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our genius team

Founder, CEO

Christina Dykes
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Christina, our founder and CEO, was a second-year kindergarten teacher who saw the sparks of imagination and genius in her students. She began to imagine an organization that would nurture those bright lights and never allow them to dim or extinguish. 

 

In her classroom, students worked hard to take on new challenges, their confidence grew when their hard work turned into success. Imagine 25 five-year olds chanting “not giving up even when it’s tough” and flexing their muscles whenever they saw their classmate working through a problem. It was amazing to witness. With the support of parents, grandparents, and a strong village, student mindsets matured and their test scores increased. This passion for educational equity and deep belief that all students can grow fueled her creation of Genius MAP. The desire to nurture the spark of students all the way through college is at the heart of our programming. 

Program Director

Meryem Tunagur
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In 2007, Meryem and her family moved to Birmingham from the Middle East. After a short adjustment period, Birmingham quickly became home and she found herself staying in the city for her Undergraduate Degree. Meryem graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2017 with a B.A in Theatre Educational Psychology; a research major she contracted which focused on theatre therapy for children and adults in marginalized
communities. Over the last eight years, Meryem has worked with many non-profit organizations. She taught theatre classes at the Dance Foundation, worked as a stage manager with local Theatres such as the Virginia Samford
Theatre, and Central Alabama Theatre, served on the Junior Board of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), and was a member of YPN Birmingham.


Over the last four and a half years, Meryem has served with the Birmingham Education Foundation (Ed). In the fall of 2018, Meryem was promoted to Community Engagement Manager. Under this role, Meryem launched three successful community engagement campaigns, such as the All In Campaign,
to better understand the needs, desires, and experiences of Birmingham City students and families. Through these campaigns and Meryem’s work, Ed was able to engage over 3,000 families and students. Since 2018,
Meryem has had to remain resilient, solution-centered, and collaborative in order to best serve families and students in the midst of a global pandemic. In the fall of 2021, Meryem shifted to the Communications and Outreach Manager. Throughout a leadership change and organizational shift, Meryem has taken on new responsibilities and realigned old ones.

 

Meryem is so excited to continue supporting Birmingham City students and families in the capacity of Program Director with Genius MAP and Camp Fire. She is elated to once again utilize her background in the arts and experience with Theatre Therapy to help students discover their creativity, grow socially and emotionally and explore through play!