Byerschool Foundation Staff
Laurada's involvement in the Philadelphia community, both in the non-profit and business sectors, has been both active and varied. A licensed real estate broker from 1976-1986, Laurada earned her MBA from Temple University in 1990. Since 1971, she has been a board member of International House Philadelphia, a non-profit organization that encourages cross-cultural understanding and assists hundreds of students with their adjustment to American society and life in Philadelphia. As chairman of International House's board in the early 1990s, Laurada was a pivotal influence in founding the Festival of World Cinema, which later became the Philadelphia Film Festival.
In 1992, Laurada founded Warthog Productions, which created products that use humor and compassion to educate and enrich peoples' lives. Her most recent publication, Book of Blessings – 52 Graces From Around the World, is co-authored by Joe Torsella and features blessings from various religions and ethnicities worldwide.
Laurada’s other contributions and accomplishments in the local not-for-profit arena include: board member for the Alliance of Charter Schools; co-founder of the University Citigroup to promote University City in West Philadelphia; and past chair of the board and executive committee member of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. Most recently, Laurada organized leaders to form Philadelphia Charters for Excellence (PCE), an alliance of high performing public charter schools committed to creating a path toward academic and personal excellence for all students. PCE member schools are committed to innovation in educational excellence, to transparent and responsible decision-making, to the safety and well being of our students, and to the inclusion of families and communities in support of student achievement.
Laurada has won numerous awards for her community service including: Philadelphia magazine's "Volunteer of the Year" award in 2004; Kent School's "Reverend Frederick H. Sill, O.H.C. Society Award" in 2006; Philadelphia Business Journal's "Women of Distinction Award" in 2007; and the "Take the Lead" award from the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2007, given to women who have demonstrated exemplary achievement in their profession or field. In 2009, Laurada was honored to receive a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Lastly, she was elected into the Kent Alumni Council in 2012.
Laurada lives in Center City, Philadelphia, and has two children and three grandchildren. Her son Russell Byers, Jr. lives in New York with his family and her daughter, Alison Byers lives in Society Hill, Philadelphia.
Vanessa Gelbaugh is Operations Manager and Executive Assistant to Laurada Byers. She received her B.A. from Bloomsburg University. Before joining the Byerschool Foundation in 2006, she worked as an Executive Assistant and Office Manager for a financial institution. E-mail Vanessa or call (215) 772-3053.
Emily Coffin is the Director of Development for the Byerschool Foundation. She has supported the Foundation's development efforts as the Development Coordinator, consultant, and grant writer since 2009. In July 2012, Emily returned from two years working in Guatemala City developing social entrepreneurship initiatives for women through the NGO Safe Passage/Camino Seguro. As the Social Entrepreneurship Program Manager, she principally focused on building the internal capacity and expanding the recycled jewelry-making collective, CREAMOS. She originally landed in Philadelphia from her home in the Boston area to serve as the PA Deputy Youth Vote Director for the 2008 Obama campaign. Emily is a graduate of Bowdoin College where she earned a dual degree in Government & Legal Studies and Spanish. E-mail Emily or call at (215) 772-3053.
Antonio Watson is the Assistant Director of Development for the Byerschool Foundation. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 2012 with a BA in Psychology and Spanish. Before joining the Foundation, he worked as a Program Associate at an early care and education organization in Alaska. E-mail Antonio or call at (215) 772-3053.