Let Your Life Speak: Career Day, SFS-Style

On Founder’s Day, before joining all of the students from Lower and Middle School for Meeting for Worship and a few hours of outdoor fun, Upper School students enjoyed the chance to sit in on a trio of presentations from alumni who came back to campus for the Let Your Life Speak portion of the celebration.

Eighteen accomplished graduates shared what it’s like to work in their professions, from music promotion and criminal defense to pregnancy prevention and education.

The speakers were welcomed to campus the night before at a reception hosted by the Alumni Association Executive Board and the Let Your Life Speak Committee. A luncheon gathering capped off the visit.

Here are the alumni who shared their inspiring stories.

Dax-Devlon Ross ’93reporter, Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund

Dax-Devlon has led a varied career as educator, diversity and leadership consultant, and journalist. After receiving his juris doctorate from George Washington University, he joined New York City Teaching Fellows. He later helped lead the national training and expansion team at the Posse Foundation, one of the country’s foremost college access organizations. During his tenure at Bank Street College of Education, he managed the institution’s partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In his work as a diversity and leadership consultant, Dax’s past clients have included The Anti-Defamation League, The New World Foundation, The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (Washington, DC), iMentor, Pace University, City College of New York, Columbia University, New York University, and Bard College. He is also the founding Executive Director of After-School All-Stars Newark and New York, overseeing comprehensive, school-based after-school programs serving more than 1,000 youth in the Greater New York area.

Amy Thaler ’82, Treasurer, Montgomery County Puppy Raising Region of Guiding Eyes for the Blind

Amy, who holds an MBA from the University of Southern California, is the COO of Caerus Associates in Arlington, Virginia. As an official trainer of puppies who will become guide dogs for the blind, she brings her pedigreed pupils to work and pretty much everywhere else she goes so that the dogs learn crucial socialization skills and how to stay composed and focused in myriad situations. She has raised more than a dozen guide dogs for three different schools in two countries.

Amy has held diverse positions including, but not limited to, CEO of a YMCA, business consultant, General Manager of Ceremony Operations for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002, Vice President of Administration for a $10 million enterprise software company, and founder of Knead a Massage Inc., a very successful affordable massage studio.

Liz Norton ’84, Founder/Executive Director, Stone Soup Films

Liz was a freelance television producer for more than a decade, with a focus on public policy issues. Those programs included several Fred Friendly Seminars for PBS, which explore thorny political and ethical issues. She has also produced for MTV News, educating teens on crime-related issues. During the Clinton administration, Liz was a research director in the White House Office of Communications. Before then, she was a researcher on political campaign finances for Common Cause. For more than 20 years, Liz has been a director of the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation in Washington, DC. She serves on the Board of the Environmental Film Festival of Washington.

Liz is the parent of Lucy Norton ’17 and Max Norton ’20.

Maryland Pao ’80, MD, Clinical Director, National Institutes of Mental Health

Maryland is the Clinical Director and Deputy Scientific Director of the National Institute of Mental Health Intramural Research Program at the National Institutes of Health. She serves as Chief of the Psychiatry Consultation Liaison Service in the Hatfield Clinical Research Center. She attended Wellesley College before completing a BA/MD program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and then a pediatric and psychiatric residency and a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is board certified in pediatrics, general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and psychosomatic medicine. She studies distress and its correlates in medically ill children. She is on the clinical faculty at Georgetown University, George Washington University, and at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Maryland is the parent of Madeline Holland ’10, Jennifer Holland ’07, and Elizabeth “Lizzy” Holland ’16, and has previously served on the SFS Board of Trustees.

Carol Bolton Sisco ’70, Managing Partner, Sisco Associates 

Carol is a clinician, consultant, educator, and researcher in the field of addictions. She has published and lectured on female addiction and issues facing children of alcohol and drug dependent parents. Her research findings on female substance abuse in welfare-to-work programs are widely cited, and her instruments have been incorporated in national and state welfare reform initiatives. Carol is the current Board Chair of Reach Out Recovery.

A graduate of Duke University, she earned her MSW from the University of South Carolina and her PhD from the University of Maryland.

Laure Ruth ’79, Legal Director, Women’s Law Center of Maryland

After graduating from the University of Michigan and working for seven years as a travel agent, Laure went to law school at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. She then clerked in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, followed by four years in private practice and six years working at the law school. Laure took several years off to raise her children and in 2006 joined the Women’s Law Center of Maryland; she became the Legal Director in 2008. Laure offers direct representation on a pro bono basis in family law cases, and serves on several state and local commissions, including the Governor’s Child Custody Decision-Making Commission and the Baltimore County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. She has extensive knowledge and input into delivery of services statewide, and is also a registered lobbyist and works in Annapolis during Maryland’s legislative session to pass laws that benefit women, children, and families.

Molly Love ’97, Family Planning and Social Services Director, CCI Health & Wellness Services

For the past 15 years, Molly, a licensed clinical social worker, has worked in and around the Washington, DC, area with teens, practitioners, and parents toward improving the lives of children and families. The principal focus of this work has been the prevention of teen and unplanned pregnancies as well as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, with a special emphasis on working with the Latino community.

Prior to becoming the Family Planning and Social Services Director of CCI Health & Wellness Services, Molly served as the Director of Outreach and then Executive Director for Teen And Young Adult Health Connection (TAYA), which merged into CCI. She served two years as the Co-Chair of the Montgomery County Interagency Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy (ICAP). Her work in collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and ICAP to train school nurses and community providers to help parents effectively communicate with their children and influence them to avoid risky behaviors was recognized with a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award.

Beth Rubenstein ’77, Legislative Aide to Supervisor John Avalos of District 11 in San Francisco; Co-founder, Youth Art Exchange 

With a background in architecture, education, and policy, Beth Rubenstein is currently a Legislative Aide to Supervisor John Avalos, of District 11 in San Francisco. She works on city budget, workforce development, children and youth policy, arts policy, and District 11 community development projects. She is the co-founder and was the long-time executive director of Youth Art Exchange (formerly Out of Site Youth Arts Center), which offers programs in visual and performing arts, and leadership development to San Francisco public high school youth. She has taught at the high school and college level, including at Yale College and Rhode Island School of Design. Beth has a BA in art history from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a Master’s in Architecture from Yale University.

Matthew Wheelock ’88, Founder and Executive Director, Live It Learn It

Live It Learn It, a nonprofit organization that uses DC's rich cultural resources as an extension of the classroom for students in the city's high-poverty schools, has served more than 15,000 students since its founding by Matthew in 2005 and has been recognized as one of the best nonprofits in the DC area. Matthew has an EdD from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from Stanford Law School. He worked in the fields of international relations and law before entering education.

Elizabeth Sack Felber ’76, Supervising Attorney, The Legal Aid Society

Elizabeth has practiced criminal defense law as a public defender in New York City for close to 30 years. During that time, she has defended people accused of crimes as varied as resisting arrest and the sale of marijuana to murder and bank robbery. Among other issues, she has litigated false confessions, mistaken identification, and unlawful search and seizures. In recent years, Elizabeth has litigated wrongful conviction cases where the clients were ultimately exonerated, one after serving 21 years in prison.

Marisa O. Nightingale, '86, Senior Media Advisor, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

For more than two decades, Marisa has worked to harness the power of popular media to drive positive social change. As The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s Senior Media Advisor, Marisa develops partnerships with entertainment media executives to help them incorporate prevention messages into their content.

Marisa joined the National Campaign in 1996 and is the architect of its nationally recognized Entertainment Media program, which she led for 12 years. She currently advises the Campaign on its overall message strategy and leads partnerships with TV, digital, and print outlets such as NBC, FOX, ABC, The CW, BET, Hulu, LatinaMarie Claire, Family Circle, Essence and more, with a special emphasis on reaching Latino audiences. She also serves as a media advisor to organizations focused on early childhood development and on preventing teen drug abuse.

Prior to joining The National Campaign, Marisa—who earned a BA in English literature from Yale University—was the Communications Director at Share Our Strength (SOS), a leading national voice in the fight against hunger. She is a guest lecturer at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and is a seasoned speaker on the role of media in promoting social change.

She is the parent of Nora Edelman ’23 and Jacob Edelman ’25.

Ali Mohamadi ’94, Senior Director, Global Patient Engagement and Policy, BioMarin

Ali is a pediatric endocrinologist who both treats patients in his Chevy Chase, Maryland, office and works as an advocate for children with rare diseases and their families at California-based BioMarin Pharmaceutical. At BioMarin, a company that specifically develops medications for children with rare and life-threatening disorders, Ali meets with young patients and their advocates to hear how their conditions impact their everyday lives. This information helps the company understand how to make better treatments for their specific symptoms and how to help them manage their daily routines. Prior to starting at BioMarin, he worked at the Food and Drug Administration, also helping patients and their advocates better understand how medications are approved in the United States.

Ali earned his undergraduate degree at Yale and completed medical school at George Washington University. He completed his residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Mount Sinai before pursuing his fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at Johns Hopkins.

He is the parent of Madeleine “Maddy” Mohamadi ’23 and Caroline Mohamadi ’26.

Marcus Shaw ’95, Senior Director of Business Development, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)

At MLT, a career development institution, Marcus is responsible for building partnerships and creating strategies with companies that work with the firm to recruit, retain, and develop minority talent.

Prior to this, Marcus spent 10 years in equity research and investment management. Most recently, he was the head of tech, media, and telecom research at an investment advisor in Washington, DC, focused on policy and regulated industries. Before that, he was a Managing Analyst at Piedmont Investment Advisors in Durham, North Carolina. His career in finance began with Bank of America as an associate on the telecom equity research team. Marcus started his career with IBM Global Services as an engineer in the Data Networking Practice.

Marcus earned his MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where he is currently a member of the Minority Alumni Advisory Board. He obtained a BS in mathematics from Morehouse College and a BS in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Kevin Kearney ’09, Executive Director, The Highwood Theatre, Silver Spring, Maryland

Kevin is a director, pianist, and program developer. In 2004, he founded The Highwood Theatre as a student-run organization dedicated to providing a venue for students to experiment, explore, and challenge themselves. Highwood Theatre has expanded to become a broader community-based theater arts organization. For the past two years, in addition to Highwood, Kevin was on the voice department faculty at Levine Music, and currently serves on the Advisory Panel for TechSoup, the nonprofit tech software website.

For four years, Kevin was the Director of the Theatre Arts Program at School for Tomorrow, a private school in Rockville; he was also on a leadership team that developed the school’s programs and curriculum. Kevin has worked extensively with Levine Music, accompanying classes and recitals, accompanying the Levine Adult Choirs at the Kennedy Center, and working with its Music and Arts Summer Camp.

Kevin was Vocal Director for High School Musical, and Musical Director for The Wizard of Oz at the Musical Theatre Center (now Adventure Theatre MTC) in Rockville; he was Rehearsal Accompanist and Performance Pianist for productions of Chicago, Carousel, and The Robber Bridegroom at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. Kevin has taught private piano lessons and accompanied multiple musical theater workshops, soloists, and performances for other organizations. He has a Technical Theatre Certification from The Alden Theatre in McLean, Virginia.

Modele “Modi” Oyewole ’05, Co-founder, DC to BC

Modi, along with Quinn Coleman ’07, is at the center of the District’s thriving music scene through his DC to BC imprint and annual Trillectro Music Festival, which boasted nearly 10,000 attendees at its latest installment in 2015.

His story started in 2007 when, as a Boston College junior, he and Quinn co-founded DC to BC as a radio show/blog and built a grassroots following on campus and beyond. Since then, he’s worked with Def Jam, Complex Nike, and most recently Red Bull. He has forecasted the careers of Kid Cudi, Drake, Wale, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar.

The self-professed Pharrell Williams superfan wears his passions, interests, and opinions on his sleeve, and is a champion for all things dope, from music to clothes to .GIFs. It’s this refreshing worldview that has helped Modi bring unforgettable experiences to his city, and the reason everyone knows his name.

Quinn Coleman ’07, A&R, Warner Bros; Co-founder, DC to BC

Quinn has had his eyes on the entertainment industry since childhood. Growing up as the son of Debra Lee, BET CEO and Chairman, he was exposed to the best and brightest in urban music culture since he was born. Quinn began his professional journey as an intern at WPGC 95.5 shortly after graduation from SFS. While at Boston College, he and fellow Sidwell Friends alum Modi Oyewole ’05 started DC to BC, a radio show that quickly took campus by storm. DC to BC evolved into an award-winning blog and eventually an event production and promotions company responsible for some of the most unique and well-received musical experiences in DC, such as Kendrick Lamar's first headlining show there and the critically acclaimed Trillectro Music Festival.

Quinn is currently based in Los Angeles working as an A&R at Warner Bros. Records and rocking parties and music festivals across the country under his DJ alias, Spicoli.

Amanda Chuzi ’08, Legislative Aide, Tim Kaine (D-VA), United States Senate

Amanda received her BA in international relations and environmental studies from Tufts University, after which worked on Elizabeth Warren's campaign for US Senate in Massachusetts as the Statewide Youth Vote Coordinator. Amanda was responsible for the campaign's outreach to college and high school students, and she managed campaign teams on 31 college campuses. In January 2013, she joined Senator Kaine's staff in Washington. She currently advises the Senator on policy issues related to homeland security, space, science, and technology.

Natasha Bonhomme ’01, Vice President of Strategic Development, Genetic Alliance

Since joining Genetic Alliance in 2006, Natasha has worked to improve the state of newborn health screening. For the past four years, she has overseen maternal and child health initiatives for the organization, with a particular focus on bringing the families' perspectives into policy setting around newborn screening, and maternal and child health overall. Natasha led and managed the largest study of women (with more than 2,000 expectant and new mothers) to gain an understanding of their attitudes toward newborn screening and their preferences on how and when to be educated. She also supervised four federally funded projects having to do with newborn screening and prenatal diagnoses.

As Vice President, Natasha launched Baby’s First Test, the nation's newborn screening educational resource center. As director of Baby's First Test, Natasha has testified before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee's Subcommittee on Children and Families on the importance of public education for newborn screening. Natasha serves on a range of committees, including the Genetics and Bioethics Committee for the American Public Health Association; the Association of Public Health Laboratories Committee on Newborn Screening and Genetics in Public Health; and the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.

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