Meet Our Class 2 of 2019–2020!
Akshayaa Venkatakrishnan Hyde Park
Akshayaa is a proud University of Cincinnati and Johns Hopkins University graduate, Teach for America alumna, and current CPS teacher. She is passionate about promoting equity and access in science and creating meaningful learning experiences in her classroom at Dater High School. She is grateful to co-sponsor the True Colors Club, PEARL, and Soccer Club for her student community.
Alex is a leader and mentor who supports the community by providing workforce solutions for job seekers and employers through his work as the COO of Pipeline Workforce Solutions. He is also an aspiring nutritionist and a mentor at Western Hills High school. Alex strives to help people achieve their goals with his expertise and skill sets.
Alicia has close to 10 years of experience working with youth. She believes that our youth are leaders and it is her goal to recruit our young people into power positions within Cincinnati Public Schools. Alicia hopes to find a way to build sustainable safe spaces through comedy and other platforms for youth to express themselves while building their knowledge in areas such as financial literacy and social justice issues affecting their communities. Her desire is to develop critical thinking skills within youth which will help them live successful and independent lives once they graduate high school.
Amber is a Cincinnati native who has spent nearly twenty years working on various community efforts to improve academic outcomes for children and youth. She is passionate about reducing the racial achievement gap for the next generation of learners. Amber has extensive experience in the areas of strategic planning and facilitation, relationship management, change leadership, and team-building. A proud parent of a current CPS elementary student (and future one), Amber enjoys spending lively moments at home with husband Corey and their two daughters. She is a graduate of Xavier University (B.S. Marketing) and Indiana University (M.A. Philanthropic Studies).
Annie has been working in public education for over 10 years. She started her career as a middle school teacher and spent the last five years as principal of a small charter school in Sacramento that was dedicated to closing the opportunity gap within their community. Annie deeply believes in the power and duty of our public school systems and hold teachers in the highest regard. She is passionate about ensuring equity across classrooms, schools and communities. Annie and her spouse welcomed their first child just over a year ago and are enjoying life as new parents. They are new to Cincinnati and eager to learn about and become involved in their new community.
Arthur serves as a volunteer reading tutor at his Northside neighborhood school and has also been a volunteer tutor and mentor with the City Gospel Mission Whiz Kids program. He believes that "the educational well-being of all children is of utmost importance,” which is why he plans to spend even more time as a volunteer in the local school community upon retirement from his long career with the United States District Court.
Candice Matthews Brackeen
Candice became a Cincinnatian more than twenty years ago when she moved from Toledo to attend the University of Cincinnati. As the founder of a nonprofit business accelerator focused on supporting women and minority entrepreneurs, she fosters relationships between investors, corporations, and entrepreneurs as she helps to grow the region’s innovation economy. A downtown resident and OTR business leader, she serves on the board of Cincinnati Squash Academy and is a parent of two sons.
Dawn recently moved back to Cincinnati after 35 years living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is an experienced educator with 35 years of working with children in grades 1-12. Dawn created the first STEM certified program in the state of Georgia and as internship coordinator for the Cobb County School District, she successfully placed over 2000 students in diverse internship opportunities. Dawn holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, Master’s degree from Kennesaw State University, Specialist degree from Georgia State University and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Leadership from Capella University.
Dureka is a lover of life who works to sow peace and abundance. When it comes to education, Dureka holds strong to four beliefs: children are the only future of any people; schools mirror society; the activity of the schools is central because schools are the major socializing institution of society; and “the education that is best for the best of us, is also best for the rest of us.”
Emily is a future CPS parent, expecting her first child this winter. She is a product of public schools in Northern Ohio and a graduate of the University of Dayton and Xavier University. Emily has been an employee of GE Aviation for fifteen years where she is currently a Senior Product Manager on the GEnx engine. A long-time tutor at Chase Elementary, mentor at Aiken High School, and classroom volunteer with Junior Achievement in a number of area K-12 schools, Emily’s passion for education lies in students’ exposure to new people, places, and ideas outside their immediate neighborhood and walls of their school.
Gay hails from Northern Indiana, but has called Cincinnati home since the late 1960s. Gay retired after a 40-year career in education, including twenty years teaching in Cincinnati Public Schools and twenty years as a school counselor in the Forest Hills Schools. Gay now creates personalized, meaningful commitment and wedding ceremonies as an interfaith, ordained minister. She is the parent of two daughters, who both graduated from Walnut Hills High School and is involved at Kilgour, where her two grandsons attend. Gay is particularly concerned about providing more extensive mental health services because to be an engaged, successful learner, a child must feel safe, secure, understood and cared about emotionally, physically and mentally.
Gus is a proud lifelong product of public schooling and recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati where he received his Master's degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Urban Planning. Gus is passionate about nonprofit work in the Cincinnati region and aims to combine practical and theoretical knowledge to become an effective leader and advance positive progressive policies in the city and region.
Indi is a Cincinnati native who has spent the last eight years as an educator in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. He and his wife Jess started the Prosocial Supper Club in Seattle, an informal series of fundraising dinners aimed at involving like-minded peers in advocating for organizations working to end systemic oppression, and they are excited to start the Cincinnati chapter soon. Indi has recently returned home and is ready to bring his passion for culturally sustaining education practices, authentic family engagement, and equitable partnership to his work with School Board School and his role as a Program Specialist at Mayerson Academy.
Jessica has a long history of being passionate about education, including serving as the student representative to the Northmont City Schools Board of Education. She is excited to connect to a community to enact real change and looks forward to addressing the unique needs of each student through varied teaching and learning styles. Jessica also believes in the importance of health and nutrition and the role it plays in the success of students, citing that a healthy diet is an essential part of brain development and attention span. She is devoted to helping improve nutrition access to low-income families. Jessica is newly married and stepping into her full potential as a future mother.
Jon has worked for P&G for two decades after graduating from the Ohio State University with an Industrial and Systems degree. He has had a diverse set of roles including digital marketing, business analytics, product supply, and software development. He enjoys mentoring, technical training, and volunteer efforts in his community, such as Junior Achievement. Jon lives is a proud father of three daughters, the oldest of whom attends Walnut Hills High School.
LaRonda is a Cincinnati native and the CEO of LRT Global, a local marketing firm. She is an entrepreneur, a creative storyteller, and a marketing brand strategist with over 25 years of exemplary leadership experience and 13 years of experience in the healthcare profession. LaRonda also founded a nonprofit that provides mentoring to youth and young adults from ages 13 to 21. She is a 2019 graduate of MORTAR Cincinnati. LaRonda is a wife and mother of four children, and she engages in opportunities where she can spark purpose and empower those she encounters.
Marcia A. Futel
East Walnut Hills
As a product of the Chicago Public School system, parent of 3 Cincinnati Public Schools graduates and grandparent of a current CPS student, Marcia is a dedicated advocate for an education system that empowers our children to become creative, independent thinkers. Her passion has centered on engaging the parent voice, the need for accountability to the community, and transparency for how our school district uses its resources. For over 30 years, Marcia has exercised her advocacy through organizations at the local, state and national level. Professionally, after a 23-year career in Information Technology, Marcia now serves as a licensed financial services professional who educates and empowers people to meet their financial goals.
Miyohnna is a Prevention Specialist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center who works to promote drug-free lifestyles among youth. She is the mother of a 5-year-old who attends Cincinnati Public Schools. An educator at heart, Miyohnna looks forward to serving and empowering families and children within CPS and the community.
Nona is originally from the beaches of Maryland and Delaware, but has lived in southwest Ohio for 8 years. She has a Ph.D. in English and a graduate certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Miami University, where she is also a Visiting Assistant Professor. She has 8 years of teaching experience at both the college and secondary level. Her research focuses on comics, graphic narratives, and, most recently, young adult literature that tell stories about the experiences of marginalized groups. Nona is the product of public education, from kindergarten to graduate school, and is now eager to contribute to the growth of the public schools in her neighborhood and city.
Pam is a healthcare manager at a large hospital system with a passion for kids. She is a proud Fellow with CIPL (KY), an original member of the Fort Thomas Independent School’s Superintendent's Parent Council, and the current PTSO President at her son's middle school. Pam looks forward to collaborating and finding new ways to positively impact students and families, as well as opportunities to improve parent engagement and strengthen ties to surrounding districts.
A retired high school administrator and Spanish teacher, Renée has dedicated her entire career and free time to education activism and safeguarding equity within our public schools and organizations that work with youth. She worked with CPS and Sycamore Community Schools, serving in both communities for 15 years, respectively, and in 2017, Renée ran for CPS School Board. As the daughter of a Spanish immigrant, Renée spent her youth in a bilingual home learning the language and her culture. Renée combines her expertise within the educational system and her passion for equity to create safe, excellent and valued public schools.
Rodney is an active community member in East Westwood with a love for using basketball to teach youth about life and God. He is President of the East Westwood Community Council, as well as one of the founders of United Men's Breakfast, United Worship Team and One Westwood Team. Rodney runs a recreation center at his church and is passionate about helping to create a space for youth where they are listened to and valued.
Ronny retired from a 25+ year career in sales, marketing and branding in order to become a stay-at-home dad. He is a proud parent of two Mt. Washington School (MWS) Knights in the Cincinnati Public Schools system. Ronny serves as the MWS LSDMC Chair and the parent representative on the MWS Foundation Board. Both of Ronny's sons are in the structured classrooms for autism, informing his passion for ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students.
Sarah is an attorney with the Children’s Law Center, where she is on the KEYs to End Youth Homelessness project. As a part of the KEYs team, Sarah works with several Hamilton county shelters to help remove legal barriers to sustainable housing for youth ages 18-24 experiencing homelessness. She is on the board of the Mt. Washington community council, where she resides with her husband, rising first grader at Sands Montessori, and her 4-legged children.
Shawn brings over 15 years of experience to the areas of youth leadership development, community engagement, and diversity, equity, and inclusion work. As a co-founder of Youth At The Center, Shawn is dedicated to advancing opportunities for young people to be seen, heard, and valued. Shawn lives with his partner and their dog Mobley in North Avondale.