Opening Speaker

eric in action

Eric Rowles is a nationally recognized trainer, speaker, and consultant whom has worked with over 150,000 youth, adults, administrators, professionals, and policy makers within the past 15 years. His presentations are legendary – by combining the energy and innovation of a master trainer, while at the same time reaching each of us through his stories, research, and on-the-ground strategies..

One part motivational speaker, one part DJ, and two parts community organizer and parent of 2 daughters, Eric runs a customized consulting and facilitation practice that, through a network of over 20 dynamic and diversely talented trainers, works with for profit and non-profit organizations to achieve progressive and dynamic change.

Eric's previous experience includes his work as Senior Director of Training with the Youth Leadership Institute where he designed a national training institute that provided over 1,000 days of training in five years to community organizations and coalitions throughout the country. Prior to his work with YLI, Eric was the Director of Leadership Development at Rutgers University (NJ), managed his own touring educational theater organization, Leadership Through Motivation Productions, was the Director of International Youth Summer Abroad programs, and spent five years as a substance abuse prevention coordinator in Los Angeles.Additionally, Eric through his double bachelors and Master of Science degrees in Ethnic Studies and Educational Leadership, he has served as a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte as well as Rutgers University (NJ) and has over a decade of innovative and cutting edge classroom instruction and facilitation experience. Eric has also been a volunteer trainer and partner for a wide range of social change agencies and organizations including the National Conference on Community and Justice, College Leadership Diversity Conference, and Teaching Tolerance Curriculum Instruction.

In addition to his training experience, Eric has also been a professional DJ and worked with artists throughout the entertainment industry, including Gwen Stefani, Billy Joel, Notorius B.I.G., Cypress Hill, Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, Boyz II Men, Third Eye Blind, The Roots, George Clinton & Parliament, Henry Rollins, Radiohead, Smashmouth, Weezer, Edward James Olmos, Sinbad, George Lopez, Margaret Cho, and Maya Angelou.

Get ready to laugh, play, think, work, challenge, and MOVE! This is NOT your ordinary training, and NOT your ordinary speaker. Get ready for the EXTRAORDINARY.... LEADING TO CHANGE!


Keynote Speaker


Emily Ballance, MEd, LPC, CSP entertains, educates and inspires audiences with her humor, honesty and lively stories at conferences and events across the country. Her presentations to associations, healthcare organizations, corporations, educational and financial groups have been described as “highly entertaining, uplifting and thought-provoking.” Emily frequently presents on stress management, generations, positive humor, customer service and communication.

Emily has earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation (CSP). CSP is the highest earned designation awarded by the National Speakers Association and recognized by the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), a 5000-plus member international organization. Female members of the GSF who have earned their CSP certification make up only 5% of the total membership. To earn the CSP designation, a speaker must document 250 paid speaking engagements, receive exceptionally high ratings from meeting planners and meet high professional standards in the following four areas:

• Platform skills

• Business management

• Education

• Association membership

Prior to becoming a full time speaker, Emily maintained a private counseling practice providing psychotherapy for groups and individuals. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and member of the North Carolina Counseling Association and the American Association of University Women. Emily holds a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a former lecturer, counselor and group facilitator at the Duke University Dietary Clinic (now Duke Diet and Fitness Center) in Durham, NC, and wellness consultant for StayWell, a highly successful and innovative employee wellness program at Control Data Corporation in Los Angeles, CA. Emily is a member of the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), National Speakers Association (NSA), Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, and other professional organizations.

Emily believes that positive humor helps people reduce stress, improve their work environment, build stronger relationships and make the world a better place. She has written articles on humor, health and wellness for international, national, regional and local publications. She currently lives in Raleigh, NC, and when she is not traveling or speaking, Emily volunteers her time with older adults and the Autism Society of North Carolina.

General Session Speakers

Blaire Denson is the Director of the Virginia Partnership for Out of School Time (VPOST). Prior to joining VPOST, Blaire served as a Private Educational Consultant to the Virginia Department of Education monitoring 21st Century Community Learning Center Programs across the Commonwealth.  She has also served as a Title IV Program Director, Cooperative Education Director, Distance Learning Liaison, and Mentorship Coordinator.    Blaire is a graduate of the inaugural class of White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows of the Riley Institute at Furman University as a leader in the field of afterschool and expanded learning policy.  She is also certified in the Principles & Techniques of Fundraising at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Dawn Dill currently serves as an Education Specialist for the Title IV, Part A and Title IV, Part B grant programs at the Virginia Department of Education.  She is the point of contact at the Department for the Title IV, Part A, Student Success and Academic Enrichment grant program and works directly with divisions in regions I, VI, VII, and VIII. In working with the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) programs, she provides programmatic guidance, fiscal oversight, and technical assistance to community-based organizations and school division grantees in regions III, VI and VII.  She assists with technical assistance institutes and peer review of grant applications.

Marsha Granderson is an education specialist for the ESEA Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program at the Virginia Department of Education. She serves as the liaison between the Department and the U. S. Department of Education and is on the Leadership Council for the Virginia Partnership for Out-of-School Time. Marsha manages 99 21st CCLC grants statewide that support opportunities for academic enrichment during non-school hours for children, particularly those who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. These grants are awarded to school divisions, nonprofit, city, or county government agencies, community and faith based organizations, and institutions of higher education.

Meredith Scott Lynn, an award-winning storyteller, and recognized film and television actress understands the value of stories and self-expression. As Founder of WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS, her mission is to foster self-esteem in young people and offer inspired curricula that help kids of all ages excited to discover and develop ideas. Seeking to create collaborative and compassionate contributors by offering experiences that elevate academic and personal confidence, it is Meredith's goal to shift the conversation around student assessment from standardized testing to one grounded in appreciation for "the whole student”. Meredith is known for her professional acting roles in notable movies and television shows spanning a 30-year career. (Legally Blonde, A Night at the Roxbury, Forces of Nature, CSI, etc.) Currently, she costars on Days of Our Lives as the cunning and crafty Anne Milbauer.


Breakout Session Speakers


Ryan Barton is the Manager for Community Impact Strategies, and is responsible for the on-site operations of resident engagement programs at Stony Brook in Alexandria. Mr. Barton has been the resident services coordinator at Stony Brook for 5 years. Before that, he spent nearly 2 years as a Youth Specialist for the Island Walk After-School Program. In addition, he is the current Music Therapist for the KEEN DC special needs program at the Key Center in Springfield, VA. In 2015, he was honored as a Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services Distinguished Partner. Mr. Barton graduated from DePauw University with a BA in English Writing and received his Secondary English Teaching Certification from Anderson University (IN).


Stephanie Bassett serves as Director of Education with Peter Paul Development Center.  With 17 years of experience as a central office and building level administrator as well as teacher, Dr. Bassett brings experience in instructional best practices, increasing student achievement, working with diverse groups, and parent and community involvement.  Dr. Bassett holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a post master's certificate in educational leadership, a master's degree in elementary education, and a bachelor's degree in English all from Virginia Commonwealth University.


Jennifer Bishop is the Director of Implementation and Training at DimensionU. She is a former elementary and secondary educator from Chesterfield and Henrico counties in Virginia.  Her experience in the classroom, where she first used DimensionU products with students, lends itself well to helping educators and after school professionals understand the benefits to making educational video gaming an integral part of the learning experience for students.


Rhona Cleary is an enthusiastic new member of the WRiTE BRAiN team. With several years’ experience as an EL teacher in France, Italy and California, and more recently, as a writer and comedian in Los Angeles, she is delighted to join WRiTE BRAiN in sharing her passion for education and her love of writing. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Vassar College and can be seen performing improv and sketch around Los Angeles and at the UCB Theatre.


Christina Cunningham is a Prevention Coordination Specialist with the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. She helps coordinate and facilitate cross system efforts aimed at impacting outcomes for children and youth. She is currently working to connect the various Fairfax County Human Service agencies in what were previously fragmented efforts to implement trauma informed care. Chrissy coordinates the Trauma-Informed Community Network of the Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax, and consults with other trauma workgroups across Human Services.  Chrissy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from James Madison University, and a Master’s of Science Degree in Social Work from Columbia University.


Michelle Dinnen Owens is the National Advisor for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She provides technical assistance and professional development training for schools and out-of-school time sites focused on wellness policies, physical activity opportunities and healthy eating options for students and staff.  Michelle has over 15 years of experience in training and curriculum development for programs designed to reach the most underserved populations with a combination of public health, educational, recreational and social-emotional programming. Prior to her work in the field of school health, she was an ESE Teacher, a Curriculum Developer and Trainer for Foundations, Inc.  and a National Trainer for John’s Hopkins University and the Success For All Program.


La Tasha Doâzia Earley is the Founding Artistic Director of Selah Theatre Project in Front Royal teaching and reaching over 650 young actors in many venues throughout the Winchester area. She has served as a preschool director, a Big Sister and foster parent. La Tasha is not a stranger to the stage.  She is an accomplished performer with credits in both Regional and Community Theatre. La Tasha graduated from the elite Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk, VA before moving to Winchester, VA to further her education at Shenandoah University.  She has completed coursework in voice, theatre, and communications at Shenandoah University.  Currently, La Tasha is pursuing a degree in education.


MaRhonda Echols is the Program Manager for the City of Newport News’ Youth & Gang Violence Prevention Initiative. It is her responsibility to develop policies and implement a vision for the institutionalizing of strategies found to be successful in combating gang violence and violent crime. In this role, MaRhonda is also responsible for the Street Outreach Workers who are the “foot soldiers” in the community and also the coordination of the Summer Training and Enrichment Program (STEP). Although the charge is great, MaRhonda believes that every young person deserves the opportunity to live a positive life and be productive members of the community.


Susan Geller holds a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University and has dedicated her professional career to providing and developing effective prevention services for children and families. She founded Wingspan in 1997 in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University where she directed the development of the nationally recognized, evidence-based prevention program, Al's Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices. Ms. Geller works internationally with school districts, educators, and administrators, afterschool programs, clinicians, parent educators, educational agencies and mental health organizations to strengthen young children’s social-emotional skills and healthy development.  She regularly conducts professional training and continues to develop practical educational resources to foster children’s resilience.     


Ronnie Goodall has been with the US Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section for over 8 years. He is responsible for overseeing the development, strategy and implementation of community programs including after school, in-school, recreational, and competitive programs in the Mid Atlantic Section (including DC, MD, VA and WV).


Brent Holsinger has made a career serving as a champion for young people inspired by his AmeriCorps service year with City Year Boston. After serving as an educator and administrator for non-profits and out-of-school learning programs, including City Year, Citizen Schools, and Beyond the Bell/21st Century Community Learning Centers, Brent founded and currently serves as president of On the Road Collaborative, a youth empowerment nonprofit organization in Harrisonburg that sets underserved middle school youth on the road to college & career. He received his Master’s Degree in Education in Out-of-School Learning & Facilitative Leadership from Lesley University and Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Richmond. Brent serves on the Harrisonburg City School Board and enjoys time with his wife, Laura Toni-Holsinger, daughter, Lucy, and son, Myles.


Decardra L. Jackson is currently the Director of Assessment Literacy and Research for Richmond Public Schools, in Richmond, Virginia.  She also has served as an Assistant Principal in Richmond Public Schools. Dr. Jackson was Director of Science Education for Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She has over four years of experience as a Coordinator of Assessment and Remediation in Henrico County Public Schools in Henrico, Virginia, as well as 11 years of experience as a middle school science teacher in Richmond Public Schools.


Joy Jackson is the Communications Assistant for Virginia Partnership for Out-of-School Time (VPOST). Joy has over fifteen years of experience working in prevention, youth development, education, and outreach. She has worked on a wide range of issues including out-of-school time, workplace readiness, career pathways, human trafficking, gun violence prevention, and juvenile justice. Joy is responsible for conducting outreach that both supports agencies' work in providing quality out-of-school time programs as well as building a sustainable network that guides a legislative agenda that promotes access to quality out-of-school time programming for all children and youth. Joy holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Howard University and a Master’s degree from the University of Arizona in Latin American History.


Christy Lowery-Carter began her career teaching in the K-12 learning environment before transitioning to a mathematics professor with the Virginia Community College System.  She spends her summers engaging K-12 students in STEM Camps and training teachers how to incorporate STEM activities into their classroom to engage learners in the classroom in new innovative ways.


Brigadier General (BG) David L. McGinnis, USA (Ret.), is a retired veteran combat infantryman, with distinguished careers in and out of uniform defending the United States. BG McGinnis remains engaged as a thought leader on National Strategy, Defense and Mental Health Policy. He chairs a national level working group focused on the Behavioral Health of our military, veterans and their families and is an active member in Mission Readiness, an organization of retired military leaders calling for smart investments in America’s Children. BG McGinnis retired following 29 years in the Army uniform.  BG McGinnis is a member of the Legion de Lafayette of the National Guard Education Foundation and a graduate of the US Army War College. 


Michael Parsons is the Information Coordinator at the Peter Paul Development Center. Before coming to Peter Paul, Michael worked with families at a neighborhood resource center in Albany, NY, organized people with felony convictions in Baltimore, MD, and worked with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Washington, DC. Michael moved to Richmond, VA to pursue a Masters of Social Work, specializing in community-level social work and program evaluation. At Peter Paul, Michael has led the effort to build an evaluative infrastructure and data-driven culture. Michael has overseen the implementation of an agency-wide database, evidence based evaluation tools, continuous improvement initiatives, and a data-sharing partnership with the public school system. At Peter Paul, Michael is afforded a unique opportunity to help students, teachers, families, and the community access and interpret the information they need to effect real, measurable change. Michael has a B.S.W in Social Work, a B.S. in Public Policy and Administration, and a Masters of Social Work.


Kim Pinto, LSCW is a Behavioral Health Coordinator and Clinician at Center for Child & Family Services as well as an Adjunct Professor in the Masters of Social Work Program at Saint Leo University. Kim earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from Saint Leo University and her undergraduate degree in psychology from Bowling Green State University.  She has spent the past 15 years studying attachment disorder and related behavioral problems in children.  At the Center for Child & Family Services, she is both a clinician and the Coordinator for Behavioral Health Services.  She also provides in-service trainings to various community agencies about Trauma.  She is a certified Family Trauma Therapist and working toward certification in Neurofeedback therapy.  


Charles Robinson works with Alternatives Inc., as a youth program coordinator and as an Emerging Leader on the executive leadership team. A native of Hampton Virginia, Charles matriculated at Hampton University, earning his B.S., and Liberty University earning his M.A. Charles has a passion for the growth and development of young people and believes all young people deserve support, opportunities to grow, and experiences in service. In the past 9 years Charles has worked intently on improving the lives of young people with much work ahead of him. Always striving to improve and learn he is a graduate of the Leadership International Institute, holds a certificate in Advancing Youth Development, Creativity and Youth Engagement, and Organizational Leadership. Charles is married to his beautiful wife Lakia Robinson.


Burnette Scarboro is the President/Co-founder of South County Youth Network, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Alexandria, VA.   For nine years, this organization has conducted a summer learning program to avoid the summer slide.  Recently, Burnette visited Capitol Hill with the National Summer Learning Association's team to advocate for afterschool and summer learning programs.  The presentation being shared, Disparity of Race and Gender in the STEM/STEAM Career Fields has been given at George Mason University and the African American Museum of Philadelphia.  Burnette holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education Achievement and minor in African/African American Studies.  She is a 2017 Master's Degree candidate in Educational Leadership - Student Services Cohort at GMU.


Linda G. Staylor has worked in some capacity with K-12 schools since 1977.  She retired in 2008 as a Deputy Superintendent of Schools for Cumberland County.  Since that time she has worked with the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) as a GEAR UP Regional Manager (2008-2012) and as a Grant Writer and Perkins Administrator for Southside Virginia Community College (2012-2015).  She returned to SCHEV in July, 2015 to work with the new cohort of GEAR UP Virginia programs in the Western Region of the State as Regional Manager. Linda has worked with afterschool programs since they came to the State of Virginia in some capacity.  This included writing the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, overseeing the implementation of the grant and since her retirement as a consultant for the 21st CCLC programs across many school divisions. She and her husband live in Burkeville, Virginia with their four dogs.


Charlotte Steinecke joined the Afterschool Alliance in March 2017 to manage the Afterschool Snack blog and provide editorial and communications support across the organization. Previously, Charlotte was an Editor at LivingSocial, where she developed travel-themed copy and worked closely with the marketing team. She has also worked in communications at a medical education nonprofit, as a constituent contact at the Maryland State Senate, and in a florist’s shop in Takoma Park. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.


Carlena Vaden holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree in the area of Political Science from Morgan State University, a Master of Education (MEd) Degree from Strayer University, and is pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Education Leadership and Management (EdD) from Capella University. She has provided leadership training and professional workshops for educational organizations public and private and at national conferences. Ms. Vaden has been highlighted in the Early Childhood Report, February 2017 issue on leadership and professional development. It is her desire to see that all students be given the proper tools and support needed to be successful in their educational journey.  


Rose Marie Wiegandt, joined the Virginia Mentoring Partnership staff in April 2015. As program coordinator, Rose Marie assists in developing curriculum and facilitates programs in several Richmond elementary schools.  Most recently Rose Marie worked with Communities in Schools of Richmond as coordinator for Henderson and Thompson Middle School, service coordinator for the Performing Learning Center, an alternative program for high school students and Program Director of Elementary Schools. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with BA in Business Administration. Rose Marie has first-hand experience of the importance of mentoring and how the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can make all the difference.