LaTasha Jones Adams

LaTasha Jones Adams: Georgia

LaTasha is an educator and educational consultant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Spelman College, a master’s degree in education from Cambridge College and a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and daughter and relaxing at day spas.

LaTasha’s project: Increase kindergarten literacy readiness awareness for parents and other community leaders with the goal of impacting students’ future academic success.


Jason B. Allen: Georgia

Jason is a family and community engagement specialist in Atlanta Public Schools. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of West Georgia and is a 12-year educator certified in economic development, community engagement and family engagement. When not blogging, training and building awareness of critical social issues, he enjoys spending time with family and loved ones.

Jason’s project: Jason will build a family and community advocacy training program to increase parental involvement, build economic development opportunities and ensure that communities strive so families survive.


Melody Arabo

Melody Arabo: Michigan

Melody is a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary in the Walled Lake School District and author of the Chaldean for Kids book series and Diary of a Real Bully picture book. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum, both from Michigan State University. In her rare moments of spare time, she enjoys going out to dinner with family and friends or lounging on the couch watching mindless reality TV shows.

Melody’s project: Create a statewide teacher leadership fellowship that inspires teachers to engage beyond their schools and provides them with tools and opportunities to influence education policy.


Steven Benson

Steven Benson: Michigan

Steven is a teacher in Detroit Public Schools, where he teaches creative writing and serves as an instructional coach. He is a proud University of Michigan graduate (go blue!) and enjoys spending his free time watching reality television. Steven has tried out for the TV show Survivor more than thirteen times and is waiting for his lucky break!

Steven’s project: Reform the school closure process in Detroit Public Schools by bringing together community stakeholders to make the most informed and student-focused decision possible.


Emmanuel Caudillo

Emmanuel Caudillo: Washington, DC

Emmanuel has worked on education policy in the US federal government for the past eight years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Southern California and a master’s of public policy degree from The George Washington University. In his spare time, he likes to go bicycling around the DC region and travel around the world.

Emmanuel’s project: Create a community schools working group in Washington, DC. to integrate academics, health and social services, youth development and community engagement to improve student outcomes.


Ashely Dickerson

Ashely Dickerson: Arizona

Ashely serves as a systems design and communications specialist with a local government agency. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social and cultural foundations in education from the University of Arizona. When not serving her community and advocating for Arizona’s students and teachers, she enjoys pinning new projects on Pinterest, binge-watching reruns of her favorite shows and spending quality time with family and friends.

Ashely’s project: Ashely will organize a cohort of beginning educators in Phoenix to participate in learning on various topics, including culturally responsive pedagogy, trauma-informed care, effective relationship building with colleagues, self-care and coping.


Shanté Elliott

Shanté Elliott: North Carolina

Shanté is an educational site coordinator at a nonprofit organization that facilitates freshmen intervention programs focused on reducing dropout statistics in Chicago Public Schools. She holds bachelor’s degrees in English language & literature and communication from Fayetteville State University, a graduate degree from Wake Forest University and is completing her master’s in education policy from Loyola University Chicago. In her spare time, Shanté enjoys watching documentaries, writing music, blogging and cooking new and fun cuisines.

Shanté’s project: Shanté wants to help youth in foster care graduate high school. She plans to engage current and potential foster parents with training on best education practices to help support the educational needs of their foster child and also offer foster youth the academic, social and emotional support they need to succeed in school.


Verndrey Elliott: New Jersey

Verndrey is an education advocate in Newark, New Jersey. She is passionate about engaging parents in their children’s education to equalize the lives of low-income and working class families. Verndrey believes in the importance of being supportive and active in her own children’s educational process. When she is not out in the community, she loves being with her family and cooking.

Verndrey’s project: Collect data and inform parents about the safety issues scholars face as they travel to and from school and drive toward community solutions for safe school travel.


Robert M. Goodrich

Robert M. Goodrich: Connecticut

Robert is the co-founder of R.A.C.C.E., a grassroots education advocacy organization. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Western Connecticut State University and collaborates with several East Coast collegiate debate and argumentation programs at WCSU, Rutgers and the University of Vermont. He loves backpacking the Appalachian Trail, fishing and operating CTHoopsNews, an online high school basketball magazine.

Robert’s project: Facilitate a cooperative effort between educators and families in the Waterbury School District to solve the disproportionate level of suspensions of black and Hispanic students.


David Henrie: Virginia

David is a senior program associate at the Council of Chief State School Officers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Colby College and is currently working towards his master’s in business administration from Johns Hopkins University. When not working on education policy, he enjoys basketball, politics and cheering on his beloved New England Patriots.

David’s project: Create a one-on-one reading tutoring program in Alexandria, Virginia to reduce the reading achievement gap between students of color and white students in four targeted schools.


Marc Porter Magee

Marc Porter Magee: Virginia

Marc is the CEO and founder of 50CAN. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, three adorable kids and a scruffy dog.

Marc’s project: Create a common platform for teachers, parents and concerned citizens in Alexandria, Virginia to advocate for a better education for all students in the city.


Medina Jackson

Medina Jackson: Pennsylvania

Medina is the director of engagement for P.R.I.D.E. (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education), a new project out of the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development. She is also a poet and spoken word artist, hip-hop artist, blogger and mother.

Medina’s project: Create a cultural and systemic shift in Pittsburgh that promotes child care and family-friendly structures in educational settings, where all children feel welcomed.


YouCAN2017 Brittany Mathis

Brittany Mathis: South Carolina

Brittany is the executive director of Charleston Friends of the Library, a nonprofit that raises money to support the Charleston County Public Library system. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School. In her spare time, Brittany enjoys traveling and has studied Shakespeare at the University of Westminster in London.

Brittany’s project: Conduct book drives to collect gently used recreational reading children’s books and donate them to high-poverty schools where reading scores are substantially below grade level and build a public awareness campaign that advocates for reading and access to books.


Jess Miller

Jess Miller: North Carolina

Jess Miller is an education consultant, digital advocate and community organizer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Furman University, an M.A.T. in elementary education from Johns Hopkins and an M.P.A./MBA degree from Keller Graduate School of Management. She and her husband enjoy traveling to Red Sox games (she saw 22 last summer alone!) and spending time with their niece and nephews.

Jess’ project: Organize teachers, students and families in North Carolina to elevate and amplify the voices of those most impacted by education policies who are most often marginalized.


Gloria Ruiz: New Mexico

Gloria is the family engagement coordinator at the New Mexico Public Education Department. She holds a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico Highlands University in elementary education. In her spare time, Gloria enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, fishing, gardening and playing baseball and softball.

Gloria’s project: Create an outreach plan for a newly launched, teacher-led family engagement model called Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT) in New Mexico.


Yannell Selman: Florida

Yannell Selman is the founder of P.S. 305, a nonprofit project that focuses on education advocacy and organizing in Miami, Florida. In her free time, Yannell enjoys traveling, live music and dancing salsa with her large Cuban family.

Yannell’s project: Create transparency around the performance of Miami-Dade Public Schools and the people who run them and create resources that make local education policy more accessible.


Lanell Smith, Jr.

Lanell Smith, Jr.: Tennessee

Lanell is a recruitment manager at a national education nonprofit organization. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development from Bethel University and a master’s degree in education from Northeastern University. When not working, Lanell loves reading, traveling and enjoying Memphis’s great food.

Lanell’s project: Remove racial and ethnic barriers that contribute to educational inequity and increase student achievement and parental involvement in Shelby County Schools.


Danielle Stewart: Georgia

Danielle is the founder of the organization Independent School Spirit. She holds a bachelor’s degree in TV and video production with a minor in fine arts from Hofstra University, an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a doctorate in educational leadership from Argosy University. Danielle enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, crafting and clowning around.

Danielle’s project: Ignite the school spirit of students of color through community building in DeKalb County with the custom workshop College Prep and Connect.


David Street: Washington, D.C.

David is the deputy director of grassroots organizing for Bread for the World. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s degree in theology from Wesley Theological Seminary. David also serves as the executive director for P.E.N. DMV, a D.C.-based nonprofit that specializes in mentoring, advocacy and leadership development for middle and high school youth living in Washington, D.C.

David’s project: Develop a social innovation summit for 11th and 12th-grade students in Washington, D.C. to teach students the importance of social media as a platform for advocacy, fundraising and marketing.


Gabrielle Thomas

Gabrielle Thomas: Delaware

Gabrielle is the site manager for TeenSHARP Delaware, a nonprofit that prepares and places students of color into the nation’s most selective universities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in global legal studies from Arcadia University. Outside of advocating, Gabby has an affinity for exploring with her Nikon d3300, singing at karaoke lounges, volunteering for the local animal shelter and building her personal blog.

Gabrielle’s project: Support and inspire a group of high school students to become greater stakeholders in their education by developing proposals that combat inequities within the school district.


Candice Wilson-McCain: North Carolina

Candice is a STEM instructional coach at an education nonprofit organization and the founder of FLY Math Club, a program that builds girls’ academic confidence in math. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing, a master’s degree in business administration and an education specialist degree in curriculum and instruction. When not talking about math, she enjoys reading personal finance blogs, listening to audiobooks about personal growth and sampling new tea flavors.

Candice’s project: Host a week-long awareness campaign with educators to address the gender gap in STEM education and encourage girls to specialize in math.


Toya Algarin: Philadelphia, PA

Toya is a member of the board of trustees for KIPP, serving KIPP Philadelphia Charter School, KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School and KIPP DuBois Charter School. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from LaSalle University. She enjoys crocheting, playing with her grandchildren and barbecuing.

Toya’s project: Create a coalition of engaged KIPP parents that will advocate for the children, families and communities they serve by recruiting parent leaders who will collectively create a parent engagement strategy for families at KIPP.


Yaneli Almonte: Providence, RI

Yaneli is a director for the Providence YMCA. She is one of two first generation college graduates from her family, holding a bachelor’s degree in event management with a minor in psychology from Johnson and Wales University. Her two children, Yanmark and Celene, have driven her to become a passionate education advocate.

Yaneli’s project: Help parents become advocates for quality educational choices for their children by uniting them to create a community that defends their children’s future.


Maame Amoyaw: Baltimore, MD

May is a first grade teacher in Baltimore City. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies from Towson University. She is currently a master’s degree candidate in early childhood education at The Johns Hopkins University. When not advocating for her students, she loves adding movies to her animated feature DVD collection and believes she will be Disney’s first Ghanaian princess.

May’s project: Build bridges between the community leaders who make decisions about education in Baltimore City and the parents who send their children to school every day through new forums for community engagement and dialogue.


Stephanie Brant: Gaithersburg, MD

Stephanie is an elementary school principal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from James Madison University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from George Mason University. When not at school, Stephanie enjoys running, cooking and reading.

Stephanie’s project: Create a parent and community school advisory board to increase engagement and advocacy modeled after the principal board developed at Stephanie’s school.


Renee’ Brown: Philadelphia, PA

Renee’ is a mother of five children and a licensed practical nurse. When she is not trying to educate those in her community on advocacy, she is attending countless football and basketball games.

Renee’s project: Create a blog on education advocacy for parents focused on practical advice on how to speak for children and ensure that they are on track for college and beyond.


Tafshier Kim Cosby: Newark, NJ

Tafshier is a corporate billing supervisor for an international security company. She is also a parent advocate leader and co-facilitation trainer for the New Jersey Black Alliance for Educational Options and a member of KIPPNJ – Newark Collegiate Academy Parent Partnership. When not advocating for families, she enjoys teaching Newarkers about adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, reading and spending time with family.

Tafshier’s project: Train parents and community members to become Parent Advocate Leaders and rethink the way schools engage parent organizers.


Karyn Frink: Cumberland, RI

Karyn is an account manager and trainer in the call center at Amica Insurance and a member of the Blackstone Valley Prep Parent Advocacy Fellowship, which furthers parents’ ability to advocate for school choice. She attended the Art Institute of Boston and graduated with a degree in photography. When she isn’t busy with her middle school girls, she enjoys gardening, reading and shopping.

Karyn’s project: Provide a comprehensive online repository of special education resources for parents of scholars with learning disabilities, including a blog, parent presentations and social media toolkits.


Kesha Lee: Washington, D.C.

Kesha is a consultant and literacy advocate living in Washington’s Ward 8. Recently, she was senior director of a social enterprise focused on getting new books to kids living in under-resourced communities. She is passionate about educational equity, economic empowerment, books, comfort food, theatre arts, photography and experiencing the world.

Kesha’s project: Engage community members, literacy social services agencies and other stakeholders in a campaign that connects parents and adult learners with evidence-based reading tips in public spaces.


Robert Lin: Pawtucket, RI

Robert works on Teach For America’s Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships team, where he leads the organization’s work around STEM teacher recruitment. Prior to this role, Robert worked as a campus recruiter, instructional coach and educator based out of his home state of Rhode Island. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in urban education policy from Brown University, where he was an Urban Education Fellow.

Robert’s project: Connect individual parents, students and teachers with local resource-rich neighborhood institutions like libraries and nonprofits to elevate the voices of individual leaders at the local and state level.


Shallegra Moye: Pittsburgh, PA

Shallegra is a quality analyst for a Medicaid health plan. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications for social justice and a master’s of public health. Shallegra is deeply involved in volunteering with her local school, youth development organizations and the department of public safety. She enjoys reading, research and everything on Investigation Discovery.

Shallegra’s project: Help support a local charter school’s transformation into a more supportive school that acknowledges, addresses and provides practical interventions for children experiencing chronic trauma.


Sade Richardson: Roxboro, NC

Sade is a literacy tutor and arts advocate. While she obtained her degree in business, she has utilized her skills to develop art and youth programming. Often times, you can catch her creating, encouraging or reading.

Sade’s project: Start a conversation surrounding education policy in Person County, North Carolina and create a network of community arts and education advocates to foster and sustain improvement in the local educational landscape.


Tawanna Roebuck: Newark, NJ

Tawanna is a 20-year veteran of the New Jersey public sector, currently working in information technology. She is a lifelong resident of the city of Newark, New Jersey and a product of Newark Public Schools. She is a member of the Parent Coalition for Excellent Education and New Jersey Black Education Alliance Organization, as well as co-chair of Rise Academy Parent Partnership. Her favorite pastimes are reading, cooking and traveling.

Tawanna’s project: Increase voter turnout by building a local grassroots committee that will go door-to-door and school-to-school to remind and educate neighbors and community stakeholders about the importance of voting.


Sumair Sheikh: Duluth, MN

Sumair is an integration specialist with Duluth Public Schools where he develops and coordinates programs aimed to decrease the achievement gap while helping students better understand their postsecondary options. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Michigan State University and a master’s in advocacy and political leadership from the University of Minnesota. Sumair spends his free time volunteering for local campaigns, playing basketball and volleyball and exploring the north shore of Lake Superior.

Sumair’s project: Foster innovative teaching methods and encourage professional growth by pairing student teachers with the best fitting mentor teachers through the creation of a match system within a community-wide education career pathway.


Gisele Shorter: New York, NY

Gisele is the vice president/executive director for New York and New Jersey at Turnaround. Prior to joining Turnaround, Gisele was a founding member of the ROADS charter high schools executive leadership team. Gisele earned her doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College, department of health and behavioral studies.

Gisele’s project: Initiate a targeted campaign to establish a shared identity, vision and voice for African-American philanthropists to harness political power, set a policy agenda and ensure a sustainable funding stream.


Jaclyn Smith: Washington, D.C.

Jaclyn is the director of alumni leadership at Teach For America and has worked as a classroom teacher and director of community engagement at Lighthouse Academies Public Charter School in Washington D.C. and with the D.C. Public Schools Office of Human Capital. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and journalism from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in elementary education and public policy from the University of Missouri.

Jaclyn’s project: Elevate teacher voices and ensure broad representation in the D.C. education policy landscape through the creation of a database for teachers to access current education policy bills and a student ambassador program to connect classrooms with legislators.


Abigail Swisher: Baltimore, MD

Abigail researches and writes about education policy at a think tank and civic enterprise based in Washington, D.C. In a former life, Abigail taught elementary school science and engineering in Granville County, North Carolina. She holds a certificate in middle grades education from East Carolina University and a bachelor’s in psychology from Goucher College. Abigail spends most of her free time reading novels and listening to indie pop on the MARC train.

Abigail’s project: Help Baltimoreans for Educational Equity (BEE) build collective power through targeted membership and engagement initiatives.


Jason Terrell: Charlotte, NC

Jason is the co-founder of Profound Gentlemen, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the national percentage of male educators of color. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, philosophy and black studies from Furman University and a master’s degree in education from The Johns Hopkins School of Education. Jason is a hip-hop enthusiast, enjoys playing the guitar and connecting with family and close friends.

Jason’s project: Elevate the voices of black men in education and increase awareness around the impact that male educators of color have on boys of color.


Stewart Watson: Baltimore, MD

Stewart is an artist and advocate in Baltimore who has been curating and exhibiting her work and the work of local artists for over 20 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from The Pennsylvania State University and a master of fine art from the University of Maryland College Park.

Stewart’s project: Help successfully implement Maryland’s new charter law at the local level by pursuing changes at her community school with parents, administrators and community members.


Gail Wilson: Randallstown, MD

Gail is a counseling intern at a nonprofit that provides job readiness training to Baltimore City residents. Gail holds a bachelor’s degree in behavioral and social science with a secondary concentration in business management from the University of Maryland University College. She is currently completing her internship for a master’s degree in licensed professional counseling from Liberty University. In her spare time, Gail escapes to the fictional world of The Chosen, a middle-grade adventure novel she is writing.

Gail’s project: Raise awareness of the valuable contribution school counselors and paraprofessionals make to education reform.