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At City of Promise, we are committed to a family-centered approach

of educational support.


First, we honor parents as the experts and most important educators of their children. We respect them as the key decision-makers for their children’s success. Second, our foster strong relationships with families to build the trust and accountability necessary for student achievement.  On a typical day, we are coaching parents on Page Street, coaching students at schools, and collaborating with partners to host dual-generation programs and traditional after-school activities. 


MARY COLEMAN, Executive Director

Contact: * 434.228.5153


I want to create opportunities and access for children and parents

so that no one has their dreams deferred.


Mary was named Executive Director in December 2019  after serving two years as development director for City of Promise. Mary began her career in fundraising as Director of Donor Relations at Woodberry Forest School where her family lived for 23 years. Later, she served as Advancement Director at The Covenant School here in Charlottesville where she directed fundraising, special events, marketing, and alumni and parent relations.


Mary and her husband Joe met while both were students at Princeton University. They have been married for 39 years, and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.


JERMAINE DIAS, High School Pathway Coach

Contact: * 551-404-5832


I know what it is like to overcome being labeled "troublemaker," only to change my behavior and be labeled as the invisible "C" student.  I want students to know that they matter, and that there is someone advocating for them. 


Jermaine Dias has more than a decade of experience working with youth in public education.  A native of Hackensack, New Jersey, Jermaine is a 2007 graduate of the University of Virginia and an alumnus of the Cavalier football team. He has spent the majority of his career serving as both a mental health specialist and high school football coach throughout the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.  Jermaine and his wife Tamara have been married since 2017, and they love to cheer on their National Champion ‘Hoos! 

TIFFANEY MORRIS, Administrative Specialist

Contact: tmorris@cityofpromise.org434-295-9525


To be attentive to my duties so that others are at ease while working and waiting for their lives to change and improve.

Tiffaney Morris brings to City of Promise more than 20 years of experience in accounting, bookkeeping, and business operations. She has served large and small-scale companies as assistant controller, office manager, and human resources coordinator.  Her role at City of Promise includes bookkeeping, human resources, database management, gift entry and afternoon program support.  A native of Louisa County, Tiffaney is a music director for several churches in the area, and she has a daughter of whom she is very proud.

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DAWN LAWSON, Family Empowerment Coach

Contact: * 434-989-2593 


I want to encourage, motivate, and help others recognize their strengths so they can reach their personal goals. In return, they can take their skills to empower and uplift others. 


A native of Charlottesville, Dawn Lawson attended Virginia Wesleyan College where she was scholarship chairman for Phi Sigma Sigma. Her community service has included participation in Make a Difference Day and fundraisers for the National Kidney Foundation at VWC, as well as volunteering with Love Inc. and Covenant Church.  Dawn received her master’s degree in Human Service/Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University. Her work experience includes case management, substance abuse counseling, working with at-risk children in a school setting, and community-based services that included teaching her clients skills to achieve their goals, and working with families in the foster care system. Dawn would love to become a foster parent. She loves sports and animals.

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RAYLAJA WALLER, Pathway Coach for 5th-8th Grade

Contact: * 434-327-0741


I want to show youth that "community faces change spaces." I want them to know they can change the spaces that they enter. 

Raylaja Waller (Ms.Ray) is a 2020 graduate of Virginia State University where she studied Criminal Justice and Political Science. As a former Charlottesville High School graduate, AVID Student, and Charlottesville City of Promise alumna, Ms.Raylaja is equipped with the knowledge and skills to assist our students in a transformative experience within City of Promise. 


Previously, Raylaja has been a short- and long-term substitute, Instructional Assistant, and one-on-one Behavior Assistant throughout Charlottesville City Schools, as well as a camp leader with Charlottesville Parks and Recreation. 

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SARAH SHEDD, Early Learning Director

Contact: * 434-235-1781

"I want to empower, inspire, and educate children and families so that all children in our community achieve success at school, and families fulfill their hopes and dreams."

Sara Shedd has lived in Charlottesville for over 20 years and has enjoyed working with children and families throughout her career.  Most recently, Sarah worked as a Family Coordinator with Albemarle County’s Bright Stars Preschool Program for 14 years.  She emphasizes building relationships with families to help them achieve their goals. 


Sarah earned a B.A. in Psychology and M.Ed. in Counselor Education at the University of Virginia.  She and her husband have two children and a houseful of pets. 

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ISAIAH BROWN, Youth Wellness Coach

Isaiah is coordinating activities that promote good nutrition and physical wellbeing, starting with elementary students. That includes his role providing transportation to and from after-school and sports programs. Isaiah ran cross country in high school and earned a Questbridge Scholarship to attend UVA where he graduated with a degree in kinesiology.

As a first-generation college graduate, he has volunteer and lived experience with low-income populations and has worked at the Haven and Loaves & Fishes in Charlottesville.


Jamar Henderson, 7th-9th grade Middle School Pathway Coach

Jamar Henderson was raised in Charlottesville, graduating in 2008 as a CHS Black Knight! He brings to City of Promise extensive experience as a youth counselor, mentor, and case manager, serving most recently at the Chesterfield County Juvenile Detention Center and People Places in Charlottesville. He previously worked at the Albemarle County Regional Jail as a corrections officer, and has extensive experience in trauma-informed practices, crisis intervention, and mental health support.

In addition to pathway coaching, Jamar will work middle schoolers involved in the Starr Hill Pathways program of the UVA Equity Center.


ZENEIDA HOWARD, Program Assistant

Zeneida Howard provides critical back-office support for our programs. She is a Charlottesville native who was raised in the original City of Promise footprint, right on Anderson street. She is a highly engaged parent and advocate of children who attend Charlottesville Public Schools, and she has seen first hand the impact of City of Promise in the lives of her children.


Zeneida holds associates degrees in business administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and PVCC.

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