Our Board

Our board keeps us focused on what matters most.

Our board counsels Flamboyan’s President and provides governance over the business, affairs, and impact of the organization.

Rea Carey

Board Member

Rea Carey has served on the Flamboyan board of directors since its founding. She shares a vision for improved outcomes and excellence in public education for all children. Rea most recently served as the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. Currently, she is the Principal of Carey Forward, LLC providing consulting and strategic advice to executive leaders.

She has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit start-up, fundraising, and fiscal sustainability, program oversight, boards of directors, management, and leadership development. She has worked extensively in HIV/AIDS prevention for youth and young adults. Rea was the founding executive director of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. In 1999, the Advocate named Rea one of its “Best and Brightest” for individual contributions to the LGBT rights movement.

In addition to serving on Flamboyan’s board since its founding, Rea currently serves on the board of directors of the Freeman Foundation and has served on the board of directors for the Alliance for Justice, and for Sapientis, advancing social and economic development in Puerto Rico by developing leaders who improve public education. She has also served as an advisor to individual major donors and foundations and has served on the advisory boards for such wide-ranging publications as Teen People magazine and the Georgetown University Journal of Gender and the Law. She earned her master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She lives in Washington, DC with her partner and daughter.

Kristin Ehrgood

CEO and Board Chair

Kristin Ehrgood is Flamboyan Foundation’s CEO and Board Chair. Since launching Flamboyan in 2008, Kristin has led the Foundation’s work to ensure a day where every child, particularly those most impacted by inequity, will have the opportunity to live a fulfilling life. An education advocate, Kristin oversees the Foundation’s efforts to ensure students are prepared to succeed in school and beyond, tailoring programs to meet the unique contexts in which the Foundation operates.

In D.C., Flamboyan is accelerating student learning by helping educators and school systems transform their relationships with families. In Puerto Rico, Flamboyan is ensuring students are reading in Spanish on grade level by third grade while building a thriving philanthropic and nonprofit sector. Flamboyan also created the Flamboyan Arts Fund in partnership with Lin-Manuel Miranda, his family, and the Hamilton musical to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane María. Flamboyan also works on a range of collaborative initiatives that allow the Foundation to flexibly meet the changing needs of communities as they arise.

Kristin’s commitment to championing educational equity began early in her career, from her time teaching in Baton Rouge and Trenton as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member to her promotion to Executive Director of the New Jersey region and on to Chicago and other locations around the country as the Director of New Site Development. After earning her Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, she began leveraging the adaptive leadership model to make strategic investments in public education. In 2002, she co-founded Sapientis, an organization that connected and engaged change agents in all sectors of Puerto Rico to improve public education. She went on to start Flamboyan in Puerto Rico in 2008 and opened the Washington, DC office in 2009.

Kristin is the founding board chair at DCSRN, vice-chair at Teach for America-DC and serves as a director at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. She also sits on the investment committee at Education Forward DC and the neurosurgery advisory board at Johns Hopkins Medicine. She is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and a member of the International Women’s Foundation-DC. She previously sat on the Board of Directors at both Venture Philanthropy Partners and Stand for Children. For her work with Sapientis, she was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in the area of Social Responsibility.

Kristin also holds a B.A. in International Relations from Bucknell University.

Vadim Nikitine

Board Member

Vadim Nikitine is the President of Commercial Centers Management, a holding company involved in 6 million square feet of commercial space in Puerto Rico, Florida, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwestern United States. His companies are actively involved in all phases of the development of shopping centers, mixed-use projects, hotels, and mini-warehouses. In Puerto Rico, Vadim developed the first self storage facilities that rely primarily on solar energy. In the last several years, Vadim has continued to invest in the energy field, primarily focusing on efficiency and alternative energy sources.

Vadim is a graduate of Harvard University, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in economic development and sociology in 1989, and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government in 2001.

Vadim is a co-founder of Sapientis, a non-profit organization committed to improving public education by mobilizing a diverse and informed network of change agents. Additionally, he is on the Board of Rare Conservation, an international environmental non-profit organization, and he has participated in the creation and preservation of a 580,000 acre national park in Peru.

In December 2001, Vadim was recognized in Caribbean Business as one of 40 people under the age of 40 having a significant and positive impact on the Caribbean. In June 2003, he received the Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst and Young in the field of Real Estate, Construction and Hospitality.

Our Team

Our people are at the heart of what we do.

Every member of the team has a unique strength to share. Working together, our team lives out Flamboyan’s core values of people, equity, impact, and catalytic action every day with one goal in mind: to ensure that students most impacted by inequity have what they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Laurie Ascoli

Associate, Effective Family Engagement

Laurie helps manage and support teams who work with DC educators, school leaders, community-based and systems-level actors to effectively and equitably engage families in student success.  She helps to design, refine and maintain systems and structures to support our teacher, school, and district partnerships to meet the complex ongoing needs of students and families.

Laurie believes that improving our society as a whole begins with providing every child with a high-quality education, and that in order to achieve this, a focus on equity is necessary.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Laurie was a Research Assistant with the Neuro-Education Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. She earned a Master of Education with a concentration in Urban Education from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to graduate school, she spent the first six years of her career as a Program Manager at Young Playwrights’ Theater, a nationally recognized arts education non-profit in Washington, D.C. She has also worked in various capacities with the Kennedy Center, Imagination Stage, Arena Stage, and Roundhouse Theater. Laurie holds B.A.s in English, Theater Arts, and Education from Stonehill College.

Laurie lives in Takoma Park, MD with her husband and their cat.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? English, because imagining myself into stories has always been my favorite form of escape.


Aryan Rodriguez Bocquet

Senior Managing Director, External Affairs

Aryan leads the DC External Affairs team. She oversees local and national advocacy and influence initiatives, fosters strategic partnerships and growth, and spearheads communications in support of our programmatic strategies and mission. 

Aryan is committed to working in education because she firmly believes that a quality and equitable education is an inherent right for all students and families. 

Prior to joining Flamboyan Foundation, Aryan served as the director of partnerships and engagement for My School DC, the District’s public school lottery program, at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). She led the citywide engagement efforts in partnership with parents, schools, communities, and government stakeholders to equip DC families with the resources needed to make informed school choices. Before her time with OSSE, she led the District in its implementation of the DC Language Access Act of 2004 at the Office of Human Rights (OHR). In her capacity as the city’s first Language Access Director, she worked with local agencies and community coalition partners to ensure equitable access to services for the city’s limited and non-English speaking residents. She later managed the operations of a policy advocacy coalition at Humanity United, a human rights foundation working to end human trafficking and slavery.  

Aryan earned her Master of Public Administration from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University, and a dual Bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics and Communications from the University of Maryland at College Park. 

Outside of Flamboyan, Aryan’s family is her rock, especially her husband and nutty rescue pup. Her happy place is the water, and she absolutely loves Ethiopian food. Connect with Aryan on LinkedIn

My favorite teacher in school was… There are three! My middle school English teacher (who was also my high school theater teacher), Mr. Walsh, for challenging me to live life creatively, with endless possibility, and with humor. My high school history teacher, Mr. Morrison, for encouraging (and sometimes outright demanding) we critically think about history, its implications, and its consequences. And my high school English teacher, Ms. Flanagan, who fueled my love for writing. 

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Juan Gudiño Cabrera

Senior Director, Flamboyan Arts Fund

As Senior Director of the Flamboyan Arts Fund, Juan seeks to create and nurture collaborative and long-term relationships with individual artists and organizations to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts and cultural ecosystem in Puerto Rico.

Juan is a facilitator of arts and culture projects with a specialization in grant writing and compliance. He is also a musician, member, and instructor within various artistic collectives. He leads an educational program which provides music therapy and dance workshop throughout the island, bringing culturally relevant music experiences to public schools and communities. He’s also a dance and percussion instructor at Dr. Modesto Cepeda’s Bomba and Plena Cultural Center in his hometown Villa Palmeras, Santurce.

In previous roles, Juan worked at Puerto Rico’s Department of State supporting international academic initiatives, and in Foundation for Puerto Rico as Program Manager and co-lead in the Research and Analytics Unit. Currently, he’s an adjunct professor of tourism in the Business Administration Faculty at Sacred Heart University. Juan has a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Science and another in Political Science with an emphasis on Comparative Politics and International Relations from the University of Puerto Rico. He’s currently pursuing his Master’s in Cultural Management and Agency at the same institution.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? History. Part of the understanding of a society relies on its history and the voices of those who narrate it. I focus more on those voices that were/are systematically left behind – that’s when you get a complete spectrum of reality.

En Español

Como Director Senior del Fondo de las Artes Flamboyán, Juan busca crear y fomentar relaciones colaborativas y de largo plazo con artistas y organizaciones individuales para preservar, amplificar y sostener el ecosistema cultural y artístico en Puerto Rico.

Juan es un facilitador de proyectos de arte y cultura con una especialización en redacción de subvenciones y cumplimiento. También es músico, miembro e instructor de varios colectivos artísticos. Dirige un programa educativo que ofrece musicoterapia y talleres de danza en toda la isla, llevando experiencias musicales culturalmente relevantes a las escuelas y comunidades públicas. También es instructor de danza y percusión en el Centro Cultural Bomba y Plena del Dr. Modesto Cepeda en su barrio natal Villa Palmeras, Santurce.

En puestos anteriores, Juan trabajó en el Departamento de Estado de Puerto Rico apoyando iniciativas académicas internacionales y en Foundation for Puerto Rico como Gerente de Programas y codirector de la Unidad de Investigación y Análisis. Actualmente, es profesor adjunto de turismo en la Facultad de Administración de Empresas de la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Juan tiene una licenciatura en Ciencias Naturales y otra en Ciencias Políticas con énfasis en Política Comparada y Relaciones Internacionales de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Actualmente está cursando su Maestría en Gestión y Agencia Cultural en la misma institución.

¿Cuál fue tu maestro favorito en la escuela? Historia. Parte de la comprensión de una sociedad se basa en su historia y en las voces de quienes la narran. Me concentro más en aquellas voces que fueron / son sistemáticamente dejadas atrás; ahí es cuando obtienes un espectro completo de la realidad.

Toni Ann DeGuzman

Manager, Design + Digital Communications

Toni helps grow Flamboyan’s profile by bringing its story and products to life through graphic design, photography, and coordination of Flamboyan’s major digital assets. Toni is committed to working in education because she believes all children, despite the socio-economic status they live in, should be able to receive a fulfilling education while having the same opportunities and resources as others.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Toni worked mostly in the non-profit sector. With a background in web development, design, and new media, she began her career interning in web and digital production for organizations including the World Wildlife Fund, GMMB+, and the American Association of University Women. Most recently, she worked at The Engage Group, where she specialized in digital production for online fundraising — working with clients such as the Human Rights Campaign and WETA.

Outside of Flamboyan, Toni enjoys doing pottery, taking photos, reading, trying new foods, and traveling! Connect with Toni on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My high school IB Biology teacher, Mr. Myzak. He never stopped believing that I had the ability to succeed and always encouraged me to be the best I can be.

Kristin Ehrgood

CEO + Board Chair

Kristin Ehrgood is Flamboyan Foundation’s CEO and Board Chair. Since launching Flamboyan in 2008, Kristin has led the Foundation’s work to ensure a day where every child, particularly those most impacted by inequity, will have the opportunity to live a fulfilling life. An education advocate, Kristin oversees the Foundation’s efforts to ensure students are prepared to succeed in school and beyond, tailoring programs to meet the unique contexts in which the Foundation operates.

In D.C., Flamboyan is accelerating student learning by helping educators and school systems transform their relationships with families. In Puerto Rico, Flamboyan is ensuring students are reading in Spanish on grade level by third grade while building a thriving philanthropic and nonprofit sector. Flamboyan also created the Flamboyan Arts Fund in partnership with Lin-Manuel Miranda, his family, and the Hamilton musical to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane María. Flamboyan also works on a range of collaborative initiatives that allow the Foundation to flexibly meet the changing needs of communities as they arise.

Kristin’s commitment to championing educational equity began early in her career, from her time teaching in Baton Rouge and Trenton as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member to her promotion to Executive Director of the New Jersey region and on to other locations around the country as the Director of New Site Development. After earning her Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, she began leveraging the adaptive leadership model to make strategic investments in public education. In 2002, she co-founded Sapientis, an organization that connected and engaged change agents in all sectors of Puerto Rico to improve public education. She went on to start Flamboyan in Puerto Rico in 2008 and opened the Washington, DC office in 2009.

Kristin is the founding board chair at DC School Reform Now and serves as a director at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. She also sits on the investment committee at Education Forward DC and the neurosurgery advisory board at Johns Hopkins Medicine. She is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and a member of the International Women’s Foundation-DC. She previously sat on the Board of Directors at Venture Philanthropy Partners, Teach for America-DC and Stand for Children.

Kristin also holds a B.A. in International Relations from Bucknell University.

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Hilary Tone Forslund

Managing Director, Communications + Public Affairs

Hilary elevates Flamboyan’s profile and expands engagement with the organization by strengthening its local and national brand, broadening its visibility, and attracting partnership support to advance its strategic goals. A proud product of California’s public schools, she is passionate about ensuring equity for those furthest from opportunity.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Hilary led the Communications Team at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and oversaw press, digital, strategic, and crisis communications for the broader school district and in support of its 116 schools. Before DCPS, she served as an editor and program director at Media Matters for America, and in communications roles advancing human rights at the Equal Rights Center in Washington, DC and Border Action Network in Tucson, Arizona.

Hilary holds a Master’s degree in Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Spanish Studies from Santa Clara University. When she’s not advancing Flamboyan’s mission, she is a dancer and dance instructor specializing in tap. She lives in the DC area with her husband, daughter, and two rescue pets. Connect with Hilary on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My favorite teacher was my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Haren. She had a captivating sense about her, and an unconventional way of teaching. She held us to high standards but celebrated our individuality in a way I’d never experienced. I felt so challenged and fulfilled in her class!


Maricruz Freytes

Managing Director, Talent + Operations

Maricruz directs talent and operations related to human resources, culture, and strategic planning in Flamboyan’s Puerto Rico office to ensure a high-functioning organization with effective systems and programs.

Maricruz is passionate about transforming people’s lives in the workplace. Before joining Flamboyan, she worked as a senior professional for two global consulting firms and oversaw their responsibilities in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. She also served as a senior talent development consultant and professional coach supporting executives and professionals in their strategic plans and organizational changes in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Florida. She has managed projects in leadership development, assessments, and coaching, and has assisted hundreds of professionals in world class companies at all levels of their career.

Maricruz is an active member of the Society for Human Resources Management’s National and Puerto Rico Chapters (SHRM). She holds a Master’s and Doctorate degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. She is also certified as a talent coach by the International Coaching Federation (IFC), and in Hogan Assessments by Hogan International. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking for her family, running, and playing with her three Poodles. Connect with Maricruz on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? Sciences because I very much enjoyed knowing and having a sense of the existence of the world.


En Español

Maricruz dirige el área de talento y las operaciones relacionadas con los recursos humanos, la cultura y la planificación estratégica en la oficina de Flamboyán en Puerto Rico de modo que se pueda garantizar una organización de alto funcionamiento con sistemas y programas efectivos.

A Maricruz le apasiona transformar la vida de las personas en el lugar de trabajo. Antes de unirse a Flamboyan, trabajó como profesional senior para dos firmas consultoras globales y supervisó sus responsabilidades en Puerto Rico y el Caribe. También se desempeñó como consultora senior de desarrollo de talento y coach profesional apoyando a ejecutivos y profesionales en sus planes estratégicos y cambios organizacionales en Puerto Rico, República Dominicana, Jamaica y Florida. Ha gestionado proyectos de desarrollo de liderazgo, evaluaciones y coaching, y ha ayudado a cientos de profesionales en empresas de clase mundial en todos los niveles de su carrera.

Maricruz es miembro activo de los Capítulos Nacionales y de Puerto Rico de la Sociedad para la Gestión de Recursos Humanos (SHRM). Tiene una Maestría y Doctorado en Psicología Industrial y Organizacional de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico. También está certificada como coach de talentos por la International Coaching Federation (IFC) y en Hogan Assessments por Hogan International. En su tiempo libre, le gusta cocinar para su familia, correr y jugar con sus tres perros. Conéctese con Maricruz en LinkedIn.

¿Cuál era tu materia o curso favorito en la escuela? Ciencias porque disfrutaba mucho el conocer y tener un sentido de la existencia en el mundo.

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Marielys Garcia

Senior Director, Product

Marielys leads the creation and dissemination of Flamboyan’s publicly available family engagement tools, resources, and guidance and supports the organization’s Listening + Learning priorities. In her previous role at Flamboyan as Director of School Support, Marielys supported a set of schools to create the conditions for effective and equitable family engagement to flourish. She believes that schools, in partnership with students, families, and community members, have incredible power and thus the opportunity to catalyze transformative experiences.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Marielys was a teacher and school leader for nine years at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a college preparatory high school in Southeast DC. Additionally, she served as the Elementary Dean of Culture and Family Engagement Leadership Team member at EL Haynes Public Charter School and as the Director of School Engagement and Partnerships at Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE). Marielys holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University, a Master of Arts in Secondary Spanish Teaching from American University, and a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Marielys is a proud native New Yorker, first-generation Dominican American, and word geek. Connect with Marielys on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? Humanities! I have always had a deep interest in analysis, the power of written language, and how it captures elements of the human experience.


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Vanessa Gonzalez

Senior Managing Director, Programs

Vanessa leads Flamboyan’s programs in Puerto Rico, where we aim to ensure students are reading in Spanish on grade level by third grade while building a thriving philanthropic and nonprofit sector, which includes arts and cultural organizations. She believes that access to a quality education can transform children’s lives and help them reach their full potential.

Vanessa returned to Puerto Rico, her place of birth, with a commitment to supporting education on the island. Her work at Flamboyan is grounded in the belief that education and the arts need to be a centerpiece of rebuilding efforts for the economic and cultural vitality of the island.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Vanessa worked in DC education as Vice President of Operations and Strategy at Education Forward DC and as Associate Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund. She has also worked for theAcademy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and Education Elements. Vanessa began her career as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and The Bridgespan Group. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics and Spanish from Emory University, as well as an MBA and Master’s of Arts in Education from Stanford University.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? Economics because of the way it combined math and psychology to help understand human behavior.

En Español

Vanessa lidera las áreas programáticas en Puerto Rico, que tiene como objetivo garantizar que los estudiantes lean a su nivel al completar el tercer grado y construir un tercer sector y de la filantropía próspero, que incluye a organizaciones artísticas y culturales. Vanessa cree que el acceso a una educación de calidad puede transformar la vida de los niños y ayudarlos a alcanzar su máximo potencial.

Vanessa regresó a Puerto Rico, su lugar de nacimiento, con el compromiso de apoyar la educación en la isla. Su trabajo en Flamboyan se basa en la creencia de que la educación y las artes deben ser una pieza central de los esfuerzos de reconstrucción para la vitalidad económica y cultural de la isla.

Vanessa trabajó anteriormente en educación de DC como Vice President of Operations and Strategy en Education Forward DC y como Associate Partner en NewSchools Venture Fund. Vanessa también ha tenido experiencia en Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) y Education Elements. Vanessa comenzó su carrera como consultora de estrategia en Bain & Company y The Bridgespan Group. Vanessa tiene una licenciatura en economía y español de Emory University, así como un MBA y una maestría en educación de Stanford University.

¿Cuál fue tu materia o curso favorito en la escuela? Economía: por la forma en que combinaba las matemáticas y la psicología para ayudar a comprender el comportamiento humano.

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Millissa Hare

Director, School Partnerships Coach

Millissa supports schools in building and sustaining equitable family engagement practices. She believes education is one of the greatest drivers of social change, and is committed to supporting the creation of systems that ensure that all children have the resources needed to be successful.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Millissa pursued a degree in social work to help create systems where families were uplifted and supported, as that was not her experience growing up, or the experience of many in her community. After obtaining her degree, she worked as a clinician and later with a team of school social workers to support a state-wide Dropout Prevention initiative. She is passionate about working at the intersection of social work and education and examining these issues from different angles, and she is excited to continue rooting her work in equity and social justice in her role at Flamboyan.

Outside of Flamboyan, Millissa loves exploring the outdoors with her dog, husband, and two sons, who serve as a constant reminder that the decisions of today impact generations to come. Though she is a proud New Jersey native, she now resides in the DC area with her family. Connect with Millissa on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? I loved psychology because I have always been fascinated with human behavior and cognition. In elementary school, I wanted to become a scientist because I was fascinated with understanding why things behaved the way they did in the natural world. I think psychology is really a continuation of my passion for answering the question “Why”?


Leigh Hilford

Manager, Resource Design + Analytics

Leigh supports the expansion of Flamboyan’s national reach through the development of product offerings that promote and employ its family engagement approach. She believes that education is one of our most powerful tools to create a more equitable and connected world.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Leigh worked in development at the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution. She holds a Bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Texas at Austin, and earned degrees in Plan II Honors and English Honors.

Leigh is a Texas native and, despite what people say about DC, she thinks it is welcome escape from the Texas heat. She also loves to spend time reading, writing, and hiking.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My favorite teacher in school was my sixth grade teacher Mrs. DeBusk. She pushed us to work hard and explore our passions!

Karen Marie Holguin García

Director, Reading Programs

Karen works from our Puerto Rico office, supporting the design and creation of classroom libraries for K-3rd grade public school teachers. She spends her time training teachers in the practice of reading aloud. Her skills and expertise are dedicated to the development and implementation of programs that strengthen the teaching of reading to ensure that every public school student reads proficiently by the end of third grade.

Karen believes that when we make education, books, and best-reading practices more accessible to children and their teachers, we help to make a better and more equitable community. This eventually leads to all children having the opportunity to succeed and thrive.

Prior to Flamboyan Foundation, Karen worked at the Centro para el Estudio de la Lectura, la Escritura y la Literatura Infantil as a Research Assistant. Eventually, her career led her to the classroom as a kindergarten teacher and professor at the Elementary Laboratory School of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. She holds a Master’s degree in the Teaching of Reading and a Bachelor’s degree in the Teaching of English to Spanish Speakers, both from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. A passionate advocate for reading, Karen is a member of a committee dedicated to organizing, promoting, and realizing an annual international reading marathon day in Puerto Rico. She also co-founded the Proyecto Alianzas de Lectura Puerto Rico – Guatemala, a pedagogical and investigative initiative aimed at the promotion of reading, the formation of readers, and the integration of children’s literature to curricular content.

Karen is an animal lover. She has three big and friendly cats named Chili Pepper, Pequeño, and Aria.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Zenzola. She was one of the key people who, along with my mom and dad, truly nurtured and helped blossom my love for books and reading. To this day I cannot help reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and remembering the captivating way in which she read the words on each.

En Español

Karen trabaja desde nuestra oficina en Puerto Rico, apoyando el diseño y la creación de bibliotecas de aula para maestras de K-3ro de escuelas públicas. Ella pasa su tiempo capacitando a maestros en la práctica de la lectura en voz alta. Sus destrezas y peritaje son dedicados al desarrollo y la implementación de programas que fortalecen la enseñanza de la lectura para garantizar que cada estudiante de escuela pública lea proficientemente al completar el tercer grado.

Karen entiende que cuando hacemos que – la educación, los libros, y las prácticas más apropiadas de lectura – sean accesibles a los niños y sus maestros, ayudamos a crear una comunidad mejor y más equitativa. Esto eventualmente apoya a lograr que todos los estudiantes tengan la oportunidad de ser exitosos y progresar.

Previo a la Fundación Flamboyán, Karen trabajó en el Centro para el Estudio de la Lectura, la Escritura y la Literatura Infantil como Asistente de investigación. Eventualmente, su carrera la llevó al salón de clases como maestra de kindergarten y profesora en la Escuela Laboratorio de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras. Tiene una Maestría en la Enseñanza de la Lectura y un Bachillerato en la Enseñanza de Inglés a Hispanohablantes, ambos de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras. Como apasionada defensora de la lectura, Karen es miembro de un comité dedicado a la organización, promoción y realización del Maratón Puertorriqueño de Lectura, el cual anualmente se celebra nacional e internacionalmente. Ella también co-fundó el Proyecto Alianzas de Lectura Puerto Rico – Guatemala, una iniciativa pedagógica e investigativa dirigida a la promoción de la lectura, la formación de lectores, y la integración de literatura infantil a los contenidos curriculares.

Karen ama a los animales. Tiene a dos grandes y amigables gatos llamados Chili Pepper y Aria.

¿Quién fue tu maestro favorito en la escuela? Mi maestra de kindergarten, la Sra. Zenzola. Ella fue una de las personas clave quien, junto a mi mamá y papá, genuinamente nutrieron y ayudaron a florecer mi amor por la lectura y los libros. Hasta el día de hoy no puedo evitar leer Donde viven los monstruos de Maurice Sendak y recordar la forma cautivante en la cual leía las palabras en cada una de las páginas.

Kimberly Hooper

Director, Data Analytics

Kimberly’s work will be focused on enhancing Flamboyan’s analytics, data platforms, and diagnostic tools with the goal of elevating our Effective Family Engagement programs. Kimberly is committed to her work in education, believing that access to quality, no-cost education — regardless of race, home language, ability, or socio-economic status — is the great equalizer.

Prior to joining the Flamboyan, she spent six years working for the New York City Department of Education both as the Middle School Data Analytics Manager and the Borough of Manhattan Enrollment Project Manager. Most recently, she served as the Family Engagement Coordinator with Alexandria City Public Schools where she was able to support families across the division through the development of Title 1 Parent Liaisons.

Outside of Flamboyan, Kimberly enjoys baking, going through old cookbooks, and trying new recipes. She also enjoys tutoring and mentoring with organizations including the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and The Fresh Air Fund. Connect with Kimberly on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? Dr. Jeffery Chapman, he was my graduate school microeconomics teacher. He was a funny, brilliant, and highly skilled economist who taught me to have a critical eye when developing and implementing public policy.

Justin Jones

Senior Managing Director, Effective Family Engagement

Justin’s work at Flamboyan focuses on our family engagement strategy and implementation, with an emphasis on our system-level and product work. Realizing that not all students are afforded a quality education or access to tools and resources that help them succeed, Justin believes equity in education ultimately leads to greater opportunities for all children.

Justin began his education career in Phoenix, Arizona as a sixth grade Teach for America teacher. He spent several years on Teach for America’s staff, holding a number of positions where he led a team of recruiters, data system efforts, and strategic initiatives. Later, he joined the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in Washington, D.C., and led the creation of a statewide longitudinal education data system. Just before joining the Flamboyan team, Justin worked at The Achievement Network (ANet) for six years.  He served as the founding Executive Director of the DC region, where in four years he built a network of over 70 district and charter schools and led a team of coaches working alongside school leaders to drive breakthrough results for their students. Later, he became Vice President of Product Strategy, leading the enhancement of ANet’s technology platform and partnerships in support of schools. Justin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Political Science from the University of North Carolina and an EdM in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University.

Justin lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children, the oldest two of whom attend a DC Public School where he currently serves as Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) co-chair.  Connect with Justin on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? Mr. Ito, my fifth grade teacher. He took the time to get to know and value all of his students as individuals. He was innovative and creative, and he made learning fun.


Gimari L. Jones

Managing Director, Training + Development

Gimari oversees Flamboyan’s content, training, and product development initiatives, ensuring educator and leader preparation efforts lead to transformative shifts for students and families. She has a strong commitment to equity and believes it is our responsibility to create the conditions for students and families, especially those most affected by inequities, to thrive. 

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Gimari led the development and implementation of the racial equity training program for Montgomery County Government (MCG) within the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice. Before her time at MCG, Gimari was a Partnership Director at Equal Opportunity Schools where she was instrumental in helping schools dismantle systemic barriers that prevented students of color and low-income students from accessing and participating in rigorous courses across several states. Previously, she served as a Program Manager within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) leading the state Title III program, which included revising local regulations and the development of guidance to safeguard the civil rights of English learners, immigrant youth, and their families in Washington, DC school communities. Her role at OSSE also included stewardship over professional development and the annual English Learner Summer Symposium for educators and leaders, language acquisition program support, stakeholder engagement, and development of the district’s Title III accountability measures under ESSA. Her career in education began as an elementary school teacher at Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School. 

Gimari has a profound love for thrift store shopping, exploring new restaurants around the town with her 13-year-old daughter, watching her 9-year-old son sing and dance to Michael Jackson, and traveling with her college sweetheart and partner in life, her husband.  

Gimari is also a lover of rhythm and blues, old and new. Connect with Gimari on LinkedIn

My favorite teacher in school was… My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Howard, at Emerson Elementary in my hometown Seattle. She was sweet and nurturing, like my mom. In fact, I remember accidentally calling her mom often!

Julián Alí Laboy Rodríguez

Director, Program Evaluation

Julian spends his time analyzing information gathered from our different education programs in Puerto Rico to study elements that work well and areas in need of improvement. Overall, his role is data and information oriented.

Julian sees the bigger picture in education as an investment for a better and more just future. Before joining Flamboyan, he worked at the University of Puerto Rico as a Teacher Assistant and Lecturer. He led courses in statistics, research, and methods. Julian also worked as a consultant for other research initiatives led by public and private organizations.

Julian enjoys origami, reading non-fiction novels, playing video games, and traveling. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? Science. I had a lot of questions regarding everything around me. This subject gave a lot of interesting and fascinating answers!

En Español

En Puerto Rico, Julián dedica su tiempo analizando información recopilada en nuestros programas de educación para estudiar aquellos elementos que nos funcionan y aquellas áreas que necesitan un desarrollo. En general, su rol se orienta hacia el manejo de datos e información.

Julián piensa principalmente en los efectos a largo plazo de la educación como una inversión para un futuro mejor y más justo. Antes de trabajar para Flamboyán, trabajó en la Universidad de Puerto Rico como Asistente de Cátedra y como Conferenciante. Lideró cursos en estadísticas, investigación y métodos de manejo y análisis de datos. Julián también trabajó como consultor para otras iniciativas relacionadas a la investigación, tanto para organizaciones públicas como privadas.

Julián disfruta del origami, de la lectura (principalmente no-ficción), los videojuegos y de viajar. Es posible contactarlo en Linkedin.”

¿Cuál fue tu materia o curso favorito en la escuela? Ciencias. Tenía muchísimas preguntas relacionadas a todo lo que me rodea. ¡Esta materia me dio muchas respuestas muy interesantes y fascinantes!

Ryan Lokhorst

Associate, Finance + Operations

Ryan supports the back-office finance and organizational operations for the Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico offices. He is the go-to for Flamboyan’s financial, tech, and legal processes, and ensures that the Flamboyan staff have a deep understanding of org-wide systems, structures, and processes that are aligned with our core values. Ryan believes that educational attainment is a significant factor in life outcomes and wants to work toward an equitable pathway for all. 

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Ryan graduated from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Finance and Sociology. He most recently worked at Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Services in Los Angeles, where he assisted with immigration legal services, compiled demographic reports, and coordinated a variety of client programs. 

Outside of Flamboyan, Ryan enjoys traveling, discovering new music, and watching any and all sports. He is new to the DC area and is excited to discover what it has to offer. 

My favorite subject in school was… math because I enjoyed the problem solving and pattern recognition that it taught me. 

Enery Michelle López Navarrete

Director, Product Development

Enery’s role focuses on Herramientas Para Comprender, our Puerto Rico based professional development program for teachers of K-3 students. As head of the initiative, Enery facilitates trainings and other hands-on approaches that support teachers to lead classroom instruction on reading comprehension skills.

Simply put, Enery believes education is an empowering and fundamental human right. She taught in public and private elementary schools in Puerto Rico and in the United States. Previous positions has taken her career global. Before joining Flamboyan, she worked at UNICEF and Sesame Workshop. Enery holds a Master’s degree in International Educational Development from Teacher College, Columbia University.

Enery, who advocates for child-led playful interventions in the city, is working toward a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? Mrs. Peña. I can’t remember class routines, but I do remember her nurturing side. Her kindness made my third-grade days better.

En Español

El rol de Enery se centra en Herramientas Para Comprender. Un programa de desarrollo profesional en Puerto Rico, dirigido a maestros de K-3. Como directora de la iniciativa, Enery facilita capacitaciones, asesoramiento y talleres prácticos a maestros para dirigir su instrucción en estrategias y destrezas de comprensión de lectora.

En palabras sencillas, Enery cree que la educación es un derecho humano fundamental que empodera a los individuos. Ha enseñado en escuelas elementales -públicas y privadas – en Puerto Rico y en los Estados Unidos. Antes de unirse a Flamboyán, tuvo la oportunidad de colaborar en UNICEF y Sesame Workshop. Ambas experiencias  han influenciado su carrera de manera internacional. Enery tiene una maestría en Desarrollo Educativo Internacional de Teachers College, Columbia University.

Algo que caracteriza a Enery, es que aboga por la creación y planificación de intervenciones lúdicas dirigidas por niños en la ciudad y está trabajando para obtener una maestría en planificación urbana. Conéctate con ella en LinkedIn.

¿Quién fue tu maestro favorito en la escuela? La Sra. Peña. Quizás no recuerde con exactitud su rutina de clase, pero sí recuerdo su lado cariñoso y afectivo. Su gentileza hizo que mis días en el tercer grado fueran mejores.

Nicole Magnani

Managing Director, Finance

Nicole oversees all finance, accounting, and reporting activities for the organization, and ensures that Flamboyan has the systems and procedures in place to support its programs and operations. She believes that all children have a desire to learn and deserve support to remove any barriers to their education.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Nicole was the Associate Director of Finance at Capitol Technology University (CTU). In this role, she supported the CFO in all issues relating to finance, budgeting and accounting, and performed the day-to-day financial functions for the University. She also served as secretary and controller of the CTU Foundation, managing a relationship between The Foundation and a development company to build and manage new residence halls for students.

Nicole holds an MBA from Capitol Technology University and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Delaware with Minors in International Business and Italian. In her free time, she is leveraging her Italian language background to re-learn Spanish. Connect with Nicole on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? My favorite subject was Science. I loved learning how the natural world worked, and experiments and demonstrations were always so fascinating to me!


Chy McGhee

Senior Director, Training

Chy develops and delivers professional development opportunities for Flamboyan partners in DC and nationally. With a focus on equity, she designs family engagement sessions for teachers, school leaders, and district staff, and recruits and supports a diverse team of trainers.

Chy believes that all children regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, or disability should have access to the highest quality education, health care, and housing. Although schools cannot provide all of these human rights in isolation, she believes that parents, students, district leaders, school leaders, teachers, and school staff play a powerful role in ensuring educational justice, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalized families.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Chy was an educator for 17 years in both traditional public schools and charter schools. As an educator, she worked to build strong personal relationships and emotional bonds with her students and families. She holds a PhD in Education Leadership from New York University, and she is a parent of four children.

What was your favorite subject in school? My favorite subject was social studies. I love learning about people, their history, religion, culture, and relationship to the environment.

LaSha Norres Headshot

LaSha Norris

Associate, Front Desk Administrator

LaSha uses her organization and communication skills to support the Flamboyan team and keep the office running efficiently. As the Associate, Front Desk Administrator, she also ensures every guest has a great first impression of Flamboyan.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, LaSha served in management roles in communications, public relations, and event planning, including field trips and educational outings for students in DC Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public Schools to celebrate achievements like honor roll and college admission. She believes that education is the foundation on which we build our lives, and that all children should have access to the information they need to build their own path.

LaSha was born in Washington, DC and currently resides in PG County with her husband and 3 children. She is passionate about family engagement and ensures that she and her husband have great relationships with their children’s teachers to stay informed of their progress and how they can support learning at home. Connect with LaSha on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? English class! This is where I gained my love for reading. My imagination is my best friend and books allow me to travel to a different space. Reading not only stimulates the mind, but expands your vocabulary, improves your writing, and enhances your focus.

Erika O'neill Alfaro

Operations Manager

Erika works to maximize Flamboyan’s operating efficiency in our Puerto Rico office. She manages and oversees the day-to-day operations to provide support and maintenance of organization-wide finance, human resources, and technology systems.

Erika was just sixteen when she first learned about Flamboyan Foundation. As a senior in high school, she joined Flamboyan as an intern, and the exposure gave her a first-hand account of the impact and valuable work Flamboyan was leading to transform teaching in the public education system. Erika believes that education provides an opportunity to build a better society. After completing her internship and graduating with a Business Administration in Management degree, she was promoted to a full-time role at Flamboyan.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My seventh grade science teacher had a peculiar way of teaching composing songs about the topics to be discussed in class. I still have the songs in my mind.

En Español

Erika trabaja para maximizar la eficiencia operativa de Flamboyan en nuestra oficina de Puerto Rico. Ella administra y supervisa las operaciones diarias para brindar soporte y mantenimiento de los sistemas de tecnología, recursos humanos y finanzas de toda la organización.

Erika tenía solo dieciséis años cuando conoció a la Fundación Flamboyán. Cuando estaba en el último año de la escuela secundaria, se unió a Flamboyan como pasante, y la exposición le permitió conocer de primera mano el impacto y el valioso trabajo que Flamboyan estaba llevando a cabo para transformar la enseñanza en el sistema de educación pública. Erika cree que la educación brinda la oportunidad de construir una sociedad mejor. Después de completar su pasantía y graduarse con un título en Administración de Empresas en Gestión, fue promovida a un puesto de tiempo completo en Flamboyan.

¿Quién era tu maestro favorito en la escuela? Mi maestra de ciencias de séptimo grado tenía una forma peculiar de enseñar a componer canciones sobre los temas que se debatían en clase. Todavía tengo las canciones en mi mente.

María de Lourdes Ortiz Rodríguez

Director, Revitalizing Puerto Rico

Lourdes leads the efforts to drive and support Flamboyan’s strategic philanthropic investments and initiatives in Puerto Rico, with a focus on education.  This means she is committed to strengthening public education to set the foundation for a thriving Puerto Rico into the future.  Lourdes catalyzes opportunities for local and national donors to contribute to education organizations and initiatives so that they are high-quality, high-impact and sustainable.

Lourdes believes that high-quality education gives children access to a world of possibilities and opportunities. For 20 years, she’s worked with committed non-profit organizations and higher education institutions to support the professional development of teachers from the public school system in Puerto Rico. Education and teaching are at the core of Lourdes’ career. In addition to many roles, she helps to advance the leadership skills of others, she also worked at an international business school in Eastern Europe. There, she taught community service related courses that gave students the knowledge to implement service-oriented initiatives in their companies and communities. Lourdes has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and earned a Master’s degree in Non-profit Management.

Lourdes is good at many things, but she’s her best at being Nikolas’ mom.


What was your favorite subject or course in school? Geography opened my eyes to the wonders of the world. It made me think: the world isn’t that big, it is reachable.

En Español

Lourdes lidera los esfuerzos para impulsar y apoyar las iniciativas filantrópicas de Flamboyan en Puerto Rico, con un enfoque en la educación. Esto significa que está comprometida con el fortalecimiento de la educación pública para sentar las bases de un Puerto Rico próspero en el futuro. Lourdes cataliza oportunidades para que las donaciones locales o nacional a las organizaciones e iniciativas centradas en la educación sean de alta calidad, de alto impacto y sostenibles.

Lourdes cree que una educación de alta calidad le da a los niños acceso a un mundo de posibilidades y oportunidades.  Durante 20 años, trabajó con diversas organizaciones sin fines de lucro e instituciones de educación superior que estaban comprometidas con apoyar el desarrollo profesional de los maestros del sistema de educación pública de Puerto Rico. Es por esto que la educación y la enseñanza son el centro (el corazón) en la carrera profesional de Lourdes.

Además de muchos otros roles, Lourdes ha contribuido con fortalecer las destrezas de liderazgo en las personas.  También trabajó en una escuela de negocios internacional localizada en Europa del Este. Allí, enseñó un curso sobre cómo desarrollar iniciativas de (orientadas hacia el) servicio comunitario logrando que los estudiantes implementaran proyectos orientados al servicio tanto en sus empresas como comunidades. Lourdes tiene un bachillerato en administración de empresas y obtuvo una maestría en administración de organizaciones sin fines de lucro.

Lourdes es muy buena en muchas cosas, pero lo más que le gusta es ser la mamá de Nikolas.

¿Cuál fue tu materia o curso favorito en la escuela? Geografía porque me abrió los ojos a las maravillas del mundo. Me hizo pensar: el mundo realmente no es tan grande, se puede alcanzar.

Patience Peabody Headshot

Patience B. Peabody

Executive Director, Washington DC

Patience shapes, implements, and oversees all aspects of Flamboyan’s strategic impact efforts in DC and across the country. As Executive Director, she maximizes the impact of our education work by building and sustaining an equity-focused, high-functioning team that produces catalytic and sustainable results, and helps guide the overall direction of the organization.

A native Washingtonian from southeast DC, Patience has nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofits, philanthropy, and the public sector. Before her appointment to DC Executive Director, she served as the Senior Managing Director of External Affairs at Flamboyan where she oversaw communications, product development, and public affairs. Before joining Flamboyan, she was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Administration to serve as the Director of Communications and Community Engagement at DC’s state education agency, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Prior to OSSE, Patience was Vice President of Communications and Creative at the national poverty-alleviation organization, LIFT, where she built a communications domain from the ground up. She has also worked in fundraising communications at The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; ran grant programming for hunger alleviation funder Share Our Strength (No Kid Hungry); and began her career in sales for the global healthcare and higher education consulting firm, Advisory Board Company.

Outside of her role at Flamboyan, Patience strives to “be the change you wish to see” by philanthropically supporting local and national charities committed to making communities stronger. She is Vice Chair of New Futures, an organization working to end generational poverty in the DC region, and a Board Member at The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, which cultivates resilience in children experiencing homelessness by providing access to transformative play experiences. She also mentors young Black women as they navigate college and begin their careers.

With a strong village of support, she graduated from Hampton University with a B.S. in Marketing and later received her master’s degree in Global Strategic Communication from Georgetown University. Patience’s most important and fulfilling roles are as a mom to two young girls, Peyton and Sidney, and as a partner to her husband Dan.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My 8th grade English teacher. She recognized, cultivated, and encouraged my hustle and entrepreneurial spirit. From encouraging me to give speeches in front of the school and submit pieces for writing contests, to helping me apply – and get into – one of the best high schools in D.C., she watered my innate strengths and helped me obliterate self doubt. Her encouragement and opportunities changed the trajectory of my life.


Paola Marie Perea Flores

Manager, Program

Paola manages the office atmosphere, creating a pleasant and efficient environment where every team member in Puerto Rico has what they need to do their best work. She spends time fielding calls, welcoming guests, completing administrative tasks, and supporting the Operations Manager and Executive Director.

Paola has no doubt that education is the basis for producing lasting change in our generation and for those who follow. She is dedicated to education because she believes it is the solution to problems and that society must provide youth with the tools necessary for personal development.

Paola has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Audiovisual Communication. She’s pursuing her Doctorate degree in Curriculum and Teaching, with a subspecialty in learning technologies. Her goals is to create inclusive educational resources using technology as a learning tool and virtual learning environment.

Paola is an educator for life. Not only does she see herself teaching students, but she also instructs educators. Her goals is to help students learn through an art, playful lens. Her role as a teacher trainer gives her a platform to teach over 400 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educators.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? Spanish and art. Both were spaces of learning that allowed for self-discovery, reaffirmed my interests, social perspectives, and developed my skills from a semiotic perspective.

En Español

Paola asiste en el manejo de la oficina, creando un ambiente agradable y eficiente donde cada miembro del equipo en Puerto Rico tiene lo que necesita para hacer su mejor trabajo. Pasa tiempo atendiendo llamadas, dando la bienvenida a los invitados, completando tareas administrativas y apoyando al Gerente de Operaciones y al Director Ejecutivo.

Paola no tiene ninguna duda de que la educación es la base para producir un cambio duradero en nuestra generación y las siguientes.  Se dedica a la educación porque cree que es la solución a los problemas y que la sociedad debe brindar a los jóvenes las herramientas necesarias para su desarrollo personal.

Paola tiene una licenciatura de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Comunicación Audiovisual. Está cursando su Doctorado en Currículo y Enseñanza, con una subespecialidad en tecnologías de aprendizaje. Su objetivo es crear recursos educativos inclusivos utilizando la tecnología como herramienta de aprendizaje y entorno de aprendizaje virtual.

Paola es educadora para toda la vida. No solo se ve a sí misma enseñando a los estudiantes, sino que también instruye a los educadores. Su objetivo es ayudar a los estudiantes a aprender a través de un lente lúdico y artístico. Su papel como formadora de profesores le brinda una plataforma para enseñar a más de 400 educadores de ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas (STEM).

¿Cuál fue tu asignatura o curso favorito en la escuela? Español y arte. Ambos fueron espacios de aprendizaje que permitieron el autodescubrimiento, reafirmaron mis intereses, perspectivas sociales y desarrollaron mis habilidades desde una perspectiva semiótica.

Cynthia Phillips

Senior Managing Director, Operations + Organizational Development

Cynthia oversees Flamboyan’s overall organization-wide operations, including finance, human resources, office administration, and grants management.

Cynthia’s passion for education is rooted in her desire for students to have the supports they need to overcome barriers. Her hope is for committed educators to work together to move the needle to ensure there is greater equity and opportunity for all students.

Before Cynthia joined Flamboyan, she served as Vice President of Operations for The Heart of America Foundation, where she oversaw organizational processes, strategic planning, Human Resources, and IT. Cynthia also worked as the Director of the National Book Program for Reading Is Fundamental. During the earlier years of her career she supported Education Sector programs as a bilingual liaison for the Peace Corps Inter-America Region.

Cynthia’s love for operations is tied to her love for puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, and anything that teases the brain.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? Ms. Ponko was my high school biology teacher and she managed her classroom with enthusiasm and ease. She made biology approachable, meaningful, and fun.


Isabel Ponce Marrero

Director, Literacy Instruction Support

Isabel works with teachers and schools in Puerto Rico to support the implementation of programs that leverage professional development, consulting, and training to strengthen literacy practices. In addition, Isabel co-designs and co-creates materials to enhance reading practices for students who are in kindergarten, first, second, and third grades in Puerto Rico.

Children inspire Isabel, who was formerly a kindergarten and pre-school teacher at The School of San Juan. There, she also worked as an Academic Coordinator. As an educator, she’s an agent of change who facilitates significant educational experiences for teachers, students, and families. She aims to continue the mission of bettering the quality of education and guaranteeing that all children have access to the same educational opportunities.

Isabel attended the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedra Campus, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Pre-school Education and a Master’s degree in Teaching of Reading.

Isabel participated in a life-changing special project that expanded her awareness on the impact conversations on the environment and natural resources can have on students growth and development.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? Mr. Bruce taught me that language should never be seen as an obstacle or a barrier. Most importantly, he taught me that reading can teach you amazing things, and it can also show you the reality of the world. Mr. Bruce’s class was memorable and inspired me to believe in myself.

En Español

Isabel trabaja con maestros y escuelas en Puerto Rico apoyando la implementación de programas que promueven el desarrollo profesional, asesoramiento y capacitación con el fin de fortalecer las prácticas de alfabetización temprana. En adición, Isabel co-diseña y co-crea materiales para fortalecer las prácticas de lectura de los estudiantes que están en kindergarten, primero, segundo y tercer grado en Puerto Rico.

Los niños son la fuente de inspiración de Isabel, quien fue maestra de Pre-kinder y Kindergarten en The School of San Juan. Allí, también laboró como Coordinadora Académica. Como educadora, es una agente de cambio que facilita experiencias educativas significativas para maestros, estudiantes y familias. Su misión es continuar mejorando la calidad de la educación y garantizar que todos los niños tengan acceso a las mismas oportunidades educativas.

Isabel asistió a la Universidad de Puerto Rico, en el campus de Río Piedras, donde obtuvo un bachillerato en Educación Preescolar y una maestría en la Enseñanza de la Lectura.

Isabel participó en un proyecto especial que transformó su enseñanza al incorporar nuevos aspectos de cambio climático y educación ambiental en su entorno escolar.

¿Quién fue tu maestro favorito en la escuela? El Sr. Bruce me enseñó que el lenguaje nunca debe ser visto como un obstáculo o una barrera. Más importante aún, él me enseñó que la lectura puede revelarte cosas asombrosas, pero también te puede mostrar la realidad del mundo. La clase del Sr. Bruce fue memorable y me inspiró a creer en mí misma.

Rosiris A. Ramos Meléndez

Manager, Communications

Rosiris spends her time creating written and audiovisual content – videos and photos – to help communicate our programmatic work and the organizational aspiration towards a better education for students in Puerto Rico. Rosiris works with staff in our Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. to ensure Flamboyan’s audiences are informed about the positive impact our programs and services have on students most impacted by inequity.

Rosiris deeply believes that there is only one path to real success – nurturing every person’s life with the acquisition of knowledge because education is the key to overcome inequity. Rosiris has worked to improve and shed light on inequities throughout her career. Before joining Flamboyan, Rosiris served as Programming Coordinator at the only public and education centered TV station in Puerto Rico – Sistema TV, Canal 40. She also worked at Prensa Comunitaria, an organization centered on the social journalism. There, she assigned and covered news on some of the most disadvantaged communities on the island.

Rosiris spends a lot of time admiring the beauty of nature on the island, where any short trip leads to mountains, caves, rivers, and amazing beaches.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? History. It is fundamental for every generation to have the opportunity to know the struggles, suffering, and conquers of the people who lived before us.

En Español


Rosiris dedica su tiempo a crear contenido escrito y audiovisual – videos y fotos – para ayudar a comunicar nuestro trabajo programático y la aspiración organizacional hacia una mejor educación para los estudiantes en Puerto Rico. Rosiris trabaja tanto con el personal en Puerto Rico como en  Washington, D.C. para garantizar que nuestras audiencias estén informadas sobre el impacto positivo que nuestros programas y servicios tienen en los estudiantes más afectados por la desigualdad.

Rosiris cree profundamente que solo hay un camino hacia el éxito real: nutrir la vida de cada persona con la adquisición de conocimientos porque la educación es la clave para superar la inequidad. Rosiris ha trabajado para mejorar y arrojar luz sobre las desigualdades a lo largo de su carrera. Antes de unirse a Flamboyán, se desempeñó como Coordinadora de Programación en la única estación de televisión pública y educativa de Puerto Rico – Sistema TV, Canal 40. También trabajó en Prensa Comunitaria, una organización centrada en el periodismo social. Allí, asignó y cubrió noticias sobre algunas de las comunidades más desfavorecidas de la isla.

Rosiris pasa mucho tiempo admirando la belleza de la naturaleza en la isla, donde cualquier viaje corto conduce a montañas, cuevas, ríos y playas increíbles.

¿Cuál fue tu asignatura o curso favorito en la escuela? Historia. Es fundamental que cada generación tenga la oportunidad de conocer las luchas, sufrimientos y conquistas de las personas que vivieron antes que nosotros.

Carlos Rodríguez Silvestre

Executive Director, Puerto Rico

As Executive Director, Carlos shapes, implements, and oversees all aspects of the Foundation’s mission-driven work and programmatic strategy in Puerto Rico.

Carlos believes education is one of the most important tools we have to achieve a more just society and disrupt barriers of inequity.

Before joining Flamboyan, Carlos was an engineer and business strategist focused on solving complex operations and logistics challenges faced by Fortune 500 companies. Prior to that, he supported sales, finance, operations, and federal regulatory compliance for Univision Communications, Inc. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has a Master’s in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. Carlos is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the jurisdiction of Puerto Rico, a member of the Puerto Rico College of Engineers and Surveyors (CIAPR), and a member of the Puerto Rico, Florida and Washington, D.C. BAR.

Carlos likes traveling. Getting to know other countries and its peoples broadens his perspective and develops his empathy.

What was your favorite course of subject in school? Literature. It reignited the love I felt for reading when I was a kid.

En Español

Como Director Ejecutivo, Carlos da forma, implementa y supervisa todos los aspectos del trabajo impulsado por la misión y la estrategia programática de la Fundación en Puerto Rico.

Carlos cree que la educación es una de las herramientas más importantes que tenemos para lograr una sociedad más justa y romper las barreras de la desigualdad.

Antes de unirse a Flamboyán, Carlos era ingeniero y estratega de negocios enfocado en resolver operaciones complejas y desafíos logísticos que enfrentan las compañías Fortune 500. Antes de eso, apoyó las ventas, las finanzas, las operaciones y el cumplimiento normativo federal para Univision Communications, Inc. Obtuvo una licenciatura y una maestría en ingeniería industrial del Instituto de Tecnología de Georgia. Tiene una Maestría en Administración de Empresas (MBA) de The Wharton School en la Universidad de Pennsylvania y un Juris Doctor de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Carlos es un Ingeniero Profesional con licencia (PE) en la jurisdicción de Puerto Rico, miembro del Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico (CIAPR) y miembro del BAR de Puerto Rico, Florida y Washington, D.C.

A Carlos le gusta viajar. Conocer otros países y sus gentes amplía su perspectiva y desarrolla su empatía.

¿Cuál fue tu asignatura favorita en la escuela? Literatura. Reavivó el amor que sentía por la lectura cuando era niño.

Kamille Seward-Hedgeman

Senior Director, External Affairs

Kamille manages the development and implementation of Flamboyan’s partnerships and influence initiatives. She plays an integral role in amplifying Flamboyan’s REAL Family Engagement work in Washington, DC and across the country, growing our efforts to build and strengthen relationships with partners in the family engagement field, the broader education sector, and education-adjacent sectors.

Kamille wholeheartedly believes that education is the gateway to opportunity. She dedicates her time and career to ensuring all children feel empowered to direct their own future.

Kamille began her career in education as a Teach For America corps member teaching second grade at an all-girls charter school in Southeast, Washington, D.C. In this role, Kamille strategized and developed innovative ways to form trusting relationships and academic partnerships with families, which yielded student success. Kamille also served as grade-level lead, reading assessment coach, and family engagement teacher lead. After leaving the classroom, Kamille joined the IMPACT team at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). As a policy coordinator, Kamille developed and implemented process improvements to increase the efficiency of IMPACT, the performance-based evaluation system for DCPS employees. Before joining Flamboyan as a full-time employee, Kamille served as a Flamboyan teacher trainer, co-facilitating a professional development series for charter school teachers. Kamille holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Virginia.

Kamille is a proud DCPS parent of a Pre-K 4 student and a proud daughter of a DCPS lifelong educator. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My favorite teacher was Professor Harold. She embodies the power of building relationships with students and deeply inspired me, personally and professionally.


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Neeltje L. van Marissing Méndez

Managing Director, Communications + External Affairs, Puerto Rico

Neeltje plays a critical role to increase the profile of Flamboyan’s work to revitalize Puerto Rico.

Neeltje believes in the transformative power of education. She’s also passionate about promoting reading and literature and spent the earlier years of her career as a Manager of the Children’s Literature Room of Puerto Rico’s National Library and as General Coordinator of the Festival de la Palabra, a yearly literary event that brings together 50 international and local writers and more than 20,000 visitors.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, she worked as Executive Director of the University of Puerto Rico Press. She oversaw publishing, sales, and marketing initiatives of this prestigious academic publisher. She also worked at Santillana, an international Spanish publishing house that specializes in K-12 educational materials where she held three roles as Children’s Literature Editor, General Interest Books Division Director and Communications Director. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Languages and Literature from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

Neeltje volunteers at Proyecto Enlace’s Literacy Program for adults. She’s a lover of words and her four-year-old son. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? Spanish. Because I have always loved to read.

En Español

Neeltje desempeña un rol fundamental en darle visibilidad al trabajo que hace Flamboyán en Puerto Rico en las áreas de educación y arte y cultura.

Neeltje cree en el poder transformador de la educación. También es una apasionada de la promoción de la lectura y de la literatura. Ha fungido como gerente de la Sala de Literatura Infantil de la Biblioteca Nacional de Puerto Rico y como coordinadora general del Festival de la Palabra, evento literario que reunía anualmente a 50 escritores internacionales y locales y más de 20.000 visitantes.

Antes de unirse a Flamboyán, se desempeñó como directora ejecutiva de la Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, donde supervisó las iniciativas de publicación, ventas y marketing de esta prestigiosa editorial académica. También trabajó en Santillana, una editorial española internacional que se especializa en materiales educativos para los grados K-12. Allí ocupó tres puestos, fue editora de literatura infantil, directora de la división de libros de interés general y directora de Comunicaciones. Neeltje tiene un bachillerato en Lenguas y Literatura Modernas de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras y habla cuatro idiomas.

Conéctese con ella en LinkedIn.

¿Cuál fue tu asignatura o curso favorito en la escuela? Mis clases favoritas siempre fueron Historia y Español (Literatura). Tuve la suerte de tener maestras maravillosas en esas dos disciplinas. Además, las líneas divisorias entre realidad y ficción y cómo se traducen en la palabra escrita me llaman mucho la atención.

Julienne Vinson

Managing Director, Talent + Organizational Effectiveness

Julienne leads talent development and culture stewardship efforts and is responsible for developing strategies to ensure alignment of organizational culture, performance, leadership, reputation, systems, and processes. 

Education is Julienne’s life’s work! She firmly believes that we have a choice to change the world, and she stands firm in her decision to fight for educational equity in access and quality daily for the students in Washington, DC. 

Julienne has had a 10-year career in teaching, leading, and supporting schools in the metropolitan area. Prior to joining Flamboyan, she taught at the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st grade at an all-girls charter school in Washington, DC. Additionally, she served as a Director, Operations for the Office of Talent and Culture with DC Public Schools. Most recently, she served as a Chief of Staff to the Chief of Schools with Baltimore City Public Schools. In that role, Julienne helped Baltimore City Public Schools develop a continuity of learning plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also a 2010 Teach for America Corp Member in Washington, DC. She ensures that she is leading and collaborating with colleagues with kindness because this work is hard yet necessary, and she believes it’s easier when we can all smile. 

Julienne is a mother, wife, sister, and friend. She enjoys traveling, spending time near a beach (specifically the Caribbean) or pool, loves to create experiences for her children and their friends, and lastly, she can assure you that she is the biggest Beyonce fan ever. 

My favorite teacher in school was… Ms. English, my ninth grade biology teacher, and advisor. She was tough yet caring and gave a young Black girl at a predominately white school the support that was needed. 


Connect with Julienne on LinkedIn.  

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Shannon Williams

Manager, Program + CRM Operations

Shannon serves as the Salesforce administrator at Flamboyan. She supports the Flamboyan Operations team as well as Flamboyan’s partner schools in all their finance and operations needs. Shannon believes that education is a powerful tool in improving a person’s life outcomes and believes that every person should have access to it.

Shannon was born and raised in northern California, and received her Bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in International Security and Conflict Resolution. Prior to joining Flamboyan, she served at the San Diego Diplomacy Council, a local non-profit, where she helped coordinate scheduling and cultural activities for international guests visiting the US through State Department-funded programs. Connect with Shannon on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? My favorite subject was Spanish. It piqued my interest in other languages and cultures. Fittingly, my Spanish teacher was my favorite teacher. I have since learned German and Russian and have picked up a little French along the way.


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Lindsay Wright

Director, Strategy Management

Lindsay is the right-hand to Flamboyan Foundation’s Senior Leadership Team and functions as their liaison to the DC and Puerto Rico teams. As Director of Strategy Management, Lindsay lives out her commitment to advancing educational equity by stewarding internal culture and providing strategic support to the organization’s leaders and Board of Directors. In her role, she directs internal communications, develops systems that prioritize organizational effectiveness, and leads organization-wide special projects.

Lindsay shares the belief that all children should have access to a high-quality education no matter their background or life circumstances. Prior to her tenure at Flamboyan, Lindsay began her career in the non-profit sector at NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center in Harrisonburg, VA. There, she managed client casework and developed bilingual communication resources. She also interned at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and developed content related to CDF’s policy priorities.

Lindsay speaks Spanish fluently and looks for opportunities to use her language skills whenever she can. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

What was your favorite subject or course in school? English. I love the way language and stories open us up to new realities and help us make sense of the world.

Marci Young

President + Chief Operating Officer

Marci oversees Flamboyan’s overall strategy, program, and operations. Her work ensures that the foundation is maximizing its cohesion, effectiveness, and sustainability across its offices in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

A nonprofit management veteran with more than twenty years’ experience, she started her careers as a kindergarten teacher in Maryland and has always believed education is the foundation for young people to live their best lives and achieve their dreams. Marci is a “fierce fighter” on behalf of students, especially those who are most marginalized and has spent her career fighting at the local, state, and national levels to improve the lives of children and youth of low-income families. Marci’s track record includes having been a Partner at Venture Philanthropy Partners, Vice President of Impact at United Way Worldwide, and having held leadership roles at Pew Center of States and the Center for the Child Care Workforce. She has served on numerous local and national boards and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University and a master’s degree in early childhood education with a specialization in policy and administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Marci is inspired by the connections and community we share because our shared humanity is a powerful and positive force.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? Mrs. Cleveland believed in my success even when I doubted myself. She always pushed me to do my best and overcome challenges (in the classroom and beyond).


Cynthia (Xin) Yuen

Managing Director, Data Analytics + Measurement

Xin is charged with strengthening Flamboyan’s data, analytics, and measurement work. She aims to elevate the insights we gain from our data and highlight the impacts of our Effective Family Engagement programs. Xin is committed to working in education because she believes that equitable access to high-quality education is key to helping children thrive.

Prior to joining Flamboyan, Xin led the development of the Physician Assistant Education Association’s (PAEA) original research and data analytics portfolio, ensuring that data, publications, and reports centered the experiences of historically marginalized groups in PA education. Before PAEA, she was a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow at the University of Illinois, conducting developmental psychology research on health and well-being among families of adolescents with a focus on those of Asian and Latin American descent.

Outside of Flamboyan, Xin enjoys hiking, building data visualization skills, and spending time with her toddler, husband, and two cats with elaborate names: Prince Peter Peppercorn and Admiral Asparagus. Connect with Xin on LinkedIn.

Who was your favorite teacher in school? My English teacher, Mr. Sabo, held us to a high standard and challenged us to think deeply and critically.