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Design Residency is a ten-month, part-time program, that provides participants with customized coaching, tools, and financial support to scale and implement innovative and equity-centered solutions to DC’s most pressing educational challenges.

Tia Bell Headshot

Tia Bell, The T.R.I.G.G.E.R Project

The Entrepreneur
Tia Bell became familiar with the struggles of at-risk youth early in life as the oldest child of an adolescent mother in Washington, DC. Overpowered by crime, defeat, and disadvantage, Tia lived seven out of 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) before the age of 10. By the age of 17, gun violence caused dozens of loved ones pain or silence including her mother, who is a survivor, and her late uncle. In Tia’s determination to find significance in life’s pain she found peace on the basketball court, winning Gatorade Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007 while attending HD Woodson Senior High School. She also earned an invitation to serve as a scholastic member of the Wolfpack Women’s Basketball Club.

Today, Tia has gained meaningful experience in undergraduate admissions, college access, school counseling, coaching, and gun violence prevention. As the Founder of FOuR, LLC and The T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Project, she lives to prevent gun violence through the intersection of positive youth development, public health, and cultural responsiveness.

The Venture
In the District of Columbia, Wards 7 and 8 are experiencing an epidemic of youth violence and gun violence. While many programs in the city provide direct services or violence interruption, our city currently lacks true primary prevention programs that address root causes by building youth resources and skills and engaging youth as change agents.

The True Reasons I Grabbed the Gun Evolved from Risks (T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Project) is a nonprofit focused on addressing root causes that create a culture of violence among our city’s youth. In partnership with the Marion S. Berry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP), T.R.I.G.G.E.R hosts paid summer employment positions that support youth with resources to participate and discover alternatives to using gun violence to solve emotional conflict or social issues.

Laurel Djoukeng Headshot

Laurel Djoukeng, Sparc

The Entrepreneur
Laurel Djoukeng was born in Washington, DC, and raised in the Metropolitan area. He attended undergrad at Hampton University and then earned his MBA at Duke University where he founded Sparc, The People-Centric Marketplace.

In 2011, Laurel founded the Catalyst Network Foundation Inc.(CNF), a 501(c)(3) social enterprise devoted to year-round professional development and college preparatory workshops for thousands of students which include: partnerships with 21 high schools, 35 community organizations, and 20 Fortune 500 corporations; fundraising corporate donations over $220,000.00; and managing a team of 16 volunteers, 8 board members, and 2 education program managers. In 2013, Djoukeng established; Distant Relatives, the 300+ membership includes Grammy Award-winning singers and entrepreneurs, among other professions.

In August of 2016, Hampton University honored Mr. Djoukeng as one of the members of the Inaugural Class of Hampton University’s Forty under 40 for leading the way in business, leadership, community, and educational and philanthropic works. Laurel Djoukeng was one of Black Enterprise Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction Features: showcasing 100 diverse men of color who have done exceptional work.

The Venture
Sparc is a social network that connects college students/professionals with job opportunities, employer recruiting events, and networking opportunities. The companies on Sparc arrange recruiting events on-demand with collegiate and professional organizations and vice-versa.

On Sparc, professionals and college students monetize their knowledge and expertise on-demand.

Headshots for Noah Dougherty and Dan Englender side by side

Noah Dougherty and Dan Englender, Relevant Learner

The Entrepreneurs
Noah Dougherty passionately believes that all students deserve to see a part of themselves in their school work. He was a teacher for eight years before working as an instructional coach and school leader. He has written curriculum for public districts, charter organizations, and for-profit companies and most recently worked as an education consultant, partnering with districts across the country. He is the co-founder and CEO of Relevant Learner, a culturally relevant curriculum tool that was a semi-finalist in the GSV Cup, the world’s largest EdTech pitch competition.

Dan Englender is the co-founder and CTO of Relevant Learner. Dan began coding in high school, writing well-known software for Texas Instruments graphing calculators. He got a degree in computer science, worked for an educational technology company, and was a PhD candidate at Georgia Tech in computer human interaction before leaving to join Teach For America. Dan is currently the COO and CFO at DC Prep, the third-largest CMO in Washington, DC.

The Venture
Relevant Learner connects students with locally and culturally relevant content. We source diverse and empowering content from expert community institutions and then make it simple for educators to find, personalize, and share that content with students. Relevant Learner has two tools; a browser for teachers to help them find and customize content for their entire class and an adaptive curriculum tool that personalizes content for every student. We believe that ensuring every student sees a part of themselves in their school work is key to creating truly meaningful and inclusive learning experiences.

Vanessa Douyon Headshot

Vanessa Douyon, Polyglot Tot

The Entrepreneur
Vanessa Douyon is a bilingual mom of two and a seasoned educator who left her role as a Partner at a consulting firm to launch The Polyglot Tot. Vanessa brings deep education experience as a former teacher, curriculum designer, early learning center advisor, and school system executive. She holds her MBA from the University of Chicago.

Together with her husband, Stefan Lallinger, they are jumping hurdles to make their heritage languages—German, Haitian Creole, and French—accessible to their two tots, and want to make it easier for other families to do the same.

The Venture
The Polyglot Tot creates tools to help parents pass on a heritage language to their little ones.

We focus on families of kids birth to age three, when most language development happens and where resources are at their slimmest.

Speaking a second language can ignite kids’ success—it leads to higher academic achievement and increases empathy for people of different backgrounds, something sorely needed today. But for a kid whose identity is tied to language— it’s about understanding your roots and having a strong sense of self. From personal experience, it changes your world and where you think you can go in it.

Headshot for Toni Barton

Toni Barton, Spelligent

The Entrepreneur

Toni Barton is a nationally recognized leader and champion of equitable educational systems in support of all learners, specifically exceptional learners. Prior to founding Spelligent, Toni founded and designed the Inclusive Schools Leadership Institute (ISLI) at Relay Graduate School of Education. In her capacity at Relay, Toni trained and coached state, district, and school-level leaders all across the country. Under her leadership, ISLI was one of the highest rated programs at Relay leading to Toni receiving Relay’s equity award in 2020. In her capacity at Relay, Toni built a highly sought after leadership framework, outlining the core pillars necessary to drive outcomes for exceptional learners, the Inclusive Culture framework. Toni’s program was featured by the Center for Learner Equity as a leading program in leadership development around inclusive practices. In 2021, the Center for Learner Equity named Toni as one of sixteen “Beacons” in the special education sector, individuals who have demonstrated exemplary efforts to educate students with disabilities.

As a result of Toni’s success, Toni was asked to serve as a state-level coach and working group leader for the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Advancing Inclusive Principal Leadership initiative. In that role, Toni served as a state coach for Arkansas and Washington, D.C. helping cross-sector state teams to develop statewide strategic plans around improving inclusive practices.

Toni is a former principal and charter network director who started her career as a special education teacher in Washington, D.C. Public Schools. Toni holds a Master of Arts in Teaching – Special Education, Juris Doctor, and Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems.

The School

Spelligent Schools is a student-centered learning community where every student has an experience and is a part of a community that centers their identity; is rigorous, accessible, and engaging; and where they thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

Spelligent does this by ensuring all academic, culture, and data systems are designed at the margins, they are designed to meet the needs of students historically underserved or unseen in school. The environment and systems are grounded in high expectations and personalization; students, educators and families understand each individual learner’s unique profile so that learner variability is celebrated and affirmed; and the holistic wellness of both students and educators is at the center.


Design Fellowship participants receive customized tools, coaching, and financial support to design, test, adapt, and scale a right-sized pilot solution.

Spring 2022 Cohort

Authors Among Us
Team Lead: Tameca Wood, Founder
Project Area: Venture

Cardozo Education Campus
Team Lead: Destinee Hodge, Assistant Principal
Project Area: Social and Emotional Well-being of Secondary Students

Eaton Elementary School
Team Lead: Page Dance, Assistant Principal
Project Area: Evidence-Based Instruction in Early Literacy

Effective Intervention Services, LLC
Team Lead: Ruth Foster, CEO
Project Area: New Start Charter

Effective to Great Education
Team Lead: Laura Thomas, Founder
Project Area: Venture

Global Girls Academy
Team Lead: Iesha Caisey, Director of Culture
Project Area: Social and Emotional Well-being of Secondary Students

H.D. Cooke Elementary School
Team Lead: Brittany Skipper, Assistant Principal
Project Area: Evidence-Based Instruction in Early Literacy

Kramer Middle School
Team Lead: Gary Gareth, Assistant Principal
Project Area: Social and Emotional Well-being of Secondary Students

Legends Charter School
Team Lead: Atasha James, Co-Founder and CEO
Project Area: New Start Charter

Raising a Village Foundation
Team Lead: Jaleesa Hall, Founder and CEO
Project Area: Venture

The Social Justice School and Gray Matter Consulting
Team Lead: Michele Gray, Director of Student Support and Literacy
Project Area: Social and Emotional Well-being of Secondary Students

Fall 2022 Cohort

Heru Academy
Team: Dr. Paris Gasque, CEO, and Mark Nash, Founder
Track: New Start Charter

Ludlow-Taylor Elementary
Team: Natalie Ejechi, Assistant Principal, David Bain, Teacher, Rodney Parker, Teacher
Track: School Transformation

Team: Stephanie Renee Young, KIPP College Prep, Principal
Track: Venture

“The Den” STEM Space
Team: Britney Wray, Director of Math, Leading Educators
Track: Venture

Thomas Elementary
Team: Chris Miller, Assistant Principal, and Diane Johnson, Instructional Coach
Track: School Transformation


Design Studio, our two-part introductory workshop, brings together innovative educators and entrepreneurs to learn the fundamentals of equitable design, build equity-centered solutions, and collaborate around a shared vision for a more excellent, equitable education for all students.

  • Alicia McBurnie
  • Amari Smith
  • Andrea Evans
  • Arielle Andrews
  • Asha Aravindakshan
  • Ayize Sabater
  • Briana Williams
  • Carletta Hurt
  • Chanaé Norvell
  • Chuchun Tsai
  • Dana Bogle
  • Dareon Amaru
  • David Trigaux
  • Devin James
  • Ebonnie Clark
  • E.Sean Lanier
  • Fabiola Morino
  • Heather Cain
  • Homer Thomas
  • Jahmal Lake
  • Jeronique Bartley
  • Justin Rydstrom
  • Katie Soffer
  • Kenvin Lacayo
  • Kina Gee
  • Lashaunda Robinson
  • LaTanya White
  • Laura Fitzgerald
  • Lindsay Black
  • Lisa Bochey
  • Lizmarie Carter
  • Marcus Wilson
  • Melissa Vandenbussche
  • Mike Jacobs
  • Monica Freeman Lewis
  • Natalie Carter
  • Nicole Bodner
  • Niketha McKenzie
  • Oluwakayode Adebowale
  • Ruth Foster
  • Sandy El-Rayes
  • Sanjay Mitchell
  • Sara Arranz
  • Shanelle Roberson
  • Shannon Wilkerson
  • Shekinah Hockenhull
  • Sundai Riggins
  • Tameca Wood
  • Tyra Beamon
  • Wendy McBurney
  • Yolanda Whitted