HPAC’s impact is made possible by the caring and accomplished individuals who work there.  Read more about their diverse experiences and expertise below.

JILL ROCHEJill Roche Gomez, Executive Director

Jill began her work in Hunts Point in 2008 as an Education Advocate, after completing a NYS Fellowship in the Bronx Family Court focusing on education outcomes for court-involved youth. For two years, she worked closely with Manida Street tenants to organize a Tenants’ Association and demand safe and healthy living conditions. Their work culminated in the tenants’ securing new ownership of the four Hunts Point buildings committed to affordable housing, increased security, and an $11 million renovation.

In 2013, Jill left HPAC to serve as an Education Pioneer Fellow in Bridgeport, CT. She worked subsequently as a communications and policy consultant in the public education sector, including facilitation of a state-wide multi-sector education communication collaboration. Jill returned to HPAC in late 2014 because she missed the students and the community. As Executive Director, Jill is working to deepen the Alliance’s collaborative work to raise education outcomes for all neighborhood children. She is passionate about exposing students to all the opportunities of New York City and helping scholars find the unique thing in this world that sparks their curiosity and inspires optimism.

Jill holds a B.A. from New York University and received her J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and an Ll.M (Masters of Law) in International Law and Human Rights from the University of Maastrict in the Netherlands. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of La Peninsula Head Start and the Dr. Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School and is an assistant adjunct professor at Lehman College.

Kwame Mensah, Director of Programs

Kwame began his career in Higher Education. As an academic advisor, Kwame counseled young college students to navigate the university system, make sound academic choices towards graduation, and chart well informed career and personal goals. His passion to impact the lives of the youth brought Kwame into the nonprofit sector of education and workforce development. For 4 years Kwame increased enrollment in both program participation and college access, boosted retention, secured job opportunities for youth, engaged new organizational partners, and ultimately set youth on a pathway to sustainable futures.

Kwame Joined the HPAC team in November 2018. As the Director of Programs Kwame will lead the youth development teams to continue to develop programs that support excellence in academic performance, college access and success, social emotional well-being, and data management. He is passionate about opening doors for youth to experience the world.

Kwame holds a B.A in Communications as well as an M.A in Africana Studies from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany.

Early Childhood Lead Teacher & Outreach Specialist

Reina is a seasoned Early Childhood Education professional with over 12 years of experience in the field. She graduated from Lehman College with a B.A. in Psychology and minor in Early Childhood Education, and a M.S.Ed. in Bilingual Early Childhood Education.

Before joining the HPAC team, she was employed by Saint Dominic’s Home TORCH (To Reach Children) Therapeutic Preschool, as a special education early childhood lead teacher for ten years.   She is passionate about working with HPAC ‘s youngest children and families, and committed to shrinking the educational achievement gap in low-income communities.

 Hidaliz Angulo RamosHIDALIZ ANGULO
Teacher Associate, Early Childhood Program

Hidaliz’ responsibilities include lesson planning, conducting assessments, and establishing individualized student goals.

Before joining HPAC, Hidaliz worked for Bilingual SEIT where she supported students with special needs, such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome, speech impairments, and ADD/ADHD.

Hidaliz was a student teacher at La Esperanza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a school for students with emotional behavior disorders, learning disabilities, mental retardation, Down’s syndrome, and physical challenges.

Teacher Associate, Early Childhood Program

Patricia is the HPAC Community Librarian, and supports Family School Skills and Readers to Leaders with students from Hyde Leadership Charter School and P.S. 48, and Summer Smarts.

Previously, Patricia spent three years as a direct-care worker and counselor at Lifespire residential facilities for developmentally disabled adults in the East Village and Roosevelt Island. She received training in direct-care human services work from Seedco, which licensed her to administer medication and certified her in CPR and SKIPP.

Patricia received a B.A. in Accounting from Hunter College of New York and an A.F.S. in Accounting from La Guardia Community College. She was born and raised in El Salvador, where she studied Computer Science and Engineering at Don Bosco Universidad.

ALLISON BARLOWAllison Barlow, Family Project

As Hunts Point Alliance for Children’s Family Project Director, a position she has held since January 2015, Allison leads a dedicated team of two case managers and a social work intern in providing an array of support services and mental health counseling to families with children engaged in HPAC programming.

Allison has previously worked with a variety of populations including HIV/AIDS-affected individuals living in supportive housing as well as survivors of sex trafficking. Allison has also engaged in extensive organizing work in the areas of racial and economic justice and has taught English to children in Arequipa, Peru. Allison received her Bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and her Master’s of Social Work degree from the Silberman School of Social work at Hunter College. 

More recently, Allison completed the 6-month Community Leadership Course with the Citizens’ Committee for Children. Additionally, she has developed and facilitated trainings for staff on Trauma Informed Care and on Referral-Making Best Practices. 

DAHIANA LESSARD copyDahiana Lessard
Family Project Case Manager

Dahiana connects families to a variety of social services, including external counseling, health or legal services, food pantries, job centers, youth programs and public assistance.

At HPAC, Dahiana has worked as Bookkeeper, Administrative Assistant, Food Coordinator, and Early Childhood Assistant. As Early Childhood Assistant, she helped run programs for children such as Play to Learn and Homework Help.

In 2008, Dahiana received vocational training through Year Up, focusing on Information Technology. She earned an internship at Google, and obtained her CompTIA A+ certification. Prior to that, Dahiana served in the U.S. Army as a Human Resources/Administrative Personnel Specialist.

Dahiana is attending Bronx Community College pursuing a degree in Human Services.

Ashley Garcia, Bilingual Case Manager

 Ashley works with families to provide referrals to community resources such as counseling, health and legal services, work centers, public assistance, and youth programs. Prior to joining the HPAC team, Ashley worked as a staff associate within the administrative and clerical field. Previously, Ashley worked for a surgeon as an Administrative Assistant. Ashley received a Bachelor of Science in Health and Psychology from Mercy College.

Deyaniry Nunez, Social Work Intern

Deyaniry is an MSW Intern during the 2018-19 school year, while pursuing her graduate degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She graduated from SUNY Empire State College with a B.S. in Community and Human Services and a concentration in Children and Families.

 She worked with the Department of Education at P.S 48 as a Paraprofessional and at Kennedy Child Study Center as a Teacher’s Assistant. She has experience working with a variety of populations with disabilities including Autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, and more.

 At HPAC, Deyaniry currently works with families that need case management support and referrals for Child Advocates, Housing, Public Assistance, SNAP, youth programs, Counseling, Health Care Assistance and academic difficulties.

Cristian Ramos, College Access and Success Manager

Cristian has worked in the realm of youth development, advocacy, and education for over 7 years. He values education for it’s capacity to open up people’s world and for it’s abilities to change outcomes for families. After completing his undergraduate studies from Union College, he returned to his native Bronx where he began working as a Senior Educational Counselor. Cristian worked directly with students and program staff to develop comprehensive counseling systems.

Cristian has a Master’s degree in Higher and Post-secondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is excited to join the HPAC community as  our College Access and Success Manager and work with our participants and Alliance partners to build the college going culture to our area.

Sammy Marrero, High School Pipeline Manager

Sammy Marrero, a Hunts Point native, is responsible for supporting 8th grade scholars and their families as they transition from Middle School to High School, and individually meeting with 9th-12th grade scholars to track their academic progress and offer social-emotional support as needed.  He is also responsible for overseeing the execution of HPAC’s high school programming in order to help increase the number of students in the pipeline.

Before joining HPAC, Sammy was a Communications Intern at the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) in Washington D.C. At the USDA, he assisted with writing and delivering weekly agency wide newsletters and supported the development and implementation of internal communications strategies.

Christie Love Santiago, Middle School Pipeline Manager

Christie is a New York City native who graduated from Hartwick College in 2005.  Christie went on to join Manhattan Children’s Theatre (MCT) in November 2005, where she helped produced and stage managed over 20 productions serving the children of all 5 boroughs of New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey.

In the Spring of 2010, Christie began working with middle school students in Queens teaching them the fundamentals of Lighting Design and Stage Management and assisting with the Technical Theatre audition process for High Schools.

Christie joins HPAC as the Middle School Pipeline Manager. As the Middle School Pipeline Manager, Christie helps support scholars and families in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades in the Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble and 7th and 8th graders in the Storefront Ensemble.

Eli Thacker Taylor, Storefront Ensemble Director

Eli Thacker Taylor is the director of the Storefront Ensemble and a co-director for the Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Eli moved to the East Coast to pursuit arts, education, and the integration of the two. He has taught theater in after-school programs throughout Brooklyn, directed plays for various festivals and venues in New York City, directed summer camps and recess programs, and written original script adaptations of classic literature for children. He is an avid music fan (both playing and listening), is constantly trying to catch up on podcasts, and is a lifelong Portland Trailblazers apologist.

Chandler Phillips
Lewis Hine Fellow

Chandler is joining the Hunts Point Alliance for Children as a part of the Duke University’s Lewis Hine Fellowship. As a fellow, she has the privilege of working with students in the Storefront Ensemble and documenting the many other programs that occur at HPAC. Her goal is to convey the unique role this organization plays in the South Bronx.

Chandler is from Georgia and is a graduate of Duke University. There she studied Sociology and Documentary Studies. Prior to HPAC, Chandler co-founded The Bridge, an online magazine dedicated to sharing the work of Black and Latinx women, taught at Sunflower County Freedom School, and was involved in activism and organizing on her campus. While she was born and raised in the South, she is excited to be New York and a part of this incredible community.

Karl Iglesias                                Writing Teacher, Storefront Ensemble

Karl Iglesias is an AEA actor, published poet, director and teaching artist for over 10 years.  As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he continues to explore verse as a part of The BARS Workshop at The Public Theater in New York, where writers/performers develop new verse for the stage. Currently he is leading the writing portion for the Storefront Ensemble and is excited to continue his mission to develop new work. 

Katie Chelena                               Ensemble Teaching Artist, Storefront Ensemble

Katie Kay Chelena is a performance artist, educator, and writer from the mountains of North Carolina. She is a member of the New York NeoFuturists, whose weekly show THE INFINITE WRENCH unleashes 30 new plays in an hour. Her work as a director and performer has been shown at HERE Arts Center, New York Shakespeare Exchange, the New Ohio Theatre, the Drama League, and PlayMakers Repertory Company. She studied Dramatic Art and Creative Writing at UNC Chapel Hill, where she co-founded two student theater companies focusing on original work. She likes to watch airplanes fly. 

Bookkeeper and Administrative Assistant

All runs smoothly at HPAC because of Pety Acebo, who has worked at HPAC since 2010.

Previously, Pety worked as a Crew Leader Assistant at the U.S. Census Bureau. She also worked in the Accounting Department at Stuyvesant Oil Company for almost five years, where she pursued a college degree after immigrating to the U.S. from Ecuador.

Pety graduated from Lehman College with a B.A. in Accounting in May 2009.  Pety also is an individual taxpayer preparer and Notary Public, licensed in August, 2013.

LATOYA.2Latoya Williams
Development Associate

Latoya is the Hunts Point Alliance for Children’s first Development Associate. In this new role, Latoya focuses on expanding HPAC’s fundraising goals, by identifying innovative foundation partners and increasing donor relations as HPAC continues to expand and grow.

Before joining the HPAC team, Latoya worked for over 10 years in the Development and Communications department at Win, Inc. At Win, she managed donor relations, oversaw mailing campaigns, and processed all monetary contributions.

Latoya received an A.S. from the Borough of Manhattan Community College. When she is not at HPAC she is spending quality time with her son and daughter.