The Aspire Project is a Public Benefit Not For Profit Corporation organized in the State of Oregon and has been granted 501(c)3 tax-exempt status as a Public Charity by the Internal Revenue Service. The organization is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.

On June 18, 2018, a Board Retreat was held and at that time the following officers were elected along with new members to the Board. With this reorganization, the Executive Director is now an ex-officio member of the Board.


Jeanette Ceccarelli Williams   


Jeanette Williams retired from a career of over 30 years of teaching and educational administration that spanned 6th grade through university level, covering all the language arts: writing, reading, speaking and performing. She has served on many boards ranging from the Seattle Arts Commission, Business and Professional Women, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Diplomat Corps to President of The Kittitas County Historical Museum, and the Ellensburg Public Library Board. During her years on various boards, Jeanette found a passion for providing training in leadership and Board development for various nonprofit and arts organizations. She has also led non-profits through the strategic planning process and assisted with the capital campaign process. When diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, she organized a community support group for those with PD. Jeanette recently completed a term as Secretary of the Cathedral Park Neighborhood Association and is now President of the Board for The Marylhurst School in Oregon City. One of her dreams is being realized in that she is taking tap classes at Aspire after waiting 60 years to do so! 

Gregg fortner     


Gregg Fortner is long-term Portland resident, retired from a 30-year engineering, marketing, and strategic planning career at Intel Corporation. Throughout his career, his focus was on the development of microprocessors and microprocessor-based platforms. His role spanned from advanced technology development through strategic and financial investment management. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, an MBA, and a certificate in financial planning.  Gregg believes that when vision is combined with strategy and execution, lives will be enhanced.

Daniel S. Darrow


Daniel Darrow is a Senior Vice President and Director of Institutional Product for the Institutional Banking/Investor Solutions division of UMB Bank, K.C., n.a. Dan works with this business line to produce banking and payment products delivered to the individual account holders of non-bank financial institutions, such as broker/dealers.  Dan is a career UMB associate with over four decades of experience in payment operations, relationship management, and product development. 

Dan, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, now resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Susan. Dan and Susan founded The Aspire Project, a 501c3 nonprofit organization in Portland, providing dance and academic instruction to the underserved in the community. Dan’s financial background and technical expertise is a valuable asset to the organization that is Dan’s personal passion.

Abby seemanN

AT LARGE member

Abby Seemann is retired from social service, a career which included Special Ed teacher; Case Manager with Multnomah County's MRDD program for families with multi-handicapped kids; head of the Tri-County Respite Care Program; and Information and Resource Specialist with the Oregon chapter of the National SIDS Foundation. As a flutist, she performs with the Portland Wind Symphony and the Oregon Sinfonietta, serving as a board member for both organizations. She has also been a long-time volunteer at KQAC 89.9 All Classical Portland. Abby has been an enthusiastic tap dance student at Aspire for the past 4 years and is eager to work toward the growth and future of The Aspire Project.

Mike Verbout

AT LARGE member

Mike Verbout graduated from Roosevelt High School, received his Bachelor’s and Master's degrees from Lewis & Clark College and pursued doctoral studies at Portland State and Oregon State Universities. During his time as an elementary school principal, Mike introduced the first Dual Language Immersion program and created the first SUN School site. Today there are over 80 SUN School sites in the Portland area. After retiring from his 33-year career as a Portland Public Schools teacher and principal, Mike is a volunteer with Loaves and Fishes, Peninsula Kiwanis and North Portland Optimist Club; a board member of The Salvation Army and co-creator of “Celebrate North Portland,” with the goal of recognizing and honoring the businesses, individuals, and groups that have made a difference. Former Principal at Applegate, Beach, and James John schools, Mike Verbout is a lifelong North Portland resident who loves his neighborhood.

Bio coming soon.



Maria is a tireless volunteer for The Aspire Project.  In addition to her fundraising, she has also helped with translating materials into Spanish so that members of the Latino community feel included.  The Aspire Project’s sliding scale tuition was very helpful and allowed Maria's daughter to participate in the ballet program, beginning in September, 2016. Jayqueen began taking two classes each week and quickly advanced, eventually taking three classes per week.  Jayqueen has since been accepted into the pre-professional program at the Oregon Ballet Theatre School with financial assistance from The Aspire Project.  Maria and her husband are thankful for The Aspire Project and how they have opened doors for their daughter. In her spare time, Maria enjoys Polynesian dancing.


at large member 

Susan G. Darrow       

Executive Director 

Susan Darrow has had a love for dance for over 60 years. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Sue started teaching dance in her parents’ basement at 13 years old and professionally at 16 years old. Sue’s areas of expertise include ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics. Throughout her dance career, Sue trained with various Kansas City professionals, including the Kansas City Ballet’s original Artistic Director, Tatiana Dokoudovska and Broadway tap dancer, Jimmie DeFore. Sue also brings 20 years of business operations management experience, as a college administrator for Warner Pacific College, Portland, OR and as a vice-president, responsible for managing teams of business analysts for UMB Bank, K.C., n.a.. In 2009, Sue and her husband, Dan founded The Aspire Project as a culmination of her love for dance. Since 2009, under Sue’s leadership, The Aspire Project has served over 4,000 students, providing quality ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary dance education as well as fitness classes for youth and adults. Approximately half of these students have come from low-income families and received discounted tuition based on their ability to pay. Sue’s primary desire is to give everyone a chance to dance and motivate children to believe that, with a little hard work and discipline, they can reach their full potential.