As you explore the bios of our people, you’ll notice the exceptional longevity of our senior program staff, most of whom have been with us for more than 10 years. This longevity provides a wonderful consistency for the children and youth who participate in our programs, giving them the opportunity to form long-term, healthy relationships with the many positive role models at WTEF!
Rebecca D. Crouch-Pelham, President, joined WTEF as President in November 2017. She has a distinguished career with a proven record in exceptional supervisory and analytical capabilities with a focus on change management, strategic thinking, vision setting, inspirational communication, and advocating for the voiceless. Prior to joining WTEF, Rebecca was the Founding Principal of DC Scholars Public Charter School located in Ward 7. Despite significant external factors, under Rebecca’s leadership, DC Scholars received a Tier 1 rating from the Public Charter School Board (2015/2016) and full accreditation (2014/2015). As a results driven leader with a comprehensive background in educational/operational leadership, Rebecca decided to explore opportunities to widen her impact while continuing to serve communities with the greatest need. Whether working in schools or non-profit settings, Rebecca has consistently been driven by her passion for ensuring that kids enjoy basic human rights, including healthy meals, safe spaces, and a high quality education – all in an effort to interrupt the cycle of poverty. Rebecca has over 13 years of education experience as a certified high school Mathematics teacher, Mathematics Instructional Leader, Assistant Principal, Adjunct Professor, and Founding Elementary School Principal. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Howard University and a Master of Science in Mathematics/Educational Leadership from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In her spare time, Rebecca spends time with her family, paints, and plays tennis.
Willis Thomas, Jr., Vice President of Programs, is not only an experienced tennis coach on both the grass roots and professional levels, he is also considered to be one of the founding fathers of WTEF. A former junior doubles partner of the late Arthur Ashe, Mr. Thomas has played tennis since the age of ten and was one of the first African American tennis talents from our nation’s capital. After a stint on the tour as tennis coach to professional African American stars such as Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Katrina Adams, and Rodney Harmon, Mr. Thomas returned to his roots to launch and direct the Arthur Ashe Children’s Program at WTEF, a program combining tennis and educational opportunities for at-risk youth. Mr. Thomas has received plenty of recognition over the years for his dedication and service towards DC’s low-income families, including in 1998, when NBC-TV featured Mr. Thomas during Black History Month, profiling him as a community leader who has made a difference in the lives of at-risk children by helping them to choose sports over life on the streets. Then in 2001, Mr. Thomas was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian the magazine, again acknowledging him for his tireless efforts to better the lives of DC’s youth. Later in 2004, he was named President of the American Tennis Association. He was again honored in 2005 by local PBS station WETA, who recognized Mr. Thomas as “Hometown Hero” for the month of February.
Jessica Baggetta, Director of Special Events, joined WTEF in February 2017. She received her Bachelor’s with Honors in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Florida and her Master’s of Education in Sport Management from the University of Texas at Austin. Jessica brings more than 10 years of sports and non-profit experience to WTEF, including founding the Austin Soccer Foundation, a 501 (c)3 supporting underserved youth in Austin. Starting her career with the New Orleans Zephyrs AAA baseball team, she has worked for The First Tee of Greater Austin, The Brearley School Athletic Department, Circuit of the Americas, Florida Panthers, Texas Stars, Austin Aztex and The University of Texas Athletic Department. She is also the Past Parties Chair for the Junior League of Austin. In addition, Jessica is a nationally licensed soccer coach.
Virginia Byrd, Education Associate (AACP), joined WTEF in 1999 to teach reading and math to students in the AACP. Later, in 2007, Ms. Byrd began providing tennis instruction to the students, assisting teachers in the preparation and planning of the Life Skill Competition and Academic Competition. Ms. Byrd has many honorary accomplishments in her career, including a bachelor’s degree in Major Elementary Education from Winston-Salem State University. She has also taken graduate courses from many prominent universities across the U.S., including Trinity College, the University of the District of Columbia, UCLA, and A&T University.
Mary Daly, Development Associate, joined WTEF in March 2015. She received her bachelor’s degree in History from Old Dominion University, and received a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from La Salle University. During her time at La Salle, Ms. Daly worked at their Nonprofit Center assisting with major research projects and training student workers. After graduating, she took a position as Project Assistant at the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, before moving on to the National Mental Health Association to further develop her skills identifying grant opportunities and assist in planned giving efforts. The bulk of Ms. Daly’s professional experience was spent at the House of Ruth where she served as a Data Systems Specialist for over eight years. Her passion to help children and families in greatest need and with very limited resources is what attracted her to WTEF.
Dr. Mary Johnson, Math Specialist, Center for Excellence (CFE), joined WTEF in September 2004 and has been getting underperforming math students to grade level and beyond ever since. Dr. Johnson has more than 30 years of experience in education with the DC Public Schools, including her tenure as founder and principal of the Washington Math & Science Technology Public Charter High School and Director of the Frank W. Ballou Mathematics Science Technology Academy/School-Within-A-School Charter School. She is also the President of Complex Associates, Inc., a nonprofit that operates Success and Math Learning Centers in Maryland and Washington, DC. Many of the success stories she’s had with her students have been featured by local and national media. In January 2016, Dr. Johnson received a copyright for a diagnostic test that helps to assess specific gaps in students’ math knowledge in just minutes. She is also the author of several books and articles on mathematics education and the recipient of numerous professional and community awards. Dr. Johnson holds a masters in Mathematics Education from Hampton University and a Doctorate in Mathematics Education from the University of Maryland.
Nicole Johnson, CFE Coach/Administrative Assistant, is a wonderful example of what a shining success many of WTEF’s students grow up to be. Growing up in Southeast DC, she used to live across the street from the tennis courts where WTEF VP of Programs, Willis Thomas, used to run the WTEF tennis clinics. Under the tutelage of Mr. Thomas, her parents enrolled her in the Center for Excellence, and at the age of six she played in her first tennis tournament. Ultimately, WTEF provided Ms. Johnson with the academic support and mentorship needed to develop into a strong, successful woman. At just 16 years old, she won the American Tennis Association Tournament for youth 16 and under in Daytona, Florida, with Willis Thomas right by her side! Ms. Johnson went on to study at the University of the District of Columbia before finally joining WTEF in her current role as CFE Coach & Administrator.
Alfred (AB) Morgan, Coordinator, Center for Excellence (CFE), came to WTEF in September 2002 after having spent more than three decades working with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DCCPR). During his time there, he was responsible for developing, organizing, analyzing, implementing, and evaluating recreation and education programs designed primarily for youth and young adults. Mr. Morgan was also a unit director at the Anacostia Recreation Center and the Langdon Park Recreation Center and was Manager for Region Three of the DCDPR. Since 2002, WTEF has been blessed to have Mr. Morgan continue to dedicate his time and energy to the CFE program, ensuring that each child enrolled is provided with the education and tools necessary to develop into successful future leaders of DC. Mr. Morgan received his bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Elizabeth State College and has taken many professional educational courses at both the University of the District of Columbia as well as the University of Maryland, College Park.
Janelle Nichols, Director of Programs, brings more than a decade of program management and communications experience acquired from a variety of organizations, including nonprofit organizations, healthcare organizations, and governmental agencies. Most recently, she worked at a public health-related nonprofit organization in a role that focused on capacity building, and developing and strengthening relationships among key national public health leaders. Ms. Nichols holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Services Administration from Ohio University and a Master of Public Health degree from The George Washington University. In her free time, she enjoys playing and watching tennis, learning web development, and attending art shows and concerts. She has dedicated her career to public health and is looking forward to ensuring WTEF’s children are equipped with the tools they need to develop healthy lifestyles.
Vince Pulupa, Director of Junior Programs/Tennis Clinic Head Coach, began his career with WTEF in the summer of 2016, overseeing the entire junior tennis program. Mr. Pulupa brings over a decade of tennis coaching experience to WTEF, having co-founded OSSA Tennis Academy 10 years ago. At OSSA, their goal is to provide high performance coaching in a boutique-style atmosphere, fusing an outside the box coaching vision with an old school approach to assist in player development. Mr. Pulupa helped implement these very same techniques WTEF and passed them on to all of our coaches and students.
Mike Ragland, Director of Tennis (WTEF East Capitol Campus), a product of WTEF programs himself, helped lead Ballou High School to three consecutive city championships in the 1970s. In addition to his extensive tennis playing experience, he has over 30 years of teaching experience to boot, and brings a “keep it simple” philosophy to his tennis coaching. His belief is knowing the fundamental basic of strategy combined with tennis skills is the perfect combination to elevate one’s tennis game, regardless of age or ability. For 10 years at Arrowhead Country Club in Glendale Arizona, he coached individual players and teams as well as directed the junior tennis program. He formerly was the Director of Tennis at Metro Sport and Health Club, Vistancia Village Community, and the DC Parks and Recreation department. Coach Ragland also played collegiate tennis at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C. where he received his B.S. degree in Business Administration as well as being named All Conference and All District for tennis.
Jeff Thomas, East Operations Manager & Director of the Arthur Ashe Children’s Program (AACP), joined WTEF in 2004 to manage the administration and implementation of the AACP. A native Washingtonian, Mr. Thomas played in Junior USTA tournaments and attended the University of the District of Columbia. In 1993, Mr. Thomas was one of the first coaches for the Arthur Ashe Children’s Program, providing invaluable tennis instruction and mentorship to the students in the AACP. He is also the proud recipient of the 2014 USTA/DC President’s Award.
Gerald Weston, Counselor, Center for Excellence (CFE), brings to WTEF thirty years of experience in career counseling, program development and management, and job placement and monitoring in correctional institutions and community-based rehabilitation programs. Mr. Weston received a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Howard University and has done graduate work there as well.
Dr. Eugene Williams, Reading Specialist (CFE), joined WTEF in January 2012. Dr. Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Paul College, and a Special Certificate in Counseling from the US Department of Labor. He has also earned a master’s in education in Supervision/English from the University of Virginia, as well as a doctor of education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Miami.
Kitty Wojcik, Grants Manager is responsible for WTEF’s pre- and post-award grant systems and management. Ms. Wojcik holds the Certified Grant Management Specialist (CGMS) and Grant Professional Certified (GPC) credentials and is a designated subject matter expert (SME) by both the Grant Professionals Association and the National Grant Management Association. She has managed up to $15 million in grants annually and obtained more than $230,000,000 in grant funds throughout her career.
Ashleigh Woods, Tennis Clinic 10 & Under Coach, joined WTEF in 2008 as a tennis coach/administrator after already having direct experience with WTEF’s Center For Excellence program from her time enrolled as a student. She joined the CFE in its inaugural year when she was just a sophomore in high school. Ms. Woods is another shining example of how the CFE helps to develop its students into great leaders after they graduate. She is now dedicated to coaching and bettering the lives of children interested in improving both their tennis and life skills.