About LEDA

Our Staff

Meet the LEDA Team
LEDA Staff

Executive Leadership

Beth Breger, Executive Director

Beth Breger joined LEDA as its Executive Director in September of 2009. Most recently, she served as the director of special projects in the Office of Student Enrollment Planning and Operations at the New York City Department of Education (DOE), where her responsibilities included developing and implementing enrollment policy reforms and managing enrollment issues for special population students. Prior to working at the DOE, she served as the director of the School Connection Center at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES), where she launched a school admission office for court-involved students, the first of its kind, in partnership with city and state juvenile justice agencies. Before CASES she spent eight years working at the Open Society Institute (OSI), the foundation funded by George Soros. While at OSI she founded the Urban Debate Program and the New York Urban Debate League, initiatives that successfully reintroduced policy debate to underserved school districts throughout the country. She also managed the foundation’s educational grant-making. Beth received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brown University and a master’s in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Finance and Operations

Kate Schuster, Senior Director of Finance and Operations

Kate Schuster joined LEDA as its Senior Director of Finance and Operations in September 2017. She oversees all aspects of the organization’s operations, including financial systems and budgeting, compliance and governance, information technology, human resources, facilities, and data management. Kate comes to LEDA from the Citizens of the World Charter School, where she was the founding Director of Operations for more than four years and the Founding ESL Coordinator. Kate has also served as an Adjunct Professor in the TESOL Department at Hunter College, as a Teacher Development Coach at the NYC Teaching Fellows, and as an ESL teacher and coordinator in the NYC public school system. Kate has a Master of Science degree in Nonprofit Management from the New School, a Master of Arts in TESOL from Hunter College, and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Michigan.

Louis Wu, Operations Manager

Louis Wu joined LEDA as its Operations Manager in June 2018. Prior to LEDA, Louis worked at Success Academy Charter Schools, an education management organization that services and runs a charter school network in New York City. His responsibilities there included the development and maintenance of operational systems with a data driven analytical emphasis. Before Success, Louis worked as an associate at BTE Corp, a logistics and supply-chain management company located in New York. Louis graduated from St. John’s University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with a minor in English Literature.


Development and Communications

Cristina Morais, Senior Director of Development and External Relations

Cristina Morais joined LEDA as its Senior Director of Development and External Relations in November 2017. She oversees the organization’s fundraising and communications initiatives. Cristina most recently served as the Vice President and Chief Development Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Jersey and her fundraising career has included positions at World Vision, Breaking Ground, Delivering Good, and the YWCA of the City of New York. Cristina received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Theology, with a minor in Latin American Studies, from Fordham University and has completed a Nonprofit Management Certificate from Harvard University’s Extension School.

Joseph Lee, Development and Communications Officer

Joseph Lee joined LEDA in 2013 and provides support across a spectrum of development and communications efforts, including fundraising, database maintenance, event planning, grant proposals, organizational literature, website design, social media, and public engagement. He has previously worked for several nonprofit organizations that address a range of issues, including religious tolerance, mental health, homelessness, employment training, and access to the arts. Joe received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Brown University.


LEDA Scholars Program

Tara Gellene, Senior Director of Programs

Tara oversees all departments of the LEDA Scholars Program, including College Success, College Guidance, and Recruitment & Admission. She also directs LEDA’s academic departments, including the Aspects of Leadership and Writing programs. She is responsible for ensuring alignment between program goals, outcome metrics, and data management across all LEDA programs. Previously, Tara directed LEDA’s College Guidance department and Writing program and lent writing support to LEDA’s outreach and fundraising efforts. Before joining LEDA full time in 2014, she taught writing and literature courses at Columbia University, Barnard College, and New York University. She also developed writing curricula for the Education Program for Gifted Youth at Stanford University. She holds a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University.

Recruitment and Admissions
Iris Early, Director of Recruitment and Admissions

Iris Early joined LEDA in November 2008 as a recruitment and admissions officer and became Director of Recruitment and Admissions in 2011. In her role at LEDA, Iris has helped define LEDA’s recruitment and admission strategies and works to develop partnerships with schools and community-based organizations across the nation to identify and recruit LEDA Scholars. Prior to LEDA, Iris worked with organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the National Conference for Community and Justice in Los Angeles. She brings her passion for racial justice and human rights to her work at LEDA. Iris graduated from Haverford College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, a minor in sociology, and a concentration in Africana studies.

Ramata Diallo, Recruitment and Admissions Officer

Ramata Diallo joined LEDA in August 2018, and she supports the recruitment of new LEDA Scholars and the cultivation of relationships with schools and community-based organizations. Prior to joining the LEDA team, she worked as a Programs and Development Assistant at Minds Matter NYC, of which she is an alumna. Ramata graduated from Connecticut College, where she studied Economics and Art History.

Ashlea Faith Haney, Recruitment and Admissions Officer

Ashlea joined LEDA in 2013 as a Cohort 9 Scholar and in October 2018 as part of the recruitment team, supporting the recruitment of new LEDA Scholars and the cultivation of relationships with schools and community-based organizations. Before joining the LEDA team, she worked at various organizations, such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where she developed strategies to engage and connect with communities. Ashlea graduated from Stanford University, where she majored in African American Studies and self-published a book, when We say Bitch: a Black Womxn’s Dealing, the culmination of her undergraduate research and creative practice.

College Guidance
Jahnelle McMillan, Director of College Guidance

Jahnelle McMillan came to LEDA in June 2016 as a College Guidance Counselor and became the Director of College Guidance in February 2018. She leads LEDA’s college guidance program overall while continuing to support Scholars through the college admissions process as a college guidance counselor. Prior to joining the LEDA team, she was an admissions officer at Prep for Prep for the PREP 9 program, of which she is also an alumna. She has also served as a Customer Services Representative at Metroplus Health Plan, an Academic Tutor with Figure Skating in Harlem, and a staff member in the Pre-College Division of Kaplan Test Prep. She has also worked as an independent college admissions consultant. Jahnelle received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature/Letters from Colgate University.

Jessica Macias, College Guidance Counselor

Jessica Macias joined LEDA in June 2017 as a College Guidance Counselor and supports Scholars through the college admissions process. She comes to LEDA from Amistad Achievement First High School in New Haven, CT, where she worked as a College Counselor for two years. She has also taught English as a Teach For America Corps member for several years in Miami. Jessica received her B.A. from the University of Miami in Broadcast Journalism and Latin American Studies.

College Success
Jordan McFarlane-Beau, Director of College Success

Jordan McFarlane-Beau joined LEDA as the Director of College Success in March 2018 and is responsible for overseeing LEDA’s support services for the academic and socio-emotional needs of LEDA Scholars in college. Jordan has held positions as a student affairs educator at CUNY, City College, FIT, and Baruch College. His experience includes working in freshman seminar, orientation, residence life, student life and leadership development, a summer leadership academy for high school students, undergraduate admissions counseling, academic advising, and program management. Jordan earned both his B.B.A. in Operations Management, with an English minor, and his M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College, CUNY. He is currently working on an Ed.D. in Leadership with a concentration on Higher Education at the American College of Education.

Nada Abdelaziz, College Success Counselor

Nada Abdelaziz joined LEDA as the Director of Residential Life in June 2018 and then transitioned into the College Success Counselor role in August 2018, in which she supports Scholars throughout their college careers. Nada’s experience include working in TRiO, residence life, and student government at a number of institutions, such as Harvard University and the University of Florida. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and Psychology from Rutgers University and a Master of Education from the Student Personnel in Higher Education program at the University of Florida.


Career and Alumni Services

Keisha J. Taffe, Senior Director of Career and Alumni Services

Keisha Taffe joined LEDA as its Senior Director of Career and Alumni Services in May 2018. She oversees all aspects of the Career Network initiative, which includes cultivating strategic employer partnerships and developing programs and services to engage LEDA Career Fellows, Scholars, and alumni. Keisha comes to LEDA from New York University, where she recently served as the Senior Assistant Director at the Wasserman Center for Career Development. During her career in higher education, she has held positions focused on international education, leadership development, and access to global internship opportunities. Keisha has a B.A. in Journalism and English Writing Arts from SUNY Oswego and a Master’s Degree from the College of Communication at Boston University.


LEDA Policy Project

Amber M. Briggs, Project Director

Amber M. Briggs joined LEDA in February 2018 as the Project Director for LEDA’s new Advocacy Initiative; she previously worked at LEDA as a College Guidance Counselor. As Project Director, Amber is responsible for launching a new pilot program to train and position young leaders from underrepresented backgrounds to lend their voices to federal policy discussions pertaining to post-secondary education. Prior to her position as Project Director, Amber worked at The College Board as an Assistant Director in the Office of the Chief of Governance, Higher Education and Membership. Amber is an alumna of the College Advising Corps and completed her service at Alief Elsik High School in Houston, TX. Amber graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a minor in Africana Studies, and a Certificate in Race and Ethnic Relations. She received her Master of Arts in Education Policy with a concentration in Higher Education and Law from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her culminating master’s project analyzed the outcomes and impacts of in-state aid and tuition policy for undocumented students.

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