Here are the winners of the 2018 NYN 40 Under 40

Illustration by Zach Williams/ NYN Media

Here are the winners of the 2018 NYN 40 Under 40

April 12, 2018

The 2018 NYN Media 40 Under 40 awards honor a talented group of 20 and 30-somethings who are shaking up the New York nonprofit sector. We received a wide range of nominations: Executive directors, caseworkers, attorneys, therapists, accountants and a wide range of other professions all found their place among our choices. What binds them all together is a shared commitment to furthering the missions of their organizations – and making a difference through the work they do every day. Here is a little something about each of our awardees.

Jenn Strashnick

Jenn Strashnick

Brittany Spatz

Brittany Spatz

Sarah Monroe Solomon

Sarah M. Solomon

Brandi D. Scott

 

Jessica Santana

Jessica Santana

Maria Rogers

Maria Rogers

Tracie Robinson

Tracie Robinson

Allison Quigney

Allison Quigney

 

R. Franklyn Pintado

R. Franklyn Pintado

Tiasia O’Brien

Tiasia O’Brien

Allison Nickerson

Allison Nickerson

Carrie Mumah

 

Apurva Mehrotra

Apurva Mehrotra

Patrick May

Patrick Ma

Jean Paul Laurent

Jean Paul Laurent

Alana Kulig

Alana Kulig

 

Roland Knight

Roland Knight

W. Eli Khoury

W. Eli Khoury

Nakia D. Johnson

Nakia D. Johnson

David Collins

David Collins

 

Lynanne Bruun

Lynanne Bruun

Michelle Amato

Michelle Amato

Shamar L. Watson

Shamar L. Watson

Kandra L. Clark

Kandra L. Clark

 

Karolina Veprek

Karolina Veprek

Erin Leigh George

Erin Leigh George

Devaughn D. Fowlkes

Devaughn D. Fowlkes

Leah Goodridge

Leah Goodridge

 

Nathaniel Gray

Nathaniel Gray

Riva Heller

Riva Heller

Fiona Kanagasingam

Fiona Kanagasingam

Joong Ho (Kevin) Cho

Joong Ho Cho

 

Eric Landau

Eric Landau

Erica Mateo

Erica Mateo

Jessica Nielsen

Jessica Nielsen

Sarah Strole

Sarah Strole

 

Rachel D. Pardoe

Rachel D. Pardoe

Bonnie Perry

Bonnie Perry

Erin Star

Erin Star

Michael C. Brady

Michael C. Brady


Jenn Strashnick

Covenant House New York

Director of Program Compliance and Child Protection Officer

Jenn Strashnick is the director of program compliance and a child protection officer at Covenant House New York, where she serves homeless, trafficked, and at-risk youth. She began working at CHNY in 2008 until she decided to attend law school following which she returned to CHNY as an attorney. She assisted clients with a wide range of legal issues and led CHNY’s advocacy efforts for city and state legislative changes to support homeless youth. Strashnick was then promoted to her current position, where she oversees all child protection issues and program grant compliance. Strashnick graduated magna cum laude from Quinnipiac University School of Law and graduated magna cum laude from St. Michael’s College.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I attended a service trip in college because I thought it would be a nice way to spend a week. Little did I know, that trip would guide my entire career so far. I worked with youth in the CHNY shelter, but one week was not enough.

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Brittany Spatz

Director of program partnerships

Educational Alliance

@BrittSpatz

Brittany Spatz came to her current role in 2016 as the director of program partnerships for Educational Alliance. In that role for the organization – which employs about 1,000 people – the 29 year-old works to enhance the agency’s mission by cultivating internal and external partnerships, and spearheading special projects. She began her career as a high school English teacher where she focused on holistic solutions for students, service-based learning and individualized instruction. Following six years in the classroom, Brittany joined Educational Alliance as the ExpandED Director for PS/MS 188 where she developed a trauma-informed enrichment program. Brittany holds a B.A. in English/secondary education from The College of New Jersey and a master’s in instructional technology from the University of Maryland.

So far, what experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I began learning about the neurological impacts of trauma and chronic stress on the developing brain, during my time running Educational Alliance’s program at PS/MS 188, in an effort to best meet the needs of my students and their families. This understanding of the physiological changes and behavioral responses that occur as the result of trauma has indelibly altered my career, allowing me to create systems that enable all individuals to access their full potential.

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Sarah Monroe Solomon

Legal Director

Legal Information for Families Today

Sarah “Monroe” Solomon supervises Legal Information for Families Today’s court-based programs and manages its legal resources library. She started with LIFT representing litigants in the Bron. and previously worked as a legal fellow at NYLAG, where she represented survivors of intimate partner violence. After dropping out of school as a teenager, the San Antonio native obtained a GEO and worked in the banking and technology industries before deciding to continue her education and eventually graduating from law school.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

During law school, I interned for a year with a sexual assault clinic that transformed my entire impression of our legal system. Clients we served often had overlapping issues that went unaddressed by the courts and I was inspired to find novel approaches to advocacy. That seedling of inspiration eventually led me to LIFT, where I work with an incredible, multi-disciplinary team committed to supporting New York families as they navigate the legal system.

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Brandi DeSousa Scott

PNP Staffing Group

Managing Director

@DesousaScott

Brandi Scott is the managing director for PNP Staffing Group, a full-service staffing firm dedicated to the nonprofit sector. Scott works closely with organizations to target, engage, and recruit talent. “I love nonprofit recruiting because it gives me the opportunity to continuously learn about all angles of organizations from industry leaders and visionaries. The thought of placing the right candidate in the right organization to make the world a better place is what excites me the most.” Brandi is motivated by her desire to change the world by doing good. She approaches her philanthropic work with the same zest that matches her strong commitment to work. Scott does a significant amount of charitable work when she is not in the office. She enjoys The High Line when she’s not working.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Volunteering for the AIDS Walk NYC, LA, Miami and Houston as well as getting to know other volunteers and what motivates them to donate their time.

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Jessica Santana

New York On Tech

Co-founder

@jessworldwide

Jessica Santana is an entrepreneur, technologist, writer and philanthropist who is passionate about people, products and building community. In 2014, she co-founded New York On Tech (NYOT), an award-winning organization that creates pathways for students into degrees and careers in technology. NYOT’s work has been featured in major media outlets such as Forbes, CNN and Huffington Post. Prior to NYOT, she worked as a technology consultant for global brands that include Accenture and Deloitte. Her specialties are in product strategy, design and management. She graduated with degrees in accounting and information technology from Syracuse University.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Having strong mentoring and sponsor relationships have shaped and influenced my trajectory tremendously. In every stage of my life, whether it was sitting in a classroom or a boardroom, I have been able to find people who have taken a genuine interest in me and have decided to support my professional and entrepreneurial aspirations.

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Maria Rogers

Breaking Ground

Building Director - Boston Road

Maria Rogers learned the importance of speaking up for what is right and striving for social justice from an early age through growing up in the South Bronx in a community oriented family. During college, she worked at a summer program for international and interfaith teenagers that centered on conflict resolution and communication workshops. This experience solidified her passion for social justice. After graduating college, Rogers began as a tenant services coordinator at The Brook, a supportive housing facility in the Bronx and later became the assistant director of programs. In 2015, she came to her current position and continues to take part in the work of providing quality housing to formerly homeless and low-income tenants.

So far, what experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

The community that we built amongst staff and tenants at The Brook is something that shaped who I am today. I grew so much personally and professionally as a result of the supportive staff I had there.

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Tracie Robinson

Senior Policy Analyst

Human Services Council of New York

Robinson advocates on behalf of nonprofit human services organizations to strengthen the relationship between government and the nonprofit sector, streamline contracting processes and obtain adequate and equitable funding for services that help communities thrive. She has also taken on special projects, including analyzing government RFPs and coordinating the work of HSC’s Commission on Value-based Payment. She is also the creator of New York’s Nonprofit Infrastructure Week.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

When I entered law school, I did not anticipate working in government relations. Almost serendipitously, I became a legislative analyst and witnessed the enactment of legislation that I drafted. This helped me understand that I could use my legal background outside the traditional context to change systems and help people in a variety of fields. Working at HSC has given me even more knowledge and invaluable, hands-on advocacy experience.

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Allison Quigney

Director of client services

Public Works Partners LLC

@quiggles14

Allison Quigney leads Public Works Partners’ Client Services practice, working across engagements to design solutions for complex programs at the intersection of urban planning and human service delivery. Before joining Public Works, Quigney led job training initiatives at the NYC Department of Small Business Services’ Workforce1 Career Centers and evaluated affordable housing programs at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Quigney has a master’s in public accounting from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and a bachelor’s in Metropolitan Studies from New York University.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

As the daughter of a retired public school teacher, I spent my childhood watching my mom go to work with this unrelenting passion to teach her students both the skills that were in the curriculum and those they would need to operate in the workplace after graduation. After seeing the impact she had on her students, it never occurred to me to go into a career where being successful didn’t mean having a positive impact.

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R. Franklyn Pintado

Director of Finance

Partnership with Children

@pintadoFranklyn

Franklyn Pintado is the director of finance at Partnership with Children which provides trauma-informed counseling, school-wide services, and family and community outreach in New York City public schools. In the past decade, the 37-year-old Lehigh University graduate has leveraged his education in finance to help nonprofits big and small design and implement accounting systems and processes. He lives with his wife and dog in Washington Heights where he enjoys hanging out at Fort Tryon Park.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

My family inspired a strong work ethic for me growing up, and I was fortunate enough to have them and other amazing mentors instill a sense of purpose, responsibility and passion. Being raised with these values, I started my full-time career in a special organization, Abraham House, in Mott Haven, Bronx. I worked to develop its financial systems by day and tutored and spent time with the community by night.

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Tiasia O’Brien

Groundswell

Director of Development and Communications

Tiasia O’Brien found her place in nonprofit development almost eight years ago by merging her passions for business and social impact. O’Brien’s career has included raising more than $2 million, strategically leveraging nonprofit initiatives, supporting the development of a capital campaign and merger, and using innovate marketing strategies to grow institutional brands. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in communications, and a master’s degrees she is pursuing at The New School for Social Research. Her goal is to attain a doctorate in philanthropy and “disrupt the industry of philanthropic giving.”

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

In 2013, I met Judith Nichols, who taught me so much about the world of philanthropic giving. I credit my knowledge of the industry to her. In 2015, I met Rafi Crockett, a consultant whose business savvy, honesty and integrity guided my leadership development. I still connect with them regularly and their insights guide my career to this day.

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Allison Nickerson

LiveOn NY

Executive Director

LiveOn NY is a membership organization of nonprofit service providers that builds power and capacity at the city and state level to change public policy, grow resources, and strengthen services for older adults. Nickerson began working at LiveOn NY in 2008 while in graduate school. From 2009 until 2012, she served as assistant director of Weill Cornell Medical College’s Translational Research Institute for Pain in Later Life. Prior to becoming executive director, Nickerson was LiveOn’s director of development. She serves on the Age-Friendly NYC Commission and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Aging Working Group. Nickerson lives in South Orange, NJ with her husband, four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter where she is a long distance runner and active member of her church.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I became enthralled with the process and results of coalition building, systems change and policy initiatives. I realized that I wanted to be involved in helping to change the rules of the game so that real lives could be improved.

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Carrie Mumah

Director of Communications

Planned Parenthood of New York City

@mewmah

Carrie Mumah develops and implements communications strategies that support her organization’s mission to advance sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice. She is also involved in the Sexuality Education Alliance of New York City, a coalition fighting for comprehensive sex education in New York City schools. Prior to joining Planned Parenthood of New York City, Mumah was at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C. She has a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Organizations and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Georgia.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

In high school, I worked for a suicide prevention nonprofit organization that was started by a couple who lost their daughter to suicide. From working at this very small organization run out of their basement, I learned about everything from advocacy and lobbying to development and communications. After this experience, I knew I wanted to work in nonprofit advocacy organizations that I’m passionate about for the rest of my career.

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Apurva Mehrotra

Citizens' Committee for Children of New York

Director of Research and Data Analysis

Apurva Mehrotra, leads a four-person data team in the production of various print and web-based products and other data-driven tools to bolster CCC’s advocacy efforts. Apurva was instrumental in the development of the new community risk ranking and asset mapping features on Keeping Track Online and has authored numerous recent reports. Prior to joining CCC, Apurva was a policy analyst at the Community Service Society, where he authored reports on issues ranging from the minimum wage to enrollment trends at selective public schools in New York City. Apurva has a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master’s of public administration from Baruch College.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

In the summer between my first and final year of graduate school, I was fortunate enough to receive a public policy internship at the Community Service Society of New York. It was this experience that cemented my desire to work in research and advocacy for those whose voices are too often ignored.

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Patrick Ma

Chief Operating Officer

a.i.r. nyc

@pma_online

Patrick Ma currently serves as the chief operating officer of a.i.r. nyc, a social enterprise that provides home-based care coordination for patients with chronic diseases. Ma has over a decade of nonprofit experience in fundraising, finance and operations and prior to joining a.i.r. nyc, served on the senior leadership team at the United Way of NYC as the vice president of business operations. Ma holds degrees from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and the Yale School of Management. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time at home in Queens with his wife and two children, hanging out in Central Park or training for his next marathon.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I have had the good fortune of many individuals going above and beyond to provide guidance, advice, and support for me. My experiences have also shaped my strong belief that the true measure of leadership is how effectively one cultivates leadership in others.

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Jean Paul Laurent

Founder and CEO

Unspoken Smiles Foundation

@iamjpnyc

Jean Paul Laurent’s professional career spans oral health and social issues including community development, social entrepreneurship, policy advising, women’s empowerment, economic development, and nonprofit management. In founding Unspoken Smiles Foundation, Laurent never intended to engage in simple philanthropy. Instead, he wanted to use addressing the shocking gaps in dental care as a model for sustainable growth. Starting with the most remote communities in rural Haiti, Laurent has adopted a three-prong strategy to address this: education, treatment, and empowerment. To date, Jean Paul has helped over 6ooo children in 7 different countries get access to free dental services.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

As a native of Port-au-Prince, the devastating earthquake that struck the island on January 12, 2010, was a moment of incomparable anguish. At least 160,000 Haitians perished; hundreds of thousands more were displaced. It was a crippling blow to what was already one of the poorest countries in the world. Laurent knows countless people whose lives were destroyed in the blink of an eye.

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Alana Kulig

Director of Events and Partnerships

Citymeals on Wheels

Massachusetts native Alana Kulig describes herself as “a true New Englander,” but the fashion industry brought her to New York City. The Peabody School for Education at Vanderbilt – where she received a Bachelor of Science in Human and Organizational Development – mandated that she fulfill an internship. She landed one in the public relations department of the fashion company that owned Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne. That set her on the path that led to her current position.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

A few months after graduation, the same company where I interned hired me. I worked in the fashion industry in public relations and gradually took on more special events starting with shows during New York Fashion Week. Only a few years ago did I begin to look for places outside of the industry where my skills would translate. I've been executing strategic partnerships and producing special events for Citymeals ever since.

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Roland Knight

Program Director

Good Shepherd Services

Growing up in the projects in Red Hook, Brooklyn wasn't easy, but there also was an abundance of joy and laughter where Roland Knight came from. He participated in a community center program operated by Good Shepherd Services. Knight says the nonprofit’s counselors inspired him to want to give back to the community. Years later, he got his chance and the 31-year-old has worked at Good Shepherd Services ever since. Good Shepherd's mission and values drew me to the cause.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

The experiences around me has influenced me in the most in my career path. I am big on helping others and when I see someone in need, minor or major, I feel compelled to assist. There are countless individuals who have the potential to do amazing things, but weren't given an outlet or opportunity to showcase their talents. I am here to change that.

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W. Eli Khoury

YAI

Chief Information Officer

As the founder of several Internet start-ups, Khoury's expertise includes technology systems, infrastructure, and organizational processes. He has led technology turnarounds and spearheaded growth for manufacturing, media, distribution, and service-based enterprises. Khoury innovates and architects an organization's IT capabilities in ways that align with its strategic vision. These innovations have generated tremendous synergy and value for the organizations he's been involved with. As the chief information officer at YAI, Khoury is dedicated to being on the forefront of developing and integrating technologies that will define the next generation of service delivery and further empower the people YAI supports.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Khoury is passionate about developing and utilizing technology to empower people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He and his team are identifying ways to incorporate emerging technology into the day-to-day lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, allowing them to live enriched, more independent lives.

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Nakia D. Johnson

FPWA

Program Manager of Training and Development

As a program manager, Nakia Johnson focuses on building the organizational knowledge and learning of FPWA’s member and non-member agencies. This involves identifying training needs, then building the appropriate curricula, workshops and other teaching opportunities to build and strengthen capacities. Prior to assuming the role of program manager, Johnson operated as program coordinator and oversaw FPWA’s emergency food and shelter program, tracking and distributing funding for faith-based providers of emergency feeding and nutrition programs. In 2016, Johnson launched the youth empowerment movement, a program that equips youth with tools and skills to advocate on behalf of themselves, their families, and communities. Johnson’s nonprofit career includes work as business manager at Church of St. Paul the Apostle, where she contributed to the oversight of a $1 million budget. She has a master’s of public administration from Baruch College’s former School of Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Manhattan College

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

My decision to pursue a master’s of public administration cemented my commitment to nonprofit work. While I'd had years of experience in the nonprofit sector going into Baruch College's MPA program, receiving my degree solidified my long-range commitment to nonprofit work that both means a great deal to me and impacts others in meaningful ways

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David Collins

Assistant Vice President, Programs and Policy

The Children’s Village

@dcollinsLMSW

David Collins currently serves as the assistant vice president for programs and policy at The Children’s Village and is a social worker specializing in child and family policy, systems reform, and evidence-based practice. He manages a portfolio that includes continuous quality improvement, health care reform, immigration services, and other emerging programs. He also leads the agency’s partnership with the Iraqi Children Foundation, traveling regularly to Baghdad since 2009 to provide training and technical assistance to local NGOs serving orphans, widows and victims of war. Before joining The Children’s Village, which employees about 1,100 people, Collins served as the assistant commissioner for program innovation and planning at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services, where he helped lead the design, contracting and implementation phases of several large-scale child welfare and juvenile justice reform initiatives. Collins has a master’s degree in social work from the Columbia University School of Social Work.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

My career trajectory was most influenced by the experience of starting out as a direct care worker in a residential treatment setting, and feeling frustrated that the policies and structures surrounding our work were rarely informed by the needs and experiences of children, families, and front-line staff. I have been extremely fortunate to have a wide variety of opportunities and experiences since then, and I hope to always remain focused on the urgent task of making our work environment and our service systems more just, more equitable, and more responsive to the communities we serve.

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Lynanne Bruun

JCCA

Borough Director, Brooklyn Preventive Services

Lynanne Bruun received her master’s in social work from Stony Brook University in 2008. She started her career at Little Flower Residential Treatment Center serving children in foster care and their families. In 2011, she joined JCCA’s foster home division where she worked with adolescents placed in group homes. Bruun was promoted to a supervisory role in 2014 and trained in the evidence-based models of child success. Bruun is now a borough director of JCCA’s Brooklyn Preventive Services and manages the family treatment rehabilitation and child parent psychotherapy programs. In addition, Bruun has been overseeing the agency’s Article 31 outpatient clinic for the last two years.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I have not had one defining experience but rather, the continuous support and encouragement of multiple colleagues and supervisors along the way. The work of child welfare is difficult. We are often helping clients who have been traumatized in various ways and are trying to navigate red-taped systems. This field requires a social worker to have thick skin with a compassionate interior.

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Michelle Amato

Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York

Chief of Staff/VP for Strategic Innovation

Michelle Amato joined Little Flower in 2007. She has a bachelor’s in psychology from Ithaca College and a master’s in social work from Stony Brook University. While at Little Flower, Amato steadily increased her responsibilities and knowledge of the social service sector. She worked in their therapeutic foster boarding home, residential treatment center, and their Bridges to Health and health care management departments. She is currently chief of staff and vice president for strategic innovation. Amato chose her path in social services to affect the lives of young people and their families and ultimately help them reach their fullest potential.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I have been fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career who have guided and challenged me both personally and professionally. The progress and success of the children and families served continues to motivate me to think strategically and advocate for those in need.

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Shamar L. Watson

Director of After School Academy

Westchester Jewish Community Services

At the age of 14, Shamar Watson became a youth counselor making $4.15 per hour in a youth program located in the Bronx. A few years later he was promoted from a junior counselor to a senior counselor and started to get the feeling that this may be the field for him. After work as a youth and teen program director for Mosholu Montefiore Community Center and as a program coordinator at Harlem Children’s Zone, Watson was hired as a site coordinator for Westchester Jewish Community Services in 2010 and in 2014 was promoted to his current position as director of the after school academy. With support from his agency, Watson became a licensed master social worker in 2012.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Working in the field of youth development provides me a platform to be a voice and representative for the children and families that I serve on a daily basis.

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Kandra L. Clark

Strategic Partnerships Liaison and Senior Grant Writer

The Fortune Society

@KandraClark17

Kandra Clark, began her journey with The Fortune Society over six years ago in a temporary, direct service position. She currently writes government and foundation grants to support Fortune’s services and speaks publicly about her experiences during incarceration. Since her release from prison, Clark earned an associate degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in humanities and justice (summa cum laude), and is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration. Clark is also a member of the National Council of Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and a member of Just Leadership USA’s 2018 Leading with Conviction cohort. In 2016, Clark received the Julio Medina Freedom Fighter Award.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

While incarcerated, the intersectionality between criminal justice, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse and so on, became obvious. Upon release, the support I received from nonprofits – in particular The Fortune Society, gave me what I needed to work in philanthropy and fight for social justice.

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Karolina Veprek

Special Projects Manager

SCO Family of Services

@KarolinaVeprek

Karolina Veprek is the special projects manager at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit human services organization providing vital services to help New Yorkers build strong foundations for their future. Veprek works in the areas of government relations and advocacy, strategic planning, community building, and special events among others. In 2016, Karolina graduated with her master’s in public administration from the University of Illinois, Springfield and has since expanded her portfolio at SCO to assume an emerging leadership role. Veprek was raised in Brooklyn and now lives on Long Island with her husband.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

After immigrating to the United States in 1993, I learned first-hand the impact social services can have on a family and a young child. My experiences helped fuel my passion for helping others. My passion has now blossomed into a career, thanks to the great mentors and colleagues at SCO Family of Services who continually challenge me while supporting my personal development.

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Erin Leigh George

New York State Campaign Coordinator

JustLeadershipUSA

@ErinLeighGeorge

Erin George is the New York state campaign coordinator at JustLeadershipUSA, a national advocacy organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration by building the power of directly impacted people to lead policy reforms. George played a core role on the #CLOSErikers campaign and currently manages JLUSA's state legislative campaign to #FREEnewyork, and overhaul the pretrial justice system through groundbreaking reform to New York's bail, discovery and speedy trial laws

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

What most influenced the trajectory of my career is having been exposed to the harms of criminalization and mass incarceration and understanding that the power of strategic grassroots organizing is the only way to shift power structures and create transformational change.

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Devaughn D. Fowlkes

College and Career Success Director

Breakthrough New York

@devaughnfowlkes

Devaughn Fowlkes is a New Yorker of southern and Panamanian roots born in the Town of Hempstead to loving teenage parents. Fowlkes attended public school and was a first-generation college graduate of Columbia University. He started his career working for various banks but eventually found his passion working in education at the Harlem Children’s Zone. Fowlkes started as a college advisor and helped HCZ serve over 1,200 college students. Fowlkes also provided capacity building support to educational nonprofits at a venture-philanthropy and helped a technology accelerator incubate startups. Fowlkes is now the college and career success director at Breakthrough New York, serving over 500 high potential low-income students from middle school through college completion and career.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

One day in the financial aid office of a university I coached a student through writer’s block for an appeal letter requesting additional aid for tuition. She ultimately received full funding and successfully matriculated. This experience awakened me and ultimately led to my career transition into education.

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Leah Goodridge

Supervising Attorney

Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services)

Leah Goodridge is the supervising attorney of the housing project at Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services). Goodridge has represented hundreds of tenants in New York City Housing Court, New York State Supreme Court, the Appellate Division of New York and the New York State Court of Appeals.

Goodridge's legal scholarship has been published in the Duke Forum for Law and Social Change. She is also a board member of Housing Court Answers. Prior to becoming a housing attorney, Goodridge launched the Community Economic Development program at Medgar Evers College (CUNY). For her work in community development, she was awarded a Fulbright grant. A native of Brownsville Brooklyn, Goodridge’s hobbies include photographing New York City.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Failing many, many times.

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Nathaniel Gray

LGBTQ+ Advocate and Empathy Facilitator

The Proud Path

@proudpath

Nathaniel Gray has worn many hats in New York City. He is a graduate of the musical theater program at Pace University, a former teacher and education administrator and most recently, a graduate of Fordham University’s Master of Social Work program. His mission is to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness through compassion, education, and policy change. He is the founder of The Proud Path, an educational resource for families with queer-identified youth, and The Pride Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing LGBTQ+ youth homelessness through innovative action. He has interned with the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Ali Forney Center, agencies with a history of action around LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

From 2010 to 2015, dozens of LGBTQ+ related suicides nationwide were reported, particularly among teens. Each one broke me a little more until I realized the only thing I could do to repair myself was to address it head on. Love is love is love is love is love.

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Riva Heller

Executive Assistant

Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island

Since 2000, Riva Heller has helped thousands of community residents, and individuals throughout New York City, by assisting with the development and implementation of programs providing supportive services to New York’s neediest at the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island. She also plays a key role in raising funds to support these vital programs. Heller strives to listen to everyone’s ideas, show appreciation, promote teamwork, and encourage positive thinking amongst co-workers and colleagues. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and six children. Her proudest moments are when she’s enabled her co-workers and family to be the best they can be.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Having the opportunity to support our executive director, and observing his belief in the value of all humanity and unflagging effort; along with being part of an exceptionally skilled and talented team that works with tens of thousands of people without losing site of the individual, inspires me to continue in this field.

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Fiona Kanagasingam

Director of Consulting

Community Resource Exchange

Fiona Kanagasingam has over 16 years experience working at the intersection of human development and social justice. She has worked with diverse groups including activists, families affected by violence and C-suite executives. At CRE, Kanagasingam supports nonprofits in leadership development and strategic planning. She started and scaled CRE’s Innovation practice, which has in two years supported over 125 organizations in designing and prototyping solutions for evolving environments. She also built CRE’s Equity practice to support groups looking to build more equitable systems and organizations, and leads CRE’s internal task force focused on centering racial equity in how the organization does its work.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Directly working with families affected by violence early in my career was defining. It sparked my commitment to understanding and addressing violence at all levels: intra- and inter-personal, as well as institutional and structural – for those harmed and those who cause harm.

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Joong Ho (Kevin) Cho

Immigration Program Manager and Community Liaison

Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York

Kevin Cho is the immigration program manager and community liaison at Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York. In his role, he manages a team that provides various immigration legal services to the hard-to-reach immigrant communities of New York City. Cho also oversees KCS’ summer youth program and an annual youth conference in Queens. He also works with organizations, coalitions, and city and state-wide government agencies to strengthen the organization’s profile and provide resources to the community. Prior to KCS, Cho worked as a community organizer and later as the social services associate at the MinKwon Center for Community Action.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Working alongside the most passionate, humble and dedicated people for social justice as the youngest staff member at a nonprofit grounded me as an individual. It helped me understand what it means to build and be part of a community.

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Eric Landau

President

Brooklyn Bridge Park

@Eric_Landau

Eric Landau became president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation in April 2017 after being nominated by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Brooklyn Bridge Park has transformed the former industrial Brooklyn waterfront into a civic space for all New Yorkers that welcomes millions of visitors a year.

Landau leads the 85-acre park’s continued expansion, oversees its daily operations and fosters its long-term stability. Previously he served as deputy commissioner overseeing public affairs and communications at New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection and as vice president at the Prospect Park Alliance.

Landau earned a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor's degree from Binghamton University.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I had the great fortune of working for two amazing leaders at the Prospect Park Alliance. They taught me not just about parks and park management but about community engagement, the importance of civic participation and how important it is to challenge the norms and think differently.

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Erica Mateo

Project Director, Neighborhood Safety Initiatives

Center for Court Innovation

Erica Mateo is project director of neighborhood safety initiatives at the Center for Court Innovation. Mateo oversees various projects at 15 sites across New York City. She leads collaborative community planning processes, oversees staff and stakeholder trainings and secures resources for project sustainability. Her public space work looks to improve public health and safety by supporting local problem-solving and improving efficacy in resident and government collaboration. Projects range from the strategic use of lighting, greenery, way-finders and streetscapes to turning a blighted lot into an outdoor youth clubhouse. Formerly, the Deputy Director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center, Mateo oversaw the launch and development of the Belmont Ave Revitalization Project, the Justice Center’s anti-violence campaign, and civic training for court-involved youth 16 to 24 years old. Mateo graduated from Bard College.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

I’ve had the good fortune of having amazing supervisors. People who would let me try out crazy ideas and supported me every step of the way.

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Jessica Nielsen

Director of Waiver Services

Cardinal McCloskey Community Services

Jessica Nielsen attended college at Fordham University and the Silver School of Social Work at New York University for graduate school. I began my career at Cardinal McCloskey Community Services in May of 2009 as a per diem Waiver Service Provider in the Bridges to Health Program while in graduate school. I worked as a part time psychotherapist providing therapy to children ages 3-16, to improve my clinical skills and became a licensed master social worker and the director of waiver services. In addition, I have had the opportunity to be one of my agency's ACS LGBTQ and TGNC certified trainers.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

In middle school, we were required to volunteer throughout the year. I had the opportunity to volunteer at a church food bank. It was while working in this food bank, that I can remember thinking, that this is what I am meant to do. Give back, advocate, and help others that have had less opportunity than I have.

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Sarah Strole

Program Director

Lutheran Social Services of New York

Sarah Strole is a licensed clinical social worker who received her Master of Science in social work from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She developed an expertise in trauma while working as a bilingual trauma therapist and as a special victims social worker. Currently, she is the director of Lutheran Social Services' Safe Haven program which provides comprehensive care for children detained by immigration without parents or guardians.

Strole has presented on chronic trauma, resilience, and supervision best practices at the local, national, and international level.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Social workers support some of the most vulnerable groups in an environment with incredibly limited resources. Having supervisors and colleagues who were willing to teach me and help me learn how to support clients was crucial to my growth and provided me a framework and vision for how I now support and teach those I supervise.

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Rachel D. Pardoe

Program Officer

The New York Community Trust

Rachel D. Pardoe started her nonprofit career helping people with developmental disabilities get jobs. Now she oversees The New York Community Trust’s grants program for people with special needs. She is a fierce advocate for making the city more inclusive and accessible for all New Yorkers. Pardoe is a graduate of NYU Wagner School of Public Service and uses her expertise in direct service and evaluation to help identify the most effective programs to support while working with nonprofits to make life better for vulnerable New Yorkers.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Pardoe’s first job in the nonprofit sector involved working in a mental health clinic and counseling families involved with the juvenile justice system. There she gained insight into the daily host of challenges low-income families face and gained the utmost respect for those who provide vital services. These experiences influenced her to select making systemic change as a career goal.

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Bonnie Perry

Program Manager

GallopNYC

Bonnie Perry began working with kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders while at college in Ohio. This experience led her to AHRC NYC where she created curricula, built opportunities for inclusion with community partners, supported self-advocacy groups, and managed the department’s travel training program. In 2016, she began working at GallopNYC as a program manager. Perry could not be more proud of the work she's done at GallopNYC helping to expand and improve programs as the nonprofit acquired two locations and doubled its ridership.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Participating in a self-advocacy group facilitated by the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State was pivotal to my career development. I saw an opportunity to make changes that would improve the lives of those I supported when I was working with the disability rights movement. Seeing small daily changes that could be made around the program evolved into wanting to affect change in a more macro way. This led me to earn my master’s in social work.

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Erin Star

Co-owner

Inspire Hearts Fundraising

Erin Ward Star, a National Auctioneers Association accredited Benefit Auctioneer Specialist, is the co-owner, lead consultant and one of the principal ambassadors askers for Inspire Hearts Fundraising. It works with hundreds of nonprofits to masterfully create and execute goal-breaking success with Paddle Raise moments. Star is also CEO of Star Benefit Auctions, a third-generation auctioneer, and daughter to Champion Auctioneer Jill Doherty. Star wanted to help as much as possible so she paired her auction superpower with the do good work of the nonprofit world. She thrives seeing guests turn into donors at an event.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

With a history and deep passion for auctions in the nonprofit gala world, the realization that auctions are not the best ways for special events to raise money today was a big transformation. Star’s model is to master the special appeal at an event. Guests, plus great appeal moment, equals engaged donors and world change.

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Michael C. Brady

Executive Director

Third Avenue Business Improvement District

@mbradybronx

Michael Brady has dedicated nearly two decades to the revitalization of the South Bronx. In his current role Brady is charged with leading the Bronx's oldest business improvement district and has been noted for changing the paradigm of how small businesses are cultivated and protected in New York City. Prior to his appointment, Brady served as the director of special projects at the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. In his current role, he has developed and implemented a campaign that demands equity in services and resources for the South Bronx and has developed comprehensive real estate development and anti-displacement business development tools. Other initiatives Brady is working on include bringing an LGBTQ Center to Melrose while activating a formerly vacant building. Additionally, Brady has partnered with New York City to establish the South Bronx as a tech hub and has developed innovative methods to embrace the tech and industrial sector. Brady lives in the South Bronx with his husband Tony.

What experience has most directly influenced the trajectory of your career?

Living in the South Bronx.

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The original version of this article misspelled the name of Patrick Ma.

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