local Indigenous/Native American communities.
In her spare time she also focuses on creating healing spaces within her family and closest community members, by sharing healing practices traditional to her Tlahuica ancestry from Central and Southern Mexico. She also enjoys creating art using oil paint as her medium and hopes to paint more murals in her community.
Maria is a graduate of Wellesley College, an alum of the Leaders of Color Fellowship, and she's also a current Emerging Leaders Fellow with the City University of New York.
Our National Advisory Board is composed of leaders who represent a variety of sectors including education reform, social justice, environmental justice, political sourcing and entertainment. Their guidance is hugely important for our program, our fellows, and our alumni.
Meet our board members:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay connected with Leaders of Color!