Board of Directors
Meet Our Board
Christopher Grabau, Board Chair
“As an educator, I believe one of my most important tasks is to find opportunities where technology can be used to help create inclusive, equitable, and dynamic learning experiences.”
Christopher Grabau, Ph.D., is an Instructional Developer for the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at Saint Louis University. With over 20 years-experience working in higher education, Grabau consults with faculty, graduate students and academic departments on instructional design elements, course design, and thoughtful uses of instructional technologies. Grabau holds an MA in Counseling and a Ph.D., in Education Foundations. His expertise and research often explores authentic uses of technology as well as humanistic teaching perspectives. Dr. Grabau has taught courses in Educational Psychology and has presented at national conferences on faculty development, course design strategies, and authentic teaching practices.
Carl Reed, Vice Chair
In addition to his work on the publishing side of Lion Forge, he runs the creative services side of the company, Lion Forge Labs, where he directs the company’s efforts at exploring new industries and markets with an eye toward understanding the technology and business needs of each project and client.
Jane Vancil, Treasurer
Jane Vancil is the founder and CEO of IncentiLock. IncentiLock is a 2018 Arch Grants recipient and was named one of the 2018 Most Innovative Companies by Small Business Monthly. Jane advises startups through her role as a mentor and entrepreneur-in-residence with ITEN, a technology incubator in St. Louis for many years. Prior to founding IncentiLock, Jane spent 20 years in senior management with Fortune 500 companies, consulting firms, and startups. Her experience includes finance, corporate tax, mergers and acquisitions, and IT implementations.
Jane received her business degree from Fontbonne College (now University) in St. Louis. Speaks regularly on topics related to business tax credits and incentives, technology, and startups.
Raven Akram, Secretary
“Creativity and innovation must be nurtured and celebrated to give children every opportunity to develop and succeed!”
Raven Akram is Senior Corporate Counsel at Centene. In this role, Raven manages the company’s employment litigation. Prior to joining Centene, Raven was a member of Macy’s in-house litigation team where she handled a variety of business litigation matters on behalf of Macy’s and its affiliates. Raven also served as Chair of Macy’s Law Department’s Diversity Council, which is dedicated to enhancing diversity in the legal profession. Raven remains a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and workplace at large. Raven is also a member of the St. Louis County Civil Service Commission.
Raven earned her Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University School of law and her Bachelors of Science in Public Affairs from Indiana University. While earning her J.D., Raven won the Best Advocate Award in the Midwest Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition and she was awarded the St. Louis University School of Law Volunteer of the Year Award for Excellence in Public Service. In 2013, Missouri Lawyers Weekly honored Raven in the category of “Rising Star” at its annual Women’s Justice Awards. In 2011, Raven was honored by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of St. Louis’s top 30 Under 30 up and coming business professionals.
“Innovation in elementary education helps to foster and grow the next generation of innovators and creators. That’s why it’s critically important that we as a community ensure the educational and technological gaps are removed, and all students can flourish and thrive equitably.”
Sherita Haigler serves as the Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at United Way of Greater St. Louis, where the mission is to: “Help People Live Their Best Possible Lives.” Sherita’s primary responsibility is to lead the internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts and ensure they align with the strategic plan of the organization. Sherita works in partnership with leadership and Human Resources to create an inclusive organizational environment where employees, volunteers, and investors of all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and orientations feel welcome and can flourish and contribute to United Way’s mission. Before joining UWGSL, Sherita served as the Director of STEMSTL, a non-profit STEM Learning Ecosystem that aims to ensure that all St. Louis area learners have equitable access to high-quality STEM learning and career opportunities.
Sherita also works as a facilitator for Diversity Awareness Partnership in its Give Respect Get Respect Program. Sherita holds a Masters and Bachelors of Business Administration from Fontbonne University, where she was an adjunct faculty member for the Options Program for many years. She has a vast amount of experience in Client Services, Account and Client Relationship Management, and Program/Project Management in the Telecommunications and Health Care industries. Sherita is a native of St. Louis.
“Innovation is how we continue to help inspire the next generation’s leaders. Giving students and the educators who guide them the ability to access it helps support their learning and development. It’s a way to help create equity in a space where it’s needed.”
Brittany Hogan is the Manager for the Center of Human Service Leadership at the Delmar Divine. In this role, she helps to create a vibrant, innovative, and collaborative community that enhances the value of co-location for tenants and the larger community at the Delmar Divine. Prior to her current role, Brittany was the Director of Educational Equity & Diversity for the Rockwood School District. In this role, she directed the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation program, managed the district’s social workers and social-emotional behavioral specialists. She developed and implemented the district’s equity plan and supported school-based initiatives for both staff & students around equity, inclusion, and social justice.
Brittany earned her Master of Social Work with a concentration in social-economic development from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Bachelor of Art in Psychology from Hampton University. She is an award-winning educator receiving Rockwood’s Outstanding Service of Education (ROSE) award in 2019. In 2021, she co-led the closing keynote for SXSW Edu.
“I view the importance of educational innovation through two lenses. First, the rapid rate of global change dictates that educational institutions must evolve to remain relevant to their customers. Secondly, educational innovation can serve as a critical means to help schools create equitable opportunities for all children, especially those residing in under-resourced and under-represented communities.”
Bill Kent Jr., President and CEO, has led Youth Learning Center (YLC) since its inception. Recognizing that so many of the boys he grew up with did not have the family support he enjoyed and that many of those boys ended up in prison, Mr. Kent was moved to leave his business career and dedicate his professional life to improving academic and life outcomes of youth from under-resourced backgrounds. He applied his background in business management to directing the original YLC building project in 2010 and the 2015 renovation. He has also overseen the development of programming from an all-volunteer organization to the current organization providing STEAM education through outreach programs and eventually the founding of The Biome School in 2015. The Biome School is a new kind of K-8 school for the next generation – one that offers customized, project based and student-centered learning opportunities with an emphasis on growth mindset and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) education. The Biome charter school creates a balanced learning ecosystem in which teachers work together with students to cultivate a growth mindset as they discover their unique gifts, talents and interests. Mr. Kent earned his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Lindenwood University and joined Youth Learning Center after serving as a manager and career insurance underwriter with Reliable Insurance Company for 13 years.
Carol Nelson is the K-12 Project Manager of Education Relations for Boeing. In this role, she is responsible for developing and managing strategies for K-12/STEM outreach. She is responsible for establishing relationships with local high schools and middle schools, collaborating with School administration and community partners on K-12/STEM related event opportunities, engaging Boeing personnel in support of these relationships, and acting as the coordinator and integrator for current and future engagements with local schools. The primary focus is on developing student interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and educating these students on opportunities within Boeing and the Aerospace Industry.
Nelson, who joined the Company in 2007, has worked in Boeing’s Global Services & Support HR organization and also served an administrative role in Future Combat Systems. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from Lindenwood University and a Master’s degree in Human Resources Development from Webster University.
“Technology is a permanent and important part of everyone’s life. As an educator, I have a duty to ensure that every student in every school has the opportunity to explore its potential and use it effectively and that every teacher has the capacity to make this possible.”
My career as a teacher began in 1978 working in a large comprehensive high school in South East England as a teacher of history predominantly, but over the years I also taught French, sociology, sex and health education, and physical education.
Having gained my Master’s degree from the University of London, I moved from the classroom into school administration becoming the principal of a high school close to the South East of London. After working in that position for seven years, it was time for a change. I moved to Myanmar to become the founding principal of an international school for 3 to18 year olds in Yangon.
I returned to school to complete my doctorate at Maryville University where I now work as the Program Director for PK-12 Leadership Courses in the School of Education. I very much enjoy the opportunities I have to work with our graduate students who aspire to be principals and district superintendents.
“Changing the world, one child at a time.”
Dr. Cheryl Watkins is the Founder and CEO of a young start-up company, UPstart Innovations, LLC, a medical technology development organization. At UPstart, “we collaborate with medical professionals, researchers, and offices of technology management to develop and translate novel, next-generation life science concepts into fundable, market-ready product and service businesses. Previously, Cheryl served as an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) with BioGenerator, a private investment firm created by BioSTL to identify promising technologies/services and facilitate the formation of successful, sustainable life science companies in the St. Louis, MO region. Cheryl has identified and provided mentoring as well as due diligence to early-stage organizations with unique technologies in various markets such as asthma, cancer, rehabilitation, and physical therapy markets, raising initial capital funding. She has also served as a judge in several local and national business plan competitions including Washington University’s Skandalaris’ Business Plan Competition, Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest National Tour (St. Louis), and Global Startup Weekend HEALTH: Bio (St. Louis).
Cheryl holds a Masters of Business Management from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts, Biology from Fisk University. She is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, earning her degree from Illinois College of Podiatric Medicine. She has led marketing teams that have won several awards for marketing innovations, including the American Marketing Association highest award, The Award of Excellence and The Bronze Quill award. She is a Board of Trustees Member, Academy of Science–St. Louis; Board Member, Prosper Institute, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs; Advisory Board Member, BALSA Foundation; Advisor Board Member, HealthyMe Mobile Solutions; Board Member Youth Learning Center; Advisory STEM Board Member, Harris-Stowe State University and is active in the St. Louis, MO chapter of Jack and Jill of America.
“Unleashing the natural curiosity and talent of young people through technology in school models success for entrepreneurship and innovation in business.”
Tanya Yatzeck has been an IT Professional for over twenty years and is currently a Project Manager at Ameren. She has collaborated with and led information technology teams applied to utilities, public relations, advertising, financial services, retail, and nonprofits. As a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Tanya has served as a mentor to new and aspiring Project Managers as part of the PMI Mentorship Program as well as through internal programs at her organizations.
Tanya holds Master of Business Management and Master of Arts in Art History degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Beloit College. As a business student, she was inspired to explore innovation in the context of business development and began a freelance writing practice focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship in St. Louis. Prior to her IT career, Tanya taught Art History at University College and at UMSL.
Tanya believes that synergies reside in capturing the energy of the growing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in St. Louis and applying it to schools. She also thinks that unleashing the natural curiosity and talent of young people through technology in school models success for entrepreneurship in business.