Building a Comprehensive System to Support All Students Getting to High School Graduation and Beyond

Building a Comprehensive System to Support All Students Getting to High School Graduation and Beyond
Building a Comprehensive System to Support All Students Getting to High School Graduation and Beyond


If the U.S. is to increase the number of college graduates and boost our national competitiveness, we must redouble our efforts to ensure all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary learning and careers. This means creating comprehensive education systems that provide learning options that enable a range of pathways to graduation, including a diverse portfolio of schools with programs that engage youth at risk of disengaging from or dropping out of school.

This event discussed what a responsive system for all youth looks like based upon the current reform efforts in Massachusetts and New York City. Panelists addressed how federal, state and local policies can support efforts to create the variety of options necessary prepare diverse learners for success.

Presenters included: Kathryn Young, Director of National Education Policy, Jobs for the Future; Marissa Cole, Deputy Chief of Staff, Massachusetts Executive Office of Education; and Vanda Belusic-Vollor, Executive Director, New York City Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Readiness.

 Presenter Biographies

Vanda Belusic-Vollor is Executive Director of the Office of Postsecondary Readiness (OPSR), which leads efforts that ensure all New York City students graduate high school prepared for postsecondary success.  These efforts include the Expanded Success Initiative, an educational component of the Office of the Mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative and a pioneering effort to close the achievement gap by significantly increasing the percentage of Black and Latino young men who complete high school prepared to succeed in college and careers.  Ms. Belusic-Vollor also leads OPSR’s work to drive rigorous Career and Technical Education school and program pathways aligned to current labor market demands.

Previously and since October 2009, she served as Executive Director of the Office of Multiple Pathways to Graduation (OMPG), where she supported the expansion of school and program models to meet the needs of differentiated segments of the over-age, under-credited population. Prior to joining OMPG, Ms. Belusic-Vollor served as the principal of South Brooklyn Community High School, a successful New York City transfer school, which served as the model for transfer schools opened under the leadership of New York City Schools’ Chancellor,  Joel Klein. While leading South Brooklyn, Ms. Belusic-Vollor also served as a New York City Leadership Academy mentor for eight aspiring principals who went on to lead new transfer schools in New York City.

She is a nationally-acknowledged leader in the fields of the education of over-aged and under-credited youth, the integration of instruction and youth development, and collaborative leadership. Ms. Belusic-Vollor holds a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision as well as a Master’s degree in Modern British Literature, both from Brooklyn College.



Marissa Goldberg Cole currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, led by Secretary of Education Paul Reville. In this role, she serves as the Executive Office’s legislative director, advises the Secretary on policies including dropout prevention and recovery, interagency collaboration, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and helps manage the day-to-day operations of the office. Previously, Marissa was Assistant Director of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, a non-partisan non-profit education policy think tank in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Marissa also formerly served as Legislative and Budget Director for Massachusetts State Senator Ed Augustus, where she advised him on education policy issues. She earned her Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and received her B.A. in Child Development from Tufts University, where her studies focused on positive youth development. An active member of the Tufts community, Marissa led an on-campus children’s literacy initiative and worked on the Shape Up Somerville childhood obesity initiative. Marissa has served as a member of the Healthworks Community Fitness Advisory Board since its inception in 2010. She resides in Brookline with her husband, Kevin.


Kathryn Young, Director of National Education Policy at Jobs for the Future directs JFF’s education policy development, advocating nationally for policies that improve pathways to and through college for youth and adults. Her work includes efforts to improve educational options and outcomes for the large and growing numbers of low-income youth and adults struggling in today’s economy.

Before joining JFF, Ms. Young served as a policy advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role she developed policy proposals and managed key grant programs within that office related to school improvement, teacher quality, literacy, and secondary schools. Her work included grant programs funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act such as the Teacher Incentive Fund and the School Improvement Grant program.

Ms. Young has also led the development of education policy and legislation as the education legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and for the National Governors Association’s Education, Early Childhood, and Workforce Committee. Prior to her time in Washington, DC, she worked in special education as a middle school teacher, case manager, and program administrator.

Ms. Young received her Master’s in learning disabilities, curriculum, and teaching from Teachers College at Columbia University. She also holds a Bachelor’s in political science from Duke University.






Click here to see Kathryn Young’s Powerpoint presentation

Click here to see Marissa Cole’s Powerpoint presentation

Click here to see Vanda Belusic Vallor’s Powerpoint presentation

Presenter Information

Vanda Belusic-Vollor

Executive Director

New York City Department of Education

Office of Postsecondary Readiness

52 Chambers Street

New York, NY 10007


Marissa Goldberg Cole

Deputy Chief of Staff

Massachusetts Executive Office of Education

One Ashburton Place

Room 1403

Boston, MA 02108


Kathryn Young

Director of National Education Policy

Jobs for the Future

88 Broad Street

8th Floor

Boston, MA 02110





The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.