Rashanda (she/her) was born and raised in New Haven, CT. A first generation college graduate, Rashanda has devoted her life’s work to educational advocacy on behalf of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) students and those in other historically marginalized communities. To that end, Rashanda has worked for over a decade developing innovative programs that promote equity in educational opportunity and advance fundamental human rights protections.
Inspired by a deeper commitment to advocacy and aspiration to challenge laws and policies that have historically disenfranchised too many communities of color, Rashanda attended the University of Miami School of Law. While there she was selected as a Public Service Fellows through the Miami Scholars Program and a Fellowship through Center for Ethics & Public Service. She was also the Managing Editor of the Race and Social Justice Law Review.
While interning at the University’s Human Rights Law Clinic, Rashanda represented a client in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington, DC and participated in a National “Working Group” with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, Office of Violence Against Women, and other federal agencies to ensure that the U.S. enacted stonger laws and policies to protect the rights of victims and survivors of domestic violence. She also co-authored the first county-wide (Miami-Dade County) Resolution in the country, declaring freedom from domestic violence as a basic human right.
Returning to Connecticut, Rashanda has continued her educational advocacy efforts on both state and national levels where she worked to ensure that all students have access to a high quality education, regardless of their race, ethnicity, household income or zip code. She currently serves on the Hamden Racial and Ethnic Disparity Workgroup, the JJPOC Education Subgroup, the CT PTA and is Co-Chair of the NAACP Legal Redress Committee.
Co-Founder and Deputy Director
Briyana (she/her) is currently a junior at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She has been involved with Students for Educational Justice (SEJ) since before its inception as, first, their Social Media Specialist, Program Coordinator, Program Adviser, and finally as the Deputy Director. She decided to stick around for so long not only because nowhere else would hire her (she was too young), but because she is passionate about the work that SEJ is doing.
Growing up, Briyana never saw herself represented in her school’s curriculum which caused her to be ashamed of her identity as a black person. She doesn’t want this to be the narrative of other students of color. Thus, she is adamant about schools teaching a more representational and truthful history.
Outside of SEJ, Briyana dedicates her time to schoolwork, reading and writing, and hanging out with friends.
Communications and Operations Manager
Kierra (she/her) is a first generation Afro-Caribbean, born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She moved to CT as a child and attended New Haven public schools. While attaining her B.B.A. from Temple University, she became dedicated to the movement surrounding teaching an accurate, all-encompassing version of Black Studies in classrooms. She was a co-organizer with the Black and Brown Coalition at Temple and an active member of The Saturday Free School in North Philadelphia – where she began studying the Black radical tradition.
Kierra began substitute teaching after graduation, in order to continue her life-long role of working with young people. She became involved with SEJ due to her passion for social justice and educational equity, especially pertaining to Black youth of the diaspora.
Benie N’sumbu (she/her) has been a part of SEJ since her sophomore year of high school. She is currently in her second year of college and continues to work with SEJ because she believes in its mission and vision.
Because of SEJ she has embarked on a journey of radicalization and self-realization. She hopes to do the same for other young people.
Vy (she/they) is a New Haven implant originally from Houston, Texas. She began at SEJ as the Summer Community Organizing Fellow, co-creating the curriculum for the 2020 summer intensive and was hired shortly after as the Lead Organizer. They came for SEJ’s work, and stayed for the people—especially the young people—whose determination to define a better New Haven for themselves inspires her.
She went through a peculiar school process: a mix of well-funded white-majority schools as well as underfunded BIPOC-majority schools across Miami and Houston before arriving in New Haven for college. Having her own mixed education and seeing her mother’s experience as a substitute teacher in Houston, Vy knows how integral education and its surrounding environments are to young people understanding themselves. In her role, she hopes to create safe spaces for young BIPOC people to ask big questions and challenge the norms they’re taught in school.
Outside of SEJ, Vy is a tattoo artist, photographer, and happy plant parent.
Kaatje is a current senior at New Haven Academy, and is the current Youth Organizer with SEJ. She loves to bake and has an affinity for plants, calligraphy, and good music. She’s been helping run member meetings and our Students Over SRO’s campaign team meetings.
Hillary Bridges – Board Chair
Sebastian Ward – Board Co-Chair
Philip Kalikman – Board Treasurer
David G Carter – Board Secretary