Growing Leaders: Newest Cohort of Entrepreneur-in-Residence Working to Create Great Schools

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The three education leaders who make up the newest cohort in The Opportunity Trust’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) fellowship are working with parents and other educators to expand access to high-quality public schools in St. Louis.

This two-year fellowship supports future school founders as they design and launch new schools, or help expand already successful ones, in St. Louis. Fellows were selected from about 60 applicants and were part of a rigorous selection process.

This year’s class joins the two members of the 2020-2022 cohort.

Entrepreneur-in-Residence Fellowship
2021-2023 Cohort

Babe Liberman

Babe Liberman

Babe is partnering with Atlas Elementary to expand access to rigorous academics and real-world learning opportunities for students in St. Louis.

She comes with a background in education innovation and research. She has worked in education for more than ten years. Most recently, she supported schools and communities by designing research-based solutions to education challenges at Digital Promise, a national nonprofit. She’s also managed projects supporting schools, libraries, and media outlets to use the latest education and child development research to improve their work. Babe is a St. Louis native and began her career designing and facilitating educational programs for students and families at museums and cultural institutions in St. Louis, New York, and Boston. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale College and a master’s in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Nilesh Patel

Nilesh Patel

Nilesh is leader in residence at Kairos Academy, whose high school he will launch in Fall 2022.

He began his career as an 8th grade physics teacher with Teach for America in Chicago. During his time there, Nilesh served as a Grade Level Chair at the Noble Network of Charter Schools—Chicago’s top-ranked public school network—where he coached colleagues to build a culture of joy and support. After four years at the Noble Network, he returned home to St. Louis to help found Kairos Academy as chair of the Science Department and eventually as Director of Teaching and Learning. In this role, Nilesh coached teachers with a wide range of experience to push for rigor in the classroom and to build a joyful classroom. In a nationwide student-ranked survey, Kairos regularly scores in the top 1 percent in student-teacher relationships.

Nilesh earned his bachelor of arts and science in global health from Washington University in St. Louis and a masters of arts in teaching from the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City.

Charles Stanley, Jr.

Charles Stanley, Jr.

Charles is engaging parents and community leaders as he develops plans for Ignite Liberatory Academy, a K-8 school.

Charles was previously the Director of Schools at RePublic Schools, a regional charter network based in Nashville, where he served on the senior management team. He managed three charter public schools in Jackson, Miss., which are the highest performing open-enrollment educational options in the city. Charles also served as the founding principal of Smilow Collegiate, the first elementary charter school in Jackson. During its founding year, 104 out of 108 kindergarten scholars were identified as emergent readers on the Mississippi Kindergarten Readiness test, meaning they had not mastered foundational literacy skills. By Spring, this number dropped to only 25. Before launching Smilow, Charles was both a teacher and administrator at Success Academies in New York City, the nation’s highest-performing charter school network.

Charles is a native of Greenville, N.C., and graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in elementary education and child studies.

2020-2022 Cohort

Hollie Russell-West

Hollie Russell-West

Hollie is working to launch St. Louis Voices Academy of Media Arts this fall in north St. Louis. Its mission is to leverage media arts and storytelling to equip students with the agency to excel academically, author their own futures, and make meaningful contributions in their communities.

Hollie is a St. Louis native who has worked with families in St. Louis Public Schools for more than two decades. After graduating from Beaumont High School, Hollie earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, a master’s degree in education from Fontbonne University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Lindenwood University, an education specialist degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Maryville University.

Hollie started her career as a substitute teacher and has worked as an assistant principal and principal of schools in St. Louis Public Schools. Her passion for helping and uplifting families through education evolved from the love and support she received from her teachers. The mission of We LEAD Academy is to prepare students to lead successful lives by developing their agency through robust academics, personal development, and mass media.

Chester Asher

Chester Asher

Asher is preparing to launch Ali Academy, a K-12 school that will focus on social justice. Its mission is to empower scholars to achieve academic, professional, communal and personal greatness by focusing on relevance, rigor, and righteousness.

Asher is a Teach For America alum in his eighteenth year in education. He has served as a teacher, administrator, consultant, and nonprofit co-founder. After teaching for eight years in NYC public schools, he moved to charter school leadership. As CEO at Chattahoochee Hills Charter School in Atlanta, he turned around an academically and operationally troubled charter school. As the CEO of North Side Community School in St. Louis, he reduced suspensions by 163, instituted restorative practices, and developed a robust online learning plan.

Asher has a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University, a master’s degree in teaching from Fordham University, a master’s degree in public administration from New York University, and a juris doctor from Cardozo Law School.

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