Jill Eisenhard

Founder & Executive Director

Jill Eisenhard

Founder & Executive Director

Jill founded RHI in 2002 and since then has led RHI to become a nationally recognized model for place-based social change. Using a model that combines youth development, community organizing, and local hiring, RHI employs over 150 people from Red Hook and returns over $1.5M in staff salaries and wages to the neighborhood, each year. Jill has over 20 years of direct youth work experience with a racial equity and social justice lens. Formerly a Program Implementation Manager with the Carrera Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program at the Children’s Aid Society, she oversaw four after-school programs in the South Bronx and Washington Heights as well as providing training and technical assistance to the national programs.

Under Jill’s leadership, RHI received the 2012 “Building Brooklyn Award” from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the Gold Medal for Excellence in Nonprofit Management from NPCC and the New York Magazine (2012), the NBC Universal Innovation Award (2018) and the Brooklyn Community Foundation Spark Prize (2018). In 2012 she received the Coro Alumni Leadership Award for Civic Engagement. She was featured in the July 2012 issue of More Magazine under their “Job Genius” series. In 2014 Jill was named to Crain’s 40 under 40 and was a City & State Above and Beyond honoree in 2016. Jill holds a BS from Cornell University. She is currently a Sterling Fellow with the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Javier Lopez

Chief Strategy Officer

Javier Lopez

Chief Strategy Officer

Javier is the Chief Strategy Officer for Red Hook Initiative, one of New York City’s more successful youth development not-for-profit organizations. Javier leads RHI’s community building, urban farming and neighborhood Wi-Fi programs. In addition, he co-leads the organization’s development, external affairs and racial equity work.

Before joining RHI, Javier spent 15 years spearheading racial and gender justice policies and programs that aim to improve public health, expand public transportation, end urban gun violence and improve access to affordable housing in communities of color. He brings deep expertise in collaborative efforts to advance racial equity and is a frequent speaker on how public health is the best system to support racial equity.

Javier has extensive experience in eradicating urban gun violence. He comes to the work offering racial justice centered tools that include research, policy analysis, program planning and narrative change. During his free time Javier co-facilitates “How to advocate for racial justice in your school” with parents of students of color school throughout New York City. He is a husband to his wife Michelle and a father to Ava, Maximilian and Leandro.

Ericka Medina

Senior Director of Programs

Ericka Medina

Senior Director of Programs

Ericka oversees RHI’s youth development programs. Before completing a bachelor’s degree at SUNY Oneonta, and joining the RHI professional staff, Ericka was one of RHI’s first Peer Health Educators. In this role she worked to educate other Red Hook youth about reproductive health. In college she pursued her interest in public health.

In 2013, RHI hired Ericka as a full time Reproductive Health Educator. She was promoted to High School Program Manager in 2015, and served as Director of Adolescent Programs from 2017 through summer 2019. In August 2019, she advanced to become the Senior Director of Programs, a senior management position within RHI.

Barrie Koegel

Chief Operating Officer

Barrie Koegel

Chief Operating Officer

Barrie is responsible for overseeing the breadth of RHI’s day-to-day operations, ranging from finance to administration, facilities and HR, with the goal of designing and implementing systems capable of supporting RHI’s continuous evolution and growth. Prior to joining RHI in 2014, Barrie directed human capital and financial operations at Fenton, the country’s oldest and largest social change communications agency.

She started her career pulling all-nighters on a variety of political campaigns and briefly dipped her toes in the food world as a caterer and pastry cook, where, most notably, she was fired by Tom Colicchio. Barrie loved majoring in American Studies but has learned way more in these professional roles and from exceptional colleagues than in any classroom

Naiyma Holmes

Director of Operations

Naiyma Holmes

Director of Operations

Naiyma leads a team of six staff members dedicated to supporting daily program activities, ensuring efficient financial protocols, and maintaining the community center’s facilities. A lifetime Red Hook resident, Naiyma first joined RHI a Diabetes Health Educator. She quickly rose into new roles on the operations team including Office Assistant, Office Manager, and Finance Manager.

Naiyma left RHI briefly to serve as the Operations Manager with the New York City Participatory Budgeting Project. Naiyma returned to RHI in 2017 to serve as Director of Operations. She is committed to lifting up the Red Hook community through her capacity as senior staff member. She is known throughout the neighborhood as a leader.

Catherine McBride

Director of Community Building

Catherine McBride

Director of Community Building

Catherine leads a team of five community-based staff members in advocating for Red Hook public housing residents through a multi-pronged program strategy. Under her leadership, RHI launched the Local Leaders Program in 2014, which has trained over 250 Red Hook public housing residents in emergency preparedness and local organizing. The Local Leaders have since led Participatory Action Research and led campaigns to address critical public housing health issues related to mold and lead. Catherine served as Co-Chair for the New York City Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee from 2015 to 2016.

Catherine holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from NYU and an MSW in Community Organizing, Planning and Development from Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work.

Saara Nafici

Director of Red Hook Farms

Saara Nafici

Director of Red Hook Farms

Saara joined the farm team in May 2015, bringing over fifteen years of experience in inquiry-based, experiential environmental education with youth. She worked in youth garden and bicycle-based programs in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Boston and ran the teen apprentice program at Brooklyn Botanic Garden for seven years.

Saara holds a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resources Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a longtime activist, feminist, bicyclist, botanist, and youth educator.

Vanessa Nisperos

Director of Professional Development

Vanessa Nisperos

Director of Professional Development

As Red Hook Initiative’s Director of Professional Development, Vanessa leads training and support strategies to increase the professional capacities of RHI staff. She focuses on the intrinsic and external motivations that allow people to overcome structural and personal barriers in their quest for meaningful career paths.

When she joined RHI in 2016, she brought with her 15 years of experience in nonprofit program development and youth service provision. Vanessa has led programs through design, delivery and evaluation in after-school and in school program settings, including YMCA, YWCA, Girls for Gender Equity, and Girls For A Change.

She is passionate about identifying and removing barriers to mental health access, which she supports through the Connections to Care Initiative of Thrive NYC, an innovative community counseling and mental health partnership between RHI and Sunset Terrace Family Health Center at NYU Langone. Through this work, Vanessa became a certified trainer in Motivational Interviewing through the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT).

Philippa Crowne

Director of Development

Philippa Crowne

Director of Development

Philippa leads RHI’s fundraising and communications team of three staff members, providing oversight on individual and institutional cultivation strategies, major fundraising events, board relations, volunteer programs, digital communications strategy, and data management systems. Under her leadership, RHI’s community of donors and allies has grown to provide increased support for the agency’s innovative work.

Philippa is celebrating over ten years working within the nonprofit sector, where she has passionately advocated for communities rallying for justice and equity. Prior to joining RHI in 2015, Philippa worked for numerous local arts and education focused organizations including the New York Foundation and Workmen’s Circle. Philippa was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and holds a BA from Bard College. Away from RHI, you might find Philippa training for a triathlon, trying to knit a sweater, or catching a local dance performance.

Tarik Bell

Education Manager

Tarik Bell

Education Manager

Tarik provides academic enrichment and college access programming for over 100 youth at RHI. He is dedicated to creating equitable educational spaces that encourage youth of color to reach their full potential by providing culturally responsive programming, teaching advocacy skills, and providing access to post-secondary opportunities. Using an equity lens, he is committed to building spaces for black and brown youth to learn to love, experience empathy and have unencumbered access to their history.

With over 10 years of experience in youth and curriculum development, Tarik believes that all students are capable of being their best selves, and it is our job as educators to provide them with all of the tools they need to get there.

Michael Lopez Jr.

Young Adult Program Manager

Michael Lopez Jr.

Young Adult Program Manager

Michael has served as a non-profit manager in workforce readiness and education for 14 years. He has committed to stand in solidarity with communities such as East Harlem, Chicago’s west and south sides, Suffern, NY and the South Bronx. Michael manages a team that provides academic, employment and socio-emotional services to over 300 young adult residents of Red Hook.

Prior to joining RHI, he was a program and strategic initiatives manager for City Year and acted as co-chair for the Afrolatin@ Forum, and co-founded a Lower East Food Pantry. Michael is dedicated to bridging opportunity gaps alongside marginalized people as they develop their communities.

Natisha Romain

High School Program Manager

Natisha Romain

High School Program Manager

Natisha came to RHI in 2018, with over eight years of experience working with inner-city youth, a passion for mentoring programs, and qualitative research experience. She received a Master in Youth Studies from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She understands the importance of building community through identifying both the commonalities and life challenges our young people face. She believes that through this juxtaposition, youth-adult relationships, and effective mentorship, young people can be empowered to do anything they can dream of and more.

Malcolm West

Middle School Program Manager

Sherri Harden

Office Manager

Deanna Cherry

Middle School Youth Worker

Deanna Cherry

Middle School Youth Worker

Deanna started working for RHI in 2001, as a Community Health Worker to provide reproductive health education to women in Red Hook. Deanna’s proudest moment since working at RHI is having a good relationship with young people of any age in the community.

Deanna works for RHI because she enjoys coming in and being with youth. Deanna started her career in Red Hook about 30 years ago working at the PAL Miccio Daycare. Since then, Deanna has impacted thousands of women and children in Red Hook.

Monia Pringle

Middle School Youth Worker

Monia Pringle

Middle School Youth Worker

Monia is a facilitator, creative writer, comedian, and actress aiming to bring illusions and dreams to life. A resident of the Red Hook projects since birth, Monia participated at Red Hook Initiative as a young woman, engaging in various programs, workshops and events.

In 2017 Monia returned to RHI as a staff member, building her skills in curriculum development and program facilitation. She now leads middle school youth in improvisation and self esteem building. Her goal is to utilize her passion for creative arts to help others express themselves. Monia believes that with integrity, one will always have a purpose and the support to overcome any obstacles.

Javon Webb

Middle School Youth Worker

Kimberly Canady

Reproductive Health Educator

Kimberly Canady

Reproductive Health Educator

Kim has dedicated the past 16 years of her professional life working in the area of human sexuality with a specific focus on HIV/AIDS/STI advocacy and the elimination of other health disparities that impact women and youth. Kim’s journey in health education started at age 15 when she was a peer health educator in the Teens Helping Each Other (THEO) program located at SUNY Downstate.

Kim has worked across several organizations in the interceding years and brings a wealth of experience to RHI not only as a health educator, but with the lived experience of being a youth led change maker. Kim recently graduated Cum Lauda at The New York City School of Technology were she has obtained her bachelor degree in Human Service. Kim is excited about starting her masters degree in social work in the Fall of 2020.

Sanji Downing

Academic Advisor

Sanji Downing

Academic Advisor

Sanji is pursuing a BA in Mathematics from SUNY Buffalo State College and is an Academic Advisor with a proficiency in math for Red Hook Initiative. Sanji’s outgoing and very detailed oriented. Her ability to develop strong lasting relationships both professionally and personally is the driving force behind everything she does.

Gina George

Social Worker

Janeka Godbold

Reproductive Health Fellow

Sheryl Nash-Chisholm

Youth Jobs Developer

Sheryl Nash-Chisholm

Youth Jobs Developer

Sheryl Nash-Chisholm (she/her) is the Youth Job Developer at Red Hook Initiative. Currently, Sheryl is facilitating a workshop that teaches young people job skills they need to know for employment. The young people Sheryl works with are leaving middl school and now entering their high school years. Employment is a very important stage in their lives.

The passion that Sheryl feels is the first time each group finishes their resume, knows the purpose of a cover letter, goes on an interview, dresses for success and creates a networking event. It’s such a rewarding experience when you know that youth can remember something that Sheryl says and they smile and shake their head.

Jazmin Nazario

Academic Advisor

Jazmin Nazario

Academic Advisor

Jazmin is a former Red Hook Initiative participant and Red Hook native, is now one of the Academic Advisors, specializing in mathematics. Jazmin works closely with middle and high school participants in support of their academic endeavors. Her other work at RHI also includes mentoring first year college students, given she is a current senior at Fordham University.

Jazmin has aspirations for instructing adolescent mathematics, and is particularly interested and invested in bringing STEM awareness and education to communities, such as Red Hook.

Crystal Ross

High School Fellow

Juan Tejada

College Access Specialist

Juan Tejada

College Access Specialist

Juan has a BA in Communication from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and is the Academic Advisor and College Access Specialist for Red Hook Initiative. In his 12 years of devotion to youth development, he has helped young people on their educational journeys and develop a strong sense of self through encouragement, socio-emotional workshops, impactful seminars on seuxality and gender and expression through the arts. Juan advocates for the advancement and rights of black, brown, and queer youth by empowering them to be active in their citizenship by providing safe, innovative spaces that allow young people to create, explore, and flourish. Juan is proud of the work he brings to the community of Red Hook because he believes that there is power in community and change in numbers.

Keshia Cameron

College Retention Specialist

Keshia Cameron

College Retention Specialist

Keshia oversees the Young Adult College Scholars Program. Currently working towards her 2nd master’s degree in Social Work and joining RHI professional staff, Ms. Cameron worked as a Counselor at the Bronx Educational Opportunity Center and SEEK Counselor at CUNY York College. In this role, she counseled students needing academic and retention support in order to graduate in a timely manner. In college, she pursued her interest in Nursing before switching majors and subsequently graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education at Hunter College.

In 2017, RHI hired Keshia as a College Retention Specialist where she worked on providing personal, academic, and social advocacy for students enrolled in college and assisted them in retaining their studies in order to graduate. She is passionate about working with the youth about the importance of education and its role in reducing generation poverty for years to come.

Marissa Cappel

Clinical Case Worker

Marissa Cappel

Clinical Case Worker

Marissa helps young adults aged 18-24 in the Red Hook community with resources, goal setting, planning events, anti-violence and over policing teach backs and youth leadership. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Marissa has been working in youth development for 13 years. It is important to Marissa to make sure every young person she engages, knows they have a voice whether it’s for their own personal life or community.

Nellis Dorlisme

Employment and Education Associate

Nellis Dorlisme

Employment and Education Associate

Nellis (he/him) is the Employment & Education Associate at the Red Hook Initiative. Nellis is a dynamic strategic planner who provides direct support services to the young adults of the Red Hook Community with their employment and college ambitions. Nellis, a Red Hook native, has collectively over 7 years with youth development, digital marketing, product management, & community organizing. His passion for ludology, social advocacy, & alternative paths to education leaves him intellectually curious about how technology can be leveraged to bridge the skill gap between American youth who plays video games and employers who don’t recognize the legitimate technical & interpersonal skill-set video games cultivate.

Generra Garris

Professional Development and Young Adult Fellow

Justine González-Belay

Employment Specialist

Justine González-Belay

Employment Specialist

Justine (she/her) is the Young Adult Employment Specialist at Red Hook Initiative. She is a personable, creative problem-solver who leads the employment initiatives and partnerships for the RHI Young Adult Internship Program.

Justine was born and raised in New York City and has over a decade of experience in youth development, criminal justice reform, and project management. She is passionate about using media as an educational tool for social impact particularly in advancing racial and gender equity, justice reform, and positive youth development.

Florie St. Aime

Social Worker

Florie St. Aime

Social Worker

Florie (she/her/hers) is a LCSW born, raised, working and living in Brooklyn NY, describes herself as an anti-oppression based clinician. This label roots her work in naming and blaming social constructs instead of individuals; encouraging healing and self-care as resistance; and reintroducing human connection and acts of love as radical action. Florie does this through a variety of mediums including organizing/activism, group facilitation/workshops and individual counseling.

When not social working, Florie can be found traipsing all over the city with her loved ones indulging in good entertainment, food and healing spaces.

Kiyana Slade

Lead Youth Organizer

Kiyana Slade

Lead Youth Organizer

Kiyana currently holds an Associate of Urban Studies from Guttman Community College. As a Lead Youth Organizer at RHI, Kiyana is committed to creating change and improvement of the issues affecting youth in public housing. She also creates a space for young people to learn how to advocate for equity and social change for their community. Kiyana was born and raised in Red Hook, Brooklyn and is proud to be a true leader.

Kalishia Sostre

Parent Organizing Fellow

Michel’le Thomas

Community Relations Associate

Tevina Willis

Lead Organizer

Tevina Willis

Lead Organizer

Tevina is a lifelong Brooklynite, community organizer, educator, and Red Hook Resident. With a passion for entrepreneurship and employment advocacy, Tevina founded her own non-profit organization in 2012; Aesthetic Soul Community, training residents in community organizing and capacity building. Tevina joined RHI as a member of the first cohort of Red Hook Local Leaders. Local Leaders is a 10 week Emergency Preparedness leadership course that prepares communities to collectively respond to emergencies. She joined as a staff member in 2017 and in addition to now facilitating Local Leaders, she organizes and manages the online and physical community bulletin board Red Hook Hub.

Tevina is very passionate about helping her community to be advocates for positive change and equity for themselves and their neighborhood. Currently, the Lead Community Organizer, Tevina works with her Community Building Team to advocate and organize around public housing issues in Red Hook.

Nefratia Coleman

Wolcott Street Farm Manager

Nefratia Coleman

Wolcott Street Farm Manager

Nefratia Coleman started her agriculture journey in 2015 while serving a 11-month AmeriCorps term with Green City Force on the Urban Farm Corps team. There she assisted with the management and operations of the NYCHA Red Hook Farm – the first farm ever constructed on NYC public housing land. Nefratia then completed a 6-month internship at Added Value (now Red Hook Farms), preparing and teaching science-based lessons for K-8 student groups as well as assisting with the CSA and compost programs. She later managed the Pink Houses NYCHA farm for 2 seasons through East New York Farms. Nefratia was born and raised in Brooklyn and is a passionate farmer and educator.

Souhair Kenas

Farm Youth Programs Coordinator

Souhair Kenas

Farm Youth Programs Coordinator

Souhair joined the farm team in the spring of 2017 with a background in youth education and community gardening. Souhair holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business with a minor in Philosophy. She has worked with the Youth Farmers program for 2 years and has been leading the program since Fall of 2018.

In the past she has worked in juvenile detention centers and group homes building classroom and outdoor gardens – which led to a collaborative project where youth were able to grow and create the foundation for the award-winning Bronx Hot Sauce. Passionate about herbal medicine, she continues to learn and teach about the healing power of plants for both the body and the community.

Brendan Parker

Columbia Street Farm Manager

Brendan Parker

Columbia Street Farm Manager

Brendan joins the farm team a varied career in public school garden education, market farming, and community gardening. He has been farming since 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Stony Brook University, where he became deeply engaged in understanding our nation’s broken food system.

Brendan feels that urban agriculture and education are among the most important pieces to lessen the impacts the industrial world has had on our environment and our personal health. When Brendan is not contemplating the soil food web you may find him somewhere in Queens searching for a new country’s cuisine to sample.

Will Suarez

Development & Volunteer Associate

Will Suarez

Development & Volunteer Associate

William’s (he/him) undergraduate education in community based arts administration (SUNY Potsdam) has prepared him for the behind-the-scenes work of development and relationship building. By working in the space between our donors, volunteers, staff and participants Will is fortunate enough to see the effect our work has and champion its impact and significance in the local community and beyond.

A proud Brooklyn native, Will is honored to represent an organization and staff whose work is as impressive and whose dedication to their community runs as deep. You can find Will riding his bike around Red Hook and South Brooklyn meeting with the soon-to-be volunteers and local business owners or on Red Hook Farms enjoying the scenery.

Madeline Jenkins

Development Associate

Madeline Jenkins

Development Associate

Madeline (she/her) is the Development Associate with Red Hook Initiative. Currently, Madeline is focused on building a strong digital content strategy plan for RHI’s social media platforms. She is a hard working, detail-oriented, creative professional invested in creating change within her community through her strong communication and digital media skills.

Prior to Madeline’s involvement on the development team, she’s expressed her passion for video production by directing, producing, coordinating and performing in 10+ Red Hook Initiative films, including managing projects from concept to completion. Madeline is a proud Red Hook, Brooklyn native.

Tyteana Griem

Evening Receptionist

Tyrone Sprinkle Jr.

Operations Fellow

Davonne Walker

IT Associate

Aquilino Zuniga

Finance Manager

Aquilino Zuniga

Finance Manager

Aquilino is the Finance Manager at Red Hook Initiative. Born in Panama, his job is to make sure all numbers are in balance and making sure everyone gets paid, you can also find him helping around, sometimes as a Spanish translator, or plain and simple helping moving things around.

He has a BA in accounting and business administration, and he’s also a musician and a producer, his passion, he also teaches music and video production to the young people, with the whole idea of keeping them busy and on the right path. Aquilino really enjoys Red Hook Initiative, as he always says this “is the best place I’ve ever worked”.

Chris Cardona, President

Program Officer, Philanthropy Ford Foundation

Janice McGuire, Vice President

Nonprofit Consultant

Maria Mottola, Secretary

Executive Director, New York Foundation

Andrew Strauss, Treasurer

Chief Executive Officer, Skinder-Strauss LLC

Gregg Bishop

Commissioner, NYC Department of Small Business Services

Dr. Millicent Comrie

Physician, Maimonides Medical Center

David Friedman

Partner, Sitex Group

Donovan Hamlet

Brandon Holley

Chief Executive Officer, Everywear

Rebecca Kirszner Katz

Founder, New Deal Strategies

John Kline

Michael Lee

Managing Director, Corporate Development New York Institute of Finance

David Xi Bing Ma

Global Risk and Specialties, Marsh

Nanda Prabhakar

SVP Program Operations, New York City Mission Society

Jennifer Wheary

Eden Wurmfeld

Film and TV Producer