The BUILD Team dreams big
BUILD's Big Idea is that all students have the potential to graduate from high school and attend college - if they have the access to the right support, resources and people. Thanks to BUILD's talented and committed staff, our Big Idea is becoming a reality for young people across the country.
Meet our Executive Team here. Click on the links at left to read more about our dedicated staff.
Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, CEO and Founder
Suzanne McKechnie Klahr founded BUILD in 1999 with a public service fellowship from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. As the CEO, Suzanne works with the board of directors to ensure a clear vision and strategic direction for the college success organization. Under Suzanne’s leadership, BUILD has grown from an initial four students to serve more than 1,100 students from 19 partner public high schools. BUILD currently operates its transformational four-year entrepreneurship program in the San Francisco Bay Area, DC and Boston. For her accomplishments with BUILD, Suzanne has received numerous awards:
Suzanne created and has continued to teach a course on social entrepreneurship at both Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School. She serves as a trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation and is an Honorary Board Member of the Until There’s A Cure Foundation.
Suzanne earned a dual degree from Brown University and a JD from Stanford Law School, and she has successfully completed the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program in Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management.
Ajuah Helton - Vice President of Programs and Evaluation
Ajuah started as part-time entrepreneurship instructor with BUILD in 2001 and went on to work with great entrepreneurial organizations like NFTE and Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (UC Berkeley), as well as The Enterprise Center in Philadelphia while pursuing graduate education at University of Pennsylvania. Her love of BUILD’s unique focus on highly disadvantaged, disengaged youth AND college access brought her back to the fold in 2007 to launch BUILD’s Washington, DC site, which will serve close to 200 students this fall. With her East-Coast launch mission accomplished, Ajuah returned to the Bay Area in 2011 and now serves as BUILD's Vice President of Programs and Evaluation.
Rod Hsiao - Vice President of Strategy and Operations
Rod leads strategy development and key management initiatives to maximize BUILD’s impact on disengaged youth. He brings more than 15 years of management experience at AtomicTangerine and A.T. Kearney developing competitive strategies and operational best practices for Fortune 500 companies and served as Chief Operating Officer for CompassPoint and NHI. He worked as a senior legislative advisor in the U.S. Congress on domestic policy issues and designed public-private partnerships for economic development in Maine and Massachusetts. He was recently appointed by the Obama Administration to the Council on Underserved Communities and is the Vice-President of the San Mateo County Board of Education. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and is enjoying learning everything all over again with his two-year old son.
John Warner - Vice President of Development and Communications
John leads BUILD’s national fundraising strategy and also oversees regional fundraising efforts. John has extensive social sector, fundraising and cause marketing experience, and has led teams responsible for upwards of $15M. Currently, John also works as a consultant for Pearson Foundation. He previously worked as the Vice President of Marketing and Development for Jumpstart for Young Children and as the Development Director for Glide Memorial. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and a LeaderSpring Fellow.