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Meet Our Staff & Interns

John Ross is a 2017 ASPS alum, a 2018/19 intern and now a teacher.

John Ross has always been a man striving toward change. While at Kennedy High School, he encountered the benefits of The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success (ASPS). He attended ASPS throughout his years of high school and became an alum. While pursuing his desires, John Ross found himself taking courses at Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa. During this time, John’s dedication to the ASPS allowed him to become a mentor and intern.

John Ross has obtained various managerial positions and started his own tutoring business. The experiences of being taught by someone who looks like him had a drastic impact on his overall perspective of the correlation between motivation and achievement.

The opportunity has arisen for John Ross to give to ASPS as a math teacher and hopeful have an impact on the students just as the ASPS has profoundly helped him in his life.

Shirley ‘Charrisse’ Cox, veteran educator, has taught first through fifth graders at (JSA) Magnet School for the last 29 of her 30 year career with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. Over the years, she has served in various leadership roles, most recently, for the past four years, on the Superintendent Teacher Cabinet. Upon her retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, she will have gone well beyond her assigned duties, providing added assistance, guidance, and enrichment to students dealing with barriers to education.

Charrisse Cox is co-founder and director of The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success Expansion Program with Dr. Ruth White. For 15 years, she has worked after school with Black, Brown, and Bi-Racial third, fourth, and fifth grade Expansion Scholars to help them cultivate Cultural Pride, Academic Excellence, and Leadership.

She also works with The ASPS High School summer program as Administrative Assistant and Program Documentation Photographer.

Charrisse helped to start the JSA Gospel Choir after-school enrichment for 2nd-5th grade students over 26 years ago. They have performed annually in hospitals, local senior care centers, and for numerous school and community events throughout the greater Cedar Rapids Area.

She is also president of the Paul Engel Association For Community Arts (PEACA) Board of Directors. PEACA has naturally established a partnership with Johnson STEAM Academy Magnet School, which aligns with its mission to inspire neighbors to interact, create, discover, express, explore, and broaden cultural and artistic talents.

Charrisse is also an active long time member of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday School for over 25 years, directs the Mass and Youth Choirs, and leads the Vacation Bible School Music Ministry, encouraging young people to realize their potential through Christian education and the arts.

Eric McKinley Thompson serves as Assistant Director for The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success whose mission is to instill pride in and understanding of African American culture as a tool to encourage academic achievement and positive behaviors, toward post-secondary matriculation and productive citizenship in all Black, Brown and Biracial students. He also serves as the Percussion Director and Community Program Coordinator for the Jane Boyd Community House where youth, family, and community are championed in order to cement academic achievement, enhance and support all families and promote inclusive growth and opportunities for families & neighborhoods to be successful, both in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Holding a Master’s Educators license, Thompson also possesses an Undergraduate Diploma with Distinction in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory of Music, a Bachelor of Science in African-American History with a minor in Political Science from Northeastern University, and a Master of Arts in Arts & Humanities with a Specialization in the teaching of Social Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also a Marching Percussion Specialist with Vic Firth Sticks as a member of their Education Team.

Thompson is currently a Ph.D. student at The University of Iowa in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies: Schools, Culture and Society and is unconditionally honored join the AERA Graduate Student Council and to begin serving as Junior Representative in Division F.

Danny Levy (they/them) just graduated from Washington High School, is a 4 year student of The Academy SPS, and is now enrolled as a freshman at Loras College in Dubuque. They plan on double majoring in International Studies and Politics with various minors in things like Racial Justice and Ethics. They work as a shift supervisor at Starbucks. Their favorite book (and person) is Assata Shakur’s autobiography and overall, they have a preference for Black sociology books and thought. In their spare time they work with the city council and DHR with amplifying the Black dollar within our communities as something that as morphed into more than just a passion project.