Dr. Jesse Bryson
Founder & Director
Dr. Jesse Bryson, Founder and Director of the I Will Mentorship Foundation (IWMF), brings over 20 years experience mentoring youth from his military, educational, and local community background. His military experience includes assignments at the White House under Presidents Bush and Clinton culminating as Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Joint Communication Division at Southern Command in Miami, Florida. Secondary to his military responsibility was desire for community, as he was instrumental in establishing the first English library in Izmir, Turkey and many volunteer hours as mentor at local schools. He also served as Education Foundation Director with a local community based organization were he established a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum; aquaculture farm; robotics program; and tutoring program for state assessment and college entrance exams for at risk youth. He founded the IWMF with a mission to empower youth to make positive life choices through mentoring programs focused on increasing academic achievement, strengthening community, and providing exposure to opportunities to improve socioeconomic mobility. He established four robust, evidence based programs serving over 150 youth within IWMF’s first year. He also serves as a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp Instructor where he cultivates youth into leaders of tomorrow with greater awareness of community. This is reflected in the contribution of over 2000 hours of community service and service learning projects throughout Lee County. He received the Uncommon Friends Foundation Champion Teacher award in 2016, the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year award in 2017, and the JROTC Army Instructor of the Year award in 2018. Jesse’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Science, a Master’s degree in quantitative information systems, and a Doctoral degree in educational leadership. As a native of Fort Myers Florida, his passion for helping youth and his community is reflected in all aspects of his life, as he strives to inspire youth and community to achieve what they could not before conceive.
Chief Operating Officer
A native New Yorker, Ms. Ellis received her bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and her master’s degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has also completed all of the coursework for a Ph.D. in History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Since 2000, Ms. Ellis has worked in education administration in various capacities. After working as a GED instructor for 2 years, she began her career as intern with the Office of Diversity at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Subsequently, she became a Program Coordinator and then the Associate Director of the Office of Diversity. After almost 8 years of working with the Office of Diversity, more specifically with grant-based programs that served underrepresented students interested in the STEM fields, Ms. Ellis went on to become the Director of Grants and Programs with Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), overseeing similar programs across New York state. Following her tenure with AMSNY, Ms. Ellis was employed as an Advising Dean with Columbia University, a Student Advocate with the Harlem Children’s Zone, and as an Academic Advisor with Spelman College, Georgia State University, and Miami Dade College. Ms. Ellis has spent her career working to ensure the success of her students, whether they were in a pipeline program or an advisee, as she not only finds it to be pivotal in the overall success of underserved communities but also extremely rewarding. She will bring her operational and programmatic expertise, in addition to her passion for the academic success of underserved students interested in the STEAM fields, to the I Will Mentorship Foundation.
Ms. Sloan is a native Floridian, retired nurse, and a person of faith. She attended Edison Community College and upon graduating she made nursing her life time career. Her passion for nursing stemmed from her desire to help others reach their highest potential. After dedicating years of work to the position of supervisor and director of nursing, Ms. Sloan was introduced to the I Will Mentorship Foundation three years ago. She began to volunteer as a mentor for the STEAM and SMASH summer programs. Her crucial impact on the summer programming made it evident she was a perfect fit for a staff position with IWMF. Her commitment to serve will be implemented in her new as office manager. When she is not working to inspire others you can find her cheering for the Patriots, throwing strikes down the bowling lane, singing in the choir, or nose deep in a good book. She has spent the past five years as co-girl scout leader and numerous years as choir director. Her reward for being involved at IWMF is seeing the impact that the programming has on the students, more specifically the self confidence built, positive behavior changes, motivation to compete, and preparation for the future.
A native Californian, Ms. Herrera's career has taken her across the United States as her husband's job status moved from state to state. First to Ohio for 14 years where she worked for 10 years as a Senior Media Specialist at Intermec, an innovative bar code manufacturer, managing several of their largest companies bringing in over 1 to 5 million dollars per year. Afterwards she worked as an Executive Assistant for the pastor of a large congregation. She then moved to Florida in 2013 and worked for South Florida Gas, a small propane company, helping to grow their customer base to over 1000 customers with her ability to connect to them and their needs. After South Florida Gas relocated in 2016, Ms. Herrera went on to Cintas National Fire where she developed their affiliate program and worked on the team for their largest customer Walgreens. Ms. Herrera has enjoyed bringing order to the chaos that many small companies experience and is looking forward to utilizing those talents here at the I Will Mentorship Foundation. Ms. Herrera holds an Associates degree in Business from the University of Phoenix and brings many years of managing people, customers and vendors to the table. She now lives in the North Fort Myers area of Florida with her husband of 43 years and her two fur babies. She is also the proud grandma of 4 beautiful children who she hopes will benefit from the programs that the foundation provides.
Robert Kassi, (better known to everyone as “Farmer Bob”), was born and raised in the small town of New Castle, Pennsylvania where he learned the fundamentals of gardening from his father. He graduated from Westminster College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and then received his Master of Arts degree in Communications from Ohio University. He immediately began teaching Communications at Temple University in Philadelphia followed by a few more years of teaching at Slippery Rock University. Mr. Kassi then left teaching and spent the rest of his career buying and selling radio stations and in various radio management roles that took him from Seattle to upstate New York to West Virginia to West Palm Beach, and finally from 1994 until 2012 to Gainesville, Florida. After retiring from the daily radio management routine, he moved to Southwest Florida in 2013 and continued working part-time as a radio sales consultant. Over the years gardening became a passion for Mr. Kassi. For the past five years he has been the Coordinator and Director of the Estero United Methodist Church Community Garden. Their mission is to nurture, teach and feed......nurture fellowship with garden lovers of all ages.....teach area families the fundamentals of gardening so they can plant their own gardens at home.....and to feed the needy, mainly thru Interfaith Charities. During this past growing season, the EUMC Community Garden donated over 3,300 pounds of fresh produce to Interfaith. Mr. Kassi hopes to achieve the same type of success in the development of the I Will Mentorship Foundation Community Garden….Mr. Kassi and his wife Carole live in Estero and have three children, five grand-children and one beautiful great-granddaughter.
Mr. Skaathun is working in the capacity of Deputy Operations Director in order to complete his internship for his Masters of Public Administration degree at Florida Gulf Coast University. Tyler received his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2018. Tyler is a long-time member of Kiwanis, a global organization of volunteers dedicated to serving the community one child at a time. During the completion of his college education, Tyler served as a leading member of FGCU’s student-run Kiwanis Club. Tyler also has experience in managing volunteers with Congressional level elections. Tyler hopes to have a career in nonprofits following the completion of his master’s degree in May.
Deputy Operations Director (Graduate Student Intern)
Ms. Callahan has been a resident of Southwest Florida for fifteen years after relocating from Massachusetts. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers with a concentration in Art and Art History. Ms. Callahan has previously held positions at several local non-profits, most recently BIG Arts, Sanibel Island, as Data Manager for Marketing and Development. Her prior experiences include entrepreneurship and e-commerce, having operated a small business until 2015, with a new project currently developing. Ms. Callahan will bring her experience in non-profit marketing and development, knowledge of visual communication and digital marketing, and enthusiasm for community engagement to her role at IWMF.