VersAbility Resources’ Newest Board Members Offer a Wealth of Expertise from Multiple Sectors



VersAbility Resources’ newest members for its 2022 Board of Directors hold leadership positions in industry, education and the nonprofit sector.

The new members are:

  • Shawn Avery, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Workforce Council
  • Susan Jacobs, Vice President of Human Resources and Administration, Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Aazia Mickens Dessaso, Executive Director of Ecosystem Development, Techstars
  • Casey Roberts, Executive Director, New Horizons Regional Education Centers
  • Edith White, CEO, Hampton Roads Community Action Program

“We welcome all of these regional leaders to our Board of Directors and are grateful that they are contributing their skills and experience to shaping the strategic direction of VersAbility,” said Kasia Grzelkowski, President and CEO. “Each of our new members share our vision of helping people of all abilities live, work, and thrive in our community.”

Here’s a closer look at the five additions:

Meet Shawn Aver

As President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Avery provides leadership, management and oversight for the premier Workforce Development organization in Virginia. The Council works to ensure systems are in place to create economic prosperity and enhance quality of life for all Virginians throughout the Commonwealth.

Avery’s interest in joining VersAbility’s board is “to provide the same opportunities to all individuals in Hampton Roads.”

Avery serves on various other boards and commissions, including the Virginia Advisory

Committee for Career and Technical Education, GO Virginia Regional Council, Hampton Roads

Chamber, Future Hampton Roads, Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Virginia, and the Hampton Roads Alliance.

Avery holds a graduate degree from Florida Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree from Christopher Newport University.

Meet Susan Jacobs

Jacobs is a veteran in human resources, having worked in that industry since 1986. Prior to her current position as Vice President of Human Resources and Administration for Newport News Shipbuilding, she served as Director of Human Resources and Administration at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

“I believe that everyone has something to contribute to others and that doing so enriches the lives of all involved,” Jacobs said. “I have seen the great things that VersAbility does and am honored to be a part of that work.”

Jacobs also serves on the boards of LEAD Virginia, Riverside Lifelong Health, Hampton Roads Chamber, and the Hampton Roads Alliance. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Meet Aazia Mickens Dessaso

In her current role at Techstars, Mickens Dessaso develops and executes strategies and plans to create opportunities for startups, investors, cities, and corporations. Techstars is a global network that provides support to entrepreneurs.

Mickens Dessaso’s tour of VersAbility’s Hampton headquarters several years ago inspired her to join the Board. She looks forward to using “my skills and network to provide access and opportunities for people with different abilities and to connect with like-minded business people in Hampton Roads who share an interest in equity and accessibility.”

Mickens Dessaso is a member of CIVIC and the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. She has appeared on “Shark Tank,” and was honored by the White House as an Emerging Global Entrepreneur.

Mickens Dessaso graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina.

Meet Casey Roberts

The Hampton native and fifth-generation educator serves as the Executive Director of the New Horizons Regional Education Centers, the largest of nine regional educational centers in Virginia. He previously held teaching positions in Hampton, Virginia Beach, Isle of Wight, and director positions for three boards – School Reform Initiative, Alumni Board of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, and Hampton Roads Committee of 200+ Men.

“I bring an array of skills and knowledge of workforce and economic development within the public education sphere that align with the mission and objectives of VersAbility,” Roberts said. “It is my belief that working together toward similar missions accelerates innovation, leverages networks, and further expands opportunities for all.

Roberts earned a graduate degree from Regent University and an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech. He is currently at work on his doctorate in education administration at The George Washington University.

Meet Edith White

As CEO of the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, White oversees the nonprofit with a mission of improving lives by providing optimum services and mobilizing community resources. She previously served more than 15 years at the Urban League of Hampton Roads, where she was president and CEO before retiring.

White notes that VersAbility’s mission “aligns with my personal values.”

White has served on several boards and committees over the years, including Empowerment 2010 Governance Board; Opportunity Inc.; Workforce Development Board; United Way Minority Council Advisory; Old Dominion University Community Development Corporation Board; Virginia State University Business Advisory Board; and the Newport News Public Superintendents Roundtable. She is the founder of Project Vision, a volunteer leadership development board.

White holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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