Dawn Ault

Executive Director
Virginia Head Start Association

Dawn Ault has been serving as the Executive Director of the Virginia Head Start Association for the past 8 years. Adopting a two-generation approach to help families break the cycle of poverty, Head Start services are aimed to empower and engage families in long term self-sustaining practices that create better homes and communities for the future. These services include health and nutrition, goal-setting, securing higher education, family asset building, early childhood education, including social-emotional development of young children. As Executive Director of VAHSA, she leads the professional development trainings and advocacy efforts to help support Head Start staff around the Commonwealth, to ensure their success with vulnerable children and families.

For twenty years prior to this role, Mrs. Ault has worked within the public school system for Henrico and Hanover Counties, as: a 4th Grade Teacher, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, Assistant Principal, Coordinator of Federal Programs, and Head Start Director. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree, double majoring in Elementary Education and Psychology, from SUNY Oswego and a M.Ed. from VCU in Administration & Supervision PreK-12.

She lives in Ashland, VA with her husband and two teenage children. She proudly served as her daughter’s Girl Scout Leader for ten years, was an active board member for the Hanover Arts and Activities Center for several years, and is currently serving her second term on The National Head Start Association’s Board of Directors. In her free time she enjoys time with her family (and her dogs), yoga, and she often participates in a variety of community outreach activities with her son’s Boy Scout Troop, in and around Ashland.


Melissa Palombi

Communication and Events Manager
Virginia Head Start Association

Melissa Palombi is a positive, creative collaborator, experienced in executing diverse events from brainstorming to day of execution. Raised in the DC area, she has returned to the east coast via Colorado and finds the Shenandoah as comforting as the Rockies. Her background is in the arts having received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon. In Colorado, she earned her MA in Art History and completed coursework in K-12 art education before returning to Virginia. Melissa most recently worked for 7 years at UVA in the Athletics Marketing and Communications Department coordinating large events and school programs.

In her spare time, she produced a cookbook called, Hoos in the Kitchen, which features University of Virginia staff, alumni, and Charlottesville residents, telling their stories through a shared love of food. She is thrilled to apply her skills in marketing/communications, education, and event production, to support the VAHSA.


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