Mayor Brown Names Advisory Council Members for GradNation Community Summit

March 27, 2014  
GradNation Community Summit logo

Mayor Alvin Brown today announced the members of the GradNation Community Summit advisory council. The council, which comprises business, education and nonprofit leaders from throughout the community, will take effect at the GradNation Community Summit on Friday, April 4. Advisory council members will assist in developing an action plan to support efforts to raise the graduation rate in Jacksonville by focusing on four key areas: early childhood education, literacy and grade-level reading, mentoring and support for middle school students, and black male achievement.

“As mayor, I want every child in Jacksonville to succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, the military or the workforce,” said Mayor Brown. “To achieve this goal, we must mobilize the whole community in support of education. That’s what the GradNation Community Summit is all about, and this advisory council of leaders will help guide us in these efforts.”

Jacksonville’s GradNation Community Summit will convene on Friday, April 4 at the Main Library in Downtown Jacksonville as one of 100 GradNation Community Summits across the country through 2016. Mayor Brown will welcome Alma J. Powell, chair, America’s Promise Alliance, to Jacksonville to give opening remarks at the summit. Admission is free, but space is limited. All participants must register online at

The GradNation campaign is led by America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest multi-sector partnership focused on the well-being of young people. With Gen. Colin Powell as its founding chairman, America’s Promise is comprised of more than 350 partner organizations representing businesses, nonprofits, communities and civic leaders.

The summit will also include a panel discussion moderated by Florida Times-Union editor Dr. Frank Denton on how the graduation rate affects the community. The panel will feature State Board of Education Chair Gary Chartrand, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Mayor Brown, Florida Blue North Florida Market Director Darnell Smith, and former Duval County School Board Chair Betty Burney. In addition, there will be a youth panel session where local students will describe some of the academic and social challenges and opportunities they face.

“This Summit is much more than a meeting. It’s an opportunity for the city of Jacksonville to set a course for a successful future for not only its children, but the entire community,” said Alma Powell. “These four key areas show the complexity of this challenge but they also show our shared responsibility in solving it.”

Jacksonville GradNation Community Summit Advisory Council Members

  • Betty Burney, founder and executive director, I’m A Star Foundation, Inc. and former Duval County School Board chair
  • Dr. Cheryl Fountain, executive director, Florida Institute of Education
  • W.C. Gentry, former Duval County School Board chair and founding director, Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership
  • Deborah Gianoulis, executive director, Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership
  • Charles Griggs, director of communications and community engagement, Florida Department of Health in Duval County; and president, 100 Black Men of Jacksonville, Inc.
  • Warren Grymes, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida
  • Jon Heymann, CEO and executive director, Jacksonville Children’s Commission
  • Connie Hodges, president, United Way of Northeast Florida
  • Susan Main, president and CEO, Early Learning Coalition of Duval
  • Pam Paul, executive vice president, Jacksonville Public Education Fund
  • Dr. Shannon Perry, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida
  • Ginger Peacock Preston, director of early learning programs, Jacksonville Children’s Commission
  • Dr. Mary Rose, director of urban initiatives for the Center for Urban Education and Policy, University of North Florida
  • Dr. Tammy Ryan, director of reading education, Jacksonville University
  • Kim Ward, board chair, City Year Jacksonville; and trustee and managing director, The Michael & Kim Ward Foundation
  • Cleve Warren, chief financial officer, Florida State College at Jacksonville

About America’s Promise Alliance

America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. We bring together more than 400 national organizations representing nonprofit groups, businesses, communities, educators and policymakers. Through our GradNation campaign, we mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce. Building on the legacy of our founding chairman General Colin Powell, America’s Promise believes the success of young people is grounded in the Five Promises—Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others. For more information, visit