exalt is staffed by a cohesive team of educators who strive to provide participants with the best educational experience they’ve had, both inside the classroom and out.
We are a team of highly analytical and intellectual thinkers who can assess the multifaceted needs of our program participants, with a nimble and innovative approach to the challenges they face. We are passionate and dynamic in our approach, yet grounded in our cultural competence and clear communication skills. We leverage creativity from our former and current professional pursuits: from singers to actors to painters to authors, we see our creativity as essential to effectively engaging the youth we serve and helping them channel their own creative energy toward developing a positive future.
Gisele Castro | Executive Director
Gisele has more than 20 years of experience creating and leading organizations that focus on ensuring equity in justice for court-involved youth.
She has a Master’s of Public Administration and Non-Profit Management from Pace University, and graduated as a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. She studied at the graduate level at Oxford University where she researched U.S. vs. U.K. juvenile justice systems.
Gisele has strong roots within exalt, having served previously as Director of Programs and External Relations from 2010-2013; Board Member from 2013-2015 and former Board Chair. She was also the Director at CASES, Family Court division and was instrumental in redesigning the program model and structure.
Gisele has taught courses on leadership development at Bank Street College and advises students in the Master’s in Education and Leadership in Community – Based Learning program. Her role at Bank Street was expanded in 2015, to redesign the program for Leadership in Community-Based Organizations.
As she leads exalt through its’ inaugural scaling initiative, Gisele is poised to position the organization to become a thought leader and use our compelling data to prove that our most marginalized young people have an important place in our society.
office: 347-621-6100 ext. 101
Brian Lewis | Program Director
Brian Lewis is a passionate critical pedagogue and systems-change leader with more than 10 years of experience pushing the envelope and re-imagining possibilities for marginalized and under-resourced youth. He is thrilled to serve as Director of Programs at exalt Youth. His educational background includes a Bachelor’s with a double major in Education Studies and Literature from the New School as well as a Master’s with a focus in Urban Education from CUNY Graduate Center. Prior to joining exalt, he served as a teacher as well as a teaching artist and peace circle keeper supporting gang-involved and under-resourced youth in both Chicago and New York City. In addition to his work at exalt, he is also an Adjunct Professor at The New School and has organized numerous conferences and symposiums at colleges and universities focused on the topics of race, class, gender and the “isms”. He also enjoys reading, writing and playing pick up basketball with exalt staff and youth.
office: 347-621-6100 ext. 107
Angie Carpio | Director of Operations & Strategic Advancement
Angie Carpio is a passionate advocate for criminal justice reform, dedicated to ending mass incarceration and improving the outcomes of those who have been touched by the justice system. She is excited to be back at exalt, having started her career in youth justice with the organization in 2012 as a Program Assistant and leaving as a Partnership Manager. Prior to her return to exalt, Angie worked at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, where her portfolio included Raise the Age implementation, School Climate and Safety initiatives, and closing Rikers Island. She is poised to support exalt’s growth with her approach to change-making through policy reform and strengthening the work of community-based organizations.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management and Social Policy from the New School.
office: 347-621-6100 ext. 110
Nadya Encarnacion | Program Manager
Nadya Encarnacion hails from New York City and is passionate about NYC young people maximizing their purpose and potential. She began her journey in youth development in 2005 serving at-risk youth in Washington Heights and has since transitioned into juvenile justice when she joined the exalt team in 2011. She is proud to serve as exalt's Program Manager, overseeing and supporting their referral process in addition to leading, serving and guiding Program Coordinators that play pivotal roles in the development of exalt's young leaders. Nadya is also an actress, with roles in television, film and voiceover. Nadya obtained her B.A. from Fairfield University, M.A. from Manhattan College and is a graduate of The American Musical & Dramatic Academy.
office: 347-621-6100 ext. 106
Alex Griffith | Senior Teacher and Court Relations Manager
Alex Griffith joined exalt as a Program Coordinator in the summer of 2013. He served as a Pinkerton Community Fellow at exalt for the 2012-2013 academic year during which time he contributed on multiple levels to the organization, including assisting program staff build and manage program cycles. Alex graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in June 2013 with a major in English and a minor in Public Administration. Prior to becoming a Community Fellow, Alex worked as a research assistant and mentor at the Urban Male Initiative at John Jay College providing personal, academic, and professional support to college students, in particular Black and Latino males. He also worked at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and interned with Honorable Judge Geraldine Pickett through the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program. Alex chose exalt for his fellowship placement because of its unique approach to youth justice. He is excited to be a part of the organization.
office: 347-621-6100 ext. 109
Eleazar Adjehoun | Partnership Development and Internship Liaison
Eleazar Adjehoun is an advocate for access, with a devotion to the development and success of New York City’s most under-recognized youth. He believes experiential education is paramount in linking theory to practice, and seeks to equip exalt’s youth with continued access to various experiences and opportunities that support their efforts to change their lives and the communities they belong to. Eleazar joined the exalt team as a Program Coordinator in the Fall of 2017 after graduating from DePauw University as a Posse Scholar with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Peace & Conflict Analysis. Prior to joining exalt, he first explored his affinity for service in an Emergency Room as a Bonner Scholar Intern at the Putnam County Hospital in Greencastle, Indiana. When closer to home, he swapped his scrubs for a helmet and harness, and spent his Summers working as an Experiential Education Facilitator at the Princeton Blairstown Center (PBC). PBC is an outdoor experiential education center that aims to empower young people, primarily from under-resourced communities, to strengthen their social-emotional skills through experiential, environmental, and adventure-based programming. Ultimately, Eleazar’s calling came when he discovered he could combine his affinity for holistic healthcare with his youth development experiences to advocate for others.
office: 347-621-6100 ext. 105
Rafelina Contreras | Program Coordinator
Rafelina Contreras is pleased to join exalt as a Program Coordinator. Rafelina graduated from Rutgers University with a double major in Psychology and Sociology and a minor in Criminology. Prior to joining exalt, Rafelina was a Case Manager for the Aegis Domestic Violence Program at an emergency crisis shelter. Through a Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) approach, she promoted safety, support, and empowerment to positively impact the lives of domestic violence survivors and their children in both an individual and group setting. Through offering crisis intervention and emotional support to survivors of domestic violence, Rafelina found a passion to help the youth struggling with the many challenges they were experiencing. She is determined to help transform the lives of youth at exalt through cultivating their leadership skills and promoting self-sufficiency.
office: 347-621-6100 ex: 108
Rosana Hanif | Program Coordinator
Rosana Hanif graduates from the John Jay Honors Program with a major in Law & Society and minor in Anthropology this year. She is both an advocate and an academic, is on the Dean’s List, is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society as well as the Sigma Alpha Pi society. Rosana has received both the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women Summer Scholar Fellowship and the National Engaged Leader Award.
Rosana is an advocate for reentry, social justice, and first discovered her passion for youth justice while in her Pinkerton Community Undergraduate Fellowship. Rosana fulfilled her fellowship here at exalt as a junior program coordinator. Through this role, she conducted intake, assisted with class and internship placements, and facilitated one-on-ones with youth to support their academic, personal, and professional development.
Before coming to exalt, Rosana interned at John Jay’s Prisoner Reentry Institute where she supported the smooth functioning of the program. She collaborated with staff members on workshops, academic advisement caseload, student outreach, and strategic planning for the academic calendar. During her time at PRI, Rosana also developed a quarterly newsletter, Our Voice, which was written for, by, and about College Initiatives and Prison-to-College Pipeline students. Our Voice features student spotlights, current affairs, events, poems, stories, and community news, in an effort to build community across John Jay’s student body while also highlighting student successes’ for the wider public.
office: 347-621-6100 ex: 104
Ikim Powell | Co-Facilitator
Ikim Powell is an ambassador for maximizing one’s educational and personal progression. Formerly, he was a participant of exalt and is a recent college graduate of CUNY - College of Staten Island, where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English: Writing and African Diaspora Studies. During his undergraduate term, he studied abroad, partaking in the subjects of British Children’s Literature in London, England; Ethnobotany and Pedology in Morocco, Africa; Art and Design in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Sichuan, China.
He has worked as a mentor and tutor in NYCDOE and CUNY, and later worked with adults as an Instructor at the CUNY Continuing Education and Professional Development Center helping them improve their literacy and GED/TASC certifications. His goal is to help young people maximize their potential and ultimately dictate their destiny.
Jolanda Porter | Consultant
Jolanda is an advocate of educational equity and believes in leveling the playing field for underserved youth through technology and mentorship. With over a decade of experience in direct service and leadership positions, Jolanda plays an integral role at exalt in leading data process and evaluation, partnership development, program management, marketing and design.
Jolanda holds a Masters of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) from New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business and Bachelors degrees in Clinical Psychology and Music Theory from Tufts University.
Prior to exalt, Jolanda has contributed her talents to a myriad of nonprofits including UC Berkeley's Leveling Playing Field Institute, West End Boys and Girls Club - where she designed the program M.E.M.O. (Molding Educators through Mentorship Opportunities), HarlemRBI, and C.A.S.E.S.
Jolanda is positioned to strengthen the organization’s data and evaluation systems, improve program fidelity and marketing, and ultimately expand exalt’s mission, impact, and reach by developing new partnerships that ensure the organization's progressive model is accessible to young people at all stages of justice involvement.
Jennifer Manley | Consultant
Jennifer Manley is a public affairs and government relations consultant based in New York City and specializing in non-for-profit management, lobbying and development. Her experience in New York City Government dates to the Michael Bloomberg Mayoral Administration. She also spent several years heading in-house external relations for one of busiest public library system in the country- Queens. Jennifer joins her colleagues at Prime Strategies (www.prime-strategies.com) in representing non-for-profit and corporate clients nationally at the Federal, local State and City level. Together, the Prime team has raised hundreds millions of dollars and effected positive policy changes for clients to meet and exceed their strategic goals. Jennifer is particularly interested in social justice and cultural causes, serves on the board of a library advocacy organization, and proudly calls Brooklyn home.
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