Before taking the role as executive director in August 2013, Christopher Hanway oversaw Riis Settlement’s fund development and marketing strategy and implementation. He began his career at Riis Settlement as a grants manager and took over as development director in September 2010. He has more than 11 years of fundraising experience, most notably at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. A graduate of Hunter College of CUNY, Mr. Hanway holds a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College’s Executive MPA program.
Carol Nurse has over three decades of experience in non-profit accounting, finance and fiscal management. After working for 10 years in the non-profit sector, Ms. Nurse joined Riis Settlement in 1993 to manage an organizational budget of $600,050. Today, with an organizational budget over $5 million, she provides leadership in accounting, financial reporting, budgeting, human resources and internal operations. Ms. Nurse holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Brooklyn College.
Associate Executive Director
Robert Madison assumed the position of associate executive director in July, 2017. He is in charge of handling strategy, external and governmental relations, and key operations functions within the agency. Prior to assuming this role, he served as the director of senior services helping to establish an innovative vision for the future of the senior center by introducing new projects, such as a community garden and a cultural program, Jazz At Riis. Before joining Riis Settlement, he served as senior manager for Harlem Children’s Zone and as the executive director for Project Reach Youth, Inc. He holds a master’s degree in public health from Hunter College.
Senior Director of Programs
Nicole joined Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement as the senior director of programs in 2016. Inspired by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi which reads “Be the change you wish to see in this world”, Nicole has committed herself to a life of service. For nearly a decade, Nicole has been working to enrich the lives of youth, families, and communities at large. Prior to joining Riis, Nicole worked to help children and families involved in the foster care system, provided counseling to youth who were incarcerated, directed multiple after-school programs and summer camps, and ran and operated a career preparation and internship program for disconnected youth. She is also a former board member of the Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership and served as their director of education and family programming. Most recently, Nicole was responsible for standardizing and enhancing the quality of programs, systems, and services at The Boys’ Club of New York, a youth development organization that serves Manhattan and Queens.
Director of Development and Communications
Amanda joined Riis Settlement as the development and communications associate in 2014. In that role, she collaborated closely with the director of development, executive director, and program staff on all areas of grant proposals, external communications and marketing. Prior to joining Riis Settlement, she worked at Koszyn and Co., a consulting firm for non-profit organizations. She has also served as a constituent services intern for former Queens Councilman Eric Gioia. Amanda is committed to doing work that has a positive impact on society and is proud to be a member of the Riis Settlement team. She holds a bachelor’s degree in ethnicity and race studies with concentrations in Latino studies and comparative ethnic studies from Columbia University.
Program Evaluation Specialist
Prospero joined Riis Settlement as program evaluation specialist. Prior to joining Riis Settlement, he worked in program data and evaluation with Harlem RBI and the International Rescue Committee. In those roles, he helped organization and program leaders utilize data to evaluate and improve programs for clients. He also volunteers with Rooklyn International Football Association, a sports-based youth development organization that serves newcomer immigrant, refugee and asylee youth through soccer and mentorship in New York City. Prospero serves programs at Riis Settlement by improving access to data and assisting staff with client outcomes. Prospero holds a bachelor’s degree in earth and environmental engineering from Columbia University and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from U.C. Berkeley.
Jean Danielo Gabriel
IT Network Administrator
Jean Gabriel joined Riis Settlement as the computer network administrator in 2010. He has a decade of experience working with network technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from ESIH University in Haiti and is a Microsoft certified engineer. He has a strong background and an extensive knowledge of the industry.
Director of Queensbridge Youth Programs
Veronica Franklin started her career at Riis Settlement as a tutor in 1997, and has since climbed the career ladder to a leadership role overseeing all youth programming at our Riis Academy-Queensbridge campus. This includes elementary, middle, and teen after-school programs, as well as summer camp and holiday/weekend programming. In her tenure at Riis Academy, Ms. Franklin has helped improve youth’s performance in reading and math, maintained high program retention rates, and has helped create a true continuum of services so students can remain at Riis Academy from elementary through high school. Ms. Franklin is the recipient of a PASEsetters Award, an NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award, and a Bank of America Local Hero Award.
Riis Academy Program Director (P.S. 166)
Iftikhar Mahmud started as a participant at Riis Academy in the 6th grade. After graduating high school in 2001, he joined the Riis Academy team as a program aide and went on to hold various positions. Iftikhar has served as program director at our P.S. 166 campus since 2012 and oversees a large after-school and summer camp program. Iftikhar received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Queens College and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.
Director of Cornerstone and Out-of-School Youth Programs
Lavern Maison has served as a program coordinator at various Riis Academy sites for over seven years. She is now responsible for the oversight of all youth, teen & community programs at our Ravenswood Community Center campus. This includes oversight of our Cornerstone and Young Men’s Initiative programs as well as the implementation of our Riis Academy core components such as gender-specific, STEM, and college access programs. She has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly a decade and has experience in international relief and HIV/AIDS programming. Ms. Maison has a bachelor’s degree in economics and anthropology and a master’s degree in international development.
Riis Academy Program Director (P.S. 171)
Kezia Roopnarine joined Riis Academy in December 2014 in the role of administrative assistant, helping to oversee and support all of the youth-based programs that Riis offers. She was promoted to the position of program director at our P.S.171 campus in 2015. Kezia has several years of experience working and volunteering in various positions with youth-based programs, including with the YMCA of Greater New York. Kezia has a passion for providing educational programming and serving others. She graduated in 2013 from Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with her concentration in U.S. history and received her teaching certificate that same year. She recently received a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership from the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.
Riis Academy Program Director (Information Technology High School)
Michael joins Riis Settlement as program director for the Riis Academy program at Information Technology High School and brings to the role over 20 years of postgraduate experience in youth development and education. Highlights include being a member of the very first NYC Teaching Fellows cohort, serving as director of the Queens Justice Corps, and working as a cognitive behavioral therapist/advisor in an alternative high school serving court-involved youth and as an educational specialist in the NYC Foster Care system. Michael believes in the youth he serves and believes in their future success and is happy to have joined Riis Settlement in continuing to make a positive difference in the lives of youth. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Albany and a master’s degree in applied psychology from New York University.
Yasory De La Cruz
Riis Academy Program Director (P.S. 76)
Yasory first joined Riis Settlement as a program coordinator for the Riis Academy after-school program at C.S 111, where she worked closely with the program’s director to facilitate its growth and success. She was later promoted to program director at Riis Academy-P.S. 76. Yasory has many years of experience working in after-school programming – designing and implementing age-appropriate curricula that offer participants a safe, fun, and academically enriching experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Monroe College and is looking forward to pursuing her master’s in the near future.
Director of Immigrant Services
Driftnery Martinez began her role at Riis Settlement as a program coordinator/paralegal in March 2014, helping to manage programming within the immigrant services department. In July 2015, Driftnery assumed the role of director of immigrant services. Driftnery spent several years prior to joining Riis Settlement working with immigrants from diverse cultures and backgrounds. She worked with the International Rescue Committee in New York, NY and Elizabeth, NJ, providing direct services to refugees, asylees, parolees, and other eligible immigrants applying for immigration-related benefits. Driftnery also traveled to Sierra Leone as a KidsGive intern and assisted refugees and internally displaced people by distributing school supplies and educational scholarships to children in Freetown and Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone. Ms. Martinez holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Lawrence University.
Yannis Bacalis began his role at Riis Settlement as a program assistant in 2015, assisting with the administration of our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. In 2017, Yannis assumed the role of program coordinator. Yannis’ experience includes working with the United Nations under the NGO Consultative Status, as well as working on regional and international projects in Greece and Iraq, helping refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. Yannis completed his bachelor’s degree in international and european studies with a specialization in political studies and diplomacy at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece. He also holds a master’s degree in global affairs at New York University with a specialization in peacebuilding. His main areas of interest include refugees, immigrants and vulnerable populations, women’s rights, development, mediation, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and education.
Kayla Almanzar joined Riis Settlement in 2016 as the case manager for the immigrant services program. She is a licensed social worker and gained her master’s at the Silver School of Social Work at NYU. While at NYU, Kayla had the opportunity to travel to Puebla, Mexico to better understand the push and pull factors of migration to the US and to learn more about unaccompanied minors. Previously, Kayla worked with newly arrived immigrants at a middle school in the Lower East Side, where she provided individual and group counseling as well as crisis intervention. While completing her bachelor’s degree in South Carolina, Kayla worked in the hospital setting, facilitating resources to the Hispanic population and enhancing the communication between their physicians.
Paralegal and Program Assistant
Sophie joined the immigrant services department in 2016 as a paralegal and a program assistant for our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, working with program staff to connect the immigrant community to support services. Before joining Riis, Sophie worked as a legal assistant at a small immigration law office delivering direct legal services to immigrants with diverse backgrounds and legal needs. Sophie holds a B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College-Macaulay Honors College in New York City. While completing her bachelor’s degree at Hunter, she had the opportunity to work as a site director for Let’s Get Ready, as a civics coach with Generation Citizen, and as an intern in the Office of the New York City Public Advocate. In 2015, she also participated in a trip to Panama to provide legal aid and legal rights resources to community members in rural communities.
Felicia Artis comes to Riis Settlement with work experience from across a variety of human service fields and a broad client base. Ms. Artis works with the seniors within our NORC program to help them strengthen their social support systems, improve their quality of life, and become stakeholders in their own communities. She uses her inherent compassion, empathy and prior experience working at a NORC senior center, to help our participants achieve their full potential. Ms. Artis completed training at Outreach Institute and received a certificate to complete her requirement for certification in substance abuse counseling. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College and is a licensed clinical social worker.
Robbin Davis has been with Riis Settlement for over 18 years, and has extensive experience providing support services to senior programs. Ms. Davis’ responsibilities include providing coordination and scheduling of program activities and critical clerical support. Ms. Davis previously worked as a school aide with the NYC Department of Education and as a clerical aide with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.