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“Why I Apprentice” Judges

January 31, 2020

Competition Judges

Andrea Messing-Mathie
Panel Chair; Director, JFF

Andrea Messing-Mathie is a director at JFF. She focuses on youth apprenticeships, believing that work-based learning is an important element of any strategy to build effective college and career pathways for young people. Through her work at JFF, she strives to support apprenticeship providers at the local level by building integrated strategies that enable communities to develop the capacity—and the will—to fulfill the promise of work-based learning in general and youth apprenticeships in particular.

Before joining JFF, Andrea was the principal and founder of Innovate Advising and the deputy director of the Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, where she oversaw the development and buildout of the Illinois Advanced Apprenticeship Consortium and Standing Youth Committee and led the Illinois 60 by 25 Network and Great Lakes College and Career Pathways efforts. She also worked closely with partners in Illinois to develop opportunity youth projects, striving to bring partners to the table who focused on building programs that helped to bridge opportunities between education and employment for underrepresented populations.

Olivia Bell
Senior, John Hersey High School, Arlington Heights, IL

Olivia Bell is a senior at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She spends her free time tutoring, contributing to her school’s literary magazine, or participating in John Hersey’s debate team and Model U.N. She enjoys writing, running, and volunteering.

Zach Boren
Senior Policy Program Manager, the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at Urban Institute
Zach Boren is a Senior Policy Program Manager with the Center on Labor, Human Services and Population at the Urban Institute. At Urban, he leads a variety of apprenticeship-focused projects, including youth apprenticeship, and is a technical expert related to Registered Apprenticeship and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).

Prior to Urban, Zach spent 11 years with the U.S. Department of Labor, where he was the director of Registered Apprenticeship and Policy—overseeing national program standards, occupations, and EEO.

He has additionally worked with U.S. Coast Guard on congressional affairs and on Capitol Hill. A native of Indiana, Zach received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University and holds a Master’s Degree in Congressional and Presidential Studies from The Catholic University of America.

Victoria Long
Youth Apprentice, Arrow Electronics; graduate, Eaglecrest High School, Centennial, CO

A Colorado native, Victoria Long has been working as an apprentice for Fortune 500 company Arrow Electronics for the past two years. She graduated from Eaglecrest High School in 2019 and enrolled in the University of Colorado Denver, where she is majoring in financial management and accounting.

Victoria has a passion for expanding youth apprenticeship in Colorado and nationally because of the impact apprenticeship has had on her life. She was chosen as the chair of the 2019-20 CareerWise Colorado Apprentice Advisory Council and volunteers to speak to students about the benefits of youth apprenticeship any chance she gets.

Brent Parton

Deputy Director, Center on Education & Skills, New America, Washington, DC

Brent Parton is the deputy director of the Center on Education & Skills with the Education Policy program at New America, a bipartisan policy and research institution based in Washington, DC.

At New America, Brent’s work focuses on federal and state policies related to skills and workforce development. As part of this work, he is currently leading the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship, a national, multiyear initiative that supports states and cities to looking to expand access to dual education opportunities for American secondary students.

Before joining New America, Brent served as a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama Administration. There, he advised leadership on a range of skills issues and investments, including the expansion of the U.S. apprenticeship system.

Earlier in his career, Brent worked at the National Governors Association, where he supported U.S. governors on state policy strategies related to skills development, and before that he worked on youth employment and vocational education and training policy in the education sector of the World Bank.

He has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in international education policy, both from Vanderbilt University, where he is also an adjunct professor.

Ariana Pelaez
Youth Apprentice, Artists for Humanity; senior, Madison Park High School, Roxbury, MA

Ariana Pelaez is a senior at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Ariana’s after-school and summer job for the past year and a half has been as a teen videographer at Artists for Humanity (AFH) in Boston, where she has developed a love for shooting and editing videos. She plans to continue her film production studies in college next year, and credits AFH for opening her eyes to creative industries as a viable career path.

About Artists for Humanity (AFH)

Based in Boston, AFH provides under-resourced teens with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design.

AFH is built on the philosophy that engagement in the creative process is a powerful force for social change, and that creative entrepreneurship is a productive and life-changing opportunity for young people.

Bridging economic, racial, and social divisions, AFH enriches urban communities by introducing young people’s creativity to the business community.​ Learn more at