Senior management team

 

Marc Spencer

President & Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Marc Spencer has devoted his 25 plus year career to organizations that promote educational and economic opportunities to young people and communities. Marc’s leadership is defined by a commitment to social justice and equity, paired with an entrepreneurial spirit and drive. Marc joined Summer Search as Chief Executive Officer and Board President in 2017 and is leading the organization’s growth and change under a bold and visionary strategic direction.

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Prior to Summer Search, Marc served as Chief Executive Officer of Juma Ventures, a national organization that strives to break the cycle of poverty by paving the way to work, education, and financial capability for youth. Marc’s achievements include development of a San Francisco African American independent school, the design and directorship of the nation’s first Upward Bound Visual and Performing Arts program, the creation of CollegeSet.org, a national matched college savings platform for students, and the creation of YouthMade, a manufacturing internship program. He has been an adviser for the Aspen Institute and served on the boards of the National Youth Employment Coalition, Social Enterprise Alliance, Evergreen Lodge, City of San Francisco Youth Council, Oakland Workforce Investment Board, and the Museum of the African Diaspora. He holds an Ed.D. and an MA in Education from USF, and a BA in Anthropology from UCLA.

Summer Search Annual Gala

Emily Edwards

VP Development

Motivated by a deep commitment to social justice, Emily has devoted her entire career (thus far) to Summer Search and the young people we serve. Her leadership in our development and fundraising is informed by her experience as a student at Philadelphia’s renowned Central High School, where she watched her classmates break through barriers to become the first in their families to graduate high school and go on to college. Her contribution at Summer Search has been informed by their grit and courage, and the access to enhanced public education that fueled it.

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Emily began her tenure in 1999 as a Program Associate in Boston, moved into the role of Executive Director there in 2002 and was named one of Boston’s Outstanding Young Leaders in 2004. Under her leadership, our Boston team grew to partner with every public high school in the city and tripled the number of students they served.

Emily holds a B.A. in African-American Studies from Wesleyan University. When she isn’t using her significant innovative energy at work, she and her husband can be found keeping up with their three boys, seeking out new playgrounds to explore and walking in the local arboretum. She and her family make their home in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts.

Liz Hurst

VP Marketing

Liz has pulled off the dream of thousands: finding a way to turn work she loves into work that serves.

After a wake-up call in the form of a seriously ill family member, Liz left a twenty-year communications career with some of the leading advertising agencies in San Francisco. Her aim was to align her values with her work life, give back and right-size family. To our delight and great benefit, Liz chose to join Summer Search. She helps us tell our story to the world with flair, clarity and heart.

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Liz graduated magna cum laude with a BA in business economics from the University of California, Los Angeles. (Go Bruins!) When she isn’t spreading the good word for Summer Search, she loves to hang out with her large extended family, devour good books and eavesdrop on her two little girls when they are playing, especially when one of them is appropriating the role of “mom”. 

Liz and her family live in Marin County, California, in an old-fashioned neighborhood where kids walk to school and people routinely borrow cups of sugar from their neighbors.

Nick Hutchinson

Chief Operating Officer

Prior to joining Summer Search, Nick Hutchinson was the Vice President of Public Policy at Citizen Schools and the Executive Director of US2020, a national initiative to help close the opportunity gap in STEM education for girls, students of color, and children from low-income households. Launched by President Obama at the National Science Fair, US2020 serves 22,000 students in thirteen cities, creating moments of discovery for the next generation of STEM professionals.

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Prior to US2020, Nick served as COO at Juma Ventures, an award-winning social enterprise that provides employment and workforce development training to low-income students. During his tenure, Nick led fund development efforts to scale Juma's model to New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, Santa Clara and Seattle, more than doubling the agency's annual budget and quadrupling the size of Juma's youth workforce. Before Juma, Nick served as Managing Director of the Arusha Project, a microfinance institution based in East Africa. His development background includes national political campaigns and public arts projects. He has served on the Education Committee at Opportunity Nation, the Governance Committee at Voices for National Service, and the K–12 Policy Committee at the Center for American Progress. Nick graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.

Kris Leja

Kris Leja

Executive Director, Bay area

Kristine Leja has over 15 years of experience in fundraising, communications and non-profit management. She has held leadership positions at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, Edgewood Center for Children in Families and Westside Community Mental Health Services. Most recently she served as the Chief Development Officer and Interim CEO at Habitat Greater SF. 

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She has been a speaker/presenter at the Commonwealth Club, Foundation Center, NTEN, the Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals on the topics of non-profit management, marketing and fundraising. A native of Chicago, Ms. Leja holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Illinois and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She is also an advisory panel member of the International Rogare Fundraising Think Tank out of Plymouth University and has served on the board of Voice of Witness for the last six years.

Melanie Lyons

Melanie Lyons

Executive Director, Seattle

Melanie began mentoring and investing in the power of young people when she was in her teens and has never looked back. Over the last 14 years Melanie has been working in nonprofit organizations that support young people to use their power, potential and talent in personal, local and global leadership.

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Melanie received her BA and subsequently, a Masters in Social Work and Masters in Public Administration – all at the University of Washington.

She craves outdoor adventures and can often be seen on her light green bicycle named Sweet Pea. She has made a fun-filled and friend-filled home with her partner Tina and her beloved puggle Theo. She will forever be a double Husky – go UCONN and UW!

Summer Search Annual Gala

Sylvia Watts McKinney

executive director, PHILADELPHIA

Sylvia is motivated by the belief that all youth should have access to college regardless of their zip code, and is excited to serve this mission as the Executive Director of the Summer Search Philadelphia office. 

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Prior to joining Summer Search, Sylvia built an exemplary career in education and entrepreneurship. Sylvia started her real estate career with a start-up company, Taylor Properties, where she successfully negotiated and finalized construction, permanent and equity loans with private banks and government agencies to build and sell affordable, fee simple housing as well as commercial properties.

As Executive Director of the Museum of Afro American History in Boston and the Philadelphia chapter of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, she provided leadership on key strategic plans and implemented fundraising programs with staff and stakeholders, collaborated with the members of the media to promote the missions of these organizations, resulting in various articles, live television coverage and the creation of videos/films.

While as the director of the MAAH, the late Senator Edward Kennedy introduced her to First Lady Hilary Clinton.  Senator Kennedy also invited her to witness the late President Nelson Mandela be presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from President Bill Clinton.  These profound experiences re-ignited her passion to work for organizations to alleviate poverty in this country.

Sylvia holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of South Carolina and Masters of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her hobbies include travel, biking, golfing, and reading tons of comic books, especially the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series!

Summer Search Annual Gala

Peter Retzlaff

Executive Director, New York City

Following a number of years running his own business, Peter began his journey in the nonprofit sector after deciding he wanted to do work with a more permanent impact on the world around him. Now, more than a decade into his career in youth development, Peter is motivated by the trajectory shift that can occur in a young person’s life as a result of intentional, high quality programming. The belief that the most profound impact of this work is that the benefits will continue to reveal themselves over years, lifetimes and even generations of families is a critical driver to what we get to do in this field.

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Prior to Summer Search Peter led Community for Youth, a life-skills and mentoring program in Seattle where he lived for many years. In Seattle Peter also did extensive work with Youth Development Executives of King County, The Weikert Center’s Youth Program Quality Assessment tool, and Washington State Mentors Quality Mentoring Assessment Pathway Taskforce all of which worked to elevate the impact of mentoring young people. That work, seeing the incredible results that uncommonly intentional and professionalized mentoring yield, elevated the type of program that he wanted to work with. A move back home to the east coast brought him eagerly to Summer Search NYC.

Peter’s commitment to social justice extends beyond the workplace to a number of Boards and other volunteer opportunities including Fremont Community Therapy Project, Providence Hospitality House and work in King County Jail and Monroe State Prison. Now in NJ/NY after more than 20 years out west, Peter is looking forward to getting re-engaged in the local community. And in the days between there is always more live music to check out, more books to read, and more movies to see.

Will Schwartz

Chief of Staff

Will has seen first-hand the unjust barriers in place for students from low-income communities to achieve their full potential, and he is committed to the idea that these barriers can be overcome through the commitment of communities.

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Will worked with underserved youth in elementary schools through City Year and Communities In Schools. These experiences led him to Notre Dame where he earned an MBA with an emphasis on corporate social responsibility and social justice.

He joined Summer Search via Education Pioneers where his role includes leading strategic planning and implementation efforts, executing key strategic initiatives supporting the executive team, and overseeing business operations.

Will grew up in the shadows of the Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he participated in NOLS and Teton Science School.

He is proficient in Spanish, and has lived abroad in Chile and Spain. Will currently lives in Oakland where he enjoys discovering new hiking trails, perusing the local farmers’ markets, and playing in a Sunday soccer league.

Ching Tao

VP Finance

Ching has more than 20 years of experience in financial services and management. Most recently she served as CFO of Noah Holdings Ltd, a Chinese wealth management and asset management company and then as CEO of Noah US.

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Prior to Noah, she served as the CFO for Charter Group Holdings Ltd, a mega-scale department store operator based in Beijing. Ching worked at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, New York and Beijing and holds an MBA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College.

Summer Search Annual Gala

Hermese Velasquez

Executive Director, boston

A native of Belize, Central America and a first-generation college graduate, Hermese has firsthand experience with the game changing power of education. Hermese’s long-standing commitment to Summer Search spans multiple roles, including participant during her high school years, Alumni Board Chair, and member of the Summer Search Boston Board of Directors.  It is Hermese’s delight and Summer Search’s great fortune to have her add staff member to that list, stepping into the role of Boston Executive Director in December 2016. 

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Before joining the Summer Search staff, Hermese was a results-oriented Project Manager in the travel industry. She has provided project management over several top priority initiatives and enterprise wide implementations, cultivating her skills in data analysis, risk assessment, communication, relationship building, and change management, vital talents for a non-profit leader. While her professional experience is heavy in the project management capacity, her volunteer experience has been dominated by Summer Search! Though Hermese’s after work haven is now her full-time gig, she continues to volunteer as a coach for adults reentering college.

During the warmer months, Hermese enjoys daily 5Ks while listening to Beyoncé and Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits! She also loves to travel and has visited at least 1 new country a year for the past 5 years; with 5 continents, down and 2 more to go! Hermese and her family live in Boston.