Background: DaWana Williamson is a partner and Chief Operating Officer at Bellwether Education Partners. She is a chemical engineer-turned-operations professional who has spent the last 15 years working for nonprofits in the education and technology sectors. DaWana has deep experience scaling operations, implementing best practices, creating infrastructure that drives process improvement, and managing change.
DaWana was formerly the senior vice president of youth development operations for the YMCA of Metro Chicago. In this role, she empowered the organization to efficiently serve Chicagoland children with high-quality educational programs such as Head Start, after-school violence prevention, and post-secondary readiness. DaWana developed and implemented a multi-year operational standardization plan and scaled youth development programming across the association. Under her leadership, the association was awarded a $1.4 million innovation grant from the MacArthur Foundation and $10 million in new funding over the course of two years.
Prior to the YMCA, DaWana was a performance management consultant with Chicago Public Schools and led efforts to institute a culture of continuous improvement within administrative departments. Working with central office leaders, she facilitated the development of policies, solutions, and best practices for schools and district administrative functions. DaWana developed the framework for the first school area data performance management session, which became a guide for future sessions at the network level.
DaWana earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Hampton University and an MBA from Indiana University. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the David Lynch Foundation, Chicago, an organization dedicated to bringing the practice of transcendental meditation to at-risk populations. She lives in Frisco, Texas.
Why I do this work: I grew up in Gary, Indiana and my mom was a teacher who ensured that I had great educators, progressive schools, and forward-thinking administrators who were invested in my success. It is very clear to me that I had this experience because of my mom and I don’t believe this kind of maneuvering should be necessary for Black and brown children to receive a high-quality education.