About Us

Our Mission: REACH Prep provides access to transformational educational experiences that empower underserved, high-achieving students to graduate from top colleges and emerge as the next generation of leaders.

A Bold Future

Today REACH Prep provides exceptional educational opportunities to 250 students each year in Fairfield and Westchester counties and the Bronx so they will complete college empowered with the skills, confidence and knowledge to have a lasting impact.

“REACH Prep has taught me how to be a leader and has motivated me to do my best in everything I do. Because of REACH Prep I have the opportunity to receive a rigorous education at an independent school, and I am proud to be attending Riverdale Country School.” – Emily P., Cohort 23, Riverdale Country School ’24

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REACH Prep Staff

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Jennifer Clessas
Director of Administration and Data Management
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Jennifer Clessas

jclessas@reachprep.org

Director of Administration and Data Management

Jen graduated from Valparaiso University with a Bachelor’s in International Economics in 2008. After graduating she worked as an admissions and housing coordinator at an international school in San Diego, California before returning back to school to earn her Master’s in Public Administration. After completing her MPA, she worked overseas in Colombia and India providing support and due diligence for an impact investment firm, seeking to invest in education and healthcare social entrepreneurs. Jen moved to Connecticut in 2013, as an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow, working on statewide education policy. Since then she has been involved with several nonprofits promoting work to narrow the achievement gap in Connecticut.

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Rene Gaspar
Director of 8th, 9th & 10th Grade Programs
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Rene Gaspar

rgaspar@reachprep.org

Director of 8th, 9th & 10th Grade Programs

Before joining REACH Prep, Rene served as the Administrative Counselor for the Upward Bound Program at Stamford High School, as well as the Academic Mentor for the UConn College Access & Preparation (UCAP) Program. Within these roles, Rene provided support for high school students from low-income families who were the first in their family to attend college. Rene also worked at UConn in the Department of Student Services, where he served as an Academic Advisor. Additionally, Rene worked very closely with UConn’s First-Year Programs & Learning Communities where he mentored students in poor academic standing that were at risk of being dismissed from the university, and helped to connect students to the university’s resources.

Rene, a graduate from the University of Connecticut, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development & Family Studies with a minor in Spanish. Rene joined REACH Prep in 2019.

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Gina Lucas
Chief Executive Officer
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Gina Lucas

glucas@reachprep.org

Chief Executive Officer

Gina previously worked at The TEAK Fellowship, an educational access and college success organization in New York City, where she served as the Deputy Director from 2011-2014 and the Director of Post-Placement from 2003-2010. Prior to TEAK, Gina worked at Prep for Prep overseeing public policy projects and at the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a statewide advocacy organization where she focused on issues and policies affecting Newark’s children. Gina also worked in New Jersey at the Victoria Foundation and the READY Foundation. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Camp Sloane YMCA. Gina graduated from Trinity College with honors and earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Seton Hall University. Gina joined REACH Prep in 2015.

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Maribel Martinez
Director of College Success
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Maribel Martinez

mmartinez@reachprep.org

Director of College Success

Maribel has dedicated her professional career to providing educational access and equity to underserved students. She joined REACH Prep in 2016 as an admissions consultant and has since served as Interim Director of College Guidance, Interim Director of High School Programs, and is currently the Director of College Success. Prior to joining REACH Prep, Maribel worked at The TEAK Fellowship for 10 years and held a several positions including Assistant Director of Post-Placement and Director of Admissions. She also worked in the Education Department at Thirteen/WNET and managed STEM-based literacy programs at various under-resourced Brooklyn, NY schools as Senior Associate Director of Enrichment Programs at the Center for the Urban Environment. Maribel graduated with a B.A. from Rutgers University and earned a Master’s degree in Sociology and Education from Teacher’s College.

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Samantha O’Brien
Director of College Guidance
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Samantha O’Brien

sobrien@reachprep.org

Director of College Guidance

Creating a path to equity and access for underserved students became Samantha’s passion while teaching 5th and 6th grade through Teach for America in Hartford, CT. She left the classroom to pursue her M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University in 2015. While attending graduate school, Samantha was a Development Associate at The Earth Institute before transitioning into an Assistant Director of Major Gifts and Corporate & Foundation Relations role at Teachers College. She stayed connected to the field of education while working in development by volunteering for Read Ahead; a reading-based mentoring program in Harlem and obtaining a certificate in College Advising. Samantha completed her studies in May 2018 and joined REACH Prep in October 2018. Samantha also holds a B.S. in Business Administration with a minor in Communication Studies from Northeastern University.

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Rosa A. Ortiz
Deputy Director
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Rosa A. Ortiz

rortiz@reachprep.org

Deputy Director

Most recently, Rosa served as REACH Prep’s Director of Administration and Finance from 2011 through April 2020 focusing on strategic management related to operations, technology, human resources and finance. Rosa also served as REACH Prep’s Program Director, providing strategic support for the organization, and academic guidance and advocacy for students from 2006 through 2010.

Rosa holds a Certificate in Business Excellence from Columbia Business School, a Master’s in Public Administration from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and a B.A. in Sociology from Boston College. Rosa’s commitment to access and equity for underserved populations includes work with the NYC English Language Learner Consortium, providing support to over 100 charter schools, and as a research assistant at NYU Wagner’s Women of Color Policy Network. Rosa was a StartingBloc 2008 Fellow, Education Pioneers 2010 Fellow, and participant in the 2014 Zoom Foundation’s Leadership Development Roundtable for young leaders in Connecticut.

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Betsy Pacey
Director of Prep Academy and Placement
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Betsy Pacey

bpacey@reachprep.org

Director of Prep Academy and Placement

Betsy grew up in Illinois and received her Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University. After moving from Illinois to Connecticut, Betsy completed her graduate studies at Long Island University in Special Education. She has taught a variety of age groups ranging from 3rd-6th grade. In 2016, Betsy joined the REACH Prep faculty teaching English at Prep Academy. In her role she oversees all aspects of REACH Prep’s 15-month Prep Academy program beginning at the end of our students’ 4th grade year through the summer before their 6th grade. In addition, she maintains high academic expectations and a strong community that will prepare and support the students as they enter independent schools where they are placed. Betsy has a passion for education, setting high expectations and helping students achieve their goals. One of her favorite things about working with children is seeing them grow and change over the course of a year and helping them find pride in the work they do.

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TJ Ramirez
Director of Programs
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TJ Ramirez

tramirez@reachprep.org

Director of Programs

TJ joined REACH Prep after working at The Stanwich School for 5 years, where he taught 4th, 2nd, and 5th grade History. After completing the two year Associate Program, which allowed him to earn a master’s degree in Elementary and Special Education, he worked as a head teacher for three years. For the 2015/16 school year, TJ taught and worked closely with Cohort 22 at Prep Academy on Saturdays. Being the first in his family to attend college, TJ attended Princeton University and holds a B.A. in Sociology. TJ has always had a passion for education and assisting students on their journey to becoming the best they can be. As a strong advocate for underserved students, he understands the value of education and the impact it can have on family and friends. TJ is originally from San Diego California.

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Jill Tucker
Director of Development
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Jill Tucker

jtucker@reachprep.org

Director of Development

Jill is a dynamic, innovative and creative leader with over 16 years of experience in both profit and nonprofit industries with an expertise in strategy, new business development, corporate partnerships and driving revenue with an entrepreneurial spirit. She is passionate about utilizing her background and skillset to make an impact on children, families and her community. Prior to REACH Prep, Jill was the Director of Development for Circle of Care, a non-profit that serves families of children with cancer, and also worked in development at Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundations. She held positions at Morgan Stanley and Wempe Jewelers in Manhattan prior to transitioning to the nonprofit industry. Jill is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

2020-2021
Annual Report