About Tandra Birkett
Tandra Birkett was born and raised in the South Bronx of New York City. Growing up during the rise of the crack epidemic, Tandra saw first hand the violence of that era with the murder of two close friends and many others who were sent to prison. In an effort to understand the condition of the youth, at age 17 Tandra, wrote a paper for her government class entitled “Why Youth Commit Violent Crimes?” It was then that her passion for youth and the community was sparked.
During her college career Tandra was faced with the challenge of becoming a single mother. However, she turned this obstacle into a motivation and was determined to beat the odds and smash the statistics about African American single mothers. As Tandra approached every hurdle life would bring she would say to herself, “I Am Not Going Out Like That!” With the support of her family Tandra graduated from New York University with a B.A. in Political Science (with a concentration in Speech Communication) and became a New York City High School History teacher at the age of 22. Her experience as a single mother broadened her passion to include the needs of single mothers. And as an educator she recognized that to save our children we must also address the needs of the family and the community. For the past 20 years Tandra has used education to affect change for the youth and the community. She believes that “Education is the first form of Action!”
In 2004, Tandra graduate from New York Theological Seminary with a Master's in Divinity with a concentration on At-Risk and Urban Ministry. The following year Tandra Birkett founded the Refuge Youth Development Corporation. The Refuge has started two programs: Fresh Single Mothers Development Fellowship and Fresh Girls Leadership Program. Together with her daughter, Tandra started a fashion design firm, Yvonne Jewnell New York. Every year Yvonne Jewnell designs sponsors a fashion exhibition with the goal of creating a platform for young fashion designers and entrepreneurs to showcase their talent and build their careers.
During her tenure in the New York City Department of Education, Tandra worked to extend education beyond core academics. She piloted the first Empowering Boys class in the NYC Department of Education sponsored by Scholastic Books Inc., focusing the history and literature curriculum on the needs of black and latino boys. As a Lead Teacher, Tandra has provided professional development and mentorship in teacher training. Through the Conflict Resolution Program in the Bronx, Tandra is a certified New York State conflict resolution specialist. As part of this initiative, she created a mediation center in South Bronx High School, working to reduce gang and school violence. Because of this, Tandra received the NYC Dept. of Education Bronx Superintendent Leadership Award. In addition for the past 5 years Tandra has served as Life Skills Trainer for the Transition to Adulthood Program for WildCat Service Corporation a Divison of FedCap. Tandra is currently a student in the ED. M. program at Teachers College Columbia University, on her way to a Ph.D.
In addition to her formal education, she attended Columbia University Business School Institute for Not-for-Profit Management and completed the Ventures in Education Systems Corporation Leadership Program and received certification in the Professional Development Program and the Public Foundation for Education Certification. Ms. Birkett is a NAYAC certified Youth Prison Chaplain. Tandra also co-wrote the high school curriculum for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in the landmark case on equal funding for NYC schools. And, she is honored to be a recipient of the Volunteer Service Award from the Office of The President of The United States.
Tandra has served her community as an educator, entrepreneur, workshop presenter, motivational speaker, organizer, friend, and mentor to young people. Her role as an educator has grown beyond the youth to include fellow educators, parents, colleges, churches, prisons, and community organizations.
A major initiative of Tandra Birkett is to use communication as a method to educate the minds of a generation- to transform their lives to receive a FRESH START.