2020 Speakers

drmyerssmall_headshotLesli Myers-Small, Ed.D

Rochester City School District

Rochester City School District Superintendent, Dr. Lesli C. Myers-Small has dedicated her life to the development and implementation of high quality education. Dr. Myers-Small received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in counseling and human development, both from the University of Rochester. She continued her educational journey by earning a second master’s degree in Urban Educational Administration and her Doctor of Education in Executive Leadership from Saint John Fisher College. Throughout her career, Dr. Myers-Small has made a tremendous impact on the field of education. She was the first African American President of the New York State School Counselor Association. She also testified before the United States Congress. It was her testimony, in part, that resulted in the largest increase (77.5 percent) ever to the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program.

Myers-Small has an almost 30-year career in education that began as a counselor and house administrator in the Rochester City School District. Since then, she has served as a Director of Student and Career Support in the Greece Central School District and an Assistant Superintendent in the Ithaca City School District. Myers-Small was also named Superintendent of the Brockport Central School District in 2012, becoming the first woman of color to serve as a permanent Superintendent in Monroe County. Most recently, Myers-Small served as the New York State Education Department’s Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Innovation and School Reform, a position she has held since January 2020. In that role, she oversaw and implemented New York State’s School Receivership Program, as well as selected grant programs intended to increase student results in low-performing schools.

Dr. Myers-Small has received many prestigious honors that reflect her dedication to education and the community, including the Breakthru Magazine Empowering Award, NYS Women of Distinction Award, Rochester Business Journal 40 Under 40, Saint John Fisher Distinguished Alumni Award, Urban League of Rochester Educator Award, Western New York School Counselors Consortium Lifetime Achievement Award and the inaugural William Clark Urban League award. Additionally, she was named a 2016 Athena Award finalist. Dr. Myers-Small is passionate about her professional work and volunteerism and looks forward to several years of continued service in education.

yana-khashperYana Khashper

CEO and Co-Founder,
ROCovery Fitness

Yana Khashper is the CEO and Co-Founder of ROCovery Fitness. Yana was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker before starting ROCovery Fitness. She has an extensive background in working with trauma, mental health, eating disorders and addiction. Yana has worked at the New York City Fire Department Counseling Service Unit, Strong Behavioral Health and the Healing Connection. Fitness and the outdoors has transformed Yana’s life in recovery and she decided to share her passion with others. Yana is a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate as well as a Certified Personal Trainer (NASM). Yana was honored as one of the Rochester Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 recipients in 2018 as someone who excels both professionally and is actively involved in and giving back to the community.  In addition, Yana was recognized with the ESL Jefferson Foundation award in 2018. Yana sits on the board for Delphi Rise, a drug and alcohol treatment center focusing on re-entry work.  Yana is also a member of the Advisory Committee with Partners 4 Suicide Prevention, the Monroe County Opioid Task Force and Council of Agency Executives.


ahila_k-2-1024x791Ahlia Kitwana

Little Black Buddha

Ahlia is the founder of Little Black Buddha, (LBB) which offers women help in making career transitions and figuring out their next move in their lives and careers. LBB also creates the space to honestly look at the entire picture of one’s life by incorporating a life design ethos into the work and programming, advocating wholeness, wellness and a complete sense of self. LBB provides career coaching services both 1-1 and in group formats.

Little Black Buddha is currently developing LBB Pathways, which is a gamified software that helps people figure (a) what their transferable skills are and (b) what industries those skills can be used in.

Ahlia has navigated 5 successful career transitions over a 15 year period. Prior to starting Little Black Buddha she was a Lead Engineer at a Fortune 500 company for 10+ years. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Monroe Community College. She has a BS in Electrical Engineering (2001) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MA in Math Education (2009) from the City College of New York. Ahlia is married to a wonderful and supportive partner and most importantly, she is a mother of three beautiful and bright children (4, 9 & 12 years old).

talya-meyerowitzTalya Meyerowitz

A Respectful Workplace

Talya Meyerowitz is a dynamic facilitator, coach, and change agent. She provides tools and techniques to both individuals and teams that expand and unearth new capabilities all of which are created to assist them with exceeding their goals. Talya enjoys working with organizations to help strengthen interpersonal relationships within the workplace, that are designed to promote candor, creativity, productivity, and, of course, fun! The results speak for themselves: teams and leaders end up feeling more empowered to maximize their time and productivity using her innovative approach.
Talya is known for her engaging personality whose trademarks are authenticity, warmth, and her signature lively & entertaining approach. Her ability to relate to others using humor and sincerity allows Talya to closely connect with her clients which frequently results in comments about how comfortable people are sharing their personal thoughts and stories. Talya is the President and Founder of www.ARespectfulWorkplace.com. She has spoken at numerous national and international conferences and worked with organizations both large and small.
Talya is happily married with three children and resides in Rochester, NY.

newton-headshotHeather Newton

Executive Director
NAMI Rochester

Heather Newton is the Executive Director at NAMI Rochester and a thought leader for the mental health revolution.  Heather oversees the Monroe County Suicide Prevention Coalition and serves as the Mental Health Committee Chair on the Monroe County Community Services Board.  She believes that that mental health, recovery from addiction and suicide prevention are highly interconnected.  Above all, she believes that recovery is possible.

Prior to her work at NAMI, Heather spent more than a decade working in college and secondary school admissions.  She then spent several years spearheading development and marketing efforts in the non-profit arena.  Heather holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

She lives with her family in Rochester, NY.