Mindess EDP Staff Bios


Ms. Melissa Mercon Smith began the Ashland Extended Day Program in 1989 and has enjoyed watching it grow and change over the past thirty years. Prior to coming to Ashland, she was a kindergarten teacher in Shrewsbury, and before that she taught preschool. Melissa is a current member of N.E.D.D.S. (Network of Extended Day Directors) and has been a presenter at various conferences throughout Massachusetts for other professionals working in afterschool programs. 

Melissa graduated in 1983 from Worcester State College with a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education and minors in Communication Disorders and Psychology. She received her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Concentration in the Creative Arts in 1995 from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Since that time, she has continued her graduate studies in the summers through Project Adventure exploring such topics as Adventure Programming and the Museum Institute for Teaching Science concentrating on various S.T.E.M. investigations.

Teacher/Acting Head Teacher - Afternoon EDP
Teacher - MIndess EDP Breakfast Bunch
Head Teacher - Pittaway EDP Breakfast Bunch
Administrative Assistant

Ms. Jennifer Concetti joined the Mindess EDP family two years ago, and has excelled beyond our expectations in a very short time. Originally hired as an afternoon teacher, she now serves many roles, including as Acting Head Teacher in the absence of the Director. A graduate of Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, Ms. Concetti earned a Bachelor's Degree in May, 2017, and she is currently enrolled in the Master's Program at Leslie University, studying Special Education.

Ms. Jennifer has served in a variety of capacities from working with upper elementary students in Nicaragua to volunteering for Habitat for Humanity to working in a nursery school and interning in the Framingham Public Schools. For the past two summers she worked with many Ashland students at the Ashland REC Program. An avid athlete, we appreciate the excitement and enthusiasm Jen brings to EDP each day!


For three and a half years, we had the unique opportunity to observe Mr. Iarussi in action as he worked as an after school teacher in the neighboring Champions program housed in the Mindess School cafeteria. Imagine how pleased we were when he reached out a year ago to inquire about joining the EDP family. Having witnessed first-hand the way Mr. P.J. interacted with students, staff, parents, and the EDP staff as well, we were pretty sure that he would be a great fit for the Mindess Extended Day Program. With a year at EDP under his belt, we know we made a great choice!

Paul graduated with a Bachelors Degree from Framingham State University in 2017. During the day, Mr. P.J. serves as an ESP at the Mindess School, working with special needs students. With his passion for science, particularly forensic science, P.J. adds a new dimension of exploration to our program, and we always look forward to discovering all he has to offer!


Natalie first came to our attention a year and a half ago when she came to do several days of observations for a field study class she was taking at Mass Bay. Watching the ease with which Natalie talked to the students and how quickly she connected with the staff, I couldn't help but be impressed. This prompted me to reach out to her last summer to invite her to come back for an interview. Our meeting only served to prove that my instincts were correct, and we were thrilled when Natalie accepted a position with EDP. We're even happier to report that she will be returning for her second year. Ms. Montgomery graduated with honors in 2018 with an Associate Degree in Elementary Education and Liberal Arts. She has been continuing her studies at Framingham State University with the ultimate goal of pursuing degree in Special Education.

Prior to EDP, Ms. Natalie worked with at risk youth, particularly girls aged 12 - 14, offering them support in a group home setting. She is certified in Crisis Prevention Intervention and CPR.


Sometimes the stars just align perfectly, and the right person comes through the door at the right time. This is what happened with Ms. Julie O'Coin last year. With a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood from Salem State University, and experience working with students in preschool through age 16, Ms. Julie brings the whole package. If you have younger children, you may recognize her from the three summers that she spent working as a teacher's aide in the Ashland Preschool. Other jobs have found her working as a Middle School basketball and softball volunteer and serving as the Assistant Volleyball Coach for the Puma Volleyball Club where she emphasized confidence and working towards developing players emotionally.

Most recently, Ms. Julie worked at the Ashland Middle School Summer Porgram as an Educational Support Personnel, working with students ages 11 - 15. In addition, Ms. Julie has been the Arts and Crafts Program Specialist for Camp Laurel Wood for the Girl Scouts of America, working with girls ages 5 through 16. In addition to planning and implementing the arts and crafts program, she was involved in the Imagineers STEM program, Wednesday Interest Groups, and All Camp Theme Weeks. Prior to coming to EDP each afternoon, Julie works as an ESP at the Ashland Middle School.


With a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology with a minor in Education from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, Ms. Rachel Neilsen brings a varied background and skill set to EDP. Ms. Rachel's most relevant experience has been as a Co-Director at the Ashland Recreation Center summer program, working with students ages 5 through 12. She has been responsible for designing and implementing programs and themed activities, as well as supervising other staff.

In addition to her time at the Ashland REC Center, Ms. Rachel has worked as a substitute teacher in the Ashland Public Schools for almost two years, mainly at the high school. With her organization skills, group management, and kind and gentle nature, Rachel is sure to be a welcome addition to our team.


Sarah is the newest member of the Mindess EDP family and comes highly recommended by Ms. Hannah. Currently a student at Framingham State University, she is majoring in Early Childhood Education with a minor in English and also is on the field hockey team.

Ms. Burke's teaching journey began way back in high school when she participated in the Preschool Lab for 2 years. Since that time she has worked as an Aide and Camp Counselor for Magic Years in Braintree as well as a nanny for the past 4 years, working with children in grades 1 through 5. These experiences are sure to serve her well as she joins the EDP family.
Administrative Assistant 

Ms. Janet Pegoraro has been the right arm of the Extended Day Program since March of 1993, and has been an invaluable resource for us. Before coming to Ashland, she worked for the Framingham Public School System for several years. Ms. Pegoraro's duties run the gamut from bookkeeping to assisting with the children at our special events to tracking down unique materials we request.

When Ms. Pegoraro is not engaged with the Mindess Extended Day Program, she is kept busy with the Warren program. She manages to juggle her time between the two programs quite successfully, and we are grateful for her initiative, integrity, and experience. 

Administrative Assistant 

We are pleased to welcome back Ms. Sharon Bryant for a tenth tour of duty. In addition to her work at the Extended Day Program, Ms. Sharon has worked at our Breakfast Bunch and was a teaching assistant for the Ashland Public Schools for seven years. She also was
 a long-term substitute at the Ashland Middle School, planning curriculum, supervising teaching assistants, and writing progress reports. Ms. Bryant has a Master's Degree in Special Education from Lesley University, focusing on students in grades Pre-K - 8 with moderate disabilities and is a licensed Social Worker, as well.

Ms Sharon will be with us for the month of September as she trains Ms. Jen to take over her Administrative Duties. When not at EDP, Ms. Sharon is the Administrative Assistant for Beyond Book Smart.


We are pleased to announce that Ms. Mary Pantera-Vitelli has returned to our Mindess EDP staff for her third year. Ms. Pantera-Vitelli graduated from Acquinas College in Newton with a degree in Early Childhood Education and also holds a Director's Certification from the Department of Early Education and Care.

Mary brings an extensive array of experiences with her. Past teaching positions have included working with children of all ages, and she even ran her own child care center for six years. With almost seventeen years of teaching experience, Mary has had a great impact at the Mindess EDP, and we look forward to the months ahead.


Ms. Hannah Murrin joined EDP last fall, and quickly became one of the family, adapting to the program like a duck takes to water. Hannah is currently a student at Framingham State University, studying Elementary Education and Sociology. With a strong childcare background, Ms. Hannah adds a lot of excitement to our program. She has worked at Harrison Summer Recreation Camp in Harrison, Maine for four years as well as the Goldfish Swim School in Braintree, MA. Most recently she worked at the Ashland Public School's summer program this past summer.

In addition to her schooling and work experiences, Ms. Hannah has been involved in the Make A Wish Foundation by having a golf tournament each year. She's also been a volunteer at her church, working to create Thanksgiving food baskets. With her generous nature, Ms. Hannah fits right in with our EDP family.

Teacher's Aide 

Sam Houle is a former EDP student who stepped up to volunteer at EDP three years ago, and it's always a pleasure to welcome back someone of Sam's caliber. He will be in his third year as an Aide at Mindess and later on in the year will step into the role of teacher. He is second to none when it comes to being a role model for the EDP students, and he can always be depended upon to step in wherever he is needed.

When he isn't at the Mindess EDP setting up snack or helping in Study Hall, Sam is a freshman at Framingham State University studying education. He also has been involved with the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program for six years and has earned the rank of Cadet Captain.

Teacher's Aide 

Sara Leurini is another former EDP student who returned to our program three years ago to volunteer. Now a senior at Ashland High School, Sara will be serving as an aide two afternoons per week.

In addition to her time with EDP, Sara is also a member of the Peer Leadership Program at Ashland High as well as volunteering in the Tutoring Program at the library after school. When she isn't busy serving others and giving back to the community, Sara is an avid reader and enjoys drawing and science.

Breakfast Bunch Head Teacher 

Look who's back!! Ms. Lindsay Shorey was a beloved EDP teacher for many years and left four years ago to become a 5th grade classroom teacher here at the Mindess School. However, because you never really get EDP out of your system once you're part of the family, she rejoined us three years ago as part of the Breakfast Bunch staff.

A graduate of Salve Regina University, Ms. Shorey was Captain of the basketball team as well as the Commonwealth Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. In addition to her time at EDP, Lindsay was an ESP at the Mindess School for several years, a long term substitute, and coach of Dave Cowen's Basketball Camp. We are thrilled to have her back on the EDP Team. Welcome home, Ms. Lindsay!

Breakfast Bunch Teacher 

I always tell new employees that once you join the EDP family, you never really leave. Ms. Kim Conner is living proof of that, having been an EDP teacher for five years before moving on to teach third grade here at Mindess. With five years as a third grade teacher under her belt, Ms. Conner returned two years ago as a teacher in our Breakfast Bunch program, and we couldn't be happier.

A graduate of Fitchburg State University in 2007, Kim has a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and Interdisciplinary Studies, and also completed her Master's Degree in Moderate Disabilities PreK - 8 from Fitchburg in 2011. As if working at EDP and teaching third grade aren't enough, Kim is also an avid runner, training hard for the Boston Marathon as well as running a bible camp each summer here in Ashland.