Associate Board

The Associate Board is a group of young professionals in the Boston area who are dedicated to educational equity and to advancing Breakthrough’s mission. The Associate Board has three main goals: to raise awareness, to attract new supporters to Breakthrough, and to recruit volunteers. The AB achieves these goals by hosting events geared towards young professional engagement including trivia nights, an annual young professional’s Bash, and ongoing special events throughout the year to raise awareness about Breakthrough’s mission and successes! To learn more about the Associate Board and how you can be involved, contact Emma Samler, Director of Development and Parnterships at

Molly O'Donnell, Co-Chair

MPP and MBA Candidate at Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management In her role as a Manager with the Reimagine Learning Fund, Molly leads work with New Profit’s network of 20 grantees, developing a learning community in which these grantees connect virtually and in person. Molly works with the Reimagine Learning team to provide monthly capacity building webinars, regular targeted advisory sessions, and connects grantees to one another and experts in the field to enhance their work. Molly also supports the Reimagine Learning regional strategy, managing the development of a case study on the Lawrence Acceleration Academies in Lawrence, MA and a strategic planning process in Salem, MA. Prior to joining New Profit, Molly worked for Root Cause, a non-profit research and consulting firm in Boston. While at Root Cause Molly assessed non-profits on organizational and programmatic best practices and provided strategic recommendations and support to implement these practices. She also managed a collective impact working group providing training to 300 youth workers across the City of Boston and developing survey and assessment tools for all summer youth workforce programs in Boston. Prior to her work at Root Cause, Molly worked at an alternative school program called Open Schools NW in Portland, OR. While at Open Schools, she worked closely with teachers, school leaders, and families to develop strong support systems to keep students engaged and on track in school. As a liaison to Portland Public Schools, she co-created interventions and systems to support students identified as most at risk of dropping out. She also worked as a member of Equity Team and the Collaborative Action Research for Equity (CARE) team. These two teams worked to train educators on creating culturally relevant curriculum for students of color. Molly holds a Master’s of Public Policy and a Master’s of Business Administration from the Heller School at Brandeis University and a B.A. in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College.

Derek Whitney

Global Business Integration Project Manager at Brown Brothers Harriman Derek currently works as a Project Manager on the Global Business Integration Team at Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), a custodial bank and investment management firm based. Prior to moving to the Global Business Integration Team Derek worked at BBH as a Lead Business Analyst on technology projects, a Client Account Manager, and an accountant. Derek earned his B.A. in Economics and Finance from Assumption College in Worcester and is an MBA Candidate at Northeastern University here in Boston. Derek first got involved with Breakthrough when a friend associated with the organization invited him to the Breakthrough Gala in 2016. There Derek learned about the inspiring work that breakthrough does to benefit it’s students and teachers, alike, in the Students Teaching Students model. After the Gala, Derek joined Host Committee for the First Annual Breakthrough Bash, the inaugural instance of the Associate Board’s flagship event. After being a host at the event and attending another student centered event, Derek was a firm believer in the mission of Breakthrough, and their approach to development for students and teachers. In 2017, Derek joined the Associate Board and was a Co-Chair of the Host Committee for the Second Annual Breakthrough Bash.

Naike Romain

Bio coming soon!

Rony Cepeda

Bio to come!

Valerie Eisenson, Co-Chair

SEI Math Teacher at Chelsea High School Valerie joined Breakthrough as a writing teacher in Cambridge in the summer of 2014. She grew up in Wayland, MA, and attended Yale University, where she earned a B.A. in American Studies. While at Yale, Valerie taught health classes in the New Haven Public Schools and led hiking trips in the mountain ranges of New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. After graduating from Yale, Valerie continued teaching by joining the Teach For America Corps in the Greater Boston area, and received her Masters in Education from Boston University in 2017. After her two years with TFA, she continued and is currently teaching SEI Math in the newcomer program at Chelsea High School. After spending a summer with Breakthrough, she saw the incredible support and inspiration that the organization provides to its students. Valerie is excited to be continuing her involvement with Breakthrough through the Associate Board.

Elizabeth Symczak

Bio coming soon!

Jesse Choi

Associate at Bain Capital Jesse is currently an Associate in the Private Equity group at Bain Capital, where he invests behind various consumer, retail, and healthcare companies. Prior to that, he was at Bain & Company where he was involved in a non-profit charter school geared towards lower-income students, as well as education technology. Jesse grew up in Los Angeles and studied at Columbia University, where he earned a B.S. in Operations Research. During college, he was involved in the student council, served as the President of a Christian fellowship organization, and served as a personal tutor. Jesse has always been interested in equity in education, having been involved as both a student and teacher in a similar program to Breakthrough in Los Angeles and serving as a volunteer to various educational nonprofits. He was first introduced to Breakthrough through a former Associate Board member, and after being inspired by Breakthrough’s mission and its tangible impact on students, formally joined the Associate Board in 2017.

Kristie Han

Kristie is currently an Associate at Riverside Partners, where she invests in growing middle-market technology companies. Prior to that, she was in the healthcare group at Raymond James, where she focused on M&A and financing transactions for not-for-profit hospitals and health systems. Kristie studied at Harvard College, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a minor in Psychology.

Kristie was born in Seoul and grew up in Mexico City and San Diego. Kristie is passionate about expanding access to education for students with resource constraints, as she truly believes that a strong education opens doors of opportunities. Kristie is excited to support Breakthrough’s mission and help students realize their academic potentials. She hopes to contribute to helping society take leaps forward toward educational equity.

Ryan Sweeney

Senior Video Editor/Motion Graphics Creator at Lax Sports Network Ryan is currently the Senior Video Editor/Motion Graphics Creator at Lax United Marketing, where for the past 7 years he has created a wide variety of digital and broadcast content for CBS Sports Network, Lax Sports Network and Major League Lacrosse. Prior to working with LUM he was a Production Assistant with the local NBC Affiliate WHDH-TV Boston. Ryan studied at Ithaca College and received a B.S. in Television Video Production and a Minor in Business Administration in May of 2009. Ryan became interested in working with Breakthrough Greater Boston after attending the 2014 Spring Gala with a current board member. He was quickly inspired by BTGB’s mission for educational equity after experiencing the passion and excitement of both the students and staff first hand.

Carrie Rosenblum

Bio coming soon!

Mike Burnes

Vice President – Shipyard Operations and Corporate Treasurer Mike Burnes currently works as Vice President at the Great Lakes Group, where he and his team oversee marine construction and logistics operations. Prior to joining the Great Lakes Group, Mike worked at Ernst & Young as an Advisory and Audit manager. Mike grew up in Milton, MA and attended Washington and Lee University, where he majored in philosophy and business and accounting. While at Washington and Lee, Mike served as the philanthropy chair of his fraternity and became involved with numerous volunteer organizations including the Ability Experience (Formerly PUSH America). Mike’s involvement with Breakthrough began following a presentation at Ernst and Young and grew overtime through numerous Breakthrough events at EY. Mike has always felt very fortunate to have had a number of teachers who have gone above and beyond and acted as mentors throughout high school, college, and beyond. He was especially moved by the energy and excitement displayed by Breakthrough’s students and faculty while touring the Cambridge campus during the summer program during the summer of 2015. He is honored to serve on the associate board and work towards fufilling Breakthrough’s mission.

Michael Protasewich

Co-Founder and COO at SubscriberVoice Mike is currently on the founding team of a Boston-based tech startup. He was previously a Manager in the Advisory Services practice of Ernst & Young LLP. Mike studied at Boston College and received a B.S. in Finance and Corporate Reporting. While at BC Mike was involved in volunteer initiatives including Youth Opportunity Boston through the PULSE program, Habitat for Humanity and the Appalachia Service Project. He continued to serve the Boston community while at EY through his involvement in Junior Achievement. Mike’s involvement with Breakthrough Greater Boston began in 2014 when he became interested and inspired by the student testimonials at the Spring Gala. Realizing Breakthrough’s mission was in line with similar programs Mike had been involved with and passionate about at BC and his time at EY, he sought to get formally involved to further the cause and applied to join the associate board. Outside work, Mike enjoys spending time with family and friends and traveling.

Sharon Kelleher

JD Candidate at Harvard Law School Sharon is currently pursuing her JD at Harvard Law School. She grew up in Belmont, MA and attended Harvard College, where she earned her A.B. in Government and Comparative Religion in 2014. After college, Sharon worked at WilmerHale in Boston as a Project Assistant for two years. Sharon has been a College Access Coach with Breakthrough since 2014. She is excited to join the Associate Board to support Breakthrough’s important mission and to further engage with Breakthrough’s wonderful community.

Winston Tuggle

Manager of People Operations and Development at The Bowdoin Group Throughout the first five years of his career, Winston worked in the education sector at both Milton Academy and Nativity Preparatory School.  At Nativity, he was tasked with supporting the graduates from the school for low-income boys from Boston throughout high school, college, and beyond.  He continues this passion for urban education by serving on the Associate Board at Breakthrough Greater Boston.  He also continues to mentor students at Nativity and helps to organize a basketball tournament to support Year Up. Winston is currently an HR Business Partner at Hubspot, a leading marketing and sales software company, where he focuses on partnering with business units to align bjectives with people strategies. He graduated with a BA from Trinity College in Hartford, CT and an MBA from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.


Alita Edelman-Brown
Customer Success Manager at mParticle

Jessye Smith
Senior Manager of R&D Business Operations at Biogen

Jon Wu
MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School

Kolleen Burbank
Director of Content at ClassForward

Michael O’Leary
Senior Associate at Bain Capital Double Impact

Presceia Cooper
Director of Community Engagement at the Institute for Nonprofit Practice

Robbie Greenglass
Managing Director at Waterline Ventures

Sean Crowley
MBA Candidate at Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management

Tim McGee
Human Resources and Training Manager at The Briar Group

Will Chrysanthos
National Service Consultant