Past Champions


Beginning in 2022, EALA has granted an annual unrestricted competitive sub-grant and year-long mentorship to support leaders of color, or allies of the equity in education movement, who are actively working to support students with disabilities, including students who are also marginalized, come from underserved communities, or experience poverty. Additionally, EALA has provided two additional $5,000 sub-grants to runners-up as determined by the panel of New Champions judges.

As a part of this process, funding applications are vetted by the EALA review team and reviewed by the diverse group of New Champions Fund Judges using this EALA New Champions Rubric.

New Champions 2023

Kim Riley

Founded in 2019, The Transition Academy (TTA) is a nonprofit organization created to improve postsecondary outcomes for high school special education students in Kansas City Public Schools and charter schools. The Transition Academy supports young people with autism or developmental disabilities explore college or career options as they prepare to transition from school to life as an adult.

“We plan to use the EALA New Champions award to purchase career discovery assessments designed by special education teachers that have photos of work skills in action and require little, if any, reading skills. We will pay teachers, who designed the assessments, to train us and purchase their assessments. We will also use funding to pay stipends to black men who are recently or semi-retired to serve as program specialists. Black boys are overrepresented in special education, but rarely interact with black teachers. We want to fill this gap by connecting them with black men who will teach hands-on job skills and serve as mentors.”

-Kim Riley

Antoinette Banks

Expert IEP’s goal is to empower caregivers of youth who think and learn differently to participate as valued members of the IEP team. They work to leverage machine learning to elevate caregiver assets, help caregivers advocate for clear and appropriate IEP goals, and monitor service delivery as well as overall student progress. Expert IEP is the first IEP optimization app for families by families.

“With this funding, Expert IEP plans to produce marketing videos in English and Spanish, expanding our reach and promoting our mission to a wider audience. We also aim to onboard 1,300 families from our waiting list by hiring a part-time neurodivergent support technician. By doing so, we can provide personalized support, bridge the achievement gap, and promote equity in education for students with learning differences.”

-Antoinette Banks

Nekia Wright

Ujamaa LLC was created to solve problems in education and wellness that the larger public institutions have not been successful in addressing. The owner and founder, Nekia Wright, has been a special educator for 16 years and recently served as a contract teacher to support school districts in recovering from the disruption of the pandemic. Ujamaa LLC offers community wellness and sound meditation services to communities throughout the Bay Area, Mexico, Guatemala, and Zimbabwe.

“I am so incredibly grateful for this honor and privilege! I plan to use this funding to as partial scholarship funding for 10-15 marginalized families with students with disabilities to receive one year of advocacy, training, and guidance in engaging their children with disability at home through monthly coaching, IEP advocacy and support, developing a Home Engagement Plan (HEP), as well as our family engagement app.”

-Nekia Wright

New Champions 2022

Dena Simmons Ed.D

LiberatED centers radical love, healing, and racial and social justice in education so that all children can live, learn, and thrive in the comfort of their own skin. They work alongside youth, educators, and educational leaders in school and school district communities, particularly those that are predominantly Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other People of Color (BILPOC) and that have been systemically and institutionally marginalized. They partner with educators and educational leaders to support the implementation of LiberatED’s liberatory practices not only in their own lives for greater self-care and wellness, but also in their school communities to meet the unique social, emotional, academic, and mental health needs of students.

“We plan to use this funding to support the inaugural Youth Leaders Program this fall. For this particular project, we will recruit youth leaders from the New England Region and New York City, host the Youth Leaders Program, and engage in reflective analysis to develop subsequent youth leaders programs and the LiberatED curriculum. The LiberatED Youth Leaders Program is a 8-month fellowship that provides youth activists an opportunity to partner with LiberatED educators and researchers committed to creating culturally affirming school programming and evaluation.”

-Dena Simmons Ed.D

Dr. Leena Bakshi McLean

STEM4Real provides socially just and culturally relevant STEM teaching and standards-based teaching strategies through collaborative professional learning, culturally responsive instructional materials and diverse children’s literature. They focus on shifting teacher pedagogy by grounding their work with a justice centered lens that makes equity paramount in their vision.

“With this funding, we plan to leverage current STEM4Real partnerships, particularly focusing on the access of special education students. Through our facilitated Lesson Study Process (LSP), we hope to empower teachers with the tools and resources to meet the needs of diverse learners, especially those with disabilities and who come from underrepresented and under-resourced communities.”

-Dr. Leena Bakshi McLean

Dr. Charles Cole III

Dr. Charles Cole III focuses on building agency amongst the end-users of public education including students, their parents, and the community. Throughout his career, He has held roles as a social worker, a program director at prominent youth organizations, a teacher trainer and supporter, a top official in a school district, and a scholar before starting his organization.

“We have one major goal and reason for this funding–Build and execute our expansion plan worthy of our end-users.

I built this organization to serve youth like me. Youth that may have been homeless, grew up in poverty, watched their friends murdered, etc. that were tired of waiting on systems that never served us. We continue to grow this work because our team understands with profound clarity that no one or no entity is coming to save us.”

-Dr. Charles Cole III

More Info

Explore the Request for Proposals document below. Make a copy and draft your responses before navigating to the submission portal.

Submission Portal

Thank you to everyone who has submitted an application to the 2023 New Champions Fund. The application window is now closed.