Who We Are

The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success Board of Directors

Ruth White

James H. Randall, the Stead Family Professor of English Emeritus at Coe College, grew up in the small village of Bolton, NC. He began teaching English and African American Studies at Coe in 1969 and retired there in 2010.

He has also taught African American Literature at the University of Iowa, and he has engaged in volunteer work at the African American Museum of Iowa over several years.

Betty Daniels is a housing specialist at Waypoint Services Madge Phillips Center, where she has worked for sixteen years. She is often asked to speak on her work at Waypoint and the services Waypoint provides.

She attended Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, California, and holds an AA degree in Liberal Arts from Kirkwood Community College.

She is a musician and visual artist, and has also written guest columns for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

I am serving on the Academy Board because its mission is to “enlighten with courage, with responsibility, and lend a voice to students who would otherwise not have opportunity to know where they come from to better understand their potential.”

Deborah Reed is recently retired from Rockwell Collins. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Iowa State University. Deborah is a member of Bethel AME Church where she serves as Director of Christian Education. She is also an Academy parent from “back in the day”.

I joined the Academy board because I want to help youth and be a positive influence in their lives.

Eric is a native Cedar Rapidian and graduate of Washington High School and after graduation attended The University of Iowa. His music and academic aspirations took him to Boston, MA where graduated from The New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in Jazz Studies and Northeastern University where he attained a BS in African American History with a minor in Political Science.

He then moved to New York City, where he continued to perform, record, and tour; both nationally and internationally while receiving an MA in Arts and Humanities with the Specialization in the Teaching of Social Studies Teacher College, Columbia University. He taught from 2001-2006 at Massapequa High School in the Social Studies Department and becoming a certified National College Board Educator.

Thompson’s rudimental career began in Cedar Rapids, where he marched with the Emerald Knights Drum & Bugle Corps, and finished his marching years as a two-member (1989 & 1991) of the world champion Star of Indiana Drum & Bugle Corps. Eric went on to perform in, instruct, and write for the University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band and the All-American College Band at Disneyland in 1995.

As an instructor, consultant, and arranger, Thompson has served on the Colts and Blue Stars percussion teams; consulted with multiple high school lines throughout the Midwest and east coast, and also served on staff for the Grant Wood All-City Flag & Drum Corps, also of Cedar Rapids. He was a member of the Washington High School Social Sciences from 2006-2010. Presently, Thompson is Executive Director for Coastal Surge Drum & Bugle Corps out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

He also has a personal business “Thompson’s Drum Pad” which focuses specifically on multiple facets of drum-set and marching percussion. He also is the leader of his own group: “Eric Thompson’s Fun-Time Music Hour,” & a member of “Local on the 8s.” He is an artist/performer with SABIAN cymbals and endorses Vic Firth sticks as a member of their education team, as a marching percussion specialist.

Eric is extremely humbled and honored to have been selected for the position of Director for the Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success and endeavors to continue its incredible legacy of academic achievement, cultural awareness and personal excellence.

Charisse Cox

Flora Williams

Dr. Wilcynski worked in the Cedar Rapids schools for more than forty years. She worked as an elementary counselor, a high school language arts teacher, and as principal of Metro High school. She is recently retired as principal at Kennedy High School.

Dr. Wilcynski is currently a professor at Coe College where she teaches in the Education Department, and advocates for students who can benefit from additional support.

Stacey Walker is a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He grew up on the southeast side of town and attended Washington High School. He went on to study Political Science at the University of Iowa.

After college, he helped launch the LBA Foundation, an education-based nonprofit that works to help disadvantaged students stay on course to graduation.

Walker later relocated to Washington, D.C. to work for the Case Foundation, a family organization dedicated to empowering people and ideas that can change the world for the better.

Walker was also able to work directly with AOL founder and Venture Capitalist Steve Case who served on the President’s Council for Jobs and Economic Competitiveness. Walker was also an integral member of Steve Case’s effort to revitalize America’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through the Startup America Partnership and President Obama’s signature economic legislation, the JOBS Act.

While in Washington, D.C., Stacey served as a teaching assistant under Ambassador J. Douglas Holladay who taught a leadership seminar to executive MBA students at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

Stacey currently serves as the Chief of Staff for Patel Endeavors and Hawkeye Hotels. In this role, he helps execute on growth and development strategy while also managing communications for the company and its subsidiaries. Through his involvement with Patel Endeavors, he has worked alongside the principals of Built By Iowa, a private equity firm that focuses on mentoring and growing Iowa-based startups.

Throughout his career, Walker has worked for several political campaigns at the congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential level. He continues to serve as a political activist and writer, with a portfolio of work published in Little Village Magazine, Quartz Magazine, and Washington Post’s The Root, among many others.

Walker serves as a trustee to the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation and as a board member to the Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa in 2010.

Ashley Stowall

Throughout my professional career, I have demonstrated the ability to consistently elevate by building on prior positions and assignments. I have been able to do this because of five key characteristics:
1. Selfless, personal commitment to the professional goals of the organization
2. Highly articulated ability to communicate effectively, despite cultural, language or other potential boundaries
3. Capacity to effectively translate activity in one field to another, disparate field
4. Understanding that true growth requires learning from every single situation, and never allowing an opportunity to grow to go to waste
5. Unmatched optimism, which flows from my personal life to everything around me. While I am pragmatic, I believe in melding the power of positive thinking with determined action

I have been able to effectively build this outreach into a global perspective as Head Coach Trans Web Global and Transitions Lab University Prep School. Trans Web Global is a consulting practice focused on experience-based university admission counseling, which introduces students to the opportunities, training and review needed for an exceptional post-secondary education, while advancing the dialogue of a global education. This business allows me to grow a network throughout India, Africa, Europe and North and Latin America.

Locally, as Co-Founder and President of the LBA Foundation I have effectively helped African-American students across the state of Iowa cut into the achievement gap. The goal of the LBA Foundation is to provide the tools and resources to Iowa youth necessary for success in all aspects of life by focusing on three primary areas of growth: character and leadership development, academic excellence, and healthy lifestyles and nutrition.

Amara Andrews currently leads business development for the transportation division of TrueNorth Companies.

Prior to joining TrueNorth, Amara held several positions at the University of Illinois including developing an incubator program for startup companies, Illinois Launch, as well as teaching entrepreneurship and advising MBA students.

Amara is passionate about civil rights and equality. She is on the board of the Girls and Boys Club of Cedar Rapids and the Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and UCLA School of Law.

Rachel Collins works at Kennedy High School as a school counselor and has been connected with The Academy SPS for eleven years.

She is returning to the board after a two-year break. She previously served on the board for nine years and is excited to renew her commitment to this fantastic organization.

Though she took a break from the board, she has continued her commitment as the chief recruiter at KHS. She makes sure students know all about The Academy SPS and have access to the resources they need to apply.

Jessica Altfillisch is an accomplished performer, passionate educator, and active leader in arts education for social change. After twenty years of Suzuki violin and viola teaching, she founded the Harmony School of Music to bring high-quality music education to families with the greatest need. In addition to her work teaching and developing intensive music programs for under-served youth in Cedar Rapids, she maintains an active private lesson studio, teaching violin and viola students ages 4 through adult.

Jessica is drawn to the supportive community, high expectations, and positive results of The Academy, and is honored to serve as a board member.

Dan DeVore graduated from Jefferson High School in 2000. He graduated from University of Northern Iowa and began his career in education in 2005.

He started this work as an at-risk coordinator at Alburnett JR/Sr High School. In 2009 he moved to College Community Schools. As a ninth grade social studies teacher and volleyball coach, Dan appreciated working with students from all backgrounds to help them begin thinking about the future and working through issues that arose in their lives.

In 2014 Dan was excited to join a fantastic administrative group at Prairie High School. There he worked more with the at-risk and minority populations to help forge a path of success for individuals and groups alike.

In 2015, after a brainstorming session with a group of talented educators, Dan joined with Dan Pledge-Johnson to create a group called “Beyond the Bell”. The purpose of this group was to help African American males become more connected to the high school environment in an authentic way. The work with this group was focused on building leadership capacity and developing future goals with young, primarily, African American males. The relationships fostered through this group with students and community members have had a profound impact on him and his own personal goals.

Dan accepted the Principal position at Metro High School in Cedar Rapids in 2017. He looks forward to continuing to push youth to explore their possibilities and create concrete plans that can help them reach those goals.

Oather Taylor

Johnny Brown

Barbara Jean Miller

Shawna Clemente

Joycelyn Tavaziva

Tapuwa Tavaziva

The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success Board of Directors