Delmar DivINe Continues Strengthening Connections for TFA Alumni in St. Louis
One of the best parts of being an equity-oriented organization in St. Louis is witnessing the power of community in real-time.
January 10, 2023
TFA St. Louis can attest to experiencing the joys of sharing space with likeminded changemakers who consistently strive to meet the needs of families in our region.
Thanks to Maxine Clark, the opening of Delmar DivINe centers the collaborative efforts of individuals living and leading in St. Louis. The building is home to a number of local nonprofits, many of which have Teach For America’s alumni as staff members.
Check out the second half of our two-part series for details that call attention to the incredible work of more TFA alumni in our region.
Meet Jasmyne Clay-Griffin (STL ‘03) - Family Engagement Consultant, KIPP St. Louis
When it comes to education, Jasmyne Clay-Griffin of KIPP St. Louis believes in relationship-building and steadfast, proactive practices. Born and raised in St. Louis, she first heard about Teach For America while attending Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana and after being accepted into the program, she focused on special education for her corps teaching experience. She admits to not knowing how impactful the opportunity would be in her life at the time.
“As a young inner city youth who lived in poverty-rich areas and went to schools that may not have always been the best,” said Jasmyne, “I love that TFA’s mission is to effect change in communities like the one I grew up in. Without their support, I wouldn’t have found myself in the field of special education.”
After her corps teaching experience, Jasmyne continued being impactful in the classroom. She taught at Vashon High School (2003-2007), Roosevelt High School (2007-2010) and Mullanphy Elementary School (2010-2014) before heading to KIPP St. Louis Public Schools in 2019. During the 2020-21 school year, she was also a participant in TFA St. Louis’ Aspiring School Leaders Fellowship (ASLF) cohort, a program that helps educators cultivate skills that positively influence student outcomes and educational equity, and supports them in advancing on a pathway to school leadership.
“I was honored to have that chance to reflect on myself,” Jasmyne said, “and learning to understand that you can be a leader in a lot of things.”
The leadership skills she honed helped her land a crucial role with Activate STL, a parent advocacy organization that provides various resources and training to parents of students in the charter school community. Soon after, she served as a special education teacher and a Family Engagement Specialist for KIPP St. Louis High School until she was promoted to the role of Family Engagement Consultant where she enjoys delving into collaborative work that brings joy to the region’s school families.
“As a mom of a child with special needs,” said Jasmyne, “I’m fortunate to be able to see special education from both a teacher and case manager lens, as well as from a parent’s perspective. What makes the opportunity even sweeter is being able to frequently connect with individuals who work alongside KIPP at Delmar DivINe–particularly familiar faces who also happen to be TFA alum.”
Jasmyne credits Teach For America with helping her find her life’s mission. She emphasizes the importance of making the world a more joyous place. Above all, she hopes she can encourage others to live out loud and turn their passion into purpose, the same way TFA was once her source of inspiration.
“Teach for America brought awareness of inclusion and equity to the forefront of my mind, and I lead with love and acceptance for all. I believe that all children have the ability to achieve their dreams with a positive attitude and caring adults in their lives.”
Meet Allie Cicotte (STL ‘11) - Director of Programs, The Clark-Fox Family Foundation
Allie Cicotte has a love for language. She was majoring in German and Spanish at Truman State University when she first heard about Teach For America. Her interest in teaching a foreign language compelled her to seize the moment.
“I thought TFA would be an interesting opportunity for me to join the classroom in a non-traditional way,” said Allie.
After being accepted into the program, she first taught K-8 Spanish at Confluence Aspire Academy where she was fortunate to have the guidance of another TFA Alum, Greg Hill (STL ‘08), and then transitioned to teaching Kindergarten. Allie also taught Kindergarten at Confluence Academy - Old North.
Although she credits both teaching experiences for providing her with essential lessons, Allie hit a crossroads where she was trying to figure out whether she wanted to continue teaching or be impactful to students in another way. In 2014, she started working for the Clark-Fox Foundation, an organization (founded by husband and wife team, Maxine Clark and Bob Fox) that prioritizes the needs of students in St. Louis through research, program development and investments.
She’s currently the Director of Programs, overseeing new and engaging initiatives that come to the foundation.
“I get to work for two incredibly magnetic and bold leaders in our community who I enjoy learning from everyday,” said Allie, “Every child’s needs are different and in speaking with Bob and Maxine, and all the kids they’ve mentored, it makes it easier to approach what I do with this passion that helps make opportunities more accessible for children and their families.”
Allie’s plans to make brighter futures for students from outside the classroom go hand-in-hand with her genuine admiration for Delmar DivINe and its role as a community connector.
“There’s something very unique about organizations that are located in a shared space,” Allie said. “The level of connection here means you’re less likely to have the awkwardness of sending a cold email to someone you don’t know very well. You can just invite someone to get coffee or run into them somewhere in the building and dive into conversations that stir rich collaborations.”
For Allie, some of those daily interactions supported her leading the Clark-Fox Foundation’s Ecosystem Mapping, a visual representation that shows the connection between several initiatives and resources across the region addressing core issues, like homelessness, immigration and child wellbeing. The Clark-Fox Foundation works closely with Teach For America St. Louis to update the visual, a partnership that helps Allie see how many TFA alumni in St. Louis stay in education and also, how many of them actively participate in making the city a better place for young people.
“It’s great to see that after our 2-yr commitment with Teach For America, we’re all still compelled to answer the call to make change in our communities, whether we’re in or outside the classroom.”
Meet Paula Langley (NY ‘12) - Senior Project Manager, IFF
Paula Langley first became familiar with Teach For America when she was attending Marygrove College as an undergraduate. She applied and upon acceptance into the corps, she taught kindergarten at Excellence Boys, an all-boys charter school in New York City.
After teaching for five years, Paula completed the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs in 2017. Three of the 12 St. Louis fellows were TFA alum, and in her first placement, she worked with the Clark-Fox Foundation, with Allie Cicotte (STL ‘11) as her direct supervisor. The program sparked an interest in working with macro-level organizations that were on the ground in education and had a broader view of the sector. IFF, the largest Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the Midwest that serves as a financial lender to many nonprofits and service providers across the region, appeared to be the right fit.
“My time with IFF affords me the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Delmar DivINe,” said Paula, “and I’m noticing as more people move in, the interaction becomes more frequent. The events here have been super effective and helps with meeting folks. It’s nice to see it being built out in a very intentional way.”
Paula’s responsibility as a Senior Project Manager at IFF requires her to support work that bolsters education-focused nonprofits. She’s also pursuing a PhD program Education Policy and Equity (EPE) at Saint Louis University where 5 of 7 members in her cohort are TFA alums.
“It’s a small world in that way,” Paula said. “I still have a few close friends from Coro who are also TFA alum that I keep in touch with. I’m open to meeting more TFA alum and knowing more about where they’re at now in their lives and careers during future events. Dan Huebner (STL ‘09, Managing Director, Leadership Development and Career Support at TFA St. Louis) was super helpful when I first moved to St. Louis by connecting me with the network in this region.”
Thanks to Delmar DivINe’s inception, many TFA alumni continue to work alongside each other. Collectively, they take advantage of opportunities that connect them to a mission bigger than themselves – a daily goal with deep-rooted benefits.