Get to know our new communications specialist

Get to know our new communications specialist

Forge AHEAD Center is proud to announce Chris Campos has joined the Forge AHEAD Center team as communications specialist.

Campos role is based on UAB’s campus. Prior to his new role, Campos worked at Legacy Prep Charter School in Birmingham where he managed district technology and communications, focusing on student recruitment and data management. Prior to that, he worked for Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

“My roles at Legacy Prep Charter School and Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School were pivotal in developing my expertise in brand promotion, strategic planning, and community outreach, enriched further by my skills in graphic design and data analysis to support marketing campaigns and organizational growth,” Campos says.

Campos says he enjoys the many complexities of communications work. From disseminating a groundbreaking initiative, explaining a complex solution, or making information accessible, “the success of these endeavors hinges on effective communication.”

“What I love most about working in communications is the fundamental role it plays in bridging connections between people and the resources or information they need.”

In the realm of health equity, Campos believes effective communication is essential. “It’s about ensuring that vital health information and services reach those who need them most, without barriers,” he says.

“To me, communications is not just about transmitting messages; it’s about fostering understanding, facilitating access, and ultimately, knitting together the fabric of a community by ensuring everyone is informed, involved, and empowered.”

When asked why working in health equity is meaningful to him personally, Campos replies: “Working in health equity is profoundly important and meaningful to me because it aligns with my lifelong commitment to serving the public and engaging in work that makes a tangible impact on communities. My background in non-profit settings, the public utility industry, and public education has instilled a deep appreciation for initiatives that strive for equity and access for all, particularly among underserved populations.”

Campos says the industry transition from public education to the health equity and research represents a natural extension of his desire to advocate for fairness, leveraging his experiences and growing knowledge in public health to contribute to the critical task of addressing and reducing health disparities.

“This role not only resonates with my values, Campos says, “but also offers a compelling opportunity to apply my skills in new ways, supporting efforts that ensure everyone, regardless of their background, has equal access to healthcare services and the opportunity to lead healthy lives.”

Campos, who’s native to Texas but lived in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama, says his roots run deep in the South. “I love to spend time with my wife and two-year-old son. Being a father is one of the most life-giving things I’ve ever experienced. Also, I am a distance runner and involved locally with the Birmingham Track Club. I ran my first marathon last Fall and already planning for the next. I love coffee (I’m one of those that does a pour over every morning) and spending time outside.”

We are glad to have Chris on board and welcome him whole-heartedly to the team.

Community Advisory Board member spotlight: Brooke Floyd

Community Advisory Board member spotlight: Brooke Floyd

Since January 2022, Brooke Floyd has served as a Forge AHEAD Center Community Advisory Board member, representing Jackson, Mississippi. For over 20 years, Brooke has worked in the Jackson community ensuring children are able to receive a quality education and the support they need to be successful.

Brooke is director of the JXN People’s Assembly, a program in the People’s Advocacy Institute, where she engages the community through education on issues, providing access to information and resources, facilitating People’s Assemblies, and helping the community bring proposed solutions to elected officials.

“Through People’s Assemblies true change is possible, for our communities, giving our children a fighting chance,” Brooke says.

The Forge AHEAD Center communications team sat down with Brooke to get to know her and better understand her role as a Community Advisory Board member.

Q: Tell us about your background and current work.

I worked in children’s education for over 20 years. I taught elementary school, HeadStart, and directed a children’s program at a local non-profit in Jackson called Stewpot Community Services. The program provided a free after school and summer camp for children in Jackson.

Currently, I am the Director of JXN People’s Assembly Initiatives which is a part of People’s Advocacy Institute. JXN People’s Assembly aims to increase community access to information, to government, and to increase community engagement and voice in government decisions. We hold People’s Assemblies with community to provide residents a space to receive information, discuss the issues relevant to them, and to develop solutions to solve the issues. The solutions can then be made into programs (almost all of People’s Advocacy Institute’s programs were developed through People’s Assemblies) or if needed taken to the appropriate government level to try and be made into policy.

Q: How does your work with the People’s Advocacy Institute and Stewpot align with the work of Forge AHEAD Center?

I think all three are working to help alleviate the gap between those that have and those that don’t. People’s Advocacy Institute aims to create a more just society by building community capacity and governing power through helping those who are often most harmed by an unjust system. Stewpot cares for people by providing their most basic needs, food, clothing, housing, and most importantly love.

The Forge AHEAD Center focuses on the health disparities all the groups of people PAI and Stewpot work with and provide services for. We may be in different subsets, but we are part of a much larger purpose, to help people in our area that are constantly left out of the equation. We all want to ensure that everyone is able to not only live but thrive.

Q: What excites you most about working with Forge AHEAD Center?

I love learning about the research and the potential outcomes. I am excited to see what can happen, when the right people, minds, and resources work together for the greater good.

Q: What are some of your goals within the Jackson, MS community for 2024?

There are several issues I am working on, but one main goal is to have a public water system that includes community input and supplies Jackson residents with clean drinking water.

I am also looking forward to our Youth Action Initiative which will help to train young people around the issues that are important to them and get them involved in the electoral process. Of course, I always have the goal of engaging more Jackson residents, keeping them informed and helping them to become part of the electoral process.

Community Coalition spotlight: Seven Star Academy

Community Coalition spotlight: Seven Star Academy

Seven Star Academy, Inc. a non-profit organization located in New Orleans, Louisana, is a Forge AHEAD Center Community Coalition partner.

Founded in 2018, Seven Star Academy, Inc. aims to increase the health and wellness of local communities through health literacy and education, participation in research, and healthy program enrollment.

Nelson Lemieux is the executive director of Seven Star Academy, Inc. and says that the partnership between Forge AHEAD Center and Seven Star Academy will ultimately increase the impact of their efforts. He and Dr. KiTani Lemieux, who is also a Forge AHEAD Center Community Advisory Board member, direct and manage Seven Star Academy, Inc.

Health literacy as an avenue for justice

“Seven Star Academy, Inc. works with partners that are like-minded in their missions,” says Nelson Lemieux. “Forge AHEAD is committed to improving health equity in the Deep South. Seven Star Academy is committed to addressing health disparities with a social justice lens.”

Lemieux explains that Seven Star Academy, Inc. diligently seeks like-minded organizations to partner with, and they seek social justice through health equity for those who are underrepresented in the biomedical community.

They engage underrepresented communities in science and research by enrolling participants in the All of Us Research Program, offering educational events on research participation, hosting vaccine awareness events, and more.

“Our grassroots approach in providing health literacy information and education has heightened awareness for wellness in the communities that we serve,” says Lemieux.

Looking towards the future

Increasing Seven Star Academy’s visibility and expanding reach with additional resources for community education efforts is essential to the organization.

Both Seven Star Academy, Inc. and Forge AHEAD Center are excited about the shared community partnerships. “We want to be a part of a community-driven solution that is sustainable,” Lemieux says.

Visit their Facebook page for more information.

LEAD Early Program hosts successful meeting with Birmingham partners

LEAD Early Program hosts successful meeting with Birmingham partners


Forge AHEAD Center recently partnered with the City of Birmingham Dept. of Youth Services LEAD Early Program to support community leaders as they discussed national and local solutions to close disparity gaps in maternal and child health.

The cohort of community leaders, educators and health equity champions were energized and inspiring, sharing personal stories, triumphs, and opportunities in pursuit of equitable, healthy and thriving communities for all.

Children’s of Alabama Pediatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) Director, Cynthia Jones, delivered the keynote address highlighting social determinants of health and the mental health implications for children and teens.

Forge AHEAD Center scholar, Dr. Camille Schneider Worthington, discussed her pilot project: utilizing meal delivery services for expectant mothers to reduce cardio metabolic disease.

Community Advisory Board member and JXN People’s Assembly Director, Brooke Floyd, shared her passion for providing equitable resources and advocating for families in Jackson, MS.

And, Dr. Felicia Fortune, CEO of KidsXpress Urgent Care, discussed the importance and access to routine care for children.

Rauslyn Adams, MSW, and Lorren, from Chocolate Milk Mommies, and Dalia Abrams, with Birthwell Partners discussed their work supporting expectant and breastfeeding mothers.

Community Coalition spotlight: Community Care Development Network

Community Coalition spotlight: Community Care Development Network


Forge AHEAD Center (FAC) and Community Care Development Network (CCDN) in Alabama have embarked on a collaborative partnership aimed at reshaping the landscape of food security and fostering equitable change.

CCDN is a network dedicated to helping solve community challenges such as youth peer pressure, adult conflict, communication and financial barriers, and life skills—among others—by offering support services in the areas of education, family, and community outreach.

A partnership focus on long-term change

The partnership between FAC and CCDN brings together the expertise, resources, and shared vision of two entities dedicated to uplifting communities and enhancing livelihoods.

Forge AHEAD Center’s focus on health equity research and community health aligns seamlessly with CCDN’s commitment to providing comprehensive support networks for underserved populations.

“FAC benefits and adds value to CCDN as we enter a research space for food insecurity and health disparities,” says Tamika D. Holmes, MBA, MHRM, founder and director of Community Care Development Network.

CCDN’s mission is to develop, transform, and restore life to families, adults, teens, and the community to be committed, unified, and mature. Their vision is empowering and influencing people to own their potential and create an opportunity for themselves.

When working with external partners, Holmes says one of the most important goals is to ensure external partners fit this mission and vision.

“This also helps us to determine the strength of the partnership and the output of the work both CCDN and partners have the capability to perform. Another important goal is that external partners should focus on the community’s best interests. This comes by interacting with the community to learn the best ways to serve the community.”

Working together

At the heart of the partnership lies a mutual understanding of the multifaceted challenges faced by communities—ranging from economic disparities to limited access to education and health care.

By combining strengths, Forge AHEAD Center and CCDN aim to address these challenges comprehensively, employing a holistic approach that considers the diverse needs of individuals and communities.

“We are currently operating several community food hubs in various locations of Jefferson County and one in Blount County,” says Holmes. “The growth towards research will help us provide better quality of food in the locations that are food insecure. In addition, the community engagement component helps voices to be heard clearly.”

Moreover, the collaboration extends beyond education, encompassing health care initiatives and social support systems. CCDN’s experience in providing services dovetails with Forge AHEAD Center’s mission to ensure access to quality health care for all. Together, they will strive to bridge gaps in healthcare access.

Shared commitment for the future

The synergy between Forge AHEAD Center and CCDN signifies a shared commitment healthy futures for all communities.

“CCDN is in the process of introducing our food insecurity project to various partners, including FAC,” says Holmes. “We are excited about the continued progress of meeting the community’s needs in this capacity, as we know that food is a primary need. We look forward to many robust conversations on how to make an impact in the food insecurity arena.”

As this partnership continues to evolve, its impact reverberates through communities, creating a brighter, more inclusive future. By working hand in hand, Forge AHEAD Center and CCDN exemplify the profound impact that collaboration and shared vision can have in building stronger, more resilient communities for generations to come.