top of page

“When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision—then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

-Audre Lorde

Jocelyn Tejeda

Founding Elder 


"The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which [they are] being educated."


-James Baldwin

Nardos Ghebreab

Founding Elder 


“Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.” 

-Carol Moseley-Braun





"I plan to eat with the people I starved with."


Desmond Rudd

Founding Elder 


Founding Elders of Amateka College Prep

Connecting culture to curriculum in Washington, D.C.

Cassandra "Dr. Cass" St. Vil


Dr. Cass has worked with multiracial teenagers for twenty years as a social worker, teacher or administrator, traveling to over 30 countries with focus in multicultural education and youth development. She is a graduate of Howard University’s doctoral program in African Studies. She envisioned Amateka College Prep, leading the founding team and the charter writing process. Her parents are immigrants from Haiti and speak with a rich French-influenced accent.

Raphael Ortega


Raphael is a federal prosecutor and previously served as Assistant District Attorney

in Houston, Texas. For the last 7 years Raphael has prosecuted major felony cases in jurisdictions including Atlantic City, New Jersey and Houston, Texas. Raphael holds a J.D. from Indiana University, Robert H. McKinney School of Law and and B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from Rutgers University (with a focus on Race and Ethnicity). Having been born and raised in the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City, Raphael learned firsthand the value of having positive role models mentoring our youths. As such, Raphael has dedicated his career to public service and youth activism through this involvement youth-centered organizations such as the New York State YMCA Youth and Government Program, High School Mock Trial, and others. He is a husband to a beautiful wife and father of three wonderful boys.

Jonathan Freeman, Ph.D.


He has taught at the collegiate-level and moved into the nonprofit sector with passion for college access among marginalized youth. His work has centered African-American history and culture. He also has interests and experience in research, data and policy writing. Dr. Freeman presents our school’s narrative, describing our mission and philosophy, co-authoring the charter application and manages Amateka’s partnerships. Jonathan hails from the U.S. South including Tennessee and North Mississippi where his family roots are. Dr. Freeman also is a baker. His speciality is pound cake.

Chrystal Seawood


Her classrooms are engaged and center the experiences of Black lives and cultures. She has taught at the high school level and in alternative settings in Washington, D.C. With this perspective and experience, Chrystal has contributed to our evaluation of the education landscape, outreach for community input and created model ELA lessons and units. Before moving to Washington, D.C. Chrystal studied, trained and taught in Arkansas.

Malik Sollas

School Administrator

Malik has been a long-time leader in a variety of schools and has extensive experience as high school dean of students. He has influenced our school culture elements within our application. Malik celebrates his Black and Latino heritage along with his wife of African-American and Dominican heritage, raising three daughters to be proud of who they are.

Millie Gonzalez

School Partner

A past high school English teacher, Millie then led as an instructional coach before moving to join the administrative staff of Urban Teachers D.C. She develops programming for new teachers and manages partnerships at schools throughout the District in tandem with school leaders. Millie designed our teacher quality evaluation, hiring processes and pipeline development. Growing up, Spanish was the primary language spoken in her home. She is proud of her Dominican culture and African roots.

Natasha Backman


She currently works in artificial intelligence, leveraging her background in economics and data science. Previously, she was a special education math teacher in Baltimore and D.C. She has experience as a teacher coach, white affinity space facilitator, and as coding instructor. Natasha has contributed to the budget forecasting, education planning, and demographic data analysis of the organization. She identifies as a white ally and lives with her partner, Yasmeen. 

Justin Woods


Justin is a graduate of The George Washington University and returned to the area as a community engagement professional in healthcare after teaching in Rwanda. He is the founder of a social venture dedicated to using emotional intelligence to attain racial justice. He is a frequent speaker, facilitator and writer, currently completing dual graduate degrees in Business Administration and Social Work. Justin has contributed to our overall philosophy development, aligning structures which uphold the mission, and communications strategies. He works adamantly to eliminate barriers confronting Black queer males.

Ornella Baganizi

Global Citizen

Ornella is a recent graduate of American University, where she studied International Studies with a regional focus in Africa. During undergraduate she studied abroad in Tanzania and Kenya and learned Kiswahili. She has organized and led a group of students on a two-week service-learning trip to Tanzania to explore the history of Pan-Africanism in the country. After graduation, she returned to Tanzania to work for an NGO called Mainsprings. Ornella’s family is originally from Rwanda, and she is very proud of her African roots. Ornella is passionate about global Black histories and committed to decolonizing education.

DeLisha Sylvester


DeLisha is an organizational change management specialist and diversity, equity, and inclusion scholar who is passionate about curating inclusive spaces for marginalized voices. DeLisha began her career in the accounting world and worked her way into Organizational Management for several nonprofit organizations. She is currently an Operations Manager for a DC nonprofit where she focuses on facilitation and design of their DEI programmatic work. Outside of this work, she has curated space for Black womxn to showcase and amplify their art and culture. Her website Black Superwoman Chronicles seeks to challenge the stereotypical narratives of Black womxn. She is also currently attending the University of Dayton as a doctoral student in their Doctorate of Education program focusing on Organizational Leadership. Her research focuses on the implications of code-switching on Black women in white-dominant organizations. In addition to pursuing her education, she teaches Leadership Styles I & II at Colorado State University. When she is not working, she loves crime shows and playing The Sims, Mortal Kombat, and old-school Sega games. 

bottom of page