Paymon Rouhanifard
Co-founder & CEO

Paymon Rouhanifard previously served as the superintendent of Camden, New Jersey from 2013 to 2018 where he helped lead improvements in student outcomes, reductions in out-of-school suspensions, stronger family engagement, and critical capital investments in school facilities.

John White
Co-founder & Board Chair

John White was named Louisiana State Superintendent of Education in January of 2012. That year he launched Louisiana Believes, the state’s plan to ensure every child is on track to a college degree or a professional career.

Katherine Roger
Senior Director of Program

Katherine Roger previously served as the Managing Director of Learning and Implementation for KIPP Texas, one of the largest charter districts in the country, where she set vision and direction for implementation of curriculum and professional learning and development. In this role, she supported 100 middle & senior managers and over 1,000 educators.

Debra Kurshan

Debra Kurshan previously served as a Vice President in EY-Parthenon’s Education Practice where she consulted with school districts and foundations related to strategy, district finance and organizational redesign. Prior to joining EY-Parthenon, Kurshan served as the Chief Turnaround Officer at the Connecticut State Department of Education.​

Erin Bendily
Executive Director, Louisiana

Erin Bendily has devoted her entire career to public service in her home state of Louisiana, supporting university research programs at the state’s higher education agency, managing a congressional district office, and serving as the governor’s education advisor.

Kristen Smith
Program Director, Louisiana

Kristen Smith started her career as an Early Head Start educator, an instructor within a model college-in-prison program, and taught English IV, English III Honors, Technical Writing, and Social Studies. She has also published a narrative on black girls in education in the hip-hop-informed social justice anthology, Wish to Live: The Hip-Hop Feminism Pedagogy Reader.

Dustin Whitlock
Program Director, North Louisiana

Dustin Whitlock has been serving schools and families in North Louisiana for the last 11 years as a family counselor and a classroom teacher. Most recently, as the Director of New Tech Academies in Lincoln Parish Schools, he has helped to develop career technical educational programs aligned with community industry needs and state recognized credentials.

Laura Jakimowicz
Program Director, New Jersey

Laura Jakimowicz previously served as the Program and Policy Analyst for the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors where she supported the development and coordination of academic programs focused in the health sciences.

Juanita Zerda
Executive Director, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Juanita Zerda has twenty years of experience in education, housing and community development, health and human services, and workforce training and education fields. She has expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion principles, and is committed to addressing issues of disparity and disproportionality in communities and systems.

Mike McQuillen
Program Director, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Mike McQuillan previously served as an Associate at Strategic Grant Partners and the One8 Foundation, where he helped lead the foundations' grantmaking efforts and consulted for nonprofit organizations across the education, workforce development, and human services sectors.


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