As one of the state’s largest child-serving agencies, Positive Education Program employs more than 500 resilient professionals committed to strengthening minds with heart.
PEP is guided by a team of administrators and Board of Directors – all of whom are personally invested in the success of the staff, children and families they serve.
Chief Executive Officer
Habeebah R. Grimes
Serving our community’s most vulnerable children has been Grimes’ life’s work. She first joined PEP in 1999 as a one-on-one aide. After earning her master’s in clinical psychology and a specialization in school psychology from Cleveland State University, Grimes returned to PEP as a clinical supervisor for one of its Day Treatment Centers. After being promoted to the chief clinical officer role in 2015, Grimes led PEP’s embrace and ultimate certification in evidence-based, trauma-informed practices, working closely with The ChildTrauma Academy. She is a graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Ladder to Leadership: Developing the Next Generation of Community Health Leaders program. In 2015, Crain’s Cleveland Business recognized Grimes as a 40 Under 40 honoree. Grimes currently serves as a mentor for multiple organizations and collaborative ventures, including as the co-chair of Say Yes to Cleveland Integrated Health Task Force; an adviser for Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice; vice-chair of the Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition Northeast Steering Committee; and as a member of the Cuyahoga County Citizens Advisory Council on Equity.
Chief External Relations Officer
A lifelong advocate for children, Berger joined PEP in 2000 following successful stints in development at Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, United Way and several political campaigns. Berger’s portfolio at PEP includes fund development, board development, strategic planning facilitation, communications and government relations. She is a graduate of Kenyon College – an institution where she remains deeply involved, currently serving as a trustee. She is a member of the 2007 Leadership Cleveland class, past president of the board of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, a recipient of Crain’s Cleveland Business’ 40 under 40 recognition and recipient of the 2007 Athena Award.
Chief Clinical Officer
Having spent her entire professional career with PEP, Breen has a deep commitment to the agency and, more specifically, the children and families it serves. She joined the organization as a one-on-one aide more than 20 years ago and has held a series of roles of increasingly responsibility, including clinical supervisor and clinical coordinator. Today, as chief clinical officer, Breen oversees the mental health programming for every child PEP serves. She holds as master’s in social science administration from Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor’s in social work from Cleveland State University. Breen is also certified in the Neuro-Sequential Model of Trauma from the ChildTrauma Academy.
Chief Operating Officer
Gatto arrived at PEP in 2019 with more than 20 years of experience in social services, data management and operations. She oversees the agency’s information technology and quality assurance departments as well as its numerous facilities. Before joining PEP, she served in a leadership role at United Way of Greater Cleveland where she led the implementation and expansion of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 service. Gatto holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cleveland State University and a master’s in social administration from Case Western Reserve University. She has completed post-graduate coursework in library and computer science and holds the Certified Resource Specialist credential from the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). Gatto is a graduate of the YWCA Women’s Leadership Institute, a 2018 recipient of the YWCA Women of Professional Excellence Award and a 2016 recipient of the AIRS Distinguished Service Award.
Chief Instruction and Achievement Officer
Marilyn K. Mauck
With 24 years of experience in the classroom and more than 16 in education administration, Mauck has always been driven by the belief that all children can learn at high levels when connected with the right relationships and resources. She joined PEP in 2016 as a special education supervisor for PEP Phoenix, advanced to principal in 2019, and was promoted to her current position in 2020. As chief instruction and achievement officer, Mauck oversees special education compliance, curriculum and instruction, and PEP’s equity project. Prior to her time at PEP, Mauck worked in several northeast Ohio districts, including Brecksville, Cleveland Heights, and Orange. She also spent a year teaching in Los Angeles, California. A passionate supporter of promoting equity and inclusion in training for new teachers, Mauck serves on the board for the Kent State University Graduate Program in Education. Mauck holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Mount Union College and a master’s in education and administration from John Carroll University. Mauck also holds special licensure in reading.
O’Donnell brings a wide range of legal experience to her position as general counsel including civil litigation; non-profit incorporation and governance; and county and municipal government law. Prior to embarking on a legal career, O’Donnell was a special education teacher and worked for several years as a teacher-counselor at PEP Greenview. In her current role, she provides legal advice and counsel to executive and administrative leaders agency-wide. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University and her law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. She is licensed to practice in Ohio and North Carolina.
Chief Human Resources Officer
Always an advocate for mental health awareness, Sawyer launched her career as a social worker before transitioning into human resources where she discovered a passion for recruiting, retaining and developing talent. Over the last decade, Sawyer has served in a variety of HR leadership roles at both for-profit and non-profit mental health organizations. At PEP, she oversees the HR and staff development functions and provides leadership relating to employee relations, retention, leadership development and succession planning. She earned both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in business management from Baldwin Wallace University.
Chief Financial Officer
John P. Sesek
A veteran of PEP, Sesek is responsible for the oversight of the organization’s $40 million-plus operating budget. Under his careful stewardship, PEP expanded its two largest sources of revenue – education fees and Medicaid reimbursements – ensuring the organization remains fiscally strong and able to serve as many children as possible. In 2009, Crain’s Cleveland Business recognized Sesek as a CFO of the Year. He earned his bachelor’s from Columbia University and a master’s in public administration from the University of San Francisco.