Access Academies Names Shelly Williams Executive Director

ST. LOUIS, MO, November 24, 2020 — Access Academies, a leading local nonprofit that propels at-risk middle school students to college and career success, is excited to announce Shelly Williams as its new executive director. Williams officially started on November 9, 2020, and succeeds Tom Mackowiak, who retired after seven years of service on the board and as executive director.

“On behalf of the Board and Access team, I am thrilled to welcome Shelly as our new executive director. Shelly is a proven leader with a passion for the Access mission. She brings a wealth of knowledge, a demonstrated record of building, nurturing, and leveraging community partnerships, and years of experience working to better the lives of children,” says Brian Day, Access’ new Chairman of the Board. “Shelly is the right person to guide this organization into the future, and we are fortunate to have her join the Access family.”

Williams joins Access with over 14 years of nonprofit experience bringing positive change to the lives of children across the St. Louis region, state of Missouri, and nation. Most recently, she served as the Director of Marketing and Community Engagement for the LUME Institute in University City, where among other achievements, she designed the Vroom Engagement Strategy and launched a statewide initiative to help parents and caregivers build strong emotionally responsive relationships.

“I am both honored and excited to take on the role of executive director at Access Academies, an incredible opportunity that speaks to my passions, skillset, and guiding principle; that all children should have equitable access and opportunity to thrive.”

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame (where she currently serves as Chair of the Black Alumni of Notre Dame Board and Board Member for the Notre Dame Alumni Association), Williams is known for strategically building cross-sector partnerships and empowering others to maximize their collective potential while utilizing their voices to lead change.

In addition to the LUME Institute, she’s also worked at Boys Hope Girls Hope and the Nine Network of Public Media, where she served PBS stations and local communities nationwide as the Initiative Director of American Graduate. Williams’ efforts garnered multiple honors and awards, including an EMMY from The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

As executive director, Williams will work closely with the board, staff, and partner schools to guide Access through an exciting new chapter in the organization’s history. Building on its successful extended-day enrichment programs, 11+ years of graduate support counseling, and generous high school scholarships, Access recently launched an innovative partnership with Saint Louis University aimed at further bolstering education resources for the hundreds of Academy students across St. Louis.

“In this role, I hope to continue advancing the success of Access Academies. I believe high-quality education and supportive adults are essential to uplifting our youth and improving the vitality of our region. Access is doing the precise work — achieving educational impact by giving every student, every chance, every day — that will lead us to a brighter future.”

Access Academies
Founded in 2005, Access propels at-risk middle school students through high school and on to college and career success with enrichment, counseling, and scholarships. The Access program currently serves over 500 students in three partner middle schools, 26 local college-prep high schools, and 59 colleges and post-secondary institutions across the country.

To date, Access has provided over $6.1 million in high scholarships and positively impacted the lives of more than 1,240 students in the St. Louis area: 99 percent of its graduates are accepted to private, college-prep high schools; 98 percent graduate on-time; and 96 percent are accepted to colleges, universities, or other post-secondary institutions. Learn more at


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dave Baldwin, Director of Communications and Media Relations, at 646.662.7175 or [email protected].