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Our Board

Champions and Advocates for Quality Teaching and Learning

Leadership and Members

Benjamin Persofsky is a senior vice president in the private banking practice at Brown Brothers Harriman, where he provides strategic advice and helps deliver debt and equity solutions for private businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region. Prior to joining BBH, he was with M&T Bank, where he served in a variety of leadership roles across various divisions including corporate banking, retail banking and organizational development/human resources. Benjamin also has prior experience in health care, having been responsible for the JeffSTAT critical care retrieval program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Benjamin graduated from Lafayette College with an A.B. in economics & business and a minor in psychology. He attended the University of Oxford as a visiting student concentrating on research in organizational behavior and developmental economics. Benjamin serves on the Executive Committee of Federation Early Learning Services and has served as a grant reviewer for the United Way. He resides in Philadelphia with his wife and young son.

Benjamin, who attended Philadelphia public schools including Northeast High School, is deeply focused on the question: How can we leverage the needs of the city’s next generation of parents to help break the cycle of poverty for the overwhelming number of under-served children in Philadelphia? In 2015, he worked with MaST Charter School and other parents of young children in Philadelphia to develop a plan for a new charter school focused on science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts and math. Although the charter was not approved, the experience further focused Benjamin on the importance of finding education solutions that will enable all of the city’s students to reach their potential.

Zakiyyah Boone is chief executive officer at Wonderspring. Ms. Boone is responsible for the programmatic direction of the organization’s five high-quality early childhood education programs, its kindergarten program and its five out-ofschool time programs. She is also leading the effort to open Wonderspring’s newest early childhood education program at New Market West, slated to open in 2020. Zakiyyah joined Wonderspring because of its high-quality programs and its focus on bringing those programs to underserved communities.

Zakiyyah has 22 years of experience as an early childhood and youth development professional. Most recently, she served as vice president of early childhood at the Greater Philadelphia YMCA, where she managed a budget of $20 million, identified growth and partnership opportunities and ensured the appropriateness of facilities to deliver high-quality programs. A national leader in educational quality improvement, Zakiyyah led a nationwide initiative aimed at enhancing the ability of after-school programs to improve student outcomes. Locally, she has cut the ribbon on 10 child care centers and launched multiple evidence-based youth development programs across the Greater Philadelphia region.

Zakiyyah holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Millersville University and an MBA from Kaplan University. As a mother of two, she personally understands the impact that high-quality education—from birth through high school—can have on children and families. Her daughter attends Academy at Palumbo, a district magnet high school, and her son graduated from KIPP Philadelphia Charter Schools in 2018. Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Zakiyyah herself attended Overbrook Educational Center and then Central High School (proudly 252). She and her family live in the city’s Penrose section.

Zakiyyah is no stranger to Elevate 215, having served for the past couple of years on the Investment Committee.

Bill Marx is a Corporate Tax partner in Grant Thornton’s Philadelphia office. Marx has worked in both public accounting and industry, including serving as director of taxes for a multinational publicly traded company. He provides federal, state, and multinational tax accounting, compliance, and planning for both publicly traded and privately held dynamic companies. Bill has extensive experience with the preparation and review of income tax provisions, both ASC 740 (formerly known as FAS 109) and IAS 12 (International Financial Reporting Standards), and serves as the firm’s Technical Issue Resolution expert on ASC 740 matters for the East region. He has represented his clients’ tax interests in numerous transactions and restructurings, and in disputes with taxing authorities. He has also been very active over his career in teaching about taxes in both internal and external continuing professional education classes.

Jessica Cunningham Akoto is a Partner at Greenhouse E3. In this role, she leads the organization’s thought leadership work and serves as a faculty member for GE3 cohorts. Prior to joining the Greenhouse E3 team, Jessica was the Chief Executive Officer at KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools from 2018 – 2023. During her tenure, KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools grew from five schools serving 2300 students to seven schools serving 3000 students, with annual revenues of $60M.

Jessica began her career in public education as an elementary school teacher with D.C. Public Schools. Jessica later joined KIPP DC where she founded the organization’s third middle school, WILL Academy, and served as the school’s principal for four years. During her time with KIPP DC Jessica went on to serve as both a high school principal and Chief Academic Officer. After 14 years with KIPP DC, Jessica joined the KIPP Foundation as an Executive in Residence, where she provided coaching and on-site support to KIPP regional leaders to identify and execute the necessary steps to improve student outcomes.

Jessica is a Fellow of the fourth class of the Pahara Fellowship and a 2015 Milken Educator Award winner. She also serves as chair of EdFuel’s board of directors.

Dr. Amelia Coleman Brown is the Associate Superintendent of Middle and Charters Schools in Prince George’s County Public Schools. Previously, Amelia served as an Assistant Superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia. Before becoming Assistant Superintendent, she was principal at W.D. Kelley Elementary School in North Philadelphia. During the principalship, Amelia participated in the Neubauer Fellowship, a two-year cohort-based program for dedicated principals, a program unique to the city of Philadelphia, Amelia now serves on their Practitioner Advisory Committee.

In 2007, Amelia assisted in the opening of the first university partnership charter school in Pennsylvania, Widener Partnership Charter School, where she served as the founding assistant principal. Amelia began her career as an educator in 1999. She has served as an assistant superintendent fellow, vice principal, academic coach, teacher-consultant with the Philadelphia Writing Project, teacher, and adjunct reading and writing instructor.

Dr. Coleman is currently an adjunct instructor and a university mentor in the University of Pennsylvania’s School Leadership M.S.Ed Program. Amelia is a native of Philadelphia and attended Philadelphia Parochial and Public schools during her primary years. During her secondary school years, she attended Scotland School for Veterans Children, a residential school that offered residential education to the children of Commonwealth veterans. Amelia earned her B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Temple University and her M.Ed. in Education and Ed.D. in Executive Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.

Amelia’s work is rooted in the belief that “We have a moral and professional obligation to do whatever it takes to make sure students in the community get what they need. Extraordinary times require extra-ordinary leadership!”

Kate serves as Chief Impact Officer of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), leading its Mission Delivery team, guiding its regional grantmaking strategy, and constructing multi-sector partnerships to achieve greater impact.

She joined UWGPSNJ in 2019 as Managing Director for Capacity Building and in 2020 led its COVID-19 crisis response partnerships including PHLCOVID19Fund and PHLConnectED, which raised and invested more than $20 million in new resources across the region. For twenty years, Kate has worked to forge partnerships and support solutions that improve the lives of people experiencing poverty in the Greater Philadelphia region. She seeks leverage in the intersecting missions of nonprofits, business, government, and philanthropy. Kate’s experience on “both sides” of the sector as a nonprofit manager, fundraiser, and grant maker, gives her an important perspective on the challenges that nonprofit leaders face. Previously, Kate worked at The Barra Foundation, an innovation-focused private foundation, where she served as program officer for their Health and Human Services portfolio. Prior to Barra, Kate served as managing director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, where she led the implementation of the organization’s strategic plan and oversaw research, policy, and business services to support companies working to improve their social and environmental impact. She joined SBN from the New York-based nonprofit The Doe Fund, where she served as Deputy Director for Ready, Willing & Able Philadelphia, which provides paid work training, housing, and case management services to people experiencing homelessness. Kate has also served as an international volunteer coordinator in Mexico for American Friends Service Committee.

Kate is a graduate of University of Delaware (B.A.) and New York University (M.P.A.). She sits on the boards of United Way of Pennsylvania, PA-211, and The Nonprofit Repositioning Fund, on the Selection Advisory Council for GreenLight Fund Philadelphia, and is a member of Philanthropy Network’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. In 2015, Kate co-founded a “friends and family” lending circle that works to close the capital gap for Philadelphia entrepreneurs called the Circle of Aunts & Uncles. In 2023, Kate was awarded the Above and Beyond Award by City & State, which recognized 50 Pennsylvania women leaders blazing new trails.

Outside of work, Kate loves the outdoors and is an avid hiker, confident stern paddler, and (at-best) aspiring birdwatcher.

As Vanguard’s first global Chief Marketing Officer, Colin Kelton is responsible for marketing strategies, channels, marketing creative services, and marketing technology in support of Vanguard’s brand, investment products and services and client facing divisions.

Colin has been at Vanguard for nearly 29 years. Prior to becoming Chief Marketing Officer, he led Vanguard’s Australia business located in Melbourne, Australia.

He graduated from Penn State with a degree in Economics, received an MBA from Drexel University, and had the opportunity to attend Harvard’s Advanced Management Program, sponsored by Vanguard.

Prior to moving to Australia he served on the boards of the Upper Main Line YMCA and more recently People’s Light and Theatre company.

Evie McNiff is the founder and board president emirata of the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia. Since she founded CSFP in 2001, it has awarded more than 30,000 K-8th scholarships to under-served children.

Evie is also a founder and board member of Elevate215, formerly the Philadelphia School Partnership, which has spent the last decade improving student outcomes across all school sectors—public, public charter and private.

Evie serves on the board of the Philadelphia Foundation and is a former board member of Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative, and the national board of Children’s Scholarship Fund. She was a former advisor on the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal, and previously worked at the New York Council on the Environment and the Nature Conservancy.

Evie holds a B.A. from Yale University. She is married, has three children and lives outside of Philadelphia.

Executive Director, Xiente

Andy is a co-founder and Managing Partner of MissionOG, a US-based growth equity firm that invests in and partners with high-growth businesses. He focuses on investment opportunities in financial services, data platforms and software. Andy is a technology operator and investor with a history of start-up innovation, successful team leadership, and financial achievement.

Prior to MissionOG, he co-founded Relay Network, a mobile communications company; was Group Head of Sales and Corporate Development for Citi Prepaid Services; and was a founding team member of Ecount (acquired by Citi), a pioneer and leader in the prepaid card industry. Preceding Ecount, Andy spent eight years in investment management, most recently as a portfolio manager with Chartwell Investment Partners, where upon his departure his teams had achieved top decile and quartile rankings.

Andy holds a B.A. from Trinity College.

Jennifer Rice is devoted to many charitable organizations with a focus on the arts, education, women’s rights and animal welfare. She is the Co-Founder of the Forman Arts Initiative and serves on the boards of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, Big Picture Philadelphia (Vaux and El Centro high schools) and ACCT Philly (animal care and control team of Philadelphia). She is a member of the Gender Wealth Institute Advisory Committee for Women’s Way, the Philadelphia Equity Alliance education committee and is former board chair and current honorary trustee for The Philadelphia School, an independent, progressive school in center city Philadelphia.

Philadelphia native Herman “Art” Taylor is an executive with experience in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and a longstanding appreciation of the importance of education. As head of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, he leads an organization whose mission is to ensure nonprofit accountability and transparency for donors looking to achieve philanthropic impact.

Art is a respected and sought-after voice in the nonprofit sector on charity accountability, transparency, governance, impact and strategy. He has testified before both U.S. House and Senate committees offering guidance on ways to improve the ethical behavior and trustworthiness of charities. Since spring 2018 he has held the position of Lecturer, teaching students at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies on ethics in the nonprofit sector. He is a regular guest lecturer at the Georgetown McDonough School and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University. For his efforts he has been named to the Non-Profit Times Power and Influence Top 50 list four times and is currently a member of its Hall of Fame.

Art, a graduate Franklin & Marshall College, has served as a trustee there since 1993 and earned an honorary doctorate from the college in 2002. He now vice chair, chair of the Trusteeship and Governance Committee and is a member of the Executive Committee. He acquired a J.D. from Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law in 1989 (where Mike O’Neill was a classmate). He serves on the boards of Convergence; American Non-Profits; the International Committee on Fundraising Organizations; the Fundraising Standard and National Assembly Business Services; and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Early in his career, Mr. Taylor was employed by Keystone Foods Corporation, UGI Corporation and Deloitte & Touche LLP, where he obtained status as a CPA. He is a graduate of South Philadelphia High School and a member of its Cultural Hall of Fame.

Sean Vereen, Ed.D., formerly the president of Steppingstone Scholars, is a noted thought leader in pedagogy and educational inequity, and executed a greater vision for educational impact. Today, he oversees outcomes and experiences for every student as Co-President of Heights Philadelphia–Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholars merged and are now Heights Philadelphia, offering real access to academic and career opportunities through expansive programming and partnerships.

Sean is the Vice Chair of the Mayor’s Education Nominating Panel that nominates members for the School District of Philadelphia’s Board of Education, board member of the Elevate 215 which is focused on increasing high performing school options for students in Philadelphia, and member of Johns Hopkins Access Advisory Board, a national advisory board working with John Hopkins Undergraduate Admissions Office to support their efforts to realize the goals of Michael Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion gift to Hopkins to increase the population of low-income and first generation students. He is a co-instructor of an open online course created in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania focused on first generation college applicants called How to Apply to College on the Coursera platform with 18,000 enrolled learners from around the world. He is a lecturer in the Higher Education Division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Vereen received his Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 2005. His research focused on how leaders of minority focused resource centers navigate a complex higher ed institution. He is a guest lecturer on issues of social and educational mobility and inequality, narrowing the achievement/service gaps for educationally underserved students, and how to diversify educational institutions.

Richard B. Worley  is Managing Partner of Permit Capital LLC which he founded in 2002. He began his career in 1970 as an economist at Goldman Sachs. In 1978 he joined Miller Anderson and Sherrerd, an independent investment management firm in the Philadelphia area. At MAS he was elected Partner in 1980 and Chairman in 1988, a position he held until the firm was acquired by Morgan Stanley in 1996.

At Morgan Stanley he served in several capacities including as President and CEO of Morgan Stanley Investment Management. Mr. Worley holds a Bachelor of Sciences degree from the University of Tennessee. He also attended graduate school at the University of Texas for two years before joining Goldman Sachs.

Currently, he is a member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association and of Neuberger Berman, a global investment management company headquartered in New York City, a member of the American Philosophical Society, a director at the Philadelphia Inquirer, a director at Two River Theater and is on the board of directors at The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.

Mr. Worley was the Chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association a position he held from 2009 to 2019. He is a former trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Medicine, the National Constitution Center and he is a former director of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Independence Seaport Museum.