Phoenix Recovery Academy Staff

Our staff handles the day-to-day operations at the Phoenix Recovery Academy and includes both teacher and non-teacher roles. Without the work of these dedicated individuals, the students would not have the amount of support and resources available to them that they do. We are beyond grateful for each of our staff members. 

Meet Our Staff

Heather Whitcomb

Heather Whitcomb

Executive Director

As a life-long resident of Frederick, Heather has always been motivated to help others in her community. Prior to her nonprofit work, she taught multiple grade levels in elementary education for Frederick County Public Schools for over 10 years. During her tenure with FCPS, she was an active member on the leadership team and lead, inspired, and motivated colleagues to effectively deliver instruction and increase student outcomes. Heather holds a Master’s in Reading Specialization from Hood College, which provided her hands-on literacy experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

She believes a recovery high school is essential for our community to provide adolescents with individualized instruction and early recovery support for long-term sobriety. She is passionate about serving the recovery community and dedicated to assisting our youth for the prevention of adult substance use disorder.

Heather was awarded an Unsung Hero Do-Gooder Award in October 2020 for going above and beyond to facilitate and handle the day-to-day logistics of opening the doors of Phoenix Recovery Academy. She has assisted in raising over $500,000 in funding through grant writing and fundraising. Since 2018, Heather has served as the Administrative Assistant, while wearing many hats to ensure the success of our organization. In addition to her work with Phoenix, Heather volunteers her time in neighborhood schools, sports associations, and connects community agency resources for those in need.

Heather and her husband, Jonathan have four sons and a golden retriever. In her personal time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, camping, and being her boys #1 fan on the sports fields.

Stephanie Purdy


Stephanie has led community programs for development and recovery for more than 20 years. Her experience ranges from early child development and protective services to government education, welfare, and reentry programs. She has been involved throughout the spectrum of advocacy, education, and recovery, providing case management, organizational training and administration, victim advocacy, and developmental assessments for many multicultural communities and international clientele. She has managed a high caseload of international students by tracking academic progress while making necessary plans for tutoring, guidance, or personal support. Her recent work as an adult addiction therapist has reinforced her desire to break the cycle of addiction and dependency by enabling youth in the process of recovery.

Stephanie holds a PhD in Forensic Psychology, addressing the impact of early childhood trauma leading to substance abuse and domestic violence in adulthood. She has also earned graduate degrees in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice from Walden and Fayetteville State Universities (respectively).  

Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband, 4 children, and more pets than they probably ought to have in the home. However, finding Stephanie away from work is difficult—because she loves working with the people she serves. If you’re looking for her outside the office, you’ll most likely find her in the woods or on the trail. Stephanie believes most problems can be solved by putting on a good pair of hiking boots and spending some time letting nature sort things out.

Allyson Watson


Allyson comes to Phoenix after spending time teaching for Frederick County Public Schools. Allyson attended Stevenson University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in education along with minors in psychology and criminal justice. Outside of work she enjoys coaching sports teams, training athletes, snowboarding, and staying active. Allyson continues her own journey of recovery and has experience working with others recovering from alcohol and substance abuse as well.

Marlena Wiley


Marlena is a life-long Frederick resident and has been actively involved in her community. She currently serves on the City of Frederick Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board and the FCPS Special Education Citizens Advisory Board. She also volunteers with many youth organizations in the city. 
She holds an undergraduate degree in Social Science, a graduate degree in Special Education and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Leadership researching the impact that trauma has on students. Alongside her role at the Phoenix Recovery Academy, she is also a Home Hospital Teacher for Frederick County Public Schools. 
Marlena is very excited to join the Phoenix Recovery Academy team because she has witnessed first-hand how students with addiction and mental health issues struggle in the mainstream educational environment. 

Kevin Burnes

Peer Recovery Specialist

Kevin is an alumnus of the original Phoenix School. One of the first recovery based high schools started here in Maryland. It was there that he began his own personal journey in recovery. Kevin has remained a consistent advocate and mentor for our youth, substance abuse programs and ultimately their success in recovery. As a result, he offers a unique perspective in working with students, parents and families struggling with substance abuse and addiction. 

Kevin comes to us with an extensive background in teaching. For over 30 years, Kevin has been a music instructor in both Montgomery County and here in Frederick County. When not in the office, Kevin can be found performing with his guitar and working in the health and fitness field as both a personal trainer and nutritionist.