Abraham Fofanah, Manager of High School Programs (Boston Campus)
M.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota
Abraham joined the Breakthrough team in 2023. As the Manager of High School Programs for the Boston Campus, he supports early high school development and college access. Before joining Breakthrough, Abraham worked as a high school advisor in Providence, Rhode Island. In this role, he prepared first-generation students to attend and complete college.
Abraham likes to listen to podcasts, learn about history, and watch movies in his free time.
Carrah Olive-Hall, Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Cambridge Campus)
Jahmali Matthews, FAO Schwarz Fellow
Jahmali (she/her) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2022. As the Communications and Marketing FOA Schwarz Fellow, Jahmali divides her time between direct-service, serving as an aid for a caseload of students in the college success program, as well as clarifying BTGB’s social media outreach goals and executing them. Before Breakthrough, as an undergrad at Hamilton, she served as the editor-in-chief for Culture Magazine, a publication that highlights underrepresented voices on campus.
Outside of work, Jahmali enjoys studying astrology, spending time with her family, and thrifting.
Juan Mojica, FAO Schwarz Fellow
B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Race and Ethnicity Studies from Southwestern University.
Juan (he/him) joined Breakthrough in 2022 through the FAO Schwarz Fellowship Program after graduating from college. Before joining the team, he held multiple student worker positions alongside his studies, including being Head Resident Assistant and an Orientation Leader. His interest in Breakthrough was sparked by his senior capstone entitled “Hasta la Raíz: Reproduction of Whiteness in Higher Education.” After taking a close look at the education system in the United States and the inequalities present within them, he sought to continue his work by pursuing a position at Breakthrough Greater Boston. Juan relocated to Boston after living in Texas all his life and is very excited to begin his position at Breakthrough as the Alumni Coordinator to assist in managing alumni events, committees, and services.
In his free time Juan enjoys photography, running, hiking, reading, and binge-watching movies and tv shows.
Paola Cisneros Lau, Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Cambridge)
B.A. in Sociology from Boston College and M.A. in Science Education from Relay Graduate School of Education
Paola (she/her) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2021 as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Cambridge campus. As the DCI, Paola works with our Teaching Fellows and Instructional Coaches to ensure that we are providing our students with high-quality academic instruction. Before Breakthrough, Paola primarily worked as a science teacher in Brooklyn, New York and the greater Boston area.
Outside of work, Paola enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her new puppy, reading, and cooking.
Shannon Ferguson, Director of College Access, Cambridge Campus
B.A. Sociology: University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeM.A. Special Education: Fordham University
Shannon (he/him) joined Breakthrough in 2022. As the Director of College Access at the Cambridge campus, Shannon supports 11th and 12th grade students and families during the college application process. Before Breakthrough, Shannon spent the previous three years as a college counselor at a high school in Boston, and 7 years as a middle school teacher and Dean of Students in Brooklyn, NY. Outside of work, Shannon enjoys dancing and listening to music with his 20-month-old daughter, watching the Milwaukee Bucks, and cooking delicious meals for his family.
Yamileth Reneria, Director of Early High School (Cambridge Campus)
B.A in Education Studies from Brown University
Yamileth (she/her) joined Breakthrough in 2021 as the Manager of Early High School. In this role, she supports 9th and 10th grade students in their transition to high school and with college-related goals. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Yami worked as a College Success Advisor, primarily supporting students attending UMass Boston and Bunker Hill Community College through their degree pathways.
Outside of Breakthrough, Yami enjoys taking Buzzfeed quizzes, browsing bookstores, and eating Hot Cheetos.
Aimee Heckman, Director of Curriculum and Instruction (Somerville Campus)
M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction & B.S in Secondary Social Studies Education from the Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut
Aimee (she/her) first became involved with Breakthrough Collaborative during the summer of 2016 as an ELA Instructional Coach in the Bay Area. She continued to return to Breakthrough each summer as it always brought her a renewed sense of joy and purpose as she re-entered the classroom every fall as a middle school Humanities teacher in San Francisco.
Aimee’s family relocated to the Greater Boston Area in 2021 and she is excited to join the Breakthrough Greater Boston team as the Director of Curriculum & Instruction for the Somerville Campus. In this role, Aimee oversees all aspects of teaching and learning for our Somerville middle school students. She works closely with Teaching Fellows and Instructional Coaches to ensure that students receive high-quality curriculum and classroom instruction.
In her free time Aimee enjoys traveling, attending concerts, drinking coffee, and spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Riley.
Darlley Joselus, Development Associate of Individual Giving
B.S. Government, Law and Public Policy from Suffolk University
M.I.A in International Development Policy from Pennsylvania State University
Darlley joined the Breakthrough team in 2023. As a development associate for individual giving, Darlley supports Breakthrough’s fundraising endeavors by cultivating relations with individual donors.
Prior to joining Breakthrough, she worked as an administrative assistant at Wentworth Institute of Technology where she supported corporate and foundation fundraising and the marketing and communications team. Darlley is excited to begin working at Breakthrough as a development associate for individual giving and engage with the team to support Breakthrough’s mission.
Darlley enjoys going on hikes, concerts, trying new food, spending time with her cat, and traveling in her free time.
Jennifer Stange, Managing Director of Operations
Jennifer (she/her) returned to Breakthrough Greater Boston in 2020. As the Director of Operations, Jennifer supports BTGB programs and general operations by overseeing financial management, human resources, informational technology, and other administrative duties. Prior to joining Breakthrough, Jennifer was the Vice President of Shared Services at the EcoTarium (Worcester, MA) and the founding Director of Operations at Brooke Charter School East Boston.
When not at Breakthrough, Jennifer spends time with her family and dog enjoying the outdoors.
Kimberly Salazar, Director of Student Services (Somerville Campus)
B.A in Psychology from University Massachusetts Boston
Kim (she/her) joined Breakthrough in March 2023 as the Director of Student Services- Somerville Campus. She will oversee the Somerville Sites and her role will be to ensure all students and families have the support and resources necessary to join Breakthrough.
Before Breakthrough, Kim worked for Tenacity as a Site Director and Academic Coordinator at the Curley K-8 in Jamaica Plain and also was an alum of the program herself! Additionally, she worked for the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing in East Boston assisting Boston residents fight eviction and remain housed through rental assistance, shelter placement and community outreach.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, exploring thrift stores with her dog Kobe and cooking.
Paola Martin, Director of Operations
B.S. in Labor Relations, University of Puerto Rico
Paola (she/her) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2022 as the Director of Operations with a focus in Human Resources. Before joining Breakthrough, Paola worked at Initiative for a Competitive Inner City as an Office Manager providing staff operations and human resource support. Originally from Puerto Rico, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Labor Relations from the University of Puerto Rico. In her free time, she volunteers with MA HOBY, a nonprofit organization dedicated to youth leadership and volunteer service throughout Massachusetts. She enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family.
Sherley Muscade, Operations Associate
B.A. in English with double minor in African-American Studies and Women & Gender Studies from Georgetown University.
Sherley (she/her) joined the Breakthrough team in 2023 as Operations Associate. She will be helping the Operations Team prepare resources to facilitate another successful summer of learning and fun at one of the three Breakthrough campus locations: Boston, Cambridge or Somerville, two out of four neighborhoods where she formerly attended high school.
Prior to Breakthrough, Sherley served as Operations Coordinator at a startup company named ThankYouKindly and the law offices of Jason Stone Injury Lawyers. During her undergraduate years she served as a tutor for an organization called DC Reads, as well as Transportation Coordinator and eventual Co-Chair on the planning committee for Hoya Saxa Weekend, two fly-in weekends where admitted high school students visited Georgetown University’s campus in order to get a taste of what college was like before making the best matriculation decision for themselves. Her favorite part was meeting students in person and getting the opportunity to learn about them and their stories. Sherley is also a proud Haitian, first-generation college student, and low-income identifying individual, and is enthused to work with students of similar backgrounds.
In her free time, Sherley is a music fanatic, attending every concert she can afford (and even some she can’t), hanging out with friends, or scrolling on Tik Tok for hours when she should be reading or writing.
Angela DiPesa, Senior Director of Student Services
B.A in Spanish and History, Syracuse University
M.Ed in Educational Administration, University of Massachusetts Boston
Angela (she/her) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in early 2022 as the Senior Director of Student Services. She oversees all aspects of student and family services in our Middle School program to ensure that all students receive the support and resources needed to help them apply for Breakthrough and star engaged. Before Breakthrough, Angela primarily worked as a after school program leader with the education nonprofit Citizen Schools in the communities of Boston, Chelsea, and Somerville.
Outside of work, Angela enjoys spending time with family and friends, ballroom dancing, cooking elaborate meals with her friends, and hiking all over new England.
Elissa Spelman, Executive Director
B.S. in Elementary and Special Education, Boston College; M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education
Elissa (she/her) 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. 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.
Jesenia Gervacio, Senior Director of College Access
B.A. in Psychology & Spanish, Bryn Mawr College
M.Ed. in Higher Education Student Affairs Administration, The University of Vermont
Jesenia (she/her) joined Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2022. As the Senior Director of College Access, Jesenia works closely with the Managers of Early High School and Directors of College Access across all three campuses ensuring high school students and families feel supported as they transition to high school and navigate the college application process. Before joining Breakthrough, Jesenia has worked in a variety of educational settings providing support to students and families as well as training and hiring staff to support students seeking a college degree. She is excited to bring her skills and passion to Breakthrough and make new memories here. Outside of Breakthrough, Jesenia enjoys regular videocalls with her family in Florida, spending time with her friends, binge watching shows, listening to music, traveling, and trying to stay on top of her ever-growing list of books to read.
Milena Familia, Development Associate of Communications and Events
B.A. in English and Spanish from the College of the Holy Cross
Milena (she/her) joined Breakthrough in 2023 as a Development Associate for Communications and Events. In this role, Milena will be representing the BTGB brand voice through email, social media, and other communications, as well as overseeing events.
Before joining Breakthrough, Milena has focused on copywriting in various settings, most recently doing Content Strategy/UX Writing at Wayfair, with previous experience at a public relations firm and a law firm. Milena has spent some time in the classroom by volunteering as a teacher’s assistant, first for preschool students with disabilities and later for adult English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. She also volunteers as a mentor supporting public high school students from her home city through college preparation and career talks.
In her free time, Milena enjoys dancing, hiking with friends and family, trying food from different cultures, and learning about tarot and astrology.
Shannon Farrell, Development Manager of Institutional Giving
B.A in Writing Arts and Radio, Television & Film from Rowan University
Shannon Farrell (she/her) joined the Breakthrough Greater Boston team in 2021. As the Development Associate, Shannon supports Breakthrough’s fundraising efforts through grant writing and management, database management, communications, and donor stewardship.
Prior to joining Breakthrough, Shannon was the Development Associate for New Repertory Theatre and the Development and Communications Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. After minoring in Biology during college, Shannon also spent some time as a zookeeper and environmental educator at the Cape May County Zoo in New Jersey and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, MA. In her free time, she enjoys baking, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and reading the ever-growing number of books on her bookshelf.
Wynther Gedeon, Manager of Student Services (Cambridge Campus)
B.A in Public Health, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Wynther (she/her) started her journey with Breakthrough as a student in 2007. Over her six years as a student, she’s grown an immense love for learning and memories to last her a lifetime. Now she is Manager od Student services helping students foster their own amazing and unique experiences with Breakthrough. Prior to working with Breakthrough, Wynther worked as an OST Coordinator at Framingham Public Schools, running after school programming.
In her free time Wynther loves being a freelance digital artist, a foodie and reader!
bio coming soon