Fall Cohort 2022
Since joining AAF in 2019, Ahyoung Kim has worked for immigrant small businesses at the city, state and federal levels. She also worked with foundations and corporations to ensure support for the needs of the pop-and-pop stores, particularly during the height of the pandemic. Her work pushes for increased access to information and resources, fair business practices and commercial revitalization in areas of high Asian American and immigrant populations.
During her tenure, Ahyoung has expanded AAF’s footprint in small business communities of Murray Hill, Queens, Astoria, Elmhurst and Sunset Park. Her expertise in outreach and on-the-ground concerns for immigrant small businesses is based on direct contact with hundreds of Asian small business owners across the city through AAF’s direct technical assistance program and continued policy and advocacy discussions with immigrant small business organizations.
Alex Arso is the Government Affairs Manager at Long Island Cares, Inc. – The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank. She received a B.A. in International Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Masters in Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Touro University. She has been an employee of Long Island Cares since 2020 when she joined the emergency response team as a result of the pandemic. Soon after she converted to a full-time position and since has established a reputation as a skilled and dynamic Government Affairs Manager, fostering program success and advancing objectives of anti-hunger advocacy campaigns to secure policy wins.
Other non-profit organizations to which she has made a positive contribution include the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Manhattan Youth. In addition, Alex completed a research project for the US Department of State as part of a Diplomacy Lab on “Youth and Security,” and presented her findings on a panel at the Academy of Criminal Justice Conference in 2019.
She enjoys connecting with others who challenge the status quo with a commitment to positively impact future generations.
Brittany Couch holds a BA in Entertainment & Media Studies and a certificate in Music Business from The University of Georgia. Prior to working at Pentacle she was the studio manager for Dancefx and then ALDEN MOVES Dance Theater, where she honed her graphic design and arts administration skills. Brittany has multiple years of experience as a post-production assistant for documentary films and as a stage manager for national touring dance competitions and events. In addition to her work at Pentacle, she is NEVILLE Dance Theatre’s Booking Coordinator, a dance instructor, and a media coordinator for Open Call Dance Competition. She brings a fervent enthusiasm to Pentacle for cultivating young leaders and connecting arts organizations with the tools they need to empower their artistry.
Brittany Couch (she/her) began her creative journey at the age of 5 as a competitive dancer and would eventually find her place as an instructor and administrator for various educational organizations in Georgia and New York. She holds a BA in Entertainment & Media Studies and a certificate in Music Business from The University of Georgia. Brittany has multiple years of experience as a post-production assistant for documentary films and as a stage manager for national touring dance competitions and events. She now serves as Education & Outreach/Marketing Manager for Pentacle, an arts services nonprofit providing unique and robust programs for performing artists at critical stages in their careers. At the same time, Pentacle enriches the cultural landscape through cross-sector partnerships in multiple communities across the city of New York and the United States. Brittany brings fervent enthusiasm to Pentacle for cultivating young leaders and connecting arts organizations with the tools they need to empower their artistry.
Cara has served as the Development Manager at the CUNY School of Public Health (CUNY SPH) Foundation since Fall 2021. The CUNY SPH Foundation advances the achievement of CUNY SPH’s mission, vision, and values as New York City’s public school of public health through fundraising, building strategic partnerships, and providing services as a champion for the school’s students as they embark on public health careers, and its faculty as they work to educate the next generation of public health professionals.
Cara has been a development professional since 2013, serving in roles at a youth career development organization and a Gramercy area, K-8 school for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. She also works as an independent fundraising consultant supporting organizations in fundraising strategies and grant writing.
Cara earned her BA in sociology from Fordham University and completed graduate level fundraising coursework at New York University. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-NYC Chapter and the Fordham University Young Alumni President’s Club.
Carmen Pineiro was born and raised in the Bronx. She has been organizing communities for over 22 years, particularly in the Bronx and East Harlem. She is fluent in Spanish and has an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies from Bronx Community College as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Government from John Jay College graduating Cum Laude. Her work has been focused on grassroots organizing and building power for low-income people of color in addition to grassroots fundraising as a tool to build community power. Carmen previously worked at Community Voices Heard where she was the Sustainable Communities Organizer, Public Housing Organizer, Participatory Budgeting Organizer, and Individual Giving & Events Coordinator during a 7-year span. Prior to that she organized in her community against Predatory Equity and fought for fair housing. She is extremely passionate about ending all forms of oppression and building grassroots leadership by developing and strengthening communities. She is currently working towards building transformative change by moving impacted individuals with professionals to empower communities to thrive through education, leadership, organizing, and civic engagement that will assist in transforming laws and policies that impact the most marginalized communities.
Cesar Pagan is the Community School Director at P.S. 165 located on the upper west side of Manhattan. Cesar has a true passion for youth development, managing community based programs for over 10 years. He aims to improve student grade point averages, test scores and attendance rates. Cesar served as the Chairman of Youth and Education in his hometown of the Bronx. He has organized peace rallies, health fairs and community basketball tournaments, assisting community members obtain resources through events. Cesar is happy to create leaders out of young people and inspiring them to be great.
Dana Nurse is Youth Communication’s Director of Culturally Responsive Education. From Brooklyn by way of Trinidad, she is a former high school special education teacher and most recently served as the ELA Content Specialist for the NYCDOE’s Office of Assessment. Dana holds a BFA from Emerson College in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and a MSEd from St. John’s University in Special Education. She is committed to anti-racist education and uplifting youth voices. She is an afrofuturist nerd, a sometimes poet, and loves dachshunds maybe a little bit too much.
Denise is the current Partnership Manager at Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a non-profit that provides leadership development and social justice education to young women and gender-expansive youth of color. Her role at Sadie Nash is centered around bringing social justice programming to schools and CBO’s that want to support the leadership development for female-identifying persons serving almost 200 young people across NYC and Newark, NJ annually. During her time with Sadie Nash, she developed programming centered on healing justice and wellness, in response to the pandemic, and has created structures to support wellness practices that are embedded across the organization for both participants and staff.
Elitsa Bella Kichukova is a non-profit professional with a decade of varied wealth of knowledge and experience working in the healthcare sector for underserved communities. Elitsa Bella holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a focus on Healthcare Management from the School of Business and Accounting at Monroe College and a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration from The School of Allied Health at Monroe College. After her Master’s degree graduation, Elitsa Bella earned a Continuing Education Certificate in Project Management from The School of Business and Accounting at Monroe College.
In her current role as the Executive Assistant to the CEO and the Board Liaison at Vocational Instruction Project Community Services, a non-profit organization in South Bronx, Elitsa Bella is driven by a deep understanding of the needs of under-resourced communities. Her expertise encompasses all aspects of non-profit management, and with a track record of strong performance in high-pressure environments, Elitsa Bella skillfully manages the operations of the organization.
Elitsa Bella believes that leading from the middle is all about communication and bridging the links between the Senior leadership, the Board of Directors, and the staff. Elitsa Bella uses a transformational leadership style to inspire growth, promote loyalty, and instill confidence in team members. Elitsa’s well-rounded experience represents strong analytical skills and office management – all that while being an effective team player who happens to speak three languages.