Our Team


Omayra L. Padilla De Jesús, PhD, MBA

Executive Director

Omayra, originally from Puerto Rico, earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus), and her Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. In 2003 she joined the headquarters of GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY to work on Biotech Advanced Technology Programs. As a Senior Scientist, she also acted as a Project Leader for GE Healthcare programs. Driven by her passion for education and at-risk youth, Omayra initiated the Inspire Program at GE Global Research Center in 2009– awarded the GE Global Impact Award in Education in 2010. During her tenure at GE, in 2013, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility recognized her nationally for her technical achievements and community involvement as 1 out of 33 Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers. Her involvement with the Schenectady youth inspired her to leave her formal career as a scientist to apply her expertise and passion more directly with community-focused efforts. In her transition, she earned an MBA degree from SUNY Albany, while also teaching as an adjunct professor of chemistry at The College of St Rose.

Currently, in addition to her role as Executive Director of Rise High, she also serves as Chair of the Distribution Committee of The Schenectady Foundation, Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of City Mission Schenectady, and Member of the Advisory Board of the Department of Education at Clarkson University, Capital District Campus.

Omayra loves brunches and organizing theme parties to celebrate with friends and family. She lives in Clifton Park with her husband, three daughters, and her mother, with whom she loves traveling and spending time.

Stacey Giordano, EdM

Director of Education

Stacey Giordano is an experienced STEM educator and a certified (NYS) school principal with over 20 years of experience in teaching and academic administration. She specializes in alignment of curriculum and program with school mission and desired student outcomes, teacher professional development, educational evaluation protocols, and facilitates school leadership team development. She has worked as a teacher and/or administrator in public and independent schools and has served as an educational consultant.

Stacey began her college career studying large animal veterinary medicine. Along the way, she realized she loved science education and has been teaching science and math to middle and high school aged students since. Her educational philosophy is rooted in constructivist principles which means that her classrooms are active places where students are building their understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts through interaction with relevant content. As an academic administrator, Stacey views educational challenges as opportunities to improve student, family and teacher experiences.

Stacey holds graduate degrees in educational leadership and curriculum and instruction from Cornell University and Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught graduate level courses in teacher development and curriculum theory, supervised student teachers in school placements, and has published works in agricultural science and education. She has served on evaluation and accreditation teams for the New York and New Jersey Association of Independent Schools as well as the Middle States Association of College and Schools.

Stacey is an agriculturist and lives on a small farm in Grafton, NY with her wife. They have two college-aged children.

Mark Little, PhD

Board of Directors, President and Treasurer

In his 37 year career at General Electric, Mark Little served in diverse senior leadership roles in operations, research, strategic planning, joint venture development, and product management. From 2005, as GE’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Senior Vice President/Director of GE Global Research, Mark reported to the CEO and developed fundamental technologies to help GE compete and grow in every one of its businesses: energy, oil & gas, aviation, healthcare, transportation, consumer products, and financial services.

A company officer for 21 years, Mark had a two-part senior leadership career at GE managing both major lines of business and global research. Mark became only the ninth director of GE Global Research in the company’s history. Mark’s research team of over 3,600 people was from every major scientific and engineering discipline, working at nine facilities in the USA, India, China, Germany, Brazil, and Israel. As CTO, he led some 50,000 technologists across GE.

Charitable work is central to Mark’s purpose. He and his wife founded and operate the Little Family Foundation, which supports the local community as well as international and veterans organizations.

Since retiring from GE, Mark continues to be active in business as a Director of Analog Devices Inc., a Venture Partner in Material Impact, and a board member in a number of startups. He is also active in the Schenectady Community as Chairman of the Board of Ellis Medicine, Chairman of the Schenectady Smart City Commission, Director of Better Community Neighborhoods, and a strong supporter of Young Parents United and the Schenectady Boys and Girls Clubs.

Mark trained as a mechanical engineer, with a bachelor’s degree from Tufts, master’s from Northeastern, and Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of which Mark is a Trustee. Family life is at Mark’s core. He and his wife Terri have two adult children and two beautiful granddaughters. He is an avid book reader, a self-taught guitarist (rock, blues, jazz), a golfer, and a huge Boston sports fan.

Teresa (Terri) Little

Board of Directors, Vice President

Terri is a former teacher who holds a Master of Arts Degree in Special Education. She has been an active community volunteer for over 25 years. She has served on the boards of The Schenectady Foundation, Safe Inc of Schenectady, Bethesda House, Jr. League of Schenectady and St. Kateri School Board. Terri has enjoyed being a mentor in Schenectady schools and loves to spend time with her grandchildren.

Terri and her husband, Mark, founded and operate the Little Family Foundation, which supports many local community organizations including Boys & Girls Club, Ellis Hospital, Girls Inc., City Mission, and Young Parents United, among others.

Julie Little

Board of Directors, Secretary

Julie earned her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University. She joined General Electric’s Operations Management Leadership Program in 2005. She was a regional Sourcing Leader at GE until leaving to focus on her family.

Julie enjoys gardening, cooking, photography, and spending time with her family. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Niskayuna.


Collage - Our Team - Risehigh

We have an amazing team that keeps things rolling! This group includes local scientists, educators, college students and professionals in various fields of science, and dedicated volunteers that simply love children! Our people engage in various roles that include, but are not limited to…

• managing all technical planning that supports computer-aided curricula

• guiding curriculum development alongside local experts who deliver current and highly relevant content

• supporting student engagement

• weekly mentoring of students assigned to each grade cohort represented (currently 7th, 8th, and 9th grades)

• planning and distribution of weekly meals for our students during session

We could not do it without them!

Aida Amroussia  ♦  Alexandra Ashby  ♦  Andy Berner  ♦  Sheila Canabush  ♦  Joseph Christian  ♦  Tom Citriniti  ♦  Corinne Coleman  ♦  Tori Coleman  ♦  Joshua  Conway ♦  Nieem Crockett  ♦  Christine DeLuke  ♦  Leigh Feguer  ♦  Jen Insull  ♦  Chris Janishak  ♦  Elaine Kennedy  ♦  Nikole Kucza  ♦  Brandon LaFleur  ♦  Lakhena Leang  ♦  Sherif Mohamed  ♦  Shridhar Nath  ♦  Shrilata Nath  ♦  Jen Nechamen  ♦  Jeannie Plis  ♦  Arden Rauch  ♦  Elizabeth Rivera  ♦  Andrea Schmitz  ♦  Dessie Shoemaker  ♦  PR Subramanian