Get To Know the DCPS Persists Team

Meet the DCPS Persists Coaches below. Information about the rest of our Coaching team coming soon!   

Gris Calderon Rojas
BA from CSU Monterey Bay in Seaside, CA
Griselda was raised in California and is a proud 1st generation CSU Monterey Bay alumna. She previously worked in Stockton, CA as the Manager of College Access for a scholarship program that provides financial and support resources to students in high school. Griselda is passionate about providing opportunities and resources to access and complete higher education within underrepresented communities. Being the first in her family to receive a college degree, the best part about college was knowing there was a support system dedicated to her success. Having the opportunity now to give that same support to current college students is what fuels her purpose to serve in DCPS Persists program!
Mecca Keller
Howard University in Washington, DC
Mecca started her professional career as a middle school math teacher. After teaching for seven years, she transitioned in supporting youth with postsecondary planning. During this time she worked with organizations that supported homeless youth, those with disabilities, and students within DCPS. "Being first generation in my family to go to college, everything was so new for me. I went to an HBCU and one of the most exciting things for me was meeting people that came from all around the world to attend Howard. I was able to learn so much about different cultures and visit some places that I would have never even thought to visit before Howard. I am grateful for all of my experiences during my time there and all the people that I was able to cross paths with while attending."
Ricardo Maisonneuve
BA from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL / MA from American University in Washington, DC
Prior to the Persists Coach position, Ricardo served as the Manager of Supplemental Instruction and Tutoring at American University. In addition he worked as an Instructional Aide in an early childhood as well as a City Year Corp Member in DC. His ultimate goal is to help bridge the gap between secondary and higher education. "The best part of college is that learning is not limited just to the boundaries of the academic institution. Things such as internships, studying abroad and involvement in clubs and organizations all provide an opportunity to connect knowledge gained in the classroom to the world. It is these experiences that allow us to develop not just as students but individuals who look to ignite change."
Jessica Mardo
BA from Stonehill College in Easton, MA / MS from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA
Jessica previously served as an Analyst on the DCPS Strategic School Operations Team where she built the Incident Reporting Tool. Prior to joining DCPS, Jessica worked for a federal consulting firm, supporting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She is a proud alumna of Education Pioneers and The College Advising Corps. “The best part of college for me was learning how to go outside my comfort zone – from making new friends, to taking challenging classes, to studying abroad, to protesting unjust campus policies – all of these experiences helped me to become more confident in myself and my abilities!"
Jan Quijada
BA from University of California in Irvine, CA / MA from Stanford University in Stanford, CA
Prior to coming to DCPS, Jan worked with first generation and undocumented students through the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education at George Mason University. Originally from the Philippines, Jan is fluent in Visayan, Tagalog and English. When not advocating for student equity and immigration reform, you can find pre-quarantine Jan at your local milk tea cafe or at the next anime convention. “The best part of college was getting to explore my identity as an immigrant and an Asian American, either through taking ethnic studies classes or dancing (badly) at Filipino culture nights.”
Janai Raphael
BSA from University of Georgia in Athens, GA / MA from University of Maryland in College Park, MD
Janai is a recent graduate of the Higher Education master’s program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to enrolling at UMD, Janai worked for the College Advising Corps as college adviser at a high school in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Georgia in 2016. “The best part of college was being able to freely explore my various interests through different student organizations, part-time jobs, and internships. Over time I was able to put all of these pieces together and change course towards a career in education. Don’t be afraid to try new experiences. You never know where they’ll take you!”
Courtney Weber
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, MI
Before coming to DCPS, Courtney worked at a local nonprofit to support teen parents in their college journeys. She is a proud alumna of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she provided legal guidance for people facing issues with public benefits and debt in the Bay area. Courtney has also worked as a global studies teacher in Madrid, Spain with the Fulbright Program. At the University of Michigan, she double majored in Anthropology and Spanish. "My favorite part of college was taking advantage of everything college had to offer. From being a tour guide to living in a housing cooperative and completing a summer internship in Bolivia, my world opened up and I met some awesome people along the way!"
Shawn Wilds
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Shawn came to DC to do a year of service with Americorps, where she served as a volunteer coordinator for two years at Reading Partners. She then transitioned to For Love of Children where she led programming for middle and high school students, in addition to building out post-secondary and scholarship support for the program's alums who were in college. “The best part of college for me was being able to get to know so many people. From being a tour guide to participating on the Campus Activities Board, I was able to meet a lot of different people that I still have connections with now!”
DL Wilhite
BA from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Minneapolis, MN / M.Ed from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX
DL previously served as a College and Career counselor at KIPP DC College Preparatory High School where he managed a caseload of juniors and seniors, supporting them in developing and achieving their post-secondary plans. Prior to moving to DC, DL taught US History at Thomas Jefferson High School in the Dallas Independent School District. “The best parts of college for me included playing Big Ten Football for four years and becoming a major contributor for my team, having the opportunity to join Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, and meeting some of my closest friends.”