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Who we are

We have the passion and expertise to create immediate and lasting change.

Meet our team below!

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 Board OF DIRECTORS

Lauren Costa

Lauren Costa

Executive Director

Lauren founded The Academy Project as a result of her passion for and career working with foster youth. She attended New York University where she graduated cum laude with a degree in Theater and Psychology. She has been a lifelong advocate for foster youth and continues to work to strengthen the relationships between the systems and organizations that support foster youth.

Claire Conley

Claire Conley

Board Member

Claire Conly joined The Academy Project in 2019 as a volunteer with the co-op where she cultivated a strong passion for the organization and community it serves. She attended UCLA where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Political Science. In addition to the work with The Academy Project, she sits on the tribal council for the Gabrielino-Tongva Indians of California and has developed a professional career as an M&A analyst.

Michele Kawamoto Perry

Michele Kawamoto Perry

Board Member

Michele is the Founder of The Forward Project, a Los Angeles-based consultancy that designs powerful mindset, emotional intelligence, and behavior-based leadership development and high-performing teams programs to help organizations discover new ways to grow revenues, strengthen their culture, and accelerate their impact. She is an angel investor, a Certified Sommelier, and a lover of travel, food, languages. Most of all, she is deeply passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of foster youth.

Celia Botet

Celia Botet

Treasurer

Celia is a Board Member of The Academy Project

Mary Gastineau

Mary Gastineau

Board Member

Mary has had a long and established career as a critical care and research RN. Wanting to have a more active role in changing and shaping current situations
and events Mary left the nursing role and went on to become an entrepreneur
who has been a significant part of starting several successful businesses in the pharmaceutical and retail arenas. During all of her jobs and endeavors she has maintained being an advocate for people’s rights.

Tammy Watson-Smith

Tammy Watson-Smith

Board Member

Tammy Watson-Smith is a Principal and the Operations Leader for Mercer in the West Market. She is responsible for managing improvement processes and communication activities as well as project scoping and planning to ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget. She acts as a strategic thinking partner with the Market CEO on new initiatives, business issues or concerns. Mercer is one of the operating companies of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.

Maria C. Koutsoukalis

Maria C. Koutsoukalis

Secretary

Maria, originally from Metro Atlanta and a cum laude graduate of Kennesaw State University holds a B.S. in Psychological Science with a Minor in Applied Statistics & Data Analysis. Since the winter of 2021, she has been a pivotal member of The Academy Project, collaborating closely with the Board of Directors on various initiatives.

Sheila Cutchlow

Sheila Cutchlow

Board Member

Sheila came from a strong family foundation. Her mother, Shirley, was a kindergarten
teacher, and spent her weekends as a Sunday school teacher. Education and activism
were a priority, and these experiences instilled the values of community service,
generosity, and care for others. Sheila’s work with The Academy Project is a reflection
of this commitment.
As a board member, Sheila seeks to lend a creative, collaborative, and knowledgeable
presence to address the challenges facing foster care today. She brings an expertise in
fundraising, strategic planning, and public relations to help TAP achieve their mission to
impact and disrupt the burdened cycle, and build a stable environment where foster
children can progress and thrive with the emotional, physical and financial support they
need.
Above all, Sheila is honored to be on The Academy Project Team and looks forward to
all we can achieve together.

Advisory Board

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Cheyenne Rogers

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Clare Blacker

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Amy Christine

Our partners

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