Over the past two decades Paul has earned a reputation for re-setting organizations and positioning them for long-term success. He has deep knowledge in the fields of human services and housing as well as advocacy communities, and has managed transition in those fields both as a CEO and as an Interim Executive.
Having come to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975, Paul recognized how personally public policies impacted his own life and committed himself to work on behalf of those whose lives have been marginalized. Paul began his nonprofit career in the early 90’s at BayCove Human Services, opening a bi-lingual, bi-cultural group home for homeless, mentally ill, Southeast Asians (a national model). During his tenure the agency underwent a period of rapid expansion as the Commonwealth privatized human services and Paul’s responsibilities grew to assume operational leadership and specialization in finance and housing.
This foundational work with special populations and government housing solutions led to his role as Executive Director of FBC Property Management, where he was able to effect a complicated refinance of 120 HUD 202 units and build a unique continuum of supportive housing by connecting 3 different elder housing projects. These units were in turn supported by the creation of a 501c3 home health aide organization to provide services and staffing and an additional income stream. Paul’s career as an ‘Interim E.D’ began while serving on the Board of a community-based organization, when he stepped in after the founding Executive Director had left. In short order Paul identified and rectified funding compliance issues and restructured $4M of debt, allowing for long term operational viability of the organization.
It was this engagement in managing both transition and turnaround which surfaced Paul’s knack for reboot strategy and solutions. Subsequent consulting engagements with National Network of Forest Practitioners (NNFP), the Alzheimer’s Association (Connecticut chapter) and the Brain Tumor Society showcased Paul’s forte in board development, fundraising, programs and strategy. In particular, he has dealt with the opportunities and ramifications of non-profit mergers. While serving as interim at the Brain Tumor Society, he orchestrated the merger and successful integration of 3 successful integration of 3 disease-based nonprofits, creating the largest national organization of its kind. Recently, he facilitated the process for two Boston-area Housing organizations entering into merger.
Paul holds a BA in Economic-Finance from Bentley College and an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In 2011, he completed the Strategic Perspectives in NonProfit Management (SPiNM) program at Harvard Business School. Paul also holds two certificates from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
Tony Wells is the Senior Advisor of College Advising and Access. Tony earned his Bachelors of Science in Sociology and M.Ed. in Community Counseling from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Most recently, Tony served as the Freshman Services and Academic Coach at Mount Ida College within The Learning Circle Program. Tony has worked with middle school through post-secondary students for more than 15 years. He has had extensive experience working with first generation and/or low-income students within the TRIO, Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound programs.
Emy Takinami is the College Success Initiative Advisor at Steps to Success. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a dual degree in Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and is interested in the structural implications of income, race, and gender inequalities on individual lives. She is a Brookline High School alumni, as well as a Steps to Success and CSI alumni, so she uniquely understands the challenges associated with getting into – and navigating – college. She hopes to get the next generation of Brookline High School students from all backgrounds to understand and get excited about the college process.
Sarah Fowler grew up in Western Mass, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English, from University of Massachusetts Boston. A few years later she earned her Master of Arts in Teaching in English Language Arts, from Northeastern University. For five years, she taught English Language Arts to 8th-12th graders in Boston, and then Chelsea. She joined Steps to Success as the former After Hours University (AHU) Director at the Pierce School, and is now the Director of Extended Learning Programs for Steps to Success.
Jacki Vassari grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Simmons College in Boston with her Bachelor’s Degree in History and Communications. She has been with Steps to Success since 2012, acting in various roles including the Director of Pierce AHU and the Interim Director of Extended Learning Programs. Currently, she is the Director of Summer Programs, working to coordinate Steps to Success’ summer programming of camp programs, Summer Connections, and Work Connections for Youth (a combination of YTP and WCY).
Rachel grew up in Southern California and earned her Bachelors of Arts in Architecture at the University of California Berkeley. She spent some time in Los Angeles working in the architectural design and project management fields. Additionally, she worked as a community and youth worker in a low-income community in Stockton-on-Tees, England. She cares about social justice issues surrounding the poor and the marginalized within a community, and she enjoys spending time with friends and family, soaking up the sunshine, and painting.
Dayana Donisca is an NDA AmeriCorps Service Member at Steps to Success. She is serving at the High School and CSI as an advisor and at the Lincoln Elementary/Middle School Teen Advantage Program as an assistant.
Dayana earned a Bachelor in Arts degree from Queens University of Charlotte in 2015. Dayana’s areas of study included Political Science, Sociology, as well as Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. Dayana was born and raised in the greater Boston area and is glad to return home after so long. This is Dayana’s second year in AmeriCorps, previously serving in Baltimore, MD, and after this year of service Dayana hopes to attend law school in the Boston region. Dayana aspires to become a well-renowned political figure and hopes to influence our nation’s education system.
Giancarlo Ambrogio was born and raised in Hartford County, Connecticut and graduated from Boston College with a Bachelors in History and Economics. Giancarlo is currently an AmeriCorps member working as a Program Assistant with the AHU and INK Programs. In his free time, he enjoys fishing, skiing, playing trumpet and being outdoors in any capacity.
Christopher Andrew grew up in Roxbury, MA and attended Brookline Public High School through the METCO Program. After he graduated, Christopher attended Emmanuel College where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. He is now studying at Cambridge College to earn his Master’s degree in School Adjustment Counseling and Mental Health. At school he learns about the counseling relationships and how to work with a diverse population. He has been involved with Steps To Success for 3 years now running the after school Homework Center at BHS.
Public Schools of Brookline Advisors
The Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) partners with STS by providing Program Advisors at Brookline High School and four of our elementary schools who work directly with students served by STS, Inc. during the school day, after school, and over the summer.
Melissa O’Brien is the Steps to Success High School Coordinator and advisor. Melissa earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminology from Florida State University in 2004. She then went on to earn her Masters of Education, specializing in School Accountability and Program Evaluation, from Florida Atlantic University in 2009. Prior to her current position, Melissa was a high school social studies teacher in Miami, FL for 7 years, teaching such subjects as Criminal Justice, AP Psychology, World History, and American Government. Melissa also served as an aspiring assistant principal for her former school district.
Kendell Jones is a Boston native and works as an advisor at Brookline Public High School. Cumulatively, he has worked at Brookline Public High School for about 8 years in various positions such as a paraprofessional in the classroom, a security guard, and a substance abuse counselor. He then became a part of Steps to Success for a year, before moving to Detroit, and then rejoined the team in September 2016 as a high school advisor. For his undergraduate degree, Kendell attended Florida Memorial University, where he majored in Sociology and minored in Criminal Justice. Afterwards, Kendell attended Simmons College and earned his Masters Degree in Social Work.
Adebukola Ajao grew up in many different communities but still calls Roxbury, MA her home. She earned her Bachelor’s in Arts degree from Emmanuel College where she studied Political Science. It is her first year at Brookline Public High School, and she admires all the resources that BHS offers to its students. In her spare time, Adebukola is also an advocate and a community advisor. She has done a lot of work on building Black legacy, college readiness work through organization Bigger than My Block and work to ensure that students of color finish college.
James T. Lenoch (JT) has worked with Steps to Success since 2002, as an Elementary/Middle School Advisor. He currently holds a Bachelors of Science in Human Services from Springfield College. His human service work includes Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly and the Pine Street Inn, where he was one of the original members of the night outreach van. He worked as an educator at an alternative school in Boston for 17 years before coming to Brookline to work with Steps. JT has volunteered for the past 24 years with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Youth Opportunities Program, instructing teachers and youth workers across New England on how to plan and lead urban youth in a variety of outdoor settings. JT and his wife Ellen live in Roslindale with the younger two of their four sons. In his free time he enjoys coaching his son’s baseball team, being outdoors and experimenting with different recipes in the kitchen.
Jason Murray has been a part of the Brookline community for nearly 25 years. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut but grew up in the Boston area. A student of the Public Schools of Brookline, Jason attended William H. Lincoln School and Brookline High School. He graduated from Massachusetts Bay Community College with an associate’s degree in general studies, and then went to University of Massachusetts – Boston, where in 2011, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies. Jason joined the Steps to Success family in April 2014, working as an Assistant Director and Director in the Extended Learning Programs in the Elementary/Middle Schools. He recently stepped into the full-time role of advising Steps to Success’ elementary/middle school students. Overall, Jason’s ties to the community as a resident in Brookline Public Housing and his educational background in the area make him a relatable role model to the students he works with.
Wensess Raphael hit the ground running in her first year as a Steps to Success Elementary/Middle School Advisor. A Boston native, Wensess attended Northeastern University Major where she earned a degree in Human Services. After graduating, Wensess served the Boston community as a City Year Corp Member, where she worked for a nonprofit organization called Boston Scholar Athletes. Wensess is passionate about helping people reach their potential in an academic setting because she strongly believes that applied knowledge is power. Her vision is to connect more families to resources and opportunities that can help their children be successful.
Jacob Page is the Elementary/Middle School Program Advisor at Lawrence. He graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in sociology. He currently is enrolled in a graduate program at Cambridge College studying Mental Health and Guidance Counseling. He also is a Brookline Alumni, so he understands many of the challenges and the opportunities Brookline gives its students. His goal is to help guide the students involved in Steps to Success to successfully navigate their way through their educational experience.
Board of Directors
Judy Katz, Board Chair
Andrew Bott, Superintendent of Public Schools of Brookline
Michael Glover, Brookline School Committee
Patrick Dober, Executive Director, Brookline Housing Authority
David Trietsch, Chairman, Brookline Housing Authority
Yama Estime, STS High School Student Leadership Team Rep
Scot Huggins, STS Parent Council Representative
Misti Jaynes, STS Parent Council Representative
Irene Limlengco, STS Alum, At Large Member
Carol Axelrod, At Large Member
Kitty Ames, At Large Member
Deanne Urmy, At Large Member
Julie Burkley, At Large Member
Lisa McElaney, At Large Member
Karin Miller, At Large Member
Steven Swanger, At Large Member
Britt Stockton Lee, At Large Member
Robert Miller, At Large Member
Development Committee 2016-2017
High School Leadership Team 2015-2016
Parent Council 2015-2016
STS Board Chair: Judy Katz
Judy Katz currently serves as Chair of the Steps to Success Board of Directors. Judy has volunteered with Steps for the past seven years, as a member and Co-Chair of the Development Committee, Co-Chair of the Finance Committee and Community Member of the Board since its inception. Professionally Judy is involved in the field of Affordable Housing, with an emphasis on providing training, technical assistance and policy analysis to communities and non-profit organizations in the provision of affordable housing and related services. Judy is a Commissioner of the Brookline Housing Authority and Board Vice-Chair of New Communities Services, Inc., a provider of adult day care and housing services to low-income seniors and formerly homeless households.