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
Keisha Boatswain is no stranger to fields of youth development, and education. Prior to joining HEAF in May of 2016, Keisha held executive level positions with leading nonprofits across the city, and served at the director level with the NYC Department of Education and the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development. Ms. Boatswain holds a B.A from Morris Brown College, an MPA from City University of New York, and a Master of Science in Education from Mercy College. She is committed to developing programs that empower communities to improve their conditions.
Cassidy holds a BA in Theatre and Dance from Dickinson College and brings to HEAF her passion for education and the creative arts. A New York resident of 3 years, Cassidy is also a working actress and teaching artist. She has taught students ages 5 to 17 in theatre programs across the mid-Atlantic and has most recently directed productions for Brooklyn Children’s Theatre and KJK Productions. Cassidy believes the creative arts and the magic of theatre foster exploration, curiosity, and thoughtfulness and offer students the opportunity to excel and shine.
Born and raised in New York City, Rosemary is passionate about providing resources and mentorship to inner-city youth, particularly around leadership development and college access. She earned her BA in Environmental and Urban Studies from Bard College and began her career in youth services as a dean in the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. Since then she has worked with several educational non-profit organizations including City Year, the Fresh Air Fund, and the DREAM Project. She is excited to work with students to fulfill their college and career goals as the Onward Program Coordinator.
As a Brooklyn native, Michael Ferron is well versed in the needs of the community and HEAF. Michael knows and understands the benefits of emotional intelligence and solution focused youth development. Michael graduated from Daemen College with a BA in Social Work. Over the last 2 years, he has worked with several youth organizations that focus on providing youth development resources to students from underserved backgrounds in the State of New York. In these settings he has worked on crisis intervention with families, youth development, college readiness and access. Michael brings experience from organizations such as Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services of Erie County, New York City Department of Education and College Summit Inc.
Associate Director, Youth Development
Ginger brings to HEAF over 13 years of experience in leadership, innovative programming and counseling with youth in the Greater New York area. Her supervision of Graduate social work interns has been with New York University, Columbia University and Hunter College. Additionally, Ginger has several years of experience in both non-profit and private practice providing individual, family and group therapy. She received both her BSW and MSW from Adelphi University and earned her LMSW from the New York State Department of Education and SIFI from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.
Youth Development Program Coordinator for Girls Programming
Damaly is a Williamsburg, Brooklyn-native, traveler, mentor and writer. She is a Culture and Travel writer for the Huffington Post and HipLatina.com. She was the Mentee/Mentor Director for Young Women Rock!, an all-girls mentorship program in the South Bronx. She also represents female travelers as the Global Ambassador for the Women in Travel Summit 2017. Her experience traveling and girls mentoring has made her sensitive to global women’s issues and aware of the needs to succeed as a woman today. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in Music, Media, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
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, 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.
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.
Associate Director of Admissions & Community Relations
Nkese Rankine has a B.A. in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies from Bates College and a Masters in Sociology and Education from Teacher’s College Columbia University. Over the last 5 years, she has worked with several youth organizations that focus on providing educational resources to students from underserved backgrounds in the larger New York City area. In these settings, she has worked on multimedia communications, web-based development, volunteer engagement, developing external partnerships, and video and print marketing. She brings to HEAF passion and a vested interest in better supporting students.
Though living in New York for most of her life, Rebecca, born in Tucson, Arizona, refuses to call herself a New Yorker.
Rebecca has worked as an Executive Assistant in finance and insurance for many years, but always felt a need for something more. Rebecca’s desire to help children has been evident from early on, starting with being the youngest counselor hired in the history of New York State early on in her career.
In her free time, Rebecca has earned a green belt in Krav Maga and trains in Mixed Martial Arts.
Program Coordinator, Youth Development
Michael Spence is an innovative communicator with a true gift to connect and impact people. The New Jersey native graduated from Montclair State University with a degree in Communications. His motivation to empower lives stems from his surroundings and passion to help others unlock their gifts. Michael has worked with the NBA, NJEA, as well as many other schools and programs to empower youth in education and leadership. Along with being a speaker, Michael is also a proud father, former captain of the men’s basketball team at Montclair State, church youth leader, as well as an inspirational mentor.
Steven holds a B.S. from John Jay College. He majored in Criminal Justice and double minored in Policing and Corrections. As a South Bronx native he sees himself in many of the scholar’s faces. He understands the challenges involved in NYC public educational system because he witnessed many of them. To HEAF he brings his passion of law, reaching out to the younger generation and helping them stay on a positive route. In the summer of 2016 he served as an Operations Manager for the Summer Advantage non-profit. There he discovered his motivation in helping the people of tomorrow.
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!