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UP for Learning Leadership

UP Youth Advisory Council

To Learn more about the UP for Learning faculty read their biographies below:

Alex Smart, Youth Advisory Council and UP Board of Directors

Alex Smart is a junior 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!


Galen Reese, Youth Advisory Council and Board of Directors

Galen Reese is a sophomore 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 junior 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.

UP Board of Directors

Cara Cookson, Chair – Burlington, VT

Cara has been an ardent advocate for youth voice and small rural schools for over a decade, as a student at Cabot School, and now as a practicing lawyer.


Jan Westervelt, Treasurer – Cabot, VT

Jan is a retired CPA, and has been engaged with UP for Learning’s growth over the past decade.


Hillary Rabaulo – Boston, MA

Hillary is an alumnus of the Hazen Union YATST team, and is a communications professional in Boston.


Tom Alderman – Montpelier, VT

Tom is a retired educator and currently serves on the Board of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

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.

Val Gardner – Shelburne, VT

Val is a past principal at Champlain Valley Union School, a Saint Michael’s College professor, and co-director of the Snelling Educational Leadership program.

Michelle Maseroni – Boston, MA

Michelle 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.

Ben Williams

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

Erin Dezell – Montpelier, VT

Erin is a school counselor at Harwood Union High School.

Executive Director Advisory Council

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.

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.