“I would stack the Senior Team at BUILD against any start-up or company I am involved and invested in.”
—Ajay Agarwal, National Board Member
and Managing Director, Bain Capital Ventures
National Executive Team
Founder and CEO
Suzanne McKechnie Klahr
Suzanne was born in London, England and raised in New York City. Her mother, a public high school teacher in Harlem, helped expose Suzanne to the value of education. Her parents divorced and remarried when Suzanne was young, and both sets of parents instilled in her the value of the competitive drive with a compassionate spirit, an equally entrepreneurial and service-oriented mindset.
As an undergraduate at Brown University, Suzanne spent a summer interning at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. While earning her JD at Stanford Law School, Suzanne completed her clinical work at the East Palo Alto Community Law Project.
Suzanne’s experience in East Palo Alto sparked her big idea. The residents of East Palo Alto, then dubbed the ‘murder capital of the US,” were looking for resources to launch their own businesses. Just down the street, Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and investors were navigating the dot.com bubble and burst. Suzanne saw that both communities sought to employ the same skill set to build a better future: the entrepreneurial skill set.
When Suzanne graduated from Stanford, she had an offer from Skadden Arps and was awarded the prestigious Skadden Fellowship to pursue public interest law. With the Fellowship, she started an organization to help low income adult entrepreneurs gain access to capital and networks to start businesses. It was not until four high school students came into Suzanne’s office, looking for capital to start their own business, did Suzanne find the right market for her program.
Suzanne hypothesized that more than just these four students wanted to be successful in business, and that most of these students did not see a high school or college education as the most efficient or relevant means of doing so. She struck a deal with these four students: if they stayed in school and improved their grades, she would help them get their business off the ground. Both parties kept their word, demand for Suzanne’s help grew, and BUILD was born.
Suzanne has earned numerous awards and recognition for her unique work bringing an invaluable skill set to a disadvantaged population, including: Ashoka Fellowship (2006), CBS’s Jefferson Award (2007), San Mateo County’s Women’s Hall of Fame (2008), San Jose Business Times’ Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women (2008), the Manhattan Institute’s Social Entrepreneurship Award (2012), the Forty Over 40 Award (2015) and the Elfenworks In Harmony with Hope award (2016). Suzanne was also inducted in to the Young President’s Organization in 2014 and serves as a Trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation and on the Advisory Board of One Degree, Daylight Justice, Open Road Learning and Until There is A Cure.
In addition to her role as CEO and Founder of BUILD, Suzanne has served as a Lecturer of Law at Stanford Law School where she pioneered the first ever Law School course on “Social Entrepreneurship” in the United States. She currently teaches Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship at Harvard Law School during winter quarter and frequently lectures at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Suzanne is married to a fellow entrepreneur. Together, they have two children (seven and 12 years old) who may have even more entrepreneurial energy than their parents.
Chuck brings over 20 years of management and education reform experience to BUILD, having begun his career in East Palo Alto, California as a Teach For America corps member (at the same time Suzanne was starting BUILD in the same city!). During his three years in East Palo Alto, Chuck founded the Ravenswood Youth Soccer Club and served as the president of the Ravenswood Teachers Association.
Following his time in East Palo Alto, Chuck went on to work as a master teacher, school leader, principal and charter school superintendent in different communities throughout the country. In addition to his direct work in public education, Chuck has held senior management positions with the national non-profit organizations Teach For America, After-School All-Stars, and Lighthouse Academies.
He earned his B.A. magna cum laude with university and departmental honors from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania and his J.D. from the Mauer School of Law at Indiana University, Bloomington. Chuck has also completed graduate studies in Nonprofit Management, Business Management and Change Management from Indiana University, Ball State University, and Cornell University respectively. Chuck is a trained mediator and a member of the Indiana State Bar. When not working, among other things Chuck enjoys cooking, photography, and mountain biking.
Vice President Development and Communications
Kristina Ver Foley
Kristina Vér Foley is the Vice President of Development and Communications at BUILD. In this role, she leads the national implementation of revenue generation strategies and oversees the organization’s communications.
Living and working throughout the United States and Europe, Kristina has always been dedicated to engaging support for transformative education and to telling stories that generate awareness and motivate societal change. Prior to joining BUILD, Kristina was the Director of University Outreach & Advancement at The American University of Paris. She oversaw development, alumni and parent relations, communications, marketing and public relations, career development and internship counseling, and led the university through the successful launch of its first comprehensive campaign. She has been a member of the senior fundraising staff at Central European University in Budapest and Northern Berkshire Healthcare, and worked in the Bay Area for Harvard University’s Capital Giving team.
Kristina enjoyed a first career in documentary film and television news, serving as a member of the executive management team of Partisan Pictures, New York, a seven-time EMMY award-winning production company, and travelling the world for CNN Presents. She holds a BA with honors in French and German History and Literature from Harvard University, as well as Master’s equivalent in Documentary Film and Television News from The Television and Film Academy in Munich, Germany where she was a DAAD Scholar.
Vice President of Regions
Throughout his 16 years in education, Greg has always been interested in how entrepreneurship and disruptive change can make a difference in the lives of students. As BUILD’s Vice President of Regions, Greg works to streamline systems and improve communication across all offices to deliver a life-changing entrepreneurial experience to every student. He and his team also raise money to help BUILD change more lives every year.
Greg began his career at Score Learning, a forward-thinking company dedicated to making learning fun. At Score, Greg created a partnership with schools serving East Palo Alto that helped a significant number of low-income students to join his center. Greg then moved to Sylvan Learning, where he spent a decade working in operations and franchise services. He ensured that students received a world-class experience in every center, created profitable business plans with franchisees, and delivered some of the most fun sales trainings. He took pride in building relationships with franchisees across the country and world, all of whom were entrepreneurs serving students in their communities. After his stops at Score and Sylvan, Greg was eager to apply his skills to create opportunities for underserved students. Given his passion for entrepreneurship, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a non-profit founded on the idea of teaching entrepreneurship as a path to opportunity, was a natural next step. Greg served as the Vice President of Regions at NFTE, where he helped grow reach and impact of the program across the country.
Greg earned a B.A. from Northwestern University in Economics and Linguistics. He is finishing an MBA from NYU, with specializations in Entrepreneurship and Business Analytics. Greg and his wife live in Brooklyn with their adorable son. When not spreading BUILD’s mission, he enjoys running, reading, and relaxing with his family.
Vice President Program Design and Evaluation
Nicole Ramos is an effective leader in instructional design and evaluation with a demonstrated aptitude for applying innovative educational pedagogies to programming. With a B.A. in Psychology and a M.Ed., Curriculum & Instruction, earned at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, she understands the facets of educational experience from the inside out.
Before supervising programmatic initiatives and evaluation strategy as Vice President of Programs and Evaluation, she was 9th Grade Program Manager at the East Palo Alto site, Site Director, National Curriculum Specialist, and Senior Director of National Programs, making her the longest serving member of BUILD’s programming staff. This gives Nicole an exceptional vantage point from which to oversee efforts, seamlessly synching perspectives of students, educators, trainers, and site managers. By incorporating non-traditional methodologies like Experiential Learning and Critical Pedagogy, she has promoted measurable results and growth within the BUILD program.
Nicole’s journey implementing programming began in Michigan. Born in the Detroit, MI area, she was a “school-away-from-home” educator at the small but mighty Clonara School, where she pioneered several experiential learning opportunities. At Migrant Health Promotion, as Program Director, her Community Health Worker curriculum was certified by the State of Texas for teaching migrant farm workers to lead education, empowerment and organizing initiatives within their own communities.
Now living in Redwood City, California, Nicole is a mother of two and an avid salsa dancer.
Vice President Partnerships and Innovation
Jaime Ernesto Uzeta oversees BUILD’s transformational impact efforts. His unique background blends education design, media, technology and public service. Prior to BUILD, Jaime was a portfolio director at IDEO, the design and innovation firm, where he helped address a variety of systemic challenges in education. Previously, he headed up growth strategy and development for GreatSchools, a digital media group that empowers parents to unlock educational opportunities for their children. In the media space, Jaime built Participant Media’s digital and TV social action teams, which informed and mobilized audiences around critical social issues. He played a similar role for MTV, where he co-developed the Choose or Lose and Fight for Your Rights initiatives. Jaime’s other experience includes a variety of strategy and marketing roles for some of the world’s most recognized brands – including clients such as CNN and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – as well as political positions at the White House and the Departments of Treasury and Commerce. A former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Jaime currently serves on the national board of Public Allies, a civic service apprenticeship program. He graduated with honors from the University of Houston with a BA in political science and earned his MBA from Columbia University.
Vice President Operations and Data Management
Bill has broad executive experience working at multiple Silicon Valley high tech firms, as well as in the non-profit sector. His background includes Operations, Engineering, Human Resources, Technical Sales and IT. Much of his focus over the last 15 years has been on leading cross-functional teams to drive advances in education delivery through process and technology enhancements for Education Systems (K-20), Enterprise Learning & Development, and Global Economic Development.
Prior to joining BUILD, he was the VP of Technology Strategy & Integration at Freedom from Hunger, a non-profit dedicated to bringing innovative and sustainable self-help solutions to the fight against chronic hunger and poverty through adult education.
He spent four years on assignment in Johannesburg, South Africa as the Cisco Program Director for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In this role he led the deployment of e-Schools across the continent, in partnership with the African Union, as part of a program to improve secondary education in both urban and rural communities in 15 countries.
Bill joined Cisco in January 2000 as Director of Global e-Learning Technologies. In this newly created role, he and his team were responsible for supporting and managing all of Cisco’s global learning applications, including the Cisco Networking Academy Program.
He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and holds an MBA from Santa Clara University.
Regional Executive Directors
Regional Executive Director
Laura Brief, Bay Area
Prior to BUILD, Laura held leadership positions at high achieving youth development organizations including First Graduate, Juma Ventures, and The Posse Foundation, where she developed the organization’s first national career, corporate engagement and alumni programs. She holds a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University, and is the Chair of the Board of Directors at Youth Speaks.
Regional Executive Director
Ayele Shakur, Greater Boston
Ayele Shakur brings almost three decades of experience as an innovator in urban education. She currently serves as the founding Regional Executive Director for BUILD in Greater Boston, and bears primary responsibility for launching and growing the program in the Northeast Region. BUILD is an innovative, college access program, whose mission is to use entrepreneurship and experiential learning to ignite the potential of youth in under-resourced communities and equip them for high school, college and career success. Prior to coming to BUILD, she served as the President and CEO of the Boston Learning Center for 15 years. Under her leadership, the Center expanded from serving 100 students annually in Boston to 700 students across the state of Massachusetts. A veteran classroom teacher, Ayele taught for eleven years in the Los Angeles area and in the Boston Public Schools, and co-authored the book Boost School Performance – A Parent’s Guide to Better Grades Fast. Ayele is the recipient of the 2012 Boston Celtics Heroes Among Us Award, and the 2007 Nan Bennett Kay Great Friend to Kids Award presented by the Boston Children’s Museum. In 2014, she was appointed as Chair of the Education Committee for the Boston NAACP. In 2015, she was appointed by the Boston School Committee to co-chair the Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force for the Boston Public Schools. She is a motivational speaker and a frequent blogger for the Huffington Post. A native of Boston, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Boston University and a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
Regional Executive Director
Bryce Jacobs, Metro D.C.
Bryce Jacobs is an educational reformer and educator with a particular interest in family engagement and college access/equity. Prior to joining BUILD Metro DC, Dr. Jacobs was Director of National Programs at College Summit, an organization with a mission to help more low income students get to and through college, and previously was a program specialist at the National Parent Teacher Association. In her role at College Summit, Dr. Jacobs wrote training materials, designed curriculum, and innovated new programs that supported 11 regions across the country. She is a founding board chair and current board member of Sela Public Charter School, a diverse Hebrew language immersion school in Washington DC. Dr. Jacobs has a B.A. in International Development from Clark University, an M.A. from George Washington University in Education, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Education Policy and Leadership.
Regional Executive Director
Chymeka Olfonse, NYC
Chymeka Olfonse has dedicated her entire professional career to empowering individuals through education. She currently serves as the Regional Executive Director for BUILD NYC. Prior to BUILD, Chymeka served as the National Executive Director of Minds Matter National Inc., an academic mentoring nonprofit headquartered in New York City. She set the organization’s strategic direction in collaboration with the leadership of 12 chapters. During her tenure, Minds Matter doubled the number of students served and successfully launched four of its 12 chapters. She developed a comprehensive fundraising strategy and formed partnerships to achieve scale and impact to benefit the national network. In addition, Chymeka has worked in programming, development and management capacities at the New York City Department of Education and at The After-School Corporation (TASC). As a Program Manager in the Office of Strategic Partnerships at the New York City Department of Education, she oversaw a number of large efforts to bring private-sector philanthropy into the public schools. Prior to that, Chymeka was Deputy Director for the Mid-Atlantic region of Jumpstart for Young Children
Chymeka is a graduate of Yale University where she earned a dual Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with Economic Policy and African and African-American History. She completed her MPA with a focus in Public and Nonprofit Management at The Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. In the summer of 2012, Chymeka earned a Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management certificate offered through Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program.
Regional Executive Director
Matt Scelza, Los Angeles
Matt Scelza opened the BUILD:LA office in 2016. Prior to BUILD, Matt worked in both non-profit and corporate settings as a teacher, fundraiser and marketing consultant. Most recently, Matt directed the Los Angeles office for Incite, a social impact marketing agency. He previously worked as Development Director for LA’s Promise, Bet Tzedek Legal Services and California Literacy. Born in New York, Matt is a dual graduate of Stanford University (BA ’94 in American Studies and MA ’95 in Education) and a long-time Angelino.
Senior Director of National Communications
Jane Sullivan joined BUILD in March 2016 after more than two years leading the strategic marketing and communications efforts at The San Francisco Foundation, a $1.3 billion regional community foundation serving five Bay Area counties. Sullivan previously served as the Director of Communications for San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on the America’s Cup, an international regatta that took place over two years along San Francisco Bay.
Joining the City of San Francisco to launch the airport’s new International Terminal in 2000, Sullivan then built an award-winning marketing and communications program at SFO, including the launch of Virgin America and opening of Terminal 2.
Sullivan has worked for politicians, and in the media, non-profit and consulting worlds as well.
Senior Director of Talent
Michelle has been with BUILD since 2009 and is the Senior Director of Talent for the organization. She got her start in HR field more than 15 years ago, spending the first 10 years of her career in start-up biotechnology companies. In her first HR role at Monogram Biosciences, Michelle quickly realized two important factors that greatly influenced the rest of her career; her desire to work for an organization with a strong mission she could believe in, and the importance of having a customer service approach to her work.
Since that time, Michelle has worked for other biotechnology start-ups, and expanded her knowledge and expertise in talent and HR management. Michelle made the move to the non-profit sector when she joined BUILD. She now oversees all aspects of Talent for the organization, including leading efforts to attract, develop and retrain best in class talent as well as providing strategic human resources operations management. Michelle received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Senior Director of Finance and Operations
Angelica Juarez is the Sr. Director of Finance at BUILD. Angelica is primarily responsible for improving the operational/financial systems, processes, and policies in support of the organizations’ mission, managing and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Support Services, as well as coordination and communication between support and business functions, and managing all aspects of the finance department. Furthermore, she also prepares and coordinates annual audits, 990 filings with the tax accounting firm and is the liaison between BUILD and its outside vendors.
A graduate from the University of California, she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Managerial Economics and Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish. Angelica brings with her 10+ year of non-profit accounting experience.
Angelica enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking/cooking, reading mystery books or listening to all types of music (specially country music!). Above all she loves spending time with her two kids.
Senior Director of Program Evaluation
Stacie Furia joined the BUILD family as the Senior Director of National Evaluation in January 2015. As part of the National Program Team, and with support from site-based program staff, Stacie leads our efforts in research, data, and analysis. She works to foster a data-driven culture at BUILD, a culture where we gather accurate and consistent data and use it to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of BUILD programs.
Before coming to BUILD, Stacie served as a Professor of Sociology and Social Justice at Northland College in Ashland, WI and then as a Professor of Research Methodology and Program Evaluation in the MPA program at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. Stacie has also conducted international sociological research for the U.S. Army and for the Palm Center, a public policy research institute. Stacie received a B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Vanderbilt University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology, with a doctoral emphasis in Feminist and Gender Studies, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Stacie is passionate about education, equality, and social justice and finds that BUILD is a great place to channel her passions into an engaging and fulfilling career.
When she’s not at work, Stacie can be found globetrotting (got to collect those passport stamps), snuggled up with a good book (novels please), completing crossword puzzles (in pen), baking (and eating), and spending time outside (hiking or cycling).
Senior Director of National Program Impact
Icy K. Jones
Icy Jones served as the Director of Educational Innovations at The Philadelphia Education Fund where he oversaw the nationally recognized Early Warning System dropout prevention program prior to joining BUILD in June 2016. Under his five years of leadership, the program expanded from serving five underserved Philadelphia public schools to serving 17.
Icy also has on-the-ground experience implementing dropout prevention programs as a former Diplomas Now School Transformation Facilitator for Johns Hopkins University. A seasoned educator, Icy previously taught at public schools in both the USA and abroad. Icy spent several years working in Japan as an ELL educator. Drawning on those classroom experiences, and a desire to design ways to impact more students, he later served as founder and CEO of a private English language school called Speak King.
Icy has a “data-to-action” approach to change that stems from his early career as a community health researcher doing groundbreaking drug addiction intervention research for the Center for Learning and Health at the Johns Hopkins University Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.
Chief of Staff
Larisa spent her entire career in the for-profit world until she had an epiphany in 2008 and decided to be part of an organization that was being innovative in the world of education and she has been with BUILD ever since. Larisa serves as a member of BUILD’s National Leadership Team working closely with BUILD’s Board of Directors and largest investors. Larisa represents the Office of the CEO both internally and externally on programmatic, strategic and development initiatives.
Larisa was born in Chicago, grew up in the Bay Area, attended DeAnza and West Valley colleges, and honed her marketing, sales and recruiting skills with long term positions at companies such as Bell Sports and Robert Half International. Larisa lives in the moment and cherishes each day she gets to be at the beach (preferably on the Big Island of Hawaii), at a Zumba class, or simply barbequing with her fiancé, friends and family.
Board of Directors
PwC Partner Silicon Valley, PwC
Managing Director, Bain Capital Ventures
Co-Founder, The Pramana Collective
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Mynd
Anchor, Bloomberg West
Head of Relationship Banking, SVB
Chairman, New York Angels
Founder & CEO, Twitter
Founder & CEO, Square
Managing Director, Seven Post Investment Office LP
Chief HR Officer, Uber
Director of Diversity and Belonging, Airbnb
BUILD Alumni Representative, Talent Operations and Recruiting, Invoice2Go
Founder and CEO, BUILD
President, HBS Alumni Angels
Managing Partner, West
Co-Founder, Cultivated Wit and About Race podcast
Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder, EVA Automation