College Board Fellow Tomeka Hart on Advancing Equity and Excellence for Minority Students
College Board Fellow Tomeka Hart on Advancing Equity and Excellence for Minority StudentsMichael Preston, Senior Communications Specialist
Tomeka Hart, a member of the inaugural cohort of the College Board’s Professional Fellowship Program, has been an active member of the education community in her hometown of Memphis for over eight years. From working with Teach for America as a vice president of African American community partnerships to serving as the commissioner of the Memphis City/Shelby County Schools Board of Education, Ms. Hart has been a strong advocate for expanding educational opportunities for all students.
Striving to improve educational outcomes in the city, Ms. Hart focused her efforts on the Memphis Talent Dividend (MTD), a collaborative initiative of private citizens, businesses, nonprofits, higher education institutions, and the city of Memphis designed to increase the number of college graduates in the metropolitan area. With her assistance, the organization produced a citywide campaign this past January to help students understand and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be a significant barrier to college entry for first-generation students.
“As a first-generation college student, I know the challenges students face,” Hart says. “When we provide students with knowledge about what it takes to get to and to be successful in college, including the need to take AP courses, how to complete the FAFSA, how to navigate the entire college application process, we open up a world of possibilities for them.”
As a College Board Professional fellow, Hart was able to support a related MTD program — the African American Male Initiative — as it expanded its efforts to make college more attainable in a city where only 43 percent of black men graduate from high school.
“I am equipping African American male students with the tools and resources they need for postsecondary success,” she said.
Ms. Hart recently accepted the position of vice president for programs at the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), an Atlanta-based nonprofit dedicated to advancing equity and excellence in education for Southern students. In her new role, Hart will work to improve student outcomes from early childhood to adulthood and engage in advocacy, research, and coalition-building activities across the region. Her early efforts will focus on Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, and the Mississippi Delta.
“While it was a very difficult decision to leave Memphis, I accepted the offer, as it is an amazing opportunity to serve low-income students and students of color across the south,” she explains.
Hart holds a J.D. from the University of Memphis, an MBA from Kennesaw State University in Georgia, and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She previously served as CEO of the Memphis Urban League and was an associate attorney at Ford & Harrison LLP in Memphis.