Alumni Making Waves

Our Austin Community: Christian Bell Onyemali, Ph.D

Feb 7, 2021

Christian Bell Onyemali, Ph.D., Houston 2007

Nonprofit Consultant, Christian M. Bell Consulting

How are you making an impact for kids, the community, or the network?

My career in education began as a 2007 Houston corps member, teaching first grade at Coop Elementary. After my corps experience, I earned my Ph.D. from UT-Austin in Educational Policy and for the past 10+ years, I’ve worked in research, evaluation, and organizational learning at Austin ISD, Teach For America, and KIPP Texas Public Schools. In the summer of 2020, I decided to branch out on my own and start my own consulting business, cleverly named Christian M. Bell Consulting. My business helps educational- and youth-centered nonprofit leaders effectively demonstrate impact and secure more support using clear data. I understand that data is all too often seen as a dirty word, but it really is the key to serving our communities well while also garnering much needed support.

In addition to my consulting work, I am preparing to launch the nonprofit “She Needs To Know” which will feature a near-peer mentoring program for Black high school girls in Austin who would be first-generation college students. The mission of this program is to increase college attendance and graduation rates by intentionally pairing students with a mentor who looks like them, who currently attends college in Austin, who has experienced similar challenges, and who has overcome the challenges to achieve college and career success. As a first generation college graduate, this project is near and dear to my heart and I’m excited for the opportunity to work with and for Black girls to create a space that is specifically designed for them. The goal is to launch a pilot in Fall 2021

What do you hope to be true for Austin kids, community, and/or the alumni network 10 years from now?

In recent years, various programs have been implemented to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of boys of color, particularly Black boys. However equal attention has not been paid to Black girls who are overpoliced and underprotected, have increased rates of suicide, and are seen by adults as less in need of nurturing, protection, support and comfort than White girls of the same age. Given this, it is of little surprise that Black girls in Central Texas, particularly those from low-income communities, are not as successful after high school. Data from the E3 Alliance shows that less than 50% of low-income Black girls enroll in postsecondary education and only 12% actually graduate from college within six years. Quite simply, these numbers are abysmal and embarrassing. As we herald the achievements of Black women such as Stacey Abrams and Vice President Kamala Harris and champion “Black Girl Magic,” my hope is that we will enact policies and take actions that demonstrate we truly value Black girls and all the brilliance they bring to this world.

Learn more about Dr. Christian Bell Onyemali.

Nominate a TFA Austin Alumni to be highlighted as next month’s Alumni Making Waves.