Our Staff and Partners


Adia Harmon, Executive Director, is an impact-driven agent of change with progressive achievements and ten plus years of experience in the areas of education administration, program management and youth development. A skilled writer and lover of everything arts, Adia’s passion for bringing creative visions to life through words and artistic expression has inspired her to share her gift with people of all ages and backgrounds. In her current role, Adia challenges the youth she works with to march fearlessly in the direction of their dreams and believes that in order to truly transform the mindset of young person, you must first get them to recognize and believe in their own power and ability to be successful - not just academically - but in every aspect of their lives. Adia earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland. Her greatest aspiration is to impact the lives of youth in ways that are equally inspiring, empowering and transformative. Contact Adia at adiaharmon@theadvocatecenter.org.






Shamira O’Neal, Mighty Writers North Program Director


Amy Banegas, Program Director for Mighty Writers North, earned her Masters of Arts in English with a concentration in Journalism from Arcadia University and a Bachelors of Science in Secondary Education with a concentration in English Literature from Temple University.  Amy has been an English teacher in North Philadelphia for 14 years and has also worked at Congreso de Latino Unidos, one of Philadelphia's leading providers of high-quality programs with an expert focus on the Latino community.  Amy is passionate about poetry, journalism, art and working with the youth of Philadelphia. She decided to join Mighty Writers because she believes in the organization's mission to assist and motivate students in the community in building a passion for writing and reading. She is most excited to create and implement authentic, real-world learning and writing workshops for students and seeing growth in their literacy and social skills. Contact Amy at abanegas@mightywriters.org.



Ardencie Hall-Karambe, Ph. D. , Founder and Director of Arts4All, is an associate professor of English/Theatre Arts at the Community College of Philadelphia, avid artist, and single mother.  She has worked as a college professor for 20 years; as an actress, she performed in NYC at The Public Theatre, Theatre for The New City, P.S. 122 and other theatres; in 2011, Dr. Hall’s musical “Ain’t Nobody…” was presented at TNC by her theatre company, Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective.  Most recently, she adapted and directed “Lysistrata, Cross Your Legs Sister!” presented at Community College of Philadelphia. She lives in Philadelphia with her son.




Sharlena Johnson, Arts4All Drama and Dance Teaching Artist. At 26 years of age, Sharlena is a working actor and playwright born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She received her BA in Theatre from Temple University in 2014 and now works as a performer at Arden Blaire Enterprises, an upcoming theatre company established by Ardencie Hall-Karambe'. This is her second year working for Arts4All. Sharlena is excited that she can take her love for theatre and share the art of acting/dance with our youth. Some of her favorite hobbies include cooking, listening to music, reading and dancing to her favorite show tunes in her bedroom mirror.


Donny Smith Jr., is a Live Event and Theatrical Director/Producer, Arts & Entertainment Marketing Consultant, Screenwriter and Actor/Teaching Artist with Arden Blaire Enterprises (Arts4All). Donny received his BA in Dramatic Arts/History, Acting and Directing from Temple University in 2007, is a former scholarship recipient of the Gladys Gordon Memorial Award for Theater Excellence and has served as house manager at the Merriam and Wilma Theaters in Philadelphia. This is Donny's first year at The Advocate Center and he looks forward to sharing his talents and love for the arts with our youth.

Valerie Anderson, We the Poets Teaching Artist Valerie has been an assistant to several of the teaching artist at ArtWell. She has a social work and social justice background with over 20 years experience as a skilled group facilitator working with vulnerable, at risk, and oppressed populations. She is interested in healing from the effects of trauma and internalized oppression particularly in African American families using history, art, and culture. She is such a lover of black history, art, and culture that she has volunteered as docent at the African American Museum of Philadelphia since 2008 and recently became the lead docent for the George W. South Memorial Church of the Advocate docent program.

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Angel Brice is a proud mother, fiancé(yay!) daughter, and queer actor, and educator of color. Brice attended Kutztown University with a major in theatre and continues to train in both NY and Philadelphia to perfect her craft in acting. She recently closed the show Barbecue by Robert O' Hara in Seattle with INTIMAN Theatre. Brice and the rest of the cast were nominated for a Gregory Award for their performance. Brice recently joined ArtWell who connected her with the Advocate for the 2017 school year. She enjoys working for ArtWell at the Advocate, because the mission both reflects and demonstrates diversity, unity, and growth through the arts and action. Brice has been teaching and learning from children for 15yrs ranging but not limited to swim instruction, nannying, tutoring, art, theatre, and public speaking to children with special needs and in grade school, and high school. Brice believes her faith in God and the love that she has for others will take her places that she can't imagine. Brice works on bridging the gap between race and class and imagines that one day, true equality will become an ever so present reality. Black Lives Matter.


Scott Bickmore leads project-based curricula and workshops in collaboration with area organizations, institutions and businesses. Working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Art Futures program in 2016, he won the People’s Choice Award and the Robert Rauschenberg Award for a mural project involving two classrooms. Bickmore has exhibited and been featured in print, television, and online locally, nationally and internationally.

"I am interested in experimenting and exploring new forms. I want to find new ways of looking at things, and facilitate work with collective purpose and cultural contribution. I enjoy being resourceful and developing creative solutions with materials, production and participation—considering whatever is around, and then reconsidering its purpose and all the things it could be. The charcoal out back is pigment for India ink. Weeds across the street combined with designer scraps from Fashion Week enter an autistic classroom and come out as nests for The Bluebird of Happiness Project. A “French Knot” is braille code on a bracelet introducing sighted and unsighted populations. Whether working with crafts or concepts, I value creative activity as a vehicle for growth and learning, and for forming new relationships with people, material and initiatives alike."


Gregory “Heavy” Deas, H.E.A.V.Y. Founder, Director, and Head Coach, known to many as "Coach Heav" or "Heavy" has been coaching and working with young people for over two decades. Every now and again, here at The Advocate Center, we hear one of our young people ask, "So, why do they call you Heav?!" Fun fact: Heav was a nickname given to him as a teenager to describe his strong passion and involvement with the sport of basketball, a sport he has played on every level through junior college. In 1995, Coach Heav began his coaching career and since then has coached several traveling and A.A.U. teams in and around North Philadelphia where he grew up. In 2004, he started The H.E.A.V.Y. (Help Educate Athletes Very Young) Program as a way to give back to the youth in his community, many of whom still play on the same playgrounds and courts he did as a kid. Through the H.E.A.V.Y. Program, Coach Heav hopes to provide a safe haven and positive outlet for young people in Philadelphia, equipping them with the tools and fundamentals they will need to be successful student-athletes.


JAMES OWK, is a Program Manager at Mighty Writers South and first time AmeriCorps member serving with Up2Us Sports. James received his degree in World History from Temple University. Since the Fall of 2011, Owk has been supervising middle school writers in the Mighty Writers South afterschool program and leading the weekly Teen Scholars program. Contact James at jowk@mightywriters.org.