Cedric Cooper was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended Benson High School, earned his bachelor’s degree from Montana State University, and his master’s degree in Education Leadership from Doane College. Cedric worked as an educator in Omaha Public Schools for eleven years. He also worked with at risk children at Boys and Girls Town, as well as Boys and Girls Club, all in Omaha. He and his wife have been foster parents to at risk youth. Currently, Cedric is the Assistant Principal at a high poverty school. He and his wife of twelve years live in Goshen County with their young nephew and two sons. Their oldest son will graduate this year from the University of Nebraska.
Jason Epting is a native of North Platte, Nebraska. He has worked as an educator for eighteen years, teaching at Rumsey Station Elementary school in Papillion and Lewis and Clark Elementary in Council Bluffs. For the past nine years, Jason has worked at Harlem Village Academies Charter School in Harlem, NYC, where he currently serves as Principal. Jason also appears in “Unchartered Territory,” a film by TEACHED producer/director Kelly Amis. In 2014, Jason traveled back to Nebraska to advocate for LB972, a bill to allow public charter schools in Omaha. He and his wife live in New York City with their beautiful children.
Cameron Gales was born in Chicago and, along with his sister, raised by their single mother. Cameron learned the value of hard work, teamwork, and perseverance early in life. He graduated from John Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas where he was a three year letterman on the football team and was a member of the debate team, all while working a part-time job. Cameron’s academic and athletic prowess and leadership abilities earned him a scholarship to Texas A&M Kingsville. He would later graduate from Bethany College Lindsborg, Kansas with a degree in political science and history and received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Bellevue University. He would spend the next decade serving the people of Omaha, including as Assistant Community Relations Director for Mayor Jean Stothert. Cameron founded and owns Gala Painting. He and his wife live in Omaha with their three children.
Lisa Graham Keegan has spent 12 years as Principal Partner at the Keegan Company, where she leads numerous projects, writes, and speaks on critical issues and emerging excellence in American education. Keegan’s expertise and outspoken nature have made her a sought after education reform expert who has worked with national education leaders, the media, U.S. Congress, state legislative bodies, business groups, policy organizations, community groups, and the education industry.
She currently serves as a Senior Advisor to National School Choice Week, an annual public awareness campaign to advance excellent choices in education; and as Executive Director of A for Arizona, a joint project of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber that seeks to accelerate the number of A quality public charter and public district schools in Arizona.
Mrs. Keegan spent a decade from 1991 – 2001 serving as an Arizona state official, where she advanced clear and challenging academic standards gauged by publicly transparent assessments, and fought successfully for the implementation of school choice, including Arizona’s landmark charter school and tuition tax credit laws. She also led efforts to revise the state’s school finance formulas to reflect a commitment to equal access and choice of excellent schools…a job she considers unfinished.
Mrs. Keegan’s leadership in Arizona earned her a national reputation as a strong advocate for student-based education policies. In March of 1999, Drs. Milton and Rose Friedman personally presented Mrs. Keegan with the first Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation Award for Leadership in Educational Choice. In 2000 and 2008, she was education advisor to the John McCain Campaign for President, and was interviewed in 2000 by President-Elect Bush for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education. In June of 2011, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce presented her with their Milton Freidman Award for visionary leadership in Arizona and in July of 2013 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
Mrs. Keegan’s work has appeared or been cited in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Newsweek, Forbes Magazine, Education Week, The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Magazine. She has also discussed education issues on NPR, The PBS News Hour, Fox News Channel, CNBC, and local stations nationwide. She serves as national chairman of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility Advisory Board, as board chairman for the National Association for Charter School Authorizers, and as a board member for Teach for America/Phoenix, the Arizona Charter Schools Association, Science Foundation Arizona, Venture Academies in Minneapolis, and the Diversity Leadership Institute in Washington, DC.
In May of 2013, Keegan published her first book, Simple Choices: Thoughts on choosing environments that support who your child is meant to be.
Mrs. Keegan graduated from Stanford University in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts in human language. She earned a Masters Degree in communications disorders from Arizona State University (ASU) in 1983. Keegan lives in Peoria with her husband, former State Representative and Justice of the Peace John Keegan, who also served as Mayor of Peoria, Arizona for a decade. They are members of the Arizona Episcopal Diocese, and have five children and two grandsons.
Aaron Hollinger is a 10 year veteran educator. Starting his career at Papillion LaVista Public Schools, he initially worked with students with mild and moderate disabilities and ran a transitional training program for students at the high school level as both a classroom teacher and then a department leader. Aaron managed the Young Adult Transitional Program for Papillon LaVista Public Schools, serving students aged 18-21, developing business partnerships and creating post-secondary training opportunities for students with a variety of disabilities.
Aaron has since worked with Chicago Public Schools as a Fellow with Education Pioneers, developing a comprehensive proposal for for high school admissions, working in the office of the Chief Academic Officer. He also worked for the New York City Department of Education as a Fellow through a New York University partnership to develop and manage more than 500 multi-school governing teams through the Office of School Governance.
Most recently, Aaron works with KIPP NYC in New York City. KIPP is a large charter school network of more than 70,000 students in 188 schools across the country with the mission of providing equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for students in the hardest socio-economic settings. Aaron began working in multiple teaching and leadership roles within KIPP Special Education and Vocational Education, working to see 100 percent of students with IEPS in two graduating classes in the South Bronx both graduate high school and matriculate to college.
While managing part of the Student Support Services Team and creating a multi-faceted curriculum and assessment metric to prepare students from grades 9-12 through the high school process, Aaron serves as the Alternative Pathways Coordinator. In this role, he has created multiple business partnerships, curricular options for students both in and out of the classroom setting, as well as managing a program that builds alternative pathways for all students in the high school setting to both achieve and excel after high school in the college setting of their choice. In the last two years of this program, 98% of students have matriculated to a degree or certificate earning program of their choice.
Aaron earned a bachelor’s degree in Education and master’s degree in Education Administration, both from the University of Nebraska. He is currently finalizing a doctorate in Education Leadership at New York University. His research focuses on teacher motivation and educational choice in schools, specifically looking to understand the relationship between teacher decision making and policy development at the classroom level.
In October, Aaron married his wife, Lauren. They live in New York City and love to go to Central Park, travel whenever possible and try new restaurants throughout the city.
In 2011, when Tunette Powell’s father – a recovering drug addict – was at one of his lowest points, she asked him, “Why should anyone care about you?” In a low, nearly hopeless tone, he told her, “We recycle paper, aluminum and old electronics, but why don’t we ever consider recycling the most precious thing on this earth – the human life.” His response changed her life. It would be her father’s words that lead her to be named the nation’s top persuasive speaker in 2012 after winning Interstate Oratory, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious public-speaking contest. Using her father’s words, Powell spoke about our nation’s failed war on drugs and the criminalization of addiction. It was her father’s words that lead her to write and publish two books, The Other Woman and From Daddyless to Destiny: Finding Freedom in Your Story.
In 2013, Powell founded Holder and Powell LLC – a leadership development consulting company for educators and students. Having overcome her own educational woes, Powell has made it her mission to be a voice of hope and healing for underserved youth, and has vowed to work with educators to help them create an equitable place for youth to be empowered and to see education as a passport out of any situation.
In May 2015, Powell received an honorary degree from Primrose at La Vista for her leadership development training at the school. Most recently, Powell has partnered with the Minnesota Humanities Center to offer a relationship-based approach to engagement and achievement for teachers and staff in Omaha Public Schools.
Powell is also an active volunteer throughout the Omaha and Bellevue Community. She is a volunteer teacher for teen parents at Blackburn Alternative High School. In addition, she is the PTA President at her oldest two boys’ school, Belleaire Elementary in Bellevue; Vice President of the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance; Board Secretary for the Mildred D. Brown Memorial Study Center; Board Secretary for Tobacco Free Sarpy; and sits on advisory councils for the President of the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
Gillian Quinn-Pineda (“Jill”) has spent 10 years working in education in Houston, Texas. Her career in education began in 2006, when she served as a Teach for America Corps Member. She spent three years teaching at her placement middle school, where she was voted Teacher of the Year. After teaching for three years at KIPP Spirit College Preparatory, Jill participated in the Fisher Fellowship. The Fisher Fellowship is a year-long leadership development program offered by the KIPP Foundation to prepare leaders to open new KIPP schools.
Currently, Jill serves as the Founding School Leader of KIPP Northeast College Preparatory (KNCP), a high school in Houston, Texas. KNCP opened in 2013 with a founding class of 120 freshmen, and today serves approximately 400 students in grades 9-11. In 2017, KNCP will graduate its founding class.
Jill is a native of Omaha, Nebraska. She attended Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart before earning her B.A. in Political Science and Sociology at Gonzaga University and her M.B.A. at Rice University. At Rice, she participated in the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP). In 2015, Jill was selected by Raise Your Hand Texas to participate in the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Summer Principal Institute. In 2013, Jill travelled to Omaha to testify on behalf of LB 593, a bill that would authorize charter schools in parts of Omaha.