Partnership Staff 2017-08-10T12:06:34+00:00

Jason Smith, Partnership Executive Director

Jason Smith is currently serving as the Executive Director for Bridging Richmond, a regional cradle-to-career initiative that brings together leaders in Pre-K-12 schools, higher education, business and industry, community organizations, government leaders and other stakeholders who are committed to ensuring that Richmond is economically competitive and provides sustainable career paths for all people. His most recent role was Manager for Evidence Based Decision Making for Bridging Richmond.

Jason has been working in the philanthropic, health and education sectors for 15 years. He is passionate about the use of data and other forms of evidence to inform decision making and continuous improvement. Combining improvement science and results facilitation, Jason advises funders, government and nonprofit organizations on measurement and program strategy. Most recently, Jason facilitated the development of the Impact Framework for MSR 2020, a middle school out-of-school time intermediary. Prior to joining Bridging Richmond, Jason served as a Program Evaluation Manager and Community Health Liaison for Bon Secours Richmond, Director and CAO of a statewide Baptist nonprofit, and community center Director in Richmond’s East End. He has served in a leadership role in multiple civic efforts, including the chair and president, respectively, of the Hanover Early Childhood Council and the Virginia Rural Health Resource Center Board.

Jason earned a PhD from VCU in Organizational Leadership and Learning, where he combined coursework in public and nonprofit administration and organizational learning. His dissertation on the role of cognition and emotion in organizational change received the 2010 Outstanding Dissertation Award from the School of Education. Jason holds an MDiv from the Baptist Seminary at Richmond, a BS in Biology and BA in Religious Studies from VCU. Jason also completed executive and continuing professional education on Measurement, Design, and Analysis Methods at Harvard.

Alex Rooke, Network Coordinator

Alex Rooke joined the Bridging Richmond staff on July 10, 2014, preceded by volunteering her time with Bridging Richmond for several projects.  As the project coordinator, Alex provides data support, project management, facilitates meetings, and manages office schedules to ensure the advancement of the regional attendance network.

Alex brings to the team first-hand experience with Richmond students; she worked at Higher Achievement as a center aide and math and science teacher, in addition to mentoring students throughout the school year.  While in these roles she collaborated with community partners, school staff, parents and students to promote meaningful learning experiences for students.

Alex currently volunteers at Side By Side (formerly ROSMY), walking alongside LGBTQ youth on their life journey as a youth group facilitator. Alex holds a Bachelor of Arts in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies with minors in math and secondary education from the University of Richmond.

Tessa McKenzie, Manager of Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Tessa McKenzie is the Manager of Evidence-Based Decision-Making for the Bridging Richmond partnership and is anchored by United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg. Tessa has a unique background in social epidemiology and her area of expertise lies in bringing harmony across data silos to ask the right questions that reveal and heal social inequities.  Tessa believes data is what brings us together. Through Tessa’s collaborative spirit, she is working with public school districts to create a data-sharing culture with trust-building as a central tenet and major driver of change.  She has a dedicated office on the 13th floor of City Hall in the Richmond Public Schools division as well as an office at United Way. This unique co-location has been integral in building and maintaining trust inside RPS and to understand the current data landscape. 

Outside of the data work, Tessa stays active as a bilingual soccer coach and spin instructor at BOHO Cycle Studio. She holds a Masters of Public Health from Portland State University, Oregon. She serves on the Junior League of Richmond and is a board member of the Fan District Association.

Chaz Barracks, Graduate Assistant (MATX PhD Program)

Chaz Barracks joined Bridging Richmond the Fall of 2015. As a graduate assistant, Chaz curates content and manages Bridging Richmond’s social media presence to amplify partner action and priority issues. 

Chaz previously held a VCU position training Richmond Public School teachers on a behavior management curriculum model. Chaz brings global experience to the team, having worked with nonprofits in South Africa, Australia, and Japan. Much of this work focused on providing services for delicate populations, the arts, and community engagement. Chaz’s service in the Bonner Scholars program initiated a passion to work within interdisciplinary mediums to bridge the nonprofit and (art) education sectors.

Chaz spent two years as an English teacher in the Japanese Exchange Teaching Program (JET),  mentoring students about cultural exchange and utilizing language study to break cultural barriers and stereotypes. 

Chaz currently volunteers at Bandit’s Adoption & Rescue of K-9s and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, and a Masters in Nonprofit Studies from the University of Richmond. As of Fall 2016, Chaz is enrolled in VCU’s interdisciplinary PhD program in Media, Art, & Text (MATX), a joint endeavor of the Department of English, the School of the Arts and the Robertson School of Media and Culture.