Our Team

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Mashea Ashton: CEO & Principal

Mashea recently returned to the Washington, D.C. area after spending the last 20 years implementing and scaling best practices in urban education across the country. Mashea is deeply committed to changing the narrative about students who live in Ward 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. Her family has been in Washington, D.C. for six generations and her early career started as a special education teacher at Anne Beers elementary in D.C. Most recently, Mashea served as the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, where she oversaw a $48 million initiative to support the quality growth of charter schools. Before leading the Newark Charter School Fund, Mashea served as the executive director for the New York Program, and senior advisor for charter school policy, for New Leaders for New Schools. Mashea has also served as the executive director for Charter Schools for the New York City Department of Education and the national director of recruitment and selection for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Mashea is a frequent speaker and panelist for charter school and education reform advocacy organizations around the country.  

Mashea has a M.Ed. in special education with an emphasis on learning disabilities and emotional disturbance and a B.A. in sociology and elementary education from the College of William and Mary. She and her husband are the proud parents of twins who are in first grade.


Greg Foster: Managing Director of Finance and operations

Throughout his career, Greg has been absolutely committed to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps that continue to plague communities. 

He began working in charter schools as Regional Director of Operations at Achievement First, providing operational support and leadership across three charter schools in Brooklyn. While at AF, Greg led the development of the operations performance management system and rollout of audit tools in support of the network-wide school operations scorecard. Greg later became Managing Director at Victory Education Partners, where he helped lead the development two charter school back-office operations.

Greg received his B.A. in Economics from Rhodes College and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Greg and his bride are the proud parents of two awesome high school students. 

Alexis Brown: talent & special Projects

Alexis joins Digital Pioneers Academy with a passion for education and STEM, and is beyond thrilled that DPA merges the two. Alexis studied engineering in college, and is dedicated to increasing opportunities for young people of color to pursue and excel in STEM fields. She truly believes that DPA is providing critical exposure to and knowledge about computer science, which is important for all students in this era, but especially those hoping to pursue STEM.

Alexis’ professional career began in Chicago as a founding charter middle school teacher with the LEARN Charter Network. Alexis then taught at NOBLE’s Gary Comer Middle School. Moving back to the DMV, she taught at Glasgow Middle School in Fairfax, VA and served as a program manager of Ascend, a college persistence and career readiness program with Management Leadership for Tomorrow. 

Alexis has a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.  


Barbara Hammond-Awitta: director of special populations

As the Director of Special Populations at DPA, Barbara is passionate about changing the hearts and minds of children and families. She is a Pittsburgh native and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Speech-Language Pathology. She also received her Administration and Special Education Teaching Certification from Coppin State University.

For the last 15 years, she has worked as a speech pathologist, special education coordinator, and director in the DMV area. In her spare time, she is busy working toward her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University. She enjoys singing, traveling and spending time with her friends, family, husband, and 10-year-old son Carter.

Alison Cross: humanities teacher

A native Washingtonian, Alison Cross believes that education is key to closing the equity gap. Alison taught for three years in D.C. public charter schools after graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 2014. Her love for culturally responsive pedagogy and inquiry-based learning led her to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she directed curriculum and instruction for an innovative multi-age homeschooling cooperative with a mission of providing a reflective, affirming learning environment for children of color. At the cooperative, she created a project-based learning approach that empowers students to dive into some of society's most complex challenges — from gentrification to species extinction — from several learning angles. 

Alison brings enthusiasm, hope, and a deep love of learning and teaching to her role at Digital Pioneers Academy. She believes that we have the tremendous opportunity to support scholars in developing critical thinking and collaboration skills that will help them realize their own visions of leadership, contribution, and social change.

ashley pettway: stem teacher

Ashley is a native of Northern Virginia with over five years of education experience. As a certified special educator and experienced math teacher, she has served students in preschool through 12th grade. She began her career at a STEM transformation school in Baltimore, supporting the first graduating class through the college application process. She has a wide range of experience, but is especially passionate about cultivating a love of math among middle school students. Since returning to D.C., Ashley has focused on ensuring that students with disabilities perform at or above grade level expectations. She firmly believes that all students can and must meet the highest academic standards.

Ashley holds a Bachelor of Arts from the College of William and Mary and a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University. Her undergraduate and graduate research centered on developing academic self-efficacy in African-American students through African-American literature.

NyShayla Williams: Humanities Teacher

NyShayla brings to Digital Pioneers Academy a zest for facilitating learning through experience. She takes pride in being raised in a Montessori school from Pre-K to 10th grade, where learning was all about discovery. Her approach to facilitating learning encourages students to explore disciplines that truly interest them, rather than wait for someone to teach it to them. Students become empowered when they tackle content for themselves.

NyShayla moved to D.C. in 2015, where she joined an Americorps program that piqued her interest in teaching middle school students. Following her year of service, she joined a teaching fellowship, where she taught fourth and fifth grade math and writing. She most recently taught sixth, seventh, and eighth grade ELA and developed her pedagogy while simultaneously working on her master’s degree in elementary and special education at Johns Hopkins University.

NyShayla is most excited about building a strong community in her classroom and utilizing all of her students’ strengths so they can all be seen as leaders with excellent character and tenacity. She is a proud alumna of North Carolina A&T State University, where she studied economics and took advantage of an amazing opportunity to study abroad in Ghana. NyShayla enjoys traveling around the world, baking and practicing yoga during her free time.

Trenisha Goslee: STEM Teacher

Trenisha is a founding STEM teacher originally hailing from Staunton, Virginia. She attended Old Dominion University, where she studied Technology Education and developed her passion for using education to help students of color pursue STEM careers. After college, she joined Teach for America and taught Math and STEM for three years in Mississippi and Louisiana. While teaching, she furthered her own education by earning her master’s degree in Educational Technology Leadership.

After starting an elementary STEM program in El Paso, Texas, Trenisha decided to move back home and help found Digital Pioneers Academy. She is excited about developing the next generation of innovators —  DPA’s values align with her own personal values. She believes that our scholars have the most talent, and it just needs to be tapped into. She, along with her team at DPA, will ensure our scholars are represented and thrive in 21st century careers!

Alexa Williams: Humanities Teacher

Alexa is a fourth-year Humanities educator and proud final addition to the founding Digital Pioneers team. She is dedicated to creating a community where learning is inspired and useful. To that end, her pedagogy emphasizes joyful relationships, the importance of character, and problem solving. Alexa has experience teaching at both an alternative public school and a detention center for young boys, so she is deeply committed to eradicating the school-to-prison pipeline. She seeks to do this by energizing scholars to be limitless in defining their own narratives, and then by providing them with the opportunities and support they need to follow through. Her scholars describe her as silly but serious, and her favorite thing to see is scholars being proud of themselves.

Alexa is a graduate of Georgia College and State University with a dual degree in Theatre and Criminal Sociology. She is also an alumna of Teach for America Arkansas and founder of a nonprofit called The "Yes, and…" Foundation. She's an avid champion of the arts, traveling, urban farming, language learning and spontaneity.

Alexis Balanda: humanities teacher

Alexis is joining Digital Pioneers Academy as a Humanities Teacher. She is committed to providing students the tools necessary to achieve academic goals, instilling a love of learning, and fostering cooperative teamwork. Alexis is from York, Pennsylvania, and attended The Pennsylvania State University, where she majored in Communication Sciences and Disorders (pre-speech pathology) and minored in Special Education. Currently, she is enrolled in Goucher College's Master of Arts program and will receive a dual certification in Special Education and Elementary Education. Her teaching background includes teaching 9th and 10th grade special education in Prince George's County and 11th and 12th grade special education in Washington, D.C.

April Stanford: sped teacher

April is a Boston native and Boston Public Schools graduate who moved to the DMV area two years ago. Although she has worked in the education field since 2005, this will be her first time teaching at a middle school! April is also a creative; she enjoys singing, writing songs and performing. She is a 36 year old Aquarius with Canadian and Barbadian roots. 

Azmi Abusam: STEM teacher

Azmi is excited to join the DPA family as a STEM Teacher. In his own family, he is a proud brother and uncle. In his free time, he enjoys playing recreational basketball!

Betty Cowans: stem teacher

Betty moved to Washington, D.C. in 2014 after completing her undergraduate career at The Ohio State University to start her teaching journey with Urban Teachers. She holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Special Education.

Betty believes that educating our children is a shared responsibility, and that teaching is more than a profession, but a dedication of oneself to the betterment of others. For this upcoming school year at DPA, she hopes to push beyond thresholds with her students and sustain a learning environment in which students are dedicated to seeking knowledge and their own academic and personal growth.

Carolyn Rogan: humanities teacher

Carolyn graduated from Wellesley College in 2018 with a B.A. in English and a minor in Education. She completed her student teaching in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood after volunteering in the area during her freshman and sophomore years. She taught at Breakthrough Atlanta in the summer of 2016; the experience sparked her passion for helping students from all backgrounds grow up to live choice-filled lives.

After graduating from college, Carolyn moved back to Atlanta, where she spent four months as a temporary teacher at her neighborhood high school. With the benefit of that extra experience, she’s ready to dive into her first full year of teaching! Carolyn has never lived in D.C. and is excited to start a new adventure here.

In addition to her college degree, Carolyn also holds a D.C. teaching license and is eligible for a Georgia license

Delonna gibbs: Humanities teacher

Delonna joins Digital Pioneers Academy team with thirteen years of experience working in urban education in Washington, D.C. She has seen students change the trajectory of their lives through education and become first-generation college graduates. As a student life coordinator and upper school lead at SEED Public Charter School, she was responsible for after-school programming and service-learning opportunities for high school students. She also facilitated exposure trips out of the country to Greece, Canada, and Costa Rica. Delonna is passionate about teaching students how to be global citizens and critical thinkers.

Delonna has a heart for social justice and understands the power of background knowledge and history in helping students access new ideas and concepts. She believes all students are emergent learners who can think critically if given the opportunity to explore their theories. Previously, she taught eighth grade ELA at Monument Academy and has five years of experience as a preschool teacher. Cultivating active learners is what excites Delonna most about being part of DPA’s team of innovative educators.

Delonna holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Cincinnati, and is currently working on her second master’s degree in Special Education at Grand Canyon University.

Demetrius blue: sped teacher

Demetrius Blue brings 10 years of education experience to the DPA team. He has a passion for developing intensive academic and behavior intervention for students who have difficulty accessing the general education curriculum.  

Demetrius has worn a wide variety of hats as an educator, including Special Education Teacher, Response to Intervention Coordinator, and Behavior Interventionist. He has a B.A. in Sociology from Bowie State University and a master’s degree in Education Leadership from Strayer. He is also a two-time presenter at OSSE's LEA Institute and a 2017 graduate of the American University Master Teacher Cadre. 

Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Capella University.

Emily Goldstein: stem teacher

Emily is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and is a graduate of the University of Rochester, where she majored in Psychology and minored in American Sign Language. She moved to Washington, D.C. to join the Urban Teachers graduate school program, pursuing an M.A. in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Her teaching background includes working with Breakthrough Collaborative at their Boston site, where she taught eighth grade math for two summers.

Jacqueline Baron: humanities teacher

Jacqueline is proud to bring to Digital Pioneers Academy her passion for education and socio-emotional learning. She is incredibly excited to combine both passions with DPA's mindset of high expectations and high empathy. She truly believes that DPA is creating a known, loved, and respected community, while simultaneously thinking critically, creatively, and thoughtfully to solve complex problems.

Jacqueline began her professional career with Teach For America in San Antonio, Texas. During her three years at SJ Davis Middle School, she taught ELA and AVID, coached several sports teams, and served as treasurer for TFASA’s Council of Elders, an alumni organization dedicated to mentoring current TFA Corps members. She later co-founded EAST, an organization of educators seeking to embrace, educate, and empower the East Side community of San Antonio through culturally responsive pedagogy and community outreach.

Jacqueline has an M.A. in Clinical Social Work with an emphasis on Family Systems and Violence Prevention from the University of Chicago. She also holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has experience facilitating psychosocial groups focused on subjects such as grief and loss, peer relationships, anger management, and social skills. Jacqueline is beyond thrilled to provide the highest quality teaching while keeping scholars’ individual needs in mind.

Jerry Dudley: STEM TEACHER

Jerry Dudley is from Staten Island in New York City. He attended Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Physics in 2006. He received his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University Mankato in 2007.

Before Jerry's charter school journey, he worked as a math teacher in the DCPS system and as a teacher and department chair in Prince George’s County. He has also worked as a Membership Coordinator for the National Society of Black Engineers and Program Coordinator for Envision EMI LLC.

JEssica skrobarczyk: humanities teacher

Jessica is originally from Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Master of Education in Curriculum Development and Instruction. Before coming to D.C., Jessica served as a middle school teacher in Katy, Texas. She is passionate about helping students discover how to use the skills of reading and writing to better understand their own story and the stories of others around them.

Kayla kelly: Urban Teacher resident – STEM

Kayla is a native Washingtonian, born and raised in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Southeast D.C. Currently a participant in the Urban Teachers program, Kayla is excited to use her passion for mentoring and her expertise in technology to help build a new generation at DPA. She graduated with honors in Economics and Applied Mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Mathematics and Special Education at Johns Hopkins University. At Georgia Tech, Kayla was a three-time recipient of the Office of Minority Education Tower Award for academic achievement, and was also inducted into the Omicron Delta Epsilon National Economics Honor Society and the Pi Mu Epsilon National Mathematics Honor Society.

Kayla serves on the Education Achievement Day committee at her church, Georgia Tech’s Young Alumni Committee, and the Caribbean Political Action Committee’s Young Adult Initiative Committee. She is also the Mentorship and Professional Development Lead at the D.C. Chapter of Women Who Code and a part of Tech’s Mentor Jackets program. 

Her teaching background includes tutoring and mentoring through the Latino Student Fund and Higher Achievement, serving through Tech’s Jumpstart Americorps program, and working as a STEM Teacher at DC-CAP’s STEM Ready Center at Phelps ACE High School.

Emily Uechi: urban teacher resident – humanities

Mariko Uechi is originally from Seattle, Washington. As a young child, she spent a few years living on Ishigaki, a small island in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. She completed her bachelor's degree at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she studied History and Comparative Race and Ethnic Relations. At Clark, she was published in “Gendered Lives: Intersectional Perspectives,” a Women and Gender Studies textbook.

She moved to Washington D.C. to earn a master's degree through Urban Teachers. Her teaching background includes working with Breakthrough Collaborative in San Francisco, where she taught fifth grade writing. In 2021, she will receive her M.A. in Education from Johns Hopkins University. 

Miya Howard: Humanities Teacher

Miya brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and excitement as she joins DPA as a Humanities Teacher. Miya truly believes in the mission and vision of the school, particularly its focus on technology and high expectations! She believes that DPA is creating an environment in which students will test their learning capacity while closing the achievement gap that is present for black and brown students.

Miya began her career as a ninth grade English Language Arts Teacher with Yes Prep Public Schools before transitioning and finding her niche as a sixth and seventh grade English Teacher in New York City. For the past two years, Miya has taught sixth grade English in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Miya graduated from Spelman College in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts. She also holds a Master of Arts in English and Education from NYU Steinhardt. She has experience conducting peer social groups and building social and emotional skills. She is beyond glad to provide the highest quality of teaching and learning to scholars while building their reading enthusiasm.

Nana konadu cann: humanities teacher

Nana Konadu is excited to join the DPA family as an ELA and Social Studies teacher. She recently graduated with a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to working at DPA, she spent three years at Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School as a Principal's Assistant, Behavior Specialist, and School Culture and Data Specialist. While she has held various administrative roles as an educator, this will be her first time leading classroom instruction for an entire school year. In the past, she has taught mini lessons and led enrichment camps in Trenton, New Jersey, Springfield, Massachusetts, and Tokyo, Japan.

Nana Konadu hails from New Jersey, but spent much of her childhood moving from state to state in the northeast, never attending the same school for more than two years until ninth grade. She learned to value the importance of education from her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Ghana in the early 1990s. While her friends spent their summer breaks at camp, she and her sister were assigned book reports by their mom and did household science experiments with their dad.

Nana Konadu is excited to bring the spark of curiosity for learning that she experienced as a child to her classroom and share her love of learning about the world with her students. When she's not teaching, she loves watching reality TV and eating Thai food.

Shelby Stanley: STEM teacher

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Shelby Stanley is a passionate teaching professional entering her 18th year of teaching. She is excited to join DPA because it will allow her to infuse her love for both Math and Computer Science into her daily routine. She is a graduate from North Carolina A&T State University with a master’s degree in Computer Science. She believes that teaching involves as much learning as it does teaching, and looks forward to creating an environment in which learning becomes contagious.

Vicki Chrea: STEM teacher

Vicki Chrea has been an active member of the Washington, D.C. education community since 2014. She has served students as a math educator, special educator, school administrator, DCPS transition board member, and most recently as an arts administrator at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is passionate about the use of technology in the classroom and providing equitable opportunities to all learners.

Vicki holds a B.A. from California State University Long Beach, and is currently completing her master’s in Education at Johns Hopkins University.

Zachary siegel: stem teacher

Zach joins Digital Pioneers Academy with a passion for learning about the past to create a brighter future. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 2006 to study history and museum education at American University. After graduating in 2011 with both bachelor's and master's degrees in History, Zach began working at several Washington, D.C. historic sites to engage the public in crucial conversations about our country's past.

In 2013, Zach joined KIPP DC, where he became a founding teacher of Quest Academy. As both a science and social studies teacher, he engaged students through experiential learning opportunities to help them realize their place as a global citizens.

Zach is excited to bring his 12 years of experience growing up in rural upstate New York along with his 12 years of Washington, D.C. education experience to the DPA team.

Olajide (Jide) Awelewa: STEM Teacher

Olajide (Jide) Awelewa is from Brooklyn, New York. Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, he moved to the U.S. in his teenage years. He completed his bachelor's degree at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, where he studied Religion, History, Biology, Writing and Rhetoric.

Before moving to D.C., Jide served as a middle school teacher in Brooklyn’s Canarsie community. He is passionate about helping scholars discover their academic potentials as innovators and leaders of tomorrow.

Aliss Williams: associate dean of socio-emotional learning

Aliss Williams was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Coppin State University, were she completed her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Social Work and Special Education. She’s worked in the Baltimore City School System for over 12 years in the urban area of northwest Baltimore. Because she too grew up in urban areas, it has always been her passion to give back to Baltimore.

Aliss later continued her career at a non-public level five school, which allowed her the opportunity to work with students with emotional and learning disabilities. While working there, she went back to school to complete her master certificate in Restorative Practice, and she is now pursuing my master's degree.

In total, Aliss has worked with inner city Baltimore youth for over 30 years, and she looks forward to making a difference in youth lives at Digital Pioneer Academy.

Gwen hilliard: ASsociate dean of socio-emotional learning

Gwen Hilliard graduated from Virginia State University in 2010 with her Bachelor of Science in Sociology. In 2011, she returned to Washington, D.C. with hopes of serving as an educator in the city where she was born and raised. She began her education career as a preschool teacher, and then taught first and fifth grades for five years. She believes that there is always room to grow and challenge oneself, for students as well as teachers. In that spirit, she pursued a career in administration and served as a Dean of Students in a D.C. public charter elementary school. The role allowed her to truly walk in her purpose as an educator and build leaders of the future through character development and relationship-building.

Gwen is a true Washingtonian: She grew up in foster care and has lived in all four quadrants of D.C. She understands what many of the youth deal with on a day-to-day basis and and knows how it feels when adults turn their back on a child at a young age. She takes pride in being a listening ear, providing advice, and, most of all, leading by example. She believes that scholars strive to be great when they are provided positive influences. 

Gwen is currently completing her Master of Science in Management and Leadership in Education. She dreams of one day becoming an elementary school principal, serving adolescents in the same Washington, D.C. area she grew up in.

Jordan Johnson: associate dean of socio-emotional learning

Mr. Johnson brings extensive experience in the mental health industry to DPA. In 2009, he began working in the field as a residential counselor at Elk Hill, a residential facility treating adjudicated youth aged 8 through 21. He later served as the organization’s crisis intervention specialist, training staff from the organization and school leaders from local districts on relationship-building with youth, communication skills, conflict resolution, and other interventions to keep individuals safe. He also led psychoeducation groups with residents to teach them stress management, anger management, social skills, health and wellness, and money management.

Mr. Johnson felt that there was a need to reach struggling youth at an earlier stage, and so he sought out a more direct pathway to impact the community he was serving. This led to him joining UnCommon Schools as an Associate Dean of Students, then quickly becoming the Dean of Students of Vailsburg Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey. During his time as Dean of Students, Vailsburg third graders exceeded the nationwide PARCC ELA proficiency rate by 30%, and fourth graders exceeded this same test by 40%. Mr. Johnson worked to ensure that all scholars exemplified the core values of the school: respect, responsibility, courage, caring, and justice. As a testament to his work in his school and community, Mr. Johnson received the Vailsburg Community Service Award in 2017 and a Senate Resolution from Senator Rice.

Tarneil miller: Associate Dean of Socio-emotional Learning

Tarneil moved to Washington, D.C. in 2017 to serve as an Assistant Dean of Culture in a D.C. public charter high school. Tarneil believes in openness and allowing room for each individual student to feel safe to express themselves. The techniques he has used with students include relationship building, anger management, coping skills, meditation, and code switching. He is dedicated to using these techniques to impact scholars at DPA.

Tarneil has always had a soft heart for struggling youth. Raised by a single mother in a small two-bedroom apartment with six other siblings, he understands the unique challenges struggling youth face. He practices a philosophy of openness, believing in the power of student advocacy and autonomy in student behavioral management.

Before working in charter schools, Tarneil served as a social worker in Arkansas for over two years, where he implemented protection plans, conducted home and school visits, provided family services, and facilitated foster care services.

Kiyah Holloman: Associate Dean of Socio-emotional Learning & Enrichment coordinator

Kiyah’s career in extended education began seven years ago when she started hosting leadership development conferences with the College Success Foundation. In 2015, she became Education Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington (BGCGW). Her role with BGCGW evolved, growing from Grants Specialist to Program Director.

As a native Washingtonian who was born and raised in D.C., Kiyah has an unmatched understanding of the youth. She can both sympathize with their frustrations and celebrate their wins as if they were her own. She takes pride in being relatable and leading through transparency.


Antonio Washington: Operations Associate

Antonio Washington is the father of three great kids. As a great team player and an extremely hard worker, he always has an intense drive to learn more and loves exploring new ways to solve challenging projects. 

Devanté caldwell: Enrichment Coordinator

DeVanté is pleased to join the DPA team as Enrichment Coordinator for the 2019-2020 school year.

As a native of Southeast Washington, D.C., DeVanté has dedicated his time to working with children east of the river to provide academic, emotional, and social support. Before joining DPA, he worked for various education entities including DCPS, City Year, and the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. DeVanté is an alumnus of both Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and American University in D.C.

Jen motolenich torres: Special assistant to the ceo

Jen Motolenich Torres comes from a family of educators: Her parents celebrated 45 years of teaching this past year! Growing up in underserved and impoverished communities in Puerto Rico, her parents valued learning English and believed education could help them accomplish any dream. With education at the core of her family's values, Jen worked to receive her B.A. in Music at the Interamerican University in San German, Puerto Rico. With the desire to continue growing as an educator, she moved to Boulder, Colorado, where she received her K-12 teaching license in music education and an M.A. in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity at the University of Colorado Boulder. During her 10 years in Colorado, Jen taught English to adult learners, created and implemented a K-5 bilingual music curriculum in which she combined music and literacy to support English Language Learners in Boulder Valley Schools, and worked with the Boulder Philharmonic to create bilingual access to their Discovery Concert series for students and families. Wanting to work more closely with families, she became Director of Family Engagement at STRIVE Prep Charter Schools. In that role, she led STRIVE Prep’s family engagement program, recruitment and enrollment strategies, and health and wellness initiatives across all 11 campuses, serving over 3,800 students. Jen moved to D.C. in 2019 and joins the DPA team as the Special Assistant to the CEO. She is excited to continue her growth as an innovator in the DPA community.

Joy MCdowell: Operations manager

Joy is new to D.C. but has already fallen in love with the people, culture, and neighborhoods in the DMV. She grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she both observed and was affected by socio-economic segregation in schools. As a witness to how income levels determine vast differences in the availability of school resources, Joy has dedicated her career to tackling inequities within the education system. She takes pride in being a problem solver and in optimizing organizational capacity. She has a deep passion for serving youth, and believes that every student has the capacity to be an academic, social, and emotional high achiever. As often as possible, Joy remembers to ask herself: “What do you want to be true in the world because of the work you are doing?” She lets her answer guide her beliefs and decisions. 

Joy received her Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her B.A. in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Needless to say, she bleeds Carolina Blue — Go Heels! She is tremendously excited to be a new member of the DPA team and looks forward to growing with them.