Speakers & Presenters

General Session Speakers

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Jaime Casap
Education Evangelist
Google
Jaime Casap is the Education Evangelist at Google. Jaime evangelizes the power and potential of technology and the web as enabling and supporting tools in pursuit of promoting inquiry-driven project-based learning models. Jaime collaborates with school systems, educational organizations, and leaders focused on building innovation and iteration into our education policies and practices. He speaks on education, technology, innovation, and generation z, at events around the world.

In addition to his role at Google, Jaime serves on a number of boards for organizations focused on education, innovation, and equity. Jaime is an adjunct professor at Arizona State University, where he teaches classes on policy, innovation, and leadership. He also teaches a high school communication class at the Phoenix Coding Academy.
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Tony Carvajal
Executive Vice President
Florida Chamber Foundation
Tony Carvajal serves as Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, the research and solutions development arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Working in partnership with state business leaders, the Foundation advances initiatives that envision a vibrant and sustainable economy in the Sunshine State. He is regularly called on to provide guidance and insights into state-level plans and has served on numerous policy steering committees covering topics as varied as education, early learning, workforce development, economic development, transportation, healthcare, volunteerism, civic infrastructure, philanthropy, and smart justice.
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Hershel Lyons
Chancellor
Division of Public Schools, Florida Department of Education

Mr. Hershel Lyons was appointed as the Florida Department of Education, K-12 Public Schools Chancellor in March 2015. The K-12 Public Schools Chancellor role is essential to setting the tone and leading Florida’s public elementary, middle and high schools to continued success. Chancellor Lyons came to the Florida Department of Education with over three decades of in-school experience and a track record of applying innovative approaches to improve outcomes. He previously served as Alachua County’s Deputy Superintendent of Schools. Chancellor Lyons has dedicated his professional career to educating Alachua County students, having started as a teacher aide and coach at Gainesville High School before being promoted to a variety of leadership positions, including Assistant Principal of Santa Fe and Buchholz High Schools; Principal of Oak View Middle School and Principal of Newberry High School. Over the last decade, he served in administrative roles on the district level, as an Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources from 2010 until he was appointed as Deputy Superintendent in October 2013.

The Chancellor’s commitment to education and his local community spans far beyond the classroom. He has been Co-Chair of the District Advisory Council and Chief Negotiator for the School Board of Alachua County. Chancellor Lyons has been a member of many professional organizations, including Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Parent Empowerment Group, Florida Association of School Administrators, Florida Association of School Personnel Administrator, Florida Educational Negotiators and Florida Association of District Schools Superintendents. He is a member of the board of directors of the Florida High School Athletics Association, a member of the Florida Executive Leadership, Class IX, member of Florida Council of 100, and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Chancellor Lyons is married to Ravinia, a father of two and a grandfather of three.

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Dr. Jerry D. Parrish
Chief Economist and Director of Research
Florida Chamber Foundation
Dr. Jerry D. Parrish is the Chief Economist and the Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. In that role, he is responsible for conducting in-depth analyses on economic trends, Florida’s industry clusters and on solutions to help secure Florida’s future. Dr. Parrish is currently an Adjunct Instructor in the Masters in Applied Economics Program at Florida State University. He earned an M.B.A. from Bellarmine University, an M.S. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Auburn University. He has published many research reports and articles on the Florida economy, Florida’s competitiveness, Florida’s property and casualty insurance system, and other economic topics of interest to Floridians.
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Madeline M. Pumariega
Chancellor, Florida College System
Florida Department of Education

Madeline M. Pumariega is Chancellor of the 28 colleges that make up the Florida College System, which serve more than 800,000 students. Recognized amongst the top in the nation, the Florida College System is committed to maintaining the highest quality programs to meet Florida's growing workforce needs and to make sure college is accessible and affordable. Appointed as the first female and Hispanic Chancellor in August 2015, Chancellor Pumariega has worked to build on successes of the Florida College System. Her goal is to ensure that all students have a pathway to complete their degree or professional credential that leads them to their academic goals and ultimately helps them get a job.

A product of the college system herself, Chancellor Pumariega began her academic career at Miami Dade College and returned to the college where she spent 20 years growing her career culminating as president of the Wolfson Campus. At Miami Dade College she is regarded for her work in developing innovative approaches to support academic progress and student success, ensuring that thousands of youth can access and complete college. Chancellor Pumariega was instrumental in supporting workforce programs by leveraging key partnerships in the community.

Before becoming Chancellor, Pumariega served as president of Take Stock in Children, a statewide non-profit focused on breaking the cycle of poverty through education. Take Stock in Children has helped more than 25,000 students living in poverty successfully complete high school and move into post-secondary education and careers.

Chancellor Pumariega is a member of the Florida Prepaid College Board, Higher Education Coordinating Council, Florida Council of 100, The Center for Postsecondary Success at Florida State University, City Year Miami and Florida College Access Network. She was a Kellogg Fellow for the League for Innovation’s Expanding Leadership Diversity in Community and a graduate of Leadership Florida Class 33.

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Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith
Florida House of Representatives, 49th District
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith is a proven fighter for Florida’s working families and students. An alumnus of the University of Central Florida, Rep. Smith proudly identifies as a LGBTQ, Latinx and forward thinking millennial feminist who reflects the values and diversity of Florida.
In November 2016, Rep. Smith made history as Florida’s first openly-LGBTQ Latinx lawmaker, representing House District 49 in East Orlando. Since then, he co-founded and was elected Chairman of the Legislative Progressive Caucus. As a lawmaker, Rep. Smith has been a champion for civil rights, cannabis reform, affordable higher education, gun safety, mental health, and animal welfare. Out Magazine recognized Carlos as one of the “survivors and heroes of Pulse” in their annual OUT 100 edition for his outspokenness in support of those impacted by the Orlando tragedy.
Florida Politics and SaintPeteBlog named Rep. Smith a “Winner” of the 2017 and 2018 Session and he has received numerous awards from the League of Women Voters of FL, the Florida Education Association, the Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota, the Florida Council on American Islamic Relations, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Metropolitan Business Association for his leadership.
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Daniel T. Barkowitz
Assistant Vice President, Financial Aid and Veteran's Affairs
Valencia College

Daniel Barkowitz is Assistant Vice President of Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs at Valencia College, a position he has held since July of 2017.  While new to Florida area, Daniel is not new to financial aid having served nearly 30 years in institutions of higher education.  Previous roles include Director of Financial Aid at MIT, Dean of Financial Aid / Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering at Columbia University in the City of New York, Director of Operations and Training for the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, and Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Boston College.  Daniel earned his Bachelors of Science in History from Northeastern University and his Masters of Education in Human Resource Education from Boston University. Daniel has led presentations on Financial Aid and College Financing to many audiences (more than 500) ranging in size from 2 to 2000. He has been interviewed for television, radio and newspapers on the topic of financial aid. Daniel lives with his wife and two children in Orlando, and is a published poet, musical theater actor, and Tarot card collector.  He promises an enjoyable and informative presentation.

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Braulio Colon
Vice President, Florida Student Success Initiatives
Helios Education Foundation

As Vice President, Florida Student Success Initiatives, Mr. Colón serves as the strategic lead in the Foundation's community investment and engagement activities designed to increase student success in Florida, particularly in the key metropolitan regions of Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Mr. Colón identifies partnership opportunities and facilitates relationships that promote the Foundation's mission of enriching lives through education.

Prior to joining Helios, Mr. Colón was Executive Director for ENLACE Florida an organization based at the University of South Florida (USF) that engaged communities for higher education by promoting program and policy development designed to influence systemic change and improve college-preparation, access, and completion rates for limited-income, first generation, and underrepresented students. Under Colón's leadership, ENLACE evolved into the Florida College Access Network (Florida C.A.N.!), a statewide network that catalyzes and supports communities to improve college and career readiness, access, and completion for all students. He serves as Chair of FPN’s Tampa Bay Funders Forum and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and USF Alumni Association.

Mr. Colón earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and Africana Studies and a Master of Arts in Public Administration from the University of South Florida.

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Paul J. Luna
President & CEO
Helios Education Foundation
Paul is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization, cultivating strong community relationships and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida for the Foundation. He brings more than 25 years of public and private professional experience to his leadership role with the Foundation. Prior to his role at Helios, Paul served as President of Valley of the Sun United Way, where he led a community-wide fundraising effort approaching $50 million.
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Laurie Meggesin
Executive Director
Florida College Access Network
Laurie Meggesin joined FCAN in 2013 as its executive director to implement the organization’s first strategic plan. A longtime practicing attorney and partner with a national law firm prior to joining FCAN, Laurie started her career as an English teacher and job skills coach serving recent immigrants working to assimilate into the American workforce. A passionate believer in the power of collaboration, Laurie has also served as a community development manager with a major nonprofit organization to advance innovative multi-sector partnerships serving low-income youth. Laurie holds a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of South Florida and a B.A. in English from Columbia College Chicago. Outside of FCAN, Laurie loves exploring Florida’s natural wonders by camping, kayaking, and hiking with her husband and their dogs.
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Marlene Spalten
President & CEO
Community Foundation of Tampa Bay
Marlene Spalten joined the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay as its President and CEO in October 2012. With an objective of significantly increasing philanthropy in the region, she was listed on Tampa Bay Business Journal’s “25 People to Watch in 2013”. Since its inception in 1990, CFTB has distributed $200 million in grants while building assets to almost $215 million through community leadership, philanthropic services, and creative grantmaking. Marlene serves on the Boards of the Florida Philanthropic Network, the Florida College Access Network, and Community Foundations of Florida. She is a peer reviewer for the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations Accreditation Program.
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Kate Wilson
Senior Vice President
Wells Fargo

Kate Wilson serves as Wells Fargo’s Senior Vice President, Community Affairs Manager for Florida. She leads a team responsible for the allocation of over $9mm in grants and team member engagement programs across Florida’s diverse and expansive geography.

Raised in Central Florida, Kate has extensive experience in community relations, reputation management, and strategic communication. She has been working at Wells Fargo since 2011.

Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Kate served as Senior Director of Community Relations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for eight years. In this role, she led the Community Relations team working to enhance the company's reputation through strategic community investment, focused volunteerism, and effective outreach to community organizations.

Before entering the health care services industry, Kate held several positions at Harvard Business School. In her last role, she served as Assistant Director of Internal Communications, where she led the school's internal communications efforts for faculty and staff.

Currently, Kate serves as board chair of United Arts of Central. She is a member of Leadership Orlando’s Class 85. Her past community involvement includes, Boston Children's Chorus, Board Member; Boston Givers Group, Chairperson; Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Overseer; Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, Board Member; and Yawkey Club of Roxbury, Advisory Board Member. She is an alumna of Lead Boston '05 and Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s, Boston's Future Leaders '05.

Kate received a bachelor's degree in Political Science, with a minor in Spanish from Providence College.

Speakers

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Tiara Arline
Collective Impact Coordinator
Take Stock in Children
Tiara Arline is the Project UNISON Collective Impact Coordinator for the Take Stock in Children’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant at Columbia High School in Lake City, FL.Tiara has been educating hundreds of students in the Columbia County School District for almost 10 years, which is her passion. It is her mission to empower, expose, and excite students about education and life after high school. Her belief is that no matter where you come from, what you may look like, or the hand life may have dealt you, there is still a space on the bus to success for you!Tiara is a Saint Leo University graduate and member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Altrusa International of Lake City, former Teacher of the Year (RMS, 2013), Collective Impact Team member, Community Action Team member, Take Stock In Children Mentor, Young Women of Excellence Advisor, and a Take Stock in Children Leadership Council member.
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Peggy Aune
Associate Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction,
Collier County Public Schools

Peggy Aune began her career in Collier County Public Schools over 16 years ago as a teacher for students with disabilities at the middle school level. She has served in various administrative roles including dean of students, assistant principal, human resources coordinator, and middle school principal.

Peggy joined the Office of Curriculum and Instruction in 2014 and now serves as Associate Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction. She has been an essential part of the team that led the expansion of advanced studies programming at the elementary and middle school levels, as well as growth of college and career readiness opportunities at the secondary level.

Peggy earned a B.S. in Special Education and M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Florida Gulf Coast University, along with an Ed.D.in Educational Leadership from University of Florida. She took part in the inaugural cohort of the AASA Aspiring Women Leaders Initiative, recently completed Leadership Florida Education Class III and contributed to the Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School Reform text on organizational theory. Peggy and her husband, Brandon have two daughters, ages 15 and 9. 

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Elizabeth Barnes
Chair of Academic Support and Faculty
Daytona State College
Elizabeth Barnes is the Chair of Academic Support and faculty in the School of Humanities and Communication at Daytona State College. She helps support students and faculty at the Academic Support Center and Writing Center. She received her BA and MA in English from Stetson University.
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Dr. Karinda Barrett
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs
Division of Florida Colleges

Karinda Barrett is currently the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs with the Division of Florida Colleges. Her primary work is focused on developing and promoting guided pathways, mathematics pathways, developmental education, distance learning and articulation processes through best practices and policy development.

Dr. Barrett currently holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education with a minor in Open and Distance Learning from Florida State University. Prior, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing, as well as a Master’s degree in Student Personnel Services with a concentration in counseling from the University of South Carolina.

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Andrew Basch
Chef
Marriott Sand Key Resort
Andrew Basch is an ESE Student who attended Pinellas County Schools. He could not pass the state norm exams, so he graduated in 2003 with a special diploma. Andrew was working as a dishwater and had a strong desire to become a Chef. Immediately after leaving high school, he attended Hands On @ Hyatt at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Andrew was hired full-time by Hyatt and began his culinary career in 2003. In 2005, he left Hyatt to help a friend open a new restaurant. Although it was great experience, the restaurant did not survive - so Andrew obtained a job at a Renaissance Hotel (owned by Marriott). He worked hard, and was promoted several times over the years. In 2011, he was named Executive Chef at the Renaissance Hotel and has since been promoted and transferred to the Marriott Tampa Airport and Marriott Sand Key. When he is now creating new menus and cooking for "foodies", he enjoyed spending time with his wife and 3 children. Andrew is a family man who is grateful for the opportunities that were offered by Vocational Rehabilitation, Hands On Education, and an industry that is focused on his strengths and passion for cooking.
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Catherine Bekkedal
Supervisor - Graduation Rate Initiatives
Duval County Public Schools
Catherine Bekkedal, M.Ed. has served as a High School Counselor and then High School District Specialist for Duval County Public Schools (DCPS). Currently, she is a district Supervisor tasked with uniting multiple district departments to align with vision and mission statements, leading the district to historically high graduation and college readiness rates. She leads data centered dialogue with school and district leadership, streamlining interventions and systems of support for students and families. She believes in equity and access for all students and strives to provide all educators with the skills and knowledge needed to implement efficient and effective programs that support student achievement. Most recently, she was the Project Manager for the FAFSA Completion Challenge Grant, a partnership between the National College Access Network and The Kresge Foundation.
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Jill Black
Program Director - A-STEP
Goodwill of North Florida
Jill is from Atlanta, GA and attended Georgia Southern University where she studied Elementary Education. Jill graduated from Georgia State University with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Special Education - High Incidence Disabilities. Jill's 11 years of teaching experience focused on students with behavior, emotional, and learning challenges. After moving to Florida in 2005, Jill's passion for the "underdog" led her to a position with the Salvation Army of NE Florida where she spent 8 years as Public/Community Relations Director until moving to Goodwill Industries of North Florida in 2014. Jill is grateful for the opportunity to serve adults looking to transform their lives through education. Jill and Warren (husband of 24 years) are proud parents of 2 boys: Connor (23) senior- Univ. of Alabama and Kyle (19) sophomore- Ole Miss.
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Michelle Boehm
Research and Evaluation Analyst
Helios Education Foundation
Michelle Boehm is a Research and Evaluation Analyst under the Policy, Research, and Evaluation Center of Excellence (PRE) where she conducts research and evaluation activities to inform and support the Foundation’s strategic investment initiatives. Prior to joining Helios Education Foundation, Ms. Boehm led evaluations of child welfare, adult criminal, and juvenile justice and education programs in the government and non-profit sector. She also worked as a graduate research assistant on a grant-funded initiative assessing how bilingualism in Spanish-speaking Head Start students affects cognitive, social, and behavioral competence. She earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from Arizona State University and Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology and Health and Human Services with a concentration in Early Childhood from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Ms. Boehm is actively involved in the community, including serving on the Fast Pitch selection committee of Social Venture Partners Arizona.
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Amy Bolick
Statewide Programs Coordinator
Florida College Access Network

Amy Bolick, Statewide Programs Coordinator, joined FCAN in 2017. Amy oversees FCAN’s College Ready Florida statewide initiatives, including Apply Yourself Florida, the Florida FAFSA Challenge, and Florida College Decision Day. Before joining FCAN, she worked directly with college students as a teacher and tutor in Freshman Composition and Professional Writing. Amy holds an MA in Rhetoric & Composition from the University of South Florida, a Graduate Certificate in Professional and Technical Communication from the University of South Florida, and a B.A. in English from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. In her free time, Amy enjoys traveling with her mother, aunt, and wife, all of whom share her goal of visiting all 50 states.

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Holly Bullard
Director, Financial Stability
United Way Suncoast
Holly Bullard serves as Senior Director of Financial Stability Initiatives at United Way Suncoast, where she oversees the planning and implementation of financial stability programs, strategies, and collaboratives. Prior to joining United Way Suncoast, Holly worked as Legislative Aide to U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, a senior member on the House Financial Services Committee and Chair of the Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus. She served as his lead advisor on financial services and housing issues, with a focus on financial empowerment for low-income Americans. Previous to her work on Capitol Hill, Holly worked on data quality at the U.S. Department of Education and on financial stability strategies at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Holly has a Master's in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Emory University.
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Tamar Cassagnol
Assistant Director
Valencia College Dual Enrollment
Currently, Tamar Cassagnol is employed by Valencia Community College as Assistant Director of the Dual Enrollment Department. Her responsibilities involve the design and implementation of outreach services that promote dual enrollment opportunities. Tamar recently assisted with the facilitation of a dual enrollment summer pilot program, which acclimates students to college expectations. As the Assistant Director of Dual Enrollment, Tamar strives to provide optimal services for the continued enhancement and promotion of dual enrollment opportunities. Her mantra: Great things are possible through hard work, dedication, and belief.
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Deborah Chapman
Senior Program Director
CareerEdge Funders Collaborative
With over 25 years of experience in the consulting field, Deborah has spent her career working with organizations, teams, and individuals to achieve their transformational goals. As the Senior Program Director at CareerEdge, Deborah develops and manages the non-profit’s workforce development initiatives which range from employer training grants and funded high demand certifications, to an internship reimbursement program and targeted college access strategies. CareerEdge partners directly with employers in fast-growing sectors, to help them fill skills gaps and meet their employment needs, while at the same time assisting individuals in entering the workforce and moving up career ladders. Deborah graduated from Florida State University cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, and received an MBA from the University of Alabama, where she was awarded the Graduate Council Fellowship.
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Lisa Church
Vice President, Champions For Learning and Leader
Future Ready Collier
Lisa Church is a Vice President at Champions For Learning, The Education Foundation of Collier County, Florida. In her role, she is responsible for ongoing assessment and alignment of strategic priorities, emerging opportunities, educator and student program outcomes, and community engagement.

She is currently leading Future Ready Collier on behalf of Champions For Learning, which is the backbone organization facilitating this collective impact initiative. Future Ready Collier is a network of more than 60 organizations, businesses, schools and community members working to ensure every child in Collier County is ready for Kindergarten, and every young person enters adulthood with a vision and plan to accomplish that vision.

Lisa’s background combines experience in public education, corporate and non-profit environments. Prior to moving to Naples in 2005 when she began at Champions For Learning, she had served as a senior marketing professional at the Chicago Tribune for eight years and had the opportunity to work in the context of cross-company and cross-departmental teams, as well as with community partners in both marketing and community relations capacities. She worked with many organizations, including Chicago Public Schools, suburban school districts, suburban municipalities, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events for the City of Chicago, and many non-profit organizations.

Prior to her work at the Tribune, she taught high school students at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis for six years, and Rogers High School in Michigan City, Indiana, for one year. She enjoyed the opportunity to engage community partners, local universities, and individual community members to enrich the experience of her students.

Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame in American Studies (History/Communications) and Anthropology, and her Master of Arts from Indiana University, Bloomington, in Latin American Studies (History/Anthropology). She is a 2014 Leadership Collier graduate.
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Dr. Jesse Coraggio
Vice President, Institutional Effectiveness and Academic Services
St. Petersburg College

Jesse joined St. Petersburg College in 2006 and has had increasing levels of responsibility since that time. He received his doctorate in Educational Measurement from the University of South Florida. His research interests include instrument development, psychometrics, setting performance standards, and various item response theory applications. His work has been published and he has presented over 30 papers in the area of assessment and measurement at conferences including the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the Association for Institutional Research. He is current the president of the Florida Association for Institutional Research.

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Luz Corcuera
Executive Director
UnidosNow, Inc.
Luz Corcuera is Executive Director of UnidosNow, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the growing Latino population to achieve the American Dream through Education. Luz has extensive experience in community-based programs and is recognized for building strong community partnerships in the region to reverse negative education, social, and health disparities in the Latino population. Luz is passionate about education, health, cultural competency, and understanding the social determinants of well being. Her significant work includes developing and overseeing diverse community-based initiatives to empower underserved communities via prevention and education. As an immigrant woman, Luz knows the challenges of integrating into a new community and sees education as the path out of poverty. She also understands the struggles of talented young people who may not have had the same opportunities that her children had to realize the American Dream. She is committed to working with any individual and organization that promotes these opportunities for our young population. Luz has been recognized with numerous awards for building strong relationships in the Manasota region with private, public, faith-based, and civic organizations to close the education achievement gap, reversing negative health trends, and empowering people to civic integration.
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Tiffany Criswell Givens
College Success Coach
Take Stock in Children
Tiffany Criswell Givens is the Project UNISON College Success Coach for Take Stock in Children's Investing in Innovation Grant (i3) at Columbia High School in Lake City, FL. Tiffany also serves as a TSIC mentor, a member of the TSIC Leadership Council and the UNISON Collective Impact team. Prior to her current position, Tiffany was a Financial Aid Specialist at Florida Gateway College for 12 years where she coordinated the FFELP, William D. Ford Federal Loan programs, Private Loans, Financial Literacy, and Default Prevention/Management. In addition to her role with TSIC, Tiffany is active in community and professional organizations that include Haven Hospice (volunteer), Shiloh (emeritus youth director), Altrusa, and the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC).
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Laura Dickerson
Director Business Development
Sallie Mae
Laura Dickerson has worked in the financial aid community for over 28 years, specifically assisting families and schools with saving, planning, and paying for college information. Laura has worked with Sallie Mae for the last 18 years, bringing college affordability and resources to Florida schools and families. She lives in Tampa, FL with her family and enjoys all things Florida.
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Anna Dilernia
Research and Evaluation Analyst
The Children's Trust
Anna Dilernia serves as a research and evaluation analyst for The Children's Trust youth enrichment portfolio supporting evaluation, research, and impact measurement for programs focused improving the lives of adolescent youth. She is a proud AmeriCorps alumna, who served for two years with City Year Miami. Anna earned a Master of Business Administration with a focus in management and strategy from Western Governors University, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Florida.
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Dr. Deborah Douma
Dean of Grants and Federal Programs
Pensacola State College
Dr. Deborah Douma, Dean of Grants and Federal Programs at Pensacola State College in Florida, has an AA from Irvine Valley College, a BA in Communication Arts and MS in Administration from the University of West Florida, and an EdD in Higher Education Administration from the University of Florida. Dr. Douma’s research focused on factors leading to engagement of community college faculty in grant writing activities. She was the Council for Resource Development 2013 Grants Professional of the Year. Dr. Douma serves on the Florida Association of Colleges Foundation Board, and locally on boards of the Escarosa Coalition on the Homeless, the Escambia 4-H Foundation, and the First City Art Alliance. Dr. Douma is a critical member of the Achieve Escambia Data Team, Career Readiness Collective Action Network, and Local College Access Network
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John Ficca
Program Director
Hands On Educational Services
John Ficca is a certified educator in Special Education / Behavioral Disorders. John has over 27 years experience in education and vocational training for individuals with unique abilities. He is also a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, and worked 5 years at a residential treatment center for abused and neglected children. John's professional life has been devoted to serving others - on the sea and in the community. When he is not traveling/working at Hyatt Hotels, he enjoys outdoor activities with his wife, daughter, family, and friends.
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Raquel Figueroa
Managing Director, Program Implementation
College Summit
Raquel is the Managing Director of Program Implementation with College Summit and an expert in leveraging peer influence to increase college access opportunities in high schools serving low-income students. Prior to working with College Summit, she held several roles at Miami Dade College including teaching for the School of Education, managing the Florida State Teachers Certificate Program, and coordinating college access programs. Today, Raquel oversees a team of coaches to provide program implementation support, coaching, and oversight for over 100 partner high schools across the county.  Raquel holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the City University of New York.
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Dr. Sue Gallagher
Chief Innovation Officer
Children's Services Council of Broward County
Sue Gallagher, Chief Innovation Officer, Children’s Services Council (CSC) of Broward County, has been with the CSC for over 10 years providing opportunities for all children “to realize their full potential, their hopes and their dreams, supported by a nurturing family and community.” She leads efforts to support community partners to collaborate on improving programs, service systems and communities, including the advancement of racial equity, so young people and their families can thrive. She worked in non-profits serving people with developmental disabilities prior to coming to CSC. Dr. Gallagher is also an adjunct professor at Florida International University where she teaches organizational and community strategic planning.
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Jennifer Grove
Community Development Manager
Gulf Power Company
Ms. Grove has worked with The Southern Company for over 23 years. As Gulf Power’s Community Development Manager, she is responsible for leading Gulf Power’s engagement in partnerships that grow Northwest Florida’s competitiveness. The program of work includes education, workforce development, regional partner support, key industry sector support, and support of efforts that move citizens from poverty to prosperity. Ms. Grove serves on boards of many organizations including the Center to Advance Career and Technical Education, Leadership Florida, the Florida Education Foundation, the Florida College Access Network, as Chair of the Florida Chamber Business Alliance for Early Learning, and as a founding Executive Committee member of ECARE (Every Child A Reader in Escambia County). Jennifer is also currently deeply engaged in Achieve Escambia, a cradle to career education collective impact effort in the Pensacola area. Jennifer has recently completed two terms as a Governor appointed board member of CareerSource Florida where she served as Chair of the Strategic Policy Council. Ms. Grove holds a Master of Science in organizational communication from Purdue University and bachelors’ degrees in political science and communications from Birmingham-Southern College. She is a graduate of Leadership Florida Class XXXIII and lives in Pensacola.
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Amy Grunder
College Success Coach
Take Stock in Children
Amy Grunder is the Project UNISON College Success Coach for Take Stock in Children’s Investing in Innovation Grant (i3) at Ft. White High School in Ft. White, FL. Amy also serves as a TSIC mentor, a member of the TSIC Leadership Council and the UNISON Collective Impact Team.Amy began her career as an educator in 2011 after receiving her Bachelors Degree in Social Science Education from Florida State University. As a faculty member at Fort White, Amy taught 10th and 12th grade World History, U.S. Government, Economics, and several elective courses including Holocaust and Contemporary History.
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Mark Havard
Area HR Director
Hyatt Regency Orlando
Mark Havard has worked for Hyatt Hotels for 25+ years. During his career in Human Resources, he has partnered with Hands On Education for 17 years, at 3 different Hyatt Hotels. Mark is a champion and visionary when it comes to training / hiring individuals with disabilities. He values the unique abilities of the Hands On Participants, and he has included PWDs in all of Hyatt Diversity Initiatives. Mark is married and lives in the Orlando area, and his daughter is attending the University of Miami.
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Bill Hoffman
Education Consultant
Florida Philanthropic Network
Bill Hoffman leads Bill Hoffman & Associates, which is a Tampa-based national consulting firm specializing in:

•  Educational engagement strategies
•  Nonprofit leadership transitions
•  Organizational and board development

Bill is a prolific author and frequent presenter on these and other related topics. Bill has senior-level nonprofit management experience in education, having been the president of one of the nation’s top K-12 education foundations, functioning as interim CEO for prominent national and state education and philanthropic associations, as well as leading national, regional and state boards of directors. His work has been primarily in K-12 education, especially college and career readiness and success and standards reform.

He has developed nationally innovative programming for nonprofit executives, including the Certified Education Foundation Leader program for K-12 education foundation executive directors. This program is being delivered by one of the nation’s largest non-profit universities and rolled-out via the industry’s largest trade association. He is also an Adjunct Professor at National University, teaching Non-profit Leadership and Board Development. 

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Terry Hollingshead
Sr. Associate Director of Student Recruitment
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Terry R. Hollingshead is a twelve-year veteran of post-secondary admissions and recruiting with professional experience in both private and public institutions of higher education. In 2015, Ms. Hollingshead joined Florida State College at Jacksonville as the Associate Director of Enrollment Management. This year, she began serving as the Senior Associate Director of Student Recruitment focusing her efforts on strategic initiatives and outreach to underrepresented populations. Ms. Hollingshead is a graduate of Northwestern University's School of Education & Social Policy. During her time at Northwestern, Terry majored in Social Policy with an emphasis on urban inequalities. She went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix and is currently pursuing a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership.
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Dr. Michelle Horton
Director, Complete Florida
University of West Florida Innovation Institute
Dr. Michelle Horton is the Director for Complete Florida at the UWF Innovation Institute. As part of the statewide degree completion initiative, Dr. Horton focuses on program development designed to support the adult learner returning to college. She has a Master’s Degree in Administration with an emphasis in Human Performance Technology from the University of West Florida and a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Horton began her career in higher education in 2006 at Pensacola State College. Prior to her position with the University of West Florida, Dr. Horton served as the Director of Pensacola State College South Santa Rosa Center. Her background includes student and community development. She serves on the Board of Directors for Innovation Coast and the Articulation Committee for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program.
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Dr. Melissa Irvin
Assistant Dean of Advising and Analytics
University of South Florida
Dr. Melissa Irvin is the newly appointed Assistant Dean of Advising and Analytics at the University of South Florida, employed within the Office of Undergraduate Studies. In addition to supporting the advising community across campus, this position provides strategic leadership for USF's multiple technology and analytics systems include an internal case management program, a degree audit tool and more. She also provides leadership for the Office of Academic Advocacy, a unit specifically designed to address barriers preventing retention or graduation. During her time at her former institution in Tennessee, Dr. Irvin implemented the campus’ early alert attendance program, oversaw the launch of the EAB's student success management software, directed a micro-grant program and worked closely on the expansion of advising resources across all academic units. She has also given presentations across the country on current issues in advising and student support as well as on the effective use of data in the design and assessment of student success programming. Dr. Irvin holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Duke University in North Carolina as well as a master’s in administration and supervision from Middle Tennessee State University and a doctorate in education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.
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Kathryn Jacobs
School District of Osceola County
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Dr. Paula Kohler
Executive Director and Professor
FCSUA/University of Central Florida
Paula D. Kohler, Ph.D. is Professor and Executive Director of the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities at UCF. She also serves as co-director of the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) funded by the U. S. Department of Education. Dr. Kohler conducts research regarding effective transition education and services for youth with disabilities across a range of topics, including college and career readiness. She has received support from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and state departments of education. Her Taxonomy for Transition Programming is recognized as an effective model for planning, implementing, and evaluating transition-focused education, and has influenced the implementation of transition education across the U. S. The Taxonomy provides a heuristic for organizing the evidence-based and promising practices at the core of NTACT’s work. Dr. Kohler has a background in business administration, educational leadership, career and technical education, and special education. In 2001, 2006, and 2016, Kohler was recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children‘s Division on Career Development and Transition, WMU College of Education, and the Association on Career and Technical Education Research. In 2017, Dr. Kohler received the Research to Practice award from the American Education Research Association.
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Kimberly Krupa
Director
Achieve Escambia
Kimberly Krupa joined the Achieve Escambia team as director in July 2017. Kimberly brings to this role more than 15 years’ experience in community and coalition building, fundraising, communications, nonprofit management, executive leadership and strategic planning. Her expertise centers on developing and implementing strategies to strengthen and expand the ability of teams to actively create the conditions for change. Kimberly works with networks to embrace the use of data as a means to inspire innovative thinking about how to make improvements that put students at the center, and ultimately transform how our education and workforce training systems serve learners of all ages. Born and raised in New Jersey, Kimberly moved to Louisiana in 2002 and was actively involved in rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Kimberly now lives in Pensacola with her husband and three children.
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Chris Laney
Director of Education & Community Investment
CareerSource Suncoast
Chris Laney is the Director of Education & Community Investment for CareerSource Suncoast. Laney oversees unique initiatives to increase the talent pipeline in our community. He does this through unique experiences like the State of Jobs Conference which welcomed over 800 high school students this year, the State of Talent Conference that welcomes over 100 employees to learn how to recruit, train and retain better talent, and other student initiatives geared towards developing them into career-ready leaders. Laney received his bachelors in technology management from State College of Florida, a masters in business administration (MBA) from Saint Leo University, and is currently working on his doctorate in leadership and professional practices from Trevecca University. He is married and has three amazing children. They lived in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
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Ray Larsen
Vice President for Collective Impact
Heart of Florida United Way

Raymond Larsen is the Vice President for Collective Impact at the Heart of Florida United Way. Heart of Florida United Way’s Investing in Results goal is to create lasting, measurable change – not just for today, but for generations to come.

Ray Larsen received his Masters Degree at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He has worked in the nonprofit sector in Central Florida for his entire career. Ray was co-author of the Central Florida Regional Indicators Report: Legacy 2000; and the Central Florida Children and Youth Report. He has published numerous articles including: The Opportunity for Quality Child Care; A Strength-Based Approach to School Readiness; and, Incubated in Terror: The effects of Abuse and Neglect on Child Brain Development.

Raymond has been recognized for his efforts in the community proudly receiving the Lawton Chiles State Child Advocacy Award; the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce Unsung Hero Award and the March of Dimes National Distinguished Volunteer Service Award. Ray is married to Mary Larsen and the father of three sons.

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Donovan Lee-Sin
Director of Public Policy and Community Engagement
The Children's Trust
Donovan Lee-Sin, M.P.A., serves as the Director of Public Policy and Community Engagement at The Children’s Trust, a dedicated source of funding in Miami-Dade County that promotes the well-being of children and families. His work emphasizes collaboration and partnership while helping to foster networks that support children and families most in need to promote sustainable change across the community. Mr. Lee-Sin has 16 years of experience in the field of philanthropy. Prior to joining The Trust, he worked previously for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in Atlanta, GA. As senior program officer, Donovan oversaw the Foundation’s grant initiatives portfolio that focused on expanding community engagement, employment and economic stimulation, early education, parks and green-space, and support for the arts in the Greater Atlanta area. Arthur Blank is the co-founder of Home Depot, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and the Blank Family of Businesses. Donovan earned his bachelors' degrees in psychology and business administration from Belhaven University in Jackson, MI and a master’s in public administration with a specialization in urban development and management from Florida International University in Miami, FL.
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Dr. Latishua Lewis
Director
Valencia College Dual Enrollment
Dr. Latishua E. Lewis serves as the Director of Dual Enrollment at Valencia College. Her ten years of education experience spans multiple areas in student and academic affairs. She has a proven track record in developing, implementing, and assessing programs and services that support student learning and personal development in and outside of the classroom. She adds value to programs and services by identifying comprehensive learning outcomes, developing training modules, critically analyzing assessment data, and establishing internal and external partnership opportunities. Dr. Lewis prides herself on operating from a foundation of data driven decision-making, which in turn influences collaborative efforts to address student needs. Student access, persistence, and degree completion are her top priorities.
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Gary Linnen
Managing Director, Program Operations and Innovation
College Summit
Gary Z. Linnen has more than fifteen years’ experience in education, youth development and test preparation. He currently serves as the Program Director for College Summit, a national non-profit that connects high schools to college and career, where he oversees the mobilization and execution of youth-led teams to foster the college-going culture in school communities. Prior to joining College Summit, Gary worked with The Princeton Review to manage its test-prep and tutoring programs for thousands of students throughout NYC and Long Island. Mr. Linnen is a graduate of Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government.
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Leah Lynch
Chief Development Officer for Career Services
Goodwill of North Florida
Leah moved from Canada to the state of Washington where she earned a B.A. in Primary Education/endorsement Special Education at Washington State University. With encouragement from family and friends, Leah created 'Let Us Play!' - a four day celebrity sports camp for 150 girls (ages 12-15) and a 2 Kilometer run in downtown Jacksonville for over 3,000 children(ages 5-12). Leah remained Executive Director of Let us Play! for over 15 years. Her passion for children has led her on a journey in the educational and non-profit world throughout her career. Leah was Development Director for Communities in Schools, Executive Director for the scholarship mentoring program, Take Stock in Children- Duval, and currently Chief Development Officer for Career Services for Goodwill of North Florida. In 2014, under the direction of Leah's leadership, Goodwill of North Florida implemented the A-STEP program with hopes of moving low-income and low-skilled adults into the middle class through education. In addition, Leah coordinated the transition of the “Take Stock in Children” program to Goodwill Industries of North Florida in 2014. Leah is the proud mom of 3 children: Colin (24), Trevor (22),and Kilty (19). Leah enjoys cross fit and running on the beach in her spare time.
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Jessica Manchette
Senior Director of Programs
Champions For Learning

Jessica Manchette is the Senior Director of Programs for Champions For Learning. As the Senior Director of Programs Jessica is responsible for leading the program teams at Champions For Learning, The Education Foundation of Collier County, which includes student and educator programs. Champions For Learning student programs directly serves over 700 students from 8th grade through college graduation and entry into the workforce.

Jessica integrates a professional background in banking, plus roles in the Financial Aid and Bursars offices at Southwest Florida College and Hodges University. She has a passion for coaching students and families to accomplish their degree attainment goals as debt-free as possible. Jessica also leads the College Access Priority Team for Future Ready Collier, a network of more than 60 partner organizations working to ensure every child in Collier County is ready for Kindergarten, and every young person enters adulthood with a vision and plan to accomplish that vision.

She is a graduate of Lee County Public Schools, Florida Southwestern University (formerly Edison State) and the University of Central Florida.

She is a two-time Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist (placing 2nd), was named “America’s Savviest Saver” by NBC’s Today Show, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club. 

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Brett McNaught
Chief Executive Officer
Educate Tomorrow
Brett McNaught, PPP Supervisor, is CEO of ET, a Miami-Dade County based 501c3 that serves disadvantaged and foster youth through education, mentoring, and life skills training. Brett has an M.S.Ed in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami. He is on the board of buildOn and Learning 1 to 1 Foundation, and was on the board of the Miami-Dade County Community Based Care Alliance from 2012-2016. He is co-chair of the Education and Employment committee for the Miami-Dade County Homeless Youth Collective Impact.
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Helen Midney
Tutor Corps High School Coordinator
Guadalupe Center Inc.

Helen was raised in Immokalee, Florida and graduated from Immokalee High School in 2008. Helen was in the Tutor Corps High School Program with the Guadalupe Center, where she learned about colleges and the application process. She went on to earn a degree in Government and Legal Studies and Russian Studies from Bowdoin College in 2012. After working in the math department at Lawrence High School in Massachusetts,

Helen returned home to Immokalee in 2014 to helm the Tutor Corps High School Program with the Guadalupe Center. The Guadalupe Center is a non-profit focusing on breaking the cycle of poverty through education, and works with community partners, donors, students and their families to achieve this goal. The Guadalupe Center serves over 1100 students, from infants aged 6 weeks to college graduates applying for their first job. After Hurricane Irma, the Guadalupe Center became a distribution point for the community of Immokalee, offering food, clothing, financial help, housing and other resources to the community. Dawn Montecalvo, the President of the Guadalupe Center, also formed a council of community members and local leaders to address the unmet needs of Immokalee over the mid to long term after Irma. The Unmet Needs Council seeks to address the long term consequences and impacts of an event like Hurricane Irma on the residents of the local Immokalee Community and Southwest Florida.

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Maggie Miller
Florida Lead Field Trainer
MyCareerShines powered by Kuder
Maggie Miller is a lead field trainer representing the Florida career planning system MyCareerShines, powered by Kuder®. Maggie holds a Master’s in Education and is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator. Maggie works with state superintendents, principals, administrators, counselors, resource specialists, and teachers on how to meet goals, frameworks, and standards for career and education planning and exploration. She leads training sessions throughout Florida for staff members on how to assist secondary students with career planning and leads training for college advisors and faculty members on how to assist students with college and career planning.
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Troy Miller
Associate Director for Research and Policy
Florida College Access Network
Troy Miller, associate director for research & policy, leads FCAN’s work on effective policies and practices that contribute toward improving college and career readiness, access, and completion in Florida. His work entails research and policy analysis through briefs, blogs, and data dashboards as well as technical assistance to FCAN partners in data analysis, goal-setting, and evidence-based practices. Troy’s work has been featured in media outlets such as PolitiFact Florida, the Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, and Los Angeles Times. He is a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida’s College of Education and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Central Michigan University. Troy is also a recipient of the University of South Florida Outstanding Staff Award and National College Access Network’s Dr. David B. Swedlow Memorial College Access Practitioner Award of Excellence.
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Dr. Christine G. Mokher
Associate Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Students
Florida State University
Dr. Christine G. Mokher is an Associate Professor of Higher Education in Florida State University’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, where she is also a Senior Research Associate with the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS). Her research examines state and local policies focused on college- and career-readiness and success, with a particular emphasis on student transitions from secondary to postsecondary education. The majority of her research studies use mixed methods, and she is a What Works Clearinghouse-Certified Reviewer in Group Design. Dr. Mokher is currently serving as the Principal Investigator for a five-year, $4.6 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to evaluate Florida’s College and Career Readiness Initiative. The purpose of this study is to rigorously evaluate Florida’s statewide intervention that consisted of testing grade 11 students to determine their college readiness and offering math and English college readiness and success courses in grade 12 for students who did not test college-ready the year before. She is also a Co-PI on a multi-year project investigating developmental education reform in Florida, with funding from an IES research grant and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Mokher holds a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University. Her research has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals including American Journal of Education, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Education Finance, Research in Higher Education, and The Journal of Higher Education. The findings from her research have also been covered in more widely accessible media outlets such as Forbes, Education Week, Education Daily, and Insider Higher Ed. At FSU, she teaches graduate courses in Public Policy in Higher Education, and Organization & Governance.
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Malaina Mote
Scholarships Coordinator
Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Malaina Mote graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) with her Bachelor of Arts in Communication concentration in Public Relations, in 2015. During her senior year of college, Malaina had two internships. One of those internships was with Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Southwest Florida (MADD SWFL). During that internship, Malaina worked closely on MADD SWFL’s public relations, organized and coordinated events, created sponsor packages and obtained sponsors. After graduating from FGCU, MADD offered her the Program Specialist position, which she worked for two years. Responsibilities included working closely with teens to prevent underage drinking, outreach and media relations. Her blogs have been published on MADD’s national website. Through MADD, she has been recognized nationally and locally. In 2012, Malaina’s family was t-boned by a drunk driver and her youngest brother, Joshua, succumbed to his injuries. Only two years after that crash, Malaina began sharing her story locally and statewide to teens, parents, professional groups, DUI offenders and law enforcement, which includes sharing her story at MADD Florida’s Annual Law Enforcement Event where she received a standing ovation from over 500 Law Enforcement Officers. In September of 2017, Malaina took advantage of the opportunity to become the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Scholarship Coordinator. Malaina uses her experience with teens to help motivate them to apply for scholarships and complete their FAFSA Form. Malaina visits high schools, all over the SWFL region, talking about the importance of being financially secure during the journey of post-secondary education, as well as managing the entire scholarship process. She dedicates her strongest motivation to her 6-year-old son, Jaivason Joshua.
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Dakota Pawlicki
Strategy Officer for Community Mobilization
Lumina Foundation
Dakota began his career as a music teacher on the southside of Chicago. After launching his own nonprofit agency focused on urban teacher development, Dakota joined Illinois State University as a program administrator, developing future urban teachers. Dakota then re-joined Chicago Public Schools where he served in a dual role as director of strategic partnerships and projects and director of college access. There he was responsible for developing and driving a city-wide vision of postsecondary access, support, and success for over 400,000 students and the creation of the Chicago Higher Education Compact, an initiative with the expressed goal of increasing Chicago Public Schools’ four-year college graduation rate to 60% by 2025. In April 2017, Dakota joined the Talent Pathways team at Lumina Foundation where he leads the Talent Hub Designation and the Community Partnerships for Attainment network. Bringing a practitioner lens to philanthropy, Dakota focuses on building community efforts that rapidly accelerate postsecondary attainment for the nation's most underserved populations.
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Dr. Paul Perrault
Vice President & Director of Research and Evaluation
Helios Education Foundation
Dr. Paul Perrault is the Vice President & Director of Research & Evaluation for Helios Education Foundation. Dr. Perrault is charged with the development of a coordinated research and evaluation agenda around Helios’s three impact areas of Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness, and Postsecondary Completion. Dr. Perrault comes to Helios with nearly 10 years of research and evaluation experience. Prior to joining Helios, he was a research faculty member at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan where he served as a lead investigator on Arizona’s Move On When Ready evaluation and as principal investigator on Yuma’s Ready Now Yuma evaluation. Dr. Perrault received his Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Policy with a specialization in research methodology at the University of Michigan along with two Masters Degrees, one in Educational Administration and another in Secondary Certification. He also earned a JD at the University of Detroit Mercy and a BA in Journalism at Michigan State University. Dr. Perrault’s currently serves as a Board Member for Touchstone Health Services and is co-chair of the Data Impact Group for Grantmakers for Education. Most recently he was selected as a fellow to Arizona’s prestigious Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy.
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Dr. Michael Preston
Executive Director
Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities
Dr. Michael Preston has served as Executive Director of the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities since July 2015 where he works with Florida International University, The University of Central Florida, and The University of South Florida on collaborative projects designed to increase retention, improve graduation rates, and ensure graduates are career ready. Previous to taking on this unique role, Dr. Preston served the students of The University of Central Florida since 2011 as the Director of the Office of Student Involvement where he oversaw a comprehensive involvement program including entertainment programming, student organizations, volunteer and service programs, and student government. Dr. Preston has worked in higher education for nearly 20 years and is commonly asked to speak and present on topics such as student affairs assessment, personal career development, student engagement practices, and developing student leadership competencies. In addition to his work in student affairs at UCF, Dr. Preston is also a faculty member in the Higher Education and Policy Studies department where he teaches on the subject of Organization and Administration in Higher Education.
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Dr. Karen Rasmussen
Associate Vice President
University of West Florida
Dr. Karen Rasmussen is a Professor and Associate Vice President at the University of West Florida, Division of Research and Strategic Innovation. She leads initiatives related to academic policy, innovative practice, and career and technical education. At the state level, Dr. Rasmussen works in the area of adult degree completion. In addition, she led the launch of MyCareerShines, a statewide career and technical educational tool for K-20 students and citizens of the state of Florida. She co-edited the Handbook of Research on Competency-Based Education in University Settings and is co-author of Web-Based Learning: Design, Implementation and Evaluation. Dr. Rasmussen works closely with on-campus teams to implement innovative distance learning models, taking programs to scale while maintaining high quality outcomes.
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Dr. Steve Rios
Senior Director
Educate Tomorrow
Dr. Steve J. Rios, is Senior Director of Florida Positive Pathways, a program sponsored by the Florida Department of Children and Families and Educate Tomorrow, a nationally recognized mentoring organization. Dr. Rios is a veteran K-12 administrator and post-secondary educator and researcher who has mentored three former foster children through a college education and runs a statewide network of campus and community based professionals that serve youth in foster care in college.
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Judy Saylor
Director of Program Growth and Innovation
Take Stock in Children
Judy Saylor is the Director of Program Growth and Innovation for Take Stock in Children, a state-wide, 501(c)(3) non-profit, private-public partnership in Florida focused on high school graduation and college completion for low income, at-risk youth. In her current capacity, Judy directs and manages TSIC’s 3 million, US Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant focused on a unique, whole-school mentoring project that builds strong evidence of success for promoting students’ non-cognitive skill set development to improve academic achievement and increase students’ readiness for post-secondary education and employment. Formerly, Judy was the Director of Mentoring Programs for Communities in Schools in Jacksonville where she managed both Take Stock in Children Duval and United Way’s Achievers for Life mentoring programs. Judy has had 25 years of extensive experience in the areas of education, fundraising and non-profit management, volunteer mentor management, sales and marketing, within the non-profit and travel and tourism sectors. She graduated with a Bachelors of Arts Degree from Jacksonville University and attended California State University Long Beach, earning credits for her Community College Instructor Certification. She is also an alumnus of Georgetown University’s Executive Nonprofit Management Program.
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Dr. Rebecca Schumacher
Executive Director and School Counselor Educator
Florida School Counselor Association
Rebecca A. Schumacher, Ed.D., former teacher and school counselor at all school levels, as well as a district-level administrator, currently serves as the Executive Director for the Florida School Counselor Association and Visiting Professor in the School Counseling Program (UNF). State-wide, she is involved in college access and career readiness programs for every school level student and family. She has extensive experiences working with Jacksonville’s most challenged schools with an emphasis to close information and opportunity gaps, and the urgency for postsecondary planning. Locally she has served on the Form Your Future Steering Committee (previously College Goal Sunday), and recently on the advisory council for DCSP FAFSA Challenge. She represented Florida at the White House The FAFSA Summit, served on the Florida team for the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative, and conducted over 200 presentations and trainings across the county, as well as authored on school counseling issues.
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Sara Schumacher
School District of Osceola County
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Isabel Sousa
Membership Director
FL Immigrant Coalition
Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to Miami with their family at the age of 6. They began community organizing against deportations and for immigration reform in 2007 and has since become the Membership and Organizing Director and the Florida Immigrant Coalition. While teaching at the City University of New York, Isabel published academic articles detailing the effects of legal status and marginalization on undocumented mothers and on immigrant adolescents in the transition to adulthood. From 2015 through 2016, they were the state coordinator of New York's Mexican Initiative on Deferred Action. They also serve on the national selection committee of the DREAM.US Undocumented Youth Scholarship Fund.
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Hector Tejeda
Director of Education
UnidosNow, Inc.
Héctor is a Guatemalan immigrant who arrived in the United States as a baby with his sixteen-year-old mother. He went on to graduate from Marist College with an accounting degree and obtained CPA certification while working for Deloitte in New York City. Héctor continued his education at Harvard Business School where he received his MBA in general management. He joined Pfizer upon graduation and then worked over 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry in a wide range of marketing, finance, strategic planning, and general management roles. After retiring from Merck, he became an MBA career advisor at the Wharton School, where he advised students on careers in the healthcare and consumer industries. Héctor moved to Florida in 2013 and wanted to give back to the community. He found his passion with UnidosNow, where he has actively been involved in changing the lives of students since 2014.
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Martha Tellez
Lead Case Manager - A-STEP
Goodwill of North Florida
Martha Tellez was born and raised in Colombia, South America. Martha was an elementary school teacher in her country of origin. She came to the United States 13 years ago. Martha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of North Florida and she is currently in her second year of law school at Florida Coastal School of Law. Martha has two children, Kevin (21) who is in his last year at Florida State University; and Daniella (13) who is 7th grader who enjoys dancing and algebra.
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Chuck Tiernan
Director, Community Impact and LEAP Network
Community Foundation of Tampa Bay
Chuck came to Tampa after spending the last 18 of his 27-year professional career in non-profit education leadership positions, designing and implementing strategies for community and fund development at both a career and technical college, as well as at the national leader in K-12 dropout prevention. As the statewide Director of Development for the Washington State chapter of Communities In Schools, he oversaw the collaborative fund raising strategy for a network of 12 local affiliated organizations, implementing those tactics through a collective impact model. His community development work helped to launch the 12th CIS affiliate in the state, pulling together professionals from two counties and three school districts to form one cohesive dropout prevention organization serving 10 schools in the Tri-Cities area of Central Washington.
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Stephanie Wall
Community Organizer
FL Immigrant Coalition
Stephanie Wall was born in Sogamoso, Colombia and came to the United States at the age of four with her immediate family. After graduating from high school, Stephanie attended the Miami Dade Honors College where she became an active member and leader in the immigrant rights community. Soon after, Stephanie transferred to the University of Central Florida where she studied psychology and sociology. She then joined City Year, an education nonprofit organization aimed at closing the graduation gap in high-poverty communities. She is currently pursuing a Master degree in Nonprofit Management at UCF while working with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. Stephanie's work with FLIC involves providing Know Your Rights trainings, Access to College presentations, civic engagement consulting, and organizing. In her leisure time, Stephanie enjoys going to amusement parks with loved ones and cuddling with her dog, Tobi.
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Stacey Watson
Executive Director
Achieve Palm Beach County
Stacey Watson is the Executive Director for Achieve Palm Beach County, a Collective Impact College Access initiative addressing the post-secondary needs of over 192,000 students. Watson joined Achieve PBC with 17 years of non-profit management and education experience after serving as COO of the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology and Founder / ED of the South Buffalo Education Center. Watson’s curriculum geared at supporting underserved communities resulting in an appointment to the Governor’s Team on School Engagement and Drop-out Prevention and the New York Statewide Alternative Education Committee. Watson successfully aligned members of the secondary and higher education community, human services and arts non-profit organizations, legislative bodies, service organizations, faith-based partners, and trades representatives to improve education and career outcomes in the City of Buffalo. Her most recent Collective Impact work Tonawanda Tomorrow is a US EDA funded Economic Action Plan focused on a first ring suburb of Buffalo, New York to address the future of a community historically dependent on an industrial and coal centered economy. Watson served on the convening Advisory Committee and as Chair of the Workforce Development Stakeholders Group.
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