Past Fellows

Summer 2016

2016 was the fifth year of supporting young leaders and Brooklyn non-profits through our Summer Fellowship. We had another incredible group of Fellows, bringing our total count of Hope Fund Alumni to 24. These passionate and intelligent individuals continue to work to create a better world, and many of them stay in touch and support the Fund for future generations of Fellows. All of them have made an impact in Brooklyn and are now part of the family of activists and leaders that Hope continues to bring together. Please read on to learn more about their experiences during the Summer Fellowship!

Hope Fund Fellows 2016

2016 Fellows, from left to right: Rachel Zhao, Amanda Morales, Rosibel Tavares, and Kayla Madridejos

Rachel Zhao interned at Girl Be Heard, where she worked closely with their civil rights attorney and assistant director of education on a number of projects and protests. Most notably, Rachel played a strong role in the organization’s action for the #sayhername campaign, which gave visibility to women who died in police custody. For this and other campaigns, Rachel provided the research which guided this personable and passionate team of activists and theater artists to create meaningful interventions and programs empowering women of all ages. In addition to learning more about the legal process and non-profit structure, Rachel, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, was able to put her passion for writing to good use. During the #sayhername campaign Rachel performed a very moving original poem at City Hall and other protest locations throughout the city. Click here to read Rachel’s poem.

“Hope for Brooklyn means looking out for your community, particularly for those that are not usually seen by everyone else. It means listening to their stories.”

Rachel and her Girl Be Heard advisory, Rebecca Kelly Goffman

Rachel and her Girl Be Heard advisory, Rebecca Kelly Goffman

Amanda Morales interned with Brooklyn Defender Services, where she worked directly with indicted and incarcerated youth to provide legal services and care.

My fellowship at Brooklyn Defender Services also helped me assume a position of leadership in reducing the amount of contact kids in Brooklyn are having with the criminal justice system.”

Amanda Morales celebrates with her sister and mother at the closing reception

Amanda Morales celebrates with her sister and mother at the closing reception

Amanda is now a senior at Ithaca College. During her time at BDS, she gained a broad perspective on the legal system from observing the interactions between social worker, defense lawyers, clients, and judges. She witnessed several different types of courthouse proceedings, carefully observed the complexity of the criminal justice system, and took away a sense of encouragement:

“Being a constant witness to these social justice issues I felt powerless. I constantly grappled with how I could affect change on issues that seemed to progressively worsen and daily flash before my eyes. This fellowship has completely shifted my perspective on the disregard I believed others had for Brooklyn and has made me aware of stakeholders who are working on the ground to uproot injustice and help communities facilitate the change that is required for their strength and empowerment.”

Kayla Madridejos lent her talents to Brooklyn Community Services, one of the oldest service organizations in Brooklyn and one of our long-term partners. Throughout the summer she put her writing and research skills to use, studying up on BCS history for newsletters, nominating potential community leaders to be honored at the BCS 150 Year Anniversary, and representing the organization at events throughout Brooklyn. She went above and beyond as a spokesperson and team member with BCS, celebrating the organization’s rich history and widespread current programs through writing and sharing stories and information with community members.

Kayla and her mother celebrate her accomplishments at the 2016 closing brunch

Kayla and her mother celebrating her accomplishments at the closing brunch

“I’ve repeatedly witnessed the difference the incredible BCS team makes in a client’s daily life, whether it were through helping clients with disabilities apply for jobs, or simply playing basketball with elementary school students in Brownsville. I am very proud to have worked with the BCS staff.”

Rosibel Tavares is the first Fellow we have matched with UPROSE, an environmental justice organization in Sunset Park. As a rising senior at Binghamton University, Rosy applied to our Fellowship based on her interest international relations and environmental policy. By working with UPROSE she acquired a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of social justice issues, as well as the true meaning of environmental justice:

rosy-speech“Prior to my work at UPROSE this summer, I always associated environmental justice as primarily an environmental issue, but I discovered that environmental justice is really the right to your health no matter your race or socio-economic status”

Rosy trained some of the young leaders who join UPROSE over the summer to fight for environmental justice. She coordinated with local businesses and community members to combat displacement and increase renewable energy solutions.

We will continue to watch these individuals with interest and thank them for their contributions to their host organizations, to our Hope Fund community, and to Brooklyn as a whole.

The 2016 Fellows receiving certificates from Advisory Board Chair Daniela Quiroz

The 2016 Fellows receiving certificates from Advisory Board Chair Daniela Quiroz


Summer 2015

Over the Summer of 2015, our community of young leaders working in Hope’s footsteps extended to 20 total Fellows! The five Fellows who joined us this summer were selected from an incredibly competitive pool of applicants, and proved themselves to be passionate, bright, and incredibly well-suited to deepen our relationships with our recurring Host Organizations and to serve as ambassadors for new ones. These Fellows came from various backgrounds, both city and private universities, and though all of them live in New York City most of them are first-generation American. Read on to learn more about their work this summer and beyond!

2015 Hope Fund Fellows (from left to right): Semhal Gessesse, Kareem Watson, Rahilou Diallo, Arianna Flores Perez, and Chenisvel Nunez

2015 Hope Fund Fellows (from left to right): Semhal Gessesse, Kareem Watson, Rahilou Diallo, Arianna Flores Perez, and Chenisvel Nunez

Semhal Gessesse interned at the Legal Aid Society, where she worked in the field in neighborhoods all over Brooklyn, collecting testimonies and evidence to provide to defense attorneys.

Throughout this Summer, Legal Aid has taught me so much. From being able to immerse myself into neighborhoods I had previously never heard of or even considered going to, to seeing a different side of law where evidence and the actual defense argument is important, I have gained so much.

Semhal studies Politics and Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University, in hopes of becoming a lawyer upon graduating law school. In addition to being first-generation American, her parents immigrating here from Ethiopia, she is also a first-generation college student. Interning at non-profits and at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office has reinforced her passion for social change and working in public interest law.

Kareem Watson interned at VOCAL-NY, a grassroots network of activists working to create healthy and just communities.

Hope for Brooklyn means Brooklyn not being a trap. It means hope for all those living there especially poor minorities. I means people can imagine living and not surviving and their kids having proper education and the only thought of college goes beyond CUNY. It means Brooklynites having the power to make the important changes in their lives; where big corporations and politicians don’t make the decisions for hem. They are informed and educated to stand for things that aren’t right and fight off the discrimination that will affect them. Hope for Brooklyn basically means living lives they want and choose rather than living a life that is forced on them.

Kareem was born in Brooklyn, NY. He is a first generation American; both his mother and father were born in Jamaica. At a very young age, he and his brother lived with their grandmother in Nine-turns, Jamaica where he attended pre-school. They returned to Brooklyn to live with their mother and younger sister and attended Brooklyn public school. He graduated from Science Technology and Research high school and currently attends Hamilton College to pursue a degree in Public Policy.

Rahilou Diallo worked for Brooklyn Community Services, supporting their art therapy program and community event planning.

This experience has definitely informed my ideas about issues that are important to me. I’ve always had an interest in mental health especially ways in which mental health is dealt with in African American communities. Being an Art Therapy intern with BC Pros (Personalized Recovery Oriented Services) program at Brooklyn Community Services allowed me to learn a bit more about mental health and ways to help adults dealing with mental health.

Rahilou majors in Human Development and minors in Education at Binghamton University. At age six, Rahilou moved to the United States from Guinea Conakry, a small country in the coast of West Africa. She currently holds the position of Educational Coordinator for Powerful United Ladies Striving to Elevate (P.U.L.S.E.) a Binghamton University student organization dedicated to educating, elevating and empowering women on campus and the Binghamton community. Her goal is to someday create a not-for-profit organization that would build schools in third world countries to ensure that children have an equal opportunity at an education despite their economic status.

Arianna Flores Perez was our first Fellow to be placed at Safe Horizon, where she worked with their Immigration Law Project.

Hope for Brooklyn is about giving the people from Brooklyn the resources necessary to succeed and transfer those resources to our community. These paid internships act as a financial investment to the Brooklyn community. At the end of the day, skills and financial support go back to the community, and it promotes its advancement.

Arianna was born in Tlaxcala, Mexico and moved to the United States when she was nine. In 2012 she received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a temporary relief that has expanded her horizons. In high school, she formed part of th Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC), and work at LHC Family Physician Health Center. As a college student she is in the Mexican Heritage Student Association, and Immigrant Youth Peer Educator Program at Atlas: DIY. As an immigrant herself, she hopes to continue serving her community and advocating for their interests. In her eagerness to achieve this she aspires to double major in Political Science and Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College.

Chenisvel Nunez worked with Brooklyn Defender Services, providing support to indicted and incarcerated youth.

There are many ongoing issues in Brooklyn like social injustice and local political issues. This was Hope’s focus during her career. She was passionate about helping people and making her community a better place for its residents. With this being said, from my perspective, Hope for Brooklyn means focusing and dedicating yourself to an issue and working to overcome it. Not only so that you won’t become a victim of it but also for those who are already a victim won’t have to suffer from it any longer.

For the first years of her life, Chenisvel and her family lived in the Dominican Republic. When she was five years old, they moved to New York City. She has been living in Washington Heights ever since. Currently, she is a college student at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. She is double majoring in Sociology and Criminology because one of her life goals is to work with youth who live in low-income neighborhoods and be able to motivate them to take the right path in their lives.

We wish the 2015 Hope Fund Fellow the best of luck and look forward to seeing what they do!


Summer 2014

In 2014, five exceptional Fellows were selected from over 30 applicants. They spent the summer engaging directly with communities and tackling key issues in Brooklyn, with the organizations Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, Girl Be Heard, and Brooklyn Community Services. Read on to learn more about this incredible group, what they accomplished, and what they came away with.


Daniel Aiken interned at Brooklyn Community Services with the External Relations Department and the Sandy Relief Program.

“What I liked most about my internship experience was being hands on with work. I was in a steady, stable environment of my goal profession and got the experience to work with people in the field.”

Daniel is currently pursuing an Associates in Human Services from the New York City College of Technology with the goal of becoming a Social Worker.

Christian Sanoguel interned at the Brooklyn Community Pride Center.

“To me, Hope for Brooklyn really means being informed about particular issues, understanding their effects, and empowering yourself to create change.”

Born in the South Bronx, Christian is the youngest of three children, but the first in his family to obtain a college degree. He completed his Associate’s Degree in arts while majoring in criminal justice at Bronx Community College. He has taught sex education and HIV prevention to high school students while volunteering abroad in Belize.  He plans continue with my education until he reaches law school, where he plan to finally fulfill his dream of becoming a civil rights attorney.

Fatima Sacko interned with Girl Be Heard, an organization that uses theater to empower young women.

“I am truly grateful for this program for providing me with real world experience in a field that I am deeply passionate about and I grew so much this summer.”

Fatima Sacko is a second-year student at Bates College located in Lewiston, Maine. She lives in Roosevelt Island, New York City and graduated from Park East High School. In her sophomore year of high school Fatima and several of her peers traveled to Kampala, Uganda for ten days to educate the public on the health dangers of Malaria. She and her peers held informational seminars in local villages, installed and repaired mosquito nets and collected the buyers contact information in the villages. At Bates College, Fatima is very involved in student activities and is a member of the Africana Club, Public Health Initiative Club, Sankofa club and Women of Color Club. She also volunteers mentoring and tutoring middle and high school students at an after school program. She is very interested in women’s issues and intends to double major in Women and Gender Studies and Psychology. During her leisure, she enjoys hanging out with friends, volunteering, riding her bike and trying new foods.

Janet Ceron interned at the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn.

“Hope for Brooklyn means Brooklyn generating the future’s leaders that will combat social justice issues affecting the borough as a whole. Hope for Brooklyn means educating today’s college students to think about how they can help, how they can bring better resources to the borough, and actually acting upon this.”

Janet Ceron was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and is currently a junior at Barnard College. She is majoring in Urban Studies and Human Rights with a concentration in Political Science. Janet is a current member of the Social Justice House, a special interest group on campus. During high school, she volunteered for Sunset Park’s Center for Family Life’s afterschool, day camp, and high school programs where she advocated for youth justice. The previous summer she was a Journalism Instructor at Camp Mariah in Fishkill, N.Y. Growing up in a Mexican household exposed her to immigrant rights issues, which sparked her interest to pursue public interest law.

Sadasia McCutchen interned at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center

“Working alongside a staff of formerly incarcerated individuals who have changed their lives around to mentor others, I recognize the capacity that people have to reinvent (and to better) themselves. “

Born and raised in the South Bronx, Sadasia often describes her neighborhood as one that certainly does not scream “success”. From a young age, she decided to strive for success and to empower those around her to do the same. With guidance from a host of supporters, including her dedicated mother and A Better Chance, she graduated from Trevor Day School leaving a remarkable impact. Currently a sophomore at Wesleyan University, she demonstrates her commitment to the community as the Chair of the Committee for Inclusion and Diversity as well as being a Tour Guide and a Representative on the Student Assembly.


Summer 2013

In 2013, our grantees completed internships at STREB, Legal Aid, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and Brooklyn Community Services. These five amazing candidates stood out from a selection group of over 30 applicants, and all of us at the Hope Reichbach Fund are proud of their work. Read on for information about the interns, where they worked, and their thoughts on the program.

Hope Reichbach Fund Interns 2013

Hope Reichbach Fund Interns 2013. From left to right: Janelle Anderson, Clair Margaret Beltran, Natasha Peña, Shirley Ureña, Nana Serwah Amponsah.


Janelle Anderson interned at Brooklyn Community Services with the External Relations Department and the Sandy Relief Program.

“This internship is definitely more than a filing room and making copies.”

Janelle currently attends Buffalo State College. She is a member of H.E.L.P. Ministries and previously held the position of public relations officer for the Caribbean Students Organization at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. Her major is Criminal Justice and her minor is in Hospitality and Tourism. She anticipates going on for her Master’s in social work. She wants to work with juvenile delinquents. She enjoys traveling and will be spending the next semester in Manchester, England. She lives by the quote “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game, and anything you do, do with gusto.”


Clair Margaret Beltran interned at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.

“Not only [does the Hope Reichbach Fund] connect you with a paid internship in a field you’re interested in, as an intern, you are welcomed into a whole new network of connections and friends.”

Clair was born and raised in Washington Heights, NY. With guidance and support from the TEAK Fellowship, she graduated from The Taft School in Connecticut and is currently a freshman at Middlebury College. Her interests include languages, education, and volunteering, but after a semester at the Mountain School in Vermont, she discovered a passion for the environment and now intends to joint major in Environmental Studies and either Geography or Architecture. Combining her enthusiasm for the outdoors and sports, she hopes to create an organization that would make these experiences accessible to inner-city kids in the future.


Natasha Peña interned at STREB, an organization that teaches a form of dance called pop action.

“You have become part of a group of enthusiastic, active, intelligent, and motivated people, all connected by one person: Hope.”

Natasha was born and raised in a bilingual household in the Bronx, NY. She attended Pomfret School from 9th – 12th grade, a boarding school in a rural area of Connecticut, where she had four remarkable years. From there, she moved on to enroll in Swarthmore College, and is majoring in Studio Art and double minoring in Education and English (Creative Writing emphasis). She is passionate about the arts as a whole and loves working with children. She also enjoys rock climbing and fencing and has a large family she enjoys spending time with.


Shirley Ureña interned at the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn.

“These people all now serve as part of my network, a network that I hope to continue to foster, and a network that you have now joined and should always use even when you think something might not be important.”

Shirley is currently a sophomore at Barnard College, majoring in Economics. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity. Additionally, she is treasurer of Mujeres, a group dedicated to the empowerment of Latina women. In her free time, she volunteers with MyNYC as both a program coordinator and mentor, where she helps plan workshops to motivate inner-city high school students to apply to college. In high school, she participated in MyNYC as a mentee. She currently works for Community Impact’s GED Prep Program. She is interested in pursuing a career in public interest law.


Nana Serwah Amponsah interned at Brooklyn Defender Services.

“Through the Fund, I got to meet City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilman Steve Levin and many other prominent people.”

Nana is a Ghanaian-American who is currently pursuing a BA in Math/Economics at Mount Holyoke College. Nana is an active member of Sacred Symphonies (a Gospel Acapella group on campus), loves to sing, and loves to write poetry and fiction. Her zeal for helping the less privileged influences her volunteer choices. Both in Ghana and here she has offered tutoring sessions for children from low-income families as well as organized donations for them. In the future, she hopes to employ this passion towards creating an enabling environment for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.


Summer 2012

Here’s more about the inaugural class of the Hope Reichbach Fund and their work in summer 2012:

2012 Interns with Their Organizations
The HRMF interns, with their organizations and with representatives of the fund. Front row, from left to right: Ellen Meyers (HRMF), Rebecca Karasik (HRMF), Benedict L. Joson (Recipient), Brenda Aracely Grande (Recipient), Nia Gumbs (Recipient), Colleen Mims (Recipient), Ariel Estrella (Recipient)

Intern Ben Joson knocked on dozens of doors in East New York on behalf of VOCAL-NY, seeking signatures to end the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy. Ariel Estrella wrote about hundreds of public mural projects for Groundswell, the youth arts organization for which she interned. As part of her internship with Brooklyn Defender Services, Brenda Grande shadowed attorneys in the courtroom during arraignments and sentencing hearings, an experience that affirmed her aspirations of becoming an immigration lawyer. Nia Gumbs worked in the classroom at The HOPE Program, a nonprofit job readiness program, helping its students learn the skills they needed to find a job. Colleen Mims’ helped coordinate a major event for the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, a community development organization that partners with residents and businesses to improve the quality of life of Central Brooklyn.

Benedict J. Joson was born in Bulacan, Philippines, where he spent the first 5 years of his life. In 1996, Benedict moved with his grandparents to New York City. To better integrate into the culture and to learn the English language, he attended St. Sebastian School in Woodside, New York. This experience opened his mind to the possibilities of education and society. He graduated with achievements in 2007 and continued on to Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, New York. Academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs nurtured him in body, mind, and spirit. He graduated in 2010 and moved on to CUNY Hunter College in New York, New York. Eager to contribute and learn more about campus life and the college, he decided to join the Undergraduate Student Government. His involvement has been a catalyst for a future in service and leadership in the government and society.

Brenda Aracely Grande is from New York City. She is currently a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in English, with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is interested in law and plans to be an immigration lawyer because she has been surrounded by the political prejudices against undocumented immigrants. She likes to be active in Latino issues and is a member of MEChA, the Chicano club on campus, for which she is the treasurer. Her other interests include literature, which is why she decided to become an English major. She also enjoys writing and enhancing her writing skills.

Nia Gumbs is 19 years old and attends SUNY Geneseo. She is currently a sophomore, majoring in Childhood with Special Education. In 2011, she co-founded the volunteer group Hearts for Sammy, a group that raises money each year to donate to the Children’s Heart Link Foundation for Congenital Heart Defect Disease. In 2012, she organized the Geneseo Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin. She is also involved in various organizations, such as Women’s Leadership Institute, the Black Student Union, and FACE AIDS. In fall of 2012, she will be the public relations representative for FACE AIDS and part of the Women’s Leadership Professional Development Team. After graduation, she wants to teach in inner-city schools, because she feels that she can relate to those students and help them, since she used to be an inner-city school student herself. She understands the struggle for students who attend inner city schools and, as someone dedicated to working towards success, she feels that it is her job to give back and to help disadvantaged students to excel.

Colleen Mims is a sophomore at Kingsborough Community College, majoring in Business Administration. Throughout the past five years, Colleen has contributed to her home, Brooklyn, by participating in groups like Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Center, College for Kids, Kingsborough’s Honor Society, Student World Assembly and others. She has tutored children in music, English and Math; opened an art gallery gift shop; helped Brooklyn’s environment by participating in campus clean-ups; planted trees; and promoted good environmental practice by creating compost piles and coming up with ideas to help her college’s urban farm. She writes poetry and participates in student publications, Business Council and other clubs at Kingsborough. Colleen plans on starting her own daycare by age 22 and attending Howard University after she graduates from Kingsborough. She currently operates an online jewelry and clothing business.

Ariel Estrella was born and raised in Queens. She studied at Hunter College High School and graduated from City-As-School, and is currently a student at Macalester College. She intends to double major in English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She participates in many school organizations and committees relating to gender and sexuality issues, including organizations that promote feminism, anti-sexism, the LGBTQ community, sex-positivity, and all-gender spaces/issues. Off-campus, she plans to begin working with a nonprofit that hosts a mentoring program for young women. She is also passionate about art, community activism, fighting against gentrification, and improving access to better education and community resources for urban youth (especially those from historically marginalized identities). She hopes to create even more opportunities in the future for empowering youth and the communities in which they live, carrying on the transformative spirit of Hope herself in the best way that she can.