Meet the Team

  • Dr. Nkolika E. Onye

    Dr. Nkolika E. Onye  (she/her/nke ya)  
    Chief of Equity and Belonging

    Dr. Nkolika Etell Onye is a first generation Nigerian-American. Nkolika earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Northcentral University, an MA in Education from the University of Rhode Island, and a BS in Medical Technology from California State Los Angeles. Wife of a retired Army officer and a mother of three, Nkolika has taught high school chemistry and biology in Los Angeles, CA, Anchorage, AK; Columbus, GA; Riverside, RI, and Providence, RI. She has also served as an instructional coach, and as a high school turnaround principal in several secondary schools, resulting in well-documented, measurable gains and outcomes for students. 

    Since 2008, Dr. Onye has served in the capacity of assistant superintendent for high school reform, performance management, and student supports, in Providence Public Schools. A visionary systems thinker, Dr. Onye is well-known for her unwavering advocacy for equity in education, particularly for those young people, from historically marginalized groups. Furthermore, Nkolika has been credited with the design and highly successful implementation of several high-impact education reform initiatives, particularly in the areas of personalized and extended learning opportunities, teacher and principal induction, teacher evaluation, peer assistance and review, and college and career readiness. In the past two years, the Rhode Island PBS has even featured some of Dr. Onye’s work, centered on equity, student empowerment and agency.

    A member of Rhode Island’s first graduating class of the National Institute of School Leadership (NISL), Dr. Onye has served as a NISL facilitator and has taught courses in equity leadership to both school and district administrators in RI. In her spare time, Dr. Onye loves to read, roller skate, travel, and dance.  She is also very involved in her church, where she serves as a trustee and youth director. Additionally, Dr. Onye belongs to numerous professional and community organizations. 

    Dr. Onye believes that it is our collective duty to empower all young people, particularly those of color, to be unwaveringly fierce and fearless advocates for change. To do so, she asserts that we must acknowledge the importance of intersectionality, its impact, and the opportunities for systemic change. Furthermore, she believes that we must validate, affirm, and cultivate the funds of knowledge, intellect, and skills that our young people already possess, so that they can exceed the ever-changing and dynamic expectations of our complex local and global community.

    Aarav Sundaresh  (he/him/his)  
    Director of Equity & Belonging

    Aarav SundareschAarav Sundaresh is an educational leader dedicated to activating youth voice and advocating for equity and justice. He earned his BA in Visual Arts from Brown University, and his MAT from RISD, where he was a Presidential Scholar. An art teacher in Providence Schools for over 13 years, Aarav centered his practice on student experience, restorative justice, and cultural responsiveness. Outside the classroom, Aarav co-chaired the Providence Teachers Union's Racial Justice Committee and has worked with schools, counselors, teachers, and other support staff in and beyond PPSD on topics related to gender diversity & equity and supporting LGBTQ+ students. Aarav is a Providence resident and has served on the Board of Directors at New Urban Arts and the Advisory Committee for The Rhode Island Foundation's Equity Action Fund.