Meet the Charleston Promise Neighborhood Staff!
Sherrie Snipes-Williams, Chief Executive Officer
Sherrie Snipes-Williams grew up in rural Ridgeville, S.C. in similar circumstances as many children in the area served by Charleston Promise Neighborhood. “I think I had the same things most kids in The Neck have: hardworking, caring parents; a strong church community; two or three teachers who encouraged me; discipline; and a dream to do and be more,” she notes.
Sherrie earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in math and statistics, and studied in graduate school to be a math teacher. A skilled executive with strategic, operations, management, and business development skills, she has spent her entire career providing leadership to public and nonprofit community organizations in Columbia, San Antonio, and Atlanta before returning home to the Charleston region to take the reins of Charleston Promise Neighborhood.
She sees this position as an opportunity to enhance the “academic trajectory of our students, through the alignment of resources and the strengthening of our community.” Sherrie has the experience to lead an organization that employs evidence-based strategies to address the performance gap in academic outcomes among children in a low-income/high-potential neighborhood.
A wife and mother of “a brilliant, caring, curious, lovely 14-year-old daughter,” Sherrie lets down her hair by playing tennis, reading and doing things with her family, including worship. “I love God but (injustice causes me to) curse a little!” she admits.
Courtenay Fain, Director of Development & Marketing
“I can’t think of any work that is more important than providing opportunities for young students to learn, achieve and thrive – especially when the opportunities otherwise are not there,” says Courtenay Fain, the mother of a first grade Cub Scout, Kung Fu master and ravenous reader.
Courtenay grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated with a degree in French and Art History from Georgetown University. How does that lead to serving as director of development and marketing at Charleston Promise Neighborhood? Circuitously! Prior to moving to Charleston she lived in Washington, DC, where she served as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, later as a lobbyist advocating issues on behalf of private land conservation interests, and ultimately as a White House appointee coordinating faith-based and community initiatives at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Locally she has worked as a professional fundraiser for Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, and later for Porter-Gaud School, before joining the Charleston Promise Neighborhood team.
Courtenay loves spending time outdoors with her husband and son, and is an avid horseback rider. She even once spent two days on horseback taking inventory of the wild horse population in the Ochoco National Forest in Central Oregon.
Radia Heyward, Community Engagement Program Manager
Radia Heyward serves Charleston as the Community Engagement Program Manager at Charleston Promise Neighborhood. But that’s not her main job. Radia is the mother of a 10-year-old and two high school students, and if the results are any indication, she’s doing stellar work.
Her eldest, Jayson, is a senior with a 3.8 GPA at prestigious Porter-Gaud School. He runs track, plays football and serves as a student mentor. He plans to study mechanical engineering in college. Jarad, a junior at James Island Charter, aspires to be a physical therapist or sports agent. He also plays football, serves as a student mentor and sports an impressive GPA. Ten-year-old Jade plays the violin, sews, cooks and plays sports at Drayton Hall Elementary. And she’s a straight-A student.
Three kids. Three schools. Three top performers. Radia is a busy woman. But that’s nothing new: she has been serving her community since she was 12 years old.
Radia grew up in Fort Campbell, KY and Columbia, SC before moving to Charleston to attend College of Charleston. She says her passion in life is to help others and do it selflessly. She volunteers with a variety of organizations, has managed numerous political campaigns and serves as a juvenile arbitrator for the Ninth Circuit Solicitor.
Radia is guided by the notion to “put God first and the rest will follow.”
Jill Hulsen, Director of Operations
If it sometimes seems as if Jill Hulsen is a trapeze artist in her role as director of operations at Charleston Promise Neighborhood, well, it’s because she is. Just a few years ago Jill performed a neat back flip in the piked position off a trapeze before a crowd of impressed onlookers.
The trapeze was a promotional ploy by a furniture store, but it helped fulfill Jill’s second life dream – after being an astronaut. That one will have to wait.
A native of the Buffalo area, Jill graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering and hospitality management. Her career has been equally varied; she has worked in event planning, marketing and strategic planning from New York to Boston to Charleston. Prior to joining Charleston Promise Neighborhood, Jill helped Trident United Way create its strategic plan.
Jill’s parents prioritized education for their four daughters. She wants all children to have the same educational opportunities, regardless of their socio-economic status, and she believes Charleston Promise Neighborhood has a plan to create that opportunity in The Neck. “Trust the process,” she says.
When she’s not on the job, you’ll find Jill on the golf course or tennis court, curled up with a good book, or somewhere on the globe practicing her Latin, Spanish, German and Japanese.
Vicky Ingalls, Director of Programs
With family roots from the Philippines and Eastern Europe, Vicky Ingalls grew up in and around the nation’s capital, and says much of her education comes from the city itself. Educated in Maryland’s public schools, she fondly remembers her parents attending every recital and school event, and always being there for her and her sisters.
With her MBA in Information Systems Management, Vicky worked in management consulting for 25 years before moving into senior services and landing in an Alzheimer’s Respite agency in Summerville. She joined Charleston Promise Neighborhood in 2011, where she serves as director of programs and volunteer engagement.
A sense of respect for others and fairness drive Vicky at Charleston Promise Neighborhood. She wants today’s children to have the same opportunity to succeed, regardless of where a child starts in life, inspired by her own family stories of grandparents and a parent migrating to this country for a better life.
Vicky and her husband Chris have a daughter, Emily, who graduated from Academic Magnet High School and now studies biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University. They enjoy a menagerie of pets: a border collie, a dozen fish and five cats, three of which are strays desperately trying to move in permanently. When she’s not helping children in The Neck succeed in school, Vicky enjoys Charleston and its cultural offerings, reading and cooking.
Abby Walker, Program Assistant
Self-described English nerd Abby Walker silently corrects people’s grammar and worships the Oxford comma. A former public school teacher, she’s not silent about advocating for the education of all children.
“I wholeheartedly believe in Charleston Promise Neighborhood’s mission of supporting the residents in its footprint. Few can say they have gotten to where they are in life without having some sort of support and encouragement to push them forward,” she says.
Abby serves as program assistant for Charleston Promise Neighborhood’s expanded learning initiatives, coordinating research-supported after-school programming to about 500 children each school day. She knows that many studies have linked high-quality after-school programs in high-poverty/high-potential schools with improved attendance, behavior and academic performance.
Abby grew up on Pawley’s Island and received English degrees from College of Charleston and Citadel’s graduate school. The best advice she says she ever received was to be a lifelong learner.
When Abby is home with her husband Joe, two-year-old son William and six-year-old stepson Jude, you’ll find her cooking and baking. Her specialty is chocolate chip cookies, which might serve as a peace offering to anyone whose grammar she corrects.
James Vickers, Americorps VISTA Volunteer – Parent Engagement Coordinator
A couple of adjectives describe James Vickers, our Parent Engagement Coordinator – teacher, DJ and committed community servant. James taught 8th grade social studies at Northwoods Middle School before joining the Charleston Promise Neighborhood team.
In a sense, James has always been part of the Charleston Promise Neighborhood team. Raised in West Ashley, his father’s family lived in The Neck, giving him a long familiarity with the neighborhood. James was put on the path to success by a strong mother and grandfather. They advised him: “never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”
Today, James is grateful to have the opportunity to serve people he knows. “We are making a difference in a community I was raised in as a child,” he says. “From just living here, I feel that I know what the community truly wants and would love to see.”
When he’s not laboring for the old neighborhood, James is a well-loved DJ around town and across the country as well. He even has his own online radio show, Time TNL, featuring an eclectic mix of independent artists, news and opinion. Tune in!