As Co-CEO, Justin manages our great schools and great educators initiatives. He was formerly Chief Operating Officer of the Tennessee Charter School Center, the state’s charter support organization. In this role, he led the Center’s incubation efforts, resulting in the development of 15 high-performing charter schools in Nashville and Memphis. Prior to coming to Nashville, Justin served as the Director of Education Programs for Volunteers of America of Minnesota where he started the nation’s first nonprofit charter school authorizing program, managed the operation of three contract alternative high schools for the Minneapolis school district, and an adult basic education program. Justin also served as a Charter School Specialist in the Minnesota Department of Education and began his career in education as a middle school teacher in Newark, NJ, through Teach for America.
As Co-CEO, Wendy manages our policy and community engagement efforts. She was Mayor Karl Dean’s senior advisor on education before leaving that role in July of 2014, when she was appointed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to serve on the State Board of Education. As Mayor Dean’s education advisor, Wendy worked closely with school leaders and policymakers to advance his vision of a high quality education for each Nashville student. Prior to joining Mayor Dean’s staff, Wendy co-founded the Special Education Advocacy Center of Tennessee, a nonprofit focused on supporting families of students with disabilities in their attempts to receive appropriate special education services in our public schools. Wendy is a licensed trial attorney with two decades of courtroom experience.
As the Director of the Nashville Teacher Residency Program, Randall connects this arm of Project Renaissance to partner schools, and leads all efforts to recruit and train effective educators for Nashville schools. He recently relocated from Boston, MA, where he was the Director of Curriculum for the Match Teacher Residency (MTR), helping the program earn graduate school status, coordinating and delivering coursework, and managing curriculum transition to the Common Core State Standards. In 2010, Randall completed his dissertation in Curriculum and Instruction at Boston College, where he taught classes in Special Education and Teacher Inquiry. Randall began his career in education in 2000 in San Jose, CA as a Teach For America Special Education/History teacher.
As the Managing Director of the Nashville Teacher Residency, Holly trains and supports residents and mentor teachers across partner schools. Prior to joining NTR, Holly spent six years teaching mathematics, four of those in Nashville. Most recently, she served as Dean of Instruction for LEAD Academy High School where she helped ensure teachers and students had the resources they needed to achieve excellent student outcomes. Holly began her teaching career in 2008 in rural North Carolina as a Teach For America corps member. Holly is a graduate of Georgetown University.
Neonta Williams, a native of Gadsden, Alabama, has spent the majority of her career working in the non-profit arena. Through her work at AIDS Alabama, The People Development Center, Inc., United Way of Central Alabama and Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), she worked to empower diverse communities through trainings, workshops and advocacy efforts.
She has always felt that empowerment works best from a grassroots effort. If the communities in which we seek to change realize that they themselves are the actual “change agent” we, in the non-profit world can retire to another passion. Since her collegiate years, she has been motivated by a motto of “Education commensurate Knowledge; and Knowledge commensurate Freedom”. Freedom to pursue life in an abundant way is liberating.
Neonta is a United States Army Veteran and holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Miles College and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
As a Nashville Rise Organizer, Ariba is responsible for managing the relationships with parents and volunteers. Additionally, she assists in the programming for Nashville Rise and engaging parents on social media. Prior to this position, she served as a Field Organizer for Mayor Megan Barry’s successful mayoral campaign. In that role, she coordinated and trained volunteers, as well as managed canvassing efforts. She also worked alongside the campaign team to engage the community for Mayor Barry’s campaign. Ariba is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Political Science.
As Nashville Rise Lead Organizer, Allison recruits, engages and manages the relationship with parents. Allison worked for eight years in the mental health field at Centerstone. In this work, she was a Community Support Specialist for both adults and homeless veterans where she provided support for those adult’s personal needs and to nurture their strengths. She volunteers with Hands on Nashville, Second Harvest Food Bank and doing various community activities with her daughter’s school – she has one school-aged child. Allison earned her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Psychology from Auburn University.
As Communications Manager, Ellie helps tell the stories of students, parents and teachers that collaborate with Project Renaissance and its partners. Additionally, Ellie works with Spanish-speaking parents who want to advocate for their children’s educations through Nashville Rise. Prior to this position, Ellie worked in marketing at an international law firm. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the education and youth development sector in Paraguay. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she worked alongside educators and students to develop and implement sustainable education programs and practices. Ellie is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication in Public Relations.