Vivian D. Nixon is the Executive Director of College & Community Fellowship (CCF), a nonprofit committed to helping formerly incarcerated women earn their college degrees. An alumna of CCF’s program, Nixon advocates nationally for the return of college-level education to our nation’s prisons and is an advocate for formerly incarcerated individuals impacted by mass incarceration. She is a Columbia University Community Scholar and a recipient of the John Jay Medal for Justice, the Ascend Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, and the Soros Justice Fellowship. Nixon received her B.S. from SUNY and is currently a creative non-fiction MFA candidate at Columbia University.
Vivian Nixon has written articles for VICE, HuffPost, and Boston Globe among others. She has appeared on several MSNBC news shows and is a regular speaker on criminal justice reform panels.
Maria Santangelo is the Director of Programs at College & Community Fellowship. Maria is deeply committed to helping adult learners reach their potential. In 2004, Maria and her husband Richard became Peace Corps Volunteers and taught English and Environmental Education to university students in Sichuan, China. After completing her Peace Corps service, Maria became a GED instructor and trainer at the Brevard Correctional Institution in Cocoa, Florida where she prepared her students for their GED examination and trained other instructors. As CCF’s Director of Programs, Maria oversees programs that support women who have been impacted by the criminal justice system from college transition through degree attainment. Maria received her M.A. in Adult Learning and Leadership in May 2012 from Teachers College, Columbia University. Maria’s graduate work focused on the impact of for-profit and noncompetitive not-for-profit institutions and student loan debt on formerly incarcerated college students.
As a lifelong student of language and communication, Melanie Steinhardt builds bridges by focusing on shared values across ideological divides. A love for collaboration and an appreciation of reason guide her efforts. Melanie has worked with the homeless and HIV+ clients enrolled in the Harm Reduction services at Housing Works, Inc., incarcerated men and women participating in the GreenHouse horticultural therapy program on Riker’s Island, and formerly incarcerated community leaders forming the 2015 “Leading with Conviction” cohort at JustLeadershipUSA. At College & Community Fellowship, Melanie oversees all development and communications work, including foundation grants, government grants, individual giving, and fundraising events.
Contact Melanie at email@example.com for media requests.
Lettisha Boyd is the Associate Director of Technical Assistance (THRIVE) at College & Community Fellowship. Previously, she was the Academic Counselor at CCF for four years where she supported students through their application and enrollment process, and built strong relationships with various college faculty throughout the New York Metropolitan area. Additionally, she served as CCF’s Community Organizer where she kept students, community partners, and affiliates informed and involved with the organization’s policy campaign to increase access to higher education for criminal justice-involved populations. Her passion for social and criminal justice is fueled by the routine denials of discretionary release to people convicted of first-time violent crimes by the New York State Parole Board. Lettisha is known for her business networking skills; she holds a B.A. from CUNY School of Professional Studies in Communications and Culture, as well as certifications in Human Relations, Paralegal Studies, and Business Management. She is a quasi-credit/debt repair counselor and a trained evidenced-based practitioner.
April Smith is our THRIVE Program Coordinator. April has worked in higher education for the past 12 years. She has a Master of Science in College Student Personnel & Administration and is completing her doctorate in Educational Leadership with a concentration in higher education. April is a qualitative researcher, who studies the impact higher education has on formerly incarcerated women. One of April’s favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela which states, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (Nelson Mandela).” She believes this quote inspires her vision to aid in others’ informed success through continued education.
Jordyn Rosenthal is the Senior Associate of Policy & Advocacy at College & Community Fellowship. She received her Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Policy and Administration from the University of Washington and has previously worked in a variety of policy advocacy settings including; United Way of King County, the New York based think tank the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, and the BOOM!Health harm reduction center in the South Bronx. Jordyn loves connecting with people and believes that everyone has a story that the world needs to hear. At CCF, she is dedicated to supporting and empowering women to use their voice to advocate for the changes they want to see in their communities.
Angela Diaz is College & Community Fellowship’s Academic Counselor. She has a background in Taxation and Accounting, and previously worked in operations for a transportation services company that provided service for children with special needs. Angela holds a BA in Psychology from Herbert Lehman College, and is passionate about helping students become successful in their career of choice. She enjoys the responsibility of providing educational guidance and assistance to students by creating pathways through college and helping them in choosing appropriate education programs. Angela is currently a Rape Crisis Volunteer Advocate for Bellevue Hospital at NYU Medical Center.
Jacqueline Thompson is the Recruitment, Intake, and Support Coordinator at College & Community Fellowship. She is CCF’s initial point of contact for potential students. As the initial contact, Jacqueline’s responsibilities include developing a good rapport with incoming Fellows, fostering partnerships, and maintaining strong ties with other organizations and agencies in the community. She has a BA in Psychology from The College of New Rochelle that influences her encouraging and empowering approach to advocacy. Jacqueline’s many years of experience as a transitional services worker has afforded her the insight needed to work with disadvantaged populations that are vulnerable to social, economic, and civil barriers.
Wendy Romano is the Program Support and Event Coordinator at College & Community Fellowship. She provides support to the Academic Support Program staff, works closely with all CCF students to ensure they remain informed of all programs and activities offered, and is responsible for all basic operations. Wendy has a strong managerial and customer service background. She became attracted to CCF’s work while attending its annual graduation, where she was moved by a powerful student speech.
Ivelisse Gilestra is the Community Organizer at College & Community Fellowship. She holds a BA in Social Work and Sociology from Rutgers University, and received outstanding academic achievement awards. She actively participates as a panelist in discussions related to mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Ivelisse is an outspoken advocate, highlighting the issues of accessibility to education for criminal justice-involved individuals. She participated in a dialogue with then-U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King, at the Second Chance Pell Convening in 2016. Ivelisse spoke at John Jay College in NYC on the racial policing practices of “stop-and-frisk,” underlining the intersectionality of race, class, and gender. She is committed to ending the normalization of prisons in communities of color, advocating for children at risk of entering prison, and envisioning effective and humane forms of justice.
Randall Vair is the Grants Associate for CCF, responsible for institutional fundraising. He has a long professional commitment to underserved individuals and marginalized communities across New York City. Randall began his professional career as a grass-roots organizer in Albany and NYC, working on clean water, utility reform and economic justice campaigns. He also served with a number of organizations in the elderly services sector, directing a grassroots campaign to secure $2 million in state funding for programs assisting homebound elderly persons and managing a city-wide training program for professional and family caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Randall’s previous development work includes supporting criminal justice-involved young people and adults at CASES and Exodus Transitional Community. He received a B.S. from the State University of New York, and volunteers for a range of community-betterment projects in his home neighborhood of Woodside, Queens.