A critical feature for our U.S. Capital city in engaging students from under-resourced communities through our four-year entrepreneurship, business development, and post-secondary readiness model
Since its launch in 2009, BUILD Metro DC has been a critical feature for the city in engaging students from under-resourced communities through our four-year entrepreneurship, business development, and post-secondary readiness model. In partnership with DCPS and charter schools, we virtually serve 180 students at five high schools in the District of Columbia. We operate digital business incubators, in which student business teams launch and run their very own startups.
BUILD students are provided individualized academic support and business coaching, supported by professional mentors who work with our young entrepreneurs on a weekly basis. BUILD staff and volunteers cultivate our students’ business, academic, and life skills to prepare them for high school, college, and career success.
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Crystal is a native Washingtonian and a proud product of District of Columbia Public Schools. She joins the BUILD Metro DC team after 21 hugely successful years as a classroom teacher, academic program manager, curriculum developer, and instructional leader who mentors, coaches, and trains fellow educators. Specializing in English, Public Speaking, Theater Arts, and Workforce Readiness, Crystal has worked in K-12 and adult education programs across the country, including California, Maryland, and our Nation’s Capital. But it’s Crystal’s fervent commitment to social justice, educational equity, and helping children to find their voices that excites her most. Every day, Crystal meets students and colleagues where they are and then supportively and structurally moves them forward. In doing so, she has built countless teams and departments that are driven by efficacy, passion, purpose, and relentlessness. Also a bestselling author, accomplished playwright and director, and empowerment speaker. Crystal holds a B.A. in Mass Media Arts (Radio-Television-Film) from the illustrious Clark Atlanta University. Still, Crystal’s most beloved role of all will ALWAYS be that of mother to her wonderfully witty and uniquely gifted teenage son, Jalen Christopher.
Danielle joined BUILD Metro DC in the Fall of 2020 and serves as the hub of all development operations for the Metro DC team. This includes, but is not limited to helping to manage fundraising, coordinating social media/communication, and supporting the Executive Director. Danielle’s background is in events and fundraising, having worked both for political agencies and education nonprofits. She has always had a passion for youth empowerment and an entrepreneurial mindset, believing in the power of education as a pathway to closing the opportunity gap in underserved communities. Danielle graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.A. in International Relations, with a focus in diplomacy and political communication.
Karleton Thomas is a social entrepreneur and workforce development practitioner who has spent much of his career developing opportunities for marginalized communities. After nearly a decade of engaging vulnerable populations and witnessing the myriad of barriers to effective programming, Karleton is poised to deliver on the “dream” and provide sustainable solutions to the students, residents, and parents of our communities.
Melissa Webster joins the BUILD DC team with a diverse background in nonprofit development. She has spent the majority of her career working in food access and agriculture. She is passionate about helping build communities that have traditionally been underserved and under-resourced in the Metro DC area. Melissa loves intertwining stories of the community into grant narratives and thinks it is essential to share the human experience and perspective with funders and shareholders alike.
Melissa lives in Great Falls, Virginia, on a small flower farm with her husband, Ben. She likes to tend to their many chickens and ducks in her spare time and share the local flowers they grow with friends and neighbors.
Rayna Landa is originally from Springfield, NJ and is a recent graduate of the Pennsylvania State University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Education and Public Policy with a minor in Sociology. She is thrilled to join the incredible BUILD DC team as this year’s Avodah fellow. Avodah is a Jewish non profit organization whose mission is to develop lifelong social justice leaders. As the Program Associate at BUILD DC, she facilitates mentoring and helps to aid the student experience. This year, she is excited to have the opportunity to live, learn, and work in D.C. with other members of the fellowship, creating a mindful and impactful community. .
Shawn worked as a professional chef straight out of high school before landing his first real office job in international development. In that role, Shawn spent several years working with government clients from Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam, and came to appreciate just how much need there is for community support initiatives around the world. In 2005, Shawn and his wife, Eva, moved to Washington, DC from New Zealand. After working at both the New Zealand and Canadian Embassies to the U.S., Shawn left government work to join the world of social good. Over the past decade, Shawn has worked with several nonprofits to help connect individuals and companies to the causes they most deeply care about. If Shawn’s fundraising experiences were written up as a novel, he believes that the donors and corporate partners would be the heroes of the story – after all, it is they who through their generosity help make change possible.
Shawn holds a Graduate Diploma in Business Studies form Massey University in New Zealand and is blessed to have two amazing children: Anna (6) and Owen (3).
2202 18th Street NW, #104
Washington, DC 20009
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