SUSAN STUPPNIG - President/CEO - Susan is passionate about working with young people and supporting them as they reach for their highest potential. She considers herself blessed to have had her life path crossed by every young person that she has encountered thus far. Susan is a certified teacher with a master’s degree in substance abuse counseling eligible to be provisionally licensed as a school counselor at the master’s level and over sixteen years of experience working with adolescents in educational, substance abuse treatment, and mental health settings.
MIKE SMILEY - Board Director - Mike is the president of Penland Legacy Advisors, a financial consulting firm. His philanthropic interests focus around children, cancer research, Christian outreach, and nature conservation and Mike and his wife, Shari Lynn, created a charitable fund called Smiley’s 4 C’s in 2007 to benefit these charitable outreach endeavors. Mike also has a keen interest in board development, strategic planning, and planned giving. He has served on boards and volunteers on various committees with organizations including Susan. G. Komen, Well of Mercy, Brookstone Schools, Project New Heights, Ronald McDonald House, Girls on the Run International, the Y.M.C.A., Winthrop University, and Myers Park United Methodist Church. In addition, Mike completed the Duke University Non-Profit Management program in 2013 to further develop his skills in working with local and regional non-profits.
JACINDA GARABITO - Board Director - Jacinda is currently NBA Arena Host for the Charlotte Hornets and a freelance host/reporter for WCCB-TV. Starting her radio career at WNVZFM 104.5 (Z104) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, her biggest radio achievement thus far was that of AM Mayhem Morning Show Co-Host and Producer on WIBT-FM 96.1, The Beat. After eight years in radio, Jacinda received the opportunity to transition into television becoming an Afternoon Traffic Reporter for WBTV and helping kick off the “First at 4” newscasts. She joined the WCCB News team in 2011 as a weather forecaster and reporter while also writing for a monthly inspirational column in Metro Proponent and blogging on her personal site www.JustJacinda.com. While all facets of media intrigue Jacinda, education and service are also an extremely important part of her life. She obtained a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Old Dominion in 2006 and a Masters Degree of Arts in Educational Studies in 2011. Volunteering with the young people at McLeod Substance Abuse Center over the past nine years, recently helping launch Hashtag Lunch Bag Charlotte (feeding and passing out love notes of encouragement to help end homelessness), and facilitating a monthly women’s devotional called Stolen Lunches set to inspire and empower women through the word of God, are just a few of the opportunities that Jacinda takes to find her peace through service. She is an active member of Nations Ford Community Church and through daily prayer and meditation she only walks by faith, knowing through God anything is possible.
PATRICK VACA - Board Director - Patrick currently works as an independent consultant and leadership coach at Patrick Vaca Consulting, LLC. He has created a number of mental health start-up programs wherein “thinking outside the box” was the norm and, most recently, served as an internal consultant with one of the largest healthcare organizations in the nation. In addition, as a mental health clinician in private practice, Patrick’s goal is to help people gain a heightened awareness of self. Patrick serves his community in many capacities from advocating for children and families through participation on various community committees, to serving on several boards or advocacy councils including International Coaches Federation-Charlotte, Third Sector Leadership, and Teen Health Connection. As a side, Patrick loves music, photography, and anything nature.
RON MATTHEWS - Board Director - Ron is a practical visionary with an uncanny skill for connecting with young people. He is most proud of being a Big Brother and mentoring students at Johnson C. Smith University. He enjoys helping young people reach their goals. Prior to becoming Director of Alumni Affairs for Johnson C. Smith University, Ron spent 24 years at the IBM Corporation, traveling across the United States, Mexico, France and Canada and holding positions in finance, real estate, procurement and sales. Ron has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Friendship Trays, Inc., was on the board of Community Health Services (Care Ring, Inc.) and is the National Pre-Alumni Council Advisor for the United Negro College Fund.
SHAVONDA BEAN - Board Director - Shavonda serves her community as a psychologist and owner of Essential Assessments and Behavioral Health, PLLC (EABH). Shavonda is passionate about helping others reach their highest potential through personal, emotional and professional growth. She understands that mental and emotional wellness and increased self-awareness are powerful and life-changing. Shavonda specializes in offering a variety of assessment, training, and treatment services to uncover intellectual capacity, to explore and identify skill areas, and develop talent. In addition, she is a highly trained to provide comprehensive psychological evaluations. Shavonda writes for Pride Magazine, an African-American magazine focused on promoting social, emotional and cultural awareness. She is a strong believer in advocacy and supporting those in need. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and Mecklenburg Psychological Association. Shavonda has served her community as National Women of Achievement, Queen City Chapter Charter member, board member, and Chapter/Regional Youth Advisor working with youth to enrich social skills, personal development, community and governmental involvement, scholarship and leadership skills. Shavonda is a native Charlottean who loves her family, her dog, and on most of her off days, her camera is in hand!
Project New Heights will provide educational advocacy, support and dropout prevention services to underserved, at-risk youth in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.
These youth are considered “at-risk” for academic failure due to substance abuse, mental health, and/or socioeconomic challenges, and are often involved with the juvenile justice system.
These youth are considered “underserved” in that they are not receiving comparable services from any other entities and are greatly in need of temporary or ongoing intervention in order to achieve academic success.
Project New Heights Board/Staff
THE board, ADMINISTRATORS AND STAFF AT Project NEW HEIGHTS ARE UNITED IN ouR BELIEF THAT a high school education:
Project New Heights is a 501(c)(3) that will serve youth through evidence based practices that fit within the framework of the nationally utilized System of Care philosophy. Key dropout prevention strategies will include strengthening collaboration between the school and the community, engaging families in the students’ academic experience and involving the youth (student) in their own academic planning process. We will work with the student's home school, any involved community agencies, the parent/guardians and the student to address any challenges that may be impeding academic success, such as emotional and behavioral problems, substance abuse, truancy, homelessness, family relations, peers relations, and low academic performance. We will work with the student to identify impediments and to devise strategies that will increase their interest in academic pursuits and will work with their home school as an advocate to reconnect the student positively with their school environment, an environment often marred by past experiences and poor peer relations. In extreme cases in which their current home school is not the most conducive scenario, Project New Heights will work with the student, their family, their school and other community agencies to pursue a new school placement that would ensure academic success.
Project New Heights aims to support students as they tap into their personal strengths and heighten their resilience, empowering them to stay in and graduate from high school, to successfully transition into adulthood and to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Students will be challenged to call forth their own motivation and commitment. We believe this emphasis on personal responsibility will create an intrinsic change that will have a long lasting impact on the academic and personal development of the individuals served and the communities in which they live.