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 & Leadership in Public Service in 2005. Ms. Rathblott joined HEAF in January 2013.
Nicholas (“Nico”) Tynes
Vice President of Programs
Mr. Tynes earned a B.A. from Duke University and a J.D. from Washington University School of Law. He is also a graduate of Columbia Business School Executive Education programs. Following law school, Mr. Tynes spent several years working within the Federal Court System and volunteering with youth. In 2002, he joined the staff of HEAF to pursue his passion of working with young people and helping them realize their collegiate aspirations.
Vice President of External Relations
A graduate of Yale University, Dan Preston joins HEAF as Vice President of External Relations with 20 years of fundraising and communications experience as well as a passion to improve college access for urban youth. Before joining HEAF, Dan served as the Director of Development and Communications at PCI-Media Impact. Dan also worked as the Director of Development at Urban Education Exchange, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and N.E.E.D. Housing.
Dr. Deidre Franklin
Senior Director of Counseling and Youth Development
Dr. Franklin began her career working with chronically ill mental patients in psychiatric hospitals and inner city communities and has worked with high-risk teens in a high school health clinic and with children and families in community based foster care programs. Since joining HEAF, Dr. Franklin has taken the lead in developing leading edge gender-specific programs for our youth development programs. She received her B.A. from Howard University and holds an Ed.M. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Teachers College Columbia University. Dr. Franklin has been with HEAF since 2002.
Senior Director of High Expectations
Dr. Wiggins brings 17 years of experience as an educator to the organization. She has used her knowledge of youth, education and educational technology to provide professional development to teachers with the NYC Department of Education and to support youth via the nonprofit sector. She now serves as the Senior Director of Middle School Programming & Expansion at HEAF. Since joining HEAF in 2007, her accomplishments include the introduction of action research to middle school participants, the development community-building initiatives, and the successful planning and execution of Summer Quest, HEAF’s signature summer enrichment program. Dr. Wiggins received her B.A. from Swarthmore College, a Masters degree in Urban Education from Temple University, and also holds an Ed.D. in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Senior 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.
External Relations Coordinator
As a native of Harlem and HEAF alumna, Kelsie Bonaparte is well acquainted with the benefits of youth development, academic enrichment and cultural exposure beyond her community’s expectations. She joined HEAF in the 7th grade. From her admission to college to a prestigious internship placement and her current role on HEAF’s Alumni Committee and on staff as the External Relations Coordinator, Kelsie personifies how our students are “HEAFers” for life. She studied Mass Communications at Delaware State University where she became the Editor-In-Chief of the University’s newspaper, The Hornet. Kelsie also had several prominent communications related internships, including one at Essence Magazine, which helped her prepare and acquire skills for a career in the field of Mass Communications and Development.
Program Coordinator of College Quest
A native of Harrisburg, PA, Tyler obtained his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from James Madison University before moving to Seoul, South Korea for a year. He settled in New York City where he began a career in direct service to youth. He first worked with HEAF as a volunteer coordinator and member of the Americorps program called NYC Civic Corps. Following that year of service, he joined HEAF’s full-time staff as the Program Coordinator for College Quest, which allows him to work on HEAF’s service-learning class Learning for Social Impact as well as the Youth Leadership Council. He participated in PASE/Baruch College’s Emerging Leaders In Non-Profit Management 2012-13 cohort.
Catalina Caro Torres
Admissions and Community Outreach Coordinator
Catalina was born in Bogotá, Colombia. She moved to Chicago at a young age and has always seen the importance of education. Catalina graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in International Studies: Politics and Policy in a Global Economy and French. After graduation Catalina participated in a year of service with City Year New York, an educational nonprofit that mentors and tutors off track students in public schools. After City Year, Catalina moved to Chile to teach English in Patagonia. Her passion for education led her to HEAF as the Program and Special Projects Assistant. She is now the Admissions and Community Outreach Coordinator at HEAF.
Counseling Coordinator of Youth Development
At HEAF, Ms. Clayton provides support services to youth including individual counseling and crisis intervention. Prior to working at HEAF, Ms. Clayton was employed as a Program Manager who oversaw operations, and provided social and emotional support to students between the ages of 17 and 21 enrolled in an alternative education program. Ms. Clayton received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Miami with minors in African-American Studies and Criminology. She received her Master’s degree from Pace University and is currently a 5th year doctoral student studying Counseling Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Program Coordinator of High Expectations
Bridgette Depay, a HEAF alumna, earned her bachelor’s degree in Romance Languages and Literatures from Pomona College in Claremont, California. While at Pomona College, Bridgette worked for the Draper Center for Community Partnerships as a Student Coordinator. After graduating, Bridgette moved back to New York City and began working full-time for HEAF as the Program Coordinator for High Expectations. As the Program Coordinator, she enjoys planning events, such as local and out-of-state college tours and the Annual Career Day Conference.
Youth Development Program Coordinator
As a HEAF alum, Randy knows the benefits Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Positive Youth Development offers students. Randy joined HEAF in the 9th grade, and while attending HEAF was offered a leadership position as a Youth Development Intern. During Randy’s senior year in high school, he was elected President of his class and was awarded a full-tuition, Posse Foundation scholarship to attend Wheaton College. At Wheaton, Randy served as a Residential Adviser, and was elected the first African-American Vice President of the Student Government Association. Randy continued to stay invested in HEAF and came back to work four consecutive summers in the Summer Quest program. Randy majored in History and Secondary Education and graduated from Wheaton College with a Bachelors of Arts and Teaching License for the state of Massachusetts.
Counselor, Youth Development
Stephanie was born and raised in Queens, New York. She graduated from Scripps College in 2012 and has been involved in teaching and mentoring ever since. She recently came back from a Fulbright year in Colombia, where she taught English to students and professors at a university in Medellin. She now continues to teach English at a community center in her neighborhood. As a graduate from an all girls high school and all women’s college, she believes that gender-specific classes can be useful for developing leadership skills and hopes to impart these skills in her youth development classes.
Manager of Volunteer Initiatives
A New Jersey Native who was raised in Trenton, New Jersey, and currently lives in Jersey City, NJ. April has always had a deep passion for her community. Her parents instilled the importance of giving back at a very young age and it has had a great impact on her career path as an adult. April comes to HEAF with several years of nonprofit experience in the areas of fundraising/special events and meaningful volunteer engagement. She has extensive experience working with Junior Boards and planning high-end events. April earned a degree in Communications from Lincoln University.
Finance Associate & Administration Manager
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.
Site Coordinator at Brooklyn
Opal is a graduate of Long Island University’s School of Education. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Adolescent English Education with a minor concentration in Dance. She has had a lifelong passion for both youth empowerment and performing arts, and spent her young adult years involved in a variety of non-profit organizations that encompassed both interests. These organizations, which included The City Kids Foundation, Hospital Audiences Inc., and The Children’s Aid Society cemented Opal’s belief that art and enrichment are vital parts of education. Opal is now the Site Coordinator for HEAF’s new expansion at our Brooklyn site. She looks forward to meeting and interacting with a new group of motivated students who believe that “College Is The Rule.”
Although a New Yorker at heart, Jadira was born and raised in Western Massachusetts. Jadira graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University with a BA in Sociology and French. During her years in college, Jadira was very active in working with youth. She worked with Jumpstart, an organization dedicated to decreasing the education gap amongst underserved pre-school children. Jadira also volunteered teaching 16-18 year old young men at Riker’s Island, and she created a program to prevent students from dropping out of high school. After graduation, Jadira worked for America Works, a back-to-work vendor, assisting individuals on public assistance to prepare for and obtain employment. However, her passion for working with youth led her to HEAF as the Program Assistant.
Khalil Gibran Murrell
Director of College Quest and Onward
Khalil is a writer and educator. He taught high school English in Philadelphia through Teach For America and also worked for the Dodge Foundation and in arts management. Mr. Murrell consults schools and trains educators on topics related to teaching practice, including creative and critical thinking and ways to integrate literacy across disciplines. He is a writer-in-the schools in NY and NJ. Mr. Murrell holds degrees in Political Science (B.A.) and Fine Arts—Creative Writing (MFA).
Miosotis “Mio” Perez
Associate Director of College Quest and Onward
Mio joined HEAF in the Summer of 1998 as a middle school student. After she graduated from from Middlebury College, she continued to participate in the program as a volunteer, mentor and member of the Alumni Committee. Mio recently completed her Master’s of Science in nonprofit management at Milano, The New School for Management and Urban Policy.
Executive Assistant to the President and CEO
A graduate of Hunter College, Danielle Savary joins HEAF as Executive Assistant to the President with 10 years administrative experience working with not-for-profit organizations. Prior to joining HEAF Danielle worked for other organizations such as the Russell Sage Foundation; The After-School Corporation a collaborative organization that funds, monitors and supports after-school programs in public schools and Palladia, Inc., an organization that assists New Yorkers struggling with homelessness, HIV/Aids, poverty, domestic violence and the justice system. Along with her experience, Danielle brings to HEAF a passion for youth and a commitment to HEAF’s mission and visions of expansion.
Jessica, a native of Albany, New York, brings with her almost a decade of experience working with not-for-profit organizations in the communications and fundraising fields. Prior to working at HEAF, she worked in communications at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as the Charleston Area Visitor’s Bureau. Subsequently, Jessica was employed as the Assistant Development Officer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jessica earned her B.A. from Smith College in Art History, and holds an M.A. in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
NYC Civic Corps
Volunteer Engagement Coordinator
Symphony Chau is a native of Parsippany, New Jersey. She grew up spending a lot of time in NYC’s Chinatown community. Symphony attended American University in Washington D.C. where she received a B.A. in International Studies and a Chinese minor. Symphony decided to join the NYC Civic Corps after graduating to help develop her skill set in the nonprofit sector.
Alumni Engagement Coordinator
Josef Robinson is a recent NYC transplant from Nashville, TN. With a B.B.A. in Economics and Finance from Tennessee State University, he is transitioning from seven years in the corporate finance world to the non-profit sector through NYC Civic Corps. He is looking to expand his non-profit experience and bring together his personal interests of giving back to the local community and volunteerism with his professional life. He has volunteered as a mentor in Big Brothers/Big Sisters and taught in Junior Achievement. He currently serves on the junior board at the Tennessee Kidney Foundation and has recently started the Dream Project.