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Jim Gillen

Jim Gillen has been an educator almost all his life. He graduated from Christian Brothers Secondary School in Ireland 1967 and became a teacher in 1970. He graduated from University College Dublin in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Latin and Math and earned a Higher Diploma in Education, Honors. He then emigrated to the U.S. later that year with his wife.

His life since has been a catalog of educational engagement:


He taught at La Salle High School in Pasadena from 1976-1979 and then he took a position in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District from 1979-1985 as a Math, English and Latin teacher.

In 1990 he served in the Chaffey District as Math Department Chairman at Ontario High School and in 1995 became the GATE and AP Coordinator. In this position he raised the participation levels of students from 85 to 375. He became the AP Latin teacher during this period and saw 3 of his ex- students attend Harvard University concurrently.


In 2008 he became the Chaffey District Coordinator of a newly formed entity called the Chaffey Online Learning Academy (COLA) in response to a flight of students from the district to competing chartered educational entities that were attracting district students to its doors resulting in a $5 million loss to the District. The COLA program ran an online academy enabling students who would otherwise have left the district to remain and graduate from their local high school via the independent study process. The COLA program resulted in a net gain of almost $2 million to the District in its first two years.


Jim then took early retirement to assist other High Schools, primarily private, to acquire their own online programs as often they lack the resources and staff to accomplish that. In so doing, opportunities arose to pair those schools with Asian schools to develop cross cultural exchanges such as student visits, summer camps and also curricular offerings to Asian students. The demand has grown for programs such as these and not only in the High School area, but also K-12.


Aquinas International Academy(AIA) is a natural consequence of that demand and has been designed to provide educational opportunities for all curricular levels in a NON-Denominational setting. We can now provide foreign students the chance to acquire a High School Diploma without the expense of emigrating to the U.S. and the burden of securing Visas and homestay. Graduates of AIA have been accepted to colleges such as Lehigh, Rutgers, Syracuse and University of Connecticut, UCLA  among others.



Jennifer Williams

Vice Principal

Jennifer co-founded Aquinas International Academy with a wealth of business and communication

experience. With over 35 years working as a business consultant, she found her

passion to be in education. Her first experience in education was starting an online learning program for a private school in Cincinnati, OH. From there she went on to start four additional online and blended learning programs. Her wealth of business knowledge has been instrumental in the start up of over

twenty companies, some of her own and many as a COO, CMO, Director of Operations as well as National Director of Sales and Marketing. Holding vital positions with Fortune 500 companies, and having experience in international business partnerships have allowed her to learn from the best of the best.


She credits her military service experience, starting at “entry level” and working her way through the ranks, while taking in as much knowledge and experience as possible with every opportunity.

A lifelong learner she is continuing her education to obtain a degree in Psychology with a minor is International Business. In addition, she continues to glean valuable knowledge and experiences by participating in entrepreneurship courses, researching and creating strategic alliances with her peers. She believes in working together as a team – “If you have an idea and I have an idea, that we share, now we both have two and our opportunity for success has just doubled!" 

Jennifer also owns a marketing firm and her most recent accomplishment in that business was to obtain a valuable partnership with the largest media company in the world. Bringing this opportunity to her clients gives them an unmatched competitive edge in the sales and marketing arena.

​She chairs the Dynamic Women in Business Council at the Centre Club in Tampa, is an active member of the Philanthropy Council and the Strategic Alliance Group. She is a member of the Strategic Partners Alliance, Working Women of Tampa Bay, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and The International Society of Female Professionals. In 2022 Jennifer was also awarded the Outstanding Leadership in Education Award 2022 by Education 2.0 in Las Vegas, NV. Taking on the role of B.E.S.T. program chairperson, a program partnering local businesses and schools to stress the importance of education and success in Corporate America.  She implemented and coordinated many events including tours and hands on training for the students, fund raising events to fund school equipment, reading programs where employees read to students on their lunch break and various other learning incentives.


She served on the Board of Directors for over 10 years for local Breast Cancer Non-Profit organization. Additional community service work includes volunteering in homeless shelters,

Hoxworth Blood Center/ Johnson & Johnson blood drives, advisory board member for a Family Resource Center and Vice President of the PTA. She has repeatedly been called on to  teach, train and motivate large groups on personal image, sales and marketing of products and services.

Prior experience is in the Armed Forces, where she served in the United States Navy from 1985 until honorably discharged in 1992. She continues to work with her veteran peers by actively participating with organizations like Bunker Labs, Action Zone Tampa  and Veterans Florida.

She is the mother & mother-in-law of 3 beautiful and talented adults and a very proud and smitten Gigi to 2 amazing grandsons. 

Alexa Thrap AIA Online School

Alexa Tharp

Operations Manager

& Registrar

Alexa has over 10 years of customer service experience with over five of those years being management level. Alexa has excellent organizational and leadership skills which propelled her into an Assistant General Manager role of a fortune 500 company in just two years. She has a great thirst for knowledge and continues to create and accomplish goals. Alexa’s number one rule in life is to always remain teachable and open minded. 


She excels in leadership roles and aspires to help others in any way possible. 

Alexa has been with Aquinas International Academy for five years filling the position of Office Manager, and in 2021 was promoted to Operations Manager/Registrar. She also strongly believes in AIA's mission to break down barriers and create lasting relationships with people from every nation via education. 

Alexa enjoys spending her free time with her son, reading, and watching movies. Her favorite types of books are fiction and crime, and her favorite genre of movie is comedy.

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