top of page

Our Team


Our team is made of professionals with a passion for making a difference.

Board of Directors

Carol Rubel

Board President

Executive Director

Blending a career in public education with extensive experience as a community activist and volunteer, Carol Rubel brings a unique combination of talents to ASPIRE. Strong communication skills, proven achievement in problem-solving strategies, and program design --as well as a deep commitment to making as many things better for as many people as possible --are the benchmarks of her work in public education and private consulting.

A nationally recognized speaker and author, Rubel believes in the inherent potential of individuals, all of whom need to be sustained and mentored as they work to become their "best selves".  Her career accomplishments include creating the vision of a nationally recognized educational model for at-risk teens.  Equally at home in higher education, Rubel continues to supervise and mentor beginning teachers as well as coach school leaders in problem-solving and decision making.

Years of public service to non-profits provided Rubel with opportunities to use her skill sets of program design, participant engagement, and assessment of outcomes. Creating bridges between potential collaborators who share a common vision for a clearly defined end result marks all of Carol Rubel's work and service endeavors.

George Sweda
Board Vice President 


After two decades in the agency business, George founded Sweda Advertising in 2004. Today the agency has blossomed into a $2M+ full-service shop that include some of the most respected clients in the Wilkes-Barre Scranton DMA.

George holds a Master’s degree in advertising from Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communications and an undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Scranton.

Married, with three children in college, George balances his family activities and professional commitment to his clients with a significant investment of time in the community.

His involvement in the Northeastern Pennsylvania region is reflected in his volunteer activities, which include past and present service as a Board Member: Coaches vs. Cancer; Lackawanna County Convention & Visitors Bureau; Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligence Charter School; Lackawanna County Work Investment Board (WIB); Steering Committee Member: Griffin Pond Animal Shelter Makeover Building Campaign; The Scranton Plan; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Marywood University & University of Scranton Guest Lecturer.

On most weekends George can be found at Griffin Pond Animal Shelter where he walks dogs who are waiting for their forever homes.

Behnam Bakhshandeh

Business Manager

Board Treasurer


Behnam Bakhshandeh is an accomplished business manager, known widely as a dynamic writer and speaker, as well as a business coach and trainer; Behnam specializes in personal and professional development. Implementing his skills as a passionate, visionary leader, he produces extraordinary results in record time. Behnam brings his broad experience and successful track record to each project, whether it involves personal development, implementing customer-focused programs, integrating technologies, marketing, redesigning operational core processes, or delivering strategic initiatives.

Before designing Primeco Education technology, Behnam led educational programs and later managed operations for a global education organization based in two major US cities. During this seven-year period, Behnam worked personally with tens of thousands of participants. He was accountable for expanding customer participation, training program leaders, increasing sales, improving the finance department's efficiency, as well as management of the overall operations for the staff and their team of over 400 volunteers, who together served an annual client base of over 10,000.


Behnam’s formal post-secondary education is in Industrial Design engineering. Committed to lifelong education, recently Behnam went back to school and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology.

He continued his graduate studies at Penn State University to earn a Master of Professional Study in Organizational Development and Change. Currently, Behnam is continuing his graduate studies for his Doctorate in Workforce Education & Development at Penn State. Behnam enjoyed expanding his academic background into psychology as an addition to his already strong background in the domains of philosophy and ontology.

Ken Patton
Board Secretary


Ken has been in the Graphic Arts Industry for 40 years and a business owner for the last 24 of those years. He is committed to serving his clients with full-service print and marketing solutions. His clients include Proctor & Gamble, Cargill, Ingersoll Rand, Carrizo Oil, and Primeco Education to name a few. Ken is presently serving is the third term as the Mayor of Laceyville, a community in Northeastern Pennsylvania. His accomplishments include the management of an effective police force, along with overseeing the general well being of the community. Proud father of a daughter, she and her husband are on their own life path. Patten currently resides in Laceyville with his life partner, Astrid who is a manager in the food industry.


Ken leads by expressing his life’s belief with integrity, communication, education, and the willingness to listen and insuring that all things are possible.

Pamela Staats
Board Member


Pamela Staats is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania, born and raised into an extended Italian family.  From early on, working with special needs children was her only career interest!  She has spent the last 35 years helping students achieve success as functioning members of society.  Staats enjoyed a long and varied career which has flowed along with the changes in rules and regulations concerning the education of handicapped children.  She has seen the impact that society has had on a population that struggles to keep ahead of the curve.


In the course of her career, she taught for 20 years in a center-based program, working with students who had a wide range of disabilities.  Some of these students were severely handicapped, others more mildly disabled, and still others, seriously emotionally disturbed.  All, however, were children in need.  She left the classroom to become a Supervisor of Special Education programs in a local school district.  There she manages programs for approximately 200 students.  Their disabilities include every category, and the families come from all walks of life.  She is beginning her 15th year in that position.


Staats also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Marywood University.  Teaching a one-credit course to both graduates and undergraduates, she has the ability to influence young minds entering education, as well as adults embarking on a second career. Pamela served on the Montrose Area School Board for two terms.  There, she was able to take an active part in decision-making concerning education for all students, promoting curriculum and program initiatives.


Pamela finds students on the autism spectrum to be the most rewarding to work with.  These individuals challenge one to constantly evaluate oneself in order to help them learn.  It is the ability to look within ourselves and ask “how can I do this differently” that begins the journey to change.

Jim Shemanski
Board Member


Jim Shemanski, a native of Hazleton, has been a resident of Lackawanna County since 1989. He earned a B.A. from Iona College, New Rochelle NY, and has Master’s degrees from Hunter College, New York City and the University of Scranton. He received training in Clinical Pastoral Education at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla NY. An educator by profession, he has worked as a teacher and administrator in private and public secondary schools and as an adjunct instructor at Penn State’s Worthington Scranton campus, Keystone College, and Luzerne County Community College.


Prior to retirement, Jim was a project manager at Penn Foster. He is currently a flex chaplain and volunteer at Geisinger Community Medical Center and serves on the Secretariat of the Cursillo Movement of the Diocese of Scranton, the Board of Directors of the Genealogical Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Board of Trustees of the Abington Community Library.

Board Advisory

Michele Bannon

Board Advisor


Michele’s vision for her life is creating abundance for her community through love and joy. Michele’s passion is to serve. Michele has served her community for the past 18 years as the City Clerk for the City of Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Michele serves on the Board of Directors for many organizations and non-profits.


She has worked to facilitate many projects in her community focusing on history, tourism, and community development. Michele holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Political Science and Public Administration from Wilkes University.

Lucyann Vierling

Board Advisor


Starting her life out as a disadvantaged youth participant in a federally funded job training program, Lucyann is determined to assist others in creating a positive career/life direction. Lucyann has over 25 years of experience in workforce development. She has extensive experience with federal, state, and local funding administration, program design/development and implementation.


Lucyann has served in a variety of capacities over her career: case manager, career advisor, economic planner, and executive director of a local workforce investment board. Lucyann obtained her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and her master’s degree in Organizational Management from College Misericordia.

bottom of page