Introducing Our New Co-CEOs!

In April, we publicly announced that Brent Holsinger, our Founder and President, would be stepping down from his active role as his family relocated to Boston, MA. Since then, we have been strategically transitioning the role of leadership to Emani Morse while searching for a Co-CEO to serve alongside her.

Today, we are excited to announce that we have completed our search and are thrilled to welcome Russell Leary to On the Road!

“Emani and Russell are the perfect leaders to usher in a new era of On the Road,” Brent said. “They both are deeply invested in our mission and their collaborative, relationship-centered leadership styles will maintain On the Road’s established values and culture. We also can’t wait to see how they bring new ideas, perspectives, and enthusiasm to the organization, and put their own stamp on On the Road’s future.”


The decision to move forward with a collaborative leadership model was intentionally chosen by the executive team, along with the Board of Directors.


 “The Co-CEO model is an innovative approach to organizational governance, allowing On the Road to lean on the collective strengths of its leaders to drive strategy, make decisions, and advance key initiatives,” said Chris Orem, Member of the On the Road Board and Chair of our Strategic Planning Committee. After weighing a number of different possibilities, the Board decided that the Co-CEO model was the best way for On The Road to continue moving in the right direction.”


As Co-CEO, Emani will continue to oversee programming and operations, which she has done in her previous position, while Russell will focus on fundraising, finance and public relations. Together, the Co-CEOs will oversee mission and vision, strategic planning, board engagement, and organizational culture.


Both Emani and Russell say they’re excited to partner together on this next chapter. 


“I’ve seen the magic that can happen from working collaboratively, so collaborative leadership … feels right,” Emani said. 

Emani Morse, who officially started her tenure on August 7th, has been a part of On the Road since 2017 when she first volunteered as a Community Teacher for the Inside Healthcare Career Enrichment Course. She joined our team full time as the first program coordinator of our Thomas Harrison Middle School site in 2018. 


Over the years, Emani’s responsibility and leadership has grown; she’s served as the Director of Middle School Program & Data to Director of Operations, and now as Co-CEO. 

When planning for this next chapter of her time at On the Road, she said Russell really stood out as someone she could lead alongside. “With Russell, I felt like I could actually envision leading together and our skills really complement each other,” she explained.


Russell will officially join On the Road in late September after wrapping up his tenure as Executive Director of NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center, a local nonprofit that works diligently to engage immigrants, connect cultures, and build community with a vision for a thriving community that everyone can call home.


“We are excited for Russell to join the On the Road Collaborative team,” said Carson Lonett, Member of the On the Road Board and Co-CEO Hiring Committee. “During Russell’s candidate process, he shared his desire to uplift and celebrate the youth of On the Road. As On the Road transitions to Co-CEO leadership, Russell’s skill sets, strengths, and previous experience complement Emani, Co-CEO, and will be an extraordinary partnership.”


Russell began his career as a teacher after receiving his Masters from James Madison University. He spent eight years in the Charlottesville area before moving back to Harrisonburg with his wife and three kids and joining the team at NewBridges. 

“It’s been a really fun, challenging, growth-producing experience,” Russell said of his time at NewBridges. “I realized that I really loved the work that we did there and loved the role of being director but I wanted to get back into education and working around youth and empowerment. So, I was really drawn to the vision of On the Road and the model.”


 Russell first learned about On the Road when he moved back to Harrisonburg in March of 2022. During that time, he sought advisors who could support him as a new nonprofit director and he was introduced to Brent. 


“Brent was a mentor to me in my new role at NewBridges,” Russell said. “As I was learning about On the Road, I thought it was really neat, especially with the career enrichment courses and the way they pulled in so many members of the community and really empowered them to give back to the community.”


Russell recognizes that this kind of shift in founding leadership can be difficult or even scary, but he feels confident in the future and he hopes the community will continue to support the mission we’ve committed to for the last decade. 


“I want to say [to our supporters] that On the Road is in good hands,” Russell said.  “Even though leadership is changing, [On the Road] is living true to its values, and those values and our mission aren’t going to change, even as we do evolve.”


Emani agreed. “The people who are drawn to the organization, including Russell and I, really hold those values in our hearts and it’s our intention to continue those.”

Brent said he believes these two leaders together are exactly what the organization needs: “We believe Emani’s program and operations expertise as well as institutional knowledge, along with Russell’s heart and skill in community engagement and fundraising, is the ideal combination to lead the organization moving forward.”


Collaborative leadership may be a new concept to some, but both Emani and Russell agree it feels in line with how the organization has always operated.


“As a culture, we are starting to see – and rightly so – that we lead well together, and I think On the Road has always led that way … that was the spirit and it came across when I was taking to Brent and Emani and other community members about what On the Road was doing,” Russell said.


“The collaborative and shared leadership model really is reflective of how I enjoy leading,” Russel added, “I’m excited to see how together with Emani we can grow what On the Road is doing and continue to serve the youth.”



Emani said it’s been a privilege to see on the road grow from a small, grassroots cause to a thriving organization with 9 full-time employees and around 40 youth leaders, in addition to other part-time staff and volunteers, and that she’s truly excited for what the future holds.

“We have so many people working toward the same goal. It’s all about the youth and getting them to a place where they feel confident about themselves – confident enough to go after that job or talk to another adult,” Emani said. “[On the Road] has created something very special and I think every kid deserves that.”

“I would love to expand in a way that keeps that authenticity and that expands that little magic that first happened here in Harrisonburg,” she added. 


Russell agreed. “On the Road was built really well … and there’s so much energy and excitement and so much to build on… and I hope we can demonstrate through our effectiveness that we have a lot to offer other communities.”


Emani said she believes the thoughtfulness and impact of Brent and other founding members, including Deanna Reed, have set the organization up for success. 


“This transition has been done very thoughtfully and intentionally, and we have worked really hard to make it a smooth transition so that we can continue providing all the same things that we do to the community,” she said. 


Brent Holsinger said he is also extremely proud of the organization he’s built along with this amazing community and is thrilled for what’s to come. 


“It’s been one of the greatest joys and honors of my life to have been a part of starting and building On the Road alongside the very best community of supporters, including our board, staff, donors, partners, and countless Community Teachers and other volunteers–but the time is right for change and a transition to new executive leadership,” Brent said.  

“On the Road is truly a collaborative, community-driven effort that is rooted in our shared belief that every young person deserves a champion and equal access to educational opportunities and hands-on career experiences,” Brent added. “I look forward to joining the Harrisonburg and Waynesboro communities in remaining steadfast in supporting On the Road during this time of transition, and encouraging Emani and Russell in their role of Co-CEO.”