5 for 5 Spotlight: Stephanie Jones, Mishaal Mahmud, Allison Mattingly, Gina Montelongo, & Paul Provence

In our Five for Five series, we spotlight YES Prep staff members who have committed five or more years to YES Prep. For more, read about YES Prep’s Commit to Five program.

Stephanie Jones has worked at YES Prep for 9 years. She currently works as the Managing Director of Federal & State Compliance at the home office.



Favorite Memory: I have countless favorite memories from my time at YES Prep, but this one involves our CEO and his personal impact on me. During a one-week period, the two of us attended several of the same meetings. At the last meeting, he mentioned that “we keep seeing each other”; I replied, “People are going to talk.” First, it is funny because I am openly lesbian (if you did not already know, surprise!) and Mark’s a happily married man (#Ericarocks). Second, and more importantly, it highlights that despite our growth, YES Prep is an organization where our CEO still connects amiably with staff outside of his senior leadership team and we can share a good laugh. I have had several laughs with Mark in person and via email over the years, and I have no doubt it will continue.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because my employer, Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA), lost its grant position funding. Ryan Dolibois, YES Prep’s first Chief of Advancement was looking for a Director of Institutional Giving, i.e., YES Prep’s first grants manager. After an engaging interview with Ryan and a few other senior leaders, I was hired. YES Prep was unlike any other organization I had ever worked for, and as an introvert, I worried that I might not transition successfully. Thankfully, I was wrong! My original goal was to remain at YES Prep for at least three years — the longest I had ever worked for an organization. Nine years later, I still love the people I work with and the work that I do; and I have no plans to leave. My commitment to YES Prep also has a notable and influential personal reason — I had a childhood like the majority of the students we serve. Underprivileged neighborhood; economically disadvantaged household; single-parent upbringing; ethnic/racial minority; experience with homelessness and special needs; and no college-goers in my family history. Today, I am a formally educated leader of color who wants to help others like me achieve success and break the cycle of poverty. I can do that at YES Prep.

Mishaal Mahmud has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently works as the Special Education Manager at North Forest.

Mishaal Mahmud

Favorite Memory: The first thing that comes to mind is Graduation 2014.  This was our first graduating class at North Forest, and the first (and only) class to start as 9th graders. Graduation is always special but this first YPNF Graduation was extra meaningful for several reasons; North Forest ISD was recently shut down by the state and there was a sense of failure permeating throughout the community.  Graduation was the moment the community proved they could persevere through all the obstacles thrown at them for years, for generations. Seeing students, who just four years earlier doubted their abilities to contribute to society, walk across that stage was one of the most inspiring things I have ever been a part of.

Why YES Prep: As educators I think we have an obligation to serve and empower those who are most challenged. YES Prep’s mission spoke to me from the beginning because it works to literally transform the city I grew up in. I went through the public school system here in Houston thinking school was a joke and that it didn’t really serve the needs of me or any of my friends; I didn’t feel prepared for college or for life as an adult.  YES works to address this issue. I have seen YES Prep inspire entire communities and I truly believe we are forming a generation of leaders in our city.

Allison Mattingly has worked at YES Prep for 12 years. She currently works as the Director of College Counseling at Northside.

Allison Mattingly with students in China

Favorite Memory: As a part of two campuses during the emerging process– Southwest and Northside– I got to see a lot of firsts. Getting to experience the first college acceptance with students and families is always an almost indescribable joy. The acceptance often isn’t even about the college but about recognition that the last seven years of hard work and trust in this crazy school has been worth it for students and families. When you get to be there to watch a major milestone in our mission fulfillment, how could that not be a favorite?

Why YES Prep:  I started at YES Prep because I knew I wanted to work in a place that was pushing education forward. I student-taught in the Chicago Public Schools at one of the college prep high schools and it was such a disheartening experience. Only one of the teachers I worked closely with seemed to care about his job or doing right by the kids, and this was at a top school! I stay at YES Prep because I believe in the transformational power of the work that we do. I have been so lucky to see our mission fulfilled many times over as my former students graduate from college and become leaders in our community.

Gina Montelongo has worked at YES Prep for 11 years. She currently works as the Special Education Lead Teacher at White Oak.

Gina Montelongo

Favorite Memory: One of my favorite moments at YES would have to be watching the first class I taught at Senior Signing Day.

Why YES Prep: During my college years I wasn’t convinced of what I wanted to pursue. I took a child development course and was intrigued when reading and learning about growth stages and learning development. Then I just knew I wanted to be a teacher and the perfect place would be at YES Prep. I knew that working at YES Prep, my work would create a direct impact on a student’s  life and their families. This continues to be true, so I remain at YES.

Paul Provence has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. He currently works as a 9th grade teacher of Special Topics in Social Studies:  Identity, Personal History, and Community Research.

Paul Provence

Favorite Memory: My favorite memories of YES Prep, similar to our students, revolve around trips! During my years at YES, I have planned or participated in 13 overnight college trips! Standing on Lookout Mountain with Naketchia Alfred, touring the campus at Yale, learning about the importance of axe handles at SFA, eating beignets at the Café Du Monde, pool tournaments, hotel scavenger hunts– each of these memories was created during one of our life-changing college trips.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because of YES’s reputation. I  was living in Arizona, working at a private school, and I wanted to be part of an organization that worked with students from diverse backgrounds and students who may not have the same access to strong teaching and academic support as students from more affluent backgrounds. I stay at YES because, here at YES, I have the opportunity to do work that is meaningful to me and feels important.

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