Summer Search

New York City 


90 Broad Street, Suite 701 New York, NY 10004MAP
T (212) 248-7401
448 E 149th Street, #2, Bronx, NY 10455MAP

Latest News AND EVENTS

2020 Virtual soirée - join us on 9/24!


NYC Golf and Tennis


Every September, the Summer Search New York City Associate Board -- a group of young professionals who share the organization’s commitment to helping students thrive -- hosts an annual Soirée to raise funds and awareness for Summer Search. The Soirée is one of our most successful events, typically welcoming 250 guests and raising over $150,000 annually. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s in-person event had to be cancelled. In its place, the Associate Board has generously agreed to host a Virtual Soirée to give the Summer Search community an opportunity to come together, reflect on 2020, and hear from our students. Please see below for full details – we hope you can join us!


Date: Thursday, 9/24

Time: 7:45 - 8:30pm

Where: Zoom




Peter Retzlaff, Summer Search New York City Executive Director


Graves Tompkins, Summer Search New York City Board Chair

See all New York City Board
Johnathan Pruzan

The Associate Board

Learn more



Braulio Acuria

Program Associate 

Braulio saw the strength of youth empowerment when he traveled to Malawi, Africa in high school. It’s there where he saw people of all ages, especially the teenagers building a school brick by brick. Since then, Braulio has been an advocate for youth development for over 8 years.

As a proud Bronx native and first generation American, Braulio has completed his undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at St. Lawrence University. In addition, he received his Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.

Braulio has worked with organizations like City-Year, the Fresh Air Fund and the TRIO program: Upward Bound. Most recently, Braulio transitioned out of buildOn, where he served alongside Bronx youth in many service-learning projects. For nearly 5 years, he organized 25,000 hours of service and helped build 6 schools across the world with youth.

Ivan Aguilera

Post-Secondary Program Coordinator

Ivan is passionate about social justice and creating a more equitable world that creates opportunities for those that lack them. He was inspired to do this work when he served as a youth mentor in his hometown of Stockton, California.

After changing majors from engineering to sociology, Ivan transferred to San Francisco State University where he continued his new passion of teaching and mentoring youth. He spent over 5 years in the Mission District of San Francisco where he supported youth and their families in making higher education the expectation.

After living in California his entire life, he moved to New York City to continue this work of inspiring marginalized youth to achieve their goals and dreams. He currently lives in Jackson Heights in Queens and is enjoying the diverse community.


Danya Allswang 

Program Associate

Danya is a visionary and a leader. She has had the opportunity to mentor individuals of all ages in various settings such as dance studios, foster homes, and correctional facilities. Driven by innovation and a desire to see a better tomorrow, Danya has utilized rehabilitative and restorative justice practices, as well as formal and informal therapeutic techniques, to encourage positive development.
After graduating high school, Danya took a gap year to volunteer with foster youth overseas. After a year of self-growth, she obtained her B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland.
An avid dancer, Danya has practiced many forms of the art including: West African, Jazz, Modern, Afro-Jazz, Ballet, and, her favorite and most studied, Hip-Hop. Her favorite animal is the baby elephant and she has never eaten a waffle that she didn’t love!

Sharielle Applewhite

Program Manager

Sharielle is a community organizer and first-generation American with roots proudly planted in the Caribbean twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Being a product of both forced and voluntary migration cultivated her passion for closing the opportunity gap for people of color in the United States.

She completed her undergraduate degree in Sociology at the University of Connecticut where she was also a student of Student Support Services, a TRIO program. She later received her Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Hunter College.

Prior to Summer Search, she facilitated anti-racist trainings, organized college students and led social cohesion dialogues. What brought Sharielle to Summer Search is her desire to work with the leadership development of


Alfonso Beale

School & Community Engagement Coordinator

As an emerging change-agent, Alfonso believes every young person has limitless potential. He believes with intentional exposure and support along with healthy spaces—each young person can actualize their potential. Prior to Summer Search, Alfonso worked as a Budget and Policy Analyst with the legislative branch in Prince George’s County, Maryland while working as a Program Coordinator with a non-profit organization in Washington DC that serves black and brown boys and young men.

Originally from Silver Spring Maryland, Alfonso graduated from Howard University where he received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Bachelor of Arts in English, and Masters of Social Work from the Howard University School of Social Work. He comes with vast experience and is excited about the opportunity to contribute to the mission and vision of Summer Search.

In his free time, you can catch Alfonso sitting in front of his laptop crafting blogs for his website, looking up cheap flights to different countries for his next trip, or exploring New York City and all the food and culture it has to offer.

Emily Behan

Development Director

Emily works with Summer Search’s corporate partners to build strong relationships that result in more opportunities for Summer Search students. She is thrilled to be part of a team that is focused on helping young adults reach their full potential, and is inspired by the many successes – both big and small – of Summer Search students and alums. 

Prior to joining Summer Search, Emily was the Development Manager at Community Solutions International, where she worked with foundations and corporations to fund systems-level initiatives aimed at improving public health outcomes. She has also held development roles at CCS Fundraising, Freeman Philanthropic Services, and New York Needs You.
Emily graduated from Furman University with a degree in Economics and went on to take classes at Columbia University’s Masters in Fundraising Management program. In her spare time, you might find her updating her list of New York City restaurants to eat at or reading back issues of her favorite magazines.

Dante Bravo

Post-Secondary Program Associate

Bravo is first-generation, queer and trans college graduate from Mexican-Nicaraguan parents, born and raised in Miami, FL. A Posse Alumnus from the first Miami cohort at Syracuse University, Bravo has been working with communities of color on educational equity since their first semester on campus with the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Community Service in Syracuse, NY. Since then, they've worked with Breakthrough New York, Breakthrough Miami, and DREAM (formerly known as Harlem RBI) on helping students navigate institutions, times of transition, and difficult (but necessary!) conversations around race, class, gender, sexuality, and more.

Bravo holds a Television, Radio, and Film degree with a double major in Women's and Gender Studies from Syracuse University, and is currently pursuing their Master's degree in Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Nancy Brito

Post- Secondary Access Manager

Nancy graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2013 with a B.A in English Literature. During her college experience, she realized that she had a passion for advocacy and action, particularly with underserved students. As a first generation college student herself, she realized the importance of giving back to her community and ensuring that other students have the opportunity to attend and graduate from college.

Nancy volunteered with Summer Search in 2014 as the College Access Fellow because she wanted to be part of an organization that not only provides college access but life-changing experiences. After volunteering with Summer Search, she assisted ninth grade students with their transition to high school. She is now very excited to be back at Summer Search as a mentor!

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her pre–teen cousin even though her cousin would probably enjoy spending less time with her.  

Whitney Childs

Development Manager

Whitney supports Summer Search’s New York City and Seattle development teams, focusing on institutional giving and development operations. After working for Summer Search for many years, she remains inspired by the students she has been able to meet and committed to ending educational inequity across the country.

Whitney earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University. In addition to her work with Summer Search, Whitney has worked in international development, managing institutional fundraising for a women’s university in Rwanda.

After ten years in New York City, Whitney recently relocated to Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, you can find her testing out hiking trails, exploring her new city or watching reality television – all under the supervision of her two dogs.

Jason Choi

Senior Program Director

Motivated by the desire for all people to see their true value, Jason is wholeheartedly committed to Summer Search's mission and vision. 

Jason supports newer mentors and is particularly focused on using data to inform decisions and improve program quality. 

Jason earned his BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida and his MA in Mathematics Education from the University of Central Florida. Prior to Summer Search, Jason was a math teacher and spent semester breaks touring the eastern US, singing songs for strangers and sampling local cuisine. 

These days he enjoys quiet mornings of prayer and louder evenings with friends, family, and food. Jason resides in Brooklyn with his lovely wife.

Borah 2

Borah Coburn

Program Associate

Every human being deserves to live, learn, laugh, and develop their dreams in a just world. As a Program Associate at Summer Search, Borah supports mentees with love, advocacy, and strategy to help them realize future success and celebrate current triumphs.

Before joining Summer Search, Borah taught literacy and global citizenship in the Bronx. Borah was honored to receive the 2017 Excellence in Education award from the Committee for Teaching on the United Nations for her work as a NYC Junior Ambassador educator.

Borah holds a BA from Boston University and an MA from the Hunter College School of Education. An adventurer herself, Borah recently joined an archeologic expedition in Mongolia. Future adventures will hopefully include retracing a medieval pilgrimage route, climbing Machu Picchu, and skydiving. But on any given Tuesday, you’ll find Borah swing dancing (or trying!), haunting East Harlem farmers’ markets, and singing duets with her partner.


Dariela Colon

Program Associate

Dariela is a Summer Search alum who is passionate about youth development and giving back. After high school, Dariela learned just how critical it is to have a strong support system and access to resources. Dariela had a community she could turn to for support but knew this was not the case for everybody. She decided to pursue a career in youth development and work towards bridging the equity gap. Before joining the Summer Search team, she worked with buildOn where she engaged youth in service-learning. This experience allowed her to explore different ways to support students and work with them to address community issues that mattered to them.

Dariela attended Fordham University where she earned her B.S in Psychology and is currently pursuing her MPA from Baruch. When she is not at Summer Search, Dariela can be found reading poetry, spending time with her family, exploring new recipes or training.

Dariela is excited to be a part of the team and give back to a community that had such a profound impact on her.

Sabriya Dillard

Program Associate

Sabriya has 10 years of experience in working with children and adolescence in both schools and nonprofit settings. She is daily driven by her passion for integrating liberatory approaches to issues of social justice, mental health awareness, and the creation of spaces for individual and communal healing. Her greatest joy is walking with youth through their journeys towards self-awareness, self-love, and social responsibility. With a master’s degree in Social Work and focus in clinical therapy, she also brings her clinical skills, and background in mental health treatment to working as a Mentor here at Summer Search.

Some interesting facts about Sabriya are that she published a thesis in grad school entitled "The Celebration of Black Beauty in Online Spaces as a Form of Social and Political Resistance." Among her favorite things to do are spending time with her family in upstate New York and expressing her creativity and her faith through writing, song writing, and playing music.

Joel Falcon

Program Associate

As a proud Summer Search alum, Joel thanks Summer Search for all the support in helping him overcome the many obstacles of a first-generation college graduate. Now being a mentor in the program, it is a welcome home back to the program and he is very excited to give back to a new class of Summer Searchers.
Joel graduated from the City College of New York with a BS in Psychology and Business Administration. He hopes his experience with Summer Search can be a testimony and a helping hand in the growth and successes of other Summer Search Students.
Prior to working for Summer Search, Joel worked at The Fellowship Initiative, a college-prep and career readiness program sponsored by JPMorgan Chase that focuses on young men of color. Outside of being a mentor, Joel is practicing his Brazilian Portuguese and Italian and always staying up to date in political and business news.

Emily FitzGerald

Director College Success & Alumni Relations

Emily believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive. Her commitment to education equality is her constant compass. 

Emily came to Summer Search as a mentor and helped launch the College Success program. She experiences the beauty and power of the longevity of Summer Search as college freshmen become college graduates before her eyes. 

Emily holds a B.A. in Classical Languages from Hamilton College and worked at NYC Audubon as the Development Associate and Membership Director. She served in AmeriCorps as a Literacy Tutor at an elementary school in Oakland, California and taught English along the Amazon River in Peru. 

When she’s not laughing with her hilarious coworkers, she can be found doing crossword puzzles, hiking in the Hudson River Valley, exploring her hometown on her bicycle or birding in the city's parks. She lives in Brooklyn and plays Frisbee with her husband.


Naima Fine Iles

High School Program Director

Driven to change the world for young people of color, Naima comes to Summer Search emboldened to inspire our students to “be the change they wish to see in the world.”

Naima went to the New School, loves to wear her many hats, and is invigorated by direct service in youth work. She led a team of activists to the Dominican Republic where they advocated for children’s rights, an end to machismo, and conducted anti-racist conversations. She is comfortable being sister, friend, Mother, activist, leader, counselor, advisor, challenger, mentor to her students and fights for them every single day.

On a day Naima isn’t working, she is usually laughing, talking emphatically, cozied up with some of her favorite novels, drinking hot chocolate, listening to Sade, playing capoeira, watching bad TV, being lit up with joy by her nieces, and loving hard.

Cynthia 2222.jpgCynthia Garcia

Program Associate

Cynthia is first generation Mexican-American born and raised in San Clemente, California. Being one of the first in her family, she graduated Loyola Marymount University in 2016 where she received her B.A. in Modern Languages. Soon after she committed to a year of service, providing counseling services to high school students in Bushwick, through Good Shepherd Volunteers.

Cynthia strongly believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to explore their highest potential. The phrase “It takes a village” highly resonates with the amount of support she believes we all need in order to help achieve all our goals. Cynthia strives to be able to help youth reach their goals, be part of that “village,” and be the support they need and want. When she is not at work, Cynthia enjoys spending time with her friends and going back to California to visit her family. Being relatively new to New York City, she enjoys exploring new areas and discovering what this city has to offer.

Cynthia 2222.jpgMaya Hawkins

Program Associate

Maya is passionate about working with and empowering youth to slowly take over the world and make it a better place. She also cares a lot about addressing systemic inequality and sees those two passions as intrinsically connected. Maya grew up in New York City and went to NYU for college. She graduated in 2018 having studied Anthropology with a focus on race and gender. After college Maya organized volunteers in schools through an organization called Repair the World, where she became (more) passionate about educational equity.

In her free time, Maya enjoys reading pretty much all books but especially sci-fi, and walking into comic book and book shops around the city. Maya lives in Brooklyn with many, many roommates and even more plants.

Jill Kantrowitz

Associate Director of Development

Jill is inspired by generosity and courage, and she is grateful to learn from, and be challenged by, Summer Search students. Jill currently manages our foundation relationships, grants and proposals to help ensure that more students can feel appreciated, respected, and at home – while being pushed to reach for big dreams. 

With over 17 years of experience in the non-profit sector, Jill’s previous roles have included teaching and managing sexuality education programs in Boston, as well as working in HIV-prevention and treatment services in Boston, New York City and the North Carolina Department of Corrections. 

Jill holds a BA in Psychology-Sociology from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. When she isn’t typing, Jill prefers to be swimming laps in any kind of pool, dreams about writing a novel that makes people laugh, and chases two overly active small male children.

Rachel Mazara 

Operations Coordinator

Rachel believes supporting the youth is essential to building a better today and tomorrow for young people and for the larger world. She has always worked closely with children and young adults helping them grow and accomplish their goals. From working in a high school and a university she became sure that she would always be where she is inspiring and being that support system every student should have. She is thrilled to be apart of an organization where she can inspire and help students feel empowered to reach their goals. 

Rachel is a first-generation college student who graduated from Montclair State University where she received a BA in Psychology. She lives in New Jersey and In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family and friends, travel, and listen to music.

Bethany Nelson

Corporate Relations Manager

As a dedicated proponent of educational equity and opportunity, Bethany is passionate about Summer Search’s mission. Having worked on the program side for several years, leading outreach and recruitment of new Summer Search students, Bethany is excited to bring her relationship-building skills to fundraising. She is driven by a deep desire to ensure all youth have equitable access to the resources and opportunities that cultivate self-empowerment, joy and growth.

Bethany spent several years as the Director of Youth Programs at Hartley House. She has also worked as a research assistant in housing policy issues and interned at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in D.C. She graduated from Pace University with a BA in Applied Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies and received her Masters of Public Administration from Baruch College. Proud of having lived in four out of NYC's five boroughs, she can currently be found in Sunnyside, Queens.

Sheakira Perry-West

Senior Program Associate

Born and raised in the South Bronx, growing up Sheakira fully understood the challenges that came with living in poverty. Never getting discouraged Sheakira has fostered resiliency and a profound commitment to receiving a higher education. With the power of mentorship, Sheakira was able to study both Community Health Education and Psychology at Hunter College.

Passionate about ending social disparities and helping individuals reach their fullest potential by the means of empowerment, Sheakira has done an array of duties in the fields of advocacy and youth development. Before working at Summer Search she has served as a behavior interventionist in which she applied restorative justice practices. She has also done community organizing work, one of the things that she has done is organize a Peace and Justice fair in which youth were able to bring awareness to the injustices they felt they faced as black and brown teens.

When Sheakira is not working at Summer Search, she is practicing self-care. She loves to eat sushi, coach softball to youth, read novels, write poetry, volunteer in her community and spend time with her family preferably traveling around the world.


Mat Pryfogle

Summer Program Manager

Harvey Fierstein said “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.” It is this sentiment of courage and ambition that motivates me to empower our amazing students to make the same decisions for themselves. 

Mat holds a BS degree in French Education from Bowling Green State University and has thirst for knowledge that led him to study and work in France, Burkina Faso, French Canada & China. 

Mat has worked at a summer camp that taught peace, social justice & environmental stewardship, and at buildOn where he engaged high school students in community service and led service trips to developing countries. 

Mariah Salyer

Summer Program Coordinator

Mariah comes to Summer Search with passion for social justice and youth development. After spending several summers working with Summer Search participants as an outdoor educator, Mariah was thrilled to join the team as a mentor. Mariah is dedicated to making education accessible regardless of socioeconomic status and enjoys sharing her love for the outdoors with youth.

Mariah began her career with Colorado Youth for a Change where she did dropout prevention and student advocacy work with high school students. Before coming to Summer Search Mariah managed a peer mentoring program in the Denver area with students at Adams City High School.

Mariah was born in Oregon and attended high school in New Mexico, where she fell in love with the desert and mountain landscapes of the southwest. Mariah holds a BA from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, where she studied developmental psychology and public health. In her free time, you can find Mariah hiking, backpacking or making art.

Justin Robinson

Donor Relations Coordinator

A lifelong passion for working with youth and the belief that access to quality education should be available to all drew Justin to Summer Search.

Justin earned his B.S. in Music from the University of Central Missouri and a M.M. in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University. It was through music and his time at Rutgers that Justin fully realized his desire to pursue a career in education. Prior to joining Summer Search, Justin worked in development for Jazz House Kids, a non-profit music organization based in New Jersey.

In his spare time, Justin enjoys traveling, cooking, watching baseball, and exploring the many jazz clubs of New York City. Justin lives in Newark with his girlfriend and their extremely feisty cat.

Maxiel Sanchez

Development Associate

Maxiel is passionate about helping youth from underrepresented backgrounds and communities. She is a Summer Search alumna and graduated high school in 2013. Right after college, she went to pursue her BA at Connecticut College from where she graduated in May 2017. Maxiel is looking to give back to low-income communities all the support and guidance that she received from Summer Search.

Maxiel double majored in Sociology and Hispanic Studies while at Connecticut College. The summer of her Junior year she interned at Hola Magazine in the Dominican Republic. During her time there she researched the miss-representation of Black Dominican women in the country and how such misrepresentation speaks to the internalized racism that exists in the Dominican Republic.

In her spare time, Maxiel likes to travel, watch movies and read books. One of her favorite books is the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because of the idea behind it of appreciating what happens in the path to finding your destiny. She also loves to spend quality time with her friends and family.


Silvi Shameti

Program Associate

Silvi believes that critical awareness of one’s identity can be the foundation of strength, resilience, and self-love. She wants to help youth feel empowered and independent in a world that is filled with navigating difficult situations and emotions.

Silvi is an immigrant and a staunch New Yorker whose childhood was built in Brooklyn. She received a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Education from Haverford College. After graduation, Silvi joined Teach for America and received an M.A. in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Silvi previously taught 6th grade biology and loved to watch her students’ faces as they carried out experiments and investigations in the classroom. In her spare time, she enjoys being part of a book club, traveling to new places, and trying out new recipes.

Jené Toussaint

Program and Training Director

Dedicated to social change and a commitment to understanding history, culture and the impact that racism and other intersections have on individuals and communities, Jené is continually inspired by authentic conversations and relationship building.

Jené provides mentoring and training support to Program Associates and loves the opportunity to create spaces where people feel supported and heard.

Jené graduated from Brandeis University and holds a MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work.

In her spare time, Jené enjoys laughing, learning from, and supporting her friends and family. She enjoys music, reading fantasy books, cats, swimming in the ocean, and sleeping in. She has spent the last couple of summers travelling to Cuba, and getting involved with community organizing efforts.

She currently lives in Brooklyn, and dreams of spending the winters in the Caribbean.


Stephanie Zapata

Program Associate

Born, raised, and still thriving in The Bronx, Stephanie Zapata comes with 6 years experience in youth development, program coordination, and sex education (liberation). Stephanie has worked with young people of color throughout her career and personal life.

As a self-identified Queer Latinx Womyn, Stephanie's passion lies in working with and for marginalized communities. As a result of continuous direct actions and community mobilizing, Stephanie received a Certification of Merit from Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Junior, for her work with the LGBTQ+ community of The Bronx. Having spent years working at a macro level in large groups and classrooms, Stephanie is now shifting her focus to the microlens of one on one mentorship. Stephanie firmly believes that without education there can be no long-lasting and meaningful liberation and has joined Summer Search to do her part.

Supporting Young People to Thrive.