Our Leadership Team
Committed to fostering success in central city Milwaukee children
Next Door’s highly qualified team of approximately 260 employees serve two early childhood center-based sites and a home visitation program offering prenatal services and early childhood education. In addition, our Child Care Partnership program features Next Door staff who support teachers and families at our 11 early childhood partnership sites in Milwaukee County.
Our team includes classroom teachers, home-based Parent Educators, Family Advocates, special education and behavioral health specialists, instructional coaches, nutrition services and Books for Kids. Together, they are helping our students build a strong foundation for success in school while ensuring their parents have access to important community resources to raise strong families.
We’re proud to announce that the Milwaukee Business Journal honored Next Door as one of its 2020 “Best Places to Work.” The program honors companies and organizations based on high rankings from employee surveys. Next Door earned its recognition in the Extra-Large category (200 employees or more) and was the only nonprofit organization in the group.
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Heather Mehring Grams
Heather Mehring Grams joined Next Door as President in January 2023. She has 20 years of experience in education, including 12 years as a school administrator.
Most recently, Heather was principal at St. Sebastian School, a private Choice school located in Milwaukee’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
Heather brings additional experience and education including:
• Elementary, Middle and High School Teacher
• Youth Restorative Justice Program Coordinator
• Hospital Chaplain
• Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education
• Master’s Degrees in Education Leadership and Pastoral Care and Counseling
• PreK-12 Administrator’s License
Vice President of Development and Communication
Cristina Crogan joined Next Door in 2017. She brings nearly 20 years of experience in development and communications to her current role. Prior to Next Door, Cristina worked at the Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation and the Milwaukee Public Museum. She has a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Vice President of Finance and Administration
Jeffrey Grant joined Next Door in October 2023 to lead our finance department. He brings more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit fiscal departments; including executive leadership positions at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy, Kenosha Community Health Center, Milwaukee Center for Independence, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
He has in-depth expertise in numerous administrative and financial functions; including accounting, audits, taxes, investments, budgets, human resources, payroll, benefits, insurance, contracts, compliance, technology, information systems, purchasing, fleet and facilities.
He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and his Master’s Degree in Taxation; both at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
Vice President of Human Resources
Sheila's background in the non-profit sector, in both human resources and operations, has given her the opportunity to develop strong skills in strategy development, problem-solving, employee relations, DEI, and organization management.
Sheila most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Human Resource Officer of the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, with a seven-year tenure at the organization.
Previously she’s served in related roles at Columbia St. Mary’s, Outreach Community Health Centers (formerly Health Care for the Homeless of Milwaukee).
Sheila has a Bachelor of Science in Communications, a master's in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University, and was enlisted in the United States Army.
Vice President of Programs
Myranda Syrjanen came to Next Door in 2005 as an Early Head Start teacher. She later became the Director of Next Door's Child Care Partnership program and currently serves as Vice President of Programs. Myranda has a master's degree in early childhood education from University of North Dakota, a master’s credential in infant studies from the Erickson Institute and a bachelor's degree in speech language and hearing sciences from University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.
Director of Comprehensive Services
Nichole Spooner joined Next Door in 2010 with ten years of early childhood teaching experience. She started at Next Door as a Family Advocate Specialist and later served as a Disabilities Services Coordinator and a Health Advocate Specialist. In 2019, Nicole became Director of Comprehensive Services, overseeing physical and mental health services for Next Door students and families. Nichole has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Alverno College.
Director of Family Services
Melissa Brockie came to Next Door in 2018 with over ten years of social work experience. Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Loyola University Chicago and a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University. Melissa’s experience includes behavioral health, homelessness and victim services for children, adults and families.
Director of Childcare Partnerships
Lydia Reaves joined Next Door in 2005 as an assistant teacher for the Educare Milwaukee program. Since then, she has worked her way through various roles including lead teacher, family advocate, instructional coach, Childcare Partnerships manager and now Director of Childcare Partnerships. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in Early Childhood Education. She also earned a graduate certificate in Infant Toddler Mental Health from Erikson Institute in 2014.
Dr. Tonya Hameister
Director of Educational Services
Dr. Tonya Hameister joined Next Door as the Director of Educational Services in the summer of 2021. She has more than 20 years of education experience in Pre-K-12 systems and as an administrator/professor at the university level. She came to Next Door from University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh where she served in the Departments of Leadership, Literacy and Social Foundations, and Special and Early Childhood Education. She has a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin- Madison, a Master’s degree in Special Education with a specialty in Gifted Education from Kansas State University and a Bachelor’s degree from Marquette University.
29th St. Site Director
Jenna Heinen joined Next Door in 2001 as a kindergarten teacher for the Charter School. Since then she has worked her way through various roles including Learning Coordinator, School Readiness Coach, Education Manager, Site Manager, and now Site Director. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 1999 from Lakeland College in Education. She also earned her Masters Degree in 2013 from Cardinal Stritch University in Reading and Learning Disabilities.
Capitol Dr. Site Director
I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education for 27 years. I began my career as a volunteer in a Head Start Program, which was the best experience I ever had working with young children. My first job in Early Childhood was as an Assistant Teacher, from there I moved my way up to a center director, which is my current position here at Next Door. I currently hold a Bachelor’s in General Education and a Masters in Counseling along with Wisconsin Early Childhood Credentials.
Director of Operations
In 2019, Carolyn Porter became Director of Operations at Next Door overseeing areas including facilities, maintenance and nutrition. She previously served as Senior Associate for the Executive Office and Board Relations. Carolyn has nearly 20 years of experience in public and non-profit management. She earned a bachelor's degree from Marquette University and a master's degree in Public Administration from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.
Director of Information Technology
Jesse Weathersby currently oversees Information Technology across all of Next Door's campuses. He came to the agency in 2000 and began working as an IT Manager. Before Next Door, Jesse served as a Project Manager for the BancTec Corporation, which provided technology services for the Midwest region.
Human Resources Director
Lucretia Dillon came to Next Door in 2005 after her previous Human Resources roles at COA Youth & Family Centers and Rosalie Manor Community & Family Services. She earned a bachelor's degree in business management systems-human resource management from Milwaukee School of Engineering, a master's degree in management from Cardinal Stritch University and an additional master's in counseling from Mount Mary University.
Chad Piechocki joined Next Door in 2017, as the Grants Administrator. He has 15+ years of experience in non-profit management and fundraising. Prior to Next Door, he worked in various roles in the performing arts in Milwaukee. He has a bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Director of Workforce Development
Susan Murray joined Next Door in 2014. Prior to becoming Director of Workforce Development, she served as a Parent Educator, Instructional Coach, and Professional Development Specialist. Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Community Education from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Susan has over ten years of Head Start experience, and has a passion for serving the children and families in our community.