MEET THE SPARK INITIATIVE TEAM

Brooke Wheeldon-Reece - President/CEO

Brooke Wheeldon-Reece

President/CEO

Read Brooke's Bio Here

As SPARK’s President and CEO, Brooke is dedicated to creating sustainable change via mentoring, coaching, and teaching. She is the creator and co-author of the evidence-based, CASEL-aligned, SPARK Mentoring Programs, which are taught to thousands of children in Hillsborough County and around the world. Prior to her work with The SPARK Initiative, she was a national trainer for the Mendez Foundation’s nationally recognized Too Good for Drugs and Violence prevention programs. After her brother-in-law’s suicide in early 2012, Brooke knew there was more to the mind than she understood. She found her home with The SPARK Initiative after watching her husband come out of a deep depression with seemingly little effort through a simple but profound understanding of the mind. In 2019, after a two-year process, she and her husband adopted her niece and two nephews through the foster care system. She is passionate about advocating for the protection and resilience of child victims of abuse and promoting suicide prevention by reaching young people’s minds and teaching them about their unbreakable spark inside. Brooke lives in Florida with her husband Will and their five children.

Ashley Hunt - Director of Program Development/Youth Mentor

Ashley Hunt

Director of Program Development/Youth Mentor

Read Ashley's Bio Here

Over the course of her seven years at SPARK, Ashley has trained more than 300 educators in SPARK Mentoring Programs. She literally wrote the book on best practices and lessons learned from delivering SPARK programs to more than 3,000 youth in schools, detention centers, and drug rehabilitation centers. Ashley is a sought-after and seasoned presenter, having delivered fun and engaging presentations at dozens of education conferences. Her natural ability to connect with youth and educators leaves them feeling inspired and confident. Prior to joining SPARK, Ashley worked in insurance. After seeing her personal relationship transform through her own education, she pursued her passion for educating youth.  Ashley lives in Florida with her husband and two kids aged 14 and 10. 

Stephanie Fox - Director of Education and Partnerships

Stephanie Fox

Director of Education and Partnerships

Read Stephanie's Bio Here

For 20 years, Stephanie has supported children and educators to reach their potential. For SPARK, she specializes in school and organizational implementation of SPARK Mentoring Programs. She has trained dozens of teachers, counselors, mentors, and supervisors in SPARK’s evidence-based, CASEL-aligned curriculum. Prior to joining SPARK, Stephanie provided transformational coaching services, created her own suite of educational materials, and supported 10,000 teachers and 250,000 refugee students in Gaza. She created and launched the United Nations first educational satellite TV station in the Middle East, which continues to grow, serving millions of children and adults.   Stephane is passionate about unleashing the spark in everyone, everywhere. She lives in Washington, DC with her 8-year-old son and black cat named Blueberry.
Jena Travise - Research & Evaluation Coordinator

Jena Travise

Operations Manager/Youth Mentor

Read Jena's Bio Here

Since joining SPARK in 2016, Jena has mentored more than 2500 children and youth in schools, detention centers, and residential facilities. From this experience, she has gained a better understanding of herself and sees the potential in everyone. In addition to mentoring youth, Jena utilizes her strong organizational and multitasking skills to manage our overall administrative operations including processing customer orders and creating efficient processes.  Prior to joining SPARK, Jena served as an enlisted member of the United States Air Force where she traveled all over the world and gained vital experience managing accounts, coordinating inventories, and conducting personnel trainings. Jena is passionate about helping youth uncovering their confidence and finding their spark inside.  She loves coaching youth soccer and playing in local adult leagues herself. Jena lives in Florida with her husband and two kids ages 12 and 16. 

Nicole Wilson - Community Programs Coordinator

Nicole Wilson

Community Programs Manager

Read Nicole's Bio Here

Nicole joined SPARK in 2016 and manages our local community programming in the Tampa, FL area, including the SPARKing Change Youth Leadership Program and support groups with local sex-trafficking survivors. She is passionate about bringing more awareness of the mind to her community, creating positive change around mental health issues, and ending the stigma around suicide. Prior to joining SPARK, Nicole graduated from Paul Mitchell and became a hair stylist, as she always had the desire to make people feel better about themselves. Nicole also worked with elementary school students as a school aide for Hillsborough County Public Schools.  She has always been passionate about working with youth. Now that she is sharing a profound understanding of the mind with the youth in her community, she is right where she belong. In her free time, she loves to travel, explore new places and visit theme parks. Nicole lives in Florida with her daughter Anelise.

Brandon Evans Sr. - Sparking Change Intern

Chad Hudson

Executive Assistant/Youth Mentor

Read Chad's Bio Here

Chad was delighted to join SPARK in 2022 because the organization algins with his values and stands for everything he loves. Born and raised on the “sunny island” of Jamaica, Chad is passionate about helping others in need. He is currently obtaining his degree in Business Administration, pursuing his interest in project management, client relations, and computing and business operations. At SPARK, Chad utilizes his talents to facilitate communication and achieve operational efficiency. In his free time, he enjoys playing soccer.

Brooke Wheeldon-Reece - President/CEO

Mari Latham

Research and Development Coordinator

Read Mari's Bio Here

Mari is a Chicago native who earned her degree in African American Studies and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2019. Prior to moving to Tampa and joining the SPARK Team, Mari worked with young people at-risk or in-need through nonprofits, psychiatric and behavioral health centers, schools, and her community. Mari is passionate about ensuring all young people have the opportunity to understand their spark and pursue their unique ambitions. Mari loves to spend time outside exploring, cooking a new dish, or watching her favorite NBA teams.

 

Ashley Hunt - Director of Program Development/Youth Mentor

Tara Phillips

District Relationship Specialist

Read Tara's Bio Here

Before coming to SPARK, Tara worked as a teacher for 16 years. She split her teaching career between Texas, Florida, and Abu Dhabi. Her enthusiasm as an educator was fueled by the growth she saw in her kids each year, and the close family unit she was able to create within her classrooms. Tara’s decision to leave teaching stemmed from her desire to focus more exclusively on the inner child and improving our youth’s social and emotional health. Realizing early on in her teaching career that students were not able to learn any curriculum until they felt safe, Tara has made it her passion to spread her love of social and emotional understanding and SPARK to as many fellow educators as possible. Tara’s passionate about the importance of fostering authentic relationships with youth and helping children from trauma-impacted homes realize their own amazing resilience and potential. Tara currently lives in Florida with her dog, Doodle, and loves traveling internationally, especially to countries throughout Europe and Africa.
Andres-Medina

Andres’ Medina

SPARKing Change Intern

Emily Johnson - Sparking Change Intern

Amnah Alahmad

SPARKing Change Intern

Jessica Jacques

SPARKing Change Intern

Joudel Mersilus - Sparking Change Intern

Naomie Richardson

SPARKing Change Intern

Macy Hembd - Sparking Change Intern

Brandon Evans Sr.

SPARKing Change Intern

Sadie Moore - Sparking Change Intern

Macy Hembd

SPARKing Change Intern

Carys Mullins - Sparking Change Intern

Carys Mullins

SPARKing Change Intern

Stephany Torres - Sparking Change Intern

Zaria Jean-Baptiste

SPARKing Change Intern

  Jayda Reece - Sparking Change Intern

Emily Johnson

SPARKing Change Intern

Carys Mullins - Sparking Change Intern

Sadie Moore

SPARKing Change Intern

  Jayda Reece - Sparking Change Intern

Stephany Torres

SPARKing Change Intern

Carys Mullins - Sparking Change Intern

Jayda Reece

SPARKing Change Intern

Jellisha - Sparking Change Intern

Jellisha Rodriguez

SPARKing Change Intern

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

PresidentCally Catania Bekhor, Esq.- Cally E. Catania, P.A., Hillsborough County​

TreasurerBruce Mitchell, Retired from Risser Oil

MembersRon McVety- FACTS Engineering​

                      James Hird, Principal at Horizons Academy