Esther Mellinger Stief
A steadfast advocate of learning and the pursuit of higher education, Esther Mellinger Stief has served as the Executive Director of Crossroads Foundation since 2017. Prior to accepting the position of Executive Director, she worked as the Director for Research and Program Development of Crossroads for five years.
Esther first began her career in education as a high school English teacher, working with students in the classroom for 10 years. Following her years as an educator, Esther used her expertise to provide support to other organizations, working as a Research Site Coordinator, freelance writer, and Educational Consultant before joining Crossroads.
Esther holds undergraduate degrees in Sociology and English from Westminster College, as well as a graduate degree in Education from the University of Pittsburgh.
When she has a moment of free time, you'll find Esther outdoors — hiking, kayaking, skiing, or biking with her family and friends. She's also an avid reader and is usually in the middle of two or three books.
"Working at a small nonprofit like Crossroads provides opportunities for getting involved in almost every part of the organization's functioning — there is always a new challenge, creative idea, or beneficial program to become engaged in. I like being able to immediately problem-solve, measure impact, and effect change; I'm never bored. But most of all, working at a small nonprofit allows me to work tangibly toward our mission every day as I interact with our scholars and see firsthand the results of the work our team does."”
College Access Counselor
College Admissions Counselor Aaron Chapman is so committed to motivating his students that, in a previous job, he told a student that if they earned straight As, he would cut his hair any way the student wanted. He sported a mohawk for months.
Aaron shares that same commitment with his Crossroads seniors, as they make their decisions about college and career. He has worked in the admissions department of several institutions, including Rosedale Technical College, as well as the Pittsburgh Promise.
Aaron earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in history, from Carlow University. He has a passion for football, both playing and coaching. When he’s not working, he likes to read and watch “Family Feud,” his favorite show. He lives in Bellevue.
“Crossroads is truly amazing. It gives me life.””
Ramona Crawford, Ed.D.
Senior Director of Programs
Dr. Ramona M. Crawford is a skilled and motivated nonprofit leader. With an extensive history working in various educational, nonprofit and family/child service settings, she has brought value to organizations across various systems. Ramona's passion lies in promoting child and adult development through effective community building, teaching, tutoring and training. Additionally, she works tirelessly to understand organizations to advance educational practices, especially with regards to the interconnectedness of environmental, human health, social equity, and economic systems.
Currently, Dr. Crawford serves as the Senior Director of Programs at Crossroads Foundation. With this position, she oversees all aspects of programing and program development at Crossroads Foundation, ensuring best practices and regular evaluation of program functioning. In Ramona's previous role she served as the director of research and impact at Green Building Alliance and a community-engaged research assistant at Duquesne University.
She holds a bachelor's degree from Florida State University in Family and Child Science with a minor in Psychology, a master's degree in Counseling Psychology, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Duquesne University.
When she is not working she enjoys cycling, reading, writing fiction, traveling, frolicking on the beach, and going to baseball games.
I am excited to join Crossroads Foundation because I strongly believe in working to increase access and opportunity through positive and intentional relationship building with our scholars, their families, our partner schools and the larger community.”
As Program Manager, Gabriella Davis plans and implements programs that support the academic, personal-social, and college and career development of the Crossroads scholars. Gabriella specializes in youth programming, particularly involving restorative justice practices and conflict resolution.
A Pittsburgh native, Gabriella volunteers as a community mediator with a local nonprofit called Just Mediation PGH, and serves on the YWCA (Greater Pittsburgh) Young Leaders Board.
Gabriella earned her B.A. in Political Science from Delaware State University. On her days off, she enjoys spending time with family/friends and exploring her hometown of Pittsburgh.
"Working at a small non-profit, like Crossroads is inspiring because we have the ability to make such huge impact with such a small team. We are providing necessary support and services for young people looking for opportunities, and that makes a difference."”
Nina Hoyt is a Counselor at Crossroads, primarily serving students at Seton LaSalle, Bishop Canevin, and Our Lady of Sacred Heart high schools. Prior to her role as a counselor, she worked as a tutor for Crossroads through the AmeriCorps KEYS program.
Nina has worked with and mentored youth for over seven years, as well as led high school Bible study groups during her years as an undergraduate student. She truly believes in the potential of every young person to achieve their goals and, as a Crossroads Counselor, is thrilled to have the opportunity to offer support and resources for scholars and help prepare them for life beyond high school.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Nina holds a Bachelor's degree in Social Work from Ohio State University.
On her off-days, Nina enjoys being in the great outdoors — hiking, camping, playing volleyball, and just generally working out. She also loves a good book and a fresh cup of coffee.
"What I love about being part of a small nonprofit like Crossroads is that we get to really focus on the students that we serve. The scholars aren't just a number in the system, they get individual attention and care from staff members."”
Sr. Sandy Kiefer
An early and steadfast champion of Crossroads Foundation, Sr. Sandy Kiefer has been a part of our organization for 35 years, serving in every capacity from Counselor to Executive Director. Currently, she functions as a teacher, mentor, and advocate for scholars and coordinates Crossroads’ academic support systems, including daily tutoring, guidance, and intervention. During her time here, she has advised over 700 scholars!
Sr. Sandy has been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden for 50 years, during which time she has served as a missionary in the Amazon, a middle school teacher, and the principal of Holy Rosary School. Sr. Sandy also holds her B.A. in Education and Biology from Carlow University and a Master’s in Theology from Duquesne University.
A deeply caring and compassionate individual, Sr. Sandy has fostered over 90 children. She also enjoys gardening, spending time in nature, reading poetry, and watching sports in her free time.
"I believe in the importance of equitable educational opportunities for all children, and that's the reason that Crossroads exists. I am so blessed to have had the inspirational privilege and honor of accompanying our young scholars on their journeys for over 30 years."”
Justin Pacini has worked for Crossroads for almost two years and is a dedicated Counselor. While he primarily works with scholars at Central Catholic and Serra Catholic High School, he takes every opportunity to influence young people in a positive way and support their growth. Prior to joining Crossroads, Justin worked for five years as an educator, teaching social studies and providing academic guidance to students in a cyber-school environment.
Justin earned his B.S. in History and his Secondary Social Studies teaching certificate from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Additionally, Justin holds an M.S.Ed. from Duquesne University in Instructional Technology and is a certified Instructional Technology Specialist.
A major hockey fan, Justin never misses a Penguins' game. He also enjoys exploring the city of Pittsburgh with his lovely wife and their pup, cooking for his friends and family, and reading — particularly history books.
"I believe that education is one of the most powerful agents of social change and am humbled to be in a position to help others take charge of their own education. At Crossroads, we aim to help every scholar find a vocation that truly speaks to them and ensure that their potential finds its path. I'm grateful to be a trusted member of such a dedicated, close-knit team."”
As Admissions Counselor, Maria Shoop is frequently the first Crossroads representative that prospective scholars and families meet. She joined the staff in late 2022. Throughout her career, Maria has been passionate about implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies. She brings that passion to her work at Crossroads, along with a commitment to reaching out to families from various backgrounds who could benefit from a Crossroads high school experience.
Maria previously worked at Student Support Services at the University of Pittsburgh, where she learned the importance of preparing freshmen, especially those from low-income and/or first-generation college families, for the challenges of higher education.
Maria earned a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Chatham University. A native of Swissvale, she now lives near Oakmont with her wife, Kim, and their three-year-old twins. When not working, Maria likes to create and view theater and film, play video games, and spend time with her twins.
“There is an immediacy and an intimacy to working at a small non-profit like Crossroads that I love; we can see the impact of our work happening in real time. Our drive to increase educational access and opportunities for scholars and families is personal and passionate, and in turn we are lucky enough to see young people doing great things.””
Tashai Thompson is a counselor for our scholars at Oakland Catholic High School. She comes to us from Kingston, Jamaica. As a child growing up in poverty in Kingston, Jamaica, Tashai, known as T, was inspired by the work of Mother Teresa. T served as a counselor for abandoned children with disabilities at the Mustard Seed Community outside of Kingston. She heard of La Roche through Move a Mountain Ministries, a fundraising arm of Mustard Seed, based at Divine Mercy Parish in Uptown. She enrolled and moved to Pittsburgh in 2019.
T graduated in 2022 with a degree in sociology and international studies. After contacting executive director Esther Mellinger Stief to share her enthusiasm for Crossroads, T joined the staff later that year.
When she’s not working, T enjoys spending time with her wife, Analis, and walking their Pomeranian, Enzo in North Park. She lives in the North Hills.
"I am humbled and grateful to be a part of an organization that goes above and beyond ensuring equity in education. I have learned a long time ago that teamwork makes the dream work, but my experience at Crossroads teaches me that we are not just a team; we are a family dedicated to making a difference."”
Alumni Success Coordinator
Having graduated from Seton LaSalle and the Crossroads program in 2013, Abednego is honored to return to the foundation to help as the Alumni Success Coordinator. He looks forward to helping alumni continuously prosper and find their way in the world.
Before working at Crossroads, he had experienced what the nonprofit world had in store through his career as a Program Coordinator and Operations Director for Melting Pot Ministries. His work had revolved around aiding students with not only academics, but with their overall quality of life.
Abednego enjoys creating art, reading books, and exploring the world we live in.
"It's a privilege to be a vital thread in the tapestry of Crossroads' journey. From scholar to now, a member of the team, I am humbled by the remarkable path that has guided me back to where it all started. Today, I am grateful to give back to the community that supported and enriched me, forging ahead to inspire other scholars as they navigate their own God-given paths."”