Board of Directors
Sonia Jean-Baptiste, PhD
I am a teacher in the NYC public school system. With a PhD in Education, I consider myself an ongoing learner. Part of my philosophy is that we all learn according to the culture of the environment we are raised in; and, there is a broad definition of the word culture. My pride and joy... my children. My goals are to make sure that each and every day I find a way to give or do something good for at least one person and ensure that my children continue a similar legacy of giving. We are all children of one universe.
This foundation is a collective group of individuals that have “held my hand” during my Journey of Acceptance…Kelsey (my baby), Keely (my 9 year old silent critic), Keith (my brother), Melanie (my cousin), Jacqueline, Joanna, Marie, Cindy (colleagues and ALWAYS friends), Kyle's mentors and my friends...Victoria, Heidi, Scott. We are all intricately connected in each other’s life and we will continue to walk side by side in this journey.
The moment is now. Let’s grab it and live out our destinies; making another’s moment just as relevant.
“Children that are nurtured, become validated and productive adults.”
Victoria Bussert is an award-winning free-lance director and the Director of Music Theatre at Baldwin Wallace University.
Heidi Glynias has been a choreographer and instructor of many styles of dance for over 30 years. Her dance studio was featured in “Dance Spirit Magazine” as 1 of 50 top studios in North America and Heidi has been recognized with numerous Dance Educator Awards, having been noted for teaching her dancers to be versatile. Heidi’s students have received prestigious scholarships to train at Edge PAC and Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles in addition to the Broadway Dance Center in NYC. Her students have also moved on to become professional performers and dance captains on Broadway, in touring companies, and for NBA dance teams.
Heidi also teaches dance at Baldwin Wallace University where Kyle Jean-Baptiste was a student in her hip hop class. “His immense talent aside, Kyle had a huge heart and a vibrant energy that filled the room. Although I was Kyle’s teacher for a short time, I feel that in many ways he taught me more through his enthusiasm towards life. I am incredibly honored to be part of this foundation in his name and I hope to help share Kyle’s beautiful spirit through the people whose lives we are able to touch”.
Marie Maignan has been a teacher in the NYC Department of Education for over 15 years. Although she has taught other grades, Marie particularly enjoys helping 5th grade students transition from elementary to middle school. Marie attributes her love of music and theatre to her music classes at PS 219 in Brooklyn. "Every week, we would have music class and I remember vividly walking into the auditorium and singing folk songs and patriotic songs like If I Had a Hammer, This Land is Your Land, Lift Every Voice, all while being led by a tiny teacher sitting behind the piano. Even the bullies who terrorized you on the school yard were singing. I loved it!"
Today, Marie works PS 235, a Pre-K to 8 school located in East Flatbush. Through a partnership with Theater for a New Audience, her students learn and perform a Shakespeare play. Due to a grant from New York State Council on the Arts in Education, the school was able to expand the program to include 6th grade students. Both groups of students participate in a culminating event called the Shakespeare Expo where professional actors, friends, and family share in the year-long project showcased by the students.
Through the work of this foundation, Marie hopes to share the joy of The Arts with elementary and middle school aged children. "When I think of Kyle, I still see him as the smiling 5th grader who loved life and was always in a good mood. I will work to the best of my abilities to keep his memory alive through this organization."
Kelsey Jean-Baptiste is a dancer and college student. She is completing a Bachelor’s in Media and Communications at Ursinus College. When not studying, Kelsey is heavily involved in the Ursinus Community as part of the UC Cheer Team, Ursinus College Tour Guide, TLI Coordinator, Visit Coordinator, and Multicultural Coordinator. She hopes to travel extensively after college.
Joanna Ruggiero is an Early Childhood elementary school teacher with a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been working as a public school teacher for over 14 years. Joanna received a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Brooklyn College and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Touro College. She started her career as a first grade teacher where she put on many class productions, such as “Old MacDonald” and “Bugz”, both musical plays for young voices. She created her own costumes and stage props for these performances. She motivated her students to build confidence within themselves and to discover their full potential. Joanna has always been a positive role model that young children look up to, someone who children can trust, and who always goes the “extra mile” to ensure their success. Above all, Joanna is honored to be a part of the Kyle Jean-Baptiste Foundation Inc. Kyle Jean-Baptiste’s passion for the performing arts was mesmerizing. She knows that this foundation will inspire young talents and continue Kyle’s legacy.
Jacqueline Pearce, MHC
Jacqueline Pearce is a Mental Health Counselor (LP). She is also a New York State Licensed School Counselor. Jacqueline has over 15 years of school counseling and private practice experience. Jacqueline is a Ph.D candidate at Long Island University, she holds a Master of Science degree in Education from St. John’s University, Certificate of Advanced Study in Mental Health counseling from Alfred University, Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from New York Institute of Technology and a Certificate in Business Administration from Durham College of Commerce. She a member of The American Counseling Association, the NY State Mental Health Counselors Association and America School Counselors Association. Jacqueline effectively works with young people, as well as, adults; and enjoys engaging people in the process of positive change. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling.
Melanie Prince is an educator in the Colonial School District located in New Castle, Delaware. She's an avid writer in her free time and has passed the love of writing to her eldest daughter. She has two daughters who show her all kinds of new things every day. Spending time with family and friends as well as learning and traveling is what she enjoys the most. She immerses herself in all things that help make society a better place to live. She continues to pursue her passion, educating America's children to prepare them for the future.
Scott Plate (AEA, SAG/AFTRA) lives in Cleveland, OH and is an award-winning freelance actor, director, and writer whose work is featured frequently on Northeast Ohio's stages. Selected recent directing work includes THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED, ‘NIGHT MOTHER, and MARY POPPINS at the Beck Center; BLACK VIRGINS ARE NOT FOR HIPSTERS, EXACT CHANGE, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and PULP for Cleveland Public Theatre; SPEECH AND DEBATE, BLUE DOOR and THE NEW CENTURY for Dobama Theatre; ANGELS IN AMERICA, DARK OF THE MOON, CAROUSEL, LOVE STORY, TITANIC, PARADE, THE CRUCIBLE, BLOOD WEDDING and ANTIGONE for Baldwin Wallace University; and SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ for Cain Park’s 75th Anniversary season. An award-winning actor and director, Scott’s work in a wide variety of classical, contemporary and music theatre productions has been featured regionally on the stages of Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, Seven Stages, and the Neighborhood Playhouse; on North Carolina’s Outer Banks in The Lost Colony; in Idaho at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival; and in major venues throughout Northeast Ohio, including Severance Hall, Playhouse Square, and the Cleveland Playhouse. He is an active voice-over artist with over 300 recording credits, and also serves as Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Baldwin Wallace University’s Conservatory of Music.
Cindy is currently serving as a Childhood elementary school teacher in the NYC educational system. She has held this post for the past 11 years. She received both her Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree in Childhood Mathematics from Brooklyn College. While pursuing her Master’s degree, she began working with children during the summers at a learning center in Brooklyn to help further their math skills. She has continued this position for the last 13 years. Cindy’s enthusiastic and friendly personality, along with her passion to help educate young minds has helped her strive in her line of work with children eager to learn from her while also enjoying her bubbly persona in a classroom. Outside of the work place, Cindy is married with two children. She loves photography and volunteers at her church. It is the utmost privilege for Cindy to be a member of the Kyle Jean-Baptiste Foundation as she honors Kyle’s memory by providing scholarships to those who also shared Kyle’s love and passion for the performing arts. She believes in the foundation and its aspiration to allow those like Kyle to reach their fullest potential and achieve their dreams.