Skip to main content

About Us

Launchpad is a new program designed by Building21, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that is working to reimagine education by helping schools realize a more personalized, student-centered approach to connect young people to their futures. Founded in 2013, Building 21 currently operates two lab schools in partnership with the school districts in Philadelphia and Allentown and coaches 36 schools across the country to customize teaching and learning.

Meet Our Founding Team:

Launchpad Staff

Dannyelle Austin headshot
Executive Director

Dannyelle Austin

Passionate advocate for young people and spinning fanatic...

Dannyelle is a wife, a mother of three, and a passionate advocate for young people. She began her work with Launchpad as the first Executive Director in 2021, after having spent over ten years in education and workforce spaces. Growing up in a single parent home in Philadelphia first sparked Dannyelle’s interest in helping young people rise above their circumstances and become something greater than society’s expectations. From an early age, she knew she wanted to spend her life dedicated to helping young adults develop and achieve their dreams. Dannyelle graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls and went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree from Franklin & Marshall College. Dannyelle holds two Master’s Degrees – Higher Educational & Organizational Development & Leadership. Her personal journey along with her professional and educational experiences have helped to shape the future that Dannyelle has imagined for herself. When not working, you can find Dannyelle spending time with her family, in a spin studio, group fitness class, nail salon, or doing hair in her spare time.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

My first dream was to be Allen Iverson’s traveling hair braider. Then, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and that was mainly influenced by my love of the show, A Different World. Ultimately, I landed exactly where I was supposed to be.

What album can you listen to on repeat?

4 by Beyonce – I am a huge Beyonce fan and this is definitely my favorite album of hers and of all time.

Favorite hoagie or cheesesteak spot?

I grew up in Nicetown so I would have to say Max’s for the cheesesteak. Now that I am living in the Northeast, Marinucci’s for the hoagie.

What is something you would tell your 16-year-old self?

Have fun. There is always going to be a lot going on around you. Learn to dance in the rain and stay present in the moments that bring you joy. Most importantly, take every advantage available to just have fun.

Nick Imparato headshot
11th Grade Coordinator

Nick Imparato

Skilled educator and vintage clothing enthusiast...

Nick is the 11th Grade Coordinator for Launchpad and has been with Building 21 since 2022. He was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and a proud alumnus of the Baltimore City Public Schools system. Since earning his BA from Pomona College, Nick has dedicated his career to working with young people as a technology instructor and algebra tutor. He is moved by the mission of workforce development and eager to equip the young people of Philadelphia with resources, job experience, and a creative outlet. Outside of his work, Nick enjoys biking, vintage clothing, club music, and playing with his cat, Stache.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little I wanted to be a conductor—train or orchestra—I just wanted the title!

What album can you listen to on repeat?

Donuts by J Dilla

Favorite hoagie or cheesesteak spot?

I live near Little Saigon and nothing beats a Banh Mi sandwich from Ba Le Bakery.

What is something you would tell your 16-year-old self?

Spend less time thinking about following in other people’s footsteps and more time looking inward and deciding what you want for yourself.

Photo of Madison Helmick
Program Director

Madison Helmick

Dedicated youth mentor and ultimate Crocs fan...

Madison joined Launchpad in 2022 as the Program Director. She is a strong advocate for young people and brings an extensive background in positive youth development. Madison began her career over 10 years ago working with youth as a camp counselor in outdoor education and shifted into youth workforce development in 2017 after completing her Masters in Public Policy from the University of Delaware. Most recently, she managed continuous improvement strategies for a citywide network of youth programs, which included program evaluation and staff training, and before that she directed multiple youth workforce development programs, including the design and implementation of a pilot pre-apprenticeship initiative in IT. Madison is passionate about supporting youth voices and incorporating play through improv activities to help young people thrive and reach their goals. In her spare time you can find her leading outdoor adventure camps for teens, at the coffee shop with a good book, spending time with friends and family and running along the Schuylkill River with her MileUp youth running team.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a professional Broadway singer and dancer. But when I got my first job as a camp counselor, I wished I could do that forever.

What album can you listen to on repeat?

It’s so hard to pick just one! My music interests range from Third Eye Blind to Lizzo to indie rock to oldies. And I am a huge Lady Gaga fan. But I would have to say Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” because it helped me get through the early pandemic times and I still listen to it on repeat constantly.

Favorite hoagie or cheesesteak spot?

I lived in Cheesesteak Vegas when I first moved to Philly, but would always go out of my way to Ishkabibbles on South Street or Dalessandro’s in Roxborough. And I still think none compare to the cheesesteak at Claymont Steak Shop where I grew up in Claymont, Delaware!

What is something you would tell your 16 year old self?

Always strive to be your most authentic self – and it’s okay if you’re still figuring out who that is.

Launchpad Planning Board

Executive Director, Elevate 215

Stacy Holland

A visionary leader—and frustrated musician—seeking to bring the humanity back to education...

Inspired by her former students and relentlessly optimistic about the future of education, Stacy E. Holland, Ed.D., has nearly 30 years of experience developing and implementing educational solutions for children.

As Executive Director of Philadelphia School Partnership, Stacy is fostering a positive approach to aligning the education community of Philadelphia on a common vision and working to ensure every student has the modern learning experience that builds the skills needed to thrive and reach long-term economic security.

Prior to Philadelphia School Partnership, Stacy was founder and principal of The Holland Group, a boutique consulting firm that served as a strategic advisor to public/private educational systems and philanthropic organizations and supported the development of investment portfolios focused on high school redesign to career pathway models for young adults. Previously, as Executive Director of The Lenfest Foundation, Stacy managed the foundation’s endowment and annual grant budget, and was a content expert and leader within national, regional and local civic and philanthropic communities on the areas of education, youth workforce, career pathways, career and technical education, and philanthropic strategies. Before The Lenfest Foundation, she served as Chief of Strategic Partnerships for the School District of Philadelphia, where she built a new system for promoting the District’s fundraising initiatives and external relationships. Stacy also co-founded the Philadelphia Youth Network, growing the organization to a citywide entity dedicated to integrating services across more than 100 partners providing programming to nearly 20,000 youth annually.

Stacy earned a doctoral degree in learning and development from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She also holds a bachelor’s in marketing from The College of New Jersey and a master’s in student personnel administration in higher education from Columbia University.

Co-CEO, Building 21

Chip Linehan

Committed builder of programs to support young people and an aspiring chef...

Since 2013, Chip has served as the Co-CEO and Founder of Building 21, an educational nonprofit based in Philadelphia that works with communities, schools, and programs across the country to realize a more student-centered approach to teaching, learning and youth development. Chip has spent the past two decades building innovative, entrepreneurial organizations in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. As a partner at New Enterprise Associates, the world’s largest venture capital firm, Chip made investments in start-up companies that today account for more than $8 billion in sales and have created thousands of jobs. In 1997, Chip co-founded an educational nonprofit, The SMART Program, which provides socioeconomically disadvantaged children in San Francisco with access to life-changing educational opportunities.
Co-CEO, Building 21

Laura Shubilla

Passionate youth development leader and water-loving Pisces...

Laura has spent the last twenty years focused on cross-sector, systemic solutions to improve economic and educational outcomes for urban youth. Most recently, as Co-President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network, a nationally known youth intermediary, Laura helped to build college and career partnerships and pathways that served 20,000 youth annually through credit bearing, extended learning options. Prior to her work in Philadelphia, Laura started one of the first New Visions High Schools located in the South Bronx, NY. Laura’s work has involved the integration and alignment of complex funding streams, diverse stakeholders, and siloed systems in service to college and career readiness for high school age youth.