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Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute Announces New Leaders

Linda Dickey, Sharitta Gross

Linda Dickey has been named Chair and Sharitta F. Gross has been named Vice Chair of the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute.

With locations in Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women as well as East High School, the newly established institute was co-created and funded by a gift of more than $1.2 million from the Speranza family and the Cheryl and Paul Speranza Foundation.

In March of 2018, Cheryl Speranza, a 1965 Mercy graduate, passed away from pancreatic cancer. The Institute was created in her honor. Cheryl had a passion for serving others, including Rochester’s young women and youth.

The Institute will benefit all students in grades 9-12, with scholarships available for emerging leaders from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, such as young women with limited financial and personal support.

To carry out the legacy of Cheryl Speranza, Linda Dickey, as Chair will lead the Speranza Institute’s development, implementation, analysis, and continuous improvement of programmatic components.

Dickey joins the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute from the Ithaca City School District where she served as an administrator working in the Early Childhood Office of Boynton Middle School and Ithaca High School.

Dickey says her inspiration as a leader comes from her husband, James, and her three children, Jazmine, Tanayia and Jaylin.

“As an educator for the past 21 years, I have been dedicated to encouraging and mentoring young ladies to be leaders in their schools, church, and community, she notes, “I am excited to continue my work with young ladies at the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute.”

She earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration from St. John Fisher College, and a master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum with a concentration in Social Studies from the University of Rochester.

As Vice Chair, Sharitta Gross will collaborate with the Chair to develop the program and ensure seamless implementation. In addition, she is tasked with community outreach, symposium development, and benchmarking.

Most recently, Gross worked as the Assistant Director of Student Development at Rochester Institute of Technology.

“I believe in the spirit of servanthood and have been blessed to serve as a mentor for several students and alumna of RIT, as well as young women in the Rochester community,” she said. “My new position at the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute furthers my mission to promote equity in education while allowing me to have an active role in shaping tomorrow’s leaders.”

Gross received her master’s degree in Liberal Studies from SUNY Brockport, Advanced Certificate in Project Management from RIT, and is expected to earn her Education Doctorate in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College this spring.

For more information on the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute, visit

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