Board of Directors
Board of Education Roster
Kristen Laughlin – Board Chair
Chief Executive Officer, Avion Consulting Group
BA/BS International Studies, Economic, French, Baldwin-Wallace College
Ms. Laughlin is the CEO of Avion Consulting Group—a global consulting firm focused on capital raising and international business development. A seasoned global capital raiser, Ms. Laughlin has secured more than $250 million in foreign investment for a variety of projects and initiatives. She has also spent years in global business consulting in both public and private organizations, focused on business development and cross-border transactions. Previously, she worked in both analytical and client services positions in the capital markets sector, specializing in the healthcare, banking, consumer, industrial as well as technology sectors. She graduated from Summa Cum Laude from Baldwin Wallace University with degrees in Economics, International Studies, and French.
Samantha Peddicord – Board Vice Chair
Masters of Arts in Humanities, International Relations, John Carroll University
Peddicord graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Akron in Spanish & History with a certificate in Latin American Studies. After working for a few years in Management and Human Resource roles, she moved to Cleveland to continue her education and graduated from John Carroll University with a Masters of Arts in Humanities with a specialization in International Relations. After graduating, she accepted a job at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in Family and Community Engagement Office. While at CMSD, she assisted Spanish-speaking parents and students navigate the Cleveland education system. In 2014, she transitioned to serve the Cleveland City Council to support and work with Councilman Joe Cimperman, serving Ward 3 until Fall of 2016. Peddicord now serves as a nonprofit consultant focusing on work to improve access for newcomers in Cleveland.
George Asimou – Board Treasurer
Attorney, Walter Haverfield
Master of Business Administration, Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University
J.D., Case Western Reserve University
Mr. Asimou is an attorney at the Cleveland firm of Walter Haverfield. He previously served as both a Fellow at Breakthrough Schools’ Entrepreneurship Prep Middle School in Cleveland’s Woodland Hills neighborhood as well as a teacher in conjunction with Teach for America at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. He holds a law degree from Case Western Reserve University and an MBA from Fisher College at Ohio State University.
Joel Ratner – Board Secretary
President and CEO, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
J.D., School of Law, Case Western Reserve University
Joel Ratner is President and CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, a local community development funding intermediary with over thirty years of experience investing in community revitalization work in the City of Cleveland. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress works to accomplish its vision for all of Cleveland’s neighborhoods to be attractive, vibrant communities where people from all incomes, races, and generations thrive, prosper, and choose to live, learn, work, invest, and play. Before joining Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Ratner served as President of the Raymond John Wean Foundation, leading its comprehensive effort to advance the Mahoning Valley. Prior to that, Ratner led the Neighborhood Connections Program at the Cleveland Foundation, which provides small grants to neighborhood groups working to improve their communities.
Jaclyn Stephens Surratt – Board Member
Surratt Consulting Services, LLC
M.Ed., Elementary Education, Arizona State University BSHD
Early Childhood Development, The Ohio State University
As an experienced urban educator and school leader, Ms. Surratt is committed to turning around schools in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and across the country. She served as a founding teacher, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and School Culture, and Head of School at a successful urban charter school and has coached school staff to achieve an ‘A’ rating on the Ohio Report Card. She also served as the Director of Real Time Teacher Coaching for Teach For America’s Northeast Ohio Region. She currently consults with Cleveland area schools and districts to promote best practices in teaching and creating a positive school culture. Ms. Surratt’s passion, experience, and focus on results has driven her to success working with teachers and students in districts and charter schools serving traditionally disenfranchised students. She holds a Master’s of Education from Arizona State University.
Jessica V. Colombi – Board Member
Executive Director, Career Services, Cleveland State University
M.A., Psychology, Certification in Diversity Management, Cleveland State University
Ms. Colombi is a native Clevelander, born and raised in Shaker Heights. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Career Services at Cleveland State University. Before moving into the professional and career development space, Jessica was a project manager for the Division of University Engagement at Cleveland State, establishing diversity councils across campus and working as part of a team to secure the prestigious Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Previous to her tenure in higher education, she served as Chief of Staff to the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (now the Ohio Department of Higher Education). Jessica is part of a small team that has developed cultural competence training for law enforcement officers, and to date has trained nearly 400 officers between Northeast Ohio and Michigan. She is a Gestalt Professionally Certified Coach (GPCC), has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from John Carroll University, and her favorite vegetable is an artichoke.
Christine Eadie – Board Member
Master of Urban Planning, Design and Development, Cleveland State University
Ms. Eadie served as the manager of markets at the West Side Market, and prior to that worked for the Urban Conservancy in New Orleans and as a planner for the City of San Antonio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Tulane University and a Master of Urban Planning, Design & Development degree from Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.
Scott Hamilton – Board Member
Director, Corporate Giving, MetroHealth Foundation
M.A., Psychology, Certification in Diversity Management, Cleveland State University
Scott Hamilton is Director of Corporate Giving of the MetroHealth Foundation. Prior to that, Mr. Hamilton served as Assistant Dean for Advancement and External Affairs at Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Marshall College of Law, and Director of Development with Hannah Perkins Center for Child Development.
Liz Herron – Board Member
Associate General Counsel, Akron Children’s Hospital
J.D., The College of William and Mary
Liz is an Associate General Counsel at Akron Children’s Hospital. She was previously an associate at Jones Day. Liz is involved in Akron Reads, a reading tutoring program, and was previously involved in Cleveland Reads and civic education programs. Liz holds a BA in Political Science from the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University.
Susie Prewitt – Board Member
Senior Corporate Counsel, The Lincoln Electric Company
J.D., The University of Akron School of Law
Ms. Prewitt is Senior Corporate Counsel at The Lincoln Electric Company. She previously was a Partner at Jones Day where she practiced law for 12 years. She has extensive experience advising companies and boards on a wide variety of legal issues. She holds a law degree from The University of Akron School of Law.
Jake Taylor – Board Member
Regional Manager for TEALS (Tech. Education And Literacy in Schools)
M.A. in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School
Jake is the Regional Manager for TEALS (Tech. Education And Literacy in Schools). TEALS is a program funded by Microsoft philanthropies that supports high schools starting computer science programs by pairing software developers with classroom teachers a co-teaching model. Jake has a B.S. in Finance from Penn State University and a M.A. in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. After college, Jake spent two years working at Morgan Stanley and then transitioned to a career in education. Since leaving Morgan Stanley, Jake has spent five years teaching middle school math in Spanish Harlem and Cleveland. Jake has also spent several summers working for the Ohio Department of Education as well as the Office of Urban Planning in the City of Detroit. Jake loves education and all things Cleveland. He is excited to join the GALA board and support the school as it continues to grow and provide more students with a high quality education.
Margaret W. Wong – Honorary Board Member
President and Managing Partner, Margaret Wong & Associates Co., LPA
J.D., State of New York Buffalo Law School
Ms. Wong has built Margaret W. Wong & Associates Co., L.P.A. into a firm that is nationally and internationally renowned for its knowledge in immigration and nationality law. She is the current co-chair of the Immigration Law Committee for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and chair of the Cleveland Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section. Crain’s Cleveland Business has named her to their “Women of Influence” list and she is a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. She holds a J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry/Biology from Western Illinois University.