By Cory Phare
Her path has been paved with service and advocacy. And now, as chief of family and community engagement for Denver Public Schools, Tameka Brigham, Ed.D., is laying the foundation for young people to run their own roads.
“Growing up a military brat, I understand the sacrifices that veterans and families make to afford opportunities for others,” says the 1999 graduate in sociology and Africana studies. “In that way, it’s part of my DNA to be aware of those who don’t have a seat at the table.”
After graduation from MSU Denver, Brigham worked for the Urban League, headed then by a pre-mayoral Michael Hancock, before jumping into the classroom to teach kindergarten and middle school social studies at DPS. She then pursued graduate school and a job with Teach for America, where she developed an even deeper commitment to the transformative power of education.
Brigham credits professors such as C.J. White, Akbarali Thobani and Rosemarie Allen as instrumental in shaping her development at MSU Denver. Their mentorship and deep ties to community engagement helped affirm her own commitment to justice-based advocacy, first as a student and later as an affiliate faculty member in Africana studies, where she still teaches.
In her current job at DPS, she works directly with people from Denver neighborhoods and elected officials to pay forward that educational experience.
“At MSU Denver, you interact with everyone from valedictorians to those taking another shot academically. It brings a richness and diversity that elevates voices,” Brigham says. “I see that alignment within DPS too, and I’m proud to be part of these organizations that share similar values.”
A champion for underrepresented communities, Brigham has been active in legislative advocacy as a co-author of the report “Keeping Up With the Kids: Increasing Minority Teacher Representation in Colorado,” which was prepared for the state’s Department of Education. Her leadership work at DPS is devoted to making sure the voices of community stakeholders are amplified so that each individual child can one day see themselves in an executive position as well.
She knows the importance of this type of role modeling from her time as a Roadrunner, as she described the power of seeing herself reflected in classroom leadership.
“Attending MSU Denver was the first time I encountered an educator of color, and that was transformative,” she says. “Now, I’m always thinking about how to pay it forward for another young person in the same way; there’s just something about picking up a book by a faculty member who looks like you.”
It’s about understanding the importance of people and place, of meeting individuals where they are to do the most good. And for the road-building Brigham, it couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
“From being a student to teaching here, I’ve always appreciated the unique opportunity MSU Denver affords,” she says. “This University will always be a part of me – it’s always been home.”
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