Dr. Cheryl Watson-Harris President/Executive Director
What brings me to this work?
I’m driven by the belief that every child deserves a great school and is on a path to postsecondary success.
Cheryl Watson-Harris is an exceptional educator, administrator, and community leader with three decades of experience in and out of the classroom. She has drawn praise for her innovative leadership style that improves employee engagement and capacity throughout organizations and positively impacts student achievement. Throughout her 30-year career, Dr. Watson-Harris has demonstrated outstanding skills and knowledge of teaching and learning, professional development, and community partnerships that remove barriers to success and create empowering opportunities for children and their families.
Raised in New York City, Dr. Watson-Harris started her teaching career in 1993 in Brooklyn, NY. She served as a principal for 15 years and Network Superintendent at Boston Public Schools. In 2015, she returned to the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) where she rose to First Deputy Chancellor in 2018, the second-in-command of the nation’s largest school district that serves 1.1 million students. In 2020, she became Superintendent of Georgia’s third-largest district, DeKalb County Schools and most recently, Dr. Watson-Harris co-founded Urban School Specialists, a consultancy that provides support and services to large urban districts and executive leadership coaching to education and nonprofit leaders. Dr. Watson-Harris has a wide range of expertise in the college access space. In Boston Public Schools, New York City Department of Education, and DeKalb County School District she strengthened the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiatives within these districts. She’s co-founder of the Girls’ Empowerment Movement (GEM) that empowers girls to own their leadership stories and pave a path to postsecondary opportunities.
Dr. Watson-Harris holds degrees from Marymount College/Fordham University and Harvard University, as well as a doctorate in Leadership and Innovation from New York University. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Jack and Jill of America, and the Links Inc. Although raised in New York City, in 2020 she and her husband put down roots in Metro Atlanta to create an intergenerational home alongside her parents and their five children – a junior in public high school, a junior at Howard University, and a senior at Hampton University. Education is a family affair in the Watson-Harris household as her eldest two “bonus children” are a kindergarten teacher and an IT specialist in the ed-tech space.
Susanne Diggs-Wilborn Vice President, College Success
What brings me to this work?
Engaging in mission-driven work is a must for me. I absolutely love bridging the worlds of education and organizational development to create sustainable results for students.
Susanne earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Spelman College and her doctorate in Organizational Psychology from Rutgers University. As Vice President of College Success, she is responsible for developing, delivering, and evaluating Achieve Atlanta’s college success and completion program. Prior to this role, Susanne was a consultant in the Human Capital and Change Management practice at The North Highland Company, and has held various leadership roles as an Organizational Development practitioner for over 15 years throughout her career. With over 30 years of progressively accountable experience as an internal and external consultant, Susanne has served as a thought partner and trusted advisor to every level of leader from supervisor to executive in the healthcare, corporate, non-profit and education sectors. In addition to her role at Achieve Atlanta, Susanne is an adjunct associate professor in the Leadership Studies Department at Mercer University.
Sam Rauschenberg Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness
What brings me to this work?
In today’s world, a postsecondary degree is a key to opportunity, but too many low-income students fall short of earning a degree for reasons outside the classroom. In this role, I’m able to use data to target support and remove barriers for our scholars to earn that degree.
Sam is responsible for data strategy and operations, partnering with program teams to execute strategy, evaluate impact, and ultimately enable the organization to accomplish its mission. Prior to Achieve Atlanta, he served as Deputy Director for Research, Policy, and Accountability with the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. In this role, he oversaw the agency’s data and research agenda to inform state-level education policy decisions and provide accessible education data to Georgia stakeholders. Sam holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Georgia College and a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. He started his career as a high school math teacher in the Recovery School District in New Orleans through the teachNOLA Fellows Program.
A college degree can be life-changing. I want to help as many APS students as possible graduate from college and ultimately be in a position to achieve their dreams.
As Vice President, College Access, Korynn is responsible for overall strategy and operations of the College Access and Affordability programs. Prior to Achieve Atlanta, Korynn served as Director of School Governance & Flexibility with Fulton County Schools. In this role, she was responsible for the district’s implementation of the charter system framework. As a Strategic Data Fellow, she worked with school and district leaders on understanding postsecondary metrics and supporting student transitions from high school to college. In that role, she also co-developed a widely recognized summer college-going assistance program. Korynn brings significant education policy and advocacy experience, having served as the Georgia Afterschool Investment Council’s first Policy and Advocacy Manager and as Chief of Staff for Massachusetts State Representative Alice K. Wolf. Korynn graduated from Duke University with Bachelors of Arts degrees in Public Policy and Women’s Studies and earned her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Korynn lives in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta with her husband Jared and their two children, Ethan and Caleb.
Access is power. By creating more points of access, more students will be able to realize their postsecondary goals and dreams. I am fueled by my passion for education, social impact, and sustainable partnerships.
Femi Johnson joins Achieve Atlanta as the first Senior Director, College Access. Femi most recently served as a Program Manager with the National Math and Science Initiative where she supported 45 schools in the Southeastern region of the US with strategic planning and program support. Femi started her career as a classroom teacher, teaching both English and Special Education. Femi earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College and has M.Ed.s in Special Education and Secondary Education from Arcadia University.
I believe this work is powerful and inspiring. By helping our students complete a college education not only do they improve their economic and social mobility but also have a tremendous impact in changing family trajectories and communities.
Ninfa is the Senior Director of Scholarship & Affordability at Achieve Atlanta where she oversees the largest need-based scholarship program in Georgia and leads the organization’s work to remove financial barriers to post-secondary persistence and completion. Before joining Achieve Atlanta, Ninfa spent almost a decade with the Dell Scholars Program at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation where she assisted in building a college completion model and need-based scholarship program where over eighty percent of its students completed a bachelor’s degree on time. During her career she has held a variety of roles supporting students succeed, including the Director of Multicultural Programs at Linfield College-Portland Campus. Ninfa holds a master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University and a bachelor’s in business administration from Oregon State University.
Vett Petty Senior Director, Marketing & Communications
What brings me to this work?
I am a results-driven communicator and appreciate how Achieve Atlanta is also results-driven and determined to increase college access and completion for Atlanta’s students. I believe in our students and share our organization’s vision for educational equity.
Born in Atlanta, Vett is passionate about improving educational equity in the city. Vett guides the organization’s comprehensive communication strategy and stewards Achieve Atlanta’s brand such that it represents both impact and influence in the educational equity and access to opportunity spaces. Vett has experience in strategic communications, public engagement, digital communications, and photography in both government and non-profit sectors. She earned her B.S. in Literature, Media, and Communications and her M.S. in Public Policy, with concentrations in Education and Health Policy, from Georgia Tech. Vett also earned a Spanish minor and speaks Spanish. Before joining Achieve Atlanta, Vett was the Director of Communications at GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. She has worked in the communications offices at the University System of Georgia, the City of Atlanta, and the Office of the Governor.
Vett is a graduate of the 2017-2018 GPEE Education Policy Fellowship Program, and Vett was selected by the Atlanta Regional Commission as one of 55 community leaders to join the 2018 Regional Leadership Institute. She was also named as one of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Atlanta (YNPN) 30 Leaders Under 30.
William Tran Senior Director, Operations & Systems
What brings me to this work?
I joined this work with the belief that “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” This work is a continuation of making that belief reality.
William received his undergraduate from Georgetown University in the District of Columbia. At Achieve Atlanta, William is the Senior Director of Operations and Systems. He works closely with the staff and leadership team to drive and manage Achieve Atlanta’s overall operational and systematic needs. Prior to this role, William was a Teach for America Corps member and taught several years in Fulton County Public Schools. He was born and raised in Atlanta.
Sweta Vivek Senior Director, Data Analytics & Insights
What brings me to this work?
A postsecondary education is the gateway to a successful livelihood. I am driven to serve students by helping them reach their potential and fulfill their dreams.
Sweta earned a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies at Emory University and a MA in Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. As Senior Director of Data, Analytics, & Insights, Sweta is responsible for managing and analyzing data to inform organizational and program decisions. Prior to this role, Sweta worked at the Dallas Independent School District in the Human Capital Management department as the Data & Design Manager. During her time in Dallas, she managed all human capital systems and data for the district and designed processes to improve overall talent strategy. Previously, Sweta was a First to the Top Fellow at the Tennessee Department of Education and served as a Teach For America Corps Member in Washington, DC. With a passion to serve her community and transform educational systems, Sweta has been active with multiple organizations including Leadership for Educational Equity, Dallas Mayor’s Star Council, and Leadership ISD.
Barriers to education, and meaningful communal and economic participation have no place in a society that seeks to be free. My life will be spent collaborating with other champions for youth to remove these barriers, and energizing youth to reimagine and rebuild the systems in which they live.
Stacy joins Achieve Atlanta as the Director of Postsecondary Partnerships. Her background includes managing a diverse portfolio of partnerships; designing and implementing large scale college access and success programming; developing and facilitating professional development curriculum, and building a network of supports that champion equitable opportunities for first-generation college students and those from underserved communities.
Prior to joining Achieve Atlanta, Stacy served as the Director of K-12 Initiatives and Higher Education Partnerships for the Detroit Promise with the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation, where she worked to build and expand one of the nation’s largest citywide and non-competitive tuition-free initiatives. She also has experience working with the Michigan Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs initiative with the University of Michigan – Dearborn, where she began as an Americorps VISTA. Stacy also lends her support to service initiatives advocating for justice in basic needs fulfillment, and equitable supports for youth experiencing and aging out of foster care.
She earned an MA in Teaching and Curriculum from Michigan State University, and holds a BA from the University of Michigan – Dearborn in psychology and sociology, with a minor in French and francophone studies.
Taylor Pratt joins Achieve Atlanta as the Director, External Impact. In this role, Taylor will work with external partners and workforce groups to further Achieve Atlanta’s impact within and outside metro Atlanta. Most recently, Taylor served as an elementary school principal where he led school turnaround efforts to improve and sustain academic, social/emotional, and behavioral outcomes for all students. Prior to this, Taylor served as an assistant principal and classroom teacher.
Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in multicultural and ethical educational leadership from Kennesaw State University.
I was inspired to pursue a career in the education field after witnessing the difficulties that first generation students faced in graduating from college. My own college journey was heavily impacted by the mentors and coaches who encouraged my persistence every step of the way. Recognizing the vast contrast that exists in college student experiences, I now aspire to assist students on their college journeys while discovering and understanding the many invisible pitfalls that exist on a college campus, whether those obstacles be financial, social, or academic.
Laura Gangelhoff received an M.Ed. in College Student Affairs Administration from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Northeastern University. Laura first started working with Achieve Atlanta in 2015 when she served as a College Adviser with College Advising Corps: Atlanta. In that role, she supported 200+ seniors at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate by advising them in the scholarship and financial aid process. Since that role, Laura has worked as a Graduate Assistant at University of Georgia’s Career Center, and a Coordinator in the office of Leadership Education and Development at Georgia Tech. Now as the manager of systems at Achieve Atlanta, she supports multiple facets of the team’s internal and external systems as well as adding additional capacity to the Data Strategy team.
From personal experience, I know what it’s like for people to not believe in you. It took one person to believe in me for me to get to school and because of that one person I have had the opportunity to gain my education. Now, I want to show my unwavering belief in all of Atlanta’s students.
Bria Price received her Masters of Public Policy in Education Policy from the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, and her Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Wooster. As the manager of the College Success Program she will serve as the liaison between secondary and postsecondary partners to promote relationships and support seamless enrollment and college persistence for scholars. Prior to this role Bria worked for City Year Washington, D.C. as an Impact Manager, and as a Program Associate for the Eli J. and Phyllis N. Segal Citizen Leadership Program.
An Atlanta native, Bria is excited to return home to invest in economic growth in the city through education access and equity for its scholars.
As the Senior Manager of Scholarship and Affordability, Janai will manage the day-to-day operations of Achieve Atlanta’s scholarship and other affordability initiatives. Janai first started working in the college access and success space in 2016 when she served as a College Adviser with the Georgia College Advising Corps. Since then, Janai has worked with multiple organizations including the National College Attainment Network, the Southern Education Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, District of Columbia Public Schools, and Achieve Atlanta.
Janai earned a BSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Georgia and a MA in Higher Education at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Fueled by her passion for educational equity and community engagement, Nichelle is an ardent advocate for improved outcomes for students and communities through increased educational opportunities and equitable access to resources. As a graduate from the University of Florida with bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Criminology, with minors in Women Studies, Educational Studies, and Leadership, Nichelle wholeheartedly believes that education is the means by which we control our destiny and transform communities.
With a background rooted in education, Nichelle is a former Teach for America Corp member in which she began and continued to work as a middle school math educator for many years before joining the Achieve Atlanta team as the Manager of Operations. Additionally, she has engaged in education policy and advocacy work and serves as a community organizer through being an active member and leader within several local organizations.
Nichelle is originally from Miami, FL, where she began her professional career in education, but now resides in Atlanta, GA where she continues to work towards bridging the gap of educational equity for students and communities that have been marginalized.
I am drawn to this work because I can use my data skills in a meaningful way, and be a small part of a very large mission. I believe having a good education is a necessity both for upward socioeconomic mobility, and for leading a fulfilling life.
William was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia and a master’s degree in applied economics from Boston College. At Boston College, William specialized in data science and analytics. As the Manager, Data Analysis, William will collect, clean, and organize data from external partners to create and update dashboards that track progress toward key postsecondary enrollment and persistence outcomes shared regularly with program teams.
As an Atlanta Public Schools and Achieve Atlanta graduate, I wholeheartedly believe in Achieve Atlanta’s vision, mission, and ability to drive change within the postsecondary community.
Brandy joined the Achieve Atlanta team as the Manager, Marketing & Communications. She leads our social media and digital marketing, engages with current Scholars and alumni, and manages external events.
A 2017 graduate of Therrell High School, Brandy earned her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism with a minor in public relations from Georgia Southern University.
The work that Achieve Atlanta does closely aligns with my passion to support the need for underrepresented communities to have access to resources that will ensure their success in a society where they are often overlooked. Not because they don’t have the potential, but because they don’t have the support.
Amala earned her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Human Biology from Emory University. As the Manager, Research & Learning, she is responsible for analyzing data and sharing insights to staff to improve organizational outcomes. Prior to this role, Amala was a junior strategist for Nimbly Insights, a private market research agency. Throughout her college career and previous role, Amala has developed a passion for research and using data and information to drive organizational expansion and improvement.
Augustine Jimenez Program Associate, Scholarship & Affordability
What brings me to this work?
I decided to bring my skills to postsecondary nonprofit work in order to support a new generation of Achieve Atlanta Scholars in pursuing their goals.
Augustine Jimenez joined Achieve Atlanta as a Program Associate, Scholarship & Affordability. He works with Achieve Atlanta Scholars to address a wide array of issues and needs, such as scholarship renewal.
A 2016 graduate of North Atlanta High School, Augustine earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations from Boston University, where he was selected as the 2019 Harry S. Truman Scholar from Georgia. Prior to joining Achieve Atlanta, Augustine worked as a paralegal at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and Georgia Legal Services Program.
Thomas Smith Program Associate, Scholarship & Affordability
What brings me to this work?
I am fortunate to have had a community that provided opportunities and support for me to navigate through my educational journey, and I often think about my peers who were as gifted as I was but lacked the opportunities and support. For Atlanta’s next generation, I want to work on behalf of the talented students that are pursuing their dreams, providing them with community support.
Thomas Smith joined Achieve Atlanta as a Scholarship & Affordability Program Associate. In this role, he collaborates with scholars to provide support to prospective and current scholars and their families.
Following his graduation from Morehouse College with a BA in Sociology, Thomas settled in Atlanta being his career in college access and success. As a college advisor, he has the opportunity to assist seniors with the college application process at Frederick Douglass and Benjamin E. Mays High School. He then transitioned to serving Achieve Atlanta scholars as a College Coach with Beyond12. Thomas is continuing his education at Georgia State University, working on a master’s degree in the Social Foundations of Education. His research interests focus on the experiences of first-generation college student and the distribution of social and cultural capital.
I believe in being the person I needed when I was younger. Having someone to encourage you and checking on you mentally can make the difference between stopping out and persisting. Having access to higher education will open doors that were previously closed, and I want to encourage students to persist and succeed.
Breale Howard earned her Master of Arts and Bachelor of Art in Psychology from the University of West Georgia (UWG). She started working with Achieve Atlanta in 2018 as a Graduate Assistant providing advisory support to scholars at UWG. Now, as a College Success Coach Fellow, she provides social emotional support to students and collaborates with schools to increase student persistence.
A passion and commitment to support this generation in realizing their true, full potential using my favorite tools and resources: encouragement, listening, wisdom and transparency brings me to this work and gives my position greater meaning and fulfillment.
Jennifer is a career executive assistant bringing a wealth of experience gained through a full career of supporting C-Suite executives in both the corporate and higher education arenas. In the postsecondary education arena Jennifer previously served as the Executive Assistant to the President of Mississippi Valley State University, Westwood College, and to key administrators at Clark Atlanta University; within the corporate arena she previously served the Partner in Charge of Management Consulting in the New York office, and partners/principals in their Houston and Atlanta offices, and at Touche Ross’s Houston office (now Deloitte) she supported the partner in charge of Management Consulting. Her passion and commitment to support young people, wherever she is, inspired her to create opportunities to engage, nurture and encourage students at each of the post-secondary institutions she served.