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 earned her BBA at Baruch College.
Director of Human Resources
Jacqueline Adorno brings to Harlem Educational Activities Fund, Inc. (HEAF) a record of 30+ years of Human Resources experience in organizations across business sectors. Ms. Adorno has extensive experience in various functional areas of Human Resources, including but not limited to recruitment, talent management, union and non-union employee relations, compensation, benefits, employee development, training, and workers’ compensation. She is a prominent pioneer in engaging in proactive outreach and engagement to mitigate the escalation of employee relations and employee engagement matters as well as meticulous in safeguarding compliance with company policies and procedures.
Prior to joining us at HEAF, Jacquie was the Director of Human Resources at Savvy Intrapreneur. Ms. Adorno also served in various positions, including Human Resources Business Manager at Temco Service Industries in New York City, as well as the Director of Operations and Human Resources at Hudson Furniture Inc., also located in New York City.
A strategic and prominent visionary with a proven track record in developing positive business relationship outcomes with employees and key stakeholders. Jacqueline’s hallmark is ensuring employee issues are addressed in a comprehensive and collaborative manner.
Ms. Adorno earned her bachelor’s degree from DeVry University and her master’s degree in Human Resources Management from Keller Graduate School of Management.
Youth Development Facilitator
Alina Augustin is originally from the Hudson Valley and moved to New York City after graduating from Bard College, to get her Master’s at Silberman School of Social Work. She has experience coaching youth soccer, facilitating parenting classes, and conducting research. In her spare time, she loves learning about genderless fashion, playing pick-up soccer, and doing creative DIY projects.
Associate Director, College Quest
Claribel is from the Bronx, NY and comes from a Dominican family. She graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Sociology from Union College and a Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration from Florida International University. Her career has revolved working in Student Affairs through different universities in New York City and working abroad through the Semester at Sea and N.U.in programs. Now, she’s looking to assist high school students in having the support and resources that she didn’t have growing up. In her spare time, she likes to go to brunch, travel, and listening and dancing to bachata!
Brooklyn Program Manager
Natalie was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and emigrated to the United States at the age of eleven where she resided in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. While in high school, Natalie became an activist for college access and community development by creating opportunities for upward mobility through college access. Natalie has since guided over 4,000 students from low-income communities through the college application process. She is passionate about giving back to her community and helping to foster positive mentorship for disadvantaged youth. She holds a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic and is currently working on her Masters in School Counseling from Alfred University.
Jessica Dagg is originally from the Boston area and moved to New York after graduating from Bard College, where she studied Literature. She has experience working with young people in both academic and peer support roles and is passionate about empowering students with the tools and confidence to be successful wherever they go. In her spare time, she enjoys running, going to museums and trying new restaurants.
Program Coodinator, High Expectations
Ashley Gayle immigrated to the Bronx from Jamaica where she currently resides. She earned her bachelor from Mercy College in International Relations and Diplomacy and has a comprehensive background working with non-profits. Ashley has worked diligently with the United Nations and other national non-profits to close the educational opportunity gap by mentioning and high academic expectations. She believes education should be equitable and comes to HEAF with a strong passion for student success and social-emotional learning (SEL). Outside of work she enjoys traveling, DIY projects and reading memoirs of past and future leaders
Associate Director of Corporate and Community Engagement
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.
Coordinator of Admissions and Community Outreach
Pronouns: They Series
Yamilet grew up in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. They graduated from SUNY Purchase with a B.A in Sociology and a minor in History. They have nearly five years of experience working with students as an academic tutor and facilitator. As a HEAF alumnus, they hope to give back to the agency that has been essential to her own growth and successes. They hope to make connections that will encourage student growth and ability to achieve their greatest potential. They have a passion for music, education, connecting with people, and poetry. In their spare time they enjoys reading, traveling, and eating good food.
Finance and Administration Assistant
Nick was born in England and moved to the US when he was very young. He grew up in a small town in Connecticut not far from New York City. Nick earned his degree at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, graduating with a BS in Finance. Nick has previously worked in a variety of different roles including Finance, Retail, Customer Service and Landscaping. Outside of work he enjoys skiing, soccer, cooking, and travel. Nick has a passion for work that brings meaningful change to people and always tries to contribute as much as he can.
Paige is originally from Philadelphia and has lived in New York for the past 6 years. She received her BA in History and BFA in Sculpture from Pennsylvania State University. Paige is a visual artist and podcast host with a passion for music. She has worked with kids as a camp counselor, nanny, and eventually as the Communications Associate for a New York City-based children’s literacy non-profit. Paige loves to read and her favorite children’s book is “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.” She is passionate about HEAF’s mission, and believes community-driven change and social-emotional learning are the keys to achieving educational equity.
Youth Development Facilitator
Alexis Hyatt (she/her/hers) is a Jamaican-American artist currently residing in NYC. She is a graduate of Columbia University where she has earned a Masters of Social Work and has previously earned a Bachelor’s in Sociology and a Certificate in Global Black Studies from Florida International University. Her work centers on how the indigenous practices of restorative justice can be used to be culturally responsive to youth and is passionate about building a curriculum that incorporates these practices. She believes that young people are key social change agents in reimagining a more equitable society.
Brooklyn Erasmus Manager
Natasha grew up in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. She graduated from Clark University with a B.A. in Communication and Culture as well as Studio Art. She has over six years of experience working directly with youth as a mentor, tutor, and facilitator. In her role at HEAF, she strives to empower young minds with access to the opportunities and skills they need in order to achieve their own success. Natasha is passionate about education, social equity, climate change, and art. In her spare time, she enjoys scary movies, board/card games, traveling, and quality time with friends.
Youth Development Facilitator
Tyran Jackson is a Harlem native and is currently attending College of Staten Island (CSI) for Sports Medicine. My hobby and passion is fitness. I enjoy reading comics, watching anime, and doing puzzles.
Associate Director of 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.
Brooklyn High Expectations Coordinator
Quaine is from Brooklyn, NY, and comes from a St. Lucian family. As a first-generation student, he graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Sports Management from Ithaca College and a Masters Degree in Student Affairs Administration from Binghamton University. He is an energetic and results-driven higher education professional with over two years of progressive experience in the area of student development. My ability to serve both my institution and the community is proven through the numerous partnerships and programs that he has been a part of.
Senior Manager of Finance & Administration
Calvin Luo is a New York State Registered CPA. He has an M.BA. in accounting from SUNY New Paltz from upstate New York. Prior to
joining HEAF, he worked at PwC, a big-4 public accounting firm, where his focus was for-profit taxes and accounting. Subsequently he worked at Lighthouse Partners, a private hedge fund with $8 billion asset under management. He worked at Citco Financial Services as supervisor. He started out at HEAF in the Finance department as a volunteer. His goal is to use his talents and skills to help the underserved youth and communities.
Joshua was born in the Bronx and grew up in Washington Heights the youngest of 3 boys. He graduated with a B.S. in Human Biology with a minor in theatre. He brings prior experience working at the non-profit organization Center for Family Life as part of their administrative team. As a product of a Harlem-based after school program he is happy to give back to the community that helped him as a youth.
Youth Development Coordinator
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Kayla graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors in Psychology before heading to Manhattan. Kayla has a breadth of experience working with children and young adults, ranging from her supervisory role at a sleep-away camp to her work at a charter school for juvenile justice-involved youth. Kayla is passionate about making education equitable and accessible and is thrilled to translate her enthusiasm, tenacity, and creativity into impactful Youth Development programming at HEAF. In her spare time, Kayla enjoys cheering for the Mets, listening to a good true-crime podcast, traveling and spoken word.
College Quest Coordinator
Karen Imani Smith
Youth Development Facilitator
Karen Imani Smith was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She currently works as an 8th grade English teacher in Manhattan. She graduated from SUNY Oneonta in May 2020 with a degree in Adolescence Education and English. She has worked with children and young adults in culinary arts, ELA, debate, and swim instructor. She also has worked in multiple non-profit and for-profit educational institutions in rural and urban New York. Her goals in education are to help students become better producers and not just consumers of our society. Karen’s work is grounded in restorative education, urban education, youth development, and international government affairs, and Africana and Latino studies. She loves to spend my time watching the premier league, reading self-help/relationship books, cooking (and eating!!), and taking long walks across boroughs.
Youth Development Facilitator
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.
Data and Development Manager
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!