Gavin McGuire currently serves as Chief Operating Officer of Usher’s New Look. Under his leadership, the organization has certified over 42,000 youth nationally in Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York and Washington DC as well as internationally in Hong Kong, Vancouver, London, Kenya, South Africa and Dominican Republic. Gavin is a forward-thinking youth development specialist and community organizer who has dedicated his life to improving conditions for youth and families. He began his journey as a servant leader in his native city of New Orleans, Louisiana, through his work with the Treme Center as a mentor, program administrator and youth leader. Since graduating from Morehouse College with a B.A. in Psychology, Gavin established a stellar track record of building capacity and measurable impact with a variety of reputable institutions, such as the YMCA, Future Foundation, Department of Juvenile Justice and SWI Consulting (where he developed community-based programs for professional athletes and entertainers). Throughout his career, he has developed over 50 program initiatives in the areas of college and career readiness, STEM, leadership and service. As a tireless fundraiser and grant writer, he has attained substantial funding for under-resourced communities across the country.
Gigi Pedraza is a social entrepreneur and experienced professional within the areas of management, strategy, operations, communications and development. She has worked in different capacities with many local Latino-serving non-profits and is the publisher of LatinoConnectionGA.com, a website that compiles opinion pieces, success stories and resources focused on the Hispanic/Latino community. Mrs. Pedraza sits on the board of the Center for Pan-Asian Community Services, the Feminist Health Center, is a trustee at the Thanks Mom & Dad Fund and is an advisory board member with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Caminar Latino in Georgia.
Maryellen Gomes is originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and relocated to Atlanta in 1993. She was hired by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta as Case Manager. It was there that she developed the love and passion for mentoring. She currently is the Mentor Coordinator for the Cobb County School district, 2nd largest school district in Georgia. She created and manages the districts flagship school-based mentoring program, called Cobb Mentoring Matters. Since inception, hundreds of mentors have participated in the program and have played an important role in the educational process for the students in Cobb County. Maryellen holds a Bachelors’ from the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth and a Masters in Social Work from Georgia State University. She has attended the Portland State University Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring and was recently selected as a 2017 Summit Fellow with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Maryellen enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also is committed to maintaining her health and fitness goals while at the local gym or bike riding.
Randy Ezra Rainwater is the Campus Pastor at Grace New Hope in Lawrenceville, GA, a diverse and growing campus with a reach into the community that goes far beyond it’s weekly attendance. Randy also leads the student ministry teams in the Grace Family of Churches. A 27-year veteran of youth ministry, Randy believes empowering a generation of disciplers is the heartbeat of this growing movement. In addition Randy serves as board chairman of Campus Thrive, volunteers with NG3, and partners in chaplain ministry to local sports teams. A regular speaker at Private and Public school conferences and church retreats, Randy weaves biblical truth with stories of life that speaks to both adults and students. Randy is a graduate of Asbury University and Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), and is currently a doctoral candidate at RTS. Though he loves ministry, it comes after family. Married to Anita for 25 years, they have raised three children and now have a granddaughter who he has many pictures of and is happy to share them with you. Randy loves all things UK basketball, Tennessee Walking horses, a long bike ride, every type of music and anything outdoors. Feel free to contact Randy, his Facebook page is Randy Ezra Rainwater and his Twitter is @RandyERainwater.
Brad Bryant serves as vice president, REACH Georgia, a needs-based mentorship and scholarship program administered by the Georgia Student Finance Authority (GSFA). Prior to coming to GSFA, Bryant served as General Counsel and Executive Director of the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. Bryant’s experience in school board governance spans over 25 years. Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Bryant to the Georgia Board of Education in 2003 and he served in that role until Governor Perdue appointed him to fill the unexpired term of State School Superintendent Kathy Cox. He served on the DeKalb County School System Board of Education for 12 years, including seven years as chair. Bryant has been an active member of the Georgia School Boards Association and the National Association of state Boards of Education and served as president of both organizations. Bryant recently served as a member of Governor Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission. Bryant is a graduate of Presbyterian College, University of Georgia and Mercer Law School. Bryant is married to Kay, a special education paraprofessional in DeKalb County. They live in Atlanta and have two grown children and two grandchildren. He is a member of Shallowford Presbyterian Church.
Paula Shilton is the Executive Director of the Clarke County Mentor Program, a 25-year-old nonprofit organization. CCMP currently has 450 mentors visiting their mentees in the 21 schools of the 13,000-student Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia. Shilton was previously the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Athens. She has degrees from Oberlin College (B.A.) and Western Michigan University (M.A.) Her long career in the nonprofit sector has focused on children’s positive social and emotional development. Paula and her husband have 3 adult sons living and working in Seattle, San Diego, and New York.
As an educator of twenty-eight years, James Rayford earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics Education from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University. Currently, he serves as Director of Academic Support for Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Community-Based Mentoring Program where their primary mission is to provide mentors for identified male students. He has seen the program grow from 57 students and 33 mentors in its pilot year to having served 470 students and 205 mentors during the 2015-2016 school year.
Prior to this position, he served five years as principal of both Lilburn Middle School and Nesbit Elementary School. He also worked as a Program Manager at Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC), where he managed the Georgia Industrial Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) Program which places middle and high school math and science teachers in summer internships. He has been married to his wife Dawn, for 26 years and they have four children, a college graduate, a college student, and twins in high school.
In 2003, Anna Blount (our founder) was a junior at UGA. She started working with vulnerable youth in Walton County and, in her words, "fell head over heels in love." After finishing a degree in Biological Sciences from UGA, she decided not to pursue veterinary medicine (her original goal) - and instead, founded Team Up Mentoring in 2006. Team Up identifies kids who have the most Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to overcome. ACEs are defined by the Center for Disease Control. Team Up participants must have experienced 7 ACEs by the age of 8. We build lifelong relationships with families, serving our kids from age 3 to age 21. We believe in doing whatever it takes.
Shaffiq Welji is a board member of the Aga Khan Education Board which oversees the educational programming at community centers for Ismaili Muslim students across the country. In that capacity, he oversees secondary education programs, including 8th and 11th grade mentoring and advising programs. He is also a teacher at The Westminster Schools, where he teaches mathematics and engineering. At Westminster, he coaches the high school robotics team and runs the Interfaith Service Club. He has a PhD from Columbia University in Mathematics.
Marjie Dickey serves as executive director of REACH Georgia Foundation. Dickey began her career in government working for the Office of Governor Nathan Deal. She held a variety of positions for Deal, including policy and legislative affairs coordinator and agriculture policy advisor. After serving for Deal, Dickey became executive director of the REACH Georgia Program before transitioning into her current role. Dickey grew up in Crawford County and graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.S.A. in Food Industry Marketing and Administration. Dickey currently lives in Atlanta and attends Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.
Cindy Morley is the Director of External Relations for Communities In Schools of Georgia, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk children overcome their barriers and achieve in school and life. CIS is he nation's largest dropout prevention organization. Cindy is the former Chief Officer of Government Affairs for the Georgia Department of Education, and the former Special Projects Director for the Georgia Department of Labor. Prior to that, she spent 27 years in journalism as an editor and photographer for many newspapers across Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Cindy doubled majored in Journalism and English Literature at Georgia State University, and is currently working on her Project Management Certification. Cindy lives in Douglas County with her cat, Burner, and bird, Chesney.
Francis Kabongo works as the Quality Assurance & Data Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. He ensures that the agency stays compliant with the standard set by national and also audit the performance of the program staff. As a Data analyst, Francis, run all the agency’s reports and metrics to ensure that we are meeting the grants requirements. Prior to BBBS, Francis Kabongo works at Kennesaw State University as a Program Coordinator where he managed different students programing and budget.
Jenny Jordan works with communities throughout Georgia in the development, design, and implementation of leadership development programs. Her focus is to assist Georgia communities and community leaders in meeting the special needs of their communities. Her experience in adult education and experience with program design and development are key to her community leadership program work. Jordan has extensive experiencebringing the University of Georgia to communities through program design and delivery. She has a background in working with adult and youth audiences, with volunteers, with staffs and with educators. Her areas of expertise include adult education andfacilitation, boundary spanning, generational differences, adult-youth partnerships and volunteer development. Jordan has 25 years experience in public service and outreach at the University of Georgia. Prior to joining J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, she served as a member of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Extension faculty in the 4-H Youth department. Her responsibilities included program design,development and instruction in the areas of volunteer development, teen leadership and risk management for the Georgia 4-H program.
Daniel Hernandez was born in New York by Salvadorian parents and moved to Georgia when he was only 10 years old. He is currently working at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna, GA, as a Youth Minister. He works with middle and high school age students. His role is to lead teens closer to their faith and being relational. He has been a Youth Minster for over three years. He is currently a student at Georgia State University, pursuing his Bachelors degree in Social Work and will be graduating in spring 2017. He is also applying for graduate school for the fall. He is currently interning with Cobb County School District in the Cobb Mentoring Matters program. He is very involved in his community and in the last nine years his passion has been in international mission trips.
Cathy Robinson is originally from Long Island, New York where she spent over 20 years in the group health insurance field as a sales and marketing rep. She relocated to Carrollton, GA in 2011 after the death of her husband. Cathy is a graduate of West Georgia Technical College and holds an Associate’s Degree in Marketing Management. She is the 2014 GOAL winner at West Georgia Tech and was a state finalist. Cathy has been a volunteer firefighter and EMT, is currently a member of the Optimist Club of Atlanta, serving as Club Secretary, has been a District Lt. Governor, and chaired several District level committees. In 2015, she became an AmeriCorps VISTA and helped to launch Mentoring Village in Carroll County, GA. The organization’s mission is “to network, screen, train, and certify mentors and employees of the partner programs, providing them with a skillset for mentoring to help the youth of Carroll County to achieve success.” Cathy is currently the Mentoring Village Program Coordinator.
Dawn Cooper is the GEAR UP Georgia Project Director at the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG). She also provides leadership for Georgia’s Early College initiative and represents the USG on several boards, committees and task forces to promote education, health, well-being and economic development for Georgia students, families and communities. Dawn has worked at the USG system office or one of its institutions in various capacities for over 16 years. She has over 25 years of experience improving college and career outcomes for students to include trainings and presentations for students, parents and other key stakeholders. Her current position supports the USG’s efforts to increase college access and success for underserved and high need students. In her spare time, she volunteers as a Mentor Advocate with the Orange Duffel Bag Initiative (ODBI) and other organizations that support college and career success for underrepresented students. Dawn is a former college athlete and a native of Orangeburg, SC. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, her Masters Degree in Education from Emory University and completed the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s (GPEE) nationally acclaimed “Education Policy Fellowship Program.” Dawn is married to Chris Cooper and they are the proud parents of two daughters.
Darren Youngstrom is the Director of Inside Out, the high school ministry of North Point Community Church. He has worked with thousands of teenagers over the past ten years in the Greater Atlanta Area with Student Venture and has traveled around the world and throughout the US speaking to students about how they can find real purpose and meaning in life and become all they were made to be. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife Mollie and daughters Malone and Collins. As a child he lived in both Illinois and Ohio resulting in diehard affection for his beloved Buckeyes, Cubs and Bears!
David Meyers works in the area of youth leadership with a focus on supporting youth in foster care and the families and institutions that serve them. For the last three years, Meyers has led youth and foster family projects, including Embark, Embrace, CollegeBound, and Near Peer. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the School of Social Work. Meyers is actively building UGA Embark, a campus based program of support for homeless and foster youth. He is also developing Georgia Embark, a statewide network to connect Georgia campuses in support of foster and homeless youth. Since 2011, he has led the College Bound summer program for youth in foster care. In 2012, he implemented a service-learning course for undergraduate social work students to learn about mentoring youth in care that benefits youth in foster care from the Athens area. Additionally, he serves on other projects such as facilitating the Community Leadership Program and serving on projects that promote capacity building at nonprofit clients.
Laurie Murrah-Hanson is a 4-H County Extension Agent and Public Service Faculty member for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service in Fulton County. She is leading a new partnership with the Atlanta History Center to increase youth development opportunities through UGA Extension in the metro Atlanta area. Prior to her role in Fulton County, Laurie was a regional coordinator for Great Promise Partnership with a joint appointment as a youth development specialist for Georgia 4-H. In her position with Great Promise Partnership, she implemented public-private community partnerships to provide employment opportunities and life skill instruction for youth who were not on track to graduate from high school. Previously she coordinated outreach and education efforts for Georgia State University’s Neuroscience Institute and has worked with a variety of youth and community development initiatives. Laurie is currently a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Georgia studying adult education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a MPA with concentrations in public policy and nonprofit management also both from the University of Georgia.
Keisha Hull serves as Executive Director - REACH Georgia. REACH Georgia, an integral tenet of the Complete College Georgia Initiative, is a needs-based mentorship and scholarship program administered by the Georgia Student Finance Authority (GSFA). Keisha develops and directs a diverse range of operational and programmatic activities, policies and procedures to ensure program fidelity, regulation compliance and high-quality mentoring for nearly 700 REACH Scholars across the state. Prior to joining REACH Georgia, Keisha spent nearly 20 years working in postsecondary education, serving the last 11 years at Gwinnett Technical College. Her tenure in higher education has afforded her the opportunity to develop, lead and manage a GED program for at-risk youth; serve as the Administrator and Lead Facilitator for the college’s professional mentoring program; serve as an adjunct instructor for the First Year Experience course as well as the Coordinator of Training and Development for 500+ faculty and staff.
Keisha resides in Gwinnett County with her husband and son and attends New Mercies Christian Church. She serves as a mentor, volunteers as a reader for the Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS), and is a graduate of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute. She is also a graduate of The University of Georgia and holds a B.S. in Social Work and has earned a M.S. in Postsecondary and Adult Education from Capella University.
Kyle Redner works as the Recruitment Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. He is responsible for the recruitment of new volunteers and children into the program. Along with these duties, Kyle handles partnerships that Big Brothers Big Sisters has in the Metro Atlanta community with different businesses, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations. Prior to BBBS Kyle graduated from Valdosta State with an Intercultural Communications degree, then moved to Thailand for six months to teach English. He then spent 2 years creating and developing a new Christian ministry on the Campus of Valdosta State.
Megan Westbrook's work is driven by a commitment to youth development and education equity. Her work in youth development programming spans nearly a decade with positions ranging from direct practitioner to program director to evaluation specialist. Though program content has varied including environmental education, creative play, and leadership development, the heart of every program has been empowering youth to reach their potential through experiential education. She currently works as the Program Evaluation and Development Specialist for Great Promise Partnership, a public-private partnership that works with communities across the state of Georgia on high school drop-out prevention and workforce development. In the interest of moving towards research and policy, Megan completed a Masters in Social Work with a focus on research and nonprofit administration in 2015. Since then she has partnered with University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County-based organizations in conducting participatory action research and advocacy initiatives. She currently resides in Athens, Ga and can dependably be found in one of the many cozy Athens coffee shops during the week and riding her bike, playing in the woods, or on a mountain side during weekends.
Dr. John Green brings over 32 years of successful educational leadership as a teacher, coach, principal, district administrator, and superintendent to your organization. He earned recognition as the 2008 Georgia Educator of the Year, and has shared his approaches with audiences throughout the country. He has improved student performance or coached and mentored others to do so in a variety of roles. The College Board, the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, Growing Leaders Inc., and numerous educational, civic and leadership groups, are just a few of the organizations that have sought Dr. Green’s insights. He applies a highly connective style in sharing proven practices from a diverse array of experiences and research. Dr. Green currently serves as the Director of the Carroll County Education Collaborative (CCEC). In this role, he manages a P-16 community based effort involving UWG, WGTC, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the public and independent K-12 school systems, and community foundation for the purpose of improving student success.
Marie Davis is an Atlanta native whose career has spanned several sectors. Raised by entrepreneurial parents, Marie attended the University of Georgia and obtained a Bachelor of Social Work. After a stint as a foster care coordinator for the State of Georgia, Marie launched a financial career with a Series 7 license and a leadership position with a private Firm. While raising her two children, Marie worked for an Atlanta Developer/Builder, forming relationships with County officials. Moving to Florida for ten years, Marie served as a Targeted Case Manager for Children’s Home Society of Florida. During this time, she recruited Mentors as well as mentored many families through the Dependency Court System and became a Certified tutor for autistic students. Upon returning to Georgia, Marie found Center Point and joined as the Director of Mentoring. In the last year, she has recruited and trained over 300 Mentors for the Hall County and Gainesville City Schools as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs. Partnering o provide mentors for REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen), Juvenile Justice CHINS (Children In Need of Services) and United Way’s Read, Learn, Succeed program, Center Point Mentor Program continues to serve the families of Hall County, Georgia by changing lives through Mentoring.
Lauren is Executive Vice President and the Chief Development Officer for the YMCA of Metro Atlanta (the YMCA). The YMCA is the 6th largest in the nation, with an annual budget of over $100,000,000. As Executive Vice President, Lauren is responsible for four membership or youth development branches, the Y’s early learning programs, day and resident camps throughout the association, teen leadership programs, marketing and communications strategies, and the YMCA’s fundraising efforts including annual and capital campaigns, endowed and planned gifts, and community and fundraising events. Previously Lauren served in development leadership roles at Coxe Curry & Associates, Emory University School of Medicine, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. In those capacities, she directed strategic initiatives, annual and capital campaigns, special events, and endowed giving programs.
Matt Bishop serves as the director of the University of Georgia's J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, an interdisciplinary unit of UGA's Office of Public Service and Outreach. He is responsible for the Institute's overall strategic direction and programmatic operations to fulfill its mission to strengthen communities, organizations, and individuals through leadership development, education, and training. He leads a team of 35 faculty, staff, and students in designing and delivering leadership programs that focus on community, non-profit, and youth audiences. Prior to being named director in 2012, Bishop served as coordinator of operations for UGA’s Archway Partnership. His 15-year career at UGA includes serving on the faculty of the Fanning Institute and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and as the principal investigator for UGA’s Initiative on Poverty and the Economy. He currently is on the board of the Jekyll Island Foundation, LEAD Athens, and Leadership Georgia.
Jenna Daniel serves as the Extension 4-H Specialist for Grant Development for Georgia 4-H and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. In this role, she works with county personnel to secure funding through grant opportunities. A native of Kentucky, Jenna was an active 4-H member growing up raising and showing livestock, competing on livestock, meats and skillathon competitive teams, and serving as the state 4-H President. In 2008, Jenna received her Bachelors of Science in Agriculture with a minor in Business Administration from Western Kentucky University. Jenna began her career with UGA Extension in 2011 in as the Georgia 4-H Program Assistant. She later shifted into the role of Program Coordinator for the AmeriCorps State Grant. In this role she coordinated a federal grant and supported county 4-H faculty with evaluations. In 2012 Jenna transferred to Northeast District as the Walton County 4-H Agent. Jenna is married to Buck Daniel, metal fabricator and owner of Daniel Metal Works. They reside in Bogart and are the proud parents of a 1 year old son.
Erin is the Director of Kidtown, the children’s ministry, at Grace Midtown Church in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a Michigan native and a Liberty University graduate, who moved to Atlanta 2 years ago. She loves Atlanta for many reasons; the closeness to community, the burgeoning restaurant scene, and of course, the proximity to IKEA. Kept near and dear to Erin’s heart is her husband, Jordan, and their two foster children. She and Jordan were high school sweethearts, and together they felt called to foster two of Georgia’s foster children. They are over-the-moon in love with their two little ones, and enjoy frequent trips to the zoo and creating copious amounts of laughter in their East Atlanta home.
Tyler S. Thigpen has worked in public, private, and charter schools in Georgia. Tyler is the former head of the upper school at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta, a co-founder and board member of Chattahoochee Hills Charter School in south Fulton, and a former Spanish teacher in the Gwinnett County, Ga., public schools. Earlier, Tyler worked as minister at Grace Family of Churches and led international development in Peru in areas of healthcare, education, poverty reduction, infrastructure, and human rights. Tyler holds a mid-career Master of Public Administration from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Master of Theological Studies from Regent College of the University of British Columbia. Currently, Tyler is a doctoral candidate in education leadership at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a resident at Transcend. Tyler lives with his wife and four children in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.
Joellen Spacek is Senior Director of the Mentoring Partnership Network for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, strengthening and expanding the network of local affiliates. For the past 20 years, Spacek spearheaded efforts to recruit adult mentors and engage community leaders around the issue of mentoring for children, youth, and families. Under her leadership in her former position as executive director of the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota, staff and volunteers recruited over 50,000 mentors and brought together mentoring organizations to grow the quality of mentoring for 190,000 young people in Minnesota. Spacek has 30 years of experience in resource and board development, training and consulting, communications, community collaborations, leadership, and program management. Spacek has volunteered as a mentor in a variety of programs in schools, community based organizations, and faith communities. She helped create a mentor program for high school women’s basketball, hockey, and volleyball programs to engage high school athletes in mentoring younger players. Spacek received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business communications and marketing from Creighton University. She received her Master’s in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute while on a Bush Leadership Fellowship. Spacek resides in Minnesota with her husband and two children.