About 2017-12-04T13:45:11+00:00

About Delray Students First

Founded in 2012 by Mark Sauer, the purpose of Delray Students First (DSF) is to provide tutoring to motivated students in preparation for the SAT and ACT exams. This comprehensive program includes life skills such as learning to swim, going on college tours, career planning, and educational and cultural field trips. At Delray Students First, young people are encouraged to return to Delray during their college years to volunteer and to help mentor and tutor DSF students in the summer program.

Our Staff and Board of Directors


Kirsten Stevens is the Executive Director of Delray Students First. She brings a strong background in Nonprofit Development to our organization and has worked with charities in The Bahamas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Latin America. Kirsten started her career in Hospitality Management, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree from FIU and working with companies such as Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Turnberry Isle Resort. Kirsten discovered her passion for nonprofits while living in The Bahamas and has served in roles such as board member, volunteer, Director of Development and Executive Director for nonprofits and foundations. With an MBA and certification in Nonprofit Management, Kirsten has her own nonprofit consulting firm and provides coaching, grant writing, board development and development support to small and medium-sized nonprofits.

Michel DiPalma is the Director of Academic Development and has been with DSF since the inception of the organization.  She has a 15 year background in finance and technology as an Assistant Vice President  working in financial services  system development at State Street Corporation  in  Boston. With a degree in Finance and an MBA from Simmons College, Michel transitioned to teaching after a move to Florida.  Her desire was to help students in their development of real world skills and has taught  Math, Science and Technology to 6 through 12 graders for 10 years in Delray Beach, FL. At Delray Students First, Michel develops and implements new academic programs to increase student college readiness. She also focuses on securing STEM based summer opportunities for student academic growth and opportunities and has been a mentor and club coordinator with Palm Beach County’s Take Stock in Children program since 2013.

Santiago Arias serves as the Program Director for Delray Students First. Santiago was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to South Florida with his parents when he was six. He recently graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Human Development. During his time at Cornell Santiago was Co-President of Students Onto Scholars (SOS), a student-run organization that tutored public school students, raised money for local initiatives and raised awareness about local educational inequities. He loves DSF because he doesn’t believe your zip code should dictate how successful you are in your life and through his work with us he is able to help low-income, high-achieving students. He will be pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration at Florida Atlantic University and hopes to be an Executive Director for a nonprofit like DSF one day.

Board of Directors

Mark Sauer – Chairman 

Mr. Sauer holds the position of Chairman of the Board at Delray Students First Inc. Since 2007 Mr. Sauer has taught, coached and volunteered at Village Academy. In 2012 he retired as a teacher from the School District of Palm Beach County in order to create and manage Delray Students First Inc. From 1989 to 2006 Mr. Sauer held senior management positions with three professional sports franchises: the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League. He served as President and C.E.O. of the Pirates and Blues.  He holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University.

Leo Ressa  Vice Chair and Treasurer  

Leo joined the Board in 2014. He lives in Delray Beach and Hampton Bays, New York.  Since 2005 he has had a leadership and mentoring role in New York’s Student Sponsor Partners organization.  He served as Managing Director-Institutional Sales and Trading at Merrill Lynch from 1986-2004 and Senior Vice President-U.S. Institutional Trading at Alliance Bernstein from 2005-2011.  Leo is a graduate of Hobart College.

Annette Annechild, Ph.D.  

Dr. Annette Annechild earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Kensington University.  She has a very successful private family and marriage counseling practice in Delray Beach, Florida, where she specializes in joining hypnotherapy with traditional counseling practices.  Dr. Annechild is an accomplished author and motivational speaker and also founded ACCESS Youth Inc. — an innovative nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that mentors at-risk teens.

​Larry Benedict  

Larry is a graduate of Syracuse University and has over 30 years of experience as an investment professional.  Larry worked for Spear, Leeds and Kellogg for 11 years. In 2000 Larry founded Banyan Equity Investment and served as CEO. He coached and directed youth basketball teams in Delray Beach for seven years and has considerable experience working with young people in DSF’s neighborhood.

Ann Pepper 

Ann holds a nursing degree from Florida Atlantic University and is a longtime resident of Delray Beach.  Through her own education and the education of her two children, she is very knowledgeable regarding the School District of Palm Beach County and its diverse student population. She is well versed in all local issues within the Delray Beach community.   Ann is a certified personal trainer and is involved in the wellness activities of DSF students.  She directs DSF fundraising events and is also responsible for public relations and social media communications for Delray Students First.

Rudolph C. Collum, Ph.D. 

At present Dr. Collum is the Chief Operating Officer at The Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  He recently served as Assistant Principal and Associate Director at A.D. Henderson University School at Florida Atlantic University for five years.  Prior to that he was Assistant Principal at Village Academy in Delray Beach, Florida after four years there as a teacher and administrator.  Dr. Collum achieved his doctorate at Florida State University.

Tammy Ferguson, Ph.D.  

Dr. Ferguson holds both an Ed.D. and M.S. in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a B.S. from the University of Southern Mississippi. Over the past 20 years, Tammy has worked within K-12 education.  She serves as Head of School at The Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens and previously was Director of Florida Atlantic University Lab Schools, A.D. Henderson and FAU High School. Prior to her position at FAU, Dr. Ferguson’s positions in education included those of high school principal, assistant principal, curriculum and learning specialist, professional development coordinator and teacher. Dr. Ferguson is widely regarded as one of South Florida’s most influential public education leaders.

William R. Greenfield   

Bill serves as Treasurer to the Board of Directors of Delray Students First Inc.   Since 2008 Mr. Greenfield has provided tutoring, coached basketball, mentored and sponsored several disadvantaged minority high school students in Delray Beach, Florida.   He serves as Chairman of The Greenfield Group, a healthcare development company based in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Greenfield holds a master’s degree in taxation and a bachelor’s degree in accounting, both from the University of Florida; he has been a Certified Public Accountant.

Margi Greenfield  

Margi is a native of Florida and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Sciences from the University of Florida.  She worked 12 years for JM Family Enterprises in the positions of programming, systems analysis and teaching computer languages to JM associates for data analysis and reporting. Margi was a member of the Pine Crest School Parent’s Association, a Girl Scout Leader and a tutor/mentor for students attending Saint Andrew’s School and Village Academy. She co-chaired the Connected Warriors 4th Annual Gala Event and is currently a member of their Board Event Committee.

Jonathan Elias 

A Palm Beach county native, Jonathan is training as a mental health counselor and is the founder of a private tutoring company which assists college students recovering from addiction. For the past year he has mentored DSF students at Village Academy through an after-school fellowship program. Jonathan earned a B.A. in comparative literature from the University of Chicago and an M.S. in counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Academic Advisory Committee

Chair – Michel DiPalma – Village Academy

Sheldon Silver – Retired Principal
Leo Ressa – Vice Chair and Treasurer

Tutors / Teachers

Tammy Mose-Cooper
Debra Weier
Gary Alexandre
Shar Solis
Marissa Kingham

Retha Prescod
Dr. Susan Zacharias
Dr. Laura Waldron
Melissa Petersen
Catherine Darby