Meet the Team
Joan Casey, President
Joan helps students develop the mindsets that allow them to create the life they want–for high school, college and beyond. She founded Educational Advocates College Consulting in 2004, and works with a wide range of high school and transfer students who are considering colleges at all levels of selectivity throughout the USA, Canada and Western Europe. She also provides services for prospective college athletes and visual and performing artists. Joan is committed to her students and her priority is to help them achieve their goals through a supportive and thoughtful approach.
Joan also has expertise in working with adolescents with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning differences and those with therapeutic needs. She has completed an advocacy-training program sponsored by the Federation for Children with Special Needs and is trained in AD/HD coaching through the American Coaching Association.
Joan is a certified educational planner, signifying that she has achieved the highest level of professional standards in the field of educational consulting, a distinction held by only 25 percent of consultants. She is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) where she previously chaired the learning disability committee, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA). She serves on the undergraduate economics advisory board for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the advisory board at Landmark College. Joan, along with a group of colleagues, won the IECA Katz award in recognition of pro bono work for The Possibility Project. She earned a master of education degree in Mind, Brain and Education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and holds a BA in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Joan has visited more than 250 college campuses to meet with admissions officers, student activities directors and academic deans and spends time informally talking with students for an insider’s view of campus life. She also draws upon the expertise of a network of colleagues across the country. Prior to founding Educational Advocates, Joan had a 20-year career as a marketing and public relations consultant, working for a national public relations firm and managing her own consulting practice. She has received several marketing and writing awards, and applies the creative-thinking strategies used in her marketing career in advising students on their essays, overall presentation, and interviewing skills. Joan resides in Brookline, Massachusetts and is the mother of two now grown sons who attended both independent and public schools before college. When not meeting with students and families, you might find her cooking, reading, running or meditating.
Laurel Weijer, College Consultant
Laurel Weijer is an experienced teacher, counselor and admissions professional who has worked in both secondary and higher education for more than a decade. She is passionate about helping students grow throughout the college admissions process, tell their own unique stories, and find the right college fit. She has experience working with students from a variety of backgrounds as well as students with language-based learning differences. She believes that great college counseling is not only about results but also about building strong relationships with the student and their family to help everyone involved in the process navigate this important life step with confidence.
Laurel holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Master of Arts in Nonfiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University. She is an award-winning writer and editor whose work has been recognized by organizations including the University of Chicago, the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals, the Public Relations Society of America and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.
Laurel began her career in the University of Chicago’s career advising center before transitioning into secondary education at a private school in Baltimore, Maryland. While working as a communications professional, she also served as an advisor for high school students and a journalism teacher. Her communications and advocacy skills, combined with her love of working with students, made a transition to full-time college counseling a natural fit, and she was lucky to land her dream job working as a college counselor at a private Catholic school in Baltimore.
When Laurel’s husband was offered a faculty position at the University of Florida, she took the opportunity to transition to a position in the UF admissions office to learn more about the other side of the admissions process. As an assistant director of admissions, Laurel’s responsibilities included managing a large recruiting territory, reviewing thousands of applications, and sitting on the decisions committee for more than 52,000 applicants.
She is thrilled to join Educational Advocates and return to working with students and families full time.
Laurel lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two children. When not working with students and families, she enjoys bicycling, spending time with her children, drinking great coffee, and exploring all that Gainesville has to offer. She is also pursuing her passion for education and scientific research through the Master of Science in Epidemiology program at UF and expects to earn her MSE degree in 2024.
Ildiko Szekely, College Consultant
Ildi Szekely has extensive experience in teaching, advising, and helping students transition into the rigorous academic collegiate environment. For more than a decade, Ildi has been a teacher, academic advisor, academic coach, and learning disability specialist. Ildi’s passion is education; she thrives around students both as an educator and as a person. Throughout her career in education, Ildi has learned the importance of fostering a culture that is caring, inclusive, positive and hands-on.
For the past seven years, Ildi was the Assistant Director at the Connors Family Learning Center at Boston College. Her role was to provide specialized academic support for students with learning disabilities and ADHD. Additionally, she also served as an academic advisor for freshmen, as well as oversaw the academic coaching program, which was designed to assist students develop their own study skill strategies and systems of self-regulation to become engaged and successful learners. Prior to BC, Ildi worked as a Language Arts High School Teacher in both the public and private school sectors.
Ildi was recruited to swim at Michigan State University from Mercersburg Academy. She was a team captain, Academic All-Big-10, and held school records in the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly, as well as the 400-yard IM, in all of which she still ranks among the Top 10 in program history.
Ildi earned her B.A. in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and went on to receive her M.A. in Education, as well as a Secondary English Teaching Credential from UC Berkeley. She also holds a Certificate in Special Education from Boston College.
Ildi is still an avid swimmer. Her current swimming resume includes several Swimming World Masters and National Masters Championship titles. In 2020, Ildi was awarded Bay State Games Athlete of the Year. This past summer, she won all three of her butterfly races at The UANA Pan American Masters Swimming Championships held in Medellin, Colombia, breaking the record for the 200 Fly, and won the 5K race, finishing first among the women and third overall, at The Traversée du Lac Tremblant in Mont Tremblant, Canada.
Katie Bacon, College Consultant/Writing Specialist
Katie Bacon enjoys working with students to help them figure out colleges that are a good fit for who they are and who they hope to be. She is an experienced writer, editor, and interviewer who worked for The Atlantic in Boston for ten years before the magazine moved to Washington, DC. She has written everything from profiles to personal essays to reviews to scientific critiques, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Ed. magazine, among other places. Katie brings her skills to her work as a college consultant and writing specialist at Educational Advocates. She specializes in helping writers find their voice by expressing themselves clearly, logically, and eloquently. She genuinely loves talking with students and asking questions as a way to help them figure out and showcase their strengths and interests. Katie holds a certificate in college counseling from UCLA Extension, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Amherst College, where she majored in American studies.
Katie lives in Brookline, MA with her husband and two children, who are in high school. She is on the Board of Overseers of the Brookline Education Foundation, where she supervised their grants and programs for four years. She volunteers for Beacon Academy, coaching Greater Boston students through the application process for independent schools as a way to help close the opportunity gap, and for 826 Boston, helping students in the Boston public schools craft their college essays. She loves reading both fiction and nonfiction, playing tennis and pickleball, and hiking with her family and their dog.
Rachel Schneider, College Consultant
Rachel Schneider is an admissions consultant, school counselor, and educator who has worked extensively in a variety of school settings. Her passion is fostering academic and social-emotional growth, as well as college and career readiness in all of her students.
Rachel graduated Phi Alpha Theta from Boston College with a BA in History and Summa Cum Laude from Boston University with a Masters of Education in Counseling Psychology, specializing in School Counseling. While at BU, she was a member of two research teams exploring college and career readiness programs in elementary and middle school students, and the impacts of childhood trauma.
Prior to joining Educational Advocates, Rachel was selected as one of 250 corps members from 1200 candidates for 10 months of national service through City Year AmeriCorps in Dorchester, MA. She worked in Special Education in the Wellesley Public School system, where she developed her passion for school counseling. During her Master’s Program, she interned at her alma mater Brookline High School. She holds both Elementary Education 1-6 and School Counseling PreK-8 and 5-12 Licensures through DESE.
Rachel has experience working as a school and college counselor at a private Catholic school and finds great joy in accompanying students and families through the college admissions process. She also teaches a Positive Psychology course, engaging her students in both the science and practice of mindfulness. She believes deeply in the mind-body connection, incorporating meditation and yoga practices in both her professional and personal life. Rachel is a member of several professional organizations including NEACAC, NACAC, and MASCA. She continues to reside in Brookline with her husband.
David Cataruzolo, Athletic Consultant
David Cataruzolo, a native of Watertown, Massachusetts, brings over 20 years of experience helping students navigate the athletic recruiting process. Dave served as an assistant professor of physical education at Trinity College for over 13 years where he spent time as the head men’s ice hockey coach and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator for the Bantam Baseball team. In his time at Trinity, the hockey team won 2 NESCAC Championships and reached the NCAA Final Four in 2003, while the baseball team won three league titles earning two trips to the Division 3 World Series. Dave has also worked in the athletic department at Harvard University as director of hockey operations directing the day-to-day operations of the Crimson men’s and women’s Division 1 ice hockey programs.
Dave graduated from Bowdoin College, class of 1998, with a degree in government and legal studies, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Trinity College in 2001. While at Bowdoin, he captained both the hockey and baseball teams. He is a member of both Bowdoin’s 100-point club on the ice (126) and 100-hit club (128) on the diamond.
Dr. Kerra Lynn Gazerro, Writing Specialist
Dr. Kerra Lynn Gazerro has a twenty-five year career in higher education. Currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, she earned her PhD in Italian from the University of Chicago. In addition to teaching language classes, Kerra directs writing-intensive courses across the curriculum, including First-Year Experience.
Kerra also routinely serves as a faculty advisor. She feels privileged to guide students through the nuances of college curricula from course selection through degree fulfillment. When mentoring students, she shows them how to craft their own scholastic narratives by dovetailing academic concentration with extracurricular interest and talent.
Beyond her teaching, Kerra has worked for several scholastic learning companies including Pearson, Duolingo and LingroLearning. She is presently a Curriculum Strategist and is assisting on the organization and design of a new Italian textbook. Kerra is also a specialist in Medieval women’s spirituality and frequently attends professional conferences and publishes in her field.
When she isn’t engaged in academic projects, Kerra is an avid bread baker, a passion she developed while living in Italy. Kerra credits her disciplined nature to her training as a ballerina and competitive dancer and she still enjoys attending artistic performances. Kerra makes her home in Rhode Island, where she loves spending time with her Hungarian Vizsla, Loki.
Haley Sherif, Office Coordinator
Haley Sherif, our office coordinator, graduated from Emerson College in 2016 with a B.F.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. For the last 10 years she has worked in customer service and as a nonfiction writer. Her pieces have been published in places such as: Apartment Therapy, The Rumpus, Hobart Pulp, You Might Need to Hear This, and Visual Verse. In May 2021, she had an essay published in a queer anthology out by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. She lives in Brookline, where she reads library books, rewatches episodes of Seinfeld, and is currently learning to cook. If you call the office or send an email she looks forward to replying with an extra dose of kindness.