Meet the People Behind the Transformation
Our team includes a community of educators, business leaders, and post-secondary partners who help guide our mission.
Board of Directors and Officers
Sandra Krasnoff, VEI Chair of the Board; Pall Corporation (ret.)
David Banks, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
Iris Blanc, VEI Founder
Matthew Boone, Head of Finance and People, Openpath Security
Matthew Chasin, SVP, Institutional Consulting Director, Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley Graystone Consulting
Paul Cronin, Managing Director and Partner, Three Keys Capital Advisors
Wyatt Crowell, Group General Manager, Head of US Commercial Banking, HSBC
Joseph Delaney, VEI Executive Committee, Deloitte LLP (ret.)
TJ Durkin, Co-Head, Structured Credit, Head of Residential & Consumer Debt, Angelo Gordon & Co.
Ashley Fina, Founder/CEO, I.E. Ventures
Gregg Fisher, Founder, Quent Capital, LLC
Morris Fodeman, Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Maureen Gillan-Myer, Chief HR Officer, Community Bank System, Inc.
Mary Haggerty, VEI Treasurer, JPMorgan Chase (ret.)
Dylan Huang, SVP & Head of Retail Annuities, New York Life
Steve Israel, President, SMI Properties Group, LLC
Roman Kogan, Portfolio Manager, PIMCO
Dean McGee, Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services and Innovative Programs Division, Kern High School District
Marie Moody, Founder, Stella & Chewy’s
Jay Novik, CEO, Managing Principal, Diamond Capital Partners (ret.)
John Partilla, CEO, Screenvision Media
Stacy DeNoyior, Global Head of Lead Generation and Client Insights, Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc.
Cesar Gonzalez, VEI Advisory Board Member, Sailfish Royalty Corp.
Jay Lewis, VEI Advisory Board Member, Nathan & Lewis (ret.)
Musa Ali Shama, VEI President
Eduardo Beltre, Chief Finance & Operations Officer
Doris Thomas, VP of Engagement
Elizabeth Pooran, VEI Corporate Secretary & Project Manager
Iris Blanc, Founder
As VE’s founder and longtime Executive Director, Iris leads the organization’s curriculum, instruction, and fundraising efforts. Under her leadership, the VE team has continuously developed new strategies for providing real-world learning and opportunities for all students, including the recent addition of the VE-JV Middle School Career Academy. Prior to her current role, Iris was the Director of VE for the New York City Department of Education, which piloted the VE high school program in seven high schools in 1996.
Iris has over 35 years of experience working at all levels of public education as a teacher, assistant principal, central district administrator, and author of computer technology textbooks and reference guides. She began her professional career in marketing research for a New York City advertising agency. Iris holds two master’s degrees—an M.S. in Education from Baruch College and an M.S. in Education and Administration from New York University. Outside of work, Iris enjoys spending time with family, reading, playing tennis, and going to the theater.
Musa Ali Shama, President
Musa Ali Shama is the President of Virtual Enterprises International, a national educational non-profit that provides a multidimensional, experiential learning model for global business, entrepreneurship, finance, and technology to schools across the U.S.
A seasoned educator with 27 years of leadership experience in New York City public schools, Mr. Shama served as assistant superintendent to the deputy chancellor, superintendent of a charter network, and principal of Francis Lewis HS in Queens NY, which served over 4,000 students. There, he offered an array of programs, including three successful VE programs. Mr. Shama was also the assistant principal of John F. Kennedy HS, where he led the development of career and technical education programs. He began his career as a teacher at Lehman High School in the Bronx, his alma mater, where he taught fine arts and graphic design.
In 2021, Mr. Shama continued his professional journey as vice president of programs at VEI, where he further refined the organization’s goals related to program growth, curriculum and resource development, assessment, research, and professional development. In 2022, Mr. Shama was named President of VEI and has been focused on developing new strategies for marketing, finance, fundraising, program expansion, and professional development. His expertise as an educational leader uniquely positions him to work with state and national leaders in education, business and industry and contribute to the national conversation around college and career preparation as well as career and technical education.
Mr. Shama holds a master’s in fine arts from CUNY-Lehman College, a master’s in educational administration and supervision from Queens College, City of New York, and a bachelor’s degree in art education from C.W. Post College/Long Island University.
Eduardo “Eddie” Beltre, Chief Finance and Operations Officer
With over a decade of nonprofit leadership experience in building and implementing financial and operational systems that support stability and growth, Eduardo “Eddie” Beltre joined VE in August 2022 as Chief Finance and Operations Manager (“CF&OO). In his role, Eddie oversees the organization’s financial stewardship, operational, legal and compliance activities in order to position VE for continued growth. As a VE alum, Eddie is intimately knowledgeable on the value-add of our model, and its commitment in developing the up and coming workforce with hands-on high quality experiences.
Outside of VE, Eddie volunteers as a board member of organizations that allow him to continue his dedication to helping pave the way for a better future for our youth, through high-quality education and experiences.
Doris Thomas, VP of Engagement
Doris Thomas is currently the acting Vice President of Engagement for Virtual Enterprise International. Doris comes to VEI with an extensive background in corporate fundraising in the non-profit sector, being adept at closing six-figure gifts and driving revenue. Having spent the early part of her career working in the telecommunications field, Doris has applied for-profit strategies in the non-profit environment to increase donations, engagement, and acquisition.
For nine years, she was responsible for managing the multi-million dollar annual workplace giving campaign for United Way of Northern New Jersey. Most recently Doris was the Director of Corporate Relations and Sponsorships at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), in Newark NJ. There, she maintained and grew the corporate base of roughly 100 donors, raising 2 million dollars annually for the Arts Center. In addition to fundraising, Doris managed and led NJPAC’s Business Partners committee who curate monthly panel-style conversations with various industry executives for donors.
Doris has a BS in Marketing from Miami University, in Oxford Ohio. She lives in Jersey City with her two daughters, Whitney and Charlotte. She is an avid runner, and enjoys playing tennis and other racquet sports in her spare time.
Michael Brownstein, Director of Strategic Growth
Inspired by VE’s many successes in helping secondary school students prepare for the future of work, Michael joined VE to increase student access to the educational experiences offered through VE’s programs. Over the past 20 years, he has worked with diverse stakeholders (e.g., educators, policymakers, community members, business partners, families, and students) to create education programs that help young people to develop the skills, knowledge, and habits they need to succeed in work and life. When not at work, Michael enjoys following his young daughter’s lead in making inventions and exploring new places with his family.
Jillian Berg, Managing Director of Network Development • Southern Regional Director
As a former business and marketing teacher, Jillian was enthusiastic about VE as soon as she learned about it because she understood that real-world experiences and hands-on learning are the key components to successful classroom instruction. After graduating from the University of Florida, Jillian began teaching with Broward County Public Schools and spent 15 years as a passionate educator. In 2014, she accepted a position as a curriculum supervisor for Career and Technical Education and was excited to bring the VE curriculum to classrooms. In her free time, Jillian enjoys traveling and having new cultural experiences around the globe.
Wendy Schmitt, Managing Director of Teacher Training & Development ⋅ Midwest Regional Director
Throughout her 30+ years in public education, Wendy served in various support and management positions before finding her passion in teaching. As a business education teacher and CTE coordinator, Wendy fell in love with the VE program, considering it to be project-based learning at its absolute finest and the highlight of her teaching career. She happily joined the staff first as the Michigan State Coordinator, and later full-time in concurrent roles as National Program Manager and Great Lakes Regional Director. With staffing updates now allowing Wendy to focus on the Great Lakes, she is excited to support VE programs throughout the region, bringing learning to life through VE! Outside of work, Wendy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, downhill skiing, doing anything artsy, boating, singing and reading mysteries.
Gina Pol, National Program Director
Gina’s journey with VE started as a high school student serving as the COO of a financial services firm, progressing from coordinator to manager at the VE central office, and now as the National Program Director. As an alumna of the program and a strong believer in youth empowerment, it is very fitting that she works at an organization enabling students to be creative, independent, and accountable for their work. Gina is currently pursuing an MPA in Public/Nonprofit Management and Policy at NYU Wagner and graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in Economics and Sociology in 2016. When she is not working, Gina can be found trying new extra spicy food, taking her dog Coco for a walk, or planning her next travel adventure.
Will Wilson, National Middle School Program Director
Nothing is more satisfying to Will than talking to teachers, parents, and business professionals who say, “I wish I had VE when I was in school!” Prior to joining VE, he was a Curriculum Facilitator in the Career and Technical Education Department at Broward County (FL) Public Schools, where he supported the middle school VE-JV teachers as they guided their students through the VE-JV curriculum. In his free time, he loves to relax with his daughter Emery and wife Nicole, play soccer, and go mountain biking.
Richard Wells, National Middle School Program Associate
Richard comes to VE motivated by a desire to close equity gaps in education. With 19 years of experience in public schools as an English and Reading teacher, Curriculum Facilitator, and Professional Development Specialist, he views career and technical education programs – particularly in middle school – as integral to ensuring students are authentically engaged in their learning and prepared for college and careers. When he’s not building professional learning opportunities or working to increase access to VE-JV programs, Richard enjoys trying new food with his wife and two children, listening to his favorite podcasts, publicly advocating for social causes, and suffering as a long-time fan of the Miami Dolphins.
Amy Meckeler, Marketing & Communications Manager
Amy comes to VEI as a marketing and communications professional with extensive experience in building relationships for business success through strategic storytelling and management. In her VEI role, she is responsible for the development and supervision of all marketing and communications strategies and oversees brand management activities that support VEI’s programmatic and growth goals. Serving in roles at universities throughout her career, Amy is driven by the collective goal of empowering youth through innovative educational programming and advocacy. Outside of work, she is active in civic engagement, particularly focused on racial and social justice. She enjoys the outdoors, spoiling her pets – two quirky dachshunds – spending time with her daughter, theatre and the arts, travel, building community, and dreaming about producing documentaries. Amy earned her BA and MA at Kean University in Union, New Jersey.
Elizabeth Pooran, Project and Support Manager
As a former VE student, intern, and volunteer, Elizabeth continues her journey with VE as Project and Support Manager. With a background in nonprofit management and a passion for making a difference, she’s excited to manage projects related to curriculum, programmatic experiences, resource development, and more. Elizabeth graduated from Pace University with a BA in International Management and a Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College. Outside of work, Elizabeth loves eating and crafting new dishes, rock climbing, and solving complex math problems.
Lily Thompson, National Program Coordinator
Prior to VE, Lily graduated from Vassar College with a BA in Political Science and Education. During that time, she also worked and volunteered for Conversations Unbound coordinating and managing their Programs connecting language learners with tutors from forcibly displaced backgrounds. Passionate about hands-on learning, Lily joined VE to empower students as facilitators of their own education. In her spare time, Lily enjoys volunteering, playing music, and sailing on the Maine coast.
Erika Apupalo, Engagement Coordinator
Erika is the Engagement Coordinator responsible for managing a comprehensive volunteer engagement program, designed to provide meaningful opportunities for VE’s partners and stakeholders. Prior to joining the VE team, she managed college volunteers across the country at Project Sunshine. She is highly committed to volunteerism and giving back to her community. Erika received her BA from Baruch College and is a VE alumni from Academy of Finance and Enterprise.
Alexa Salazar, Operations Associate
Alexa joined VEI as an Operations Associate in March 2023 to provide support in both Financial and Operational tasks within the central office. Alexa graduated from Baruch College with a BBA in Finance. Before joining VEI, she worked as a Business Analyst for an IT Company that provided training to post-graduates and ex-military alike. She also worked for a public charter school in New York City as an Operations Associate. From her experiences, she saw the impact of having quality training and education available to all people of diverse backgrounds. Inspired by her co-trainees and the children she worked with, she hopes to continue working within the education sector in providing resources to students so they may apply their learned knowledge in the real-world. Outside of work, Alexa likes hiking with her dogs, reading, and going to art museums.
Nimisha Budhwani, Technical Support Consultant
Nimisha has had a passion for analytics since her time as an undergraduate at Baruch College. She majored in Computer Information Systems with a concentration in Data Analytics. She is enamored by the power of data and turning it into something that is meaningful that will impact the society in which we live. Living in a data-driven global society she seeks to answer questions to solve problems that exist in our education system through VE. In her free time, Nimisha enjoys going on long drives. listening to music, and exploring the outdoors.
Ashley Diaz, Marketing and Communications Program Associate
As a former VE student and intern, Ashley continues her journey with the company by playing a role in the planning, implementing, and evaluating all communications and marketing strategies. She is interested in what the VE experience looks like for students and teachers across the country and is passionate about amplifying those voices across all platforms. Ashley is pursuing a Bachelor’s in International Trade and Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and continues to fuel her love for the arts with frequent museum visits, imagemaking, and writing in her free time.
Paul Presti, New York Metro Regional Director
As a VE facilitator, Paul saw the opportunities for students to advance their writing, speaking, creative, and critical-thinking skills that can’t be matched by any other program. He was appointed the New York Metro Regional Director shortly after retiring as a teacher. The New York Metro Region is currently comprised of schools spanning from Washington D.C. to Connecticut. Paul visits the schools in his region and supports all the teachers and students in an effort to elicit maximum results from each program. After 10 years in banking, Paul started his teaching career in 1990. The skills and experiences Paul learned in banking helped inform his 27-year tenure as a business teacher and VE facilitator. When not on the job, Paul enjoys playing chess online, watching the New York Yankees, and attending New York Rangers hockey games as a season ticket holder.
Lindsay Dewey, NY Metro Program Coordinator
Lindsay started her VE journey as a student in the program. She was the Director of Operations for her firm at New Dorp High School. She was a 2013 regional and city-wide champion, as well as a National Business Plan finalist. Lindsay is a Zicklin School of Business graduate, where she obtained her BBA in Business Management with a concentration in Human Resources. Coming full circle working with her previous VE Coordinator, Paul Presti, she is excited to encourage students to take advantage of the real-world experience Virtual Enterprise offers. Her inspiration to pursue a career in business blossomed in her VE program and hopes to inspire other VE students to obtain similar insights. In free time Lindsay loves to read, write poetry, spend time with family, and travel.
Ellen Palazzo, Long Island Regional Director
A longstanding CTE advocate, Ellen appreciates the power of student engagement and applied academics in learning. The outgrowth of the quantifiable student success VE produces is the Long Island Virtual Enterprises network, which has grown organically into the vibrant region Ellen now directs. During her non-work hours, Ellen is passionate about relationships, nature, gardening, cooking, and traveling.
Meghan Foley, Long Island Regional Coordinator
Throughout her 4+ years at VE Meghan has been a key member of the growth of the New York Metro Region and now Long Island. Helping to establish the first New Jersey Advisory Board as well as bring on many new programs in the region, Meghan is inspired every day by seeing the difference VE can make in a student’s life. Born and raised on Long Island, Meghan is excited to be working with the schools and districts that were right in her backyard.
Meghan will forever be a “I wish I had VE in High School” team member but finds comfort in knowing that her alma mater now has a VE program for students like herself to learn business by doing business. Prior to joining the VE family, Meghan was a student leader at her college in upstate New York, where she studied Mass Communication and Event Planning. Meghan takes pride in her ability to plan an interactive and organized event that gives students opportunities to network, grow and have fun!
When she’s not working you can find Meghan at the beach, reading a book or on the hunt to find the best buffalo chicken sandwich in New York.
Kathy Gielow, Northeast Regional Director
Kathy loves working at VE because of the unique opportunity to interact with students, support teachers, and work with an incredible team that has a common vision. Prior to joining VE, Kathy worked for the Buffalo Public Schools–including a role as a CTE Coordinator, founded Empower Youth Entrepreneurs Inc., which trains hundreds of high school students to start their own businesses, and consulted with State Department heads from countries all over the world. In her free time, Kathy enjoys ballroom dancing, acoustic guitar, artistic endeavors, musical theater, and travel.
Kendra Lee, Illinois State Coordinator
In 2008, Kendra was introduced to VE as a classroom teacher and has had the wonderful opportunity to implement VE in the classroom over the last 10 years. As VE’s Illinois network grew, Kendra was so impressed by the program and the work VE was doing that she joined the team as Illinois State Coordinator. She has spent 20 years in education, including positions as a classroom teacher, Director of Teaching and Learning for 7th-12th grades, and the Illinois State Coordinator for VE. In her free time, Kendra enjoys running and spending time with family.
Mandy Bowlin, Southern Region Program Coordinator
Mandy was first introduced to VE in 2000 and has enjoyed volunteering and judging at various events over the years. Her passion for educating and empowering teachers and their students led her to join the VE team in 2021 as the Southern Region Program Coordinator. After running her own business for almost two decades, she knows how important real-world, educational experiences are and looks forward to helping teachers create those opportunities for their students.
When Mandy is not working you can find her volunteering at her childrens’ schools or cheering her kids on at the ball field. She is an artist at heart and when time allows you will find her working on one of her many projects from graphic design to pottery.
Rochelle Stanfill, Southern Region Program Coordinator
After 27 years as a CTE teacher and 8 years as a VE teacher, Rochelle knew her passion was to be part of the VE team. It brought her prior management retail experience full circle with teaching to continue to help guide students develop business skills with an entrepreneurial spirit. Rochelle enjoys traveling, especially to the mountains and the beach, plus anything that involves being around her 3 grandchildren.
Mark Jones, North Carolina State Coordinator
Mark works at VE because he has seen first-hand the positive impact it has on the lives of students. Prior to teaching VE, Mark taught for five years in Upstate New York and eight years in North Carolina. Before that, Mark was involved in running his family’s auction business for 15 years. In his free time, Mark loves watching his two daughters do what makes them happy: soccer and jujitsu. If there’s any free time after that, he enjoys cycling and anything outdoors.
Brad Redd, South Carolina State Coordinator
After graduating from Clemson University, Brad spent 12 years in the corporate world before turning to the education industry, where he was quickly immersed in the world of VE. Now in his 6th year of VE, he believes the real-world experience students gain is unparalleled and leads to graduates with business skills that very few others attain while in high school. When not in the classroom, Brad enjoys traveling with his wife and two kids with some of their favorite spots being Colorado and Disney World, coaching his son’s various sports teams and when time permits, playing golf.
Teri Jones, Western Regional Director
Teri is honored to work for VE, having experienced firsthand the incredible impact the VE program has on students. Her background includes 30 years of teaching, working as lead teacher for LA County, writing curriculum for several entities and working on personal business ventures. She has fun supporting teachers and students and having a front-row seat to watch their challenges turn into success. Because of Teri’s entrepreneurial background, she understands the importance of giving students VE’s internship-style opportunity. For fun and challenges at home, Teri enjoys practicing yoga and spending as much time as possible outdoors hiking, biking, and jogging with her 95lb Catahoula Leopard dog, Thor.
Amy Risner, California Coordinator
Amy started her VE journey as a former VE student for the first team to compete at her high school. She was in the Human Resources department of her VE company and continued to pursue this path in college. She is currently in her third year at California State University Fullerton earning her B.A in Human Resources Management and Finance. Amy is passionate about the VE program, sharing the belief to give all students opportunities to become successful. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, dancing, and cooking new recipes.