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SHAMOYIA GARDINER (SHE/HER) is the executive director of Strong Schools Maryland. Shamoyia is a first-generation American, first-generation college graduate from Miami, Florida. Due in part to her identities and experiences as a former educator, she’s determined that life is best spent working at the intersection of education, advocacy, and youth development. Shamoyia's other professional experiences include directing the education policy portfolio at Advocates for Children and Youth, cradle-to-career-spectrum policy analysis at the Family League of Baltimore, and project-based work with the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the DC State Board of Education, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site.


Shamoyia has chosen to live out her values as a board member at B.O.N.D. (Building Our Nation's Daughters), a board member at The Intersection and as a coordinating “mama” with A Revolutionary Summer.  Shamoyia earned her Masters in Education Policy and Leadership from American University and her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Florida. She can be reached at

RIYA GUPTA (SHE/HER) is the Policy Researcher at Strong Schools Maryland. She is originally from northern New Jersey, but has lived in and made Baltimore her home for the past 5 years. Today, Riya is completing her Master’s of Science in Public Health with a concentration in child health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she is conducting an equity analysis of Baltimore’s 21st Century School Buildings Program as her thesis. Riya’s work is centered around both public health and data — she aims to create change through data and research that is expressed in an accessible and equitable way.


Riya's enthusiasm for high quality, safe education for all students is rooted in her work within Baltimore City school system including at the William S. Baer school and the Academy for College and Career Exploration as well as the community she found along the way. Riya enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of Baltimore as well as experimenting in the kitchen. She can be reached at

JAMAL TURNER (HE/HIM) is the Strong Schools Maryland Network Organizer.

Born and raised in Baltimore City, Jamal is an advocate for educational equity, community revitalization and wealth building for youth and families in Maryland. As former Co-Chair of Baltimoreans for Educational Equity, Jamal worked with a dynamic group of volunteer advocates addressing youth insecurities, building coalitions that address the needs of youth, and holding legislators accountable for their decisions related to education and the youth experience.


Jamal is a proud graduate of Baltimore City College and Morgan State University and attributes his success to investment of time and energy from Baltimore City teachers. Currently, Jamal serves as Co-Chair of Frankford Community Association, on the Police Accountability Board for Baltimore City, and Steering Committee for Healing City Baltimore. Connect with him at

KALEA HARRIS (SHE/HER) is the Organizing Assistant at Strong Schools Maryland. At a young age, Kalea developed a passion for creating a better tomorrow. From early on, she fed that passion by working to organize biannual Red Cross Blood Drives through her local high school and serving on the Mental Health Emergency Fund's Mindful Ministries Collective program, where she facilitated meditations for girls of color in Baltimore and the surrounding areas.


Kalea also currently serves as a Development Coordinator for A Revolutionary Summer, an intensive, critical, reading and writing program for black girls and femmes in Baltimore. Kalea’s identity is curated by her lifelong experiences in both Baltimore City and County. Her experience in both public school systems drives her desire for educational equity and reform. She can be contacted at 

EZEKIEL "EZE" JACKSON (HE/HIM) is a Field Organizer with Strong Schools. A Baltimore City native, he comes with nearly 20 years of experience as a Community & Political Organizer. He has worked on social justice issues such labor rights, healthcare affordability, housing and wages. In 2012 he served as the President of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition that lead Maryland to become the first state to pass the historic bill. He has dedicated the majority of his life to working on issues that affect working class people and communities of color. He has also been a veteran in Baltimore's arts & culture as a performing artist and founder of his record label EPIC FAM. He currently sits on the Mayor's Arts & Culture Committee. 


As a former student in both Baltimore City and Howard County, he brings a serious passion to advocating for better education for all Marylanders. He runs distribution and outreach for the local non profit newspaper Baltimore Beat and is the proud father of 3 daughters. Connect with him at

KENZIE FUNK (SHE/HER) is the Policy Associate at Strong Schools Maryland. She was first connected to Strong Schools Maryland as an Organizing Intern, through the Pizzigati Children's Advocacy Fellowship at the University of Maryland. There, she earned her bachelor's degree in Neurobiology and Physiology, with a minor in Public Leadership.  Her professional journey focused on healthcare and education, with experiences as a medical assistant and as a member of Terps for Change under her belt. Those experiences helped Kenzie realize that she wanted to advocate for change within these systems.


A lifelong resident of Baltimore County, Kenzie is excited to be working with the Strong Schools Maryland team, again advocating for a world-class school system and empowering community voices--all within the place she calls home! Outside of work, she enjoys traveling to new places and exploring everything Maryland has to offer. She can be contacted at

DARREN FRANKLIN (HE/HIM) is a Field Organizer with Strong Schools Maryland. Originally from Fort Washington, Maryland, Darren moved to the Charm City (Baltimore, MD), in 2004 to study Business Administration at the Morgan State University. While there, Darren co-founded and chaired the Board of Advisement Retention and Recruitment (B.O.A.R.D), which focused on increasing student retention rates at Morgan. In 2006, Darren  began mentoring young adults on the importance of real estate, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Darren partnered with local nonprofit organizations and public schools to forge connections with his mentees; he is still actively mentoring today.


Darren is a strong advocate for youth development, educational equity and community empowerment. Darren is a realtor, artist and Dog Dad who enjoys traveling, eating different cuisines and listening to music. Connect with him at

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