Our Team

Meet our Staff and Board of Directors


Propeller Staff

Andrea Chen

Executive Director

(504) 345 - 9836

Andrea oversees the Propeller team, operations and strategic direction.

Andrea began her career as a high school English teacher at John McDonogh Sr. High School and subsequently trained teachers at the University of New Orleans and The New Teacher Project. She has worked at the Louisiana Association of Charter Schools where she oversaw grantmaking for over $5 million in charter school startup funds and launched a $1.5 million below-market rate Bridge Loan Fund. She was named “40 Under 40” by Gambit Magazine, 2010 City Business Women of the Year, World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper, and is an appointed board member of the New Orleans Business Alliance, the official economic development arm of the City of New Orleans. She graduated from Stanford University, attended Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of New Orleans, and was trained in business at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business.

Krystal Allen

Senior Director, Programs, Policy, and Strategy

(504) 264 - 1912

Prior to joining Propeller, Krystal Hardy Allen served and still serves as the Founder & CEO of K. Allen Consulting™, a doctoral student at Columbia University (NYC), and a former elementary & middle school administrator (Principal & Asst. Principal). Prior to launching K. Allen Consulting, LLC, Krystal spent 10 years in the field of education teaching, leading, and learning. Krystal’s work and passion for culturally relevant practices, coaching & professional development, social justice, and experiential learning are the driving forces and pillars within her leadership journey and personal story. She has been a guest of the White House within President Obama’s administration in attendance of ESSA Policy formulation; shadowed and featured by national media, such as Yahoo News, The Hechinger Report, Education Weekly, The Christian Science Monitor, and recognized and awarded locally for her commitment to children and families.

Sydney Gray

Senior Director, Impact and Operations

(985) 326 - 9484

Sydney manages Propeller’s grants and fundraising efforts. Reach out to her if you are interested in supporting Propeller.

Moving from San Francisco to New Orleans in 2011, Sydney has spent the last three years in New Orleans honing her skills in fundraising and development, first with the Audubon Nature Institute and later as a Global Advocate Fellow through Mama Hope where she raised funds and managed a clean water project serving a community of 2,700 in Kenya. After returning from Kenya, Sydney managed grants for Louisiana Green Corps and co-founded an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the intersection of women and water issues, Mama Maji. In her free time she serves as a flute player and as an adviser to the board for the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra and writes fiction. Sydney holds a B.S. in Molecular and Environmental Biology as well as a B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and utilizes her education and experience in research to inform every aspect of fund development.

Sydney is excited to have the opportunity to work with Propeller and use her passion for storytelling to showcase the innovators and social entrepreneurs of our vibrant city.

Daniel Applewhite

Director of Programs

(504) 517 - 2290

Daniel oversees Propeller’s Impact Accelerators. Before coming to Propeller, Daniel founded two companies, Red Parrot Tours and Matador Marketing Group. Red Parrot Tours is now a part of AGORA Inc. and operates in developing countries across the Caribbean and South America. Most recently in 2014, Daniel worked as a Growth Strategy Consultant after founding Matador Marketing Group, a company specializing in providing digital and integrated marketing services to growth stage organizations. In between founding his two companies, Daniel worked as the marketing manager for Class Wallet, one of twelve startups from around the world to be accepted into the TechStars and Kaplan Accelerator, where he successfully completed the accelerator program and integrally assisted in pitch preparation and securing seed funding. Daniel comes to Propeller with experience from Teach for America, as well working for the multinational non-profit – The Hawn Foundation. Daniel received his Bachelors in Business Management and International Marketing from Hampton University.

Catherine Gans

Marketing & Communications Manager

(504) 302 - 3747

Catherine manages Propeller’s communications and outreach. Reach out to her for questions about press, partnerships, events, or to learn more about what we do.

Catherine came to New Orleans through the Venture for America fellowship, a 2-year program that brings young professionals to American cities to work at startups and create jobs. Her publication on the 300-year history of racial inequities in entrepreneurship will be published in The Data Center’s Tricentennial Prosperity Index in April 2018. Outside of Propeller, she serves on the board of the Justice & Accountability Center and is studying digital and graphic design with The New School. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and French from Vanderbilt University and has studied journalism and democracy at the London School of Economics.

Kir Selert

Development Manager

(504) 356 - 1987

Kir’s development expertise lies in grant writing and management, prospecting research, and donor cultivation. In her prior three roles, Kir has: managed the foundation pipeline for a $20 million+ organization; developed a database system to effectively track donor outreach across an organization; planned and executed high-performing annual fundraising galas, the largest of which raised over $900,000; designed and implemented a comprehensive development program; and written numerous grant proposals.

Kir is driven by the desire to use her skills, experience, and privileges to elevate and empower others. Trained in neuroscience, Kir ultimately left academia because of the disconcerting disconnect between scientific research and making meaningful contributions to people’s lives. Working in development for causes she believes in for the past 5+ years has filled this void, and she is honored and thrilled to join Propeller’s mission-fulfilling work. Otherwise, she can likely be found running (a lot), planning the next travel adventure, or reading on her porch while three cats lurk in the window.

Dorcas Omojola

Business & Operations Manager

(504) 249 - 8935

Dorcas manages Propeller’s Finances, Human Resources, and Operations. If you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to call or email her. Dorcas has Accounting, Business Management, and Grants Management experience.

Before joining Propeller, Dorcas was an Accountant for a community college, government agency, and educational enrichment business in the New Orleans area. Dorcas has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Marketing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Dorcas will enjoy working for Propeller, because she will get great satisfaction from seeing how her work helps the New Orleans nonprofit and entrepreneurial community. In her free time, Dorcas enjoys relaxing, volunteering her accounting and business expertise, volunteering in general, cooking and baking, and attending festivals.

Erik Paskewich

Program Manager, Logistics & Operations

(504) 475 - 6598

Erik grew up on the West Bank of New Orleans and attended Tulane University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Management in 2013. After graduation, Erik served with a variety of socially minded organizations in New Orleans while working towards earning a Master of Business Administration from Loyola University in 2016. Passion for both entrepreneurship and for helping to spark positive change in his community led Erik to joining the Propeller team. Erik is excited to use his experience to help others build strong, sustainable organizations.

Jess Allen, MPH

Health Program Manager

(504) 408 - 1386

Jessica manages Propeller’s Health Sector accelerator program and strategy. Reach out to her if you want to apply for the Accelerator Program or if you are interested in collaborating on health access and workforce related projects.

Throughout her career, Jessica has focused on preparing future healthcare providers to serve medically underserved populations and deliver culturally competent healthcare. Previously, she managed the reproductive health externship program at Medical Students for Choice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the inclusion of all aspects of reproductive health in medical school curricula. Most recently, she managed the Primary Care Leadership Program, a national service-learning program that provides minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged health professional students with an opportunity to examine the challenges and rewards of working in community health centers across the United States.

Jessica earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Bryn Mawr College and a Master’s in Public Health degree from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with a focus in Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences.

Allison DeJong, AICP

Senior Water Manager

(504) 475 - 4388

Allison DeJong is Propeller’s Senior Water Manager, focusing on water policy and strategy, special projects, and supporting Propeller’s entrepreneurs and accelerator programs. Allison comes to Propeller from GCR, where she was a Senior Planner and a leader in local economic development efforts; she co-authored the City of New Orleans strategic plan for economic development, ProsperityNOLA, and led the recent update to JEDCO’s Jefferson EDGE 2020 strategic plan. She has also contributed to numerous housing, transportation, and economic development plans and analyses throughout Louisiana. Most notably, Allison and her team at GCR secured over $240 million in CDBG-DR awards for their clients from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. Allison developed benefit-cost analyses, application narratives, and contributed to community outreach strategies, resulting in millions of dollars in funding for innovative water management and coastal resilience projects. Allison is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Louisiana State University.

TraciAmanda Washington

Education Program Manager

(504) 533 - 8172

A native New Orleanian, TraciAmanda comes to Propeller with over ten years of experience in the education sector. Beginning her career as a Math teacher, TraciAmanda worked at KIPP’s TEAM Academy in Newark, NJ, and then as a Math Achievement Director for Middle Schools with Achievement First in Brooklyn, NY. She returned to New Orleans and taught Math at KIPP Believe College Prep before moving into Administration as the Upper School Academic Dean at ARISE Academy. Most recently, she led a charter school turnaround as the Founding Principal of Mildred Osborne Charter School in New Orleans East.

TraciAmanda holds a BS in Psychology from Howard University and a Master’s Degree in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a is proud Alumnus of Education Pioneers (NYC 2009). She is passionate about and committed to the growth and excellence of educational opportunities in New Orleans and is excited to bring that passion and commitment to the Propeller Team!

Kristine Creveling

Senior Food Program Manager

(504) 507 - 0498

​Kristine manages Propeller’s Food Sector accelerator and strategy. This includes managing the LPHI Healthy School Food Collaborative Evaluation Study, spearheading the New Orleans Healthy Corner Store Collaborative, and advocating for local food systems as a tool for economic development. Reach out to her if you are interested in pitching your food related start-ups at PitchNOLA, if you want to apply for the Accelerator Program, or if you are interested in collaborating on food access related projects.

As a clinic manager in Malawi, Africa and a nutrition volunteer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kristine has been involved with food and nutrition research around the world. Here in New Orleans, she has worked on research studies related to food access, obesity prevention, and nutritious foods in schools. Kristine is an executive member of the New Orleans Dietetic Association and also serves on the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee.

Kristine has a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from California Polytechnic State University, a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Tulane University and she is also a Registered Dietitian. In her free time she loves to garden, play piano, and cook. Kristine is excited to work with Propeller where her strong passion for food equity and quality can be realized.​

Trace Allen

Neighborhood Program Manager

(504) 264 - 1360

Trace works to support businesses in the neighborhoods surrounding Propeller through the South Broad Business Initiative (SBBI). The SBBI provides business owners of color located on and around South Broad Street with short-term technical assistance and long-term comprehensive support in areas including marketing, financials, legal assistance, and updating technology.

Trace has always held a deep passion for empowering others. This passion led him to complete coursework in Psychology, Sociology, and Business at Mississippi College. Trace comes to Propeller with experience empowering at-risk youth through recreational and educational programming in St. John the Baptist Parish where he served as Assistant Director at Kids on the Move Summer Camp. He was involved with the Young Fellowship Program of the Portland Leadership Foundation, where he had the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of local nonprofits, develop leadership capacity among student athletes, and work with an Ugandan-led NGO to serve vulnerable children and orphans in Jinja, Uganda. Trace is also a proud StartingBloc Fellow (NOLA ‘17)!

Trace is thrilled to be a part of the social entrepreneurship movement that Propeller is leading in New Orleans.

Monique Thomas

Talent & Culture Manager

(504) 509 - 5286

Monique works to ensure the Propeller team is a well-rounded group of energized, excited, and productive professionals who have the tools they need to excel in each of their roles. This includes recruiting, hiring, culture management, and other talent cultivation processes.

Monique is a New Orleans native who grew up in New Orleans East. She graduated from Amherst College in 2013 earning a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. Monique is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Adminitration at Loyola University, with a concentration in operations and organizational behavior. She has also completed coursework at Tulane University in Psychology and Business. She has served at Propeller in different capacities, from overseeing Salesforce and data management, accounting and HR compliance, managing board relations, report-writing and evaluations, and overseeing office operations.

Monique was drawn to and inspired by Propeller’s purpose and commitment to change. She’s excited to apply her skill in organization and process design to furthering Propeller’s vision.

Katie Lyon-Hart

Impact Manager

(504) 517 - 2238

Katie leads Propeller’s evaluation and data management. Reach out to her if you want to know more about our organization’s impact and our metrics for success.

Prior to joining Propeller, Katie worked as the Development Director for Step Up Louisiana, a grassroots organization dedicated to economic and education justice, and supported policy work at the Crescent City Community Land Trust. Prior to moving to New Orleans, Katie worked for 10 years as a data, communications, and fundraising specialist​ at Make the Road New York, a northeast regional membership organization dedicated to building ​​power ​for working class and Latino communities.​ She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the City University of New York-Hunter College, with a concentration in affordable housing and climate justice. While in graduate school, Katie served as a policy fellow at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Center for Community Planning, researching progressive policy solutions to address gentrification and the legacy of residential segregation. Outside Propeller, Katie continues to lead capacity building and data initiatives for Step Up, and spends her free time biking, hiking, and swing dancing. Katie is excited to bring her knowledge of community development and planning to support Propeller’s social change and racial equity goals.

Cherita Williams

Accounting & Operations Coordinator

(504) 493 - 9608

Cherita Williams handles accounting, payroll, human resources, and database management duties at Propeller.
Cherita graduated from the University of New Orleans with a B.S. in accounting in May 2017 with a focus on accounting information systems. Her passions include organizational leadership, tutoring, data management, and data analysis. Her recent volunteer experience has included projects focused on healthcare, animal welfare, park beautification, and employment access for differently-abled people. Cherita is especially eager to apply her knowledge and talent to furthering Propeller’s mission of increasing access to education and improving quality of life for the most disadvantaged of New Orleanians. In her spare time Cherita enjoys reading, going to the movies, and craft projects.

Sabrina Narcisse-Lewis

Executive Assistant

(504) 814 - 0314

Sabrina Narcisse-Lewis is the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of Propeller. Her role is to offer direct support to the Executive Director as well as manage a variety of special projects. In addition, Sabrina serves as Board Liaison.

She was born and raised on the West Bank of New Orleans until the age of thirteen when she moved to the East Bank of the city. She is in love with the City of New Orleans and is spirited in her involvement to aide in its positive growth and sustainability.

Sabrina is an accomplished administrative professional with over ten years in her field. She holds a degree in Business Administration and considers herself to be a lifelong learner. She has the ability to tailor her acquired skills which include: stellar organization, planning, and research to assist in business development. She is elated to be a part of the Propeller team.

In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys reading, container gardening, and researching topics that range from finance to astrology.

Melissa Alba

Program Coordinator

(504) 867 - 9099

Melissa grew up on the Westbank of New Orleans and graduated from Loyola University New Orleans where she earned her Bachelor’s in Political Science in 2018. She was also the recipient of the competitive Young People For Fellowship at People For the American Way Foundation, where she received training in social justice leadership, coalition building, workshop facilitation, and donor cultivation. Her passions include mentorship, immigrant rights, and exploring new local businesses. Propeller’s vision of a more equitable New Orleans attracted her, and she is very excited to help create sustainable change in the city.

Cierra Chenier

Communications Coordinator

(504) 208 - 8523

Cierra works to maximize Propeller’s brand reputation and reach through communications logistics, processes, timelines, and events.

Cierra graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in African American Studies. Born and raised in New Orleans, she has a strong passion for the city’s people and culture. Driven by this passion, she created NOIR ‘N NOLA, a brand and blog highlighting the “history, politics, lagniappe, and soul of Black New Orleans.”

Cierra aims to ensure social justice to disenfranchised communities through writing, activism, and service.

Jodie Davis

Food Systems Fellow - Newman's Own Foundation

(504) 930 - 8095

Being born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Jodie found her passion at a young age by giving back to her under-served community. Jodie graduated from Stockton University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in 2018 while concentrating on Community Health Education. At Stockton, she was involved with assessing mini-grants for the Office of Service-Learning. During her time with Service-Learning, she became the Hunger and Homelessness Coordinator. This is where she was able to spearhead numerous anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives.

On her spare time, Jodie enjoys traveling to new places, creating new relationships, and playing monopoly. She is extremely enthusiastic about being in New Orleans and she cannot wait to discover new findings in the city.

Incubator Staff

Emily Eckland

Incubator Manager

(504) 556 - 2308

Emily manages the Propeller Incubator, focusing on business development, member and community relations, facilities management, and financial management. Reach out to her if you are interested in becoming a coworking member or renting out event space.

Emily spent the 2016-17 year as Propeller’s Water Program Associate through AmeriCorps VISTA, supporting the water sector ventures in both the startup and growth accelerators, as well as the entrepreneurs in Propeller’s PitchNOLA series. She joined the Propeller team after graduating from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, with concentrations in marketing and strategy, where she gained leadership experience in advocacy, event management, organizational development, and international social enterprise. Hailing from Minneapolis but with roots in Mississippi, Emily actively seeks out opportunities to learn from and build accountability to the communities she works with in the urban south. Harnessing her business acumen and community organizing experience, she is passionate about fostering stimulating environments that increase creativity and co-producing, and bridging the gap between community wealth building institutions and the communities they empower. In her free time, Emily likes to explore unfamiliar cities, the intersection of art and activism, and new forms of dance at Dancing Grounds.


Cortez Washington

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Neighborhood Associate

(504) 534 - 8491

Cortez Washington was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan. He recently moved to New Orleans in 2016 where he is currently attending Dillard University as a Criminal Justice major. Cortez has always had a passion for helping others and for community organizing and development. He has past experience working as a Policy Research Intern with Operation Restoration, and utilizing operations, customer service, management skills working as a Front of House Manager at Satsuma Cafe. His plan in the future is to work with providing opportunities in skill development and potential job placement for formerly incarcerated individuals. Since moving to New Orleans, Cortez has grown a love for the community and is focused on strengthening his relationship with my fellow neighbors.

Cortez joined the Propeller team as the Neighbor Business Program Associate VISTA with Americorps. In that position, he focuses on community outreach and working with local businesses in the Broadmoor neighborhood and surrounding area.

Adelina Kaliba

Data and Evaluation Associate

(985) 602 - 9462

Adelina is from Baton Rouge Louisiana. She received her Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Louisiana State University and her MBA from Southern University. Adelina has experience working in law and the financial services sectors, with a strong passion in nonprofits and social services. Before working for Propeller, she worked for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge in volunteer management and development. Adelina’s nonprofit experience also includes working in various capacities with Susan G. Komen, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and March of Dimes.

As the Data and Evaluation Associate at Propeller, Adelina assists in building capacity of the development systems and processes that help track and analyze the impact of services that Propeller provides to the social entrepreneurs of New Orleans.

Board of Directors


Stephanie Barksdale

Manager of Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives - Tulane University

Stephanie Barksdale is the Director of University Partnerships and Social Innovation for Tulane President, Emeritus Scott Cowen. In addition, she is an adjunct lecturer who teaches the Leadership and Senior Seminar courses in the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Minor (SISE) at Tulane University. Stephanie has led efforts to bring social innovation programming to Tulane since beginning in President Cowen’s office in 2009. Barksdale helped develop a partnership with Ashoka, making Tulane one of the first AshokaU Changemaker Campuses and numerous programs including the NewDay Speaker series, the NewDay Social Innovation Challenge, the Changemaker Institute – a student venture incubator program, and numerous other student programming. Barksdale also helped in securing resources and support for the SISE minor and the creation of the Taylor Center.

Stephanie Barksdale holds a Masters of Public Administration from NYU Wagner School of Public Service. Prior to coming to Tulane, Barksdale worked for The Low Income Investment Fund, Upwardly Global, and the King Hussein Foundation International. Along with being the Chair of the Propeller board, she is also a founding Board Member and Chair of Grow Dat Youth Farm. She and her husband, David Barksdale, are the proud parents of three boys.


Linda Usdin

President - Swampilly, LLC

Dr. Usdin is the president of Swamplily, LLC. In this capacity, she has helped match the strategic interests of philanthropic organizations with the needs and capacity of local non-profits and governmental agencies in diverse areas. In the last six years, she has worked with the Ford, the Open Society, the Conrad N. Hilton, the Louisiana Disaster Recovery, and the Greater New Orleans foundations. In addition, she has taught courses on building community engagement in public health efforts for the South Central Public Health Leadership Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and has facilitated strategic planning processes for groups such as the City of New Orleans, National Network of Public Health Institutes, and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Dr. Usdin was recently awarded a Bellagio fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in psychology from Duke University, has a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley and a Dr.PH. from the international health department at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The focus of her academic work was on the planning and evaluation of community development and change initiatives.


Andreanecia Morris

Executive Director - HousingNOLA

Andreanecia M. Morris serves as the Executive Director for HousingNOLA, is a 10-year partnership between the community leaders, and dozens of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis.

A native of Edgard, Louisiana, began working to support creation of affordable housing opportunities in the Greater New Orleans Area in both the public and private sector after graduation from Loyola University New Orleans. Morris has created opportunities for approximately 500 families to become first time homebuyers after Hurricane Katrina, and she was lead organizer for Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) when it started in 2007 as collaborative coalition of non-profit housing builders and community development corporations who work to rebuild the City of New Orleans.


Ava Rogers

Director of Strategic Partnerships - New Pathways New Orleans

Ava Rogers is the founding Director of Strategic Partnerships at New Pathways New Orleans. Ava is a values-driven leader who has successfully mobilized governments and institutions to better serve communities. She has an extensive achievement record in breaking down silos and integrating the work of entire systems to get results. Prior to joining NPNO, Ava worked as an independent consultant, serving international and domestic constituents. She was the lead consultant for the “Global Resilience Partnership,” an innovative partnership of public and private organizations that launched with an initial capitalization of $150 million, dedicated to helping vulnerable peoples better adapt to chronic and acute shocks. Domestically, she supported a New Orleans-based non-profit to retool its HIV/AIDS strategy to better target groups at highest risk. From 2013-2016, Ava served as the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the City of New Orleans, directing city-wide operations and providing essential services for a municipality of 400,000 full-time residents and 10 million+ annual tourists. Ava took pride in leveraging city operations to achieve broader strategic goals. For example, she developed a workforce initiative that employed over 1,000 previously incarcerated individuals seasonally on city projects. She also spearheaded a neighborhood stabilization project that employed homeless and opportunity youth to combat blight, while also providing them with wrap-around social services. Ava spent the vast majority of her career – 20 years – as a U.S. diplomat. She specialized in conflict and emergency settings, serving primarily in Africa and the Middle East. While with the U.S. State Department, Ava earned numerous awards for her negotiation skills and advancement of humanitarian principles. She earned the Department’s highest honor for her efforts to rescue American citizens following the outbreak of civil war in Congo-Brazzaville, which included her being taken hostage. Ava also earned an “Innovation in Government” award from the independent think tank, the Bureau of Governmental Research, for her work with the City of New Orleans. She currently serves on the boards of the Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies, Propeller, and the New Orleans Arts Education Alliance. Ava was raised in New Orleans and is a proud alumni of New Orleans public schools. She holds an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and has a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Board Members

Ella Delio

Director of Environmental and Regional Initiatives - Greater New Orleans Foundation

Ms. Delio offers global experience running businesses, working with entrepreneurs, and partnering with government agencies. Ms. Delio was formerly at the World Resources Institute, where she served as Global Director of the New Ventures program, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship. In that role, Ms. Delio provided business development services to innovative environmental enterprises in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. Prior to joining WRI, Ms. Delio led the Springboard program at the Center for Women and Enterprise, one of the leading U.S. women business development agencies, and worked for Procter & Gamble Co. in the Philippines, where she handled marketing and advertising for the Healthcare and Food and Beverages businesses. Ms. Delio received her MBA and MPA degrees from the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School and her Management Engineering and Economics (Honors) degrees from the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. She was awarded the Don K. Price Award by the Harvard Kennedy School for academic distinction and leadership in public service.

Alvertha B. Penny

Principal - Alvertha Penny and Associates, LLC

Alvertha B. Penny is the Principal of Alvertha Penny and Associates, LLC. Through February 2014, she served as president and CEO of The Community Foundation of South Alabama. Ms. Penny’s background includes more than 35 years of development, management and administration of community development and human services programs in the nonprofit and public sectors nationally and in Louisiana, California, Washington, D. C. and Alabama. Previously, Ms. Penny worked as Senior Vice President of Programs at the California Community Foundation where she oversaw the planning, strategy development and distribution of a $20-million annual competitive grants budget, a $16-million program related investment portfolio and more than $3 million in special initiatives and supporting organization grant portfolios. Additionally, Ms. Penny was the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation President’s Senior Advisor on community development issues and the Family and Community Development Program Director. This included leading the Hewlett Foundation’s $30 million, comprehensive multi-year urban community revitalization demonstration effort. Prior positions also include serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Congress for Community Economic Development in Washington, D.C.; Program Officer for Urban Affairs at the San Francisco Foundation; and the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Planning and Community Services with the City of New Orleans. Ms. Penny is a member of the Association of Black Foundation Executives and chairs its Governance Committee. She has served on various national, regional, statewide and local boards of directors including the National Community Development Institute, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Southern California Grantmakers, Northern California Grantmakers, Alabama Giving, VOICES for Alabama’s Children, and the Mobile Area Education Foundation. She holds a Master of Science in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans.

Jamar McKneely

Former Chief Executive Officer - Inspire NOLA Charter Schools

Jamar McKneely’s educational philosophy is derived from Marian Wright Edelman’s special quote: “The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to”. He earned both a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Southern University in Baton Rouge. Prior to becoming an educator, Jamar worked in the field of finance as a budget analyst for two non-profit organizations in Baton Rouge. After serving for seven years as a teacher and Assistant Principal at Edna Karr High School, he transitioned to the position of Principal of Alice Harte Charter School. In 2013, together with the principal of a nearby high school, he formed InspireNOLA charter schools, a new Charter Management Organization in New Orleans focusing on educating the youth of our city.

Under Jamar’s leadership, Alice Harte and its students experienced great success, including: increased School Performance Score by 25 points. For the 2013-2014 school year Alice Harte was ranked as an A school and top gain school proving that students with high-poverty can excel.

As the Chief Executive Officer of InspireNOLA, Jamar managed two of the highest performing open-admission schools in New Orleans and focused on creating a pipeline for leadership, supervised administrative and instructional personnel, established a clear vision for the organization’s mission and goals and branded the new CMO.

Jonas Chartock

CEO - Leading Educators

Jonas Chartock is the Chief Executive Officer of Leading Educators. During Jonas’ tenure as its first CEO, Leading Educators has become a key resource to school districts, charter networks, and policy makers in their efforts to maximize the leadership development of highly effective teachers. He oversees the organization’s operations, strategy, outreach, and growth.

Jonas came to Leading Educators from the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York where he served as Executive Director of the nation’s largest university-based charter school authorizer. Previously, he served as the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the Charter School Policy Institute (CSPI) in Austin, Texas, and as Executive Director of Teach For America in Houston, Texas. Jonas began his career as a teacher with Teach For America in the Compton Unified School District. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University, M.A. from Chapman University, Ed.M from Harvard University, and earned his Ed.D. in educational leadership at the University of Texas at Austin. Jonas is an amateur musician, and resides in New Orleans, LA, with his wife and daughter.

Paula Estrada de Martin

Of Counsel - Baker Donelson

Paula Estrada de Martin is a life sciences and biotechnology patent attorney at Baker Donelson’s New Orleans office and a member of their Intellectual Property Group and the Global Business Team.

Dr. Estrada de Martin focuses her practice on U.S. and foreign patent prosecution in the life science, biotechnology and plant fields, patent
interferences, patent portfolio growth and management, patentability assessments, biosimilar assessments and strategy, non-infringement and invalidity opinions, IP due diligence, pre-suit investigation and litigation support for life sciences and plant matters. In addition, she represents small to mid-size businesses, educational institutions and nonprofits in intellectual property transactional and licensing matters.

Dr. Estrada de Martin was formerly with WilmerHale in New York and was adjunct faculty at New York Law School, where she served as the patent law mentor in the IP Jobtrack at the Institute for Information Law and Policy. Prior to joining WilmerHale, Dr. Estrada de Martin was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Ophthalmology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, where she investigated the sorting and targeting of apical membrane proteins in RPE and MDCK cells in the laboratory of Dr. Enrique Rodriguez-Boulan.

She graduated as a Harlan Scholar of New York Law School and also holds a PhD from Yale University in Cell Biology. She received her MS and BS at California State University in San Bernardino.

Calvin Mackie

Founder & CEO - STEM NOLA

Dr. Calvin Mackie is one of the nation’s most prolific young STEM and Educational Motivational Speakers and Leaders. He is an award winning mentor, an international renowned motivational speaker, and a successful entrepreneur. His message as a mentor, speaker, entrepreneur and former engineering professor continues to transcend race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and time. His passion and talent is totally devoted to helping people unleash their greatness and transcend personal and societal barriers. Operating under the premise that exposure and experience are two important parameters of success, he utilizes unique strategies and methodologies to motivate and inspire. Calvin Mackie has lectured widely throughout the United States, helping people change the way they think about achieving their lifelong dreams through education in general, and STEM specifically.

A professional speaker, in 1992 he co-founded Channel ZerO, an educational and motivational consulting company and has presented to numerous civic, educational institutions and Fortune 500 corporations. Over the last 16 years, Dr. Mackie has presented to numerous school districts, educators, universities and corporations across the America. In 2004, Dr. Mackie received the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in a White House Ceremony. In 2005, he was the featured speaker for the six regional forums for The College Board and the opening speaker for the 50th Anniversary of Advanced Placement (AP) Conference. Mackie has addressed the National School Board Association, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) , National Science Foundation (NSF) and is a frequent speaker at national teacher trainings, school districts, mentoring and technical development conferences. Most recently, Mackie has been lecturing internationally in Kuwait, Nova Scotia and Quebec Provinces of Canada. More at calvinmackie.com.

Peggy Welsh

Attorney - Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett

Peggy Welsh is a member of Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett’s New Orleans office who focuses her practice in the areas of corporate, real estate, oil and gas, financing and securities transactions as well as handling regulatory issues before Federal agencies. Her experience encompasses participating in every stage of many high-profile and challenging corporate transactions including the representation of several U.S. and foreign companies in international and domestic, private and public transactions and joint ventures. She advises numerous companies and organizations on general corporate matters, including entity formation, contract negotiations, corporate restructurings and general corporate governance matters. She also has experience in other related transactional practices, including cross-border acquisitions, high-yield debt issuances, real estate, bankruptcies and restructurings, financing arrangements and securitizations. Peggy serves as the Assistant Chair of the Commercial Transactions section of the Firm.

Before joining Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett, Peggy worked as a corporate associate in New York at a London-based firm where she represented high-profile Fortune 500 corporations and pharmaceutical companies. She routinely handled the negotiation and drafting of restructuring, shareholders, license, merger, joint venture and asset and share purchase and sale agreements. She advised on New York law matters for the purchase and sale agreement of Mitsubishi Corporation in its multi-billion dollar investment in a new partnership. This transaction won the Global M&A Deal of the Year, Chile (The American Lawyer’s Global Legal Awards, 2013).

Prior to law school, Peggy taught math and science for three years at a local high school in New Orleans. Upon graduating law school, she founded the education advocacy arm of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and training for public defenders who work with children and advocates for law and policy reform to build a juvenile justice system that is fair, compassionate and supportive of positive youth development.

Peggy earned her J.D. from Tulane University Law School, magna cum laude, in 2009, where she served as a Managing Editor of the Tulane Law Review. She was also inducted into the Order of the Coif and received a Dean’s Scholarship. She earned her B.S., with honors, in Geology-Physics/Mathematics from Brown University in 2002.