Gellenia Smallwood (Jah-lean-ah)

Senior Director of Early Childhood Services | Early Childhood


BA Canisius College; M.S.Ed Canisius College
Diveristy, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace, University of South Florida College of Business
Family Development Credential, Cornell University


Board Member, Buffalo Prep
President Buffalo Prep Family Council
Board Member, Child Care Resource Network
Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc Gamma Phi Omega Chapter
Committee Member on the Help Me Grow Advisory Committee
WNY Women's Foundation Women's Economic Mobility Committee Member


Gellenia Smallwood is the Senior Director of Early Childhood Services responsible for leading Say Yes Buffalo's efforts in supporting our community's youngest learners. This portfolio includes the Ages and Stages Social Emotional Screening Strategy, Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) Universal Pre-K (UPK) programs, and Say Yes Little Scholars three-year-old pre-K readiness program embedded directly in BPS.

Gellenia has been a member of the Say Yes Buffalo team for 10 years in various roles, including Scholarship Coordinator where she worked alongside the Say Yes Buffalo scholarship director to articulate the goals and mission for Say Yes in Buffalo of increasing the number of Buffalo public and charter school students progressing into post-secondary education. Her responsibilities included monitoring student academic progress, communicating with SUNY/CUNY and private partner colleges, one-on-one college counseling and advisement to BPS students and families, and supporting BPS and charter school-based teams in creating a college going culture.

Gellenia was affectionately nicknamed “Buffalo’s guidance counselor” for her extra measure of care, attention to detail, and patience when dealing with families who are often unfamiliar with the college application process, understanding that student needs often aren't met by a Say Yes Buffalo tuition scholarship alone.

Thereafter, Gellenia was promoted to the role of Director of Parent & Family programs working within BPS' Community Schools strategy, leading the conception and launch of Buffalo Public Schools’ four Parent Centers. Under her leadership the four Parent Centers proved to be an invaluable resource to the families of Buffalo Public School students who use them.

Gellenia lead the immediate shift to virtual programming during the pandemic while taking lead overseeing the pivot of the agency's partnership with Volunteer Lawyers Project to strengthen the engagement with the community and response to emergency needs.

Gellenia’s wealth of skills and knowledge gained from experiences in nonprofit work, early- childhood education, college access, family engagement, and foster care and adoption has fueled her passion for the work she is leading now. Establishing the trust of the families she works with has always been her highest priority, as she endeavors to to match her hard work with “heart work” into her portfolio of community building work with also includes etiquette and character education consulting, education services consulting, and mentoring.

Hobbies & Passions

Shopping, traveling, reading, spending time with family and friends, dancing

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