The SchoolHouse Connection Team
Barbara Duffield is Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection. For more than 20 years, she has bridged policy and practice in early care, education, housing, and homelessness. Barbara began her career as a tutor for children experiencing homelessness in Washington DC in 1990. She was the Director of Education for the National Coalition for the Homeless from 1994-2003, where she collaborated with service providers, educators, federal agencies, and Congressional offices to address children’s issues. She served as the Director of Policy and Programs at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth in Washington D.C from 2003-2016, leading national efforts to strengthen federal protections and services for children and youth experiencing homelessness, from early childhood through higher education. Barbara helped to establish and develop the NAEHCY Scholarship Program, a comprehensive scholarship program for youth who have experienced homelessness and wish to pursue higher education. She has conducted technical assistance trainings, authored policy reports, appeared on television and radio shows, and has been quoted by various media outlets such as The New York Times and Education Week. Her academic work can be found in Educational Studies, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services. Barbara has served on numerous commissions and advisory groups, including Sesame Street Workshop’s Trauma Initiative and the National Commission on Children and Disasters education group. She received her Bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in Political Science from the University of Michigan.
Digital Marketing & Communications Associate
Lance Bordelon is a double graduate of Louisiana State University’s Manship School, with his B.A. in Public Relations and Master’s of Mass Communication specializing in Strategic Communications. His professional background in marketing and communications has primarily been in the areas of higher education, youth-focused nonprofits, mental health advocacy, as well as included over a decade as a freelance graphic designer. He has been a creative, storyteller, designer, writer, and outspoken advocate in numerous professional and personal spaces throughout his life. He learned from an early age the power and gift of both education and resilience–valuing education above all else for not only unlocking doors but completely tearing down walls, empowering lives with unbridled potential and equity for all. This is the mission he is most passionate about and is thrilled to contribute to this work through SchoolHouse Connection. His years of working in professional theater and as an EFL educator in NYC have enriched his life with invaluable experiences, world travel, a deeper appreciation for diversity, and a stronger commitment to advocacy.
Education Initiatives Specialist
Nikki Hannon (Little Shell Cree/Blackfeet) is the Education Initiatives Specialist for SchoolHouse Connection. She was born and raised on the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. Nikki is passionate about supporting the needs of historically underserved students through building relationships with youth, creating communities of support, and advocating for students’ rights.
Nikki has over 17 years of experience working with Native American students, pregnant and parenting youth, and youth experiencing homelessness. She served in several capacities at the district level, starting out as the Director of Alternative Education where she collaborated with district and community leaders to create a dropout prevention program. She has since served as a certified K-12 school counselor, McKinney Vento and Foster Care Liaison, and most recently as the Director of the Parent Community Outreach program. In this role, Nikki directed a district-run childcare center, Hi-Set education program, and the āissṗoōmmoǒtsiiyō•ṗ “We Help Each Other” Families In Transition program, which she expanded to include the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project and Kinship Program to support students being raised by family.
Nikki specializes in dropout prevention and centers her work on supporting Native American students in completing their high school education. She received her Master’s in Education in Risk and Prevention from Harvard University, as well as a Master’s in Education in Counselor Education from Montana State University-Northern. She is grateful to be a part of the SchoolHouse Connection team and its mission to overcome homelessness through education!
Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager
Ashanti Jones received her MSW from Columbia University in 2018. Since then, she has tirelessly worked to pursue systems-level change by engaging impacted people in advocacy. Grounded by a deep belief in empowerment as the road to social change, Ashanti built coalition groups throughout the state of New Jersey whose advocacy restored the right to vote to New Jerseyans on probation and parole, encouraged the Department of Education to build racially accountable reporting systems and allocated $8.4 million to restorative and transformative justice programming for justice-involved youth.
Since the beginning of her career, Ashanti has given testimony, organized rallies, written various op-eds and reports, and developed toolkits to support the advocacy of the communities she works with. In 2019, Ashanti won Harvard University’s Saul Zaentz Innovation Challenge by developing programs that would increase parental engagement in educational outcomes. She also serves on various steering committees and statewide advisory boards to represent the interests of youth at risk for adverse childhood experiences including housing insecurity.
In line with Horace Mann’s premise of education being the great equalizer, Ashanti plans to use her role at SHC as Sr. Policy and Advocacy manager to ensure an unimpeded path to security exists through education for youth experiencing homelessness.
Ashanti is a professor of Community and Social Justice studies at William Paterson University and a doctoral candidate at Walden University. She is also a member of the Network for Social Work Managers.
Patricia Julianelle is an attorney and legal consultant for state and local governments and non-profit organizations. She has over 25 years of experience defending children’s and youth’s rights, including leading state and federal policy advocacy. Patricia is an expert on education law and policy, including the rights of children and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities and undocumented immigrants. She has worked with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), the National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN), Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the American Bar Association, among other organizations. Patricia’s work has been published in academic and practice journals, including the Children’s Legal Rights Journal, the Journal of Negro Education, Seattle Journal of Social Justice, and Journal of Poverty Law & Policy. Patricia graduated from Yale University and received her J.D. summa cum laude from Lewis & Clark Law School. She taught high school in the US and law school in Chile, where she lived for 18 years. She is fluent in Spanish and volunteers as an interpreter for legal aid organizations.
Director of Communications and Marketing
Leconte Lee moved to Honolulu, Hawaii from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the age of 20. He studied Advertising & Public Relations at Hawaii Pacific University while interning at various marketing and advertising agencies. Upon graduation, he accepted an account management position at a boutique public relations firm in New York City. Passionate about marketing, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012 to complete his MBA in Marketing. After, he was recruited by his former manager at Outrigger Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii to provide marketing services to 32 local and international properties. He was also the Director of Family Retention and Recruitment at Tulsa Public Schools overseeing a $2.5M grant to retain, recruit, and re-engage families to Tulsa Public Schools. Leconte is extremely excited to bring his skills and expertise to such an amazing organization. He was drawn to SchoolHouse Connection because his parents worked extremely hard and made incredible sacrifices to put him through college and he is determined to give back to the community and give others the opportunity that was given to him. He currently resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Federal Policy Fellow
Bree Levy has joined the SchoolHouse Connection team as a Federal Policy fellow, working with federal, state, and local agencies to improve educational outcomes for students experiencing homelessness. Prior to joining the SHC team, Bree worked for four years at the Hawaii Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program (EHCY). Her role involved supporting and developing the state EHCY team in Hawaii, providing structural support to the program, and helping to shape strategy and action based on ongoing assessment of needs across the state. Bree worked within the larger student support continuum, focusing on utilizing longitudinal data systems to improve student attendance and address barriers to full participation in school.
Bree brings a background in supporting K-12 systems at the local and state levels. While in Hawaii, she focused on providing support to local liaisons, student re-engagement, alternative education, family engagement, and cross-population support to improve statewide educational outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness.
Bree has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Global Studies from Azusa Pacific University, and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Director of State Policy
Rodd Monts is the director of state policy for SchoolHouse Connection. He has more than 15 years of advocacy, organizing, public policy and coalition building experience gained in leadership of a variety of local and state campaigns. His work spans many social justice issues, including education, juvenile justice, immigrants’ rights, reducing mass incarceration, police reform, voting rights and LGBT equality.
Rodd’s work in Michigan contributed to the passage of the Detroit Community Input Over Government Surveillance ordinance (CIOGS), Public Acts 383-397, groundbreaking pretrial reform legislation, Public Acts 360-366 of 2016 (the “Rethink Discipline Act”), eliminating zero tolerance discipline in the state’s public schools, as well as passage of several city and county ordinances. He is the recipient of the “Excellence in Advocacy Award” given by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for advocacy work on behalf of the Michigan School-Justice Partnership.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University, and master’s degrees from Wayne State University and Marygrove College.
Director of Education Initiatives
Erin is a former teacher turned education policy strategist originally from South Carolina. With nearly 14 years in education, she has gone from the classroom to positions in federal policymaking, philanthropy, advocacy, and policy consulting.
Erin spent five years teaching Government and Economics in North Carolina and Virginia, taking an active role in school- and district-wide leadership roles. After moving to Washington, D.C., Erin began her career in education policy at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (OPEPD), assisting senior advisors on initiatives to expand equitable federal education policies. She has also worked with the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region as a Education Fellow, American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) as a Program Associate, and most recently with EducationCounsel as a Senior Policy Associate. Throughout her fifteen year career in education practice and policy, Erin has focused on expanding opportunities for the most underserved students – those experiencing homelessness, in foster care, and in the juvenile justice system.
Erin earned her Bachelor’s Degree in History and Psychology from Anderson University in South Carolina, and her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from George Mason University in Virginia.
Program Manager, Youth Leadership & Scholarships
Roshanda has six years of experience with college access programs and has worked in state colleges and universities providing academic and personal support to first generation and limited income students as a Counselor/Advisor, and then Program Manager of the Student Support Services (SSS) Program. Roshanda also had oversight of the SSS Peer Coach program where she led the recruitment, training, and leadership development of top program participants. Most recently, Roshanda served as a School Social Worker and McKinney-Vento liaison for Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida. In this role, she connected students and families experiencing homelessness with school and community resources, operated an onsite food pantry and weekend backpack program to address food insecurity, and the identification and removal of barriers to school attendance. Roshanda is a Wisconsin native currently residing in Tampa, Florida. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Communication and a Master’s degree in Administrative Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Central Florida.
Senior Program Manager of Education Initiatives
Karen Rice joins SchoolHouse Connection from Madison, WI. Karen has a Bachelor’s in Spanish and Education from the University of Northwestern- St. Paul (previously Northwestern College), and a Master’s in Education-Professional Counseling from Concordia University-Wisconsin. Karen brings ten years of experience from a district level, serving in a variety of roles including District Translator/Interpreter, Transitional Education Coordinator, Bilingual Family Outreach Coordinator, and Bilingual Family Liaison. During these years, Karen focused on family engagement and professional development to serve both students experiencing homelessness and the Latinx community. In 2017, Karen joined the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and a Coordinator of the Migrant Education Program. Together with colleagues, Karen supported district and regional staff by providing extensive training and capacity building opportunities. Karen is excited to be joining the SchoolHouse Connection team as the Senior Program Manager of Education Initiatives.
Director of Youth Leadership and Scholarships
Jordyn Roark holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and hails from Eastern North Carolina. Jordyn has dedicated her personal and professional life to serving youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, ensuring that they can get to and through higher education. During graduate school, Jordyn co-founded Aspire, a mentoring and financial assistance program for students experiencing homelessness at UNC Pembroke. Using her own story of youth and young adult homelessness, Jordyn has traveled the country providing keynotes and training to young people, organizations, and professionals on the barriers that students experiencing homelessness face and tips for increasing their access to higher education. Previously, Jordyn served as the Residential Coordinator for a large family homeless shelter in Falls Church, Virginia. She has also served as the Housing Navigator for Back@Home, North Carolina’s re-housing initiative following Hurricane Florence, as the Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator for United Way of Robeson County, the Weekend Shelter Advocate for Southeastern Family Violence Center, and the Coordinated Entry Lead for the Region 8 Balance of State-Continuum of Care in North Carolina. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, hiking, traveling, and spending time with loved ones. Jordyn believes in the powerful work that SchoolHouse Connection is doing and is honored to serve as Director of Youth Leadership and Scholarships.
Director of Higher Education Partnerships
Jillian Sitjar attended Culver Academies, a boarding school in Indiana. She continued her education at Butler University with a Bachelor’s degree in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Jillian pursued her Master’s of Education in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of South Carolina working as a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs supporting students of marginalized communities through various programs and events. After graduation, she was a Community Director at Georgetown University where she oversaw an apartment complex of about 450 students. Jillian is excited at the opportunity to be a part of SchoolHouse Connection and is committed to making a lasting impact as the Director of Higher Education Partnerships. She currently resides in Philadelphia with her Maltipoo, Marbles.
Director of Revenue & Operations
Kevin Spears has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years, serving diverse organizations in higher education, philanthropy, healthcare, behavioral health, social services, and policy advocacy. He is an experienced fundraiser and relationship-builder, and an effective facilitator of internal organizational work to refine strategy, improve operations, launch new initiatives, and increase impact.
Before joining SchoolHouse Connection, Kevin was Director of External Relations for the Center for Child & Family Health, North Carolina’s leading source of expertise in preventing and treating childhood trauma. Prior to that, he was a senior development officer with Visiting Nurse Health System, the largest nonprofit provider of home health and hospice services in the Atlanta region.
Kevin holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Furman University, a Master’s degree in Divinity from Emory University, and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Social Enterprise from Georgia State University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.