Smarty Pants Are Leaders | Our Team
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Our Team

The SPAL TEAM is a supportive network of Leaders

Saudia Davis

Founder

As an Executive Creative Consultant I leverage over 18 years of high level sales, management, and management consulting expertise acquired while working for several of the most successful luxury retailers in the United States. My professional experience includes 25 years in the Film Industry and 10 years in the Not-For Profit space. I advance and elevate existing organizations, maintaining brand integrity while growing a positive presence in communities (Example: Kehrien Center for the Arts Theater Completion). Organizational strategic planning toward implementation for maximum profitability is key. Some may define me as a multi-hyphenate because I do many things; I am also a Creative Producer, a Social Entrepreneur and Host. As a Creative Producer I am driven and motivated by the creative process on all levels.

I Identify, cultivate and amplify. I discovered a gutted, 45 year abandoned theater in 2011. When asked by Catalyst Schools in 2015 to help them bring their theater dream to life I embarked on a fulfilling journey. I created a vision that guided a $4.5 million dollar renovation. With the help of a motivated team of doers, I recently completed construction of the Kehrein Center for the Arts, a 900 seat storytelling theater on Chicago’s West Side.

Born in San Francisco and raised in Marin County CA, I lived in New York for over 8 years before choosing Chicago as my home base. I am excited to share my gifts and skills with young developing minds. I founded Smarty Pants Are Leaders (SPAL) in September 2009. I enjoy advising, making art and encouraging folks to reach for their dreams.

“I advance and elevate existing organizations, maintaining brand integrity while growing a positive presence in communities.”

Bob Merlotti

Board Member

Bob Merlotti (aka “Fun Czar”) is an award winning comedic writer. Most people with Kellogg MBA’s go on to be productive members of society. Bob went into advertising. After spending his career in Chicago toiling on Bud Light, Mc Donald’s, and Discover, Bob landed at Grey L.A. In 2003, vowing once and for all to get over chapped lips. Well, he’s back in Chicago. His work has appeared on the Super Bowl (in the first quarter, before everybody headed for nachos) and his critical accolades include Clios, Lions, and several other awards that he smelted himself.

Through advertising Bob has worked with Walter Payton, Cohen Brothers (separate shoots), ridden in a Daytona 500 pace car, and filmed on the set of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Bob hails from St. Louis and loves the University of Missouri Tigers, strong coffee, and a good but competitively priced piece of veal.

Celine Ruben-Salama

MBA & MPA Environmental Science Policy

Celine Ruben-Salama is a business strategist focused on efficiency, new media, technology, and environmental sustainability.

Recent public sector clients include the United Nations, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Region 2), The Earth Institute, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Her private sector clients include Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, and Discovery Communications.

In addition, Celine is a contributing writer for treehugger.com, the world’s largest online green lifestyle magazine. Her writing has also been published in Consilience, the Journal of Sustainable Development, as well as on Yahoo Green, Inhabitat.com, and Ecogeek.org.

She is actively involved in local chapters of Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF), Net Impact, Green Drinks, and is an invited member of the Carnegie New Leaders program at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Celine holds a Masters of Public Administration Environmental Science and Policy (MPA ESP) from Columbia University, and an MBA from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, CUNY. She is a Wallenberg Fellow, and recipient of merit-based scholarships from the Swedish-American and Scandinavian-American Foundations among others.

Suzen M. Moeller, MS, PhD

Board Member

Dr. Moeller is a nutritional epidemiologist, teacher, and proponent of nourishing and joyful eating. As a senior scientist in the Department of Prevention and Health Promotion at the American Medical Association, she educates physicians and the public about topics related to diet, nutrition, and other health behaviors, and advocates for policies that support healthier lifestyles. Dr. Moeller previously worked in academia researching the role of dietary habits in chronic disease prevention, as well as on non-nutrition studies of HIV in mothers and infants and the genetics of asthma.

Dr. Moeller passionately believes that healthy eating should be physically, emotionally, and spiritually nourishing – as well as joyful! A native of Detroit, Dr. Moeller received her Masters and Doctoral degrees from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, and did post-doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a member of the American Society for Nutrition and the American Dietetic Association.

Dr. Moeller also has an eclectic teaching and child-caring background, and currently volunteers as a 6th grade Sunday school teacher and 8th grade English and math tutor. She is thrilled to be joining the SPAL team to help engage, inspire, and learn from our future leaders.

David C. Driskell

Board Member

Born in 1931 into a family of Georgia sharecroppers, David C. Driskell is today a renowned painter and collector of art, as well as one of the leading authorities on the subject of African American art and the black artist in American society. Prof. Driskell has been a practicing artist since the 1950s and his works are in major museums throughout the world, including the National Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, and Yale University Art Gallery, to name a few. Since 1977, Prof. Driskell has served as cultural advisor to Camille O. and William H. Cosby and as the curator of the Cosby Collection of Fine Arts. In 2000, in a White House Ceremony, Prof. Driskell received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton. His contributions to scholarship in the history of art include many books and more than 40 catalogues for exhibitions he has curated.

Even as he has become a world renowned artist, Driskell has not lost his connection to the environment, which he often looks to as a source of inspiration and for physical contribution to his pieces. “Art is one of the great joys of my life. There is an urge within to be creative… I must have my hands in the making process. The garden is another part of rearranging, creating my own world. It’s my order. I think had I not been a painter, I would be a gardener.” Developed as a small child through his mother’s love for her flower garden and his father’s work as a sharecropper, Driskell’s love of both art and the natural environment shows through in his pieces, as seen in The Herbalist, Semblance of Summer, and The Farmer and His Wife.It is this union of love and respect for art and gardening that aligns Driskell’s work and passion with that of Smarty Pants are Leaders.

William Moss

Board Member

William Moss, a Master Gardener and Horticulturist has been a trusted Adviser to SPAL for 10 years. We are happy to announce that his company Get Our & Grow (GOAG) will align with SPAL. William and Natasha Moss are excited to partner with Smarty Pants are Leaders (SPAL) for the opportunity to deliver the SPAL curriculum. We are stronger together! SPAL Get Out & Grow teams will plant seeds in schools and communities nurturing urban gardens with our quality hands-on national standard aligned programming. Our services include SPAL Art & Gardening programming, garden maintenance training, leadership support required to cultivate and sustain an outdoor laboratory that supports improving student academic achievement. Our comprehensive 16-week curriculum enriches the quality of learning, provides unique discovery opportunities for students, teachers, and the supportive community.

Roberta Flack

Honorary Board Member

“I am excited to have an opportunity to watch the birth of this program, Smarty Pants Are Leaders. The very name fills me with incredible hope for our world for now and tomorrow. Only through education that takes place in a situation that encourages the completion of one’s dreams, can future leaders of all of the countries of the world be developed. This program creates the space that kids need. My prediction is that young people will fill it up to overflowing.”

– Roberta Flack
Grammy Winning Singer/Songwriter

Kenneth Hill

Team Member

Kenneth Hill, originally from Chicago, Illinois has resided in Detroit for over 40 years. He is a graduate of Howard University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Wayne State University with a Master of Arts in Mathematics Education.

Hill worked at MichCon and taught in the Detroit Public School System prior to moving to the Republic of Zambia in Central Africa where he taught calculus and physics to African high school students. Upon his return to Detroit, he developed a nationally renowned program known as DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program). Mr. Hill is proud of the fact that 70% of students graduate from college in the fields of math and science.

In 1976, DAPCEP began with 245 students and now has an enrollment of over 6000. The mission is to increase the number of underrepresented African American, Latino American and Native American students who are motivated and prepared to pursue careers in science, mathematics, and engineering. DAPCEP provides instructional and motivational activities to youngsters throughout the school year, on Saturdays and during the summer. Hill led the development the DAPCEP curriculum and put into place an effective teacher-training component.

DAPCEP students continue to win gold ribbon awards in the Metropolitan Detroit Science and Engineering Fair with 44% of the winners in 2003 compared to 10% in 1977. DAPCEP is recognized by the American Council of Education, the Educational Testing Service, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Society of Black Engineers as one the most outstanding pre-college programs in the country.

Hill was the recipient of the 1990 NAACP Distinguished Service Award, the 1993 Distinguished Service Award from the Detroit Public Schools, the Community Service Award from the DAPCEP Parent Advisory Committee, and 1995 “Best Managed Non-Profit” from Crain’s Detroit’s Business. He was selected Michiganian of the Year in 1999. In 2000, Hill was the recipient of the William L. Dawson award from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (Washington D.C.). Also, in 2000 DAPCEP completed a $7 million dollar Growth Campaign for the K-12 program. In 2002, he received the community service from the Ford African Ancestry Network, and in 2004 he received the Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Award from the Black Slate, Eastside Slate, and the Community Coalition.

Hill is married and lives in Chicago and Detroit. Hill is currently the President & CEO of the Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program, Inc.

Jamie Poole

Team Member and Chef Advisor

A native of sunny San Francisco, California, Chef Jamie Poole, is the quintessential west coast native, cool, calm and collected. Chef Jamie often worked in the kitchen alongside her parents preparing nightly meals for their family of six. She also found herself experimenting with recipes for holiday gatherings of upwards of 40 guests.

Chef Jamie’s life took an unexpected turn when she lost both parents to cancer. But her positive attitude, the support of her family and the wise words she received from her father, were encouragement to follow her passion of bringing delicious and healthy food to the world. Those lasting words from Chef Jamie’s father were, “Find something you really love, and go for it.”

Chef Jamie threw caution to the wind and enrolled in the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America. After years of working for fortune 500 companies, Chef Jamie pursued a career change that would fulfill her dreams of cooking professionally.

Since completing her training, Chef Jamie has provided her culinary expertise for past presidents, public officials, entertainers and athletes. Her clientele includes some of New York’s most elite residents and A-list celebrities such as Sean “Puffy” Combs and Alicia Keys. Chef Jamie’s six-star service showcases her passion of going above and beyond for clients.

Currently completing her Master’s in Wellness and Nutrition, Chef Jamie’s love for life and nutritious food ensures she is well on her way to accomplishing her dream of making a difference through food.

Abraham Godson

Team Member

Abraham Godson opened for the cusp conference this summer. Here’s what they had to say.

Sure he plays lacrosse and video games, but Abraham Godson’s calling must have been pretty clear to his teachers and parents when at a very young age he asked “Why doesn’t everyone love to practice piano?”

The third of five children in a family where music is as foundational as math, language and science, 12-year-old Abraham has been studying piano at the Community School of the Arts in Wheaton, IL for seven years. At age nine he became the full-time pianist for a local church, where he continues to play along with his father as part of a five member band. His music space includes classical, jazz and pop – some of his favorite artist and composers include Mozart, Bach and Liz Story – but he’s always had a tendency to produce a little extra something beyond whatever music is written on the page he’s play from. Now he’s turning those extra somethings into his own original compositions. But only after he’s done with his homework.