Mindy Binderman is the founding Executive Director of GEEARS: The Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. Mindy leads GEEARS’ efforts to inspire and provide leadership for a statewide movement on early learning and healthy development for children ages birth to five. Mindy serves as GEEARS’ lead advocate, fundraiser and spokesperson. She partners with the Board of Directors on strategic planning and works to strengthen relationships with community partners.
Mindy has had an extensive career in advocacy and government relations for nonprofits and corporations in Maryland and Georgia. She served as Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Baltimore Jewish Council and as Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Maryland before establishing her own successful lobbying firm based in Annapolis, Maryland in 1999. For several years, Mindy also served as adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University where she taught a graduate level seminar in advocacy. Prior to coming to GEEARS, Mindy served as the Advocacy Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children from 2007-2010.
Mindy was named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 2004 by the Maryland Daily Record. She was the recipient of a Harvard Business School Club of Atlanta’s Social Enterprise Initiative scholarship in 2015 and completed the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program.
Mindy is a member of the Leadership Atlanta class of 2012 and is currently chairs the School Governance Council of North Springs Charter High School. She serves on the advisory board of Jumpstart and is a board member of Voices for Georgia’s Children and Limmud Southeast, an organization devoted to Jewish learning.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Mindy received her BA from Newcomb College, Tulane University and her JD from the American University’s Washington College of Law. Mindy is married to Warren Binderman and has three children.
Dawan is a Georgia native who is passionate about enhancing the processes of education and early learning. As Pre-K Recruitment Specialist, he plans to spread vital information as well as build groups of advocates for early education. Dawan comes to GEEARS after 12 years in Atlanta Public Schools (APS). He served as a Certified Spanish Interpreter, and Bilingual Community Liaison in APS. Mr. Barfield enjoys using his Spanish not only as an Interpreter, but also as a teacher.
Improving parent engagement and community involvement are just a few influencers that drive Dawan towards success. He is the proud father of three children; two daughters and one son.
Project Manager - Leadership Academy for Better Brains (LABB)
Greg Barrett Project Manager - Leadership Academy for Better Brains (LABB)
Starting his career as an early elementary teacher in NYC and abroad, Greg has been passionate about our youngest learners from the start. Building from his B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College, Greg earned his M.Ed. from Hunter College School of Education while teaching in a Brooklyn public elementary school, before teaching again overseas in Hangzhou, China. Previous to working with GEEARS, he was involved in expanding families’ access to Pre-K in New York City through the Pre-K For All initiative, and later consulted school districts as a learning environment planner. He is currently an Accredited Learning Environment Planner, and a member of the A4LE Georgia Chapter.
Greg and his wife live in Midtown, and love the warmer winters, outdoor everything, and real southern food.
Lisa Dwyer Director of Special Projects & Partnerships
Lisa serves as GEEARS Director of Special Projects and Partnerships. As such, she will manage the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club program, bus tour, and other partnership activities.
She is on the Board of the Atlanta Speech School, is the President of the North Atlanta High School Foundation for Atlanta Public Schools (APS), and has spent many years supporting early childhood and public education through her work in APS schools and other community endeavors. Lisa has served on the Prevent Child Abuse Georgia Advisory Board, co-president of Sutton Middle School PTA, president of Sarah Smith Education Foundation, sponsorship co-chair for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Hope & Will Ball, the Women’s Community Leadership Alliance, and on the boards of Atlanta Children’s Shelter, Trees Atlanta, her Local APS School Council, and most recently, Livable Buckhead. She is a member of the Junior League of Atlanta, of which she was president in 2011-2012. Prior to GEEARS, Dwyer managed project operations for Constella Group, a contractor for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Hanah brings to GEEARS a range of early childhood and research experience. A former educator, Hanah received her B.A. in Psychology and Educational Studies from Emory University, her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Georgia State University, and her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Georgia State University. Hanah’s research experience spans a number of areas, including early language and literacy development, parent-child language interaction, program evaluation and fidelity, and health literacy. In addition to her responsibilities at GEEARS, Hanah teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology, education, and child development.
A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hanah lives in the Grant Park area of Atlanta with her husband and young son.
Meagan Jackson Infant-Toddler Communications Fellow
Born in Tennessee, but raised here in Atlanta, Meagan is well-rounded from living in both a small town, and the big city. As a Gates Millennium Scholar she graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts. She is currently completing her Master of Public Health at Georgia State University. She combines her passion for people and love of service to help better the lives of those in her community and around the world. With her belief of living with purpose there is no doubt she will do just that!
She considers herself a book worm and a lover of nature. Other hobbies include dance, cooking, and cuddling with her toy poodle Bella.
A graduate of Clark Atlanta University with a B.A. Degree in Business Administration, Colette serves as the Office Manager for GEEARS. The Administrative Professional brings with her 20+ years’ experience from the private sector, government and non-profit industries. She specializes in organization and administrative support services, project management, program and event coordinating. With her highly effective management and broad range of skills, Colette’s mission is to assist GEEARS in operating more effectively and efficiently while simultaneously increasing their productivity.
In addition, she uses her skills as a Clutter Consultant. Cleaning clutter is a process of assessing all the things in your environment in terms of the practical purposes that they serve. Many people are looking for a lasting change in their relationship to their physical environment that leads to greater effectiveness, productivity, spontaneity, creativity, fulfillment, and peace of mind in their lives. Colette enjoys sharing how you can transform your ways with clutter so your environment can nurture and support you on an ongoing basis.
The Atlanta native and mother of two adult sons is also a professional singer who enhanced her vocal talents and training under Andrew Terry, an Alumnus of the New England Conservatory and The Julliard School of Music. With this extraordinary gift of vocal abilities and a passion for performing; organizations locally and abroad enjoy the motivated energy and inspirational uplift they receive when Colette sings. When she’s not singing or volunteering, her favorite pastime is reading a good book; she spends the rest of her time enjoying her grandchildren.
Allison Smith-Burk has special expertise in the area of public policy and systems advocacy. Allison earned her Bachelor of Social Work and her Master of Social Work degrees at The University of Georgia. Allison comes to GEEARS after 12 years at the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where she served as the Director of Public Policy and lobbyist for the organization. Prior to this work, Allison worked for many years in public child welfare at the Clarke County Department of Family and Children Services, and in homelessness intervention at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter.
Allison lives in Stone Mountain with her spouse and her dogs and cats.
Born and raised in Georgia, Vett is passionate about increasing awareness for early education in the state. Vett has experience in strategic communications, public engagement, digital communications, and photography in both government and non-profit sectors. She earned her B.S. in Literature, Media, and Communications and her M.S. in Public Policy, with concentrations in Education and Health Policy, from Georgia Tech. Vett also earned a Spanish minor, and speaks Spanish fluently. Before joining GEEARS, Vett worked in the communications offices at the University System of Georgia, the City of Atlanta, and the Office of the Governor. She is currently participating in the 2017-2018 GPEE Education Policy Fellowship Program.
Vett lives in Downtown Decatur, and enjoys anything that requires creativity or involves good food.
Jorge Verlenden, Ph.D. Director of Policy and Innovation Strategies
Jorge Verlenden is the Director of Policy and Innovation Strategies for GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. She received a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Tulane University and a Masters of Education from Loyola University of New Orleans. Jorge completed postdoctoral training at the Morehouse School of Medicine as a Satcher Health Policy Fellow and at Georgia State University as a GaLEND trainee (Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) in the Center for Leadership in Disability. Jorge is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children through advocacy for local, state, and federal policies that support early childhood initiatives and services for families. Through community partnerships she also conducts research on innovative strategies to address disparities in child health and educational outcomes. For nearly 10 years, Jorge worked in Cairo, Egypt as an intervention specialist for students with specific learning disabilities and conducted outcomes-based research on education development projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She continues to be active in the promotion of child rights in the US and internationally and has recently contributed book chapters on the use of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to guide school system reform and mental health consultation in schools.
A native of Louisiana, Jorge resides in Decatur with her family.