Jay Vazquez, President & CEO

Jay brings his passion, drive, and expertise to Philadelphia Academies, Inc. every day with the expectation of achieving positive results for the young men and woman we serve. As President and CEO, he draws on his experience and knowledge from previous work in education, healthcare, comprehensive community initiatives and child welfare. Jay’s background and skill in capacity building, information technology, and systems reforms have made him an ardent believer that education, industry involvement, and civic engagement are the catalyst for improving the lives of young people.

Before being named President and CEO, Jay served at PAI for seven years, most as the Director of School Operations, in which he led the operational planning and implementation of the organization’s strategy to expand the career academy model in Philadelphia in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. Prior to joining PAI, he worked on several national initiatives to assist in large-scale system reform efforts across the country which included program development, self-evaluation, and capacity building to help communities improve outcomes for children and families. He also led efforts to integrate a workforce development and education strategy used as a method to bring employers, educators, and service providers together to help youth aging out of foster care.

Jay is actively engaged locally and nationally in issues related to education and youth development, and he is a member of both the National Career Academy Coalition and the Ford Motor Company’s Next Generation of Learning.

Corvette Kittrell, Director - Work Based Learning & The Business of Hospitality

Corvette educates students about the lucrative career opportunities in the Hospitality Industry. She believes that every aspect of Hospitality is related to business and provides students with a road map of the industry, so that they can make informed career choices that allows them to advance in their chosen hospitality occupations. Kittrell has over 40 years in economic development, employment and training, hospitality, aviation, and broadcasting experience and has received advanced training and awards for her work in these fields.  She holds an MBA in Marketing and Finance from Penn State University, an M.Ed. in Education from Holy Family University, and a B.A. in Communications from Temple University.

Ilene Merlino, Director - Finance

Ilene is responsible for the smooth functioning of PAI’s day-to-day internal operations by managing finances, vendor relations, records management and technology needs. Having been with PAI for over 29 years, Ilene has participated in the evolution of the organization from several career academies in a few partner schools to a nationally recognized leader in career connected education that it is today. She is a graduate of Northeast High School in Philadelphia and attended Community College of Philadelphia.

Stephanie Smith, Director - Business Partner Development

Stephanie recruits and convenes business and community partners to serve on Academy Occupational Advisory Councils, which provide an invaluable resource for schools and students by providing relevant opportunities for engagement with industry and curriculum advisement for each career pathway.  Stephanie believes that developing strong sustaining relationships between industry partners and school staff plays a substantive role in transforming schools. She is a certified Academy Reviewer for the National Career Academy Coalition, a Ford NGL Professional Development Provider and a member on FORD NGL’s Leadership Council. She holds B.A in Business from the State University of New York at Farmingdale.

Sarah Hill, Director - Career Pathway Strategies

Sarah provides oversight and management for PAI’s school-based programs. Prior to her current position, Sarah was an Academy Specialist at PAI, working across several high schools to support the development of Freshman Academies and new career pathways, leading the development of the Early Childhood Education Pathway at Parkway West High School. Sarah believes that workforce development begins with education, and that all young people should be inspired and prepared to make informed decisions about their futures. Sarah holds a B.A. in Individualized Study with a Concentration in Community Development and Youth Empowerment from New York University, as well as an M.S.W. and an M.Ed. in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.

Cheryl Lafferty, Chief of Staff

Cheryl assists in PAI’s fundraising activities with partners, grantors, and individual donors, as well as coordinating PAI’s annual fundraising gala and supporting PAI’s President and CEO in his day to day activities.  Cheryl is passionate about PAI’s work, believing that all youth deserve equal access to an inspiring education and the support and guidance of caring adults.   Cheryl holds a M.Div. from Palmer Theological Seminary, and a BA in Ancient Studies from The University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Drew Barth, Career Pathways Specialist

As PAI’s Career Pathways Specialist, Drew uses his diverse background in youth education to focus on promoting alternative pathways for post-secondary success in PAI’s partner high schools. Drew works with schools to research, develop, implement and support a wide variety of Career Pathways, including PAI’s new pilot Pre-Apprenticeship Bridge Program which supports a cohort of students over three years to ensure fluid entry into the workforce of their respective CTE programs. Drew holds a BA from Temple University in Educational Psychology.

Iesha Coates, Program Specialist

Iesha manages “Customer First,” a work-based learning program for 10th – 11th grade youth that focuses on the hospitality industry and incorporates a series of career exposure and preparation experiences that focuses on soft skill development including problem solving, collaboration, and confidence. She believes the work she does, helps students cultivate the competencies and work habits that employers are looking for, thereby increasing opportunities for success. Iesha is pursuing her B.A. in Behavioral Health and Human Services at Community College of Philadelphia.

Danyelle NeJame, Data Coach and School Support Specialist

Danyelle supports school leaders and teams in the 9th Grade Success Network through data coaching, professional development, and supporting effective teaming and targeted student interventions—all to improve the 9th Grade On-Track rate and prepare students for college and career success. Additionally, she works with the Early Childhood Education Pathway at Parkway West High School to connect students to workforce opportunities. Danyelle believes that every child should have the resources they need to succeed as an adult and make a difference in their community. Danyelle holds a B.A. in Economics from Howard University and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) with a focus in International Education Management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Maggie Pedone, Academic Projects Coordinator

Maggie develops and supports a wide variety of academic projects in PAI’s partner schools, including project-based and work-based learning efforts.  Utilizing her experience working as a teacher in Philadelphia, she provides training and technical assistance to teaching teams, works with business partners to connect them to the classroom, and focuses on best practices surrounding project-based and work-based learning.  Maggie is committed to promoting educational equity by engaging students in real-world learning models that connect school learning to students’ lives.  Maggie earned her Ph.D. in Urban Education with a concentration in Science Education from Temple University.

Nadia Schafer, Manager - Data Supports and Evaluation

Nadia leads PAI’s support for the 9th Grade Success Network and provides professional development and coaching to school leaders and 9th grade teams on data utilization practices, effective teaming, and intervention support, with the ultimate goal of increasing 9th Grade On-Track. Nadia has supported teachers in using data for over six years, originally through creating Snapshot, PAI’s early warning indicator data tool designed to make student data more accessible to educators. Additionally, she leads PAI’s internal data strategy and collection work for both program improvement and reporting purposes. Nadia earned her B.A. in Politics, International Relations from Messiah College and her M.S. in Statistics, Measurement, Assessment, and Research Technology from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Roosevelt Tucker, College & Career Specialist

Roosevelt works with high school youth to help them prepare for post-secondary success. His work includes mentoring, tutoring, and connecting students to industry through pipeline programs that help them explore various career paths. He believes that all youth should understand the importance of education and how it relates to furthering their career opportunities.  Roosevelt holds a B.A. in political science  from the University of Pittsburgh.

Sharleen van Ams-Barrington, Hospitality Business Specialist

Sharleen assists students and staff to bridge the gap between school and industry by aligning programs with employer and post-secondary institutions’ expectations. Sharleen believes in the importance of quality programs for students and community partners alike and is always looking for new approaches and opportunities to make the transition from school to industry a smooth one. She holds a B.A. from Gettysburg College and is currently pursuing a Master of Science.

Tori White, Hospitality Business Specialist; Social Media Coordinator

Tori serves as a Hospitality Business Specialist, helping students, schools, and industry leaders build meaningful relationships.  She is inspired by PAI’s ability to expose students to experiences that allow them to explore their skills and reach their potential in a career path of interest to them.  Before coming to PAI, Tori was a classroom teacher in Indianapolis for three years, where she developed her passion for improving education systems.  She has a B.Sc. in Education from Indiana University.