Opportunity 180 is proud to welcome fellows into the second cohort of its Design to Edrupt “Explore” fellowship. Design to Edrupt looks to disrupt the current educational landscape by surfacing and supporting education leaders from underrepresented backgrounds and helping to reimagine the future of learning. During the fellowship, individuals will have the opportunity to explore the idea of designing and launching a new learning environment, such as a school or program. Explore is the first of three stages in the Design to Edrupt fellowship.

This year’s Explore cohort is comprised of four educational leaders, all with the goal of launching new learning environments to improve student outcomes, providing pathways for great ideas to lead to great schools and programs that impact student success.

These fellows were selected based on their commitment to continuing their professional development in the following areas: Entrepreneurial Mindset, People Leadership, Strategic and Operational Leadership, as well as Instructional Leadership. 

 “Our fellows’ diverse leadership matched with the development this opportunity offers will help create new learning environments our students, educators, and families deserve,” said Tamara Shear, Chief Program Officer for Opportunity 180.  

The “Design to Edrupt” Fellowship was built from Moonshot edVentures, which was designed and launched in Denver, CO in 2017. This fellowship is invested in educational design, new learning strategies, as well as the needs of students and families and has supported more than 100 leaders in six cohorts, with 25 ventures formally launched. 

The core values the fellowship represents are respect, trust, love, equity, collaboration, and paying it forward. The fellows will co-create a classroom or learning environment that challenges traditional education using a liberatory approach. The liberatory approach includes practicing empathy and problem-solving to help others understand equity values, awareness, as well as the impact of one’s own beliefs and biases. 

Fellows will also have access to community leaders for support in order to launch their school programs. Design to Edrupt’s Explore cohort will culminate with the Showcase event later this year, when fellows will present their finalized school concepts to community leaders and stakeholders. 

We are excited and honored to announce the 2023 Cohort for the Design to Edrupt Explore Fellowship:


Akiko-Ayalla Cooks

Middle School Teacher

Venture: Liberated Minds Community Liberation School 

Grade Level(s) Served: 6-8 


Akiko-Ayalla Cooks, mother of three, left her native California in 2006 to move to Las Vegas, Nevada. She completed training as a psychiatric technician, and was set to pursue what she thought was her calling as the founder, owner, and operations executive of two large behavioral treatment facilities. Unfortunately, in 2019, photos of her son and other Black student at his school were targeted on social media, calling her into action to co-found NO Racism in Schools #1865 with a fellow parent. 

From the efforts of No Racism in Schools #1865, legislation was passed in 2021 to require any racially motivated incidents to be reported as well as an anti-racism policy in Clark County School District. Cooks has received recognition from organizations such as American University and the Southern Poverty Law Center for her involvement in equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. 

Fun Fact About Akiko-Ayalla: She has been swimming since she was six months old, when her dad was the only father in the “Mommy and Me” swim class.

Connect with Akiko-Ayalla!

Earl Turner III


Venture: Integrated Technology, Entrepreneurship & Policy (iTEP) Public Schools (Charter School) 

Grade Level(s) Served: K-8


Earl Turner III holds a BA in Business Administration from Nebraska Wesleyan University, an MA in Digital Learning from Loyola Marymount University, and a Doctorate of Education from Johns Hopkins University. Turner currently conducts research regarding equity in K-12 schools, and he is an associate consultant and founding member for a 12-member innovation team that developed a new instructional technology program set to be released in Spring of 2023. He has also spearheaded the development of a research platform to analyze students’ digital behaviors. He has led the development of digital animations, been the lead author and principal investigator on six research studies with large school districts, sat on numerous charter school boards, and used his experience in business and education to build social impact on education policy in Los Angeles. 

Turner has founded organizations that focus on restorative justice, such as the Angelenos Organizing for Education (AO4E). He has worked as a policy analyst for LAUSD’s school board president, as well as analyzing expenditures for the district’s $7.6 billion budget. Mr. Turner has drafted a research report highlighting factors driving down achievement in mathematics. His proudest accomplishment however, was building a construction company in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.  

Fun Fact About Earl: He drove over one million miles between 2002 and 2013. 

Connect with Earl!

Erik Simpkins

Educator & Youth Mentor 

Venture: Achievement Now! (Program) 

Grade Level(s) Served: 3-8 


Erik Alexander Simpkins is an educator who wears many hats. He is an 8th grade history and geography teacher for Clark County School District, an instructor with the Workforce Development Department at the College of Southern Nevada’s Adult Career Education Services, as well as an afterschool Youth Mentor for the City of Las Vegas’ Youth Development & Social Innovation. 

Simpkins has 17 years of teaching experience, as well as prior experience working as a Curriculum Coordinator, Lead Teacher, School Improvement Team Member, and Non-Profit Board Member. He has extensive training in technologies such as effective Professional Learning Communities (PLC), Response to Instruction (RTI), data driven decision making using MAP metrics, and Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT). 

Fun Fact About Erik: He loves Led Zeppelin.

Connect with Erik!

Leondrus Wright

Elementary School Teacher & Executive Chef

Venture: Purpose Academy for Young Men 

Grade Levels Served: 3-12 


Leondrus Tramaine Wright is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, with a daughter named A’kalia. He is a 4th grade teacher at Ann Lynch Elementary School in Clark County School District. He has a BA in Political Science from Morris College, an MA in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Bowling Green State University, an Associates in Applied Science in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute, and a MA of Education in Curricular Instruction from UNLV. 

Wright has worked in restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and catering companies in North and South Carolina as an Executive Chef. He is a proud member of organizations such as Co-Founding and Brothers with Purpose, which promotes and uplifts Black men. 

Fun Fact About Leondrus: He is an amazing chef.

Connect with Leondrus!


Interested in participating in a future cohort of Design to Edrupt? Click here to connect with our team and learn more!