Leading Through Uncertainty
Richard Raya is the Director of Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) in San Francisco. Over the past two decades, Richard has brought community leaders, administrators and elected officials together to improve community outcomes and generate revenue. His roles have included Chief of Staff for an Oakland City Councilmember, Executive Director of Youth Radio, and Director of Administration for the Alameda County Public Health Department. He is focused on using a common agenda and shared measurement with MPN’s 20 community partners to improve educational results for San Francisco’s children, and convincing government to institutionalize the coordinated, wraparound, cradle-to-career continuum of services that Promise Neighborhoods provide.
Richard’s great-grandparents were Yaquis who came to the Bay Area after fighting in the Mexican Revolution. His parents worked as farmworkers in the fields of Northern California and came of age during the Chicano Movement. Richard dropped out of high school but attended community college and ultimately earned a B.A. in English and a Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. He is accompanied on his journey by his urban-planner wife, five sons, and their rescue pit bull.
Sondra Samuels is the President & CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), a collaborative of over 40 partner nonprofits and schools. Along with parents, students, partners, and staff, Sondra is leading a revolutionary culture shift in North Minneapolis focused on ending multigenerational poverty through education and family stability. The NAZ Collaborative is working toward a single goal—to prepare low-income North Minneapolis children to graduate from high school college- and career-ready. NAZ has scaled up in support of over 1,000 parents and 2,300 students as they turn the social service model on its head and lead the creation of a college-bound culture throughout the community.
Dreama Gentry provides leadership and vision as the executive director of Partners for Education at Berea College. Gentry is committed to shamelessly advocating for rural students living in poverty and tirelessly works to ensure that the national dialogue around educational success includes the voices of rural students. A first-generation college graduate from rural Appalachia, Gentry holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Berea College and a juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Josh Davis serves as vice president of external affairs for StriveTogether, where he provides leadership and strategy for the organization’s communications and marketing, development and fundraising, and policy, advocacy and mobilization work.
Prior to StriveTogether, Josh was vice president of external affairs for the Delta Health Alliance (DHA), a nonprofit dedicated to supporting health and education initiatives across the 18-county Mississippi Delta region. His responsibilities included project implementation oversight, resource development, government relations, and external communications and partnerships. While pursuing governmental support sources, he assisted with grant and budget composition, briefed U.S. Congressional leaders and staff on efforts supported with public funds, and shared data and practices that helped to inform policy. Josh joined DHA in 2010 with professional fundraising experience from higher education.
He also served as project director for the Indianola Promise Community and the Deer Creek Promise Community, federally-funded Promise Neighborhoods with DHA as the backbone. These initiatives unite government, nonprofits, health care, education, community and faith-based services to create a pipeline of resources for children from prenatal care through high school graduation. Josh used a results-based accountability framework with staff, partners and local stakeholders focusing on reaching population-level goals for academic success and community well-being.
Trained in results-based facilitation, Josh uses this skill and practice for moving groups from talk to action as they align efforts and reach consensus on shared goals, strategies and accountability. Previously, he held a number of roles at the University of Mississippi, including assistant director for the alumni association. Josh completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Mississippi and earned his master of public administration from the University of Memphis. He is a 2017 Presidio Institute Fellow and was named one of Mississippi Business Journal’s Top 50 Under 40 Professionals in 2016.