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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.


Irene Branche

Chief Development 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.

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.


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!

David Flemming

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
Shaniqua Greene

Elyssa Gersen-Thurman

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. 

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.

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.


robin E. jenkins

Chief Financial and Operating Officer

As a child one of my favorite activities was doing puzzles - I believe this is why I have a passion for critical thinking skills within finance and operations. I hold a dual MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management and University of Pittsburgh, an MA in Irish Studies from The Catholic University of America and a BA in Anthropology from Smith College. I love to travel, especially off season and have found myself joyfully navigating rainy season in Senegal and ice skating on canals in Holland. 

Felicia Jones
Sheryl 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.


Retention Associate

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.



Kate Belzberg Klein
Melanie Lupo


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.

Louis headshot round.jpg

luis rodriguez

Employment Specialist

I have been a life coach, meditator and theatre artist who 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.

Toby Sheppard Bloch

General Manager, Social Enterprise

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.



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!

Sonya White

Sonya White

Advancement Manager

My favorite insect is the butterfly, because it represents transformation and reminds me of the transformation possible in the lives of the grads I serve at HOPE.  I am a magna cum laude graduate of New York University  and I am an occasional blogger on Huffington Post. Although I neither bike nor swim, I love Aqua-spinning, aka biking in the water.

Brandon Martin


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.



Development Associate

I joined HOPE's staff in September 2015. I love discussing HOPE's amazing work in proposals, email blasts, social media posts, and other written pieces. I hold a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. When I'm not working, I love to write, record, and perform Hip Hop music, and to listen to music of all genres.


simeya simon

Employment Specialist

My passion is helping individuals to achieve their goals and uncover meaning in their lives. I love employing my creative juices by doing things fashion and art related.  I also love dance and studied several dance styles in the past. I received my Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Hunter College. 

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!


JANIS B. quarles

Business Development Manager

I have over 20+ years of Workforce Development experience and love being part of life-changing dynamics. I hold an MPA specializing in Nonprofit Management from Long Island University, a Master’s of Divinity from New York Theological Seminary, and a BS in Human Services from Touro College.


Anderson Taveras

Facilities and Kitchen Coordinator

I am a HOPE graduate! I love helping people, making them smile, and paying it forward.  I am working toward my Associates Degree in HVAC and want to continue on to learn Engineering. I recently realized I have a knack for public speaking, and I was given the opportunity to speak at an event attended by the Attorney General of the United States!


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