Spotlight on a Few of the Founding Members
Established in 2022, the REACH Prep Associate Board is comprised of 44 men and women philanthropists who actively promote the mission of REACH Prep through fundraising, volunteering, and networking. In the Associate Board’s first year, members have spent time visiting Prep Academy, a 15-month academic program benefitting REACH Prep’s youngest cohorts of scholars; conducted mock interviews to prepare the same scholars for independent school admissions; sat on career panels for REACH Prep alumni/ae; connected individually with REACH Prep alumni/ae for career, resume, and other guidance; provided internship opportunities; tapped into their firms’ diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; co-chaired and served on event committees for each of REACH Prep’s signature fundraising events; and most importantly, served as ambassadors of the organization in their communities. Associate Board members represent a variety of current and former industries and interests but share the same passion for REACH Prep’s mission to provide access to transformative educational experiences that empower the next generation of students to graduate from top colleges and to emerge as the next generation of leaders.
Featured are six founding members of the inaugural Associate Board who have joined as couples, three of whom are currently serving in leadership roles. Margo Cole as Associate Board Chair, Sarah Aerni and Kevin O’Keeffe as Co-Chairs of REACH Prep’s 3rd Annual Golf and Tennis Outing on June 5th.
Clay and Margo Cole
I grew up in a suburb of Boston, and Clay grew up in Northwest Arkansas. Work fortuitously brought Clay to Boston, where we met in 2009.
Clay attended Rogers High School in Rogers, AR and earned his Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Arkansas. I attended Middlesex School in Concord, MA; earned my Bachelors of Science in Finance at Boston College; and then earned my MBA at Babson College.
Clay and I ended up in somewhat similar realms via very different paths. My educational journey was certainly a rigorous one – and Clay and I often joke about the stark differences in our spelling and grammar as a result – but perhaps what defined it the most was the continuous support I received along the path to and through college and ultimately towards my career. Beyond the actual content of my private school curricula, the exposure I gained towards innumerable career paths and the access I was granted to various networks really put me on third base; I was interning at a hedge fund as a high schooler! Clay’s journey was very different having attended public school in Arkansas where college and career exposure wasn’t necessarily as woven into the day-to-day. Clay credits a lucky interaction for his path to finance: he was working at a golf course in college when a member suggested that he look into investment banking, a field he had never before heard of. Had this person not sought Clay out and pointed him in this particular direction, Clay never would have known it existed, let alone pursued it. What inspires both of us about REACH Prep is that it takes the “luck” out of the equation for scholars by putting them in environments where they find maximum academic / social / financial support, broaden their horizons naturally, and know which doors to knock on – when, and how. Scholars are aware and prepared in a way that many of their peers are not, and they are ready to enter the world as true achievers. This, to us, is how trajectories are changed.
Clay has built his career in private equity by way of investment banking. His current position as Managing Director at A&M Capital moved us to Greenwich in early 2017. I started my career in equity sales and trading and moved into venture capital post business school, specifically focusing on investing in early stage consumer brands. More recently, I have exited the world of finance to focus on raising our children. We have two boys, ages 5 and 3, and our third son is on the way this summer!
Our involvement in REACH Prep has been very organic and certainly grown over time. We were first introduced to REACH Prep in 2018 through a backyard cocktail party and were immediately drawn to the mission and impact of the program. I joined the Junior Council in the fall of 2018 and took on the role of Co-Chair and Chair from 2019-2021. Clay co-chaired REACH Prep’s first golf event in 2021, and I co-chaired REACH Prep’s first evening event in 2021 (the Masquerade), and, witnessing how many friends and young professionals across Greenwich were interested in supporting the organization, I realized that there was a much bigger opportunity to involve others. 2022 was a big brainstorming and building year, and in the fall of 2022, we launched the Associate Board, a group of 40+ individuals who share a passion for education equality and a deep enthusiasm REACH Prep’s program and outcomes. I currently serve as a member of the Board of Directors and the Chair of the Associate Board, and Clay is a proud member of the Associate Board.
What are your goals for the Associate Board?
Our collective goals include expanding awareness of the amazing and important work REACH Prep is doing in our immediate community – and across Fairfield & Westchester counties and the Bronx – in providing transformative educational experiences, and continuing to garner support of the organization so that it can further grow its impact in both breadth and depth. We are so encouraged at the early engagement of our Associate Board less than one year in, not only as it relates to the group’s financial impact, but also as it relates to the group’s desire and ability to connect with REACH Prep’s scholars, be it through practice independent school interviews, resume review, interview guidance, networking, and more, and there is so much room to grow!
What has struck you the most about working with REACH students?
We have had the pleasure of connecting with REACH Prep’s youngest cohorts of students through the years as well as numerous REACH Prep alumni/ae, and whatever the age, we are continually blown away by their determination, poise, and immense potential. The future feels so bright when you speak with an 11 year old scholar embarking on her journey through the program, or a 12 year old who is presenting his coding project during Prep Academy, or an alumni scholar who has developed an award-winning hydrogen technology that might be the next big alternative energy source. Each scholar is more impressive than the last!
What makes you smile when you think about REACH Prep?
One of the joys of being involved in the organization for the past 5+ years is watching the evolution of students from their first few months in the program to where they are today. As Associate Board members, we have the opportunity to help 5th grade REACH Prep scholars prepare for independent school admissions interviews, and spending 30 minutes one-on-one with them is amazing! Then, to watch them stand up and speak before hundreds of people at a REACH Prep event months later, or seeing them absolutely thrive at their independent schools and beyond is hands down the most rewarding aspect of our involvement because we can see firsthand how well the model is working. We can’t wait to watch these same cohorts of scholars follow in the footsteps of those scholars before them who have carved truly inspiring paths both in and out of college.
Sarah and Jeff Aerni
Sarah grew up in Rye, NY and Jeff in Cleveland, OH.
Sarah went to Rye High School and Jeff went to St. Edward High School. They both went to Miami University.
Sarah worked in Sales and Marketing for both a negotiation consultancy and AT&T’s Public Sector before becoming a mother to two little girls, Olivia, 5 and Grace, 2, which is when she decided to dedicate her full time and attention to raising them.
Jeff is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Landrock, a commercial real estate investment firm.
We were invited to fundraisers over the years and in learning about REACH Prep’s mission, we became particularly drawn to the organization. Last year, we joined the newly formed Associate Board, and have been delighted to work more closely with the organization to help them foster, develop, and grow their platform.
Our goal is to contribute in as many meaningful ways as possible. We are focused on supporting REACH Prep’s goals in the short-term, and hope to simultaneously create enough impact to help shape the program in the long-term.
We are impressed by the Scholars’ abilities to set their goals with steadfast intentions and pave paths towards them at such young ages. These children are remarkably determined.
We are helping to facilitate children’s aspirations and dreams. REACH Prep is much more than an educational platform – they are changing the course of their Scholars’ futures, families, and communities, as well.
Margaret Stevens O’Keeffe
& Kevin O’Keeffe
Kevin grew up in Westchester and attended Archbishop Stepinac and then Manhattan College, where he played Division I basketball. Margaret grew up in Concord, Massachusetts and attended Concord Carlisle and then Tisch NYU.
Kevin spent many years as a trader on Wall Street and is currently a Partner at Lockton Companies, specializing in insurance for private equity deals. Margaret went to school to study theater and worked as an actress for several years. After she stopped acting, she worked in Music Publishing. Their children are John, 8 and Eleanor, 5.