UP for Learning Leadership
UP Youth Advisory Council
To Learn more about the UP for Learning team read their biographies below:
Brody Brown, Youth Advisory Council
Brody is a junior in the graduating class of 2022 at Williamstown Middle High School. His personal interests are recreational running, spending time with friends and family, and eating! As a new member of the Youth Advisory Council, Brody is looking forward to the work in kindling, fostering, and supporting youth and adult partnership in reimagining the educational system to encompass equity of all stakeholders.
Galen Reese, Youth Advisory Council and Board of Directors
Galen Reese 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.
Erubey Lopez, Youth Advisory Council
Erubey Lopez is a senior at Lamoille Union High School. His passion for education reform began with his introduction to UP for Learning in his freshman year. Since then, he has served on a steering committee to create a new program called EPIC Academy, which puts youth in charge of their learning through passion projects. He also represents his school by serving as their student council President. He has spoken on both state and national levels presenting the importance of youth-adult partnership and learner centered education. In his free time, he’s a Nordic skier, a runner, and a food lover.
Alex Smart, Youth Advisory Council and UP Board of Directors
Alex Smart is a senior at Montpelier High School. She loves being involved in making youth voices heard. She is the coordinator of the Voices for Vermont’s Children’s Youth Council, a member of the Vermont Networks Sexual Assault Crisis Team, and is a member of Montpelier City council’s Homeless Task Force. When she has free time (which is rarely as you can imagine) she enjoys painting, theatre, playing tennis and field hockey, and being with her loved ones. Alex is very excited to be a member of the UP for Learning board!
UP Board of Directors
Cara Cookson, Chair – Burlington, VT
Cara Cookson, 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, Board of Directors
Belan is a lifelong Vermonter dedicated to her 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.
Daniel Baron – Bloomington, IN
Daniel is the founder of the Critical Friends Groups organization (NSRF), the Harmony School (high school) and the Project School in Bloomington, IN. He is a national consultant on school reform.
Erin Dezell – Montpelier, VT
Erin 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.
Hillary Ribaudo – Boston, MA
Hillary Laggis Ribaudo 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.
Executive Director Advisory Council
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 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.
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 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.