Our Executive Board is still in a dynamic period of growth. Current Executive Board Members are listed below.
Amy has represented young people in a variety of settings since graduating from law school in 2002. While at Brooklyn Defender Services, her role has also included fund raising and designing a state of the art representation team for older adolescents, age 16 to 24. She raised more than six hundred thousand dollars for adolescent representation while at BDS. In each of her positions, Amy has been witness to the ways in which current systems fail families with older teens challenged by a range of issues from teen pregnancy, to family conflict caused by mental illness, drug addiction, generational divides due to recent immigration, and homophobia. Haven represents an opportunity for Amy to be part of the solution to this deep fissure in existing support systems.
Jamie is an advocate by training who has spent a decade working with adolescents facing homelessness and sexual exploitation. As of September 2016, she is the Executive Director of the New York Coalition for the Homeless Youth. Previously, she directed the residential program at the Girls Educational and Mentoring Service, which provides a safe residential space for sexually exploited youth. She brings a wealth of experience to Haven in its formative years.
Jennifer is the parent of a seventeen-year-old son and an eleven-year-old daughter who she has raised as a single parent in Brooklyn. Jennifer has experienced the challenges of raising a teenager and brings a deep understanding of what parents need to Haven’s work. Further, Jennifer has taught in a pre-school and nursery school setting for well over a decade. While teaching, Jennifer has been the primary conduit of information and guidance to hundreds of parents. She will bring that experience to Haven’s work.
Vaibhavee is a counselor educator with more than 14 years of experience in the mental health field in the United States and India. She serves as an assistant professor of counselor education and clinical coordinator for mental health counseling at NJCU where she teaches, mentors and advises graduate students in school counseling and mental health counseling. She has experience working in residential facilities for youth and in providing a variety of assessments for young people. She has generously agreed to apply her skills to Haven’s work.
Paul Bellan-Boyer has lived in Jersey City since 1988. After a twenty-year career in computer systems engineering, he worked as a chaplain in the 9/11 response, and in Jersey City as a social worker and program manager. For nine years, Paul helped provide supportive housing for homeless individuals and families with special needs. He has a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a certificate in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from the Harlem Family Institute. Paul is married to the Rev. Lisa Bellan-Boyer.
Larra, an attorney by training, is the social media strategist at EE Journal. She brings her ability to communicate across media about complex issues to her work at Haven. Her skills and her deep dedication to the creation of a world in which teens can feel safe and stable make her an important resource for Haven.
Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon currently serves as the Executive Director of School Choice & Student Enrollment for Newark Public Schools in Newark, New Jersey, where she has been responsible for the launch and management of Newark’s first universal pre-kindergarten through high school enrollment system for all of Newark’s district schools and most charter schools. This includes overseeing family and school support, technology development, enrollment data management, as well as Newark’s Family Support Center which serves nearly 20,000 students and families over the course of the school year on school enrollment. Prior to joining Newark Public Schools, Gaby worked at the Connecticut State Department of Education in district and school turnaround where she supported districts under state supervision, served as the Commissioner’s Designee on school turnaround committees, managed the development of a Quality Review System, and served as the liaison to the U.S. Department of Education on the monitoring of Connecticut’s ESEA waiver implementation. Prior to the Connecticut State Department of Education, Gaby consulted Chelsea Public Schools in Chelsea, MA, on the development of a branding, marketing and customer service strategy as an Education Pioneers graduate fellow. Gaby began her career as a Teach For America Corp Member in East Harlem, New York, where she taught middle school special education in math and science. After teaching, she worked as a senior analyst at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital where she worked on business and marketing strategy for several financial products. Gaby holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Columbia University, a Masters in Teaching from Pace University, and a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Gaby is also a graduate of The Broad Residency.
A deep and experience- rich assortment of community members have committed themselves to assisting Haven in its development. Below is a short list of those that have made a long term commitment to attend planning meetings and funnel youth to the program.
Morrease, 19, is a Jersey City resident who studies at Temple University. Growing up in Jersey City and Philadelphia, Morrease knows the urban environment well. He notes that he grew up with plenty of people who would have benefitted from Haven had it been established earlier. He will add this important perspective to Haven’s advisory board. With this in mind, he is very passionate about redirecting young people before law enforcement gets involved. He serves as a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Philadelphia and will use his position on Haven’s advisory board in order to help discover truly effective methods of influencing young people.
Dwayne is a lifelong Jersey City resident with two grown daughters. A confessed former drug addict, he reports spending time on streets that adults had ceded to young people who sold drugs. In the late nineties, Dwayne reports that he had a revelation that he did not have long to live if he continued on his current path. He began a life of sobriety and founded a basketball league designed to divert Jersey City youth from violence. His organization, Peace Be Still, serves several hundred youth each year. Dwayne is heavily politically involved. He uses his political platform to create positive paths to end youth violence. He brings a deep understanding of Jersey City and its youth to Haven’s community advisory board.
Markee Smith is a DJ and long standing resident of Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood. For ten years he and other members of his college fraternity provided an informal version of Haven to neighborhood youth. Known to a large alumni network of youth he’s helped as “Big Pretty,” Markee got the trust of youth caste out of their homes and helped them to redirect their lives. He reports, proudly, that youth who lived in his house have returned to show him their master’s degrees. Inspired by these young people, Markee is back in school to obtain licensure as a high school math teacher.
Before becoming a firefighter, Steve worked as an EMT in Jersey City. Both in Jersey City and in Paterson, he has been called to the scene of conflict between an adolescent and his parents countless times. The options for these young people are scarce. Even if they don’t have a serious mental health problem, Steve is often forced to take young men to the emergency room only to have them released back home without the institution of any new solutions.