Meet our 2017 YouCAN Advocates!
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: 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: 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: Washington, D.C.
Emmanuel has worked on education policy in the U.S. 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 D.C. 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: 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: 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 and a graduate degree from Wake Forest University, and she 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 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: 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.
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.
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.
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: 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's 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.: 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 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: 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.
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