UP Leadership

UP Board of Directors

Cara Cookson, President

Portland, ME

Cara Cookson (she/her), J.D. is an independent policy advisor and consultant who teaches courses in the Masters in Restorative Justice Program at Vermont Law School. As the former Policy Director for the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, Cara spent several years advocating for victim rights in the Vermont statehouse and provided legal consultation and technical assistance for victim service professionals, prosecutors, and criminal justice stakeholders around the state. Cara also has represented individual and business clients as a general practice litigator, served as a law clerk the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, and worked as a U.S. Senate aide to the late Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT). Cara began working with UP’s founder, Helen Beattie, as an eight grade student at Cabot School in Vermont. She has served on the UP Board of Directors since its incorporation and assumed the role of Chair in 2018.

Belan Antensaye

Burlington, VT

Belan (she/her) is a lifelong Vermonter dedicated to equity in her community. Since receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Sociology from Cornell University, she has focused her personal and professional efforts on community development and public policy through a strict equity lens. She has served as a Community Develop Specialist at the Community and Economic Development Office working to close opportunity gaps in educational and career opportunities faced by BIPOC youth and families, particularly within immigrant and refugee communities. Concurrently, Belan worked to restructure and expand the City of Burlington Equity Report, measuring disparities in the city and offering data-based policy recommendations to promote equity across various domains such as public health, education, and housing. Belan is eager to bring her lived experience and expertise to her role on the UP for Learning Board of Directors, advocating for the needs of all youth through an equity lens.

Erin Dezell

Montpelier, VT

Erin (she/her) has always believed strongly in the wisdom of young people to co-create meaningful learning experiences and the power that comes through the partnership of youth and adults working together. Erin became UP’s first full-time employee in 2013 and continued to foster and support UP growth over the next three years. Through her experience at UP Erin realized the best parts of her day were when she was interacting with the school-based teams and returned to school to become a school counselor. After graduating from Northern Vermont University in 2019, Erin has been working at Harwood Union Middle/High School as a 9-12 school counselor. When she’s not in school, you’ll find Erin spending her summers volunteering at Camp Knock Knock, a family bereavement camp, adventuring in Vermont’s green mountains with her dog George, and perfecting her pie crust.

Maisie Franke

Youth Advisory Council

Maisie Franke (she/her) joined UP for Learning in the spring of 2020. She is a junior and student school board representative at Harwood Union High School. She is looking forward to this year when she has the opportunity to co-teach a leadership class at her school that prioritizes student voice and dialogue based learning. She hopes to use this class as a venue to have conversations around racism and our education system, two topics she’s passionate about along with climate change and the environment.

She joined UP as a youth facilitator with Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability and is continuing that work this year along with being the youth board member, and a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) co-chair. Maisie strongly believes in the power of youth adult partnership and is working towards bringing those ideas into other aspects of her life. 

Maisie loves to ski and spends as much time as she can out in the wilderness exploring new trails and searching for fresh powder with friends, teammates, and family. She runs cross-country in the fall and is excited to be a nordic captain this winter! 

Michelle Maseroni

Boston, MA

Michelle (she/her) is a former Getting to “Y” youth co-facilitator, and recently earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont. She lives and works in Boston.

Eli Pine

Burlington, VT

Eli (they/them) is a third-year student at American University pursuing a double-major in sociology and secondary education. They grew up on the land of the Abenaki nation in what is known as Burlington, VT, and spent much of their time in Vermont dedicated to social justice, community organizing, and educational justice. During the 2020-2021 school year, they worked as a paraeducator in the special education department at Colchester High School. In June of 2021, Eli will begin their position as Health Equity Intern at Vermont Afterschool Inc., where they will conduct research, build toolkits, and plan workshops on health equity in education. In the fall of 2021, they will return to Washington, DC to continue their studies at American University.

Eli also serves in various volunteer roles. Most recently, they were a member of Burlington School District’s School Safety Taskforce where they researched and co-authored a report on alternatives to school resource officers that are in line with the District’s goals of restorative practices. In Washington, DC they are the Undergraduate Student Representative to the Executive Committee of the DC Sociological Society and they serve as the Co-President for American University’s chapter of Educators Rising, an affiliate of Phi Delta Kappa International. When not working in a professional context, you can find Eli spending time with friends and family, cycling around the hills of VT or the parks of DC, jamming on drums with local musicians, or facilitating groups related to transformative justice, accountability, and prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition.

Dr. Folami Prescott-Adams

Atlanta, GA

Folami Prescott-Adams, Ph.D. (she/her) is the CEO of HTI Catalysts. She is best known for her effective style of facilitation that offers a blend of theory, practice, the arts and insight in an engaging, interactive and relaxed setting. She has made significant contributions to education transformation and youth development initiatives & collaborative partnerships throughout the nation. She is the creator of Listening 4 JusticeM, a high-quality multicultural learning experience on systemic racism, self-love, and social justice.

She earned a Sociology of Education degree from Brown University, a Masters in Educational Administration from Temple University and an M.Sc. & Ph.D. in Community Psychology from Georgia State University.

Her creative expressions can be found in her music (now on streaming platforms), a YouTube interview series, and her blogs & posts on social media. Follow her on Facebook @drfolami, Instagram @drfolamipa or connect with her on LinkedIn @drfolami.

Galen Reese

Youth Advisory Council

Galen Reese (he/him) is a junior at Lamoille Union High School. Believing that youth should have a voice regarding any issue that concerns them, he has been a passionate advocate for education reform on both the local and state level. He represents the students of his school on his district school board and is a vocal member of both his school YATST team and Student Council. When he isn’t involved in youth activism, he enjoys skiing, playing guitar, and traveling.

Hillary Ribaudo

Boston, MA

Hillary Laggis Ribaudo (she/her) is Associate Director of Marketing for Cambridge Associates, a Boston-based investment firm. She was born and raised in Vermont and is an alumna of the Hazen Union High School YATST chapter where she was first introduced to, and experienced first hand, the important work of UP for Learning (UP). Later, as an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont, Hillary interned for UP and worked to build brand awareness for the organization via marketing initiatives. Hillary has served on UP’s board of directors since its incorporation in 2015. In addition to her service with UP, Hillary serves as a GOLD Fellow on the University of Vermont Foundation Board of Trustees and as a Big Sister for Big Sisters Association of Greater Boston.

Ben Williams

East Calais, VT

Ben (he/him) is an adjunct professor at UVM and the Community College of Vermont, and former Director of Teacher Licensure at Goddard College.

Executive Director Advisory Council

Daniel Baron

Bloomington, IN

Daniel Baron– Founder – School Leader – Bloomington Project School and The School Project Foundation

Daniel Baron has spent 40 years working in public, private, and Native American education, and pre-K through college, as a teacher, coach, whole school change facilitator and School Leader. Daniel is a founder of Harmony School and the Harmony Education Center in Bloomington, Indiana. He is a National Facilitator for The School Reform Initiative and was Co-Director of the National School Reform Faculty from 2000-2006. He is an expert in transformative learning and leadership. Currently, Daniel is the Founding School Leader of the Bloomington Project School and the Executive Director of The School Project Foundation. For the last 40 years, Daniel’s work has focused on providing exemplary professional development to school districts and equity-based projects across the country.

John Fischer

John Fischer is a Senior Program Officer on the U.S. Programs Policy & Finance team. John’s focus is supporting K-12 and postsecondary pathways including CTE and Perkins V, the Economic Mobility strategy and the future workforce activities. Prior to this, John served as the lead program officer for the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) national strategy and earlier on the Foundation’s Florida and Tennessee teams, supporting the College Ready K12 strategy.

Prior to joining the Foundation, John was the Deputy Secretary at the Vermont Agency of Education focused on innovation and transformation of the state’s education system including school improvement, assessments, flexible pathways, career technical education and competency based systems of learning. In his work, John supported high expectations for all students, smooth transitions to college/career and strong partnerships between PK12, higher education and the workforce/economic development sectors.

Earlier in his career, John worked in higher education, serving as Dean, Vice President and Provost in NH. John is a former member of the Advance CTE and served as president of the board in 2013.

Michael Metz

Michael Metz is a retired materials scientist, business owner, and business consultant engaged in the development and commercialization of precious metal products used in high technology applications. Prior to starting his own consulting business 25 years ago, Michael held a number of positions including President and COO of his family business, Metz Metallurgical Corp (25 years), growing the company to become the world leader in the development and processing of precious metal used in technology applications worldwide.

Michael currently serves on the board of the Maker Space Generator, The Burlington City Arts Foundation, ECHO, The Vermont Community Foundation, The Curtis Fund, and Spectrum’s social enterprise Detail Works. Michael previously served on the board of Champlain College, Main Street Alliance Advisory board, BCA Advisory Board, Frog Hollow Craft Center, and numerous for profit boards. Michael has a longstanding interest in art, education, creativity, economic development and technology. He has been a photographer for the past five decades and exhibits locally, including at UVM’s Fleming Museum at Champlain College.

Michael is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columba Universities’ Graduate School of Business. He lives with his wife Denise Shekerjian (an attorney, author, and business owner) in South Burlington. They have two grown sons.

Dana L. Mitra, Ph.D.

Dana L. Mitra has conducted research on voice and leadership as a Professor of Education Policy Studies at the Pennsylvania State University for over 15 years. In her work as a professor, she was named as a Students at the Center “Distinguished Fellow” with Jobs For the Future/the Nellie Mae Foundation in 2016. She is founding editor of the International Journal of Student Voice and Co-Editor of The American Journal of Education.

Dana has published over 30 papers and two books on the topics of student voice and civic engagement. Her books include Civic Education in the Elementary Grades: Promoting Engagement in an Era of Accountability, Student Voice in School Reform: Building Youth-Adult Partnerships that Empower Youth, and a textbook entitled Educational Change and the Political Process. She also has published a memoir entitled French Fries and Banyan Trees: American Kids Explore Bangalore and Beyond.

Dana holds a Ph. D. from Stanford University in Educational Administration and Policy Analysis. She has served as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in 2012 to study child participation and educational reform in Bangalore, India. Her prior work experience includes teaching elementary school in the Washington, DC area and serving as the coordinator for two White House Conferences on Character Education.

Val Gardner

Huntington, VT

Val Gardner (she/her) is the Co-Director of the Vermont School Leadership Project. Val has worked as a teacher and coach, as well as Associate Principal and Principal at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vermont. CVU has been recognized at the state and national level for innovative programs. In 1993 – 1994, Val served as the first Principal in Residence in the U.S. Department of Education under Deputy Secretary Madeleine Kunin. Val earned a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Vermont and a Masters from the University of Oregon. She currently serves on the Snelling Center for Government and the Vermont Youth Orchestra Board. In the past she served on the Vermont Economic Progress Council, St. Michael’s College Graduate Advisory Panel. The Snelling Center School Leadership Project Advisory Board, and as President of Vermont Headmasters. Val has been recognized in numerous awards, including the Robert F. Pierce Award for service to youth in Vermont (1984); National Distinguished Principal for Vermont (1990); and has been inducted into the UVM Hall of Fame.

Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy founded GripTape, an organization empowering our youth, helping them to become true drivers of their learning and seize great opportunities to grow, lead, and serve.

Before GripTape, Mark was the Secretary of Education in Delaware. During his tenure, Delaware youth significantly improved their academic achievement, college going rates soared, high school dropout rates reached the lowest level in history, and the graduation rate grew to a record high. Mark has also spent a considerable amount of his career directly developing and supporting hundreds of school leaders across the country as the Executive Director of multiple organizations.

Mark’s contributions across the country are significant, and he has served on many boards, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and Chiefs for Change. He began his career as a teacher, and then went on as a principal to lead the dramatic turnaround of a low performing school.

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is the President of Education Reimagined, a non-profit organization committed to making learner-centered education available to every child in the United States. Education Reimagined unites and ignites learner-centered leaders – young people, educators, administrators, policy advocates, and leaders from higher education, business, unions and philanthropy – who are building the models, systems, public will, and policy conditions to transform education in the U.S.

Kelly firmly believes the time has come for the education system to transform (rather than reform) from one that is school-centered to one that meets every child where they are—providing them with the support necessary to address their needs, expose them to their unique interests and passions, and cultivate them into lifelong learners who are engaged and contributive members of their communities. Kelly believes we need inventors (rather than innovators) who are ready to act on this new vision for education and is proud to lead an organization that is bringing these folks together from across the country.

Previously, she served as the interim chief of the Office of Family and Public Engagement for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), where she led the development of DCPS’s 5-year plan and helped implement home visits and other high-impact family engagement strategies. From 1998-2007, Kelly served as the Executive Director of a national political organization, which grew to be one of the largest political action committees in the country under her leadership.

She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their two children. She received her JD from Georgetown University Law Center and a BA in anthropology from the University of Virginia.