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Rachael Tutwiler Fortune

President

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune is the President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, where she leads the organization to help ensure every student in Duval County attends a high-quality school. Having served in government, non-profit, district and school-based roles, Rachael draws upon significant professional experience at all levels of the education system. A Jacksonville native, she returned to her hometown as JPEF’s Executive Vice President in 2017 before being appointed President in November 2018.

Rachael previously served on the senior leadership team at America’s Promise Alliance as Senior Director of the GradNation Campaign. She was selected a 2013 Presidential Management Fellow and served as a Program Officer at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC, where she managed a portfolio of multi-million-dollar Race to the Top grants during the Obama Administration.

Prior to this, she served as an Education Pioneers Fellow at the Oakland Unified School District to improve community school strategic planning across the district. Earlier, she led JPEF's community mobilization efforts, launching the ONE by ONE campaign to mobilize stakeholders to develop a shared vision for local schools. Rachael began her career as a Duval County Public Schools teacher at S. P. Livingston Elementary School through Teach for America – Jacksonville’s charter corps.

Rachael holds a master’s degree in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of North Florida. At UNF, she served as the second African American female Student Government President, Director of the African American Student Union, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Rachael currently serves on the Board of Directors of Jewish Family and Community Services, on the Steering Committee of the Women’s Giving Alliance, and as a mentor through UNF’s Community Alliance for Student Success. She was recognized by Jacksonville Business Journal as one of the First Coast’s 40 under 40 in 2020 and is a member of Leadership Florida in Education Class of 2018. She is happily married to her husband, Emmanuel, and is the proud mother of their two children, Nicholas and Elle.

rachael.fortune@jaxpef.org | cell: (904) 352-6897

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Coretta K. Hill

Vice President

As JPEF’s Vice President, Coretta Hill works to drive effective implementation of JPEF's strategy to make a deep and measurable impact on school quality through management and support of the organization's talented program team. She partners with JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune to guide the organization's overall operational effectiveness.

Prior to joining JPEF, Coretta served as Vice President of Volunteer and Community Engagement at the United Way of Northeast Florida for 10 years.  She has also served as Executive Director of the March of Dimes in Buffalo, New York, Marketing Director and Adjunct Professor at Central Texas College in Japan, and in roles that allowed her to direct campaigns and communications for the Albany, Georgia, city government and United Way in Jacksonville and in Albany. 

Her skillset and professional expertise span strong strategic planning, management, fundraising and communication competencies. She earned an MPA in Non-Profit Management from Albany State University, and a BA in Mass Communications with a focus on Public Relations from Fort Valley State University. 

She is a member of the 2019 Leadership Jacksonville Class, a Community Coach with the Nonprofit Center for Northeast Florida and serves on the Board of Directors for Changing Homelessness, Inc. 

coretta@jaxpef.org | 904-403-5839

 

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Jen Silva

Fund Development Director

Jen Silva leads JPEF’s Department of Fund Development through fundraising and grant related initiatives with local, state and federal partners. Through the cultivation of individual, foundation and corporate business development, she develops philanthropic support for strategic programs that align with the needs of public education and business sectors. She works to steward relationships to build JPEF’s visibility, direct impact and resources through external investments on behalf of students and teachers.

She has 20 years of experience in education policy, including higher education. Prior to joining JPEF, she served as Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Government Relations at Edward Waters College under the leadership of Former Jacksonville Sheriff and President, Dr. Nathaniel Glover and served as Director of Community Engagement and Government Relations for Florida State College at Jacksonville and Associate Director of Alumni Relations and Development for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University.

Jen served in Congress for 11 years as Senior Policy Advisor and Finance Director in the Office of Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano in the United States House of Representatives where her policy portfolio included education, mental health, natural resources and minority issues.

She has also served on the Mayor's Hispanic American Advisory Board since 2015 and as Chair for 2019 recently being honored by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as the 2019 Business Advocate for her work across the Hispanic community in Jacksonville. She is bilingual in Spanish with a proud Colombian heritage and credits her career to the education opportunities provided to her by her parents who came to the United States in the 1960s to reach the American dream and succeeded.

Jen is the 2006 Co-Founder of Ladies America and Ladies International (Washington, D.C.), a non-profit created with the motto, “Women Helping Women” to empower professional women and men working to advance one another through mentorship and leadership training programs.

She has an M.A. in Education Administration and Policy from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and a B.A. in Psychology from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, V.A. On her spare time, she trains at CrossFit Jacksonville Beach, loves to travel and spend time with her family.  

jennifer@jaxpef.org   cell: (904) 575-0447

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Danté Jennings

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Danté serves as JPEF's Director of Strategic Initiatives. As a dynamic educator, Danté currently supports Juniors and Seniors needing math credits to fulfill graduation requirements. Prior to accepting his current role, Danté was a district math specialist for two years overseeing 5 of Duval County Public Schools' historically underperforming middle schools. During his time in the classroom, he was recognized as Jean Ribault Middle School 2017 Teacher of the Year. Following this, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund awarded Danté with a scholarship to pursue a graduate degree with the purpose of increasing diversity in school leadership. With nearly 8 years of education experience ranging from mathematic instructor to district executive, Danté has expertise in data analysis, administration, and resource allocations.

Danté also leads community advocacy efforts through his work in the nonprofit sector having served as President of the Jacksonville Urban League Young Professionals and board member to the Jacksonville Urban League. As a member of the local chapter of Omega Psi Fraternity Incorporated, he has served as keeper of Finance, mentor, and fundraising chair. Danté was recently inducted into the Tallahassee chapter of the New Leaders Council.

He earned his B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from Florida International University and holds a MA in Organizational Leadership from Columbia University, Teachers College in New York City. In 2020 he was awarded the Minority Fellowship from Jacksonville University’s Minority Board of Directors where he is pursuing a MA in Public Policy. Danté is an avid reader and mindfulness practitioner who also enjoys travel and music-related events.

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Roderica Johnson

Engagement & Partnerships Director

Roderica Johnson is a Jacksonville native who leads JPEF's convening strategy. After graduating from Englewood High, she went on to attend the University of North Florida through the Jacksonville Commitment and Hicks Scholarship programs. While at UNF, Roderica completed several internships including at the UNF Office of Campus Life, Victoria’s Secret PINK, and Follett Higher Education Group. Roderica also volunteered extensively while completing her undergraduate degree, giving time to the Bridge of Northeast Florida and the UNF Women’s Center throughout her years at UNF. In 2015, she graduated with a B.S in Communications and minor in community leadership.

Shortly after graduation, she ventured to Tallahassee, Florida where she enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at Florida State University. While completing the program, she worked at several organizations including the Public Defender’s Office, Opportunity Services, and Capital City Youth Services. During her time at CCYS, she was eventually promoted to the Community Services and Events Manager, where she oversaw the Youth Advisory Council initiative, funding opportunities, communications strategies, and outreach efforts.

Roderica returned to Jacksonville for a role with Wounded Warrior Project, where she coordinated internal communications for two years before joining the JPEF family. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

 

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Carly Norgord

Director of Finance & Administration

Carly Norgord is JPEF’s Director of Finance and Administration

Carly grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and is the product of a public school education. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and International Studies. In 2006, Carly joined the Teach for America corps in the San Francisco Bay Area teaching 4th grade at DJ Meyer Elementary School in San Jose and then 6th grade English Language Arts at KIPP Bayview Academy in San Francisco. During that time, she earned her California Preliminary Teaching Credential through Alliant International University. 

In 2008, Carly moved to Jacksonville where she worked as an Assistant Director at Huntington Learning Center, where she managed operations and tutored students. Carly joined the JPEF team for the first time in March of 2010 as Operations Associate and later became Finance Manager. In 2014, Carly moved back to the midwest and made the decision to stay home with her children before returning to JPEF as Finance Manager in 2017.

While in Jacksonville, Carly served on the Teach for America Jacksonville Alumni Board and volunteered as a mentor with Achievers for Life at Matthew Gilbert Middle School and Take Stock in Children at First Coast High School.

carly@jaxpef.org | cell: (415) 971-5130

 

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Shannon Varga

Director of Data & Research

As the Director of Data and Research for JPEF, Shannon Varga seeks to lead mixed methodological approaches to counteracting the systemic conditions that restrict opportunities for underserved students and lead to disparities in student outcomes across the county. She aims to leverage JPEF’s historical partnerships with the community to implement and evaluate data-driven initiatives that cross sectors, improve collaboration of existing community assets, and make a measurable impact on school quality and education broadly in Duval County. 

Before joining JPEF, Shannon was a Research Assistant Professor at Boston University and the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation for the Community Engaged Research and Evaluation Sciences (CERES) Institute for Children and Youth, housed in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Shannon has spent 10+ years conducting research in the education and youth development space, specifically understanding the complex relation between social capital, relationships, and student outcomes. She was also previously a Postdoctoral Research fellow at America’s Promise Alliance where she led research on school and workforce engagement for underserved populations (e.g., emergent multilingual students, justice-involved youth, youth who have interrupted education) and has over 5 years of experience translating this research to national, mixed-stakeholder, audiences.  

Shannon earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and her BA in psychology from Montclair State University. After living in several states on the east coast, Shannon is excited to invest in her new home state of Florida and maximize the impact of the existing community efforts and energy for serving students in Duval County.

 

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Rachel Duff

Data & Research Manager

Rachel Duff serves as the Data & Research Manager for JPEF. With her skills in research and data analysis, she seeks to uplift local education issues in order to promote transformational change in Duval County. She has lived in Jacksonville for 23 years and considers it to be her hometown.

Prior to this position, Rachel served as a Policy Fellow with the DC State Board of Education, where she was responsible for advancing the goals set by the nine elected State Board members. She additionally led their Spring retreat on Co-Decolonizing Methods of Community Engagement based on research presented through the American Educational Research Association.

Previously, Rachel worked in Duval County Public Schools first as a 6th-8th grade ESL Teacher and later as a school-based Reading Interventionist. She began her career at The Sulzbacher Center where she served as the Children’s Program Assistant. She was recognized as one of the top five finalists for Duval County Teacher of the Year in 2019, and she has presented at the 2018 Northeast Florida TESOL Consortium as well as the 2019 WJCT Teach Conference.

Rachel holds a master’s degree in Educational Transformation from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in English Education from the University of North Florida. She has volunteered abroad in educational capacities both in Guyana, South America and Guatemala, Central America. Rachel lives in Springfield with her cat, Reina and enjoys the variety of food, culture, and events Jacksonville has to offer.

 

 

 

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Veronica Session-Fennell

Manager of Operations & Development, Executive Assistant

Veronica Session-Fennell is JPEF’s Manager of Operations and Development and Executive Assistant to JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. Veronica is a Jacksonville native and a graduate from Andrew Jackson High School, the oldest high school in Duval County. From there she continued her education at Jacksonville University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications. As a student, Veronica founded the Distinguished Black Women of JU and served as the Program Director for Dolphin Radio. Following graduation, Veronica found her passion for making change in her hometown working in the nonprofit sector. In 2020, Veronica graduated with her Master of Science in Human Service Administration and was inducted into Pi Gamma Mu, the International Honor Society of Social Sciences.

Veronica is a member of several community organizations, including the Atlantic Circle, Junior League and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She has served on the board of directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals as the Digital Communications Coordinator. She also serves as the Philanthropy Coordinator for the Black Alumni Network of Jacksonville University, with a goal to raise funds for a scholarship specifically for African American students. Veronica and her husband Jerial love to travel and take photos in their spare time.

veronica@jaxpef.org | (904) 554-3035

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Dryden Mills

Senior Associate: Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships

Dryden Mills serves as the Senior Associate of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships with JPEF. Dryden was born and raised in Jacksonville and Tallahassee, where she graduated from Leon High School, one of the oldest continually accredited public schools in the state of Florida. From there she moved across the country to attend the University of Colorado Boulder where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Political Science with a minor in Anthropology.

During her time in Boulder, Dryden worked with a youth voter nonprofit, New Era Colorado, to politically engage her peers on campus by registering them to vote, turning them out to vote, and engaging them on the issues they care about. Through this work she helped drive record youth turnout, and helped to pass crucial legislation to protect the environment and ease the student debt burden on college graduates. She has also worked on a congressional campaign and interned in Washington D.C.

Dryden has recently returned to Jacksonville after completing her degree, and is looking forward to getting involved in the community here, in addition to her work at JPEF. On any given weekend, you can likely find her volunteering to register community members to vote and informing her friends about upcoming elections. She also enjoys spending time at home binge watching the latest Netflix series and hanging out with her cat, Zora.

 

dryden@jaxpef.org | (904) 790-2089

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Betsy Penisten

Associate, Communications & Development

Betsy serves as the Associate of Communications & Development for JPEF. Betsy was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, where she attended public schools and spent many August days in her mom’s kindergarten classroom helping to prepare for the first day of school. Betsy credits her public school experience for her love of reading and writing. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Political Science. As a student, Betsy worked as a reporter and News Director at KRUI 89.7FM where she covered local and national news, including the Iowa Caucuses. In addition, she interned for U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack, gaining experience in advocacy and community engagement, and volunteered for UNESCO City of Literature’s One Book, Two Book Festival where she donned costumes of children’s book characters and read books to kids.

After graduation, Betsy served in Iowa AmeriCorps 4H Outreach at the Iowa Department of Human Rights, where she coordinated the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC). As an AmeriCorps member, she coordinated SIYAC’s advocacy efforts for a variety of issues affecting young people in Iowa, including education, health, and mental health. In 2018, with SIYAC’s support, the Iowa Legislature passed SF2118, which requires suicide prevention and adverse childhood experiences training for school employees across the state.

Upon completion of her AmeriCorps service, Betsy joined the Iowa Department of Human Rights full time as a Program Planner where she coordinated the National Youth in Transition Database, a federal initiative that collects outcomes information on youth in foster care to inform policy improvements. She continued her volunteer work coaching a little league team at North Des Moines Girls Softball, and as an application assistant at Justice for Our Neighbor’s Green Card Clinic. Betsy’s work at the Iowa Department of Human Rights lead to her passion for youth development, community engagement, and advocacy.

Prior to moving to Florida, Betsy joined Iowa Homeless Youth Centers (IHYC) as the Development Coordinator and gained valuable nonprofit experience in fund development, event planning, and communications. She considers one of her greatest achievements to be planning IHYC’s annual holiday giving event, where she matched more than 200 youth and families with a sponsor for the holidays. Since calling Jacksonville home in 2019, Betsy has worked for local nonprofits including Pace Center for Girls and First Coast No More Homeless Pets.

She currently resides in downtown Jacksonville with her husband, Mike, and their two dogs, Jovie and Lillie. Betsy volunteers for the Save the Manatee Club and looks forward to becoming involved in the community. On any given weekend, you can find Betsy and her family catching a live Jazz show, checking out a new restaurant, or getting some fresh air on a bike trail or at the beach.

Upcoming Event

2022 EDDY Awards

Join us for an inspiring celebration of Jacksonville's leading teachers and find out who will be the 2022 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year.

  • Date: Saturday, Jan 22, 2022
  • Time: 6:00PM to 10:00PM
  • Where: Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 E Coastline Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Learn More

DID YOU KNOW?

 

87%

of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2018-2019.