Eric Braxton is the Executive Director of the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing. Eric’s involvement in youth organizing began at the age of 19 when he helped found the Philadelphia Student Union and served as its Executive Director for ten years. The Student Union continues to be a leader in organizing public high school students to transform their schools. At FCYO, Eric has been instrumental to incubating new funding initiatives to support grassroots community-led organizing, including FCYO’s Healthy Communities initiative, which supports youth organizing groups addressing the root causes of childhood obesity. He has supported numerous foundations in developing youth organizing programs that align with foundation goals. Eric is a father, and, in addition to being with his family, enjoys basketball and gardening.
Mónica Córdova is a native New Mexican born in Clovis and raised in Albuquerque. Before joining FCYO, Mónica was co-Director of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in Albuquerque, NM. She grew up in youth organizing, from working with her local neighborhood association youth group as the first young person elected to a neighborhood association board of director’s. She also worked with many other youth organizations from across the city regarding youth rights. This built a strong framework for social justice and empowerment that she continued to build upon as the Youth Coordinator at SWOP. At SWOP she developed her leadership at both the local and national level rapidly, through local youth rights campaigns and in planning the first United States Social Forum. Monica has her bachelor’s in Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University. Monica was a member of FCYO's Board from 2009 until 2014.
Director of Operations and Development
Will Buford joined FCYO as a social work intern in September of 2011 and came on as Manager of Operations & Development in July of 2012. Will supports FCYO's general operations, financial management, communications, fundraising and program initiatives. Prior to beginning graduate studies, he worked in higher education and strategic communications and holds an MSSW from Columbia University School of Social Work with a concentration on nonprofit management and school-based social services.
Hashim Benford is a father, spouse, and revolutionary with over a decade of experience in organizing and activism. Prior to joining the staff of FCYO, he served for nearly four years as the Executive Director of Power U Center for Social Change, a grassroots organization that develops the leadership of Black and Latino youth and Black women as part of the struggle to liberate all oppressed people. Hashim got his initiation into organizing in 2008 at the Miami Workers Center, where he started as a tenant organizer fighting back against slumlords. Hashim is a graduate of Florida International University, having earned his BA in Sociology & Anthropology and an undergraduate certificate in Women’s Studies. He is a dedicated freedom fighter committed to a movement for economic, racial, and gender liberation that transforms society and promotes the healing of our individual and collective traumas.
Mona has followed her work in nonprofits, communications, media production, youth development, and civic education to Chicago, DC, and Hyderabad, India to train and work with communities around how to use media for action and change. These organizations include Free Spirit Media, The Modern Story, Mikva Challenge, Gandhi Brigade, and Leadership Greater Chicago. Mona also co-founded an oral history collective focused on collecting and telling stories of social movement activists. Mona was most recently the lead producer of a broadcast radio series on public transit commuting as part of the the Localore: Finding America initiative, run through the Association of Independents in Radio. Mona holds a bachelor's in radio/television/film from Northwestern University and now lives in Los Angeles.
Luis T. Gauthier is a Philadelphia-based accountant, finance and operations guru. He began his career as an accountant with the City of Philadelphia and then moved on to work with several non-profit organizations in accounting and financial management roles. Luis worked with the Philadelphia Student Union for over 8 years, serving as Director of Finance and Operations. Luis also worked with Media Mobilizing Project as their in-house Accountant. Working for Media Mobilizing Project provided Luis with experience accounting for government grants, in particular a federal grant covering both the BTOP program and Public Computer Centers project, initiated in Philadelphia. Luis completed his undergraduate studies at Temple University’s Fox School of Business earning a cum laude designation. He is a proud father of two little boys and continues to advocate for education equality and the abolishment of poverty. He takes great pride in assisting organizations with missions aimed at bettering our communities along with the lives of those that live in it.
Senior Program Associate
Manuela Arciniegas is the Senior Program Associate for the Andrus Family Fund and brings over 14 years of experience in youth organizing, community outreach, and cultural arts education. She is currently a Next Generation Fellow with Hispanics in Philanthropy, a member of the Steering Committee of the New York City Chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, a Public Humanities Fellow at the National Council of the Humanities and a Magnet Presidential Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center where she is pursuing a PhD in Ethnomusicology. Her research interests lie in the intersection between empowerment, low-income people of color communities, and Caribbean religious drum music. Manuela has worked as an adjunct professor of Caribbean music at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and has been working as an educator in cultural arts and environmental justice with organizationslike Sustainable South Bronx, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Mothers on the Move, BronxWorks, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, The Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute, CityLore, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and others.
Senior Program Officer
Delia Arellano-Weddleton joined the Nellie Mae Education Foundation in 2008. A first-generation American, Delia holds more than 20 years’ experience in social services and community outreach, primarily in low-income, immigrant communities. Previously, she worked at the Foundation as a Fellow in the Associated Grant Makers Diversity Fellowship Program. Prior to the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Delia was the Coordinator of the Newcomers and Neighbors Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, which was created to respond to the needs of the town’s large immigrant community. She also previously worked as a Bilingual Family Advocate at the South Middlesex Opportunity Council’s Head Start program, supporting English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking families. Delia holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.
Jenny Arwade is Co-Executive Director of Communities United (formally known as Albany Park Neighborhood Council or APNC), a community based organization located in one of the most immigrant communities in Chicago. A graduate of Princeton University, Jenny has been a community organizer since 2000, and Executive Director Communities United since 2004. In that time, she has worked to organize community residents through local as well as collaborative campaigns to increase access to affordable housing, and affordable health care, improve the quality of public education, and promote immigrant rights. Jenny is also Vice President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an Executive Council Member of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, and recently worked with 6 other organizations to form Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), a multi-ethnic youth-led community organizing collaborative to tackle the dropout rate in Chicago Public Schools.
As President of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, Lori Bezahler leads a national grant making program supporting organizing and leadership by young people and communities of color to dismantle structural inequity based on race and class. During 2013, Ms. Bezahler was also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion where she now serves as chair of the Board of Directors. Her writing and commentary have appeared in The Nation, the Washington Post, Education Week, Foundation Review, the Journal of Responsive Philanthropy, and on numerous blogs and other media outlets. With over 20 years’ experience as a leader in the not for profit sector, she has served on several boards including Grantmakers for Education, the National Center on Schools and Communities at Fordham University, Philanthropy New York, and the Center for Community Alternatives, and has taught as an adjunct assistant professor at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.
Senior Program Officer
Shona Chakravarty is Senior Program Officer at the Hill-Snowdon Foundation (HSF), and is responsible for leading and managing HSF’s Economic Justice grantmaking program, as well as developing and implementing learning and leveraging activities related to HSF’s economic justice interests. She was previously the co-chair of Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) Working Group on Labor & Community Partnerships, and currently serves on the board of the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing. Before joining the Hill-Snowdon Foundation staff in 2006, Shona served as Program Officer for the Four Freedoms Fund, a philanthropic collaborative that made grants to enhance the capacity of local and state organizations to actively engage immigrants in the civic, social and economic life of their communities and participate in national policy and advocacy efforts.
National Field Director
Eli Cuna is United We Dream’s National Field Director. Eli is a community organizer and movement builder from New Mexico, and develop the field and political strategy and implementation plan for our branches Texas, New Mexico, Florida, and affiliates from CA, NY, OK and other states to mobilize. She came to the U.S. at age 14 with one of her siblings and reunited with her parents and the rest of her siblings at age of 16. Eli is proud of her story as an undocumented young womxn of color who was raised by hardworking migrant workers. Eli came out as undocumented and joined the immigrant youth movement in 2004 when she participated in her first class walk out at Capital High School in Santa Fe to voice the need for access to college education for undocumented youth in New Mexico. Eli’s organizing practice is rooted in racial justice, intersectionality and indigenous epistemology. She has organized in rural communities and developed curricula to engage her community in the necessary work of undoing racism and fighting for environmental and economic justice. She also served as a racial justice community project manager at the Community Engagement Center at the University of New Mexico and was an ethnographic research associate at the Center for Study of Urban Poverty at UCLA. Eli co-built a statewide network of immigrant youth in New Mexico and has strengthened the organizing and advocacy infrastructure in the state by creating initiatives like: UndocuHealing, UndocuResearch, The (Un)documented Story Project, and NM DREAMZone. Eli is a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Civic Policy and holds two B.A. degrees and a M.P.A from the University of New Mexico. Eli’s search for justice comes from her journey of learning from the elders in her tribe & community and is proud to share the wisdom of those elders and her experience with United We Dream as the network embarks on a multi-racial, intersectional strategy to bring justice and dignity to people’s lives.
Program Officer and Grants Manager
Brian Dixon joined The Stone Foundation in 2012, where he has worn many hats, allowing him to participate at every level of foundation management, including orchestration of the Foundation’s move from San Francisco to its current home in Chicago. Currently, he works with his program making colleagues to support work in education, early childhood development, and youth development, particularly focusing on elevating youth voice through organizing, youth-lead social change, and youth media. Prior to 2012, Brian primarily worked in faith-based non-profits, where he created opportunities to build community and support the needs of marginalized groups which included highlighting and celebrating the contributions of teens and young adults.
A native to Rochester, New York, and a graduate from the University of Buffalo, James Lopez first began getting involved in organizing as a college student around issues of environmental justice and policing issues in the city of Buffalo. He worked with the Western New York Law Center where he supported their consumer debt legal clinic, and helped advocate for polices that address predatory lending and Community Reinvestment issues. James was an organizer for VOICE-Buffalo, where he organized with residents and formerly incarcerated in order to push for police accountability and diversion programs in the city of Buffalo. He was also involved in Just Resisting (JR), which is a collective of organizers of color in the city of Buffalo committed to developing transformational organizing in the city of Buffalo. James is an alumnus of Black Organizing for Leader and Dignity (BOLD) and is committed to assisting in the development of the young Black and Brown leadership necessary to usher in a new society where all oppressed people are liberated.
Program Manager, Healthy Youth Development
Laura McCargar was appointed as President of the Perrin Family Foundation (PFF) in June of 2016. Laura joined the foundation in 2011 as a Program Officer, where she played a central role in designing the foundation’s youth-led social change grantmaking and the oversaw the development and implementation of capacity building initiatives designed to strengthen, promote and expand youth organizing across Connecticut. Prior to joining the Perrin Family Foundation, Laura was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship from Open Society Foundations to engage in research and organizing around the role that alternative schools and adult education programs play in Connecticut’s school-to-prison pipeline. Laura brings to her work more than a decade of experience as a youth worker and organizer, having served as the founding Executive Director of a New Haven-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth to use media and organizing strategies to create community change.
Chief Financial Officer
As Chief Financial Officer of Bend the Arc, Mark Mildner has overall responsibility for all financial aspects of the organization. His responsibilities also include oversight of human resources and office service functions. He brings over 25 years of financial experience and professional expertise to Bend the Arc. Mark has held senior financial positions with several not-for-profit organizations – providing expense controls, instituting best practices and managing complex assignments. Mark earned a BBA degree with high honors in public accounting from Hofstra University and a MBA degree with high honors from Boston University. He is both a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA). Mark is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Program Officer, Youth Opportunity and Learning
Sanjiv Rao is a program officer on the Youth Opportunity and Learning team. He has focused on educational equity issues in the United States, making grants that have supported improvements in the public education system’s school day to benefit low-income communities in particular. He has supported innovative efforts around the development, advocacy, and scalability of a redesigned school day and year to close opportunity gaps so that underserved youth have access to the high-quality educational and other learning experiences they need to succeed. Sanjiv has been with Ford since 2012. Earlier, he served as executive director of the New York State Afterschool Network, where he led policy efforts to link and integrate youth development and expanded learning more effectively with the public education system. Sanjiv began his career as an elementary school teacher in California, Texas, and Mexico. He has worked in school system improvement as a senior associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and as a member of the research team studying the Ford-funded Leadership for a Changing World program while a doctoral student at New York University. Sanjiv has a PhD in public administration from New York University, a master’s degree in education from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Liz Sak is the executive director of the Cricket Island Foundation a private, family foundation founded in 2000. CIF funds youth-led social change programs nationally with a particular emphasis on emerging organizations that work with extremely marginalized populations. Liz came to Cricket Island 8 years ago after almost two decades of experience running non-profit organizations – from a Beacon School in the South Bronx to an arts and youth-led social change group in Manhattan. She currently serves on the Board of Philanthropy New York and on the Executive Committee for the Communities for Just Schools Fund. She spearheaded an effort to analyze the impact of the recession on social justice philanthropy that resulted in release of Diminishing Dollars for Social Justice Philanthropy in partnership with the Foundation Center and often speaks on organizational development and capacity building in grantmaking strategies. Liz got her BA from Lehigh University and her MBA from the Yale School of Management.
Program Officer - Teen Development
Nahir Torres joined The Hyams Foundation in 2012 with a background in access to educational opportunities for Boston teens and positive youth development. At Hyams, her portfolio includes strategies to disrupt the school to prison pipeline, youth organizing, and immigrant rights. Prior to coming to Hyams, she was a Program Officer for Education at The Boston Foundation (TBF), where she worked on TBF’s college completion portfolio including Success Boston and Achieving the Dream. Her previous work in the nonprofit sector focused on family engagement, child development, and adult education. A graduate of the Boston Public Schools, Nahir received her B.A. degree from Wellesley College and a Master of Education from Harvard University. She is an active member of the Greater Boston Social Justice Funders Network, the Communities for Just Schools Fund, and the Youth Transitions Funder Group. In July of 2017, Nahir was sworn in as a member of Massachusetts' first-ever Latino Advisory Commission to the Governor.
Luna Yasui is a Program Officer with the Ford Foundation’s Youth Opportunity and Learning team. Her work focuses on supporting new social movements and youth leadership and organizing aimed at building a powerful 21st century social justice infrastructure. Luna seeks to elevate the next generation of social justice leaders with an emphasis on youth of color, immigrant youth, LGBT youth and young women of color. Her work aims to connect the full range of advocacy tools including organizing, litigation and policy advocacy, civic engagement, narrative change, communications, and research to mitigate race and gender inequality. Luna is also part of Ford’s Gender Race and Ethnic Justice team where she focuses on global LGBT rights. Prior to her work at Ford, Luna oversaw the Open Society Foundation’s grantmaking on gender justice, immigrant worker rights, and LGBT rights. She has also worked as an attorney and policy advocate at Bay Area Legal Aid, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the National Employment Law Project. Luna received her juris doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Law, where she was a public interest fellow. She graduated from Brown University with a concentration in political science.