Meet WHEDco’s Leadership!
Davon Russell – President
Davon Russell is a lifelong educator and mentor who believes in the transformative power of early childhood and youth education and the arts. In his work, he is a dedicated fighter for equity and opportunity for communities of color, and a thoughtful leader of a talented and committed staff that serves families and communities across the city.
Born in Jamaica to a single mother, Davon excelled early on as a scholar and athlete at the prestigious Kingston College high school and was recruited by the University of Oregon on a full track scholarship. While in Eugene, he also discovered a love of the theater as an outlet for personal expression and persuasion. After earning his BA in Humanities and his MA in Journalism and Theater, he was a professional actor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Prior to becoming WHEDco’s President in 2017, Davon had long combined his love for the arts with support, guidance, mentoring and educating for youth. He began his career at WHEDco in 1997 as a part-time after school teacher and steadily rose through the organization over 20 years, serving as Executive Vice President since 2010. Under Davon’s leadership, WHEDco’s youth programs—serving infants, toddlers, school-age youth, and teens— have helped tens of thousands of young people build their skills, access resources, develop their creative and innovative potential, and become leaders.
Davon is the co-founder and Board Chair of the South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School and serves on the Boards of Bronx Lacrosse and DreamYard. He is a Captain in the founding coalition of the Bronx Community Relief Effort. He is also a member of the Racial Justice and Equity Task Force for the Weill Cornell Department of Medicine, as well as the Lehman College School of Education Professional Education Advisory Committee. He previously served on the Board of Grace Church School and was appointed by two consecutive Bronx Borough Presidents – Adolfo Carrión Jr. and Ruben Diaz Jr. – to serve eight years on the New York City Department of Education’s Community Education Council.
Rebecca Kramnick – Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Rebecca joined WHEDco in 2005 after working for four years as a senior staff attorney at Lawyers Alliance for New York, a non-profit law firm serving community-based organizations in New York City. At Lawyers Alliance, Rebecca advised non-profits on a wide range of legal issues, including employment, corporate, tax, and insurance law. She has provided training to non-profit managers on legal topics pertinent to their work, and has also taught continuing legal education courses to attorneys on subjects related to non-profit and employment law. She is a co-author of The Volunteer Workforce: Legal Issues and Best Practices for Nonprofits, published by Lawyers Alliance. Prior to working at Lawyers Alliance, Rebecca practiced employment law at three New York City law firms. Rebecca currently serves as a Board member of the Hoboken Homeless Shelter and is the Founding Chair of Health Republic of New Jersey, a non-profit health insurance company established under the Affordable Care Act. She earned her BA from Harvard College and her JD from Cornell Law School.
Jonathan Springer – Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
Jonathan joined WHEDco in 2015 with extensive community development experience in the government, private, and non-profit sectors. Most recently, he directed development finance for the New York City Housing Development Corporation, and previously oversaw real estate and project finance for the Empire State Development Corporation. At Citibank and Bank of America, he financed affordable housing construction, including construction of WHEDco’s Intervale Green development. Jonathan started his career in New York City affordable housing development over two decades ago, working with a community-based organization in Washington Heights. Jonathan earned his BA from Harvard College and his JD and MBA from New York University.
Nancy Biberman – Founder and President Emerita
Nancy is an expert on green, affordable housing and community development with over thirty years of experience in advocating for greater equity and justice in New York City. She began her career as a Legal Services lawyer and went on to help create the SRO Law Project. While studying at Columbia University’s School of Architecture and Planning with a Revson Fellowship, she conceived and developed the West End Intergenerational Residence. Subsequently, she developed over 700 units of affordable housing in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Nancy founded WHEDco in 1991 and served as its President until September 2017, and Davon Russell was named as her successor. She has assumed a more limited role at WHEDco, focused on housing development and policy, and will continue to serve as senior advisor to WHEDco’s Bronx Commons development through its completion in 2019. Nancy has received the Paul Davidoff Award for Leadership in Housing and Equal Opportunity from the American Planning Association, the Fannie Baer Besser Award for Public Service from Rutgers Law School, and a James A. Johnson Fellowship from the Fannie Mae Foundation. Nancy received her BA from Barnard College of Columbia University and her JD from Rutgers University School of Law. Nancy serves on the Board of Directors of Hostos Community College Foundation and the Freelancers Union Insurance Company.
Kerry A. McLean – Vice President, Community Development
Kerry McLean directs WHEDco’s neighborhood planning, commercial revitalization, and creative place-affirming initiatives, and managed the launch and operations of the Bronx Music Heritage Center. She has over 20 years of community development experience in the U.S. and overseas. Prior to WHEDco, she was a Housing Planner in the Office of the Bronx Borough President and coordinated business and employer engagement on BronxWorks’ workforce team. She participates on ANHD’s Equitable Reinvestment Committee advocating for responsible and accessible banking and reinvestment citywide. As a national LISC Rubinger Fellow, Kerry conducted research on the gaps and opportunities for financial health and wealth-building among immigrants in the Bronx, and prior, she was a Coro NY Neighborhood Leadership Fellow. Her work has been featured by the American Planning Association, Americans for the Arts, the International Downtown Association, Municipal Arts Society, TEDx Manhattan, and the NYC Departments of Health, Small Business Services, and Parks. She is an alumna of Hunter College-CUNY (Master of Urban Planning) and American University (Master of Arts in International Development).
Diana Perez – Vice President, Home-Based Childcare Services
Diana joined WHEDco in 1995 and has been the driving force behind our crucial work in home-based early childcare, for which WHEDco is recognized city- and state-wide. She and her team of more than 90 staff members teach licensed/registered home-based childcare providers to become successful small business owners, ensuring children in their care receive healthy food, excellent educational curricula, and access to motor development and physical exercise. In addition, her team ensures that over 30,000 unlicensed childcare providers throughout the city meet health and safety childcare standards for low-income families. Prior to joining WHEDco, Diana worked with the Athena Project, a community-based childcare microenterprise program in the Bronx, and with the Mount Hope Housing Corporation as a Parent Educator. She was trained at Bank Street College of Education and is an advocate and policy advisor on childcare licensing issues and practices. Diana holds a BA from Lehman College and an MA in Public Administration from Baruch College.
Doxene Roberts – Vice President, Family Support and Housing Services
Doxene joined WHEDco in 1998 and has over two decades of clinical social work experience with individuals and families in the Bronx and Westchester. Doxene manages WHEDco’s center- and school-based family support programs, providing social-emotional services to students and their families. Doxene served as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Prevent Child Abuse New York for seven years and organized a neighborhood walk each April to raise awareness. She holds a BS in Social Work from Lehman College, and an MSW and Post-Masters Certificate in Child and Adolescence Therapy from Fordham University.
Julia Roberts – Vice President, Development and External Affairs
Julia joined WHEDco in 2010 and leads WHEDco’s efforts to connect communications and development opportunities to support organizational growth and sustainability, and to raise WHEDco’s profile locally and nationally. Previously, Julia directed WHEDco’s foundation, corporate, and government fundraising efforts. Prior to WHEDco, Julia was the Grant Writer for the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation in San Francisco, as well as a development consultant for several domestic and international non-profit start-ups. In 2008, she won the National Association of Development Organizations Innovation Award for her work developing small business employee health and disaster preparedness programs for the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. She began her development career launching corporate workplace giving campaigns through Minnesota Shares (formerly Community Solutions Fund). Julia has a BA from Macalester College.
Vera Amaral – Assistant General Counsel & Director of Human Resources
Vera joined WHEDco in 2018 with a varied legal and human resources experience. Prior to joining WHEDco, Vera spent seven years at New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York, first as Assistant Counsel and Title IX Coordinator, and then as Executive Director of Human Resources. Prior to joining New York City College of Technology, Vera worked as a judicial law clerk at the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas and as associate in a Philadelphia-based law firm with a nationwide practice. Vera holds a B.A. from Trinity College and a J.D. from Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law, where she served as Managing Editor of the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review. In her free time, Vera is a passionate supporter of animal welfare issues and enjoys visiting Vera Jo the Lamb at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York.
Katie Aylwin – Senior Director of Education and Youth Development
Katie joined WHEDco in 2005 and currently supervises a staff of 65, including teaching artists and high school employees, to ensure the highest level of youth programming across WHEDco’s three partner schools. Previously at WHEDco, she was Director of the Teen Program and mentor to the first cohort of Project STEP students. Prior to joining WHEDco, Katie taught at Columbia University’s Double Discovery Center, a program for low-income students in New York City, and at New Smyrna Beach High School in Florida, where she received the New Teacher of the Year Award in 2003. Katie holds a BA in History from the University of Florida.
Nicole Lavan – Senior Director of Research, Policy and Evaluation
Nicole joined WHEDco in 2012 and maintains more than 10 years of experience in policy research and evaluation. Nicole leads WHEDco’s efforts to investigate the impact of WHEDco’s programs, designs and conducts research projects, manages data resources, and works to expand WHEDco’s voice on policy issues. Previously, Nicole was the Director of Research and Evaluation at Nontraditional Employment for Women, and the Senior Policy Analyst for Child Welfare and Workforce Development at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. Nicole holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Meredith Leverich – Director of Strategic Initiatives
Meredith joined WHEDco in 2011. In her current role, Meredith works closely with WHEDco’s President, Executive Team and other Senior Leadership to identify opportunities for organizational growth, and design and implement special initiatives, such as WHEDco’s COVID-19 Food Security Program. She oversees the organization’s individual giving strategy, including cultivating major donor and corporate relationships, developing donor materials, and spearheading all fundraising events. As part of this work, Meredith launched WHEDco’s Associate Board in 2015, a group of young professionals who support the organization by raising funds and awareness and by building internal capacity through pro bono expertise. Meredith also played an integral role in WHEDco’s efforts to plan and open a charter middle school in the South Bronx. Meredith holds a BA and an MA in English from St. John’s University, and was a member of the inaugural class of Ozanam Scholars (Class of 2011).
Elena Martinez – Co-Artistic Director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center
Elena is the Co-Artistic Director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center, a gallery and performance space that celebrates the Bronx’s musical and artistic legacy, and she has been a Folklorist at City Lore since 1997. She has produced or co-produced documentaries such as From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale (PBS 2006, winner of a 2007 ALMA Award for Best TV Documentary), We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo (SXSW Festival 2015), and Eddie Palmieri: A Revolution on Harlem River Drive (Red Bull Academy 2016). She has worked as a curator or assistant curator on several exhibitions, including ¡Que bonita bandera!: The Puerto Rican Flag as Folk Art and Nueva York: 1613-1945. She has published numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals and publications, and she serves on the Advisory Boards for Casita Maria/Dancing in the Streets’ South Bronx Culture Trail, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies Archive at Hunter College, and Los Pleneros de la 21. She has been awarded a 2013 BOROMIX Puerto Rican Heritage Award, Comité Noviembre’s Lo Mejor de Nuestra Comunidad 2013, and a 2016 Community Award by El Maestro’s Cultural & Educational Center. Presently, she is working on a research project focusing on the Afro-Puerto Rican participation in the 369th Regimental Band (the “Harlem Hellfighters”) during WWI.
Ines Solis – Controller
Ines joined WHEDco in 2018. A senior accounting and financial management executive with over 15 years of experience, Ines has worked with startups and multi-million dollar nonprofit organizations, including Selfhelp Community Services, Daughters of Israel, United Hebrew Geriatric Center, among others. Prior to joining WHEDco, she served as the Acting CFO at Children’s Community Services, where she reviewed and implemented existing policies and procedures to reduce risk and ensure compliance with governmental and contractual requirements, and led the finance team in updating the financial records in preparation for external audits. She has extensive experience leading the external audit process, and leading the implementation of new software systems for various organizations. Ines possesses a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Herbert H. Lehman College.
Silvana Vasconcelos – Director of the UH Early Childhood Discovery Center
Silvana joined WHEDco as the Director of the Urban Horizons Early Childhood Discovery Center in 2014. She is an expert in family literacy and has designed intergenerational literacy educational programs for community based organizations and libraries. Silvana has worked as a family educator in the Brazilian Rainforest and in New York City. She holds a BA in Applied Linguistics and Education from Queens College and an MA in Adult Education and Family Literacy from Pennsylvania State University.