2022 SELI Fellows

Meet Our 2022 SELI Fellows.

The Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI) provides young leaders with hands-on experience supporting organizations working to create school systems that give Black and Brown children access to the educational opportunity they deserve. In 2022,  14 stellar candidates rose to the top of the competitive applicant pool. The 2022 Cohort of exceptional young leaders represent 13 schools across the nation, including three Historically Black Colleges and Universities. During their fellowship, these SELI fellows will work in nonprofits, state agencies, school districts, and universities on issues of education equity. They will learn about the South’s most pressing education issues and grow as change agents for social justice.

SELI Placement Site Impact

Cassie Coughlan

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMONDFamilies and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children

Cassie Coughlan is a recent graduate of the University of Richmond. She studied Political Science and Physics with a minor in Secondary Education. Her time as a mentor with Higher Achievement, an after school program for middle school students in Richmond, inspired her passion for educational equity. Cassie completed her political science thesis on state legislation combating the school-to-prison pipeline, and has taken part in advocacy efforts for equitable education policy in the Virginia General Assembly. For the past three years, she has served as a student leader with Virginia21, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to amplify the voices of Virginia college students. Going forward, Cassie plans to begin student teaching in hopes of becoming an educator. 

Alana Edmond


Alana Edmond is a recent graduate of Spelman College (’22) with a degree in Political Science and African Diaspora Studies. She became passionate about education transformation after noticing her own K-12 school district in New Jersey subjected her and her peers to prejudiced learning environments. Since then, she has worked as an advocate for education by holding numerous mentor positions for Black K-12 and college students. Additionally, she completed her Honors Senior Thesis on intra-district funding disparities in school districts throughout the United States. Alana hopes to become an educator and eventually transition into education policy. 

Kirsten Elliott


Kirsten Elliott is a second year Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, with a concentration in Education Psychology. She works as a research assistant with the Center for Empowered Learning and Development with Technology (CELDTECH). Her research engages in critical analyses of education technology, specifically as it relates to design-based research, issues of race and racism, and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. Through innovative research and bold leadership, Kirsten is determined to be a lifelong advocate for equity. Essentially, her goal as a researcher is to contribute to critical, intersectional research that empowers education technology to better serve students of marginalized populations and to be bastions of justice. She holds an MA in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Mathematics Education (Florida International University ’20) and BS in Mathematics (University of Florida ’17). Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, Kirsten had the privilege of teaching high school geometry in Miami, Florida. 

Kendric Holder

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITYSouthern Education Foundation

Kendric Holder is a recent graduate of Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor’s degree in  Political Science and a minor in History. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, he was immersed in a southern culture growing up. He understands the significance and value of having a servant-hearted approach to everything he does as a son, brother, student, and community leader. In everyday life he looks to leave a positive impact on anyone he encounters. His previous internships/co-op positions include working with the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville and as the inaugural student in the City of Huntsville Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a part of the Alabama Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs Alabama HBCU Co-Op program. His commitment to social justice has always been strong, and he will be pursuing a legal degree to provide legal aid to underprivileged communities, and helping reform policies that disproportionately affect minorities. 

Julia Laico


Julia Laico is a recent graduate of Emory University with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Law with a minor in African American Studies. Her academic career and personal interests have motivated her to pursue a career in service of disadvantaged populations, and she is particularly interested in matters that surround racial inequality, including criminal justice reform, voting rights, and educational equity. As such, the work of the Southern Education Foundation, and the SELI Fellowship specifically, are highly aligned with her personal and professional goals. As a born and raised New Yorker currently living in Atlanta, Julia has come to love the culture of the South, particularly the arts and music scene and Atlanta’s roots in the civil rights movement. 

Timothy Lindsey


Timothy Lindsey is a graduate student at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Tim studied Government, Sociology, and African/African American Studies at Wofford College as a Bonner Scholar. During his undergraduate years, he served as a camp counselor for adults with special needs and taught high-school students about civic engagement. These positions inspired Lindsey to continue his civic service through serving as a middle school teacher through Teach for America in Warren County, NC. He taught seventh grade Social Studies for three years before deciding to pursue graduate school. He hopes to use his education to work with partners within the public education, local government, and policy sectors to create sustainable change. 

Jorvis McGee

CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY United Negro College Fund – Institute for Capacity Building

Jorvis McGee is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership at Clark Atlanta University. Originally from Texas, where he received his BA in Communications and MS in Education at Texas A&M University – Kingsville. His career goals are to win a Radio & Television Network, become a university president, and one day become the U.S. Secretary of Education. He is most proud of being named the vice president of the Javelina Alumni Association at his alma mater. To quote Thurgood Marshall, “A man can make what he wants of himself if he truly believes that he must be ready for hard work and many heartbreaks.” 

Kaitlyn Mills

UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIASt. Helena Parish School District

Kaitlyn Mills of Augusta, GA is a recent graduate of Agnes Scott College with a degree in History and minors in Music and Educational Studies. Kaitlyn’s historical research has examined the origins of African American public education in the state of Georgia and the historic preservation of church history within the Black community of Decatur, GA. In the field of education, Kaitlyn has produced collaborative research on Universal Design for Learning and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on post-secondary students with disabilities. Additionally, she has conducted comparative studies on the role of educational finance and administration models on post-disaster recovery in the United States, Indonesia, and Japan. 

Currently, Kaitlyn is pursuing a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia and plans to focus on K-12 Educational Policy and Nonprofit Administration. She serves as a graduate teaching assistant in the School of Public and International Affairs Department of Public Administration and Policy, where she will extend her professional experience as an educator and researcher. 

Monica Obregon

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS - AUSTINGeorgia Budget and Policy Institute

Monica Obregon is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in the Master’s of Education Policy and Planning program. She works as a graduate assistant for the Transfer Year Experience program that creates transfer-specific academic spaces, connects students to experienced mentors and builds avenues to establish peer networks. Most recently, she interned with the Intercultural Development Research Association working on school finance policies and school choice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio in May 2021. Her interests include school finance, budget legislation as it pertains to the education system, and long-term impacts of inequitable funding in school districts across the state. 

Lupita Quezada-Orosco


Lupita Quezada-Orosco is a first generation student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Through her Public Policy major, Lupita continuously finds ways to engage in conversations and analyze ways to uplift her Latinx community. The struggles her immigrant parents overcame have undeniably given Lupita the motivation to break the systemic barriers and persevere in everything she desires. Lupita is committed and passionate and does not allow her adversity to limit her dreams of bridging the educational gap marginalized communities encounter. As a SELI Fellow, Lupita aims to enrich her professional development in education and leadership, obtaining the experience needed to better advocate for the Latinx and other disadvantaged communities. 

K. Rzucidlo

HOWARD UNIVERSITYUniversity Laboratory School

K. Rzucidlo is a first generation college student born and raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania, currently residing in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She recently moved to Maryland in pursuit of her PhD in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies, which she is working on at The Mecca-Thee Illustrious Howard University. K. brings over five years of higher education experience from her time working in admissions and enrollment both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Her professional goals are to become the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accreditation body and create more racially equitable accreditation policies and practices to more fairly serve Minority Serving Institutions, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

Caitlyn Sanders

UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIAGeorgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS)

Caitlyn Sanders is a student in the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. She obtained her BS from Georgia College and State University in Special Education and her MEd from Georgia Southern University in Curriculum and Instruction. Caitlyn worked for a public school system in Metro Atlanta for eight years. She taught students with autism and intellectual disabilities in Title I schools before moving into a Behavior Support Specialist position at the district office where she supported administrators, teachers, and students in 14 schools. Throughout her career, Caitlyn has been an advocate for children and adults who are neurodivergent and is passionate about creating more equitable experiences for students receiving special education services. She is interested in the intersection of disabilities and poverty, and she hopes to contribute to policy changes that decrease the unemployment rate for people who are neurodivergent. 

Naomi Simmons-Thorne

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINASC Commission on Higher Education

Naomi Simmons-Thorne is a graduate student and educator at the University of South Carolina, where she studies teacher instruction, foundations and philosophy of education. Naomi has served as a Fellow at the U. S. Department of Education-funded Research Institute For Scholars of Equity housed at North Carolina Central University, as well as the Center For Minority Serving Institutions at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Naomi taught in the South Carolina Public Charter School District and tutors in math and composition at the secondary levels, as well as at Midlands Technical College. In 2021, she had the distinction of becoming the inaugural recipient of the Cheryl A. Wall Prize in Black Women Studies. Her career aspirations include educational leadership, education research and advocacy, and instruction at the university level. Outside of her studies, Naomi is working toward the completion of her first book. 

Miranda Torres


Miranda Torres is a Masters student in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at the University of Houston. Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Miranda is a first generation high school and college graduate. Upon graduating high school, Miranda relocated to San Antonio, Texas to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a Minor in Community Health from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She began her career in student affairs early on in her undergraduate career. After several years of supporting students in academic and non-profit settings, Miranda decided to take her education to the next level and pursue a Master’s degree in Higher Education. As she completes her degree plan, Miranda works as an instructional assistant at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business where she leads 125 students through the completion of the Ted Bauer Leadership Certificate Program. Miranda is passionate about leading others with compassion, integrity, and equitable approaches.