IACS Alumni Hawk

#the college years and beyond

October 2020

Fall Updates

Dear IACS Alumni,


We have opened our doors for the 2020-2021 academic year. Though things look quite different in our current remote plus plan, the energy and enthusiasm for learning is as strong as ever. There's even a new greenhouse on campus!


We hope you are all doing well during this challenging year. Our thoughts are with each one of you! We wish you and your families a safe and healthy autumn.


Remember that we'd like to hear about your adventures, experiences and what you've been up to. In the months and year ahead, we'll let you know about stuff that is going on here at IACS that you might want to hear about and we'll post a few pictures and stories from your peers. Share your contact information so that we can keep in touch! Do you have ideas on what you'd like to see in the next issue? Let us know!


Happy Halloween!


Take care,


Ms. Morocco

Alumni Updates

Melissa Kiessling (Class of '11)

After graduating IACS, I attended UMass Lowell as a commuting student majoring in English & Theatre, with minors in Spanish and Education. I had a wonderful experience with the faculty and opportunities provided through connections from the university that included an apprenticeship with the Berkshire Theatre Group, a summer conservatory program through the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and a research position through the school’s emerging scholars program. I also participated throughout my time in the many shows produced on campus.


After graduation, I was accepted into the Lincoln Center Scholars program to begin my Masters degree in Theatre & Education through Hunter College and Lincoln Center. During my time in the program, I taught theatre at a charter school in Washington Heights and enjoyed many wonderful experiences in the vibrant theatre scene of New York. After completing my MA in 2015, I moved back home and began working at Haverhill High School as an English teacher, but was then moved to develop the Theatre Arts Pathway within the Fine Arts Academy at the high school.


In 2018, I married my husband and we are both teaching locally. I am so grateful for the experiences that IACS provided for me and the opportunities I had as a member of the first graduating class. I’ll always remember the relentless work ethic of our faculty, as well as the energy, creativity, and passion they poured into our lessons and school environment to make the school a welcoming and educationally rich experience.

Jenzel Espares (Class of '12)

Since graduating from IACS, I went on to get Bachelor’s degrees in both Biology and Public Health from Brown University. After college, I ended up working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for two years as a clinical research assistant. I then went on to enroll at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM), and now I’m in my third year of medical school!


I recently finished my pre-clinical courses and am currently rotating through hospitals in the New York City and Long Island regions. While I haven’t really figured out the exact field that I’d like to go in just yet, I do find myself gravitating more toward the specialties that directly interact with patients. Working at the hospitals during the pandemic definitely hasn’t been easy, but luckily it hasn’t greatly affected my learning environment and general safety. Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been more available for all hospital staff these days compared to earlier this year and everyone has been taking extra steps to ensure proper social distancing, which is reassuring to see.


This is just a small piece of advice from me, but if you plan on going into the healthcare field (as a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, whatever), being proficient in Spanish can really go a long way. There are so many patients in our healthcare system that are solely Spanish-speaking, and the language barrier can make it much more difficult for them to voice out their concerns and get the care that they need. If you can overcome that barrier and establish a connection with them right from the get-go, not only will it help you, but it will also help out the patient and the rest of the medical team. Even now, I’m still drawing from all the Spanish I learned at IACS, so don’t take it for granted!

Rikka Guillen (Class of '14)

Since my time at IACS, I graduated from Simmons College with a BA in Economics and a minor in Sustainability. While in college, I enjoyed studying food systems and did a few research projects relating to it. During the summer after junior year, I received a grant as a SURPASs (Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Simmons) scholar to do an independent econometrics project on how climate change affects the world’s cocoa export revenue. At the same time, I also interned at Massachusetts Farm to School and did my capstone project on how the U.S. school food policies impacted child and adolescent development.


After graduating college, I ended up at Dana Farber as a New Patient Coordinator, where I am currently working. Even though it is not the field that I want to be in, I’ve definitely grown a lot from this role, and learned so much about lung cancer. Other than my job, I’m taking a class in Applied Microeconomics this fall since I am planning to start my Master’s next year!

Sydney Sylvain (Class of '15)

My name is Sydney and I was a part of the IACS class of 2015. From graduation, I attended UMass-Amherst where I enrolled as undeclared. At first, I had a hard time trying to figure out what I wanted to do (understandable, right?). My second semester of Freshman year, my academic advisor told me about a major where the senior project of the department is an ice cream competition. The premise was that a group of students would create an ice cream flavor (based on trend data) and whoever’s ice cream the judges chose, a local creamery would then start producing that flavor. From that point, I declared Food Science as my major (no joke).


The summer of my Junior year, I got an internship with the then Dunkin’ Donuts, as a Beverage Innovation Product Developer. The highlight of that internship was that I got to work on the Harpoon Brewery’s Dunkin’ Coffee Stout collaboration (I had just turned 21 that summer so it was perfect timing). After graduation, I moved to Philadelphia, PA where I currently work for this company called Wawa as their Beverage Product Development Specialist. I am actually celebrating my one year with the company this October!


The work that I am doing is really fun and challenging at times (IACS’s problem solving outcome has definitely come in clutch for me). Yet, I am grateful for the road here too, because I would have never expected it. If you have any questions about a degree in Food Science or work in product development, feel free to email me at: sydssylvain@gmail.com.

Luna Crowley (Class of '16)

Hi! My name is Luna Crowley I’m an IACS alum, class of 2016. Currently I am in my senior year at Northern Vermont University- Johnson where I am majoring in Wellness and Alternative medicine with a pre-med track of Osteopathic Medicine. I’m currently working on a senior thesis/ research project focusing on phytochemistry where I am extracting, identifying, and synthesizing active medicinal compounds in wild medicinal plants that grow up where I live. Phytochemistry is essentially the study of plants and plant products from an Organic Chemistry lens.


My life is pretty busy, but when I’m not doing schoolwork I love to fill my time with practicing yoga, tending to my vegetable garden, and most recently, making homemade salsa.


A few years ago I sat for my 100 ton USCG captain's license, and now in the summers, I captain for a 57 foot sailboat out of Long Island, NY. The mixture of being in the mountains for most of the year, then sailing (for a job!) in the summer has made for quite the fulfilling adventure. I'm looking forward to all that life has to offer, and as fall turns to winter rather quickly up in VT, I'm getting excited for the snowboarding season ahead.

Jacob Vitali (Class of '16)

I am immensely grateful to be rejoining the IACS community as a High School Instructional Support Staff member. It is exciting to be part of such a supportive team that is focused on delivering the best possible experience for students as they navigate challenges posed by new learning environments this year. I look forward to incorporating my own perspective as an IACS alum and as a recent college graduate as I get to know students.


In May, I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a concentration in Digital Media and Innovation from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. At MCLA, I led our college radio station WJJW-FM for two years and gained my first teaching experience conducting training sessions for new staff members and giving guest lessons in audio production to the 300-level Radio Practicum course. At MCLA, I also worked on our college newspaper the Beacon and served one semester as Editor-in-Chief. My work with the Beacon was celebrated with the James A. Hardman, Jr. scholarship for journalism in 2019, the college’s largest merit-based scholarship.


Outside the classroom, I continue to actively pursue my passions for photography, writing, and audio production. I often share work on Instagram @jacob.vitali and my website jakevitali.com.

Elisa Alexander (Class of '17)

Since high school, I started at Northeastern and am majoring in Architecture and double-minoring in Civil Engineering and Architectural Engineering. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy, which was really great. When I got back, I got sick and was admitted to Brigham and Women's for a month for a bone marrow transplant.


Since then, I've been in full recovery, and was actually cleared to head back to school until the pandemic hit. I'd actually been practicing social distancing for a year, being immunocompromised, so I guess I'm a pro! I'll be fully recovered in December which will mark two years post transplant.


As hard as it was being sick, and as frustrating as is has been having my life on hold for two years, I've really begun to appreciate the things that I otherwise wouldn't have time for like hiking, cooking, piano, art, video games, reading for leisure. I guess, now that I've seen and experienced a bit of how much worse life could be, it's made me value the things I previously took for granted. It is such a crazy time to be alive, too! With the death of John Lewis, the protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, the division of the country made more prevalent in quarantine--I've never felt like I was living history the way I do now.

Re-Connecting with IACS Staff

Unfortunately, we are unable to allow alumni visits due to state guidelines for limited visitors at this time. If you would like to reconnect with IACS teachers or staff, feel free to reach out by email. Conversations can be had by email or zoom. Feel free to reach out to me (smorocco@innovationcharter.org) anytime as well and I can assist with reconnecting you.

Internship Mentoring

Are you interested in mentoring an IACS intern in a certain field for a few hours a week? Would your company/organization like some help, a motivated learner, one who has the same core momentum that you were taught: community membership, self direction, problem solving and effective communication?


Do you have any work that can be completed remotely by an IACS junior or senior? We are still looking for mentors and welcome ideas for the 2020-2021 academic year. Please let us know if you can help!


If you are interested in being a part of an IACS student(s) journey to finding his/her career path by way of an internship, reach out to Shannon Morocco (smorocco@innovationcharter.org).

Become a Substitute Teacher!

We are always looking for more substitute teachers to add to our roster! If you are interested in subbing with us, you will need to register, participate in background checks as required by law, and complete training. Ready to go? Please fill out the following form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdIOnlEMDvRdweuA7gD0-_0ifpX9y6spQ49Zl0fEuwBwBCc5g/viewform?usp=sf_link.


For more information reach out: Crystal McKiel, High School & Ning Sisouvanh, Middle School

Keep in touch with us!

Check out our new "Class of" groups on our Innovation Academy Charter School Alumni Facebook page. Follow us on instagram: @iacsthebestalumni.