Meet our staff! We're a small and powerful team with many years of combined experience working with and advocating for youth worldwide.
Brett became the CEO of Educate Tomorrow in 2012. Educate Tomorrow has received awards for partnership, leadership and innovation from Florida International University, Miami Dade College, Voices for Children, Switchboard Miami, The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross Women's Spectrum awards and College Board. Brett is an alumni of the National Urban Fellows Executive Leadership Program and the Miami Foundation Miami Leaders program where he attended the FIU High Potential Leader Program. Before Educate Tomorrow Brett was an officer of buildOn where he led their International programs from 2005-2012 overseeing the construction of over 1,000 classrooms for more than 40,000 children in rural Haiti, Nicaragua, Senegal, Mali, Malawi, Niger, Nepal and India. Brett served as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa from 2001-2003. Brett has a M.S.Ed in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami. He is currently a board member of Hope for Haiti. He is co-chair of the Education and Employment committee for Helping Our Miami Youth (HOMY). In 2018 Brett received the Child Welfare Champion award from the Florida Department of Children and Families for his work on increasing college access and success for former foster youth statewide through the Positive Pathways program.
Virginia Emmons McNaught
Virginia Emmons McNaught - is co-founder, President and Chief Business Development Officer of Educate Tomorrow. She was CEO of Educate Tomorrow from 2003-2010. She now leads Educate Tomorrow in strategy and growth, forging key strategic partnerships locally and globally, helping to reach close to a $3M Operating Budget in 2019.
In recent years Virginia has led the development of programs and funding to serve children and their families expanding Educate Tomorrow's population to a younger and older demographic using a similar individualized approach to enrichment and skill building as Educate Tomorrow's traditional programs. In 2019 Virginia was invited to be a member of Miami Dade College's Baccalaureate in Education Advisory Committee for this work. Virginia helped to lead the groundswell of support as co-founder of the SEED School of Miami, a public, college preparatory boarding school for at-promise 6-12 graders, when at full capacity will operate at $10M in annual funding. In 2015, Virginia was recognized at the Red Cross Women's Spectrum Awards for her work in Education. She is also the recipient of the Florida International University PATH Award for Well-Being, which she received with her husband. She was awarded the Junior League's Women Who Make A Difference Award and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Everyday Freedom Hero Award. She was featured in the book America's Way to Change and was recognized at the White House by both President Bush and President Obama as developing one of twenty national Programs With Promise.
In 2012, Virginia was a finalist for the White House Fellowship. Virginia served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a remote village in Niger, West Africa and continues to support the schools she helped establish. She has represented the Peace Corps as a spokesperson for White House events and was the most recent past President of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida.
Raised as the youngest of eight from humble beginnings in Greendale, Wisconsin, she has traveled to over 50 countries. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where she was student body President and on the varsity soccer team. She is a graduate of the University of Miami with a Master's in Education, specializing in Community & Social Change.
Tracy Adirika is a student at Miami Dade College studying biology with hopes of attending medical school. She is the program assistant for the Positive Pathways Network and the AOK Scholars Program at Educate Tomorrow. Tracy believes in the power and influence of peer mentor-ship and community service on social change. She is a mother of two and caretaker to her four siblings.
Andrea was born and raised in Miami Dade County and is of Cuban and Dominican decent. Andrea has an A.A. in Music Education from Miami Dade College, B.A. in Criminology, B.A. Sociology from University of South Florida, M.S.Ed in Higher Education Administration with Certificates in Student Life and Development and Enrollment Management from the University of Miami. Andrea is an alumni member of Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Fraternity and a member of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha Incorporada from the Gamma Delta chapter in the Florida region. Andrea has case management experience in the child welfare system and in an advocate for the improvement of the foster care system nationwide.
Alison joined Educate Tomorrow in the fall of 2013 as a life coach for her mentee and for the Educate Tomorrow team. Alison was the CEO of the Belafonte TACOLCY center in Liberty City from 2006-2013, a center the she attended programs at during her childhood. Alison has had an impressive career marked by experiences in international community development work, education, ecotourism, community outreach, project management and marketing. Alison studied Radio and TV broadcasting at Miami Dade College, where she was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2007. She earned a B.A. in speech communications/public relations from the University of South Florida, a MS degree in Hospitality Management from FIU, a Certificate from the Harvard Business School in Leadership Development and a M.S. Ed in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami in 2013.
Devin ended up in Miami in 2010. Working for the AmeriCorps VISTA program, he served the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau for two consecutive years. Devin uses his life experience and challenges he faced in order to teach others and guide youth concerning the dangers of falling into "risky" behaviors. Devin is a certified personal trainer and high school basketball coach.
JR Fry is Educate Tomorrow’s Senior Programs Director. JR has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit operations, development and management. For 19 years, he served as Vice President for one of the fastest growing international nonprofits in the world. Today, he manages programs and operations for Educate Tomorrow. A graduate of Centenary College, JR and his partner, Bob, live in Miami, with their two labs.
Vera Gallamore is a Graduate Fellow and Office Assistant. Born in Tifton, Georgia and raised in Overtown located in the heart of Miami. Vera was a former foster youth who got involved with Educate Tomorrow in 2006. She has been working with Educate Tomorrow since 2015 using her life experiences to help other students in similar situations. She is currently a student at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus who has received her Associate in Hospitality Administration/Travel and Tourism and now is pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in hospitality: Supervision and Management.
Claudia Gourdet is a Care Coordinator at Educate Tomorrow. In May 2019 she obtained her Bachelor's degree in Computer Information System from Miami Dade College .
Claudia has been a student with Educate Tomorrow since 2014 and has been part of the Graduate Fellows Program and a Changemaker Corps member at Miami Dade College. This experience has allowed her to gain valuable nonprofit and youth development experience. Since then she has been assisting Educate Tomorrow with the launch of Educate Tomorrow-The App. Through a unique smart phone application, Educate Tomorrow participants will be supported, encouraged and celebrated through the process of transitioning to adulthood and life skills attainment.
Varzi Jean Baptiste
Varzi is a Program Director/Care Coordinator for Educate Tomorrow. She came to Educate Tomorrow in 2013 as a graduate student at the University of Miami in the Community and Social Change program. Since then she has been assisting Educate Tomorrow youth and team in planning life skills events, activities and college tours. She joined Educate Tomorrow full time in 2015. She has twin boys who are currently in college.
Lucinda Kerschensteiner, MBA
Through the generous support of Charity Services Centers (CSC) of Miami, Lucinda leads the Educate Tomorrow expansion team to bring ET’s important and meaningful programs to other communities and institutions around the country. She has over twenty years of experience in entrepreneurship, nonprofit, social enterprise and workforce development. Lucinda has contributed to numerous other unique social ventures, projects and programs including an arts business incubator, earned revenue programs for a government agency, a mentoring program for women in transition, self-employment training program, and a coworking space for social innovators.
In addition to supporting Educate Tomorrow in their expansion, Lucinda acts as a Regional Director for CSC, representing their banking program which includes over 200 nonprofits and banks in their network and as Founding Director for Uhambo USA, a nonprofit organization that works in the disability sector in southern Africa.
Earlier in her career, Lucinda was a prominent professional coach and a contributor to the coaching profession in her region. She has coached hundreds of individuals in career transition around the country.
Lucinda graduated from Bryn Mawr College and received her MBA from Colorado State University’s innovative Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise program. Lucinda is an active member of the Rotary Club of Fort Collins, Colorado and loves living in one of the best small towns in the U.S. with her husband David.
As a homeless youth growing up in the heart of Miami’s urban core, Kendrika never thought she would be in college. She recently graduated from Miami Dade College with an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice and I’m currently attending Florida International University (FIU) pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Criminal Justice.
The challenges and lessons she learned as an unaccompanied homeless youth, has inspired her to give back to her peers. As a part of Educate Tomorrow, she is a trained facilitator in Social Emotional Learning. Kendrika enjoys teaching and exposing other youth to the benefits of mindfulness and self awareness. She is a peer mentor and role model for young women through the P3 Executive Internship Program at Educate Tomorrow.
David’s role is Development for expansion of Educate Tomorrow service locations, with current focus on the State of Colorado. His position with Educate Tomorrow is made possible through the generous support of Charity Services Centers (CSC) of Miami. David’s professional experiences spans over 30 years, managing growth initiatives for regional, national and global companies. His areas of expertise include business development, strategic planning, organizational development, capital fundraising and key account management.
Following his management posts in the for-profit sector, David decided to re-direct his career to the non-profit/social impact world. His first position in this sector was as Development Director for a Colorado-based community service organization that provides full-spectrum support to under-represented youth, young adults and families in their progress toward self-sufficiency.
David is a graduate of Colorado State University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with High Distinction.
Sandra Seymour Obas
Care Coordinator/ College Coach,
Sandra Seymour Obas is skilled in performing advocacy work for culturally diverse youth and adolescents through the educational sector. She is most interested in the opportunities to service students impacted by the dependency system and those who have experienced homelessness in their transition to higher education.
Sandra has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida and a Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Florida International University. Sandra supports the mission of increasing the retention and completion rate of students by bridging support service programs throughout college/university campuses throughout the state.
Lissette Otalvaro is Educate Tomorrow’s Resource Center Manager. She was born and raised in Queens, New York where she was surrounded by the cultural diversity. Her background experience is in Human Resources Management in hospitality and nonprofit. While raising a family she was co-owner of a successful Small Business in Miami Beach. A graduate of Florida International University, Lissette lives in Miami Beach with her three sons and is a proud member of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Cecilia Palavecino Hernandez
Care Coordinator ,
Cecilia Palavecino was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina where studied Anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires. She is a Certified Montessori Teacher in Early Childhood Education by the American Montessori Society, and she has been teaching since 2005. She is also a certified Yoga Teacher.
The influence Cecilia had during her childhood and adolescence by being surrounded by children, adolescents and parents that were walking in and out of her home to receive psycho-pedagogical therapy since her mother was a psychopedagogist, have shaped the foundation on which Cecilia became an educator today: understanding that children learn at their own pace, that family environment and circumstances of each child contribute and determine their learning and development process, and that each child achieves his level of excellence with appropriate and right stimulus.
Cecilia is an active member of the American Montessori Society www.amshq.org
Racquell "Racqui" Perry, Esq.
Racquell "Racqui" Perry, Esq is a Florida barred and the Program Associate for the Positive Pathways Program at Educate Tomorrow. The Positive Pathways Program is designed to support a statewide network of informed, empathetic and united action to help youth from foster care succeed in college.
Racqui (pronounced Rocky) started her work at Educate Tomorrow as a Graduate (policy) Fellow and later became the Statewide Outreach Director for the Keys to Independence Program. Keys to Independence is a program funded by the Florida Department of Children and Families designed to remove obstacles for youth in foster care to obtain their driver’s license.
Racqui is a 2019 Congressional Shadow Week Delegate and has served on the Miami-Dade Community Based Care Alliance (System of Care, Chairperson), on the Citizen Review Panel with Florida Foster Care Review (Miami) and as the President of the Our Kids Youth Advisory Council. A graduate of Florida A&M University (BS ’11) and Florida A&M University College of Law (JD ’15).
Lara Peco-Fazanes was born in Madrid, Spain. She received a NCAA Division II scholarship from Upper Iowa University to be part of the women's tennis team. She was a member of the Athletic Director Honor Roll.
Lara holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Biology. She was selected to present her senior project at the 91st Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association. In addition, she obtained a certification in Business Psychology & Communication at the University Fernando Pessoa of Portugal.
In addition, she was trained in Fontan Relational Education through Learning One to One, where she had the opportunity to travel to Colombia to learn about the formal autonomous learning system that fosters the potential of each student. Lara is CPR, AED and First Aid Certified Lifeguard.
Dr. Steve J. Rios
Dr. Steve J. Rios, a long-time mentor and consultant with Educate Tomorrow, he serves as the Senior Director of Positive Pathways, a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Dr. Rios helps to support a network of campus and community based advocates for young adults coming from the foster care system striving to obtain a post-secondary credential. Dr. Rios holds a doctorate in Adult Education and Human Resource Development from Florida International University and a master's degree in Public Administration from Florida Atlantic University. Along with his wife Nohemi, Dr. Rios owns Rios Research & Evaluation, which provides data analysis for charter schools and Broward County Public Schools programs.
Dr. Amy Rubinson
Dr. Amy Rubinson is a scholarly practitioner who has worked as a formal educator, an informal educator, a program director, and a school board chair. At Educate Tomorrow, as a senior level staff person, Dr. Rubinson supervises the programming and program staff. She also directs the grant-reporting, manages internal database, and conducts internal evaluations on programming.
She completed her PhD in Education from Colorado State University. Her research is related to understanding factors that contribute to academic outcomes for underrepresented students who participated in an out-of-school-time STEM college-readiness program.
She earned her Bachelor's from Emory University in Biology and a Master's of Science in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami. Dr. Rubinson is a life-long learner who is consistently excited for the opportunity to grow from her professional settings and disseminate her knowledge with others.
Shavon Saint Preux
Shavon Saint Preux is an AOK Specialist at Educate Tomorrow assisting college students persistence to graduation by providing on-going education and financial coaching and access to non-traditional scholarships like emergency financial assistance, good grade bonuses and graduation bonuses.
Shavon received a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision & Management and Human Resources Certificate from Miami Dade College in May 2019. She also owns a small hair extensions business called "Enchanting Extensions" that she started in 2015 and expanded through the help of Educate Tomorrow. She served as a Changemaker Corps member through the Educate Tomorrow at Miami Dade College program where she spent a year mentoring a cohort of Educate Tomorrow students attending Miami Dade College. The Changemaker Corps peer mentoring program at Miami Dade College won the Service Year Alliance Innovation Award as a model with the potential to solve a problem at scale and create powerful change.
Antonio teaches music production at Educate Tomorrow as a mentor with the organization Guitars Over Guns. Antonio Shelton was with advertising agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky from 2005-2013 as a Broadcast Engineer. He was responsible for studio recording, sound design and effects, music production, and post-production work. Mr. Shelton received his A.S. degree in Recording Arts from Fullsail University in Orlando, Florida in 2004. Mr. Shelton also has an active artistic career as a hip hop and R&B musician, releasing his first single "Remember" in 2008. Mr. Shelton was a foster youth in Miami-Dade County. The efforts of Melanie Damian and Chris Damian to assist Mr. Shelton further his education provided much of the inspiration for the formation of Educate Tomorrow. Mr. Shelton sends a message to our youth of the possibility of attending college. Since 2015 he has been a mentor and teacher to Educate Tomorrow students interested in music production, recording and expression.
Anja M. Sherry
Anja Sherry was born and raised to Swedish-American journalists in Hong Kong. She spent her teen years in Washington, DC and moved to Florida in 2010 where she pursued her studies and career in Elementary Education.
Inspired by a paragraph in her college textbook, Anja embraced Montessori philosophy and became a fully certified and working Montessori teacher in Lake Mary, Fl. After five years in private education, Anja followed a calling to teach at a Title-1 struggling public school, where she was determined to understand and improve the system for the children and teachers. Anja was rated highly-effective each year and was nominated team leader for her 2nd-grade team, though she was often shocked and discouraged by the demands on students and school staff in the public school.