About LEDA

Our Staff

Meet the LEDA Team

Executive Leadership

Lamont Gordon, Executive Director

Lamont joined LEDA as its Executive Director in June 2020. He is a first-generation college graduate with over 20 years of youth development and nonprofit leadership experience. He has dedicated his career to creating pathways to higher education and career opportunities for students from underserved communities. Most recently, Lamont served as Vice President of Programs at the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF), where he oversaw the Foundation’s nationally recognized scholarship, mentoring, and leadership development program for high-achieving African-American students. Prior to JRF, Lamont held senior leadership positions at The Posse Foundation, where he ran a highly successful fundraising operation, oversaw 40+ university and corporate partnerships, and led the development of Posse’s first all-women’s STEM Posse. Lamont has also served as Brown University’s first Director of Education Outreach and is currently a member of the national Board of Directors at Higher Achievement. He holds a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Brown University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Finance and Operations

Gareth Daley, Senior Director of Finance and Operations

Gareth joined LEDA as its Senior Director of Finance and Operations in August 2019. He oversees all aspects of the organization’s operations, including financial systems and budgeting, compliance and governance, information technology, human resources, facilities, and data management. Gareth comes to LEDA from the Community Charter School of Paterson, where he was the Director of Business Operations (COO). In his tenure at CCSP, Gareth created the business department from the ground up, established finance, academic, human resources, and operational policies and procedures, and was a key planner and developer for CCSP’s new school building and sports complex. Gareth has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Finance from Brooklyn College.

Louis Wu, Operations Manager

Louis joined LEDA as its Operations Manager in June 2018. Prior to LEDA, Louis worked at Success Academy, an education-management organization which runs and operates New York City’s largest charter school network. At Success, he worked in its business operations division, helping manage the day to day business, finance and operations of a local Brooklyn school. Prior to Success, Louis worked at BTE Corp, as a member of its supply chain and logistics team based out of New York. Louis graduated with a degree in Economics and English, and is a member of the Princeton AlumniCorps Emerging Leaders 2019 Cohort.


Development and Communications

Cristina Morais, Senior Director of Development and External Relations

Cristina 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, has completed a Nonprofit Management Certificate from Harvard Extension School, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Management from Harvard Extension School.

Joseph Lee, Development and Communications Officer

Joseph 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.

Tahini Rahman, Development and Communications Associate

Tahini joined LEDA in January 2019 as its Development and Communications Associate. She assists with fundraising efforts related to foundation, corporate, and individual giving. She comes to LEDA from 501 AUCTIONS, where she managed various auctions for large-scale galas and fundraising events. Tahini has lived in Bangladesh, Sudan, Italy, and Panama, and has previously worked at the New School, UNFPA, Save the Children International, and the International Federation of the Red Cross. She speaks English, Bangla, and Spanish. Tahini has an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from The New School and a B.A. in International Affairs from Florida State 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.

Nick McMahon, Data Systems Administrator

Nick joined the LEDA team in May of 2019. As the Data Systems Administrator, Nick is responsible for the performance, integrity, and security of LEDA’s Salesforce database. He implements, tracks, and oversees changes and implementations within the system and maintains a “healthy lifestyle” for LEDA’s data. A strong supporter of helping not-for-profit organizations excel in the digital world, Nick’s prior role was as both database administrator and membership manager for the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, NJ. He graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in Classical Studies.

Recruitment and Admissions
Iris Early, Director of Recruitment and Admissions

Iris 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 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 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 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.

Pedrum Mardan, College Guidance Counselor

Pedrum joined LEDA as a College Guidance Counselor in June 2020. Through a dialectical, intersectional, and person-centered approach, Pedrum advocates for Scholars throughout the college admissions process. Prior to LEDA, he supported every facet of NYU Opportunity Programs’ admissions efforts as an Admissions Assistant while simultaneously completing clinical hours at New York City public high schools as a Bilingual School Counselor-in-training. With his parallactic, professional background and lived experience as a first-generation college graduate, Pedrum has navigated college admissions from multiple vantage points. He holds a B.A. in Literature with a Concentration in World Literature and Cultural Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz, and an M.A. in Counseling and Guidance: Bilingual School Counseling, Grades Pre-K–12 with an Advanced Certificate in LGBT Health, Education, and Social Services from NYU.

College Success
Jordan McFarlane-Beau, Director of College Success

Jordan 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 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 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.

Kathy J. Alvarado, Career Counselor

Kathy joined LEDA in December 2018 as its Career Counselor, and she advises and supports LEDA Scholars and Career Fellows through the career-planning, decision-making, and job-searching processes. In addition, she supports alumni engagement through communications, collaboration, and programming. Kathy has held positions in several areas of the education field, including TRIO programs, first-year seminars, residence life, developmental student services, academic advising, diversity/inclusion programming, and student organization advising. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work with a minor in Psychology from Rutgers University and a Master of Arts degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Kristina Cepeda, Alumni Affairs Officer

Kristina joined LEDA in January 2020 as its Alumni Affairs Officer. She supports the professional and personal growth of LEDA’s college alumni network, cultivates and strengthens the connections between alumni with peers and younger Scholars as mentors, and facilitates further engagement/participation with LEDA. Kristina comes to LEDA from Streetwise Partners, where she was the Manager of Alumni Services and Program, managing programming and services for over 1,000 alumni to support their ongoing professional development. She has also served as a Program Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, in addition to several other roles within the nonprofit sector focused on supporting individuals and families reach their personal and professional goals. Kristina obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Syracuse University.

Kennedy A. Turner, Director of Graduate Education and Fellowships and Director of Aspects of Leadership

Kennedy joined LEDA in 2018 as an Aspects of Leadership Facilitator and became Director of Aspects of Leadership in November 2019. In this role, she oversees curriculum and facilitation of the Aspects of Leadership Summer Institute’s signature course. In September 2020, Kennedy also assumed the position of LEDA’s first Director of Graduate Education and Fellowships. She leads the development of LEDA’s new initiative to provide graduate school and fellowship advising to LEDA Scholars. Kennedy earned her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Sociology from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation work focused on the racial identity development of Black college students. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Howard University.


LEDA Policy Project

Amber M. Briggs, Project Director

Amber joined LEDA in February 2018 as the Project Director for the launch of the LEDA Policy Project; she previously worked at LEDA as a College Guidance Counselor. As Policy Project Director, Amber manages the LEDA Policy Corps, a select group of students from the LEDA community who are trained in key federal policy and higher education topics and participate in various activities to ensure that student perspectives are at the center of higher education policy and practice. Amber is an alumna of the College Advising Corps and completed her service at Alief Elsik High School in Houston, TX. She graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in Sociology, a minor in Africana Studies, and a Certificate in Race and Ethnic Relations. She received her M.A. 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 policies for undocumented students.

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