Our People


Just A Start’s dedicated staff come to the organization from many different backgrounds with expertise in community development, education and training, real estate, housing stabilization, and financial management. Our staff includes teachers, case managers, licensed social workers, attorneys, trained mediators, construction managers, project managers, and finance and philanthropy professionals.

Executive Team

Untitled design

Robert Brainin

Director of Finance and Administration
Carmen Chan_SiteSize

Carmen Chan

Director of Philanthropy

Carl Nagy-Koechlin

Executive Director

Miriam Ortiz

Director of Education & Training

Michelle Robb

Human Resources Manager

Noah Sawyer

Director of Real Estate

Gerry Zipser

Director of Housing


Sara Cyr

Grant Manager
[email protected]

Monique Collin

Operations Manager
[email protected]

Cindy Silva

[email protected]

Kymira Woodberry

Real Estate Accounting Manager
[email protected]

Vanessa Buenrostro

Senior Accountant
[email protected]

Mary-Kate McGeary

Office Administrator
[email protected]

Resource Development

Emelia Misail

Philanthropy Manager
[email protected]

Elizabeth Pierre

Communications Manager 
[email protected]

Elisa Cortes

Philanthropy Associate
[email protected]

Home Improvement Program

Ethan Solomon

Homeownership Programs Director
[email protected]

Anna Cressman

Homeownership Programs Coordinator
[email protected]


Real Estate Development

Vandana Sareen

Senior Project Manager
[email protected]

Yolanda Gilibert

Real Estate Project Manager
[email protected]

Molly Kaviar

Project Manager
[email protected]

Madeline Lee

Project Manager
[email protected]

Connor Ring

Project Manager
[email protected]

Housing Services

Elizabeth Winston

Housing and Mediation Services Director
[email protected]

Peter Shapiro

Housing Mediation Manager
[email protected]

Selma DeCastro

Mobility Mentor
[email protected]

Karen Guthrie

[email protected]

Lori Segall

Mobility Mentor
[email protected]

Jamison Rudd

Housing Stabilization Case Manager
[email protected]

Jenny Komatsu

Financial Coach
[email protected]

Justi Godoy

Resident Engagement Organizer & Mediator
[email protected]

Resident Services

Pierre Fils-Aime

Senior Resident Services Coordinator
[email protected]

Fenan Samuel

Resident Services Coordinator
[email protected] 

Ishwar Lamichhane

Digital Navigator Fellow
[email protected]

Development Programs

Korynn Stoyanoff

Director of Workforce Development
[email protected]

Ben Jamieson

Academic Services Manager
[email protected]

Mary Jo Kiepper

Alumni Programming Manager
[email protected]

Melissa Liwanag

Manager of Learning and Evaluation
[email protected]

Leora Rifkin Edouard

Operations Manager
[email protected]

Tanya Quintanilla

Program and Data Systems Lead
[email protected]

Mayolina Seguy

Career Readiness Instructor
[email protected]

Jude Alfaro

Database Administrator
[email protected]

Ariagnna Abreu-Garcia

Community Outreach & Recruitment Specialist

Stacy Hill

Success Navigator
S[email protected]

Kristen Butler

IT Instructor

Amerline Occean

Biology Instructor

Michele Sprengnether

Chemistry Instructor


Philanthropy Associate

(617) ###-####
[email protected]

Youth Programs

Nate Bae Kupel

Director of Youth Programs
[email protected]

Tom Rodriguez, CWDP

Assistant Director of Youth Programs 
[email protected]

Kat Baena Garces

Alumni Support Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA
[email protected]

Dan Madri

Vocational Instructor, Construction
[email protected]

Derek Wood

Vocational Instructor, Construction
[email protected]

Cynthia Prince

Case Management & Counseling Specialist
[email protected]

Andrea Chery

Case Management, Counseling, and Alumni Manager
[email protected]

Jessica Maddox 

Youth Employment Specialist
[email protected]

Dalya Ackerman 

STEM Instructor
[email protected]

John Shea

Academic Program Manager
[email protected]

Felix Fung

Front Desk and Operations Associate 
[email protected]


Board of Directors

All members of the Board of Directors serve as active volunteer leaders of Just A Start. Board members are residents of Cambridge and surrounding communities and include current and former participants of Just A Start’s programs, including residents, graduates of our career training programs, YouthBuild alumni, and Home Improvement Program participants. The Board brings diverse expertise in public policy, housing, real estate development, nonprofit and corporate management, community development, financial management, workforce training, youth development, and more.

Junardy Jean-Charles

Chair Junardy Jean-Charles is the Passport to College Program Director at Boston Higher Education Resource Center (HERC). After completing a degree at Lesley University in counseling psychology, Junardy went on to work and volunteer for various human services nonprofits, specifically, ones focused on the needs of youth and families. In this work, economic stability stood out for her as the most critical prerequisite to the physical, mental, and financial health of a family or individual. This led her to pursue a career counseling role for a quasi-public career center, which blossomed into a workforce development career. Junardy holds a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Salem State University.

Zoe Weinrobe

Vice Chair Zoe Weinrobe is the Director of Real Estate at 2Life Communities. Zoe has devoted herself to the field of affordable housing finance and development for nearly two decades. Since joining 2Life Communities in 2016, she has overseen completed development projects totaling more than $100 million, projects in development totaling over $200 million. Zoe has a Master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated with honors from Cornell University. She lived in Cambridge for 10 years before moving to Watertown, where she currently resides.

Samuel Gebru

Clerk Samuel M. Gebru is a social entrepreneur, community organizer, educator, advocate and policy analyst with over 17 years of political and nonprofit experience in the United States and East Africa. He is the Managing Director of Black Lion Strategies, a social impact and public affairs consulting firm. An experienced leader, connector, and professional troublemaker, Samuel has devoted over half of his life to creating and shaping initiatives, building partnerships and coalitions, and advocating for public policies that advance opportunity and justice for all. Samuel is multilingual, serves on several boards and commissions, is a frequent public speaker, and is an enthusiastic coffee and ice cream aficionado.

Michael Kuhn

Treasurer Michael Kuhn serves as Senior Vice President in Commercial Lending at Cambridge Savings Bank, playing a pivotal role in maintaining the enduring partnership between Just A Start and the bank. Prior to this, he gained valuable experience at Rockland Trust Company and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. His educational background includes a B.S. in Finance from Rowan University and an Associate's degree in Computer Science from Camden County College. Michael's extensive financial expertise, combined with his commitment to community collaboration, ensures the continued success of initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth and stability in partnership with Just A Start and Cambridge Savings Bank.

Hiwot Behabtu

Originally from Ethiopia, Hiwot Behabtu is a resident of Just A Start’s 402 Rindge Avenue development and has lived in Cambridge for almost five years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in law from Ethiopia and served there in a government office advocating for women and children on legal matters. She is the proud mother of two sons and a daughter and currently works in a senior technical support role at Duckcreek Technologies. Hiwot sees her board participation as a way to bring her back to “the wish of my soul - being able to serve my community” in any way possible.

Max Clermont

Max Clermont is a Senior Adviser with Partners In Health’s United States where he leads technical, operational and strategic advising for public health practitioners working to build more resilient, community-oriented health systems. Prior to PIH, Max served as chief of staff at the University of Chicago Medicine's Trauma Center. He has leverageable expertise in the social determinants of health, public/private partnerships and the use of measurement and evidence based practices to drive KPIs in numerous sectors. He serves on the board of directors for Bottom Line, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, and Center on Halsted. Additionally, he is a member of Cambridge's Charter Review Committee. He holds a M.P.H. from Brown University with a concentration in health services, policy & practice.

Tara Dendy

Tara Dendy has lived in Cambridge for over ten years raising her children in a Just A Start community. Tara is the manager of state-funded individual homelessness resources for the commonwealth of Massachusetts. She was previously the Program Director for Community Cooks and was responsible for overseeing 800 volunteers who prepared food to vulnerable neighbors seeking assistance from human service agencies, students working to improve their lives in after-school programs, and families struggling with food insecurity. She also held positions at Elizabeth Stone House as Director of Adult Programming and the Community Resource for Justice as the Director of the McGrath House.

Jack Donahue

Jack Donahue is a Managing Director in Accenture’s Strategy consulting practice where he works with companies to develop and implement strategies that improve their financial performance, transform their operations, and identify areas for growth. Prior to his career in Consulting, Jack served as an officer in the US Navy. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and has an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Jack currently lives in Cambridge with his wife and son.

Lisa J. Drapkin

Lisa Drapkin has been living in Cambridge since the late 80’s and she loves it! Through the years, she has devoted her time to many causes and is passionate about the work that Just A Start does. She is the Co-Founder of Denman Drapkin Group at Compass Real Estate and oftentimes remarks that she works in “unaffordable housing by day and affordable housing at night”. Lisa has a well-deserved reputation for her knowledge of real estate and is renowned for her high energy level and enthusiasm. For JAS, she has served as the Board Clerk, Campaign Co-chair for the Rindge Commons Campaign, and serves on the Real Estate committee. She lives in the Riverside neighborhood with her wife, Debbie, and her 4-legged best friend, Harper.

Carlos Espinoza-Toro

Carlos Espinoza-Toro is a results-driven economic development professional with over ten years of experience developing and implementing place-based initiatives. He collaborates with nonprofits, government agencies, banks and CDFIs, foundations, colleges and universities to improve the lives of low-income populations. Currently, Carlos is the Director of Equitable Economic Development at Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to making a good home possible for the millions of families without one. His commitment to equitable development and his extensive network make him a valuable asset in creating lasting positive change in underserved communities.

Shawn Fitzpatrick

Shawn Fitzpatrick, a seasoned professional with 22 years in the Biotechnology field, currently holds the role of Head of Manufacturing at Resilience. A proud alumnus of Just A Start's Biomedical Careers Program, where he graduated in 1997, Shawn's journey has come full circle as he now sits on advisory boards for local schools with Biotechnology programs. In this capacity, he plays a crucial role in shaping course curricula and delivering guest lectures. Shawn's dedication to both his career and giving back to the educational community showcases his commitment to advancing Biotechnology and nurturing the next generation of talent in this dynamic field.

Richard Harding

Richard Harding is a lifelong Cambridge resident whose career has always been focused on public service and community engagement. He began as an intern at Joe Kennedy’s Citizen’s Energy, then served as Director of Constituent Services for Senator Seven Tolman and is the past Chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. Richard currently runs the Men of Color Health Initiative and is a program consultant to the job training program CambridgeWorks. He attended the Kennedy Elementary School and graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School (CRLS) and Fitchburg State College. His daughter is a 2015 graduate of the Cambridge public schools.

Donna Lewis

Donna, a proud graduate of YouthBuild Just A Start and a devoted Cambridge resident, contributes her skills in an administrative role at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her experience extends to her previous position at The Community Builders, where she demonstrated her dedication to community development. Donna's journey from YouthBuild to her current role showcases her commitment to personal growth and her community. Her professional contributions and longstanding ties to Cambridge make her a valued member of the local workforce, actively participating in the betterment of the community she calls home.

Joel Miranda

Joel Miranda is the Senior Advisor for Global Opportunity Youth Leadership at the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization that gathers diverse, nonpartisan thought leaders, creatives, scholars and members of the public to address some of the world's most complex problems. Joel previously served as the Senior Director of Leadership Development and Graduate Leadership at YouthBuild USA. Joel was a 2012-2013 Community Fellow at Boston University School of Management’s Institute for Non-Profit Management and Leadership and a graduate of the 2014 American Express Leadership Academy for emerging non-profit leaders.

Peter Munkenbeck

Peter Munkenbeck, who graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Public and International Affairs, earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, and was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts. From 1978-81, he was responsible for the redevelopment of several large waterfront industrial and mixed use parcels while employed at MASSPORT. He then spent 16 years at The Community Builders. Since 1997, he has been actively involved in the development and/or financing of multifamily affordable housing on behalf of 15 community development corporations in Boston. He resides in Cambridge.

Jeffrey Myers

Jeffrey Myers, a Cambridge resident since 2007, is employed as a Research Director at Colliers, leading the research operation of the Boston office. Jeff has expertise in market dynamics of metros across the country and spent more than a decade as a consultant to institutional commercial real estate investors. He has also served as a public-sector planning professional and has provided consulting services to non-profit organizations. Jeff holds a Master of Science in Real Estate from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Urban Planning & Development from Ball State University.

RJ Panzo

RJ is the Senior Director of Scientific Operations at Breakthrough Properties, a prominent real estate partner specializing in life science communities. With more than two decades of experience as a scientist and lab operator, RJ is a vital asset to the company's mission. Breakthrough Properties excels in laboratory design, setting a high standard for functionality and adaptability. RJ's educational background includes a Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Animal Science and Technology from the University of Rhode Island. Beyond his professional achievements, RJ is a dedicated volunteer with Just A Start's Biomedical program, demonstrating his commitment to nurturing future talents in the field.

Susan Stockard

Susan Stockard retired from Maloney Properties, Inc., where she was a partner in the property management company specializing in elderly housing and resident services. In addition to serving on the Board of Just A Start, Susan served as President of the Board of FOCUS – a non-profit overseeing supportive services in housing, including FOCUS@114, a home in Somerville for 15 young women aging out of foster care. Susan is a founding member and current president of a housing cooperative in Cambridge formed in 1973. She resides in Cambridge and is active in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church.

Scroll to Top