2022 Cohort of Local Professionals Selected for Two-Year Leadership and Career Development Program

Second cohort announced in program created by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in partnership with UCONN; offers pipeline for new, more diverse leadership in Greater New Haven’s nonprofit community

2022 Nonprofit Leaders Cohort Members
Participants of the 2022 Cohort for Nonprofit Leadership Program. (L-R) Top row: Tamara Clayton, Crystal Fernández, Lorrice Grant, Catherine John, Sandra McKinnie. Bottom row: Yakeita Robinson, Hossna Samadi, Keith Smith, Jaquanna Soules, Dina Tareq. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

New Haven, Conn. (November 11, 2022) The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (The Foundation) is excited to announce the members of the second cohort in the Nonprofit Management Program for Emerging Leaders of Color. The career development program was conceived in early 2021 as part of The Foundation’s Stepping Forward commitment to help the Greater New Haven community recover from the impact of COVID-19 and to advance racial equity throughout the region.

“We were energized by the first cohort of Emerging Leaders and learned along with them how to make the program even stronger," says Jackie Downing, Senior Director of Grantmaking and Nonprofit Support at The Foundation. "This program intentionally focuses on building leadership and practical skills of people of color who are already part of the local nonprofit workforce and aspire to senior positions. Our intention is to help create a pipeline for new, more diverse leadership in Greater New Haven’s nonprofit community."

The 2022 participants were selected in July, and the program began in September when the Cohort met as a collective to attend the first in a series of trainings by the University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Public Policy over nine months. The lesson plan includes topics on: racial equity and system change, governance, leading and cultivating strategic partnerships, community engagement, strategic planning, budgeting, evaluation, advocacy, fundraising and communications. Compensation for the absence of Cohort participants from their regular work schedule due to training will be provided to the participants’ nonprofit organizations in the form of a two-year general operating support grant from The Foundation. Participants will also receive undergraduate or graduate credit and a $1,000 scholarship toward future studies at UConn. After the UConn training component, participants will lead their respective organizations in an organizational assessment and take charge of the conversation with staff and Board to implement associated recommended changes.

The program framework was designed by co-leads Dr. David Garvey, Director of the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy’s Nonprofit Leadership Program and Management Consultant Cynthia Rojas, along with adjunct instructor topic experts and seasoned practitioners.

Members of the 2022 Nonprofit Management Program for Emerging Leaders of Color Cohort:

Tamara Clayton
Tamara Clayton. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Tamara Clayton
Canal Dock Boathouse, Inc.

Tamara Clayton was born in southern California and now calls New Haven home. As a rowing coach at Canal Dock Boathouse, Inc., she provides boating and fitness programming for the New Haven community. Her nonprofit career has spanned 10 years, including work on the youth, collegiate and adult levels. With a focus on building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community boathouse, Clayton knows that representation matters. She hopes to positively impact the lives of athletes — not only on and off the water, but also through gained experience that will help them advance in the real world as well. “It is so rewarding to give unselfishly to another and watch that person achieve greatness," she says. "That feeling is unsurpassed in life."

Crystal Fernández
Crystal Fernández. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Crystal Fernández
New Haven Ecology Project

Bronx native Crystal Fernández came to New Haven in 2001 during her early teens. She is a Common Ground High School alum (class of 2005), Common Ground leader (2019), Common Ground parent (class of 2025) and most recently, Fernández was promoted to the position of Green Jobs Corps Director at Common Ground. Fernández is an active sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., the first nationally-recognized Latina sorority. Fernández has 14 years of experience in nonprofit community-based organizations with a focus on youth leadership, workforce development and coaching. She holds a B.A. in General Studies with a concentration in African American, Latino and Urban Studies and Public Administration from Charter Oak State College. Fernández is a co-founder of Friends of Kimberly Park, a community greenspace in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven. She credits her village for her success and describes herself as a radical change maker. Fernández is passionate about her work and does it all while raising four children, ages 14, 9, 8 and 3, as a single parent.

Lorrice Grant.
Lorrice Grant. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Lorrice Grant
Haven’s Harvest

Lorrice Grant, Director of Operations at Haven’s Harvest, is a seasoned community nutritionist; an experienced manager in the nonprofit sector; and a champion for food justice. She is a Greater New Haven native and uses every opportunity to make a positive impact in her community. Grant is a board member of CPEN, a member of Witness to Hunger, and was an active member of the Food Policy Council. She holds certificates in culinary arts, lactation consulting and food safety. She says her God-given gift of support is the driving force that fuels her passion and love for community, and that she uses her gift as a volunteer at Vox Church and in every facet of her life.

Catherine John
Catherine John. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Catherine John
Diaper Bank of Connecticut

Catherine John is a Trinbagonian currently residing in the Newhallville section of New Haven. A mother of two amazing young adults, she is also a student, a Program Coordinator at the Diaper Bank of Connecticut and lead organizer for Black and Brown United in Action. Throughout her years of community organizing and nonprofit experience, she has organized urban renewal and health equity tasks, created and implemented community-building strategies that engage residents and anchor institutions, and assisted with establishing a grassroots volunteer organization throughout New Haven County. Always an advocate for the voiceless and a fighter for the unheard, John writes and presents legislative testimony for various social injustices, organizing and co-organizing calls to action to raise awareness and press for change to empower communities.

Sandra McKinnie.
Sandra McKinnie. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Sandra McKinnie
Greater New Haven Business and Professional Association

Sandra McKinnie is the Grants Developer for the Greater New Haven Business and Professional Association. She says her "war against poverty" began on the campus of Howard University decades ago. McKinnie's professional work encompasses social equity and empowerment positions such as Project Fresh Start; Warren Kimbro Re-entry Project; and case management for the formerly-incarcerated under the tutelage of Probate Court Judge Clifton Graves. McKinnie is a member of JustHouHS Community Advisory Board (providing justice, housing and health studies with Yale School of Public Health); Vera Institute of Justice; and The Innocence Project in New York and Connecticut. She is a recipient of the prestigious Ellen Bree Burns Award of Excellence in Criminal Justice, and a member of Kappa Gamma Pi, Catholic College Graduate Honor Society. A community advocate and organizer for over 18 years, McKinnie is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at the time of this announcement.

Yakeita Robinson.
Yakeita Robinson. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Yakeita Robinson

Yakeita Robinson was raised in Bridgeport, Conn. She moved to New Haven in her teens, where she attended Wilbur Cross High School. Robinson then earned her B.A. in psychology from Albertus Magnus College. She has over 15 years of experience working with youth and young adults. Currently she serves as the Chief of Staff at Leadership, Education, Athletics in Partnership, Inc. (LEAP). Robinson has always had a passion for working with youth and giving back to her community. She currently sits on the board for Phenomenal I Am Inc., a mentoring organization for young girls based in New Haven. She also volunteers at local organizations to provide resources such as books, school supplies and emergency relief materials.

Hossna Samada.
Hossna Samadi. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Hossna Samadi
Sanctuary Kitchen, CitySeed

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and resettled in New Haven in 2016, Hossna Samadi has passionately devoted the past five years to advocating for and serving refugees and immigrants in New Haven in many different capacities. Having experienced the challenges of being a refugee firsthand, she is passionate about supporting, assisting and amplifying their voices, particularly Afghan women. In her volunteer work with Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), she serves as a member of the Cultural Companion Ally Team and as an Ambassador, speaking to a wide range of audiences. Samadi is the co-founder of the Collective for Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Wellbeing, whose grant-sponsored pilot project partners with Yale University’s Program on Recovery and Health in the Community. She is a Program Associate at Sanctuary Kitchen by CitySeed.

Keith Smith.
Keith Smith. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Keith Smith
The Country School; Sacred Heart University

Keith Smith earned his Master of Music degree from James Madison University and his B.A. in Music Education from Old Dominion University in Virginia. Smith distinguished himself through academic excellence, merit scholarships and graduate assistantships throughout his education. Smith currently works at The Country School in Madison, Conn., as the band director and director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. He is also the pep band director for Sacred Heart University. As a member of the CMEA Advocacy committee, Smith pushes for equal opportunities for music students across the state. Smith is currently pursuing an EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern Connecticut State University.

Jaquana Soules.
Jaquanna Soules. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Jaquanna Soules
The Connecticut Women's Consortium, Inc.

Jaquanna Soules is born and raised in New Haven, Conn. She earned a B.A. degree in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University and works as the Marketing Coordinator for The Connecticut Women's Consortium. In addition to her role at the Consortium, she is also the Media Specialist at her church Thomas Chapel. Soules has over 15 years of experience with nonprofits through both professional and volunteer work. She has worked with organizations such as Special Olympics Connecticut, American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, Nubian Sisters Cancer Support Group, The Monk Center and The National Veterans Council for Legal Redress to name a few. Soules' passion is photography and graphic design, but overall, she says, she loves being able to help others through her God-given gifts and talents. To get her through her day, she says, she simply cannot live without family, faith and technology.

Dina Tareq.
Dina Tareq. Photo credit: Dexter Atlas Photographer

Dina Tareq

Tareq is originally from Baghdad, Iraq, and came to the U.S. in 2014 as a refugee. She holds a B.A. degree in Healthcare Management, a field of study that called to her due to the health disparities faced by many refugees and immigrants that live in her community. She is fluent in Arabic and Turkish, having previously worked directly with newly-admitted refugees as an interpreter at several resettlement agencies. She has helped refugees in knowing their rights and the different services afforded to them as residents. Tareq works as a Sales and Communications Director at Havenly, where she says it has become part of a family for her and where she feels she is surrounded by the community. Tareq's favorite hobby is learning new skills, and recently she is interested in exploring different languages, as they help her explore new cultures around the world.

About The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in Connecticut is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the U.S. and was established in 1928 as the permanent charitable endowment for New Haven and its surrounding communities of: Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Cheshire, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, Wallingford, West Haven and Woodbridge. In 2020, The Foundation began implementing a 5-year strategic plan and enacted new mission and vision statements toward expanding opportunity and equity in Greater New Haven. In 2021, it launched Stepping Forward, a $26 million commitment to addressing the impact of COVID-19 and advancing racial equity. The Foundation’s mission is to inspire, support, inform, listen to and collaborate with the people and organizations of Greater New Haven to build an ever more connected, inclusive, equitable and philanthropic community.

For more than three generations, generous local donors have built The Community Foundation’s endowment by establishing permanent funds or making gifts to existing funds that distribute grants to a broad variety of issues and organizations. These donors, past and present, make their gifts to ensure that programs and causes that matter most to them will be supported today and forever. As of December 31, 2021, The Foundation’s assets were valued at more than $871 million after distributing more than $35 million in grants and distributions into the community that year. For more information about The Foundation visit www.cfgnh.org or follow @cfgnh on facebook and twitter.

Media Contact:

Kathleen Cei
Communications Officer

More information about this program: