Our Mission

Our mission is to provide transformative educational and workforce experiences that create a sense of purpose and hope in our communities and connect business to real time solutions.

What We Do

The SEAT Center provides education and training programs for underrepresented populations, businesses, and communities, with a strong focus on serving young adults, ages 16-24 years old.
  The SEAT Center hires program graduates to provide residential and commercial fee-for-service work that delivers community impact at a competitive price. We offer a growing branch of social enterprise services that support the academic and workforce development of young adults. Each home or building that we service, put’s us one step closer to creating a livable wage job for a young person, helping us to combat poverty, increase employability, and transform a young person’s meaning of community and self.

Core Values


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Our ability to transform communities by building relationships and bridging the gap between people and purpose is what makes us unique. We believe in the inherent worth and potential of our community members regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances or educational background. We provide access to career development and academic support services, including accredited training in Green Construction, Weatherization and Healthcare. We educate and empower our youth to recognize their social impact and transformative influence in the mobilization of their community.

Meet The Team

Jennifer Lawrence

Executive Director

Jennifer Lawrence is the Executive Director at the SEAT Center. Her work includes the creation and oversight of YouthBuild Schenectady and the ongoing expansion of our social enterprise services. Jennifer holds a Masters of Social Work Administration from Fordham University and attended the SUNY Albany Executive MBA Program. Jennifer’s current focus is on building sustainability and infrastructure, with special attention to programming that provides a participatory learning environment, models high expectations, incorporates youth voice, and creates future hope. Jennifer is a strong advocate of youth employment as a means to decrease crime, increase hope, and make sustainable change. Jennifer is a graduate of the American Express Leadership Institute/ Center for Creative Leadership and was a 2009-2011 YouthBuild USA Director’s Fellow. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys spending quality time with her son Anthony and obsessing about all things SEAT!

Rebecca Paavola

Director of Education & Training

Rebecca Paavola is Director of Education & Training at Schenectady YouthBuild. Rebecca Paavola has been with Schenectady YouthBuild as Director of Programs since November 2012. Prior to this, she was the Assistant Principal and Special Education Coordinator for LAYC YouthBuild Charter School. Rebecca has over 18 years of experience as an educator and school administrator at a range of elementary and secondary schools including YouthBuild Community School in Ohio. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University in Special Education and Elementary Education, and continued on to graduate studies at Ohio State University in Literacy and Reading. Rebecca is trained in Quantum Learning, Mockingbird Education, Contextualized Learning, and is a Bridges out of Poverty Train the Trainer.


Jillian Martellotta

College & Career Service Manager

Jillian Martellotta is the College and Career Service Manager for The SEAT Center. Jillian holds a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Nyack College, an MBA from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and is currently finishing her Doctorate in Education with a concentration in Organizational Leadership. Previously she was a Senior Recruiter for Corepay Staffing. Jillian has held positions such as Assistant Director of External Relations for RPI, Campus Director and Director of Career Services for Branford Hall Career Institute, Director of Career Services and Business Management Adjunct Instructor for Mildred Elley and Assistant Director of Career Services for ITT Technical Institute. While at Mildred Elley, Jillian served on the education committee for Massachusetts Association of Private Career Schools where she was intricate part in providing quality training and workshops to educators in the career training sector. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her husband and her kids at pop warner football games and Tae Kwon Do. 

Judith Fenlon

Student Support Coordinator

Judith Fenlon is the Coordinator of Student Support Services at the SEAT center. Judith has spent her career providing services and leadership in the nonprofit sector for youth-serving organizations. Before joining the Seat Center, she worked at the New York City-based FEGS Health and Human Services, managing the support services of Washington Irving YABC-an alternative public high school. Since then, she has worked with young people in environmental education, work readiness and leadership development. In 2010, Judith joined the staff of YouthBuild Schenectady as lead counselor.  She is thrilled to be returning to YouthBuild and the Seat Center after a hiatus. Judith is a graduate of The George Washington University and the Columbia University School of Social Work. 

Leah Van Buren

Student Support Specialist

Leah Van Buren is the Student Support Specialist at the SEAT Center. Her work includes case management for each individual student. Leah holds Bachelor Degrees in Social Work and Sociology from Castleton University. After graduating she wanted to return to Schenectady where her foundation was built and give back to her community.

John Howard III

Construction Trainer

John Howard III is the Construction Trainer at the SEAT Center. His work includes covering NCCER classroom curricula along with hands on basic carpentry application and mentoring. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University at Albany. He believes in grassroots organizations, social responsibility, and a service oriented approach to mitigate community disenfranchisement. As a life long Schenectady resident, he is dedicated to improving the social conditions in his community. He believes alternative learning can increase inclusion within the workforce. As an avid sports lover, he has used sports as a platform to reach Schenectady youth.


Derek Westbrook

Academic Specialist

Derek Westbrook is the Academic Specialist at the SEAT Center. Derek is responsible for classroom instruction and core curriculum design. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany in Africana Studies, and a Master’s degree in Black Cultural Studies from The Ohio State University. Derek was a doctoral candidate in Education Administration and Policy Studies at the University at Albany, and plans to return to finish his dissertation. Derek was an instructor in higher education for over 20 years. He has also been a Program Director for Opportunity Programs, on college campuses in New York and New Jersey for 8 years. He believes that access to higher education must be accompanied with strong support systems to insure student success. In his spare, Derek enjoys martial arts, reading, spoken word poetry, movies and music!


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