Our Team and Board

Staff Members

Ashley Hill

Founder & Executive Director

Amberina Beals

Manager, Student Success & Experience

Kaisen MacKinnon

Marketing & Donor Relations Coordinator

Amber Cain

College & University Student Success Coach

Bryson Fitzpatrick

High School Student Success Coach

Shain Carpenter

High School Student Success Coach

Senai Colley

High School Student Success Coach

JJ Stairs

High School Student Success Coach

Board of Directors

Jorden A. Davis

Interim Board Chair
Board Treasurer

Vice President & Head, Commercial Banking - Atlantic Region
Scotiabank

Sasha Hayward-Isaac

Board Director

Coordinator of African Canadian Education Services
Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education

Krissy Arbuckle

Board Director

Director of Development, Corporations and Foundations
Dalhousie University

Jalana Lewis

Board Director

Director, African Nova Scotian Community Engagement
Dalhousie University

Michelle Bussey

Board Director
CEO, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency

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Ashley Hill

Founder & Executive Director

Ashley Hill is the Founder and Executive Director of The PREP Academy, a community based non-profit organization that inspires and prepares African Nova Scotian students for college and university. Ashley is passionate about student advancement, education and the development of African Nova Scotian communities. Her goal is to create programs and services that help students access and navigate resources and experiential learning opportunities.

Ashley is a first generation university student, and as an African Nova Scotian, she’s faced challenges and experienced systemic barriers in her pursuit of obtaining a higher education. It was through her lived experiences that shaped her dedication to student access and success.

She currently serves on the Advisory Council at the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning and on the board for The Futures Program. She dedicates her time to helping students discover their full potential and gain opportunities to explore their leadership abilities.

Her career and desire to help others is inspired by her grandmother, Bernetta.

Amberina Beals

Manager, Student Success & Experience

Amber Beals is an educator, and mentor with roots in North Preston and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Amber has a passion for inspiring youth to learn and develop into their fullest potential.

Amber describes her lifelong educational journey as a process of self-discovery. Since graduating from Halifax West High School, Amber has studied and worked in various fields and held entry-level to management-level positions. Amber’s most recent work experience has been in the non for profit sector where she served as a Project Youth Mentor. In that role she was a part of creating a job readiness program designed to service youth living in marginalized communities facing a wide range of barriers to employment.

In addition to her work experience, Amber has an extensive community outreach and volunteer track record. She is passionate about her faith, and has served at Emmanuel Baptist Church in multiple volunteer roles for over five years.

In 2021, life presented Amber with a new journey as a Mother to a beautiful child, Judah. As someone who is dedicated to a life of lifelong learning, Judah has served as Amber’s greatest teacher. Navigating motherhood has been a transformative, life changing experience. Amber moves through the world with renewed confidence to step fully into her God-given purpose. She has heightened awareness that today’s work directly impacts the culture that will influence future generations. 

In her role as Student Success Coach at The PREP Academy, Amber works to support African Nova Scotian high school students in their process of discovering their unique path to success. She shares knowledge from her lived experience to relate to the students she serves. Amber is enthusiastic about her work at The Prep Academy and brings her commitment to operating in a spirit of excellence to the team.

Kaisen MacKinnon

High School Student Success Coach

Kaisen MacKinnon is an Indigenous and African Nova Scotian female with historic roots in North Preston, Nova Scotia. She is dedicated to enhancing our Black Nova Scotian communities through education and athletics. 
       
In her current role as Student Success at The PREP Academy, Kaisen supports African Nova Scotian high school students with accessing and navigating information, resources and experiences to prepare them for college and university. Kaisen is passionate about giving back to Black communities and developing the younger generation.

Kaisen graduated from Cole Harbour High School and was recruited to Acadia University as a basketball student athlete. She attended Acadia University and graduated from Niagara College with an Advanced Diploma in Sports Management. She participated in two AUS Championships with her team at Acadia in 2018 and 2019 and received the MVP award at Niagara College in 2020.

It was when she moved back to Nova Scotia that she realized the value of supporting youth in her community. She is motivated to change the trajectory for Black youth and utilizes her experiences as a student, athlete and sister to help create a blueprint for the next generation.

Amber Cain

College & University Student Success Coach

Amber Cain is a passionate African Nova Scotian community advocate with deep roots in North Preston. Amber’s family and connection to her community holds a special place in her heart that directly influences her passion for community development, equal access to education, youth mentoring, and historic storytelling.

Raised in Toronto by two North Preston natives, Amber experienced early life in a diverse metropolitan city that misunderstood and overlooked her experience as a young Black Nova Scotian. The lack of academic support for Black Canadian students is what influenced her individual move to NS to live with her Grandmother where she completed her High School studies.

Amber graduated from Cole Harbour High with honours before attending Toronto Metropolitan University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Her unique cultural experiences and sociological background encouraged Amber to be more deliberate with how she shares her story as an African Nova Scotian navigating the complexities of higher education.

As the College and University Student Success Coach at The PREP Academy, Amber now has the amazing full-circle opportunity of sharing her experience and applying all she’s learned over the years to help support African Nova Scotian students pursuing Post-Secondary education. Amber is honoured to provide support and encourage the next generation of ANS students to achieve their education and career goals.

Bryson Fitzpatrick

High School Student Success Coach

Bryson Fitzpatrick is from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, eventually making his way to Truro, N.S. later in childhood. Being raised in a combination of urban and rural settings, he quickly recognized the racial divide prevalent in society today. Because of this, Bryson has always been passionate about the advancement of Black Nova Scotian communities and systematic equality through youth engagement and support.

Bryson is a graduate from Cobequid Educational Centre (CEC), in Truro, N.S., and was recruited by Mount Allison University (MTA) as a student athlete, being a member of the Varsity Football Team. Upon returning home to his community, he was motivated to give back and pay it forward to the next generation through mentoring and coaching. Bryson is entering his third year as the CEC Cougars Receivers coach and has over seven years of volunteer youth coaching experience including three years with Special Olympics Nova Scotia.

In addition to his extensive coaching experience, Bryson has held a variety of entry level to team leading positions in different fields. Most recently, Bryson held a position in the automotive industry as a sales and leasing consultant where he ranked second in sales in his first year. He is eager to share the skills and expertise gained as a business professional to inspire PREP students.

As a Student Success Coach at the PREP Academy, Bryson provides African Nova Scotian high school students with academic support, access to resources, information, and experiences to prepare them for college and university. Bryson is dedicated to guiding African Nova Scotian students by applying the experiences and knowledge acquired as a student athlete and coach, towards surpassing their academic, athletic, and personal goals.

Shain Carpenter

High School Student Success Coach

Senai Colley

Programs Coordinator

JJ Stairs

Student Success Coach

Jahleel (JJ) Stairs is an African Nova Scotian male who grew up living in various historic black Nova Scotian communities such as North Preston and Uniacke Square. JJ is passionate about seeing young African Nova Scotians empowered through attaining knowledge. 
 
JJ is a Dartmouth High School graduate and received an athletic scholarship to attend Saint Mary’s University. After 2 years of attending SMU JJ transferred to Bishop’s University to pursue a Bachelor Business Administration in Entrepreneurship and to continue his football career. Upon returning to Nova Scotia JJ began working and volunteering within ANS communities. He has served as a volunteer in his church and worked within the non for profit sector bridging the gap between historic black Nova Scotian communities and companies determined to serve and empower them. 

 

JJ is dedicated to his own personal growth through the process of learning and mentorship. This dedication helps him to have the tools to assist others on their journey no matter the field.

 

In his role as s a Student Success Coach with the PREP academy JJ utilises the knowledge he has gained through his process and from those who have helped and are helping him along the way. He assists the students around him to learn and find the paths that are best suited for them and their needs, so that when they arrive at their post-secondary institution they are equipped for the road ahead.

Krissy Arbuckle

Manager, Corporate Citizenship RBC

Krissy has had an exciting and diverse career path that includes roles in corporate, government and nonprofit settings. She is currently the Manager, Corporate Citizenship with RBC for Atlantic Canada. In this role she leads the community investment donations portfolio which involves a budget of over $3.3 Million and relationships with almost 200 charitable organizations.

 

Prior to RBC, Krissy spent time working in the nonprofit sector. She has led and managed events and campaigns of various sizes and worked with and fostered all levels of volunteer relationships from event assistance to Boards and committees. She has experience with building fundraising plans and strategies, and cultivation and stewardship practices.

 

Krissy has a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Saint Vincent University and is a natural relationship builder. She possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills and thrives working as part of a dynamic and diverse team.

Sasha Hayward-Isaac

Pronouns: she/her
Coordinator of African Canadian Education Services, CCRCE

Born and raised in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton Nova Scotia, Sasha has been a public-school educator in Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education (CCRCE) for six years and is currently the Coordinator of African Canadian Education/ Services for CCRCE. Sasha holds a Bachelor of Arts and Community Studies Degree from Cape Breton University, a Bachelor of Education from St. Francis Xavier University (StFX), and a Master of Education Degree in Instruction and Curriculum with a focus on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy from StFX. As an educator she was responsible for teaching transformative classes such as African Canadian Studies 11 and Mi’kmaw studies 11. Here she refined her Culturally Responsive lesson plans and Culturally Responsive practices. 

 

Sasha has worked and volunteered in the education field for many years, gaining experience in community relation and culturally responsive pedagogy. She has taken part in a Human Rights delegation in Colombia, as well as an Educational Conference in Ghana that have added to her perspective and pedagogy immensely. As a seasoned educator she is passionate about advancing African Nova Scotian Student success and she is committed to making sure African Nova Scotian students have the best education possible.

 

In addition to her educational practices, outside of the office Sasha is involved in coaching volleyball. She also really enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and visiting Cape Breton, especially to visit her Nanny Sarah, who has inspired a lot of her social justice journey.

Vanessa Hartley

Pronouns: she/her
Community Engagement Lead

Vanessa Hartley is a 8th generation Black Loyalist descendant, born and raised in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Vanessa is passionate in the advancement of historic African Nova Scotian communities. 

She recently completed a diploma in Social Services from Nova Scotia Community College. Accessing higher education as an African Nova Scotian showed many challenges in Vanessa’s life, understanding the ongoing systemic challenges for African Nova Scotians in post-secondary institutions. 

Vanessa was awarded Provincial Volunteer of the Year representing the Municipality of Shelburne. Vanessa is currently the Chair for the South End Environmental Injustice Society (SEED), an award winning society fighting for Environmental justice in historic Black communities. 

Outside of SEED, Vanessa serves on the Black Loyalist Heritage Board of Directors and Executive Member for People of African Descent Coalition (DPAD).

Photo of Uche Ivoko

Uche Ivoko

Board Director

Uche is a seasoned professional in financial analysis, accounting, audit, administration with over 10 years’ working experience. She is a creative business solution provider skilled at developing processes and implementing controls around the areas of finance and business processes for process improvements and change management. Uche managed ERP implementation projects and led several process improvement projects. She is an exceptional communicator who can leverage technical acumen to provide all stakeholders at all levels with relevant information and business support and highly skilled in analysing business data and information for clients and stakeholders in several industries.

Michelle Bussey, Board Director

Michelle Bussey

Board Director
Executive Director, Nova Scotia Community College Foundation

Michelle joined the NSCC Foundation as Director of Development in 2015 and led Make Way, the first province-wide fundraising campaign for NSCC.  It surpassed its original goal of $25 million – raising more than $33 million to support students. After Make Way’s successful conclusion in March 2019, Michelle took the reins as Executive Director in April. With a Bachelor of Business Administration from Mount Saint Vincent University, a Masters of Public Administration from Dalhousie University, and professional certification as a Change Management Practitioner, Michelle believes strongly in lifelong learning. In keeping with this philosophy, she gives back as an artsVest mentor and a Board member for Junior Achievement Nova Scotia.

Malik Adams, Board Director

Malik Adams

Board Director

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Malik is a 22-year public school educator and is currently a Guidance Counsellor at Citadel High School in Halifax. He holds a Bachelor Degree from King’s College, a Bachelor of Education from MSVU, a Master of Education Degree in Curriculum, and Lifelong Learning/Afrocentric Leadership and a Masters of Education in Counselling from Acadia University. Malik facilitates and leads professional development discussions on culturally-responsive teaching, cultural competence, culturally-proficient practices, curriculum development and implementation. He has worked with both inmate population and staff at Correctional Services Canada institutions in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is a member of the team who developed new “standard of teaching” with Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. He has mentored practising teachers from universities, and teachers in areas of curriculum delivery, and culturally-responsive practices and is motivated by serving Black communities, particularly youth, and working towards equity and justice.

Photo of Laurissa Manning

Laurissa Manning

Board Chair

Laurissa Manning is a creator, innovator and change-maker with a passion for building strategy and connections. She is a values-driven leader who can motivate and exceed business directives. She has experience in both the for profit and non-profit world with fund development, grant and proposal writing and government relations. Laurissa believes in continuous learning, she is a multi-lingual, independent and confident entrepreneur with over 20+ years of event management and strategy planning. She has founded and operated businesses in the health wellness and event management sectors. As a Business Advisory Coach with DLM Consulting, her role is to drive global growth of the company; coaching and advising clients; connecting and engaging with conscious and courageous leaders who also believe that business can be a force for good.