Albert Sykes, Executive Director
Albert has a powerful personal story, one that is rooted in the struggles and search for quality education through community organizing and youth advocacy. The proud father of three sons, Albert grew up in the Shady Oaks community around the corner from where NAACP member and civil rights activist Medgar Evers lived and died. Evers has been one of Sykes’ guiding lights in doing the work needed to move Mississippi and our nation forward. Becoming a student of the Algebra Project and a mentee of Bob Moses brought Evers into Sykes’ life, and made his sacrifices tangible to the then teenager. Through this experience, Sykes gained much firsthand knowledge and understanding of Black Mississippi’s struggle for justice, equity, and full citizenship.
Contact: asykes [at] democraticeducation.org
Dana Bennis, Director of Learning
Dana has been deeply involved in the growing network of democratic education practitioners and supporters since 2001, dedicating his time to researching, teaching, and advocating for education that respects young people to be meaningfully involved in their learning. He has taught in democratic, progressive, and conventional school settings and earned a Masters Degree in Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University. Dana has published essays in various education journals, and collaborates with others locally, nationally, and internationally to advance democratic education. Dana lives in Minneapolis with his partner and fellow educator, Julie Hill, and their son Myles.
Contact: dbennis [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 4
As the Director of Leadership Programs for the Institute of Educational Leadership, Kwesi directs several projects that are designed to create and sustain strategic linkages between early childhood education opportunities and community schools. Kwesi has years of experience working with local communities and state agencies to improve cross-sector collaboration and service delivery systems supporting children, youth and families. He has provided technical assistance and training to a range of government agencies, schools, districts, and organizations in projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Working with young people is also a personal passion for Kwesi. He has been recognized as the Big Brother of the Year in the District of Columbia; and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the National Capitol Area, serving for 7 years as VP for Program Services. He holds an MSW degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Social Work where he was a Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Fellow.
Natalia Rosado Cofresí is in her second year of college at UPR (University of Puerto Rico), studying sociology. She participated in a summer leadership program directed by Justo Mendez and Ana Yris Guzman for two years. Since then, she has worked on various activities with Nuestra Escuela, Inc. and the Alliance for Alternative Education in Puerto Rico. Consequently, she was president of a youth organization called Juventud Estrella (Youth Star), which is dedicated to community service and social activism. In the not-so-distant future she will start working in Nuestra Escuela. Natalia was also part of the Executive Committee of the IV International Congress of Children and Adolescent's Rights. She is a passionate ballet dancer, movie and book junkie, always seeking spiritual harmony. Most importantly, she has a love for education and social justice that enables students to create their own path towards their own bright future.
Jenerra Williams is entering her 15th year at Mission Hill School and currently teaches first/second grade. Before working at MHS, Jenerra had a variety of jobs, including working at Northeastern University at the John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute. It is there that her love of teaching and connecting with students was discovered. While obtaining her M.Ed. through Northeastern, Jenerra was placed as a student intern at Mission Hill School. Her passion for teaching and making meaningful connections combined with the school's philosophy and approach to learning was a perfect fit. Her work at Mission Hill has taken her across the country and internationally as well. From the hallways of the Capitol building to schools in The Netherlands, sharing the work of MHS and what "good education" looks like has been an important part of her work as a teacher. Some organizations she is connected to outside of MHS are IDEA, the Ashoka Foundation, and Center for Teaching Quality.
Carlos Moreno is a Native New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx and came to Rhode Island to attend Johnson & Wales University, where he studied marketing and business administration. After graduating from college, and several years of working in the corporate and non-profit sectors, Carlos decided to bring his passion for helping youth to the forefront and entered the classroom as an educator. Carlos joined The Met School in 2002. In 2006, after successfully graduating his cohort of students and receiving his Master's Degree in Educational Leadership, Moreno was promoted to principal of The Met - Unity school. In 2008, his leadership as an administrator led The Met to promote Carlos to the newly created position of Director of Principal Support & Development. In that role, Carlos coached, supported and evaluated the leaders of The Met schools in Rhode Island. In 2009, Carlos decided to move closer to his family and his hometown when he accepted a position with Big Picture Learning as the Director of School Reform & Innovation - New Jersey. Carlos now directs and connects the multiple school-based national initiatives for Big Picture Learning as the National Director of School Network Support & Innovation.