At City of Promise, we are committed to
a child-centered approach of educational support.
First, we honor parents as the experts and most important educators of their children, and we respect them as the key decision-makers for their children’s success. Second, our presence in the neighborhood builds trust and accountability that make all the difference in student achievement. On a typical day, we monitor student attendance, help with homework, and take students for activities offered by agencies in town. We also help parents in their efforts to find employment or health services, and we spend plenty of time in the garden and Westhaven Community Center where activities are hosted by our team or partner organizations.
Meet The Team
MARY COLEMAN, Executive Director
Contact: * 434.228.5153
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, alumni and parent relations. Mary and her husband Joe met while both were students at Princeton University. They have been married for 37 years, and they have seven children and four grandchildren.
ASHLEY HOWARD, Early Childhood Coordinator
Contact: * 434.270.9212
Ashley Howard graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008 with a B.A. in psychology and a concentration in early childhood developmental risk. After UVA, Ashley served as a College Guide with the National Advising Corps. She then worked from home as an editor and virtual assistant before joining the City of Promise staff in 2016. Ashley and her husband have been married for almost 10 years, and have four children.
MELISSA STEPPE, Program Supervisor/Pathway Coach for Grades 5-8
Contact: * 434.421.5606
Melissa Steppe is a native of Charlottesville. She graduated from St.Anne's Belfield School in 2004 and then attended George Mason University where she earned a B.A in social work. She has specialized in working with at-risk female youth, launching her own mentoring program in 2012 that served the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Melissa is a mentor, entrepreneur, and advocate who is passionate about helping young people believe anything is possible with a positive attitude, dedication, and belief in themselves. She enjoys serving her community and collaborating with entities that partner with City of Promise. Melissa has a 3-year old daughter.
JERMAINE DIAS, High School Pathway Coach
Contact: * 434-421-5635
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!
VERNARD SCRUGGS, Adult Empowerment Coordinator
Vernard Scruggs is a native of Dillwyn, Virginia. He graduated from Norfolk State University in 2002, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and Physical Education. Vernard is also a former business owner, having provided hair care services for his community, family, and friends. He has given positive encouragement to his peers, motivating them to be successful in life. Vernard is married and he has two children.
DAWN LAWSON, Family Empowerment Coach
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.
ASHLEY FREEMAN, Program Assistant
Contact: * 434-295-9525
Ashley Freeman is a Charlottesville native and resident in the City of Promise footprint. Ashley attended Charlottesville High School and has earned CNA and Med. Tech and CDL licenses. Ashley has worked as a home health aide, driven for Charlottesville Area Transit, and worked in hospitality for Aramark at UVA. Ashley has been a participant of City of Promise since 2016 and she is a graduate of Promise Baby Academy. Ashley has four beautiful daughters whom she loves.
TIFFANEY MORRIS, Administrative and Program Support Specialist
Contact: * 434-295-9525
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, clerical and administrative activities. 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.