Carlisha Williams Bradley of ImpactTulsa: ‘Access to high-quality education for all students is one of the greatest civil rights issues’

1. Can you explain ImpactTulsa and the work you do?


ImpactTulsa is a collective impact organization that works with school districts, nonprofit organizations, businesses and civic leaders in support of a high-quality education for all students. We do this by measuring what matters, sharing best practices and aligning resources with the goal of policy and systemic change to better serve Tulsa’s students.


ImpactTulsa’s partnership aligns 15 public school districts and community leaders across the Tulsa area around data that shows opportunities for immediate action. The organization focuses on six education outcomes including kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, high school graduation, and postsecondary entry and completion.




2. You have experience working in traditional public schools and public charter schools. Why is education a passion of yours?


From a young age, my family instilled in me the importance of education. The historical context of the disenfranchisement of African-Americans to educational opportunities was highlighted for me as a child and made a profound impact on my life.


My grandfather Mose Jones had an eighth-grade education and worked as a sharecropper in Louisiana. However, he was one of my greatest champions for pursuing higher education. After detailing memories of the racism and segregation he endured growing up in the South, he told me, “Carlisha, you can’t fight injustice with your fists — you have to fight with your mind.”


I continue to believe access to high-quality education for all students is one of the greatest civil rights issues that we face in our country. Therefore, I passionately remain in this work from serving as a teacher, counselor, administrator, superintendent and nonprofit leader to work towards systemic change for children.


3. What is the biggest issue in education right now that no one is talking about?


Often our conversation about education can be solely focused on the test scores. We need to have more conversations and strategic planning about additional needs that have an impact on student learning.


According to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, 54 percent of all Oklahoma children ages 0-17 are exposed to at least one adverse childhood experience, such as poverty, violence in the home, incarcerated parent(s), death of a parent/guardian, etc. These experiences that extend far beyond the walls of the classroom have significant effects on student achievement.


4. You also founded a nonprofit, Women Empowering Nations. Can you talk about what that organization does and the idea behind it?


Women Empowering Nations is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide exposure and mentorship for girls of color in underserved communities to develop them into socially conscious global leaders.


Women Empowering Nations partners with schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Houston to provide self-esteem and leadership development programming to cohorts of middle school girls through the Girls Leading Our World Program. Through the monthly advisory curriculum, quarterly leadership sessions, and virtual component, girls have access to videos, lessons, and resources aligning to personal growth, social/emotional intelligence, career development, and global awareness.


5. Who had the biggest impact on your life and why?


My parents, Carl and Marie Williams, have had the biggest impact on my life. It is hard for me to choose one because they have been a dynamic team that developed me into the woman I am today.


My father was also an educator who sparked my love for the classroom with his love for education, mentorship of his students, his unwavering belief and the high expectations he set for them. My mother has been my biggest cheerleader encouraging me to follow my passion and take big leaps of faith to chase my dreams. I am grateful to be the perfect combination of them both.