In 1991, Jill and Stuart Lasser enrolled their son at the Montessori Children’s House in Morristown, and witnessed first-hand the true value of early childhood education. The $2,500 tuition was within their reach, but they knew this was not the case for all parents of young children. That year, the Lassers anonymously paid tuition for another child to the school so that he, too, could experience the same transformation they saw in their own child. And, just like that, Project Acorn (now called Preschool Advantage) was born. Their personal mission evolved as they asked family members and friends to join them in their effort to make preschool available to children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend. Since this moment, Preschool Advantage has been committed to breaking the cycle of disadvantage for area children by introducing access to quality learning opportunities at the most critical time – the preschool years.
Ray Hawkins is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) with Wealth Enhancement Group. As Sr. Vice President of the Financial and Estate Planning division, Ray offers his clients the benefits of problem solving in the areas of wealth strategies, executive compensation plans, tax reduction alternatives, charitable planning, and asset protection alternatives. Previously he worked in investment banking as Managing Director of Institutional Equities Trading for 12 years at JP Morgan and Vice President of Institutional Trading at CS First Boston for 16 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Kean University, and is also a member in good standing of the National Financial Planning Association (FPA), FPANJ, National Association of Estate Planners Council (NAEPC). Ray holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA®), Certified Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®), Accredited Estate Planner (EAP®), Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA®), and Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®) professional designations.
Matt Mirett is an attorney with Sherman Wells Sylvester & Stamelman LLP, practicing in the Banking and Financial Services group. Matt represents financial institutions in a broad range of real estate and asset-based finance transactions across a wide variety of industries. Matt joined Sherman Wells in 2015, after beginning his career at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, a large Wall Street law firm. He graduated from Fordham Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, each with honors. Matt is admitted to the state Bars of New York and New Jersey. Matt lives in Morristown with his wife and two young sons who attend preschool at Temple B’nai Or.
Bette Simmons holds the position of Vice President of Student Development & Enrollment Management at County College of Morris. Reporting to the president, Dr. Simmons supervises the staff and programs in Academic Advisement, Admissions, Athletics, Campus Life, Career Services & Cooperative Education, Counseling and Student Success, Enrollment Services, Financial Aid, Health Services, Records & Registration, and the Women’s Center. In addition to her demanding job, Dr. Simmons is active in the Morris County, New Jersey community. In addition to her role as Vice President at Preschool Advantage, Dr. Simmons is involved with the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, the Morris County Human Relations Commission, the African American Wellness Coalition, the Morristown Juvenile Conference Committee, the Morris County Park Alliance, and the Morris County Sexual Assault Advisory Board. She provides training for the Volunteers for Morris County as well as the Seton Hall University Board Leadership Institute. Professionally, she represents her institution and profession nationally. Presently, she sits on the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Foundation Board.
Kyle Colwell has been a financial advisor at Private Advisor Group and a registered principal with LPL Financial since 2012. Kyle works with clients on retirement planning, insurance needs, and investment strategies. When working with clients, Kyle is focused on clear communication and establishing a mutual understanding of all decisions and strategies throughout the process. This approach ensures the clients receive a comprehensive plan to assist them in reaching their financial goals.
Kyle earned a BA in History from the University of Vermont. He holds FINRA Series 7, Series 24, and Series 66 securities registrations through LPL Financial. He holds additional licenses in life, health, and long-term care insurance.
Kyle and his wife, Emily, reside in Morristown, NJ. When he is not working, Kyle tries to spend as much time as possible outside. He is an avid fly-fisherman and skier.
Gail Reuther is the Executive Director at Mt. Olive Child Care & Learning Center in Budd Lake, New Jersey. She is responsible for managing a long-standing child care and education Center which is both accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and 4-Star-Rated by Grow NJ Kids: New Jersey’s Quality Rating Improvement System.
Children aged 6 weeks through 13 years and their families are served by the Center. Gail is an active member of the Morris County Child Care Directors Association and currently serves as the President. In addition, she maintains a membership in the Coalition of Infant/Toddler Educators (CITE). Gail serves as the Co-Chair of Preschool Advantage’s School Committee. Formal education includes attending Douglas College (Rutgers University) for her Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Correction and Spanish and Kean University for her Teaching Credential and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.
Lauren Diemar is the Director of Curriculum at Saint John’s Nursery School in Bernardsville. Lauren
holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Gettysburg and a Masters in Education from the Bank
Street School of Education. Lauren lives in Bernardsville with her husband and three children, where she is very active in numerous community organizations.
Denise Lanza is Assistant Deputy Director, Morris County Park Commission and Executive Director of The Alliance for Morris County Parks, a New Jersey nonprofit supporting programs and facilities of the Morris County Park Commission. She is involved with numerous local notfor-profits and community organizations, including the North Jersey Health Collaborative, New Jersey Healthy Communities Network and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. Other organizations she has worked with in the past have included the Coalition for a Healthy New Jersey, Morris County Human Relations Commission, and the Morris County Tourism Bureau. Denise graduated from Montclair State University with a BS in Recreation and Leisure Studies and received her Masters of Administrative Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is an adjunct professor at Kean University teaching “Fundraising in Parks and Recreation” and “Programs and Facility Design”
Josh Mackoff is a commercial real estate appraiser based in Morristown, NJ. He has been a board member of Preschool Advantage since 2013 and is active in fundraising. Prior to this he was a trustee of Temple B’Nai Or in Morristown and chairman of its religious school committee; a trustee of the Morris United Soccer Club; and past trustee of The Darcy School (now Chatham Day School).
Ginger Michaels is a licensed Clinical Social Worker (retired), Ginger practiced for over 25 years as a Board Certified diplomate in clinical social work. Ginger holds a BA from Montclair State University, an MSW from Rutgers and a Certificate in Family Therapy from the New Jersey Center for Family Studies in Millburn, N.J.
Judy retired from teaching in 2014, after more than 40 years as a Kindergarten teacher at The Peck School in Morristown. At Peck, Judy was also a long-serving member of the Admission Committee. Judy has volunteered at Preschool Advantage for many years, and, in 2019, she joined the Board of Trustees. Judy participates on the Child and School Committees, the Marketing Committee and the Gala Committee, which she co-chaired for two years. She previously served on the Greater Morristown YMCA Board, the Cornerstone Board and the Morristown Field Club Board of Governors as well as serving as President of the Field Club. Judy enjoys tennis and golf, teaches aerobic classes at the Greater Morristown YMCA, and volunteers at The Bargain Box affiliated with Atlantic Health Care.
Maria Vinci Savettiere, Esq., a resident of Bernardsville, is the Executive Director of Deirdre’s House, the child advocacy center for Morris County that provides forensic interviewing, medical examinations and treatment, and clinical counseling to child victims of abuse, neglect, or children that have witnessed violence. She is also on the boards of Blair Academy and the Greater Morristown YMCA and is the child advocacy center representative on the Governor’s Child Advocacy and Multi-Disciplinary Advisory Board.
Andrew Schneider is the Chief Financial Officer & Director of Operations at the Peck School in Morristown. Andrew holds a Bachelors of Arts from Rutgers University, a Masters in English from Middlebury College, and an M.B.A from George Washington University. Andrew also serves as President of the Board at Camp Billings in Vermont and sits on the Finance Committee for the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools. He resides in Morristown with his wife and three young children, spending his spare time enjoying the views of Morris County from his road bike.
Carolyn Simpson has been actively involved in education for over 30 years, beginning her career as an elementary school teacher in Virginia and continuing as a substitute teacher and tutor after moving to the Morristown, NJ, area in 1992. In addition to her volunteer work at Preschool Advantage, Simpson has served as a member of the Township Twig of the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center and is a member the Garden Club of Morristown. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of The Land Conservancy of New Jersey. In her spare time Simpson enjoys gardening, photography, travel, and of course, educational causes.
Pam Sullivan has been involved with Preschool Advantage since 2020, serving as Co-Chair of both the Parent Advisory and Communications & Outreach Committees. In 2022, she co-chaired the annual Turning Leaves benefit. A graduate of Marist College, Sullivan works as Outreach and Program Coordinator at Good Grief, a non-profit that supports grieving children and their families where she has held multiple roles over the past 15 years. Sullivan is a member of the Covenant House New Jersey Woman’s Auxiliary and Impact100 Garden State. In her spare time, she enjoys Zumba, Pilates, and pickleball. Pam and her husband, Pat, live in Morristown. Their three adult children live and work in New York City.
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