For formal key staff bios, click here.

Jennifer Mitchell

Jennifer Mitchell

Executive Director

I have been working in the field of workforce development for over 15 years and I love it!  Before entering the field, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bluefields, Nicaragua for 2 1/2 years. I have a Masters of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in Sociology and Environmental Policy from Binghamton University. I am on the board of the NYCETC and active member of the PTA. I married my high school sweetheart and we have two boys.


Jhanay abrams

Manager of Individual Giving and Special Events  

I am thrilled be a part of the HOPE family! I look forward to applying my development, events and marketing experience to help make a difference in the lives of our students and graduates.  I have my Masters in Public Administration from Pace University and a BS in Marketing from Central Connecticut State University. When I’m not at HOPE, I enjoy spending time with family, playing basketball and cooking.


Desma Bidjou-Kerekes

Human Resources Administrator


Danielle Boyce

Work Readiness Instructor  

Brooklyn born and Southern raised, I’ve always had a heart for honesty, and maximizing the potential of people. So, I’ve made it my life mission to show up in each moment as authentic and as compassionate as I can. I believe that’s the way to give myself and others the freedom and support to become the best version of who they are.  Outside of being a Workforce Readiness Instructor, I am aiming to obtain a Degree in Business Marketing. In my spare time I write music, read and enjoy engaging in all things that allow for artistic expression. I also enjoy being in nature, staying active and making the most out of every moment of my life.


Chief Development and Evaluation Officer

I believe in the power of storytelling, so I love working with graduates to share their stories of personal transformation.  I’ve been working in Development for 8 years and at HOPE since 2011. I have an MPA from Baruch College and a BA in French. I serve on the board of College and Community Fellowship. In the summer, you can catch me walking into the office in my bicycle helmet.


Danny Castro

Retention Associate

I proudly help create positive changes in the community I was born and raised in by serving as a Job Retention Associate with The HOPE Program. I am a former graduate of the SSBx green collar training. Now I help connect future graduates to gainful employment opportunities. When I'm not in the office you can find me expressing myself musically through live performances, or indulging in my love for tranquility and nature by camping and hiking mountains.


Susan davidovits

Work Readiness Instructor

My goal is to encourage students to use customer service skills in everyday interactions. My facilitation techniques improve self-confidence and awareness of one’s ability to control personal and professional well-being.  I have a BA in English from the University of Toronto and am TESL certified. Nearly 15 years in adult education has increased my energy, positivity and belief in change. I relax by reading, cooking and walking/hiking in all weather.

Reggie Dawsom


Work Readiness Instructor

I am very pleased and proud when a student lands employment. I am a proud graduate of Howard University. I play and teach chess, a wonderful way to impart strategy, problem solving, and creative thinking in adversarial situations. An avid reader, I average two books a month - one fiction and one non-fiction. I am the product of great parents. I continue to learn from them.


Ariel Dreyfus

Development and Communications Manager 

After many years spent teaching in preschool school classrooms, I am excited to transition into a role where I get to teach people about the fantastic work that HOPE does! I have a M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sustainability from Evergreen State College. Outside of work, I like to spend my time communing with nature and swinging from a trapeze!



Work Readiness Instructor

I am a compassionate person by nature, so it is only fitting that I would be drawn to the field of Human Services.  I possess a degree from The Metropolitan College of New York in Human Services and over a decade of experience in the field. I am honored to be a part of the HOPE team. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling to sunny locales with my wife for kayaking and zip lining, reading Sci-Fi and praying for a New York Knicks Championship!


Rose Fathers

Employment Specialist 

I have been a volunteer with New York City community organizations and nonprofits for the last 5 years - and I am thrilled that with HOPE I have been given the opportunity to transition my career into the nonprofit sector. Prior to HOPE I was a placement coordinator with a corporate employment firm and I have a background in business operations (many moons ago I ran a music venue). In my free time I run all over Fort Greene, support my soccer team (from where I am from in England), try to see as many music shows as possible and continuously make home improvements. Everyday I am moved by the passion of HOPE staff, our students and grads. I love the work that we do! 

David Flemming


Technology Instructor

During a 30 year career in music, I performed and produced albums, singles and television and radio broadcast commercials. I have been HOPE’s Technology Instructor since 2011, providing the technical skills necessary for finding work, applying for work, and for the modern workplace. I have always been an athlete, with a particular focus in my “older years” on the all-consuming game of golf on public courses throughout the region.

Elyssa Gersen-Thurman

Elyssa Gersen

Director of Work Readiness and Work Wellness Services

I’ve been working in the field of counseling and vocational rehabilitation since 1991. I am a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor. I love my job at HOPE, especially teaching Work Wellness to our students. I also enjoy spending time with my husband and our son, seeing films, studying French, and traveling. 


Manuel Gonzalez

Finance Associate

As a New York City native and a product of Mexican immigrant parents, I am grateful to be pursuing a career in Finance that is driven by social justice and community betterment. I have a passion for process and solutions driven work, and a keen interest in ethics and honesty in finance and accounting. I am analytical and meticulous, and am excited to bring these skills to the non profit sector. I graduated from Pace University with a degree in Finance in 2016, and have practiced TaeKwonDo for 15 years.


Mary Ruth govindavari

Director of Recruitment


Sandra Grayman

Administrative Coordinator

I am a HOPE graduate. I am a lifelong New Yorker and have spent many years raising my three children in the Bronx. I’m really proud to be part of an organization that promotes the preservation of the Bronx and New York City.  I have learned a lot about the importance in going green (cleaning products, composting and recycling) for sustainability. Singing is one of my greatest passions.

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Craig Gray

Government Grants Assistant

My favorite part of working at The HOPE Program is hearing the bell ring when someone gets a job. Everyone in the office starts clapping and cheering! It’s the best! I enjoy working behind the scenes as part of the finance team because I know the work we are doing supports the programs that make HOPE one of the premier workforce development organizations in New York City. In my free time I love exploring Brooklyn, volunteering, and seeing as much live music as possible.

Shaniqua Greene

Shaniqua Greene

Administrative Coordinator 

I’m a HOPE graduate and I’ve been employed at HOPE since 2008. What I like most about my job is being the first point of contact with applicants because I get to tell them how great HOPE is and how it would benefit them. I love home improvement shows and would love to be an interior designer someday.


Avalon hoek Spaans

Horticulture Superintendent, Intervine

I am passionate about creating sustainable development through green infrastructure! I love using gardening and horticultural work to connect with local communities and strengthen food security and community resilience. I have a MA in Climate and Society from Columbia University and a BS in Environmental Science and Humanitarian Assistance from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) I am very excited to be apart of the HOPE team and work together to green NYC.

Candacy Jefrey

tzlil hertzberg

Recruitment and Intake Coordinator

I started out my time with HOPE as an intern! HOPE's dynamic and supportive atmosphere was addicting and I continued to a full time position with HOPE right after my internship. I love playing a part in students' and alumni's career and advancement journeys. I have a BS in Applied Psychology from New York University and a MS-Ed in Mental Health Counseling from Hunter College. My favorite things to do are listening to podcasts, exploring NYC restaurants, traveling and playing with my son.




Gentian Haxhillari

Chief Financial and Operating Officer

Felicia Jones

Felicia Jones

Work Readiness Instructor

My mom always knew I’d be a teacher someday. My first teaching job was with out of school youth between the ages of 16 and 22. I have a Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. My favorite things to do are listen to music, dance and try new food dishes.

Sheryl Jones


Senior Employment Specialist

I'm a HOPE graduate and I’ve worked at HOPE since 2002. I’m proud to be a mom and a caregiver. I love giving back, particularly watching clients step out with pride and a smile. I have always enjoyed watching my children learn from my grandmother, their great grandmother who lived to be 103 years old. I love cooking with my children.

Brandon Martin

DEEPTHI Katragadda

Salesforce System Administrator

I was born in a small rural village and grew up seeing my family educating people. Since completing my Master of Technology and starting my career as an IT engineer, I have been searching for a challenging role utilizing my technical skills for a meaningful purpose. Finally, I joined HOPE.  I am extremely happy to use my programming and CRM skills to reduce poverty.

Michele Knox

Michele Knox

Director of Employment and Graduate Services

My passion is helping HOPE trainees achieve their goals, and I love watching them celebrate their successes! I have an MBA  in Industrial & Organizational Psychology and a Bachelors of Business Administration,
both from Baruch College. I am a former competitive natural bodybuilder, but today my hobby is theater, working as an actor and stage manager whenever I can!

Kate Belzberg Klein


Employment Specialist 

My first exposure to the field of workforce development was in a volunteer capacity. I was hooked. I have a JD and MBA from the University of Toronto and a BA in Industrial Relations from McGill University. I am an avid baker and find particular joy in baking (and eating) cookies with my kids.


pamela LeO

Government Grants Administrator

I am thrilled to be a member of the HOPE finance department and help advance our unique and exciting mission. I am passionate about using my creativity to organize and manage our government grant processes that support many important projects here at HOPE. I hold a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. Outside of work I enjoy reading, whether it be in the park on a warm day or curled up on a couch when the weather turns chilly.


Kelly LoBianco

Chief Program Officer

For me, working is synonymous with serving my community. I joined HOPE in 2017 after a decade as a public servant. I love that the HOPE team and our programs support New Yorkers in advancing along a career pathway while also contributing to the environmental health and sustainability of our city. I hold a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from Northwestern University. Outside the office, I enjoy running, public radio, horror films, and modern art. 


Margo Manbode

Business Development Manager

The HOPE Program is a very warm and supportive environment. It is a privilege to work here with such an amazing team. I possess a BA in Theology/Psychology from Nyack College and an MS in Nonprofit Management from the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. I also serve on the board of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange. Outside of the office, you will find me knitting or reading a great book. 


Robert Morales

Facilities and Kitchen Coordinator


Linda Nguyen

Director of Digital Literacy


Thomas Perry

Bronx Program Director

I have been a Qualified Health Professional  over 20 years, and comes to HOPE with 29 years experience in Human Services. The majority of my career has been spent managing and overseeing large programs in NY and Boston that included Detoxes, Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities, Halfway Houses, Shelters, Outpatient Treatment programs, and Transitional Employment Programs. I am a Volunteer for "Street Soccer USA", and I sit on a Foundation Board which oversees The Angel Thrift shop.


Billy Puma

Youth Recruitment Assistant

For me, giving individuals the tools for positive advancement within their lives is beyond exciting, and here at HOPE, I am honored to assist our students with those tools from the recruitment perspective. I have previously worked as a College Administrative Assistant, providing young adults in a maximum secure facility the opportunity to complete their post-secondary education via Columbia Greene Community College. I have an A.A from Columbia Greene Community College and am currently completing a Bachelors in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.



Bhavya reddy

Operations Manager, NYC °CoolRoofs

Whether through cleaning up the Hudson River or advocating for local climate action, I have always been passionate about sustainability. I’m thrilled to be on a team that makes a tangible difference for both the planet and community members, one rooftop at a time! I have a B.A. in Biology and Cognitive Science from Williams College and a M.S. in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering from the City College of New York. Outside the office, I love photography, learning new languages, and exploring the city.


Mark Sohan

Crew Leader, Intervine

I started HOPE as a Civic Corps volunteer in 2016. From planting trees to coating rooftops white, encouraging a greener future is a must! Outside of the office, I scour New York with my girlfriend trying different foods. Advancement in technology allows me to discover cultural flavors outside my comfort zone

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luis rodriguez

Employment Specialist

I have been a life coach, meditator and theatre artist for over 10 years. I have a Master’s Degree in Social Science and a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Theatre, both from Binghamton University. I believe that life is a stage and we are simply actors, and my passion is to support others on this stage of life to live, laugh and love the process of reaching their goals.


Rachel Taylor

Retention Associate

I started at HOPE in 2016 as graduate Mental Health Counseling intern! I have always wanted to be in a profession were I can make a positive impact on peoples' lives. I have a B.S. in Public Health from SUNY Old Westbury and an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from Long Island University Brooklyn. I love that my education allows me to get the best of both worlds helping people with their physical and mental health. I am thrilled to be part of an amazing staff where everyone strives to improve the lives of so many people though job readiness training. I also enjoy traveling and spending time with my family.


Pedro Santiago

Building Inspector, NYC °CoolRoofs

I am a proud graduate of the NYC °CoolRoofs program. Thanks to The HOPE Program, I was able to start a promising career in the construction business, and to be given the chance to be involved in the future of the program now is the best part of my job. I am always trying to find more efficient ways to make the world a greener place. HOPE found a way to improve our environment while connecting New Yorkers with the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. I am living proof.   



Mindfulness Educator

I've been working as a Wellness Coach, Therapist, and Educator since 2006 and integrate mindfulness into each of these different roles. I love helping people learn mindfulness tools, to see challenges as opportunities, and to find a place of peace and "okayness" amidst the inevitable stresses of life. I am currently writing and illustrating a children's book about mindfulness just for fun!

Toby Sheppard Bloch

Chief Venture Officer

I have been taking things apart to see how they work for as long as I can remember. Repairing machines from farm machinery to electronics holds almost endless interest for me. Before joining HOPE /SSBx, I owned and operated a successful general contracting company in NYC. I have a B.A. in History from Reed College, and I am an accredited Green Roof Professional.



Development Assistant

I know that I am special and there's no one else out there that's like me... so enjoy! I am a HOPE graduate, recent HSE recipient and now employed as the Development Assistant here at The HOPE Program. My goal is to support others from all walks of life to reach their potential. Finally, it wouldn't hurt to travel to amazing places, continue to meet wonderful people, finish my education and eventually settle down and enjoy the person I have become.


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