Staff

Clayton Harding, Director of College Counseling

As a native New Yorker and graduate of the New York City public school system himself, Clayton is passionate about helping students find a college that is the right "fit". His department works with students individually to help them each create a list of colleges to apply to, as well as to research and apply for financial aid, and for outside/private scholarships. Clayton has been involved with ACP since its inception, first as the owner of Bell Curves, the test-prep company that originally provided SAT-prep and Regents-prep for the program. He is a 25-year instructor and nationally published author of test-prep manuals and strategies, and still is called on to speak at conferences, parent orientations, and industry events on the subject. 

Mary Rose Synek, Director of Writing and Arts Achievement

Mary Rose lives to help students tell their stories, guiding them through every step as they create, organize, and bring to life their personal statements for college admission. During the academic year, her students study the ever-fascinating subject of themselves through acting, writing and reading the great works of under read masters. Through ACP’s unique summer program, Mary uses theatre and Broadway to further prepare students for their college experiences. 

Chris Vaios, Director of Testing & Academic Achievement

Chris is an entrepreneur, inventor, executive, consultant, board member and educational coach. Chris held engineering and management positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, Lucent and several startup ventures, and is currently a senior partner at State Group. His passion for individualized and collaborative education, extensive work on technologies, and his own upbringing and positive life changing experiences inspire him to help students in underserved communities maximize their academic potential. He is a long-time contributor and advocate for Khan Academy’s international platform, and has successfully introduced it as a foundational platform for math and sciences in after-school programs in the US and abroad. Chris holds BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from University of Massachusetts, and an MBA.

Alberto Aquino, Director of Armory College Prep Middle School

ACP’s mission to send students “to and through college” deeply resonates with Alberto’s personal beliefs. He has designed and delivered a program to set students up for long-term success. Prior to assuming this position, he served as a 5th grade math teacher at HYDE Leadership Charter School in the South Bronx and worked closely with community partners and students’ family members in reaching student achievement. Alberto began his career in education in Clarksdale, Mississippi, while completing his two-year commitment to Teach for America. While he misses the classroom, he is excited about his role in delivering a program that provides meaningful guidance and engaging instruction.

Erison hurtault, College Counselor

As a two-time Olympian and NCAA Division I All-American while at Columbia University, Erison helps students deal with the challenges many student-athletes are confronted with and helps them maintain the balance between athletics and academics. He works with students to help them understand the paths to potential careers and target colleges that will give them the best opportunity to succeed and reach their long-term goals. Beyond college selection, he works with the students in preparing financial aid applications and applying for outside/private scholarships. 

Davinna Thrower, College Counselor

Davinna was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She obtained her undergraduate degrees at Mitchell College in Criminal Justice, went on to John Jay College of Criminal Justice for a dual specialization Masters in Criminology and Deviance and Juvenile Justice then graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Clinical Social Work.  She has been in the education field for over 10 years, working with several different youth programs and non-profits before joining the New York City department of education. Davinna also currently works as a social worker in a transfer high school for 16-21 year olds for the New York City Department of Education. 

Karen Gutierrez, Program Coordinator

Karen is a graduate of Manhattan Business Academy High School and is currently studying Human Services and Science at Bronx Community College. She has worked with New York City youth for over 3 years and has been part of the Armory College Prep team since the summer of 2015. 

COLLEGE PREP MATH AND ENGLISH COACHES

 

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ISABELLE DESENDI

Isabelle is an ACP English coach with a Bachelor degree in English Literature and a minor in written and oral communication with magna cum laude, from University of Florida. She is a Master degree candidate ‘17 at Columbia University school of the Arts with an emphasis in poetry and relevant work in writing as a teacher, art of the voice in translation, grammar, syntax & praxis, and prosody. Isabelle has been a summer high school seminar instructor at Columbia University where she designed and facilitated a creative writing course and developed creative writing lesson plans for high school curriculums.

 

MICHAEL SUTTON

Michael is an ACP Math coach and a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University. Michael holds a Bachelor degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University with a concentration in biomechanics and biomaterials, as well as minor in Chemistry. He is also a graduate research assistant in Cell and Molecular Biomechanics Lab at Columbia University. Michael’s prior work included co-Dean of the 2010 and 2016 Summerbridge program in Pittsburgh, assisting with the program’s operations, working on students’ personal and academic growth, and serving as substitute math and science teacher. He has also served as intramural sports official (2014-2016) at Duke University.

Michael Morrissey

Michael is an ACP English and Math coach with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from State University of New York at Geneseo, a Master in Literacy Education from Alfred University, and holds NY State teaching certificates for Literacy and Early Childhood Education (K-6). Michael is also a special education teacher at Cristo Rey High School, New York, where he taught English Literature, Math, Chemistry, Biology, History, and Spanish. Prior to that he worked at St. Paul Elementary School, New York, teaching English Literature. He also worked at the ADHD Research summer program at New York University where he developed a curriculum and activities for students with ADHD, and has taught a robotics class at the 92 Street Y of New York. Michael began his teaching career at the Elementary School of West Powellhurst, Portland, Oregon, where he taught English for special education students, and gave piano lessons, singing, drawing, and reading at the local Boys & Girls club.

Megan Armstrong

Megan is an ACP Math coach with Bachelor and Master degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University. Megan is currently a PhD candidate, a research assistant, and a teaching assistant at the Dept. of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia. She has also taught high school level Algebra, Geometry, General Science, Chemistry, History, French, and English since 2010.