redefinED atlanta Announces Ayana Gabriel as Its New Board of Directors Chair-Elect

Denesha Thompson Joins redefinED atlanta as Director of Public Engagement and Advocacy

ATLANTA – (June 22, 2021)redefinED atlanta, an education nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that every student in Atlanta has the opportunity to attend a great public school, today announced Ayana Gabriel has been selected as its new Board Chair-elect, effective January 2022, and that it has added Denesha Thompson to its staff as the Director of Public Engagement and Advocacy.

“We are excited to welcome Denesha to our team, as she brings many talents gleaned from her years in the classroom, as a teacher-leader and family liaison, and a social justice activist that will help us continue our community outreach and advocacy,” said Ed Chang, executive director of redefinED atlanta. “We are also very thankful to the continued support of our Board of Directors and look forward to working even more closely with Ayana and the other members as we enter this next phase of our growth.”

Ayana Gabriel, a founding redefinED atlanta board member since 2016, is the vice president of community impact for the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta. Until recently, she was the senior program officer for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation where she managed work around social justice issues and led education initiatives including grant funding. Gabriel also worked at Teach for America where she oversaw diversity and education strategy, was a science teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, and was a chemical engineer after graduating college. She has served as president of the Westview Community Organization, and is community representative for the Atlanta Beltline, Inc. Gabriel graduated from Spelman College and the Georgia Institute of Technology with dual bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering.

Gabriel will succeed Dena Kimball, executive director of the Kendeda Fund, who is the founding board Chair (2016-2021). Other changes include current board member ChipGross, managing director of BrightHouse, a Boston Consulting Group company, taking on the role of Secretary and founding board members Staci Lynch (Secretary 2016-2020) and Kim Anderson (Vice Chair, 2016-2020) both stepping down from their officer roles. Kimball, Lynch and Anderson all have graciously agreed to remain as directors on the board. Hunter Pierson, III, vice president at Goldman Sachs & Co., will continue serving as Treasurer.

redefinED atlanta’s newest staff member, Denesha Thompson, joined the organization in early June as its Director of Public Engagement and Advocacy. In this role, she is responsible for engaging K-12 public education stakeholders, growing programs, and developing leadership initiatives to advance redefinED atlanta’s mission.

Prior to joining redefinED atlanta, Denesha worked with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools as a classroom teacher, teacher leader and family engagement liaison. She has been recognized for her work in education and social justice, and was admitted into the Philadelphia Chapter of New Leaders Council and the KIPP Philadelphia Schools Emerging Leaders Program. Denesha is also the Co-Founder of Speak Up Lace Em Up, a community policing initiative. She is a graduate of Howard University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education and a Master of Arts in Education Policy and Leadership from American University.

Additionally, redefinED atlanta is pleased to announce the promotion of  Mary-Kate Starkel, CFRE, from Director of Development to Vice President of Development. Mary-Kate has been integral in creating and managing the organization’s $7 million annual fund development strategy.


About redefinED atlanta:

redefinED atlanta is a growing collective of civic leaders and philanthropists passionate about and invested in transforming Atlanta into a place where every student in every community has the opportunity to attend a great K-12 public school. For more information on redefinED atlanta, please visit