The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success Board of Directors
Dr. Ruth White
Eric M. Thompson serves as 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 Educators license, Thompson also poissesses an Undergraduate Diploma with Distinction in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory of Music, 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.
Shirley ‘Charisse’ Cox
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.
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.
Joycelyn Tavaziva “I appreciate the fact that The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success specializes in personalized academic and individual approach to harness and nurture each student unique potential and greatness, so that each student may achieve academic and social excellence in crucial aspects of their being.”
Jocelyn Tavaziva, EA has been a Financial Accountant since 2005 and Tax Accountant since 2007. Jocelyn graduated from the University of Maryland University College, at Adelphi in Maryland, with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Computer Studies secondary in 2005. She has a Diploma in Business Studies from Harare Polytechnic. She is an Enrolled Agent, federally-licensed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax practitioner. Jocelyn is the International Ladies Fellowship Coordinator since 2007 and is a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association since 2011. She is a former team administrator of an American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) club team.
Jocelyn and Tapuwa (also a board member), her husband are blessed with 3 children. She enjoys taking walks, graphic arts, poetry, studying Bible literature, family trips.
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.
Dr. Mary 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. Mary 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.
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.
Oather Taylor, III is a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consultant and Adviser based in Cedar Rapids, IA. In September 2018, Oather retired from Alliant Energy as their Director of Recruitment & Diversity. He was with Alliant Energy for 17 years previously holding the roles of Director of Security, Facilities & Continuity of Operations, and Director of Gas Engineering and Operations Support. Before joining Alliant Energy, Oather spent 14 years in the Oil, Petrochemical & Chemical industries in various engineering and management positions living most of that time in New Orleans, Louisiana, but leading large projects throughout Louisiana, Texas and in Trinidad & Tobago. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Ohio State University. Oather serves on the board of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and is a member of their Executive Committee. Oather recently stepped down as co-chair of the Iowa Energy Workforce Consortium, and from the Madison (WI) Regional Economic Partnership’s Labor & Diversity Committee. Oather also served on the Sector Partnership Leadership Council in Iowa. Oather was the first male to serve as a board member of Corridor Women Connect Organization. Oather has served as President of the Board of Directors for the African American Museum of Iowa, and also served on The Board of Trustees for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art as a member of their Executive Committee and chair of the Buildings Committee. Oather was a Loaned Executive to the United Way of East Central Iowa in 2005, and is the co-founder and former Chair of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Employee Resource Group Consortium(ERGC). Oather was born and raised in Freeport, IL. He and his wife have a daughter at home and a son attending the University of Iowa.
Al O’Bannon 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 with 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.
Barbara ‘BJ’ Jean Miller