Program Founders

Sam has a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He became a professor of Education and Child Study at Smith in 1999 after more than a decade of teaching and administrative service in public schools in New York, Vermont, and California. Over the years he has coached high school and youth sports. He founded the Smith College Urban Education Initiative—an educational outreach program that engages students in intensive service-learning experience by placing them in urban school settings during their winter term. The author of four books, including Tuned in and Fired, which was a finalist for the Grawemeyer Award in Education, Intrator has been awarded a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship and an Ella Baker Fellowship.

Sam Intrator


Faculty co-director




Leadership & Staff
Yesenia Valentin

Assistant Program Director



Yesenia Valentin started out as a youth coach in Project Coach. After her high school graduation, Yesenia joined the  PC staff team. Currently our Assistant Program Director, Yesenia prepares weekly activities for the team and leads coach training sessions. Even more valuable to our program is her additional work as a leader and mentor for younger coaches in our program.

Vanessa Otero

Director, Urban Education Initiative

Vanessa joined the Urban Education Initiative team in January 2020 after serving as the Chief Operating Officer for Partners for Community, the largest regional Latino non-profit organization in New England. Vanessa graduated from Holyoke High School and then from Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar. She has a Master’s in Public Policy Administration from the University of Massachusetts and served as an Urban Studies and Planning Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Don Siegel, Co-founder, Faculty Co-Director, has an Ed.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was a professor of Exercise and Sport Studies (ESS) for 39 years and is now entering his second year as professor emeritus. Don helped develop and also served as the director of Smith College’s ESS graduate program that specializes in training college coaches. It is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education at Level V; the highest level awarded. He has also been an urban youth sports program consultant for the Boston based Barr Foundation and was instrumental in developing several youth sports initiatives in Boston and Northampton. He has published widely in the areas of youth sports, sport psychology, motor learning, exercise physiology, sport sociology, computing, and professional aspects of sport and physical education.  

Don Siegel


Faculty co-director




Dennis Nelson

Sports Site Director



Dennis is currently teaching at Homer Street Elementary School in Springfield, MA as the Physical Education/ Health Teacher. In 2005, he received his bachelors degree in Physical Education from Springfield College and is currently working towards his masters in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) at Emporia State University. During his first year teaching he created a "play for the grade" basketball and dance program that provided an incentive for students to excel and try their best in the classroom. Students in this program got a firsthand look at what being a student-athlete is all about. Coaching is a passion of his and he is very excited to work with Project Coach because he believes it is a positive and fulfilling experience for the young players, the adolescent coaching staff, and the adults overseeing the program.

Jazmin Santiago

Head Dance Coach

Jazmin Santiago is another one of our staff who began as a Project Coach youth coach. A stand out coach in our dance program as a high school student, since her graduation she has continued to work as the head dance coach, managing that program as well as supervising four younger coaches.