A Legacy of Success: 98% of our full-service families are admitted to their first choice school
Premier Educational Consulting Firm in NYC

98%

98%

Parents

For more than 20 years, Smart City Kids educational consultants and advisors have successfully guided families through the admissions process for Independent Day and Boarding Schools, Selective Public Schools, and Colleges and Universities. We support families at all stages of their children’s educational journey, from Nursery School through College, as well as Special Education. We provide wraparound services including parenting sessions, academic enrichment, or support. Our expert knowledge of Private, Public, and Boarding schools, Colleges and Universities, and Special Education Programs is unparalleled. Our admissions consultants are educators first, prioritizing each student’s journey, from preschool through higher education enabling them to flourish. We provide clarity in the complex process of admissions and guide families with intention and integrity.

School

Smart City Kids works with a wide variety of Independent Schools throughout the greater New York City metropolitan area. From managing placement processes for schools to tailoring workshops, demographic reporting, mapping compliance, and developing growth plans, we provide customized institutional consulting services to meet the demands of a range of programs, from newly established to revered institutions. We develop leadership transition plans, advise on staffing needs, admissions and exmissions processes, marketing, communications, and messaging.

Organizations

Since its founding, Smart City Kids has been a partner to many esteemed organizations in New York City and beyond. We offer a wide range of workshops to comprehensively explain the admissions and financial aid processes from Preschool to College. We partner with Work/Life teams to customize programming to address the needs of each community with a lens toward topics in education, parenting, and well-being. We offer comprehensive support to corporations when they are recruiting new talent by helping to find schools for relocating families.

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Jackie Sirgo, MA

Lead Boarding School Consultant, K-12 Consultant

Jackie has spent her entire professional career focused on access and equity to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. She has a particular interest in the history of educational institutions as it pertains to the students each serves. Over the years, she has developed the skill set to fully understand the complexities of a student’s academic profile, which greatly informs her recommendations. Schools she suggests to clients are both academically and emotionally appropriate, a balance she feels is critical in allowing every student to reach their fullest potential.

Prior to joining Smart City Kids, Jackie served as the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Speyer School. Before that, she served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Secondary School Placement Director, also at Speyer. Her roles required her to identify gifted and accelerated learners using non-verbal assessments and academic achievement tools. She led the financial aid committee, managing a budget of over three million dollars. She collaborated with the school’s marketing team to identify the best forms of outreach to attract families to Speyer. She also supported the Placement Office by establishing relationships with Admissions Directors nationally, both at Day and Boarding Schools. Jackie served as the Secondary School Placement Director at The School of Columbia, and she held the Junior and Senior academic and admissions counselor position for the Higher Education Opportunity Program at Barnard College.

Jackie earned her Bachelor of Art degree in Philosophy from Buffalo State College and her Masters in Higher Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She sits on the selection committee for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, which offers one of the only merit-based, need-blind high school scholarships to highly gifted students across the United States.

When she is not thinking about access and placement, Jackie enjoys the outdoors, the history of the Americas, and gardening. She lives in New Jersey , where she co-parents three children.

jackiesirgo@smartcitykids.com
(212) 249-4066

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Adriana Payne

Managing Director, K-12 and Boarding School Consultant

Adriana Payne is an Educational Consultant specializing in K-12 advisory. She is passionate about demystifying the school process for families. In helping students and families navigate the complexities of school options and problem solve with good humor, she is committed to finding the environment where each child will flourish. Adriana is warm, curious, and deeply intuitive. She brings thoughtfulness and care to the process of finding a school.

Adriana was the Director of Admission and Associate Head of School at The Mandell School in New York, overseeing all admissions, enrollment, communications, and marketing. Prior to Mandell, Adriana ran her own independent communications consultancy in New York and London.

Raised in Chicago, Adriana attended an independent school, and then set her sights further east to earn a bachelor’s degree in religion from Hamilton College. She enjoyed living in the UK and France, broadening her experience and her knowledge of education. She is an active volunteer for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and at Hamilton College, where she is the Vice Chair of the Alumni Association. She also volunteers at Hamilton’s career center. An avid reader, writer, and lover of books, she also volunteered at the New York Public Library for many years.

Adriana has raised her two children in New York City navigating each stage of the school process from preschool to college as a parent. When not advising families, she enjoys traveling, cooking, contemporary art and architecture, music, hiking, skiing, and theatre.

adrianapayne@smartcitykids.com
(212) 249-4066

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Mariel Kessel, MA

College Education Consultant

Mariel Kessel has worked in the education field for over fifteen years. She began her career working in MBA admissions at Columbia Business School. After several years there, she moved on to become Associate Dean for undergraduate admissions at Princeton University, where she worked to identify the right candidates for admissions. It was at Princeton that Mariel discovered her passion for working with adolescents. She used her vast knowledge of the admission process to help students apply to colleges and universities with a focus on best fit.

Mariel understands the stress and pressures around the college admissions process. Building strong relationships with her clients at Smart City Kids, Mariel works closely with them to identify goals and create plans and structure so they can achieve the goals they set for themselves. One of her favorite things about her job is to help students find their voice in the process. Working with Mariel, students come to understand that the process is as much about them choosing a school as being admitted to one. Mariel has worked with students who attend competitive schools from around the world. She has a solid grasp of a wide variety of curriculums available to students, and she is well-equipped to help students face the unique challenges ahead of them. Mariel holds a B.A. from Smith College and a M.A. from Columbia University. Mother to two small children, Mariel enjoys hiking and reading In her spare time.

marielkessel@smartcitykids.com

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Leila Smiley

Director of Education and Operations

Leila began her journey in education while studying sociology at Tufts University. There, she volunteered as a tutor working with high school students as she learned about education policy in her classes. Immediately after graduation, Leila joined Teach for America, where she taught kindergarten in Brooklyn while also earning her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Relay Graduate School of Education. After finishing her commitment to Teach for America, Leila continued teaching in the second grade, where she specialized in providing reading and math instruction to children who began the year below grade level. Leila particularly enjoyed working with children in small groups, where she could tailor instruction and resources to support the unique needs of her individual students. She soon discovered that her passion for small-group instruction translated to a love of tutoring.

In 2021, she began tutoring students of all ages in academic subjects and test preparation through Smart City Tutors, and in 2022, she became the Smart City Tutors Program Manager. In her current role, Leila uses all she learned in her teaching experience to grow a quality tutoring program, support tutors in their roles, and ensure that all children working with Smart City Tutors are receiving the support they need to reach their full potential.

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Martha Hirschman

Nursery Education Consultant

Over the course of her career, Martha Hirschman has served in a variety of roles in several independent schools. These roles include dorm parent, teacher, advisor, trip leader, Director of Admissions, Head of Lower School and Assistant Head of School. Martha has spent time in both girls’ schools as well as co-ed schools, and has worked with students from grades Pre-K-12. She worked at the Chapin School, Grace Church School, The Hewitt School, and Dwight School. Martha has had extensive experience in admissions and enrollment management, and is familiar with the New York City independent school landscape. She is a passionate and dedicated educator who enjoys working with families as they navigate the admissions process.

Martha has a B.S in Education from the University of Michigan, and an M.F.A. from New York University. She has been active in the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) and has served on several NYSAIS school accreditation teams. Martha is also a long-standing board member of Early Steps.

Martha and her husband are both educators and have raised their daughter in New York City independent schools, she has navigated the admissions process from preschool to college. Martha is delighted to join Smart City Kids as a consultant.

marthahirschman@smartcitykids.com

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Lorelle Brennen

College Education Consultant

Lorelle Babwah brings over a decade of experience in higher education and has a passion for helping young people navigate their educational journeys. She has invaluable knowledge of the application process, having worked at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. At Duke, Lorelle started out as Assistant Director of Student Services, working in both admissions and recruitment, and is currently active as a senior career coach. At UNC she oversaw a college preparatory and mentoring program and advised scholars for the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship Foundation, which is the oldest merit scholarship at the country’s first public university, with a 3% acceptance rate. Lorelle also spent years as a college counselor, guiding students at independent schools across the world to places at select US universities.

Lorelle holds both her BA and JD from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a graduate certification in Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. She is also a certified mindfulness and meditation coach, specializing in emerging adults. She brings a mindful approach to her work with students, focusing on self-awareness, curiosity, and intentionality in selecting a best-fit university. When not working with students, Lorelle loves playing pickle-ball, cycling, and learning in general. She has tried her hand at metalsmithing, Mandarin, and break-dancing so far, and is always on the hunt for new pursuits.

lorellebabwah@smartcitykids.com

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