Our Team

Amee Naik, Senior Director of High School Programs

B.A. in Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis M.A. in Child and Adolescent Development, Tufts University Amee joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2009. As the Senior Director of High School Programs, Amee oversees all aspects of BTGB’s 9th-12th grade work at our Cambridge and Dorchester campuses to ensure that all students receive the support and resources needed to help them apply for — and be ready for — college. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Amee was an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis. Amee has amassed quite a few favorite memories during her time at Breakthrough — everything from seeing student alums return to Breakthrough as Teaching Fellows to indulging her love for trivia by playing Jeopardy after school with Breakthrough high school students (and staff). Email: anaik@btgbmail.org

Christina Arecy, Student Support Coordinator, AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow

Education: B.S. in Sociology, Fitchburg State University

Christina recently joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in August 2018 through the AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellowship. During her year of service, she will work closely with Boston middle and high school students, providing academic mentoring and supporting students in exploring college and career opportunities; she will also support the organization in developing new strategies for volunteer recruitment.

Christina loves exploring different cultures through food, watching movies, travelling, and listening to podcasts. She hopes to challenge herself and bring new ideas to the table to make an impact during her service year at Breakthrough.

Email: neduwensuyi@btgbmail.org

Evan Soken, Director of College Access Programs

B.A. in History, Macalester College

Evan joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2017.  As Director of College Access Programs, Evan oversees all supports and programming for 11th and 12th grade students and families in Boston and Cambridge. Through workshops, individual meetings, and connections to academic and test preparation resources, he ensures that Breakthrough students reach their goal of attending college. Prior to joining Breakthrough, he worked as a Senior Access Counselor at Bottom Line, coaching high school seniors through the college application and financial aid processes. Outside of the office, you can find Evan exploring Massachusetts on his bike, hunting for new music, or cooking.

Email: esoken@btgbmail.org

Joshua Hahn, Development Manager

B.A. in Music, Tufts University

M.M. in Music Composition, Rice University, Shepherd School of Music

Josh joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2017. As Development Manager, Josh writes grants to provide critical funding for the organization, and works to deepen relationships with a wide variety of funders. Prior to joining BTGB, Josh served in the role of General Manager at Symphony Nova, where he grew the organization’s board of directors, developed sustainable fundraising practices, and increased audience attendance.

Josh is also a composer and flutist, whose music has been presented by Boston Musica Viva, Juventas, Nonevent, Foundation for Modern Music, and others. His piece, Lullaby, for solo guitar, was awarded first prize for solo string composition by Massachusetts String Teachers Association in 2015.

Email: jhahn@btgbmail.org

Noelani Gabriel, Manager of Student Services (Cambridge)

B.A. in Africana Studies, Cornell University

Noelani first became involved with Breakthrough as a Teaching Fellow in the summers of 2013 and 2014. As Manager of Student Services, Noelani oversees all aspects of student and family support services as well as program management for our seventh and eighth-grade school-year and summer programs in Cambridge. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Noelani was a ninth-grade English Language Arts teacher at Roxbury Prep High School.

In her free time, Noelani enjoys reading, writing, and exploring new restaurants in Boston and Cambridge.

Email: ngabriel@btgbmail.org

Steve Ragno, Director of Major Gifts

B.A. in History, African and Afro-American Studies, and Politics, Brandeis University

Steve Ragno joined Breakthrough in 2018. As Director of Major Gifts, Steve spreads the mission of Breakthrough and manages relationships with Breakthrough’s generous supporters. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Steve was Assistant Director of Annual Giving at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he oversaw the annual fund and planned giving activities of the School. Outside of Breakthrough, Steve serves on the board of a nonprofit whose mission is to save and restore an historic theater in his neighborhood.

Email: sragno@btgbmail.org

Ashley Gordon, Early High School Advisor

B.S. in Geography: Travel & Tourism, Salem State University M.S. in Nonprofit Management, Northeastern University

Ashley joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2018. As Early High School Advisor, Ashley supports Breakthrough’s 9th and 10th grade students at the Boston and Cambridge campuses. By supporting students and their families during individual interactions and early high school programming, she is able to foster the academic success of Breakthrough’s 9th and 10th graders and serve as an additional pillar of support for students. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Ashley completed two years of AmeriCorps service with the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, serving at Health Resources in Action in Boston and the Old Colony YMCA in Brockton.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys cooking, reading, and yoga.

Email: agordon@btgbmail.org

Elissa Spelman, Executive Director

B.S. in Elementary and Special Education, Boston College M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education

Elissa first joined Breakthrough Greater Boston as a Board Member, working actively on the Strategic Planning and Program Committees. She became the Executive Director in 2009 and has since set the vision and guided Breakthrough’s strategic growth into Boston and Somerville (summer 2018). Prior to joining Breakthrough, Elissa was the first Director of the Wellington Management Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting education programs for low-income youth, including some of the affiliate sites of the Breakthrough Collaborative. Elissa has broad experience in the field of education and has also worked with nonprofits focused on foster care, adoption and domestic violence. Elissa began her career as a third grade teacher at the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, MA and has taught in a variety of settings.

When not busy at Breakthrough, Elissa spends time with family and friends, enjoys food of all kinds, and volunteers regularly. Her favorite Breakthrough memory is watching our inaugural class of students in Boston fall in love with the Breakthrough traditions, culture, and spirit.

Email: espelman@btgbmail.org

Jennie McDonald-Brown, Somerville Site Director

B.A.in African-American Studies and English, Rollins College M.S.W., Boston College Graduate School of Social Work M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education Jennie originally joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2007 as a Program Intern. She spent four years at Breakthrough before leaving for graduate school. After completing the School Leadership Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, she became the Founding Assistant Principal at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School in Roxbury. After four years at Dudley Street, Jennie transitioned to the Taylor Elementary School in Mattapan where she continued in the role of Assistant Principal. She rejoined the BTGB team in 2017 to lead the expansion into Somerville. As the Somerville Site Director, Jennie oversees all aspects of Breakthrough’s third campus. One of Jennie’s favorite Breakthrough memories is watching the 6th graders her team recruited back in 2008 and 2009 stand in front of the classroom as Teaching Fellows in 2017. Outside of Breakthrough, Jennie spends time cooking and mastering nuanced character voices during story time with her son. Email: jmcdonaldbrown@btgbmail.org

Lyndsea Arikian, Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Boston)

B.A. in American Studies: Education and International Studies, American University

M.A.T. in Secondary Education, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Lyndsea joined Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2016. As Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Lyndsea oversees all aspects of teaching and learning for our middle school summer and school-year programs at the Boston campus. Lyndsea is responsible for hiring, training, and supervising Teaching Fellows and Instructional Coaches; ensuring high-quality curriculum and classroom instruction; and evaluating student learning and teacher performance.

Prior to joining Breakthrough, Lyndsea taught middle school English in India on a yearlong Fulbright grant, and was a high school Social Studies teacher for four years in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lyndsea’s hobbies include yoga, movie trivia, escape rooms, and her cat Doodlebug.

Email: larikian@btgbmail.org

Paulina Murton, Senior Director of Middle School Programs

B.A. in American Literature, Middlebury College

M.A.T., Brown University

Paulina joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2014. As Senior Director of Middle School Programs, Paulina oversees Breakthrough’s academic programming for 7th and 8th grade students at our Cambridge and Dorchester campuses, ensuring that students develop a love for learning as well as the skills necessary to be successful in college and beyond. She also supports Breakthrough’s Teacher Training program, working to ensure our young teachers are prepared and inspired to enter the field of education. Prior to joining the Breakthrough Greater Boston team, Paulina worked as a director at Breakthrough Austin as well as a high school English teacher.

Paulina’s favorite Breakthrough memories often center around the amazing end of summer celebration event — the student work showcase, the testimonials, the cheers, the proud families and the clear bond between students and Teaching Fellows make it an unforgettable night each summer!

Email: pmurton@btgbmail.org

Connor Dalton, Operations Associate

B.A. in Sociology, Boston College

Connor joined the BTGB team in 2018 after previously working as a college intern beginning in 2017.  He is excited to help Breakthrough continue to grow with its first two-person Operations team.  As the Operations Associate, Connor supports the organization through managing day-to-day operations, most specifically finance, human resources, and technology.
Outside of Breakthrough, Connor enjoys playing tennis, watching movies, and exploring restaurants and activities in the Boston area.

Email: cdalton@btgbmail.org

Emma Samler, Director of Development and Partnerships

Bio to come! Email: esamler@btgbmail.org

Jennifer Stange, Director of Operations

B.S. in Business Administration: Finance, Northeastern University

M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Jennifer joined Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2016. As the Director of Operations, Jennifer supports BTGB programs by managing the day-to-day operations including human resources, informational technology, finance, and other administrative duties. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Jennifer was the founding Director of Operations at Brooke Charter School East Boston.

Jennifer’s favorite subject in school was math because she loved the way numbers could be manipulated to tell a story and to solve real problems. Her fascination with numbers has continued throughout her career, and she can often be found working in an Excel spreadsheet.

Email: jcorwin@btgbmail.org

Michael Vallejo, Manager of Student Services (Boston)

B.A in Anthropology, Union College

Michael first became involved with Breakthrough as a Teaching Fellow in the summer of 2015. As Manager of Student Services, Michael oversees all aspects of student and family support services as well as program management for our seventh and eighth-grade school-year and summer programs in Boston. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Michael was a Program Advisor for the College Success Academy with The Steppingstone Foundation.

In his free time, Michael enjoys running, working out, reading, and exploring restaurants in the Boston area.

Email: mvallejo@btgbmail.org

Shoko Fox, Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Cambridge)

B.A. in Political Science and International Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shoko first became involved with the Breakthrough Collaborative as a teacher at Breakthrough Manchester in the summers of 2006 and 2007. Her experience there led her to pursue a career in education, first at the Teacher Residency program at the MATCH School in Boston, and later as a 7th grade teacher at KIPP DC, a public charter school in Washington DC, where she taught math and science for four years. She is thrilled to be a part of the Breakthrough family again as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. In this role, Shoko oversees academic programming for our 7th-9th grade students and our Teacher Training Program. She ensures that all students benefit from rigorous, engaging curriculum and effective, differentiated instruction while our teachers are provided the best possible introduction to the field of education.

Outside of Breakthrough, Shoko enjoys cooking, traveling, and taking long walks to explore Boston with her husband and dog.

Email: sfox@btgbmail.org