A city with pathways for all youth to succeed
Building cross-sector solutions for New Orleans youth with the most significant needs
New Pathways New Orleans (NPNO) is a nonprofit with a mission to build cross-sector solutions for New Orleans youth with significant needs in three priority areas: special education, mental and behavioral health and juvenile justice. NPNO envisions a city with pathways for all youth to succeed, and operationalizes its vision within each priority area by serving as a neutral consultant, broker, partner and leader across sectors.
The most disadvantaged children in New Orleans are faced with a profound set of systemic barriers which prevent their needs from being met. The manifestations of poverty and its associated stressors are uncommonly prevalent in New Orleans – too many children experience deprivation, trauma, and other environmental stressors that too often result in mental illness, truancy, behavioral challenges, violence, incarceration, health deficits, and addiction issues at rates far higher than national or state averages. Furthermore, the typical institutions meant to support young people with these challenges – hospitals, CBOs, school system services – either lack the resources to meet system-wide needs, have been dismantled in post-Katrina New Orleans, are fragmented, or never existed in the first place.
As a result, New Orleans has a large number of students whose needs outstrip the capacities of schools but for whom there is no obvious set of institutions from which to seek services outside the school. This is taxing both for students and families, whose needs require more robust services.
Prior to assuming the position of CEO with New Pathways New Orleans, Peggy Mendoza was the Executive Director and Vice President of City Year New Orleans, a service organization devoted to keeping public education students in school and on track to graduate and is built on the belief through service we can demonstrate the power and idealism of young people, engage citizens to benefit the common good and develop young leaders of the next generation. Before that, Peggy held positions in the private sector for over 20 years with experience in multi-unit managing and training. She credits her success to many things, one is her powerful teams of diverse people, their belief that anything is possible and her belief that her cultural upbringing has played a large part in her mindset and belief that the more inclusive we are the more productive and enjoyable life can be. Peggy was the New Orleans Market Manager for T-Mobile where she was accountable for operations and sales of company held stores in New Orleans. Prior to that, she held two positions in her tenure with The Body Shop, a global organization. Peggy was the Regional Sales Manager for the Gulf Region and the Director of Special Initiatives. Peggy was responsible for stores in Louisiana, Florida and Mexico for The Body Shop. Previous to that, she was the Regional Sales Manager for Paul Harris Stores. At T-Mobile, The Body Shop and Paul Harris, Peggy’s units of responsibility were the top performers in the nation.
Peggy’s service to community extends beyond her career. Currently, she serves as a board member of the Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy, the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute (NORLI) and WWNO. She also serves the city of New Orleans in other capacities, currently serving on the School Unification Task Force and the New Orleans 2018 Tricentennial Committee. Peggy has been a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Super Bowl Host Committee and had the honor of serving on the Mayor Landrieu’s Youth and Families Task Force. Peggy is a graduate of the Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum, New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute, and the Race and Equity Institute. Peggy was chosen as one of City Business’ 2011 Women of the Year, a Young Leadership Council Role Model Class of 2013, and one of City Business’ 2016 Path to Excellence Movers and Shakers.
Peggy is practically a New Orleans native, the daughter of Honduran immigrants. She is a Tulane University alumna and is committed to the success our city’s success. Peggy is also a proud mother of two wonderful sons, Christopher and Alessandro.
Ava Rogers is the founding Director of Strategic Partnerships at New Pathways New Orleans. Ava is a values-driven leader who has successfully mobilized governments and institutions to better serve communities. She has an extensive achievement record in breaking down silos and integrating the work of entire systems to get results. Prior to joining NPNO, Ava worked as an independent consultant, serving international and domestic constituents. She was the lead consultant for the “Global Resilience Partnership,” an innovative partnership of public and private organizations that launched with an initial capitalization of $150 million, dedicated to helping vulnerable peoples better adapt to chronic and acute shocks. Domestically, she supported a New Orleans-based non-profit to retool its HIV/AIDS strategy to better target groups at highest risk. From 2013-2016, Ava served as the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the City of New Orleans, directing city-wide operations and providing essential services for a municipality of 400,000 full-time residents and 10 million+ annual tourists. Ava took pride in leveraging city operations to achieve broader strategic goals. For example, she developed a workforce initiative that employed over 1,000 previously incarcerated individuals seasonally on city projects. She also spearheaded a neighborhood stabilization project that employed homeless and opportunity youth to combat blight, while also providing them with wrap-around social services. Ava spent the vast majority of her career – 20 years – as a U.S. diplomat. She specialized in conflict and emergency settings, serving primarily in Africa and the Middle East. While with the U.S. State Department, Ava earned numerous awards for her negotiation skills and advancement of humanitarian principles. She earned the Department’s highest honor for her efforts to rescue American citizens following the outbreak of civil war in Congo-Brazzaville, which included her being taken hostage. Ava also earned an “Innovation in Government” award from the independent think tank, the Bureau of Governmental Research, for her work with the City of New Orleans. She currently serves on the boards of the Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies, Propeller, and the New Orleans Arts Education Alliance. Ava was raised in New Orleans and is a proud alumni of New Orleans public schools. She holds an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and has a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Jennifer Coco is the founding Director of Policy and Advocacy for New Pathways New Orleans. In the course of her career, Jennifer has consistently advocated for systemic legal and policy changes to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, particularly within public education systems. Prior to joining NPNO, Jennifer was an attorney with Bizer & DeReus, LLC, representing individuals with disabilities; an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Children’s Rights Practice Group for six years, working on complex legal and policy issues of special education, educational equity, and English Language Learners; and an attorney and recipient of the prestigious George N. Lindsay Fellowship at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Educational Opportunities Project, in Washington, D.C for two years, working on issues of educational equity in K-12 public education as well as post-secondary education. Jennifer has been appointed to and has served on numerous local and statewide advisory bodies and task forces on policy matters relating to special education, alternative education, school discipline, school governance and accountability, and English Language Learners. Jennifer is proud to have served as the elected Chairwoman of the statewide Advisory Council on Student Behavior and Discipline, a public body providing advice and guidance to the Louisiana Department of Education on implementation of existing laws to improve outcomes for Louisiana children. Jennifer is also the recipient of the 2016 President’s Award from the Louisiana School Psychology Association, awarded for her efforts and partnership on policy matters related to school discipline, student behavior, and educational equity. Jennifer currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a leading non-profit agency providing free and low-cost behavioral health services to thousands of vulnerable children and young adults throughout the greater New Orleans area. Jennifer completed her law degree from the DePaul University College of Law, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Laura Romanosky is the founding Director of Operations at New Pathways New Orleans. Throughout Laura’s career, she has been a fierce advocate for students in urban education settings and improving outcomes for all students. Prior to NPNO she worked at KIPP New Orleans Schools for three years, as the Business Operations Manager and then as the Director of Student Support. In both positions, Laura is proud to have managed and coordinated large and diverse teams. As the Business Operations Manager, Laura was responsible for a vast portfolio, including finance and school budget, facilities improvements, human resources, development and implementation of school-wide policies, school culture, and meeting the professional development needs of her team. In her role as the Director of Student Support, she was responsible for overseeing special education programming and managed the case managers, paraprofessionals, and social worker who served students with disabilities in her school. She is honored to have led her team in raising the academic performance of and closing pervasive achievement gaps for students with disabilities. Laura’s responsibilities included serving as a school liaison with the Recovery School District, the larger KIPP regional network, the local community, FEMA, and various vendors. Laura is particularly privileged to have served as an integral member of an intensive school turnaround effort for her school in 2015, rebranding the school and improving and maintaining its school performance by a letter grade in a single year. Prior to joining KIPP New Orleans Schools, Laura spent five years as a special education teacher and department chair in Baltimore City Public Schools. Laura also worked for StudentsFirstNY, guiding organizational strategy through research. While attending NYU, Laura was a graduate school fellow with Education Pioneers at DC Public Schools. Laura currently serves as a member of Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans, an organization that strives to impact Greater New Orleans through granting funds to those tackling some of our toughest problems. She also is a Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Fellow and attends the Charter Board Leadership Academy. Laura holds a Masters of Public Administration from New York University; a Masters degree in Teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University; and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.