Executive Director and Superintendent
“We Are Our Brother’s Keeper”. Wisdom ~ Honor ~ Perseverance
Born and raised in Studewood, Texas, James is the proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s in Music and a Master’s in Education. While at the University of Houston, James began singing with the Houston Operas. He is a member of Phi Delta Kappa, Phi Mu Alpha and a life member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Mr. Allen served over 25 years as an educator and campus administrator in the El Campo, Houston and North Forest Independent School Districts. While with each district, he empowered students to maximize their potential while creating their own personal significance. His vision was to create an educational environment which compelled every student to become leaders not simply followers; to search within themselves and find their own unique contributions. On his campuses, students were engaged in higher level thinking activities as he inspired critical and diverse thinking.
Since 2001, Mr. Allen has served as Executive Director of the Knowledge-First Empowerment Center. Through his vision, Knowledge-First has created an educational environment of learning aimed at motivating students to do more than just acquire knowledge. “At Knowledge-First, we believe education should not only address the intellectual capacities but should be a matter of attaining proficiencies that lead to lifelong resiliency.”
Through his efforts in 2013, Mr. Allen transformed Knowledge-First into an accredited 501(c)(3) non-profit K-12 Academy. This distinction allows students to fulfill state course requirements and obtain their high school diploma. In addition to their classroom assignments, students devote at least four hours per month on volunteer community service opportunities and/or additional educational endeavors. This unique paradigm has received major funding from the United Way, George Foundation, City of Missouri City, Fort Bend Cares, NAACP~Missouri City branch, the Fort Bend Junior Service League, H-GAC and Houston Center for Literacy to name a few. Mr. Allen’s mission of leaving a legacy of community self-actualization has been realized through the Knowledge-First Empowerment Center. He is married to MaryAnn and is the proud father of Thaddeus, Lauren and Gian Allen.
Chair and Co-Founder
“Education when properly utilized will unlock doors and propel us to heights that were heretofore unattainable”
Born and raised in Illinois, Lisa Sylvester Acogny, multi-ethnic American, French and Senegalese mother of five has lived on 5 of the 7 continents. As a young adult, she was exposed to the flavor of travel through classical dance. Having performed with notable figures such as Katherine Dunham and Eartha Kitt, these experiences provided a space within her global thinking. Thus, her path was set which gave her the opportunity to live in England, Germany, France, the Caribbean, Japan and West Africa. Consequently, Lisa was granted a world perspective that only few could ever dream of.
Lisa received her bachelor’s degree of Health Care and Psychology from Tennessee State University. Having attended an HBCU, this gave her the spiritual foundation and motivation to pursue a career path which is devoted to the betterment of the human existence. Additionally, she has served as a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in America, Europe and Africa for 22 years.
Being the president for project LEAP (Learning Empowerment Advocacy Program) enumerated her belief in providing grass root services to others. Lisa continued the career path of non-profit: counseling, housing and educating those affected and infected with HIV and AIDS, women and children of domestic violence and those suffering from homelessness.
As an advocate, touching hearts, impacting lives, and being an innovator, she quickly saw the need for more education, which led her to her God given purpose: “to bridge the gap and provide affordable education to those who lack access worldwide.”
Lisa currently serves as Chair and Co-Founder of International Programs for Knowledge-First International Academy. Through her influence, students both domestic and international have increased their commitment of self-determination and personal growth and development.
Doris Nchinda was born and raised in French Cameroon. She brings a global educational experience to Knowledge-First International. Doris holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. In addition, she attended Cambridge International College in London where studied Political Science. Ms. Nchinda completed her post graduate studies earning an MBA in Human Resources Management from Kansas Wesleyan University.
Doris is a mother of 2 boys, Bradley and Brandon. She is very passionate about delivering quality education to youth and developing leaders.
Vice President of International Academic Affairs
Dr. Rufus Foster is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, a resident of Houston, Texas; entering his 20th year as a professional educator. Dr. Foster have taught at the middle school, high school, college, and university levels. As an accomplished educator, he has worked with educational research, educational accreditation, and education program management over the course of his tenure. Dr. Foster earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hampton University. In addition, he has earned a Master of Education degree specializing in Counseling Psychology and Supervision from Cambridge University and a Doctorate in Public Education and Administrative Law from Texas Southern University.
As the Vice President of International Academic Affairs for Knowledge-First, Dr. Foster serves as the senior academic administrator, in charge of curriculum, training and development and research.
In his spare time, he enjoys sports, live music, visiting museums and venues of cultural relevance, traveling, and writing poetry as well as fiction. His greatest joy in life is partaking in the development of young minds and assisting those minds with their transition to progressive and productive careers.
Assessment & Curriculum Project Coordinator
Janae Allen is an accomplished banking advisor and Marketing/Promotion professional with over 18 years of experience combined. Her career as a Marketing/Promotions expert has afforded her business collaborations with A-List celebrities in the entertainment and sports industry. Janae is a co-founder of Raising the Bar Foundation, a non-profit organization which mentor youth.
Raising the Bar Foundation focuses on empowering the young urban community. It is her belief that when our youth are provided with proper guidance in the early stages of their development with the goal of making them productive members of their community. Currently she serves as the assessment and curriculum project coordinator for domestic and international educational services. Janae Allen is a native of New Iberia, LA and currently resides in Houston, TX.
Director of Equity and Compliance
Stacey Helaire is a strategic senior-level human resources professional with extensive cross-industry experience managing and coordinating expansive human capital operations to facilitate organizational growth and improve operational efficiency within high profile corporations. Known for directing progressive process improvement initiatives and developing and implementing corporate policies and procedures; she is an expert in core functional human capital competencies such as talent acquisition and management, recruiting, learning and development, benefits and compensation administration, employee relations and human resources information systems.
Stacey’s core focus is organizational effectiveness. Throughout her 18-year career journey, she has provided professional leadership and service to such companies as Duke Energy, Teppco Crude Oil, Sonic Industries, Shell Lubricants, Eaton Corp (formerly known as Cooper Industries) and BP (British Petroleum).
Stacey obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Oklahoma and both her graduate degrees; Master of Arts in Organizational Management and a MBA with a concentration in Human Resources Management from the University of Phoenix. She has professional affiliations with the International Women’s Leadership Association and the National Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM).
Stacey is a native of Houston Texas and is married of 9 years to her best friend and husband Mr. Terry Helaire
Chief Operations Officer
As a transformational executive and Chief Operations Officer (COO) at the Knowledge-First International Academy (KFI), Sunshine Silas is responsible for the international operations of the organization. He brings more than 8 years of experience working in a leadership role to the KFI. With foresight and imagination, Silas Sunshine has an impressive history of surpassing ambitious business goals and delivering excellence and innovative solutions to private and public organizations and clients. He has a consistent record of positioning organizations for success, spurring six digits sales growth, opening new revenue streams and building highly accomplished teams that demonstrate a profound dedication to operational excellence. Bolstered by a strong network of clients’ contacts, Silas Sunshine is always ready to hit the ground running and deliver results quickly.
Prior to joining KFI, Silas served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Bernard Efezino Foundation and Benandaluk Nig. Ltd, where he held responsibility for all financial and business operations averaging #500M combined annual revenue. Under his guidance, the organization underwent a stunning transformation from a small and struggling organization to a major profitable venture attracting international investors and investments in the oil and gas sector. The company won the “Top Performer Award” for 2018 in Port Harcourt.
Demonstrating both an entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial spirit, Sunshine has an innate ability to quickly identify and actualize valuable ideas, employing shrewd strategies and maximize organizational capabilities, operations, service offerings and staff performance. Sunshine Silas received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Calabar, an MBA from the University of Nicosia and currently participates in various leadership and entrepreneurship programs. He is a John Maxwell Certified Coach, speaker and Trainer and also certified by the Brian Tracy Sales program and other leadership certifications.