Allie Richards is Community Development Advocate and Non-profit professional, passionate about serving under-resourced communities. Before joining BUILD, Allie served as a Community Manager at a small business incubator and previously worked as a consultant on community development projects. Allie has a B.A in International Development & Social Change and an M.A in Community Development & Planning, both from Clark University.
Allie BUILDs because it allows her to highlight the voices of our young people and put them on a path of upward mobility.
Angela Stokes joins BUILD with varied non-profit experience across education, mentoring and corporate engagement. She is also a proponent of National Service, having served two years in AmeriCorps, solidifying her desire to give back to the community. Moving to Boston over a decade ago, Angela hoped to connect better to the community by becoming a mentor and pursued being a Big Sister. This experience has now helped her call Boston home. She is excited to join the BUILD team to continue connecting with students, maximizing their potential and engaging awesome mentors to do so too. In her spare time, Angela enjoys music, cooking and exploring parks with her toddler.
Anna is the Senior Program Manager for the Peninsula. She supports teachers with the implementation of curriculum and leads the planning of school and community-based student events. Anna brings a wealth of experience as an educator in varying cultural and country contexts. Prior to joining BUILD, Anna taught primary and secondary school students in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. She earned a BA in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University and a Master of Education Degree from the University of Hong Kong.
Ashley Washington holds the position of Student Experience Program Manager of the Oakland, Bay Area programmatic team. Prior to joining the BUILD family Ashley earned her Master of Arts in Education from the University of Southern California and began her career within the teaching field in East Palo Alto, Ca serving her community directly. With East Palo Alto origins, she connects deeply to the purpose behind BUILD’s mission and has a strong connection to the foundation of the organization.
As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., service has played a dynamic role in her lifestyle and is of high value. Mentorship, service, and impact are instrumental pieces of her holistic approach to life, this aligning directly with the aspirations of BUILD.
Ashley BUILDs to inspire and empower youth by providing opportunities to maximize student potential
Bethany Thomas is the Executive Operations Manager of BUILD Boston. Before coming to BUILD she worked as the Director of Sales of Taste Buds Kitchen which helped her strengthen the multi-tasking, calendar organizing, and team-leading skills she now brings to BUILD. Although she has over 10+ years of volunteer experience, working for BUILD Boston fulfills her lifelong dream of working professionally in the Nonprofit world. Bethany has a B.A in both Journalism and Philosophy from The University of Massachusetts Amherst. She enjoys spending time with her loved ones, traveling the world, and hiking with her rescue pup, Moose.
“I BUILD because I know firsthand the powerful effect the right help can make for under-resourced youth. I believe in the ability of one single, caring person to help change the course of multiple lives.”
Betsy Neptune comes to BUILD with over 15 years of experience in community economic development in Latin America and the U.S. She is passionate about creating a world in which everyone can have a job that they love and one through which they can grow and develop in order to have a positive impact. In her most recent role as the Chief of Economic Development for the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, she led economic recovery and resilience efforts for 101 cities and towns in Greater Boston. During her tenure, she expanded the work of the team beyond traditional economic development efforts, to include workforce development, digital access, and other strategies to advance wealth creation with a focus on reducing the racial wealth gap. Over the past year, her team played a key role in COVID response and recovery efforts throughout the Greater Boston region.
Prior to that role, she led the Small Business Technical Assistance program for the City of Boston, after serving as the Executive Director of Egleston Square Main Street, an organization in Jamaica Plain/Roxbury whose mission is to support small businesses. This work was shaped by her experiences working in community economic development for several years in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.
Betsy has a heart for teaching, coaching, and entrepreneurship, so BUILD is a perfect fit. She has taught high school and graduate-level classes and also coaches existing and emerging entrepreneurs through her coaching business. She is a graduate of Trinity College with a degree in Anthropology and has certificates in Nonprofit Management and Corporate Social Responsibility. She received her MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and lives in Boston.
Meet Carolina Torres, a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Psychology and Spanish. While in college, Carolina volunteered for the Latin Community Center of Pittsburgh and was the Events Coordinator of the University of Pittsburgh’s Spanish Club. Carolina was elected by her peers to be a group leader of PACT- a student-run volunteer group that raised money for cancer research at the Hillman Cancer Center. In this capacity, Carolina was responsible for organizing both large and small fundraising and other events including 5K runs, concerts, food drives at the hospital, and Funday Fridays for patients and their families. Upon graduation, Carolina moved to New York City to launch her career in educational fundraising. She recently finished a Communications Internship at Brooklyn Prospect Schools and is excited to take everything she’s learned and apply it at BUILD NYC! Carolina is a first-generation Chilean American who loves hiking, traveling, and running!
Chelsey was born and raised in East Palo Alto in a blended working-class family. The first in her family to attend and graduate college, Chelsey attended San Francisco State University. Chelsey’s own life experiences led her to design programs and advocate for underrepresented youth as Program Director of the well-known non-profits in the Bay Area and in Austin Texas. As the BUILD Program Director for the Bay Area, Chelsey uses her leadership to guide the Oakland team in implementation of the BUILD program for highest impact. Chelsey is responsible for overseeing regional implementation of BUILD’s program, curriculum and events and developing and managing partnerships with district leaders and school administrators to ensure impact with BUILD target students.
Being a living testimony to what programs such as BUILD can do for a student’s life, Chelsey BUILD’s to continue provide other students like her, with the opportunity to be exposed to a world of endless opportunities!
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.
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.
A graduate of Howard University with a background in Communications. Decota was born and raised in the Bronx by way of Jamaica. Hailing from a single parent home and growing up in one of the most disenfranchised communities in New York City, Decota has experienced the affects of living and surviving in an under served community. Working with students that look like her and live in the same area she grew up in brings joy to Decota’s heart knowing she can share her experience with others. It is for this very reason she BUILDS. Combining nine years of experience in communications in the entertainment, arts, and lifestyle space and five years in community engagement. Decota joined the BUILD NYC team as its Community Engagement Manager, and is now the Director of Strategic Partnerships, NYC . In her spare time she enjoys listening to music, grounding, traveling and experiencing all the world has to offer. She would ultimately like to create safe spaces for students in under-resourced communities to fully exercise their potential and be given the same opportunities as their counterparts.
Before joining BUILD, Emily worked as a Donor Relations Coordinator at Big Sister Association, where she managed their Young Professional Board and supported the VP of Development and CEO with individual donors. Before development, she was a recruitment specialist at Big Sister, building a pipeline of volunteers through corporate and community events. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Communications and has returned there part time to pursue her Master’s in Nonprofit Management.
“I BUILD because I believe in the transformative power of BUILD’s program. Not only do we build a space for students to learn real-life skills, we build a space where their ideas are heard, valued, celebrated, and where it’s okay to fail. I am an advocate for mentoring, opportunities, and access for all youth, and I have seen the difference our program can have in a student’s confidence and competence.”
Itzel is a first-generation Chicana who recently earned a BA in Sociology from the University of California, Merced. In recent years, Itzel have worked with youth in various roles. This is where she grew her passion for mentorship and community empowerment. Itzel believes that if we provide guidance and resources to empower our youth, it would better everyone’s future. Itzel’s at BUILD because she truly believes in keeping our students in the center. Itzel also spends her time being a dog mom, traveling, and creating.
Raised in East Oakland, Jasmine graduated high school from Lionel Wilson Prep as a BUILD student. Throughout high school Jasmine spent a lot of her time volunteering at a variety of organizations, such as OUSD and The Red Cross. Jasmine attended Holy Names University, where she received her Bachelor’s in Business marketing in 2018 and her Master’s in business administration in 2019. Throughout her college experience she continued volunteering with different organizations and often remembered about BUILD and the knowledge and benefits it brought her. Jasmine greatly believes in the BUILD program and the doors it can open for students, which is why she decided to come back to the organization and work with high school freshmen and sophomores. As the Bay Area Program Manager Jasmine is regularly visiting our partner schools. She attends class sessions to work directly with our 9th and 10th grade students preparing them for showcases and ensuring they are receiving the most from the BUILD program.
Jasmine strives to provide students with the same benefits BUILD provided for her. She loves to get to know our BUILD students closely and aspires to be a positive influence in their life.
Jessica, a graduate of Virginia Tech, has fifteen years of fundraising experience having worked for nonprofits in both California and Maryland and is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Prior to joining BUILD in February 2020, Jessica most recently worked for Family Giving Tree where she managed individual and corporate relationships. In her spare time, Jessica has a passion for mentorship and has served as a CASA to foster youth for the past five years.
Residing in Harlem, New York by way of Benin, West Africa. Justin Lokossou has spent the majority of his life in the service to students. As a curriculum designer, educator, academic advisor, and fencing instructor, Justin has worked with students from grades K through 12, and has since focused his passion towards working with high school students. He enjoys long walks on the beach, riding his bicycle, judo, lying about enjoying walks on the beach (he and sand do not get along, the sand knows what it did), and writing amusing biographies about himself. This is amusing bio #8. Justin hopes to bring his love of writing, poetry, fantasy fiction, music and comic culture into designing an engaging curriculum for BUILD that will help students not only see themselves in their lesson, but fulfill and exceed their own expectations of how great they can become.
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.
Katherine Orille, our Community Engagement and Events Manager studied Health Science and Nursing at California State University of East Bay. Her passion for event planning incited her decision to change career paths and seek a career in event management, where she brings ten years of experience developing her skills and knowledge of event coordination and logistics. Prior to BUILD, she recently worked for an educational organization, directing and managing all aspects of their professional development events. Katherine carries her strong work ethic into her personal life, as she jumps at any opportunity to plan events for friends and family.
Kenya is a dynamic community organizer and youth developer committed to the transformation and upliftment of youth, young adults and their families. She currently serves as Program Director with BUILD NYC. Prior to build, Kenya spent over a decade with University Settlement, a nonprofit that provides services throughout University Settlement.
As Community School Director, Kenya led a team of professionals in planning and implementing enrichment programs for youth, young adults and families, building relationships with stakeholders in the community, and raising funding to sustain and propel youth development forward.
Kenya holds a B.A. in psychology from Barnard College, a Masters of Social Work from Hunter College.
Kim brings 15 years of experience in teaching and program development to BUILD. She taught high school English and journalism for over a decade in the Bay Area, and she also served as a teacher educator and graduate school instructor through the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She has experience leading teacher innovation and collaboration through The Education Trust-West and The Teachers Guild at IDEO. Kim earned a B.A. in English and Urban Studies and a M.A. in Education at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco.
With a degree in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, Mandy has dedicated her life to critiquing and challenging systemic inequalities. Mandy credits her mixed-race identity for fostering her understanding of institutional racism and marginalization and uses this understanding to develop deep connections with BUILD students. In a setting like the Bay Area which combines extreme diversity with extreme wealth imbalances, Mandy is determined to create a more just and equitable future for our E4 students and our communities as a whole. Mandy lives in Oakland, and in her free time, is committed to her art practice and running Lake Merritt.
Positioned at the intersection between family histories of immigration and farm labor, Mandy recognizes the weight of how access to education can impact a family’s economic mobility for subsequent generations. Her family’s love, support, and encouragement to pursue any educational dream is something Mandy strives to emulate with all BUILD students.
Maria Raftelis has more than a decade of fundraising experience in education. Before joining BUILD, Maria served as Associate Director of Foundation Relations at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. In this role, she oversaw fundraising for the Center of Radiological Research (CRR) and worked with medical faculty across the College to raise funds for research. Prior to Columbia University, Maria served as Grant Writer at the City College Fund, the fundraising organization of the City College of New York (CCNY). During my nine year tenure at the City College Fund, Maria expanded the College’s portfolio of institutional donors to double institutional giving.
Maria resides in the Bronx with her husband and son. A graduate of the New York City public school system, Maria believed every student should have access to an excellent education that inspires them to dream and achieve their full potential.
Maria holds a Bachelor’s degree in Individualized Studies from New York University and a Master’s degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago.
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.
Michael holds the Senior Program Manager role for the Los Angeles region. He brings with him over 15 years of experience working for nonprofit organizations dedicated to youth development. Having grown up in a Boys & Girls Club, he understands the importance of empowering young people through quality programs and engaging mentors. His personal mission is to support the creation of collaborative communities that generate opportunities for youth to thrive.
Born and raised in Southern California Michael is excited to expand BUILD’s programs in the Los Angeles area and to bring Spark Skills to the area’s diverse student population.
Pam has spent the majority of her career in the financial services sector where she worked at a range of boutique and bulge bracket firms including Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Mogavero, Lee. Her diverse experience encompasses investment banking, institutional sales and marketing. She has always been passionate about educational equity and child and family welfare and has served as a mentor and nonprofit board member for over twenty years. In 2017, Pam joined the BUILD NYC team where she is responsible for all fundraising activities. Pam graduated from the University of Virginia with Highest Distinction and received her MBA from Columbia Business School.
Racquel Carter graduated from Dominican University of California, receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She volunteered at various outreach youth development programs within the Bay Area then provided mental-health and behavioral health services to children and teens for eight years. Racquel was then led to mentor youth in preparation for college success and provide community-based resources. She joins BUILD Bay Area as a Program Data Associate and is excited to join the team!
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. .
Rodrigo Alfaro brings over a decade of experience in community outreach and nonprofit leadership from churches to college access orgs across the Bay Area. A true relationship builder, Rodrigo consistently seeks ways to unify diverse partners in service to equity for under-represented communities. As a native of El Salvador who moved to the Bay Area at a young age, Rodrigo brings a deeply personal perspective to his role. He experienced first-hand the challenges many immigrants face balancing diverse cultural identities, and the transformative power of entrepreneurship for families like his own.
Rose Cherubin joins the Build NYC team with years of experience in higher education admissions at her alma mater, Hobart and William Smith (HWS) Colleges. As former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions, she recruited for all five boroughs of New York City, was the office liaison for the HWS’ Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), assisted in creating and leading office-wide diversity recruitment initiatives, and also participated in final selections for HWS’ POSSE Foundation Los Angeles cohorts.
She is excited to join BUILD NYC and transition into college access and counseling, and empower young people to actualize their maximum potential. Rose is also a budding entrepreneur with a venture in digital storytelling and is a volunteer for local blogging/influencer networks. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, photography, and dance. Rose holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Ryan Oliver serves as Regional Executive Director for BUILD Bay Area and Los Angeles, holding primary responsibility for leading growth initiatives and directing strategy. Ryan brings twenty years of experience as an innovative educator, leader, and program designer in urban schools, from Boston and Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and East Oakland. Previously, Ryan served as Founding Program Director for BUILD Boston. A Bay Area native, Ryan has lived, learned, and worked on both coasts. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in Education from California State University Monterey Bay, and Principal Certification from University of Pittsburgh.
Sarah Malonda was born and raised in Queens, New York, and was the daughter of Indonesian immigrants. She graduated from CUNY Hunter College with a degree in Political Science. She’s interested in local politics and community organizing — and has been participating in outreach events like getting people registered to vote, informing folks about upcoming elections, and visiting local businesses to pass out PPE and other resources. She is committed to helping under-resourced communities such as her own and she is a strong advocate of student engagement in school, so she truly believes in the work BUILD NYC is doing.
Sarah earned her BA in psychology from San Francisco State University. After graduating school, Sarah went on to teach math to both children and college age students. Also, she has volunteered extensively in the community, working together with different organizations to provide healthcare services to the community. As a Bay Area native, Sarah is committed to empower young people. In addition, she is committed to facilitating the success and growth of the next generation while removing institutional barriers to access. Though education we can provide a more socially just and equitable future. Sarah is excited to join BUILD because of their commitment to education and developing modern day skills that are necessary to success in today’s economic climate.
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).
Timothy Ruffin joins the BUILD NYC team after years of classroom and curriculum writing experience at the high school, college and non-profit levels. As an entrepreneur and educator himself, Timothy believes that success in the 21st century will be achieved by those students who have learned the essential skills to develop their own businesses, while constantly pursuing academic achievement because they will be able to adapt to life’s challenges regardless of any societal issues. As a person who was able to overcome the many pitfalls of growing up in an underserved community, Timothy is committed to ensuring that every BUILD student has the opportunity to grow, prosper and make systemic changes in their communities. Timothy holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in African American history and two master’s degrees, one in the social sciences and the other in education.
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