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Gary is the founder of WestHawk Capital, an incubator of emerging real estate investment and development companies. Gary was also a Founding Partner of ViaWest Group, a Phoenix-based commercial real estate investment and development firm where he led the capital markets activity from 2003 until early 2020.
Gary earned a B.A. in Economics from Northwestern University and an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is fluent in Japanese and proficient in Spanish. He is currently active in the Arizona Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and YPO Gold, and is active locally and nationally with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), having served as a product council chair.
Gary is passionate about improving education in Arizona. He led the formation of a real estate industry advocacy group for Education Forward Arizona, which ultimately led to his connection with Read Better Be Better. He lives in Phoenix with his wife Julie; their two sons, Zachary and Matthew, are currently attending college.
Artem Tretiakov is Read Better Be Better’s Governing Board Treasurer, addressing a variety of matters including budgeting, accounting, reporting, and internal controls. Artem has been engaged with the RBBB team since the program started in 2014.
Previously working at BDO USA and Western Alliance Bank, Artem is currently in an accounting policy role at Silicon Valley Bank where he provides technical accounting guidance to U.S. and global operations.
Artem joined Read Better Be Better to help brilliant educators build a society in which all children master the foundational skills necessary to become independent learners.
Mitzi has been in Arizona since 2012 and has been blessed to have grown up in Tennessee and been able to relocate to different locations over the years for both personal and primarily professional opportunities. Her relocation across states such as Michigan, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, and now Arizona has afforded Mitzi an opportunity to evolve professionally with a focus on the areas of organizational and leadership development, effectiveness, and performance optimization.
Mitzi received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Spalding University and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. Mitzi has always been an avid reader since childhood. She credits being curious about her passion for reading as a catalyst that helped Mitzi to be academically successful.
Mitzi started with RBBB in 2021 by invitation to assist with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and later transitioned to advising and coaching leaders at RBBB, and facilitating leadership workshops.
In 2022 Mitzi was invited to join the board!
Mitzi also mentors and advises new leaders and transitioning leaders on a Pro Bono basis by request. Mitzi was a transplant recipient in 2018. She is a trained mentor for the Transplant Community Alliance for those persons requiring or having gone through a Kidney Transplant. She was also a part of the Akron Ohio Chapter of the Lupus Foundation Board before leaving Ohio.
Mitzi is a mother of two beautiful daughters, who now have families of their own. Her oldest daughter has two children. Her grandson is attending Berea College and her granddaughter presented Mitzi with her first great-grandchild!
Chassity Andrews earned both her Bachelors in English and her Masters of Education from Arizona State University. Chassity has 7 years of experience as a classroom teacher. Currently, Chassity works with at-risk populations of students earning recovery credits to graduate high school. Her passion for education is empowering the disempowered by mirroring their potential and cultivating self-actualization in the classroom and community. This passion has led her to commit to community service by serving on planning committees in the city of Maricopa, NACCP Youth advisor, and the meet and confer committee for Maricopa High School.
Chassity is a self-published author of the book “The Art of Thyself”, a book inspired to nurture potential and implement positive affirmations into the lives of others. Chassity’s education and life philosophy is believing in the power of harnessing the potential of students and leaders to create impactful outcomes.
Chassity joined Read Better Be Better to support the initiative of creating positive outcome protectories for students and families. Read Better Be Better has created a positive pipeline and pathway for students that can often remain unseen. Read Better Be Better brings visibility to students whose potential simply needs to be recognized, ignited, and cultivated.
Dawn has a rich background in education, budget, and state government operations. She began her public service career in 1999 as a Senior Budget Analyst for the Arizona Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting for Governor Jane Dee Hull and Governor Janet Napolitano. She then served as Deputy Director of Research Staff in the Arizona State Senate and Majority Policy Advisor for Speaker Kirk Adams and Speaker Andy Tobin.
Prior to joining Governor Doug Ducey’s staff in 2015, Dawn was the Director of Government Relations for the Maricopa Community Colleges. Most recently, she worked for Governor Ducey as the Senior Advisor for Education and Strategic Initiatives and as a Special Assistant to the Governor. Dawn also spent over a decade in the private sector, specializing in finance, budget, and accounting.
She received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in History from Arizona State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix with an emphasis in accounting. Dawn is an adjunct professor at Northern Arizona University in the Public Administration and Justice Studies Program.
Dawn is currently the Vice President of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership at the Flinn Foundation. She lives in North Central Phoenix with her husband Andy and their daughter, Finn.
Jeff Geyer grew up in Northern Virginia and has lived in Phoenix since 1991. Jeff holds a B.A. in Hotel/Restaurant Management from James Madison University and a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University.
In 1997, Jeff made the decision to re-career away from restaurant and retail management and has never looked back. He has worked as an educator for the past 23 years in the Creighton district in Central Phoenix, starting as a Kindergarten teacher and also taught in first and third grade. He then spent three years as an Assistant Principal before becoming Principal at Papago school. Most recently, Jeff has been appointed as the Principal for the new Creighton Virtual Academy.
Jeff is an active member of several professional organizations including The International Society for Technology in Education, AZTEA, The Arizona Technology in Education Association, and The Arizona School Administrators Association.
Jeff is married to Maria who is a 2nd-grade teacher, and together they have two kids: Harrison and Amelia. The Geyer family loves to travel in California, swim, hike, play with their two dogs, read Kindles, and play board games.
Laura Ory was born in Phoenix and is passionate about providing creative, nurturing, and educational activities for Arizona’s youth. Laura is a journalism graduate from the University of Arizona, where she was a reporter and editor for the Daily Wildcat, and chair of the student-run nonprofit, Camp Wildcat, promoting higher education through camps for students in Title 1 schools.
Laura was a reporter in southeast Arizona for the Sierra Vista Herald until moving back to the Valley in 2009, transitioning into a public relations and marketing career. She has served as a volunteer and mentor for Free Arts of Arizona for Abused Children for over a decade, providing intentional art activities that promote safety, self-expression, skill-building, and self-efficacy.
Laura currently serves as the Communications Manager for United Food Bank, which provides food assistance through over 150 agencies and programs in the East Valley and eastern Arizona. She lives in Phoenix with her husband Andrew and her dogs Max and Inga. Laura and Andrew just welcomed their first daughter!
Noriana Hermes is currently working as the National Program Coordinator for the Child Advocate Program at the Young Center. The Young Center is a champion for the best interests of children who arrive in the United States on their own, from all corners of the world.
Noriana obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico-School of Law and she has BSBA in Operations Management from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus. Noriana is committed to working with underserved children and helping them access equal opportunities.
Rachel Aja is a native Arizonan, attending the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has been involved in a variety of volunteer organizations, including the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Program and the Luke Air Force Base Honorary Commander Program. An active member of Fighter Country Partnership’s Blue Blazer Squadron, Rachel was recognized as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year. In 2020, AZ Business magazine named Rachel as one of 14 Diverse Business Leaders to Watch.
Rachel currently works as the Government & Regulatory Affairs Manager for Cox Communications. In her free time, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and watching her seven nieces and nephews play and learn. Rachel has volunteered with Read Better Be Better since 2016.
Rachel and her husband Joe live in the Foote Addition of Central Phoenix and enjoy spending time raising a garden and chickens in their backyard.
Sophie Allen-Etchart was born in Connecticut but raised and educated in England, receiving her B.A. in Modern Languages from the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Upon graduation, Sophie joined a financial services agency specializing in board-level strategic HR consulting. Soon after, Sophie moved to Peru and began managing SKIP, an international development organization.
Sophie met her husband, an Arizona native, in Peru and moved to Phoenix in 2012. Once in Phoenix, she spent 2 years managing the JA BizTown® team at Junior Achievement. There, Sophie identified the need for basic reading comprehension support. The JA BizTown® program serves over 20,000 students per year, an alarming number of whom had neither the focus nor the foundational reading skills to obtain the most value from the experience. In 2010, when Arizona’s “Move On When Reading” law was announced, Sophie decided that the timing was critical to support those 3rd graders at risk of not being promoted to 4th grade because of a lack of reading proficiency.
In 2017, Sophie was recognized as one of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and was nominated for the Greater Phoenix Chamber’s ATHENA Award in both 2019 and 2020. Sophie currently lives in Downtown Phoenix with her husband, her son Cody, and daughter Joey. In her free time she is driven to continue to advocate for those causes about which she is passionate – either by canvassing locally or participating in lively discussions with friends and neighbors.
Advisors to the Board
Maya Steinberg is a current undergrad student at Northern Arizona University’s
Honors College and a 2021 Flinn Scholar. She is double majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and Mexican American Studies with minors in Spanish and Civic
Seeking more experience in literacy/youth programming, Maya became a Grants and
Fundraising Intern at Read Better Be Better. During this role, Maya worked closely with the development team and secured $450k in grants toward RBBB programming.
Maya is currently working on undergraduate research titled “White girl gone brown to the
blood color of my mother: An Autoethnography of Biracial Identities in a MexicanAmerican Mother-Daughter Relationship” with future goals of publishing.
After she graduates, she is interested in teaching K-12 programs centering Ethnic Studies/Critical Race Theory, working within the non-profit sector to implement community-based programs, or becoming a professor.