In carrying out the work of its mission, HEAF draws on a breadth of experience and dedication to the core values that inform its unique approach to academic enrichment, youth development, and career preparation. HEAF’s staff is comprised of diverse individuals working diligently and collaboratively to carry out its mission of empowering underserved students through a comprehensive array of educational programming and learning opportunities.
President & CEO
Ms. Rathblott has been a leader in the nonprofit sector for nearly 20 years, 15 of which she spent at Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City where she played a central role in its expansion. There she held a series of progressively responsible positions, ultimately serving as associate executive director where she managed a $10 million annual budget and oversaw six major agency departments and corresponding board committees ranging from finance to public relations /marketing to operations. Ms. Rathblott holds a B.A. from Goucher College and an MSW from Boston University. She was the youngest alum awarded the Goucher College Excellence in Public Service in 2005. Ms. Rathblott joined HEAF in January 2013.
Director of Development
Lauren Girshon is a strategic thinker with diverse experience who fuses creativity with strong business acumen to achieve results. She was born in the Bronx, raised in the suburbs of New York City and currently lives with her family in Manhattan. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in Art History. She started her career after graduation at Goldman Sachs in London and has subsequently worked in various industries, including non-profit. Raising her children in the NYC public educational system, she understands the challenges involved in navigating the system and how daunting it can be without the proper resources. She loves being part of an organization that believes in the potential of every child and which aims to provide equal educational and college access.
Director of Finance and Administration
Deirdre Bennett comes to HEAF with several years of nonprofit experience. Before coming to HEAF as Director of Finance and Administration she worked at several non profits offering healthcare and educational services. Ms Bennett brings an expertise in all aspects of not for profit accounting. She has a lifelong dedication for helping others and feels working with non profits allows her to fuel this passion. Ms. Bennett is a CPA and earned her BBA at Baruch College.
Chief of Programs
William Mitchell comes to HEAF with 20+ years of experience working in the educational nonprofit world. Spending most of the time as the Associate Director at the Boys’ Club of New York, and as the Director at Henry Street Settlement. Mr. Mitchell is a firm believer in meeting students where they are and providing those extra resources that will improve the student and make them successful. He brings along expertise in educational psychology, parent involvement and engagement, as well as great leadership to our program staff. Mr. Mitchell holds a B.A. from York College of Pennsylvania and a Masters from University of Wisconsin.
Manager of Volunteer Initiatives
Kelli is a Philadelphia native and has been in New York for just over two years. She has a BA in Media Studies from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC, and a Master of Education in Higher Education and Student Affairs from University of South Carolina. Kelli first became passionate about working to provide greater access to higher education while serving as a member of Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she worked with the Corporate Work Study Program at Verbum Dei High School, part of the Cristo Rey Network of schools, in Los Angeles, CA. Kelli has spent her career building volunteer and student programs with Fordham University, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and LaSalle University. She brings to HEAF a passion for relationship building and connecting community and corporate partners to the HEAF students and programs in order to raise awareness and deepen our impact.
Associate Director, Youth Development
Sharon Dhillon is originally from Vancouver, BC and moved to New York 6 years ago to pursue her MSW at Columbia University. Sharon is passionate about the field of youth development and has been working with youth for the past 15 years. Prior to HEAF, Sharon was a Program Manager for a middle school program in the South Bronx. Sharon is very excited to work with the HEAF team, youth and families!!
Associate Director, High Expectations
Caitlyn is a recent transplant to NYC, having grown up in Nashville, TN. After graduating from Furman University, in Greenville, SC, with a Bachelors degree in Political Science with a concentration in Poverty Studies, she joined the Peace Corps where she taught high school English and trained teachers in Kayonza, Rwanda. Upon completing her Peace Corps Service, she moved to Limuru, Kenya where she founded a girls boarding high school and served as the Director of the school for three years. She has a global passion for providing rigorous and high-quality education that breaks the cycle of poverty by equipping students with critical thinking skills and creativity and empowering them to be change makers in their communities.
“The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.” – Richard Leider. Terryann Jackson is a Harlem native with a B.A. in Communications from City College. Along with her love for marketing and event planning, she brings to HEAF her passion for empowering students to sustain academic excellence and foster their creativity while working towards discovering their purpose. Terryann believes as global citizens if we all invest in education we are one step closer to making a difference in the world.
Program Coordinator, High Expectations
L’Toya hails from upstate New York. Her desire is to help students discover their full potential and empower them to be influencers in their local and global communities. L’Toya is a graduate of New York University and has a diverse background, working in museum education, charter school education and various after-school programs.
Finance Associate & Administration Manager
Shatia Mckinnon is a New York Native who has resided in four out of five boroughs of New York City, and currently lives in the Bronx. Shatia has always had a passion for helping people. She started her career at John Jay College of Criminal Justice majoring in Legal Studies, but later found interest in Finance and Human Resources. Shatia earned her degree in Criminal Justice, and is still pursuing her education in Legal Studies while at the same time looking to become a certified Human Resource Manager.
Damaris Mercado is a native New Yorker and a graduate of Syracuse University in 1992 from the School of Visual and Performing Arts with a BS in Communications. Her background is in the entertainment industry working on productions at the age of 15 alongside her family including her legendary father Ralph Mercado. She has worn many hats, creating, producing, hosting and facilitating all kinds of projects and programs including TV, film, music videos, concerts, music festivals, expos, seminars, workshops and more. She also has attained multiple certificates in yoga, nutrition, and life coaching to help entertainment clients, the community at large, and youth with balancing their lives physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Damaris has two children in college currently and has the passion for education that we look for at HEAF and she is excited to share her experiences with our students in helping them get to and through college!
Program Coordinator, College Quest
Phylicia Mussington-Matthews received her B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in neuroscience from Brooklyn College. She always hoped to make a significant contribution to the scientific community but realized the biggest contribution she could make was helping to shape the leaders of tomorrow. The Brooklyn native has 9 years of experience working with youth in both for profit and not-for-profit sectors.
Receptionist, Office Assistant
Charolyn was born and raised in the Bronx and graduated from Lehman College with a BS in computer information systems. She has many years of experience in non-profit organizations where she has worked with many diverse groups and environments. She’s worked with seniors, people with chronic illness and HIV as well as people with mental illness. She is also a certified E.K.G technician and enjoys exploring and learning new things.
Associate Director, College Quest
Verna Wade is a Chicago native who’s lived in New York for the Past 6 years. She received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from College of Staten Island and a Masters of Urban Studies from Queens College. Verna always wanted to work in youth advocacy and youth development, but it was not until her move to New York that she began to pursue he career in this field. Her experiences range from youth development programming in New York’s juvenile detention facilities to college access counseling in high schools. She brings to HEAF a passion for youth development and youth empowerment.
Development and Communications Associate
Stefin Woolever is a native Coloradan and a graduate of the University of Denver with a B.A. in Theatre. Stefin has pursued a career in acting, in Denver and now here in NYC, while accidentally stumbling into the world of Educational Nonprofits and development work. Prior to HEAF, Stefin was the Executive Assistant and Development and Communications Coordinator at Family Star Montessori in Denver, CO. Stefin brings with him a passion for education and for elevating students to be better and strive for more. Stefin loves to learn and brings with him a passion for HEAF, charisma and theatricality, and a daily smile!