FELPS Fellows 2018
Research Assistant, MDRC
Emily Brennan is a research assistant at MDRC, a nonpartisan social policy and program evaluation firm. Emily is part of the Youth Development, Criminal Justice, and Employment Policy Area and her responsibilities include overall project management and coordination, qualitative data collection, and site relations.
Emily currently works on three evaluations. The first, Building Bridges and Bonds, is a large multi-site randomized control trial testing the effectiveness of three new Responsible Fatherhood program models funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The second project, Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential, examines the implementation of two program models aimed to improve post-secondary education and employment outcomes for system involved youth funded by the Social Innovation Fund through the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The third project’s aim is to learn about the implications of incarceration on family reunification and self-sufficiency to inform the Administration of Children and Families. Emily has also worked on a number of other projects during her time at MDRC, including an evaluation of subsidized and transitional employment programs for formerly incarcerated individuals.
Prior to joining MDRC, Emily was a project manager for a study examining the effects of gender, socioeconomic status, and race on youth peer relationships. In this role, Emily was responsible for data collection at schools in Cleveland, OH, managing undergraduate research assistants, and early processing of data.
Emily graduated from Oberlin College in December 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. During her time as a student, Emily volunteered at a number of youth organizations including the Boys & Girls Club; Girls, Inc.; and Soccer Without Borders. In her spare time, Emily enjoys playing soccer, traveling, and cooking with friends.
Community Organizer, Riders Alliance
Stephanie Burgos-Veras is a community organizer at the Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders that fights for reliable and affordable world-class public transportation. Stephanie began her work in transportation advocacy as a canvasser with the Riders Alliance in 2014. In 2016, Stephanie joined Riders Alliance as a full-time organizer. Stephanie works on the Bus Turnaround Campaign, a campaign to radically re-envision and improve bus service for 2.5 million bus riders. Stephanie is responsible for developing campaign strategy; grassroots leadership; executing direct actions and events; holding meetings with elected and appointed officials; and managing press relationships.
Prior to working at the Riders Alliance, Stephanie held internships at Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Sadie Nash Leadership Project. During her time at Sadie Nash, Stephanie helped young women of color explore their current and future leadership styles and facilitated workshops on feminism, social justice, activism, and youth development.
Stephanie graduated cum laude in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Communications Arts with a concentration in Public Relations and Advertising from The City College of New York. Stephanie was a fierce advocate and community leader on campus. She was a peer-mentor for incoming Search for Education Elevation and Knowledge first-year students, vice president of campus affairs for the undergraduate student government, and president of the Dominican Students Association.
Stephanie was a two-year undergraduate Colin Powell Fellow. Her fellowship capstone identified the challenges of and offered alternative ideas to increase civic engagement through participatory budgeting in City Council District 10 in Inwood and Washington Heights. For her advertising and public relations capstone, Stephanie helped create a fully integrated marketing campaign to increase Medicaid enrollment among Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients at the City College of New York for the Center for Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Financial Coach, The Financial Clinic
Amy Cao currently serves as a financial coach at The Financial Clinic. The Financial Clinic is a nonprofit organization that builds the financial security of America’s working poor through one-on-one financial coaching, advocacy, and capacity building services.
In her role, Amy meets with New Yorkers at four Financial Empowerment Centers across the city to offer financial counsel on credit and debt crises, tax preparation, budgeting, banking, and asset building to secure a better financial future. She can be found at Catholic Charities Home Base Homelessness Prevention Services and at the Family Justice Centers (FJCs) across NYC.
Working with survivors of domestic violence at the FJCs, Amy specializes in consumer credit identity theft cases. She has written on legal and advocacy strategies to handle financial abuse among relationships involving intimate partner violence for the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice.
Prior to coaching, Amy was a program associate at The Financial Clinic, where she supported research and policy initiatives, facilitated financial security content trainings, and led financial technology products vetting to enhance service delivery.
Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and a minor in Asian Studies with a concentration in minority women from Vassar College. During her time at Vassar, Amy chaired the 2015 student gift committee and served as senior business manager for BoilerplateMagazine.com, an independent online multimedia open civil, social, and artistic discourse. She was a volunteer student mentor for Vassar’s Transitions Program, which helps first generation and low-income first-year students transition into an elite college environment. Amy also was involved with the Vassar Women’s Center, which organized programming initiatives to support students confronting issues such as race and sex discrimination as well as campus sexual assault and violence.
Aside from being a passionate consumer advocate for underserved and marginalized communities, Amy enjoys cooking variations of pasta and making her way through the Criterion Collection.
Chris Chu de León
Director of Community Affairs, New York State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell
Chris Chu de León is the director of community affairs for New York State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. His work requires a comprehensive understanding of the local, state, and federal news and legislation. Previously, he served as director of community affairs and constituent liaison, in which he worked to advocate for tenants, reduce the bureaucratic hurdles of healthcare, and promote access to public services.
Prior to entering New York politics, Chris served as a Fulbright Scholar and Cultural Ambassador in Brazil. For his Fulbright Scholarship, Chris co-taught English and led a self-designed course covering contemporary American politics at a federal university in Brazil. His classes ranged from discussions about affirmative action in higher education to the implications of a two-party political system. This focus on generating dialogue on how politics and policy affects people compelled him to enter public service.
Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Chris also engaged Latin American communities through both research and work. He conducted maternal and child health research in rural Guatemala for thirteen weeks through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Additionally, he worked for two separate international nonprofit organizations for six months, focusing on implementing water, sanitation, and hygiene programs in over 100 schools in Guatemala and community building in a newly constructed health community center in Nicaragua. Chris also presented his research on type 2 diabetes at the Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking Colloquium in Qatar.
Chris graduated from Rice University in 2015 with a major in Kinesiology (Sports Medicine). During his time at Rice, he was a cheerleader, founded the Rice Club Gymnastics Team, and held several leadership roles across campus. He co-led a service trip to dispel the misconceptions of pediatric cancer, was an active volunteer for organizations supporting the homeless and low-income Hispanic residents, and was a participant in a 27-day Homeless Challenge for the National Coalition for the Homeless. His commitment was recognized by leadership and community service awards.
During his free time, Chris enjoys exploring nature, doing gymnastics and calisthenics, community organizing, and surfing. He is a voracious reader and avid listener of podcasts.
Project Assistant, Sanctuary for Families
Leticia Escobar is a project assistant at Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project located in the Queens Family Justice Center. Sanctuary for Families is the largest nonprofit organization that serves survivors of domestic violence in the state of New York and provides legal, clinical, shelter, and economic empowerment services to its clients.
As a project assistant, Leticia engages extensively with clients and prepares visas for trafficking and crime victims, immigration applications, and work authorization permit applications. Additionally, her responsibilities include the economic empowerment of clients by obtaining financial grants and scholarships for them, and working closely with a team of attorneys, case managers, counselors, and advocates, including the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office and the New York Police Department. Leticia has extensive experience serving survivors of domestic violence.
Before working at Sanctuary for Families, Leticia worked along the U.S. southern border with the Domestic Violence Program at Casa Cornelia Law Center. During that year, she worked with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as a legal assistant and translator. It was during her work at Casa Cornelia where Leticia was initially exposed to the legal field and the myriad ways immigrant survivors can and cannot find relief in the U.S. immigration system.
Leticia’s interest about gender based violence issues first began while earning her Bachelor’s degree in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her undergraduate career, Leticia participated in the UC Field Research Program where she traveled to Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico to analyze the various manifestations of domestic violence within the Zapotec community of Juchitán de Zaragoza. Learning about her parent’s country while hearing the stories of resilience from Mexican and immigrant women was one of the most enriching teaching experiences for Leticia.
Leticia is originally from San Diego, California. Her passion for immigrant rights stems from her personal experiences growing up alongside the San Diego - Tijuana border and being the daughter of Mexican immigrants.
Senior Project Manager, New York City Economic Development Corporation
Jamie Etkind is a senior project manager on the strategy team at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). NYCEDC is a quasi-governmental agency that reports to the NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, and is focused on strengthening neighborhoods and creating good jobs. The strategy team delivers objective, data-driven solutions for NYCEDC and NYC by pursuing a collaborative, hypothesis-driven approach to economic development. In her role, Jamie has worked on projects focused on blockchain technology and fashion manufacturing.
Prior to joining NYCEDC in July 2017, Jamie spent three years in the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs, a principal investing platform that deploys capital to underserved domestic urban markets. Jamie was a part of the acquisitions team, focusing on housing and economic development deals to benefit low and moderate income communities. For these deals, Jamie worked on investment vehicles across the capital stack, including real estate private equity investments; construction loans; corporate debt and equity investments; social impact bonds; and investments bridging various tax incentives. All of these investments were impact investments seeking positive social impacts alongside financial returns.
Outside of work, Jamie serves on the Junior Board of United Neighborhood Houses. As a membership organization of settlement houses and community centers in NYC, United Neighborhood Houses promotes and strengthens the neighborhood-based, multi-service approach to improving the lives of New Yorkers.
Originally from New City, New York, Jamie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies and minors in French Studies and in Urban Real Estate and Development.
Legal Analyst, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone
Sara Farhall currently serves as a legal analyst at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) in Harlem. UMEZ invests in the neighborhoods of Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood by providing loans and grants to development projects, small businesses, and cultural institutions. Through development investments, UMEZ creates jobs for the local community and ensures the economic vitality of historic neighborhoods of New York City.
As a legal analyst, Sara is responsible for compiling information from all borrowers and grantees to prepare legal documents and assisting the general counsel with litigation matters. In addition to her legal duties, Sara is in charge of communications and manages social media and relations with local government agencies. Sara strives to help find ways to dedicate funding to minority women-owned businesses and create business incentive legislation that can improve women’s livelihoods in the U.S.
Prior to her current position at UMEZ, Sara completed a diverse array of internships around New York City, including at the New York Children’s International Film Festival and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). As the legal intern for DCA, Sara helped attorneys build cases against businesses with advertising violations. Sara also worked as a Spanish tutor for two years at the Neighborhood School in the Lower East Side.
Born in England and raised in southern California, Sara graduated from New York University with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science. While at NYU, Sara studied abroad in Madrid, focusing her studies on the impact of Islam on Spanish culture and language. In her free time, Sara volunteers with Make the Road New York. She also loves to explore the food of New York City and is a self-proclaimed movie buff.
Children’s Education Program Manager, New York Cares
Samantha Fikilini is a children’s education program manager at New York Cares. New York Cares is New York City’s largest volunteering based organization. Every year New York Cares mobilizes 63,000 New Yorkers to tackle the city’s toughest issues. In her current role, Samantha identifies agency needs, sustains current programming, and expands the number of New York Cares partners. By developing, managing, and evaluating dozens of programs, Samantha provides programming focused on general reading, creative writing, public speaking, math games, and homework assistance for agencies serving children.
Prior to working in children’s education, Samantha worked for several years with homeless youth. As a drop-in counselor, Samantha’s focus was to provide professional development workshops for the shelter’s trade school graduates. It was there she learned the importance of education and the practicality and strength that comes with the application of those tools gained in the classroom.
Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Affairs with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership from Seattle University in 2013. At Seattle University, Samantha was a Regents Awardee as well as a Costco Scholar. Her thesis was entitled, “Social Media for Social Justice: How the Digital Age is Shaping Nonprofits.” Samantha currently serves as a board member on the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Board.
Originally from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Samantha also identifies as a proud Seattleite and lover of rain. She also enjoys reading, discovering new restaurants, and pick-up soccer games.
Matthew (Matt) Gonzalez
College Access Coordinator, DREAM
Matthew (Matt) Gonzalez serves as the college access coordinator at DREAM (formerly Harlem RBI), a youth development program that provides over 2,000 youth across East Harlem and the South Bronx the opportunity to play, learn, and grow. In addition to providing after-school programming, DREAM operates DREAM Charter School, which expanded to include ninth grade in the fall of 2017.
As the college access coordinator, Matt provides college readiness and support for the DreamWorks program for high school students. He also supports graduating seniors with the college application process, as well as provides college readiness opportunities for grades nine through eleven.
Matt received the Posse Scholarship to attend Brandies University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and American Studies. At Brandeis, he also served a mentor to younger Posse Scholars to help them acclimate to the college lifestyle.
Program and Administrative Coordinator, Room to Grow
Joanna Groccia is the program and administrative coordinator at Room to Grow (RtG), a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of babies born into poverty throughout their critical first three years of development. RtG’s innovative, research-informed program delivers three types of support - parenting education, material goods, and service referrals - to over 600 babies and their families living in poverty throughout New York City and Boston. Joanna’s work on the operations team supports RtG’s commitment to strong data collection and analysis to continuously improve program quality and demonstrate impact.
In her current position, Joanna manages all interdepartmental reporting and dashboards to drive system improvements and create operational efficiencies. In collaboration with the clinical team, she is also responsible for the build out and ongoing administration of RtG’s database and electronic forms, which are used to facilitate the paperless capture of curriculum-based and externally-validated evaluation measures. Joanna applies her knowledge of organization-wide reporting and operations to her work monitoring incoming referrals and providing process evaluation data for RtG’s Randomized Control Trial in partnership with Columbia University. The results of this study should have important implications for the early childhood field and influence federal, state, and local policy and advocacy work.
Previously, Joanna served as an operations associate for RtG, a position that allowed her to explore many facets of nonprofit work. Her responsibilities included accounting and financial reporting; assisting with special events and fundraising efforts; and providing operational support for RtG’s clinical program.
Joanna graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Political Economy and Environmental Policy. During her time at Fordham, Joanna was inducted into Phi-Beta-Kappa and volunteered with the South Bronx Educational Foundation, where she was a tutor at the Rosedale Achievement Center.
Foundation Relations Coordinator, Planned Parent Federation of America
Batul Hassan is the foundation relations coordinator at Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), a nonprofit organization which delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of people in the United States and worldwide.
Batul has worked in PPFA’s development division since November 2016, where she helps cultivate a community of supporters and administers foundations-managed grants while ensuring all deliverables and donor expectations are fulfilled.
In her previous position as a cultural mediator for Save the Children, Batul served as part of the emergency humanitarian response to the ongoing refugee crisis along the Western Balkan route. Based in Serbia, her official responsibilities consisted of interpreting Arabic-English and supporting field programming in Belgrade and on the country’s southern border with Macedonia, where Save the Children ran shelters and distribution centers for women and children. She also assisted the communications and advocacy teams in producing case studies and specific advocacy materials.
Batul’s interest in the intersections of migration policy, sexual and reproductive health, and human rights was further cultivated through an internship with the UNICEF Innocenti Office of Research. There, she supported a longitudinal, multi-country study which examined how and why drivers of violence affecting children manifest differently in every society. She has also held communications and media internships with Human Rights Watch and the Kwetu Centre for Sustainable Development and worked intermittently as a freelance journalist.
Batul earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri Reynolds School of Journalism. She speaks Arabic and can tell a few jokes in Serbo-Croatian.
Policy Advisor, New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
Melanie Ho currently serves as a policy advisor in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS), where she supports the budgeting and procurement processes and project management. MOS is responsible for leading and coordinating NYC’s sustainability efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% citywide by 2050 (80 x 50) and fulfill Executive Order 26 of 2017. Under Executive Order 26, NYC will adopt and commit to the principles and goals in the Paris Agreement and pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by further reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as laid out in 1.5°C: Aligning New York City With the Paris Climate Agreement, the first Paris Agreement-compliant plan from a city.
Prior to her current role, Melanie was placed at MOS as an Urban Fellow where she served as a project manager to produce New York City’s Roadmap to 80 x 50, a comprehensive report to analyze and identify the strategies in the buildings, energy, transportation, and waste sectors necessary for New York City to achieve 80 x 50. In that capacity, she worked closely with a number of city agencies and stakeholders to develop the plan.
Melanie graduated from Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College, City University of New York with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Affairs. While at Baruch, she developed an interest in urban planning with an focus on sustainable development.
Helen Gurley Brown Education Fellow, New York Public Library
Shawn Jean-Louis is a Helen Gurley Brown Education Fellow with the BridgeUp Program at the New York Public Library. BridgeUp is an afterschool program for high school students, funded by the Hearst Foundation, that provides underresourced students with the tools they need to succeed. The program focuses on academic development through homework help, regents prep, and SAT prep, as well as individual development through series of formally instructed units. These units range from identity and goal setting to institutional culture and persistence. As an education fellow, Shawn manages his individual site at the Bronx Library Center Branch and a team of tutors. Shawn acts as a liaison for the schools, scholars, and families and helps each scholar achieve their goals.
No stranger to public service, prior to joining the team at BridgeUp, Shawn was a public ally with the Americorps civil apprenticeship program Public Allies New York. There, he served as an outreach coordinator with a nonprofit called Breaking Ground NYC, and was responsible for the startup of its college readiness and access program in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the New York Public Library. Prior to that, Shawn served as an afterschool coordinator and drama teacher at Bronx Community Charter School.
A 2012 graduate of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College with a degree in Theater, Shawn performed in countless theatrical productions and participated in a Rebuilding After Katrina effort in 2009. He first became interested in public service in high school. Through regular interactions with his peers, he realized the vastness in the difference in education he was receiving at Fordham Preparatory School and what his friends were getting in other schools.
Outside of work, Shawn is an avid reader and traveler. His favorite books are The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. His favorite travel destination, thus far, has been the city of Nantes in France.
Immigration Paralegal, New York Legal Assistance Group
Abby Jordan is an immigration paralegal with the New York Legal Assistance Group's (NYLAG) LegalHealth Unit. In NYLAG’s LegalHealth Unit, Abby serves as a member of the ActionNYC team, whose grant program--a partnership between NYLAG, NYC Health + Hospitals, and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs--is aimed at providing free immigration legal services to New York City’s diverse immigrant communities. In her role, Abby staffs the immigration clinic at Lincoln Medical Center in the South Bronx where she conducts client intakes and provides interpretation services for Spanish-speaking clients.
In addition to her immigration work, Abby is a consultant for the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYCEM). She works part-time as a Ready NY Kids program presenter and conducts interactive emergency preparedness presentations and staffs outreach events in public schools and community centers throughout the city.
Prior to working at NYLAG and NYCEM, Abby completed an AmeriCorps service year in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), working for the outreach and language access teams. Organizing for MOIA’s IDNYC and ActionNYC campaigns allowed her to work directly with and engage immigrant communities through various outreach initiatives and public events throughout the five boroughs. While at MOIA, she helped manage volunteer interpreter teams and interpretation equipment at language access events. In her spare time Abby enjoys volunteering with the Billion Oyster Project and serving as a member of Brooklyn's Community Board 13.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Abby is a first generation Salvadoran American. A graduate of CUNY Hunter College, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. As a proud alumna of Hunter College’s Public Service Scholar Program, Abby is committed to forging an interdisciplinary public service career, working and volunteering for a variety of city agencies and nonprofits.
Support Specialist, TCC Group
Hana Kamal currently serves as a support specialist at TCC Group, a national consulting firm committed to achieving social impact by helping diverse social actors strengthen their work. Hana provides support for ongoing philanthropy client work in the areas of strategic planning, portfolio strategy development, and grants management. She partners with foundations of all shapes and sizes to help make their work as meaningful as possible. In her role, Hana conducts reviews of internal client documents and desk research, summarizes field literature, reviews grant proposals, and provides financial analysis of organizational and programmatic budgets.
Prior to joining TCC Group, Hana worked with the Madrid-based Fundación Educación Para el Empleo (EuropEFE), a member of the Education for Employment network that provides economic opportunities to unemployed youth in the Middle East and North Africa. In collaboration with the Citi Foundation, Hana produced a report entitled, “Challenges and Opportunities for Youth Employment in the Middle East and North Africa.” This report provided in-depth insights on barriers to youth employment and opportunities for job growth across six industries, and allowed EuropEFE to better tailor its vocational training and professional development programming.
In addition, Hana worked with the Human Rights Foundation to launch “Global Guides for Your Human Rights,” a series of guiding frameworks for political, social, and economic freedom tailored for and circulated among dissidents across more than ten of the world’s most repressive countries.
Hana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Romance Languages (Spanish and French) from New York University.
Manager – National Foundation Partnerships, Teach For America
Irmak Karayal is a manager on the national foundation partnerships team at Teach For America. She works with foundations who donate to Teach For America, as well as with Teach For America’s national and regional program teams.
Irmak joined Teach For America as a corps member directly after college, and moved to Hawai’i to teach English Language Arts and Social Studies to seventh and eighth graders with special needs. Irmak had always been passionate about educational equity—she and her family moved to the United States from Turkey when she was six years old so that she could have access to an excellent education—and working with one of O’ahu’s most underserved communities cemented her belief that every child has potential and deserves access and opportunity. While teaching, she earned her Master’s in Education from Johns Hopkins University. After two years in Hawai’i, Irmak moved back to New York and worked at a charter school before joining Teach For America’s development team.
Irmak graduated from New York University in 2014. In her spare time, whether it’s exploring a new city, going on a hike, walking a dog from her local animal shelter, or sitting in Central Park and reading a book, Irmak loves to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
Margaret (Maggie) Lloyd
Finance and Systems Manager, The Sikh Coalition
Margaret (Maggie) Lloyd works as the finance and systems manager at the Sikh Coalition. The Sikh Coalition is a civil and human rights organization that focuses on combatting discrimination, hate crimes, bullying, and other challenges facing the Sikh American community. In her role, Maggie manages the day to day financial operations of the office and ensures that the Sikh Coalition’s use of technology evolves with innovation and efficiency. She also works with museum curators and community organizers to secure new locations for The Sikh Project, an educational portrait exhibit launched by the Sikh Coalition to nuance public understandings of Sikhism.
Prior to joining the Sikh Coalition staff as finance and systems manager, Maggie served as the Sikh Coalition’s education fellow. During her fellowship, Maggie mapped a strategic organizational plan for the Sikh Coalition to increase accurate representations of Sikhism in public school curricula nationwide. She also worked alongside her colleagues to begin the implementation of this strategy by presenting at state social studies conferences, engaging with Board of Education members, and executing grassroots strategies to advocate for Sikh inclusion.
Maggie graduated with honors from Carleton College in 2016, where she studied Religion with a concentration in South Asian Studies. Maggie’s academic work on the American Sikh community culminated with her thesis on Sikh experiences navigating prejudice and identity in post-9/11 America. In addition to domestic issues of prejudice and discrimination, Maggie’s interests include international human rights, the U.S. education system, and reproductive justice.
Born and raised in rural Geneseo, NY, Maggie now lives in Greenwood, Brooklyn. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and spends much of her free time listening to podcasts, reading and writing fiction, and walking and talking with friends and family.
Policy Advisor, New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
Patrick Love currently serves as a Policy Advisor at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS). MOS is responsible for developing and implementing the programs and policies aimed at reducing New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
In his current role, Patrick works to develop policies that are targeted toward improving the energy efficiency of both existing buildings and new construction. Patrick also oversees the NYC Carbon Challenge program, a voluntary leadership program for the city’s universities, hospitals, hotels, commercials owners, tenants, and multifamily buildings that have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% or more over the course of ten years. Patrick works closely with program participants to develop strategic plans to achieve their commitments and provides guidance on best practices, financing, and other technical issues. He was responsible for significantly expanding the program to include commercial owners and tenants and hotels. To date, the program has over 100 participants, totaling more than 9% of New York City’s built square footage.
Patrick graduated summa cum laude from the University of Richmond, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and majoring in Economics and Environmental Studies. During his time at the University of Richmond, Patrick served as the president of the Richmond College Student Government Association, interned as a senior research assistant at the university’s office of sustainability, and ran as a Division I athlete on the university’s cross country and indoor/outdoor track teams. In 2014, Patrick was the recipient of the university’s Bruce Heilman Leadership Award, an award given annually who has demonstrated outstanding character and leadership in service.
Patrick is a certified New York City tour guide and has completed five marathons and one ultra-marathon.
Senior Associate, Bennett Midland LLC
Alexis is a senior associate at Bennett Midland LLC, a management consulting firm focused exclusively on the civic sector. In this role, Alexis has supported numerous clients—including local city governments from across the country, local and national nonprofit organizations, and national philanthropic foundations—to tackle a range of intractable public problems and design programs to address the most pressing needs of communities.
In her role, Alexis serves on a team providing project management and strategic support to the New York City Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice on the implementation of Raise the Age legislation in New York City and on the Justice Implementation Task Force, the next phase of planning around closing the jail complex on Rikers Island. Alexis has also supported the design and implementation of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $100 million investment by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in local jail reform, and of Invest Health, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Reinvestment Fund that brings together leaders from diverse U.S. cities to develop new strategies for increasing and leveraging investments in better health for underserved neighborhoods.
Prior to joining Bennett Midland, Alexis worked at the New York City Economic Development Corporation as a Harvard Institute of Politics Director’s Intern, where she worked with the strategic planning team to support the development of programs to improve upper income mobility for residents of New York City, identify catalysts for economic growth, and generate ideas to foster opportunities for middle-skill New Yorkers to succeed in the knowledge-based economy.
Alexis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Social Studies from Harvard College, where she focused on identity and inequality in Urban America. She is a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut and a proud graduate of the Bridgeport Public Schools.
Special Assistant, New York City Department of Education
Fanny Mei is the special assistant at the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Community Schools (OCS), which connects schools to community based organizations to support students through a holistic approach. OCS connects with public and private companies and other government agencies to provide students with healthcare services, extended learning time activities, and academic supports. In her role, Fanny helps streamline communications and projects to ensure quality and consistent support to a network of over 200 schools.
Previously, Fanny worked as a project associate in the Office of Interschool Collaborative Learning at the DOE. She managed, organized, and coordinated an annual city-wide application process for schools to partner with the office for additional support and resources. Additionally, she provided operational and strategic support for monthly speaker series events, a platform for educators to have conversations on education and equity.
Fanny received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology with a minor in Public Policy and Management from New York University (NYU). During her time at NYU, she received a Presidential Service Award for her commitment to the NYU community due to her community service and civic engagement work. She was a resident assistant and was active in the Asian American community, which included being the president of the Asian American Women’s Alliance and a student leader at NYU A/P/A BRIDGE. While at NYU, she participated in the ELLA Fellowship program at the Sadie Nash Leadership Project where she designed and implemented a series of workshops building cancer awareness in the Asian American community.
Jacqlene (Jackie) Moran
Community Engagement Specialist, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Jacqlene (Jackie) Moran is a community engagement specialist for emergency field operations at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). She focuses on furthering community resilience throughout New York City’s neighborhoods by building meaningful relationships with community partners and connecting them to DOHMH’s emergency operations. In her role, she creates language access plans for emergency field operations, integrates community organizations into the agency’s emergency response structure, and writes emergency plans and trainings that are inclusive to the needs of the disability community.
Prior to this role, Jackie served as a NYC Service Fellow, a selective project management fellowship at the New York City Mayor’s Office. At NYC Service, she led multiple citywide volunteer initiatives focused on community health, hunger reduction, and emergency management. Her portfolio also included marketing and communications strategy and management of the NYC Civic Corps, a 115-member AmeriCorps program.
Before her time as a Service Fellow, Jackie served as an AmeriCorps member at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. She was introduced to NYC local government through participation in the development of OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just City. During her service year, Jackie focused on environmental education and disaster preparedness through community outreach projects focused on long-term recovery from Hurricane Sandy, urban heat response and mitigation, and zero waste policy.
Jackie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies with a dual policy concentration in International Development and Global Security, and a dual regional concentration in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa from American University in May 2014. She was a member of the inaugural class of the accelerated three-year Global Scholars program and a student of the University Honors Program. Jackie studied abroad at the United Nations’ University for Peace in Costa Rica, as well as programs in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Brussels, Belgium; and St. Petersburg, Russia.
She was the undergraduate recipient of the Alice Paul Award, given to a student that embodies passion and drive towards gender equity. She held numerous leadership positions in Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity, and completed over 300 hours of service within the D.C. community. Jackie completed a congressional internship, and held positions at Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Women and Politics Institute, and the International Disability and Development Consortium. She was a participant in the Alternative Breaks program and served communities through public health initiatives in Kenya and Haiti.
Associate, Bennett Midland LLC
Ahmed Muneeb is an associate at Bennett Midland LLC. Bennett Midland is a strategic partner for the civic sector that works with government agencies, nonprofits, and foundations to design and implement innovative solutions for complex problems. At Bennett Midland, Ahmed supports the design and implementation of new intake business processes for Sanctuary for Families, a leading service provider for victims of gender violence in New York City. He also provides coordinated support to multiple cities in the Innovation Teams Grant program, an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies. The program funds in-house innovation teams in mayoral offices in cities across the U.S. to develop and deliver powerful solutions to major urban challenges.
Ahmed has a background in public policy and management, and has worked internationally in the nonprofit and government sectors. Prior to joining Bennett Midland, Ahmed worked as a grant consultant for a consortium of ten European partners, including policy think tanks, nonprofits, and university research centers across Europe. In this role, he worked on proposals focused on increasing youth cultural literacy. Ahmed has also worked with government and nonprofit sector partners in Pakistan, including the British Council, Society for Advancement of Education (SAHE), and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on education, youth, gender, and minority issues. At SAHE, he conducted a nationwide study to identify the challenges facing public and private school teachers in Pakistan, and contributed to recommendations for educational reforms.
Ahmed holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and a Master of Arts degree in Public Policy from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Germany.
Advancement Coordinator, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Nicole Prisco is the advancement coordinator for the East Coast at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). MJFF is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson's disease (PD) by funding pivotal research for development of improved therapies for those living with PD today. MJFF has raised over $700 million since 2000 with 89 cents of every dollar going directly towards research.
In her role, Nicole supports MJFF’s efforts to engage the broader community around the mission to speed a cure. She regularly travels from New York to Maine for meetings with PD patients, caregivers, donors, support groups, and other MJFF constituents and stakeholders. She first joined MJFF in 2015 as an intern and previously served as the development coordinator prior to joining the advancement team. Nicole’s personal connection to PD inspired her to join MJFF in honor of her mother and grandmother, who have both lived with PD for over a decade.
Prior to joining MJFF, Nicole worked with Carnegie Hall and Columbia Artists, helping to bring music and the arts to communities all over the country.
Nicole received her Bachelor’s degree in Music from New York University. She was born in South Korea and grew up on the eastern part of Long Island, NY. She is a proud Korean adoptee who was raised in an Italian American family.
Development Specialist, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Danielle Quintana is a development specialist at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Planned Parenthood provides trusted and comprehensive community health care, informing and educating through inclusive educational programs, advancing global health, and advocating for reproductive health and rights.
Danielle’s work as an intern at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, and her volunteer experience shadowing physicians and other healthcare professionals both on the floor and during surgical procedures at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center near her hometown in Arizona primed her for a nonprofit healthcare position. She first joined Planned Parenthood in 2015 as a donor services coordinator, working directly with donors on stock transfers and tribute gifts and maintaining account details at all levels. In 2016, she transitioned to her current role in which she supports the chief development officer, drives division-wide initiatives and projects, and acts as a resource for the 56 affiliated Planned Parenthood organizations across the country.
Danielle’s experiences in nonprofit fundraising inspired her to canvass in Columbus, Ohio for Hillary Clinton and Ted Strickland prior to the 2016 General Election. She participated in the largest field program in the history of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio and helped successfully swing the vote in Franklin County.
Danielle graduated from New York University (NYU) in May 2015 with Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology with a focus on Human Rights and a minor in Chemistry while also completing a pre-medical studies track. During her studies at NYU, Danielle’s interest in human rights flourished, and she continues to work for social justice and change, especially by providing a voice for those that are unable to advocate for themselves.
Program Associate, Vera Institute of Justice
Kelsey Reid is a program associate at the Vera Institute of Justice’s (Vera) Center on Sentencing and Corrections. Vera is an independent nonprofit that combines expertise in research, demonstration projects, and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems that people rely on for justice and safety.
Kelsey works on the center’s jail and pretrial reform team, helping jurisdictions reduce their misuse of local jails and supporting efforts to divert individuals from the justice system to community-based services. Her work includes providing technical assistance to government stakeholders participating in the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge and supporting leaders across the country who are invested in system reforms.
Prior to joining Vera in February 2017, Kelsey served in The White House Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity during President Obama’s administration. In this role, she collaborated with federal agencies and local jurisdictions to implement reforms through efforts such as the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the Police Data Initiative, the Data-Driven Justice Initiative, and other work to support local leaders in carrying criminal justice system reforms forward. Before serving in the administration, Kelsey worked in Mumbai, India through International Innovation Corps (IIC). IIC places multicultural teams of young professionals in partnership with government agencies to catalyze innovative solutions to economic development challenges. Kelsey’s team provided analysis for a joint project between the Maharashtra Department of Energy, Tata Trusts, and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago that aimed to provide reliable, renewable energy to economically deprived agricultural regions where farmer suicides and family violence are prevalent.
Kelsey earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy with a concentration in gender, violence, and economic development from the University of Chicago. While there, she mentored youth and was a research assistant at the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Kelsey supported the crime lab’s analysis of academic and cognitive behavioral therapy programs to improve academic outcomes and reduce arrests among young men in Chicago Public Schools.
Kelsey is committed to reducing the extent to which interpersonal, community, and state-inflicted violence and threats of violence impede individuals’ well-being and opportunities. In addition to her work at Vera, she is a member of the Ms. Foundation’s Young Professionals Advisory Committee and the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship’s New York alumni chapter.
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Joyful Heart Foundation
Bianca Rey is the policy and advocacy coordinator at the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national organization whose top advocacy priority is to offer healing and justice to survivors of sexual assault by eliminating the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in storage across the country. Bianca’s work focuses on the End The Backlog public affairs campaign, which aims to enact comprehensive rape kit reform legislation in every state by 2020. Bianca joined the Joyful Heart Foundation as a policy and advocacy associate in 2016.
Previously, Bianca served as an associate policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, where she worked to advance equity and opportunity for children, youth, and families across Connecticut. Bianca’s research and policy advocacy focused on expanding opportunities for youth involved in the state child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Key issues of focus included promoting normalcy protections for youth in foster care, disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline, and raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in Connecticut.
Bianca has also worked as a case advocate in the Immigrant Students’ Rights Project at Advocates for Children of New York, where she translated and advocated on behalf of families whose children had been denied appropriate educational services in New York City public schools.
Bianca graduated from Yale University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Affairs. At Yale, she served as a communication and consent educator, facilitating student trainings and coordinating strategic initiatives to foster a more positive sexual climate and culture on campus. Bianca also led the campus chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and performed with Taps. Bianca speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and has studied abroad in Laos and Brazil.
In her free time, Bianca serves as a volunteer crisis advocate at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Domestic and Other Violence Emergencies program, supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Bianca also volunteers regularly with Camp Rising Sun, a scholarship-based summer leadership program for adolescents.
Program Analyst, Vera Institute of Justice
Gladys Rivera-Martinez is a program analyst in the Center on Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera). Vera is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center that combines expertise in research, demonstration projects, and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems that people rely on for justice and safety. At Vera, Gladys works on the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH), which are both federally-funded programs. LOP provides detained immigrants in detention centers nationwide with legal orientations while ICH works with non-detained immigrations in immigration courts nationwide.
Prior to working at Vera, Gladys was a peer mentor and peer leader for the Hispanic Federation’s CREAR Futuros Program. While working for CREAR Futuros, she supported first-generation Latinx students at John Jay College. She also held an internship at the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project, which was a collaboration between John Jay College and Safe Passage to support recently arrived unaccompanied minors going through deportation proceedings.
Gladys graduated cum laude from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a Bachelor of Science degree with distinct honors in Criminal Justice and an honors minor in Latin American Studies. While at John Jay, she was an Honors Program scholar, CUNY Malave Youth Leadership Fellow, Leadership Trailblazer Leadership Series Awardee, and a member of the Prison-To-College Pipeline learning exchange. She wrote her thesis about the impact of narco-culture on adolescents in Acatlan de Osorio, Puebla, Mexico. She is fluent in Spanish, a first-generation college graduate, and proud of her Mexican heritage. In her spare time, Gladys enjoys reading, traveling, and exploring.
Program Manager, The Resolution Project
Lucas Rivers is a program manager at The Resolution Project, a global nonprofit and unique pathway to action for aspiring young leaders committed to creating positive social impact. The Resolution Project identifies and empowers undergraduate students around the world who wish to launch new social ventures with dynamic, hands-on support that includes mentorship, seed funding, and an international network of pro bono services and resources. There are currently over 300 fellows in nearly 70 countries working in diverse, high-impact fields such as education, healthcare, human rights, water resources, and sustainability.
As a program manager, Lucas works on recruiting strategy and partnership management for The Resolution Project’s Social Venture Challenges, administers the fellowship’s onboarding process, and manages the online social entrepreneurship skills curriculum.
Prior to his current role, Lucas was a 2015-2016 U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ha Tinh, Vietnam. In this capacity, Lucas taught English speaking and writing to high school students, as well as gave community lectures and seminars on global issues such as internet access, gender inequality, and climate change. Upon his return to the U.S., Lucas was nominated by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer as an American delegate for the U.S. Congress-Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange Program, where he met with high-level government officials and private sector specialists on a multitude of U.S.-Korea bilateral issues.
Lucas graduated summa cum laude from Union College in New York with a double major in Political Science and Chinese/China Studies. His studies culminated in a published honors thesis that examined how the rapid economic development of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa could impact and alter the existing global human rights norms regime. Throughout college, Lucas held multiple leadership roles on campus, including as the four-term president of the class of 2015 and the founder of the Union College Student Allies for Equality LGBTQ+ Support Network.
Program Administrative Assistant, Open Society Foundations
Crystal Rodriguez is a program administrative assistant in the executive office of the Open Society Foundations, a private foundation and international grant making network. Crystal builds organization and proposal records, schedules reports and payments, and ensures that grant portfolios move through the programmatic review process. Crystal has the unique opportunity of processing all Alexander Soros Foundation grants through the grants management system and into compliance review. She plans, organizes, and develops budgets for special events such as receptions for grant competitions. Through her work, Crystal supports the mission of advancing justice, safeguarding fundamental rights, and building vibrant and tolerant societies.
Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, Crystal interned at the Romulado Del Bianco Foundation in Florence, Italy. Crystal translated web material into Spanish and initiated a new marketing strategy for the foundation. Crystal’s passion for grant making began when she was awarded a grant to create an international art program in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Crystal planned and led a six-week curriculum for low income participants. She engaged in transnational community development by coordinating with the local school, leaders, and businesses to support the program and host a reception and art showcase. She also conducted and distributed the findings of a town census regarding current social issues and potential solutions. Her work was awarded the Fairfield University College of Arts and Sciences Visual and Expressive Arts Award.
Crystal graduated cum laude from Fairfield University in 2014 with majors in International Studies and Studio Art. She has minors in Peace and Justice and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Crystal graduated Sigma Iota Rho (International Relations Honor Society). Crystal was 2014 class president and previously senator of the Fairfield University Student Council. She was a founding member of Act Against, a grassroots organization that initiated discussions and held events to confront hate crimes occurring at universities.
Currently, Crystal resides in Brooklyn and is working on publishing social justice comic books. Her work has been published online in the Huffington Post and Mujeres en Medio.
Program Coordinator, Human Rights Watch
Aditi Shetty is the program coordinator at Human Rights Watch, a leading nongovernmental organization known for its impartial research and reporting, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy to promote human rights in some 90 countries. She has worked in the program office since August 2016 to support the organization’s research and strategic objectives across its seventeen regional and thematic divisions. Aditi implements report tracking for the organization’s research publications, coordinates trainings for staff members, and oversees logistics to produce the annual World Report, which summarizes key human rights issues over the previous year. As an elected union representative at Human Rights Watch, she also works to protect and defend the rights of U.S.-based support staff.
Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Aditi interned with the global policy and advocacy team at Global Citizen, where she supported campaigns on global refugee education and women’s rights, published editorials and op-eds, and provided research assistance on many domestic and international policy issues.
Aditi graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and International and Comparative Studies, with a concentration in Political Economy and Development. She also pursued coursework in History and International Law at Trinity College, University of Oxford. There she won the North-Pitt Writing Prize for her thesis examining the historical development of revolutions through a comparative analysis of the American Revolution and the Arab Spring. At the University of Michigan, Aditi was a member of the Global Scholars Program, a living-learning community focused on international issues, and led student dialogues on social justice and served as editor-in-chief of the program’s interdisciplinary research journal. She was also selected as one of seven student ambassadors for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Currently, Aditi volunteers as a tutor for 826NYC, which aims to promote creativity and literacy through its tutoring and creative writing programs for first through twelfth grade students.
Lead Account Manager, Sanky Communications, Inc.
Ana is a lead account manager at Sanky Communications, an agency that provides fundraising and direct marketing services exclusively to nonprofit organizations. In this role, she helps devise strategy and manage the implementation of digital fundraising and advocacy campaigns that grow and retain the support base for her clients. By collaborating closely with creatives, web developers, and nonprofit leaders, her work has helped address a range of issues including youth homelessness, criminal justice, civil rights, healthcare access, and income inequality in New York communities.
Prior to Sanky, Ana led communications at the Latin American Coalition, an immigrant rights organization in North Carolina. There, she managed the production and strategy of all public-facing content, and she secured local, state, and national media coverage of issues affecting North Carolina’s undocumented immigrant community. Ana amplified the voices of immigrant stakeholders and activists through media training and growing the Latin American Coalition’s presence in both traditional and ethnic news outlets. Within the digital space, she developed and executed an email and social media strategy that exceeded the organization’s year-end fundraising goal and generated almost 25% more revenue than the previous year.
While interning at the Latin American Coalition during college, Ana saw how effective communications could debunk myths, attract political conservatives, and draw new allies into the movement. Her experience crafting messages around immigration issues and managing multi-channel fundraising campaigns has solidified her belief that the right messaging frame and communications platform can win uncommon allies, shift the public dialogue, and build the pressure necessary to advance movements. In her career, Ana aims to lead communications campaigns that engage diverse audiences in social justice and help drive change.
Ana holds a Bachelor’s degree from Davidson College in Hispanic Studies, where she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She formed her passion for and commitment to public service through the Bonner Scholarship program, where she dedicated each semester and summer to learning about socioeconomic issues affecting the greater Charlotte, NC community, and the nonprofit organizations working to address them.
Legal Administrative Assistant, American Civil Liberties Union
Thaddeus Talbot joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2015 as the legal administrative assistant for the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project and the Human Rights Program. As an assistant, Thaddeus provides administrative and substantive support for litigation related to free speech, digital privacy, and dragnet surveillance. He also supports the ACLU’s human rights advocacy. In his role, Thaddeus has filed Freedom of Information Act requests, written blogs on protests and police practices, and assisted with reports on juvenile parole and private debt collection.
In 2016, Thaddeus became a lead teacher at Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy in Brooklyn, where he taught cultural heritage, social responsibility and mentored young men of color in high school as part of Ifetayo’s I Am My Brother program. This experience further solidified his belief in the transformative power of culturally based education, which he believes is a necessary component of social change.
Thaddeus received his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. He is a Meinig Family National Scholar and a 2012 America Needs You Fellow. While at Cornell, he served as co-chair of a Black men’s mentorship and retention program that focused on increasing the graduation rates of men of color and successfully pushed the administration’s programmatic and academic agenda towards cultivating a more inclusive environment for students of color. Thaddeus also spent a summer in Zambia at The Southern African Institute for Policy and Research where he co-authored a report in the Zambia Social Sciences Journal on the bargaining power of Zambia’s public sector labor unions. Prior to that, he interned with the Securities Legal Department at Goldman Sachs & Co., where he was awarded their Scholarship for Excellence, and at the Legal Aid Society's Brooklyn Housing Court Office where he worked to help low-income families in New York City public housing fight against unlawful evictions.
Rooted in his beloved native borough of Brooklyn, Thaddeus spends his Sunday mornings live broadcasting church services as an associate camera director. When he is not directing, he enjoys playing chess and grooving to the sounds of Anderson Paak and Chance the Rapper, two of his musical inspirations.
Cassandra (Cassie) Valarezo
Post-Placement Counselor, Prep for Prep
Cassandra (Cassie) Valarezo is a post-placement counselor at Prep for Prep. Prep for Prep is a highly selective leadership development program for students of color attending independent schools in and around New York City. Cassie shares a strong bond with her students as she also participated in a similar program in the Bronx and feels grateful to be working with such strong, intelligent, and hardworking youth.
Cassie joined Prep for Prep in 2015 as a boarding school counselor and has served as an upper school counselor since the summer of 2016. As an upper school counselor, she works with a roster of over eighty students attending thirteen top independent schools. Cassie meets with students to discuss mental health, provide intervention to those struggling, and forge strong relationships with school administration. She works with faculty and staff to assure that students can thrive and feel empowered in a demanding private school environment. Cassie regularly meets with a team of mental health professionals to discuss and implement action plans for students. Additionally, she provides financial aid assistance to parents seeking help during the process.
Prior to working with Prep for Prep, Cassie did a year of service with City Year, an AmeriCorps program. Through City Year, she worked as a teaching assistant in a middle school in the South Bronx. She and her team developed and implemented a rigorous educational program and provided an enriching after school experience to over 400 students. Cassie also collaborated with the New York City Department of Education, school leadership, and two nonprofit organizations to implement a Harvard-developed literacy program.
Cassie has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology-based Human Relations with a minor in Latin American studies from Connecticut College. During her time at Connecticut College, she served as a resident advisor, peer health educator, event coordinator for the multicultural center, and a member of the nationwide Think S.A.F.E. project. Additionally, she has worked at several domestic violence organizations both in the U.S. and abroad.
Project Planner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Julia Wagner is a project planner for the planning and development division of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks), the team responsible for the open space agenda of the city’s 29,000-acre parks system. Julia joined NYC Parks in 2015 as an Urban Fellow to assist with the Community Parks Initiative, the agency’s park equity program, which is transforming underinvested parks in all five boroughs. Today, Julia oversees the program, which, in addition to the re-imagination and reconstruction of 67 neighborhood parks, provides resources to increase public programming, improve maintenance, and support community partners. Julia also contributes to the open space strategies for neighborhood rezoning and offers assistance on resiliency projects. In her capacity, Julia has served as the division’s public meetings coordinator, a role in which she streamlined a process for public input to be replicated across the agency.
Julia graduated summa cum laude from The George Washington University (GWU), where she studied International Affairs and Sustainability as a member of the University Honors Program. Julia found a home in the music community and was a proud recipient of the Presidential Scholar in the Arts award. Julia wrote her special honors thesis about the integration of waste-picker cooperatives into government waste management contracts in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While at GWU, Julia participated in the study abroad programs in Costa Rica, Argentina, India, and Senegal.
Aside from her fascination in public space, Julia is interested in cooperative economics and lives in a cooperative home in Brooklyn. In her spare time, Julia enjoys cycling around New York City and the surrounding state parks and trails.
Research Assistant, MDRC
Molly Williams works as a research assistant at MDRC in the youth development, criminal justice, and employment policy area. MDRC is a nonprofit policy research institute that evaluates social programs to inform public policy. Molly works on a variety of projects, ranging from job training programs for noncustodial parents to an evaluation of New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program. At MDRC, Molly manages site relations, contributes to IRB applications, conducts participant interviews, and drafts reports.
Before joining MDRC, Molly worked in Malaysia as a Fulbright English teaching assistant. In Malaysia, she facilitated cross-cultural learning through classroom education and after-school programming. Molly partnered with a community-based reproductive health organization to implement a series of workshops about healthy relationships for her students and secured grant funding for a creative writing workshop. Additionally, Molly had the opportunity to mentor a team of students in a nationwide social-entrepreneurship competition.
Molly received her Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Sociology with a minor in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). While at UNC, Molly volunteered as a crisis counselor and community educator at a local rape crisis center, taught middle school writing classes for two summers with the Breakthrough Collaborative, served on a board of faculty and staff working to improve campus safety, and interned at the Carolina Justice Policy Center. Her senior thesis in sociology explored religious life within prisons. In her free time, Molly volunteers as an advocate with the Parole Preparation Project and enjoys hiking, running, and taking modern dance classes.
Attorney, Perlman & Perlman LLP
Jeremy Coffey is an attorney at Perlman & Perlman LLP, a law firm that empowers its clients to change the world. Jeremy enjoys getting to work with many types of organizations ranging from charities to educational institutions to socially conscious for-profits. He maintains a substantively diverse practice, advising clients on a broad swath of issues while helping clients at every stage of their organizations' life-cycles.
Prior to joining Perlman, Jeremy worked at Schiff Hardin LLP, a large national law firm where he was a member of the corporate and employee benefits practice groups and worked with Fortune 500 companies on complex transactions. Jeremy also assisted a startup financial technology company navigate federal and state regulations while helping it secure a New York Virtual Currency license, one of the few licenses issued to date. He also enjoyed working with the firm’s pro bono practice.
Before becoming an attorney, Jeremy was an English as a Second Language and Spanish teacher at MS260 – The Clinton School for Writers and Artists, a public middle school in downtown Manhattan.
Jeremy has a JD from New York University School of Law, where he also helped start the school’s therapy dog program, which brings dogs to relieve the stress of students, professors, and staff. He also holds a Master of Arts in Education and Politics from Teachers College at Columbia University, where he first found his passion for the intersection of law and education. Jeremy earned his Honors Bachelor of Arts from Rollins College, where he was a member of the soccer team, an avid supporter of the intramural sports program, and member of IMPACT, a student-led group seeking to raise on-campus awareness of social justice issues. Jeremy lives in Manhattan with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.
Jeremy was a 2009 fellow in the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS), and served on the FELPS Alumni Board for two years, including one year as president. Jeremy previously served as an alumni guide for three years.
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Mount Sinai Health System
Mark Liu is the director of strategic initiatives for the oncology service line at the Mount Sinai Health System, a seven hospital integrated health system in all five boroughs of NYC. He works closely with senior leadership to develop long-term strategy while working collaboratively to drive critical projects to completion. He is the administrative lead for implementing the Oncology Care Model, a Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation alternative payment and delivery model focused on improving quality and lowering healthcare costs, across the health system. He joined the Mount Sinai as a project manager in strategic planning and business development as part of a team to build a new entity advancing population health and value-based care within the system.
Prior to joining the Mount Sinai Health System, Mark was a clinical practice supervisor in ambulatory care at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a world-renowned organization dedicated to the progressive control and cure of cancer. He managed day-to-day operations during his eight-year tenure working across nine services.
Mark graduated from Binghamton University with a BS in Integrated Neuroscience and Sociology. His senior thesis explored ways of “Improving Cultural Competency of American Hospitals for Limited English Proficiency Populations.” While at Binghamton, he served as the associate director of a student-led economic think tank, volunteered regularly as an emergency medical technician, and was the president of the community student government. He also organized an award-winning program to promote awareness and empower students to increase access to healthcare.
Mark was a 2008 fellow in the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS), and served on the FELPS Alumni Board for three years, including one year as president and another as vice president of the board. Mark has continued to be engaged as an alumni guide for three years and this is his fifth year as a career guide.
Tanya St. Julien
Chief of Staff, Leadership for Educational Equality
Tanya St. Julien is a community leader and advocate for educational equity with over fifteen years of successful impact in municipal government, nonprofit management, and program development. Tanya believes that leadership is key to solving many of our nation’s most dynamic issues. As chief of staff at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a national leadership development organization, she leads special initiatives that support teachers in becoming civic leaders in advocacy, community organizing, policy, and elected office to improve education for all kids.
Prior to LEE, Tanya led communications and enrollment policy at the NYC Department of Education. She also worked extensively with community-based organizations and schools in the Bay Area, Newark, and throughout NYC to develop and implement skill-based education and civic empowerment programs for students and parents.
Driven by a deep commitment to her community, Tanya serves as an appointed member on her local Community Education Council and works closely with local and state officials to ensure that students in her district receive the resources and supports that they need to cultivate their innate ability to achieve.
Tanya is the proud daughter of Haitian immigrants, a native New Yorker, and currently lives in the Bedford- Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of Boston University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. She loves good food, good jokes, and her three adorable nephews.
Director of Program Operations, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Rebecca Stauffer is the director of program operations for the Primary Care Information Project (PCIP), which is a bureau within the Department of Prevention and Primary Care at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. PCIP facilitates healthcare practices and providers across New York City to deliver quality healthcare through the use of health information technology. This work is accomplished through the federally designated regional extension center for NYC, NYC REACH. NYC REACH works with thousands of providers at small practices, large integrated community health centers, and hospitals to integrate health information technology and electronic health records.
Rebecca is the principal investigator for the federal and state funded contracts that support NYC REACH’s work and directs the operations and grant management for both contracts. She also oversees the communications and external relations activities for NYC REACH, which develops and maintains the relationship with NYC REACH’s practices and providers.
Prior to joining PCIP in 2012, Rebecca was a department administrator at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry and senior project manager within the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. Rebecca earned her Master of Public Administration degree from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Kenyon College.
Director – Rumble Young Man, Rumble, Campaign for Black Male Achievement
Steve Vassor is the director of the Campaign For Black Male Achievement’s Rumble Young Man, Rumble Initiative. Steve feels fortunate to have dedicated his career to serving at nonprofits working with, and on behalf of children, youth, and families. His mission is to improve life chances for young people, especially urban youth and young Black men. He enjoys creating coalitions, strengthening organizations, and developing strategies that lead to improved conditions for young people.
Previously, Steve served as program coordinator at East End Neighborhood House; unit director of a Boys & Girls Club; executive director of the Hampden Family Center; and chief of recreation for the City of Baltimore. He funded nonprofits and supported youth development strategies through his work with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, and he went on to support and develop mentoring partnerships at MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
Steve co-chaired the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission for African American Males, the Greater Philadelphia Black Philanthropic Network, and the Rumble Young Man Rumble Five Planning Committee. Steve also founded AMPED (“ampt”) Strategies, a consulting firm whose clients included the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, MENTOR, Nike/Jordan Brand, Sneaker Villa, and United Way.
Steve earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mental Health from Morgan State University and a Master’s degree in Social Service Administration from Case Western Reserve University. He is a proud dad, husband, mentor, and man of faith and action. He enjoys travel, and as a former DJ, loves rap, his musical first love.
Organizational Development Consultant, Visiting Nurse Service of New York
Amanda Weiner currently serves as an organizational development consultant at Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the nation’s largest nonprofit home health care organization. Concurrently, Amanda also partners with a variety of New York City nonprofit organizations through her role a senior consultant at Leading For Good, an executive coaching, teambuilding, and leadership development firm.
Amanda is a leadership coach and consultant who empowers others to achieve organizational and personal goals in a way that is authentic, engaging, and effective. Amanda partners with leaders at all levels to help each find his/her potential, believing that one need not have a formal leadership title to act and be perceived as one. Amanda also works with groups and teams to help them function effectively in order to achieve an organization’s goals in a way that feels sincere to them as individuals.
To develop her coaching style, Amanda has practiced under the guidance of iCoachNewYork’s esteemed coaches. Amanda is also passionate about effective communication and helping others achieve their optimum communication performance. She is a member of Toastmasters International and has served in a variety of leadership roles, including vice president of education and president. Amanda is an active member of the community and had the honor of serving as a hospice volunteer for several years.
Amanda holds a Master of Arts in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science in Management from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business. She resides in New York City with her husband and sons.
Program Associate, Vera Institute of Justice
Vedan Anthony-North is a program associate at the Vera Institute of Justice’s (Vera) Substance Use and Mental Health Program. Vera is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building and improving justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. Vera’s work aims to tackle the most pressing injustices of our day—from the causes and consequences of mass incarceration, racial disparities, and the loss of public trust in law enforcement to the unmet needs of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and those harmed by crime and violence. Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health Program provides state and local governments research and technical assistance around the intersections of public health and criminal justice, with an emphasis on harm reduction, first episode psychosis, and strengthening community-based interventions.
Since joining Vera in 2013, Vedan has worked on a number of projects, including work to help local jurisdictions safely reduce their jail populations, assistance to New York City to decrease the use of solitary confinement on Rikers Island, and leading a delegation of policy makers, corrections officials, and thought leaders on an international exchange to learn lessons for reform at home.
Vedan became interested in improving justice systems after assisting with the Blackout Arts Collective’s Lyrics on Lockdown tour, a spoken word performance that visited prisons throughout the Northeast. She built on this experience by volunteering with Books through Bars, a collective that works to provide prisoners access to education by matching their requests with donated books.
In addition to her work, Vedan has a love of travel, books, hockey, and cooking.
Vedan received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Barnard College in 2011 and was a 2015 fellow in the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service.
Public Communications Manager, The New York Women's Foundation
Gael Black is the public communications manager at The New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF), a community-based foundation that promotes economic justice, safety, and health for women and families in NYC. She plays a leading role in developing and executing NYWF’s communications strategy in alignment with its broader work. Key projects include carrying out public education events and initiatives; communications related partnerships and special projects; overseeing the editorial and production process for research reports and publications; and identifying public relations and media opportunities. Gael joined NYWF in January 2012 as the 25th anniversary coordinator managing special communications and development projects.
Gael graduated in December 2011 from the University at Albany (UA), where she received her BA in Political Science and History with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. During her time at UA, she served as the student association’s director of legislative affairs, where she trained and supervised lobbying teams to voice student body concerns on issues regarding higher education, and collaborated with student groups and local lawmakers to successfully restore funding to the Albany Crime Victims and Sexual Violence Center. Additionally, Gael served as the event staff supervisor in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, on the Board of Directors of the University Auxiliary Services, and as a resident assistant.
Gael discovered her passion for public service when she became a United Nations Foundation (UNF) Global Classrooms Model United Nations delegate as a high school student in 2006. For six years, she worked closely with UNF as an intern and volunteer conducting research for background guides, training student staff and delegates, and serving as a key leader of ten large-scale, professional Model United Nations Conferences. Continuing her impact on student development, Gael has served as a mentor at iMentor since 2013. Gael was a 2013 Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service fellow and has been an alumni guide for the program since 2014.
Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner of Family Services, New York City Department of Homeless Services
Jerry Bruno is the special assistant to the deputy commissioner for family services at New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS). The mission of DHS is to prevent homelessness when possible and to provide short-term, emergency shelter for individuals and families who have no other housing options available to them.
As special assistant, Jerry supervises three staff members and oversees operations including human resources, budgets, contracts, procurement, and information technology for the 500-employee Division of Family Services. He works closely with over 70 nonprofit providers that provide temporary, emergency shelter to approximately 12,000 homeless families with children living in shelters. In addition, Jerry leads internal and external meetings and strategy sessions and oversees special projects as they relate to the scope of the family services programs.
Jerry was a 2017 StartingBloc Mentor, 2016 StartingBloc Fellow, 2015 New Leaders Council Fellow, and 2012 – 2013 New York City Urban Fellow. In addition, he co-chairs the Junior Board for Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and is a docent (tour guide) at Grand Central Terminal for the Municipal Art Society of New York.
Originally from Miramar, Florida, Jerry graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Public Leadership. He completed internships with the Florida Senate and the executive team of Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations and communications firm. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Gates Millennium Scholarship, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Horatio Alger Association.
In his off hours, Jerry loves travels, pretends to be a food critic, and is an avid lover of Batman movies. Jerry was a fellow in the 2014 cohort of the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service.
Senior Assistant Director of Student Life – School of General Studies, Columbia University
Jawad Cipriani is currently the senior assistant director of student life in the School of General Studies (GS), the undergraduate college at Columbia University created specifically for returning and nontraditional students seeking a traditional, Ivy League undergraduate degree. In his role, he oversees leadership development, advises student groups, and executes special events.
Prior to joining the student life team at GS, Jawad served as a graduate assistant in the office of first year and transfer programs at Syracuse University for two years. In this role he coordinated the transfer mentor program, collaborated with colleagues to coordinate Syracuse’s orientation programs, and advised “The Story Project,” a student group for first-generation college students. During this time, he also interned in the LGBTQ resource center of Syracuse University and office of student involvement and leadership at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
He was able to work in these roles due to the experiences he had while working at Prep for Prep, an educational nonprofit with the objective of identifying and developing leadership in underrepresented groups. For three years he had the opportunity to work with college students who were graduates of the program. Working with Prep for Prep allowed Jawad to explore his commitment to tackling issues of inequity in the public school system and the social barriers that exist for students, which is at the core of the organization’s goals. He credits his undergraduate experience for nurturing his passion for public service and social justice.
Jawad received a Bachelor of Arts in Critical Social Studies with a concentration in Marginalized Populations from Hobart & William Smith Colleges in 2008. He earned his Master of Science in Higher Education from Syracuse University in 2013. He was a member of the 2011 Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service cohort and tributes the fellowship with helping him to develop the confidence to attend graduate school.
Jawad grew up in New York City. He likes to dance, attend live shows, travel, eat spicy food, cheer on Syracuse basketball, and spend time with friends.
Director of Strategy and Operations - NYCx, New York City Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation
Gary Johnson works in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation as the director of strategy and operations of NYCx, an industry engagement program for breakthrough and emerging technology. NYCx is the first-ever municipal tech engagement program that calls on industry to develop new technologies that transform public life, spur economic growth, improve service delivery, and increase digital access for all New Yorkers.
Gary believes that while technology will disrupt the way live, work, and interact, emerging tech will play an important role in unlocking the potential of underserved communities through innovative workforce programming, collaborative community-led program design, and the development of strategic partnerships across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. He hopes to ensure the opportunities in the tech market are equitable, and individuals are prepared for the jobs of the future.
Gary has spent over eight years working in NYC local government to progress economic development policies and programs that support communities where the needs are greatest. Previously Gary served as a policy advisor in the New York City Mayor's Office of Operations, where he managed mayoral OneNYC initiatives related to homelessness prevention, advancing pedestrian safety policies through Vision Zero, expanding affordable broadband access, and workforce development strategy.
Gary is a New York native, raised in East Harlem by a family of dedicated public servants. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Hampton University, and is a proud alumni of CORO Leadership NY, New Leaders Council, and the Council of Urban Professionals. Gary also serves as a Junior Board member for the Food Bank for New York City, a campaign to end hunger in NYC, and My Sisters Place, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence against women and children. Gary was a member of the 2014 class of the Fellowship for Exploring Leaders in Public Service.
Manager of Organizational Development and Health, Campaign for Black Male Achievement
Lucia Mattox currently works at the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national, membership-based nonprofit. In her role as the manager of organizational development and health, she helps support the expansion and deepening of the organization’s impact to ensure Black men and boys thrive across the country. She weaves together elements of human resources, people operations, administrative duties, and talent development to foster staff and culture development.
Lucia has over seven years of experience working with communities of color in the nonprofit sector on issues of educational access and community development. Prior to CBMA, she served as the community outreach associate on the external relations team of Achievement First, a public charter school network. She has also worked with The Posse Foundation, Inc., a college access organization for historically underserved students.
Hailing from San Francisco, Lucia moved to New York to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies with a specialization in Sociology from Barnard College. She lives in Brooklyn and loves to travel, exercise and explore the city’s arts and cultural offerings. Lucia was a fellow in the 2014 cohort of the Fellowship for Emering Leaders in Public Service.
Director, Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service
Moschell (Mo) Coffey is the director of the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS). She has worked with FELPS since 2008. Mo oversees all outreach, recruitment, and selection; program and curriculum development; alumni engagement; and evaluation.
As the founder and principal of Challenges and Solutions LLC, Mo helps mission-driven organizations identify challenges and formulate solutions to achieve organizational efficiency, strengthen board and staff relationships, enable strategic growth, and define program outcomes. She also enjoys helping emerging and established leaders in public service explore their professional passions, chart career paths, and search for meaningful opportunities.
Over the past six years, Mo’s consulting clients have included family foundations; the Institute for Child Success funded by the White House Social Innovation Fund; the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center funded by the New York State Health Foundation; Mission: Cure; Breakthrough New York; Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community; and the Office of the President at New York University.
Previously, Mo worked as the managing director for The Good Dog Foundation, the national leader in therapy dog training, certification, visit coordination, research, and awareness. She was also the coordinator at the National Center on Philanthropy and the Law at NYU School of Law. Mo has served on the boards of nonprofits throughout the country.
Mo holds a Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy with an International Policy and Management specialization from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. A graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, Mo earned an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude in International Relations with a minor in Spanish.