OUR TEAM

  Ben Samuels-Kalow    Founder & Head of School   Founder & Head of School Ben Samuels-Kalow spent his career as a public-school teacher in the South Bronx, teaching middle and high school Computer Science and Economics, developing innovative curricula, and leading professional development. He was selected for the nationally recognized Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellowship, a year-long school design and leadership program that trains founders on the management, design, operations, governance, and accountability of public charter schools. He holds a BA from the University of Chicago, a MS in Education from St. John’s University, and a sincere belief in the capacity and promise of young people in the Bronx.

Ben Samuels-Kalow
Founder & Head of School

Founder & Head of School Ben Samuels-Kalow spent his career as a public-school teacher in the South Bronx, teaching middle and high school Computer Science and Economics, developing innovative curricula, and leading professional development. He was selected for the nationally recognized Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellowship, a year-long school design and leadership program that trains founders on the management, design, operations, governance, and accountability of public charter schools. He holds a BA from the University of Chicago, a MS in Education from St. John’s University, and a sincere belief in the capacity and promise of young people in the Bronx.

  Ross Dakin    Secretary   Ross Dakin is a Senior Strategist of Global Technology and Operations team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Mr. Dakin recently advised the Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement team in NYC following his appointment as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow under the Obama Administration. As a private sector technologist in Silicon Valley, he helped build and grow small companies in the fields of same-day delivery, financial services, cybersecurity, and telecommunications. Mr. Dakin is an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Lehman College in the Bronx and holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Santa Clara University, where he currently serves on the Dean's Engineering Advisory Board.

Ross Dakin
Secretary

Ross Dakin is a Senior Strategist of Global Technology and Operations team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Mr. Dakin recently advised the Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement team in NYC following his appointment as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow under the Obama Administration. As a private sector technologist in Silicon Valley, he helped build and grow small companies in the fields of same-day delivery, financial services, cybersecurity, and telecommunications. Mr. Dakin is an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Lehman College in the Bronx and holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Santa Clara University, where he currently serves on the Dean's Engineering Advisory Board.

  Jesus Diaz    Chair   Jesus Diaz leads University Relations across New York State for Examity. Mr. Diaz has spent the past 10 years managing higher education sales teams across publicly traded and privately held corporations. Prior to leading education teams, Mr. Diaz founded Latino University and Latino High School, two BPA-audited and highly regarded publications, geared respectively towards improving the lives of students in high density Latino schools. Mr. Diaz has served on the boards of AsianMBA, Career Outcomes Matter, and the Association for Talent Development's NYC Chapter, has led technology courses for adults at Soundview Community in Action (Bronx, NY), and over the past four years has continued to mentor high school students in the Bronx. Mr. Diaz holds a BA from New York University, and an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Jesus Diaz
Chair

Jesus Diaz leads University Relations across New York State for Examity. Mr. Diaz has spent the past 10 years managing higher education sales teams across publicly traded and privately held corporations. Prior to leading education teams, Mr. Diaz founded Latino University and Latino High School, two BPA-audited and highly regarded publications, geared respectively towards improving the lives of students in high density Latino schools. Mr. Diaz has served on the boards of AsianMBA, Career Outcomes Matter, and the Association for Talent Development's NYC Chapter, has led technology courses for adults at Soundview Community in Action (Bronx, NY), and over the past four years has continued to mentor high school students in the Bronx. Mr. Diaz holds a BA from New York University, and an MBA from Columbia Business School.

  Erin Dunn-Franklin    Treasurer   Erin Dunn-Franklin is an investment banker at Goldman Sachs focusing on Real Estate and Lodging. Ms. Dunn-Franklin previously worked in institutional asset management with a focus in global corporate credit for Bridgewater Associates and Wellington Management. At Wellington she also led the company's collaboration with City Year, an Americorps program that provides extra support to students in underserved schools across the country and served on the Emerging Leaders Board for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Ms. Dunn-Franklin started her career as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx as a Teach for America corps member. She holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Erin Dunn-Franklin
Treasurer

Erin Dunn-Franklin is an investment banker at Goldman Sachs focusing on Real Estate and Lodging. Ms. Dunn-Franklin previously worked in institutional asset management with a focus in global corporate credit for Bridgewater Associates and Wellington Management. At Wellington she also led the company's collaboration with City Year, an Americorps program that provides extra support to students in underserved schools across the country and served on the Emerging Leaders Board for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Ms. Dunn-Franklin started her career as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx as a Teach for America corps member. She holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

 
  Dwane Omar Jones   Dwane Omar Jones specializes in commercial real estate investments and ground-up development. Mr. Jones earned his MBA from the NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business where he was a Management Leadership for Tomorrow Fellow, Robert Toigo Foundation Fellow, and Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow. He previously worked as a corporate attorney at a large NYC law firm on corporate reorganization matters. Mr. Jones earned his JD from Howard University School of Law where he was a Howard University School of Law Merit Scholar, and won the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Contract Law. Mr. Jones earned his BS from the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. He is the President of the Howard University School of Law Alumni Club of New York, Fellow with the NYU Stern School of Business Center, Chair of the Board of Directors of A Better World Community Development Corporation of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and member of the New York State Bar.

Dwane Omar Jones

Dwane Omar Jones specializes in commercial real estate investments and ground-up development. Mr. Jones earned his MBA from the NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business where he was a Management Leadership for Tomorrow Fellow, Robert Toigo Foundation Fellow, and Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow. He previously worked as a corporate attorney at a large NYC law firm on corporate reorganization matters. Mr. Jones earned his JD from Howard University School of Law where he was a Howard University School of Law Merit Scholar, and won the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Contract Law. Mr. Jones earned his BS from the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. He is the President of the Howard University School of Law Alumni Club of New York, Fellow with the NYU Stern School of Business Center, Chair of the Board of Directors of A Better World Community Development Corporation of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and member of the New York State Bar.

  Ellison Ward Merkel   Ellison Ward Merkel is partner in the New York Office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP. Her practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, arbitration, and bankruptcy adversary proceedings. She has maintained an active pro bono practice, including successfully briefing and arguing an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of an issue of law under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). Before joining Quinn Emanuel, she clerked for Judge James C. Francis IV in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and was the Sinsheimer Fellow at the Partnership for Children’s Rights, where she assisted special education students and their families in identifying and obtaining needed educational services through administrative actions and litigation under the IDEA. Before law school, she worked as Policy Associate at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (now the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College) researching education funding issues. Ms. Merkel holds an AB from Princeton University and JD from NYU School of Law.

Ellison Ward Merkel

Ellison Ward Merkel is partner in the New York Office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP. Her practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, arbitration, and bankruptcy adversary proceedings. She has maintained an active pro bono practice, including successfully briefing and arguing an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of an issue of law under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). Before joining Quinn Emanuel, she clerked for Judge James C. Francis IV in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and was the Sinsheimer Fellow at the Partnership for Children’s Rights, where she assisted special education students and their families in identifying and obtaining needed educational services through administrative actions and litigation under the IDEA. Before law school, she worked as Policy Associate at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (now the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College) researching education funding issues. Ms. Merkel holds an AB from Princeton University and JD from NYU School of Law.

  Jerelyn Rodriguez    Vice Chair   Jerelyn Rodriguez is Co-Founder and CEO of The Knowledge House. Alumna of the first KIPP schools, Ms. Rodriguez was raised with the belief that knowledge is power. This hunger for knowledge and the opportunity to leverage technology for social good inspired her to start The Knowledge House. Previously, she coordinated STEM after-school programming at Beyond Z and was the Bronx Field Director for Reshma Saujani's 2013 campaign for NYC Public Advocate. In 2011, she joined Students for Education Reform (SFER) as the National Program Director, organizing and coaching college students in 35 states to advocate for education reform. Prior to SFER, she worked in the public school system, teaching and designing student programs. Ms. Rodriguez holds a BA from Columbia University. She is on the Leadership Council for South Bronx Rising Together, founding Datanaut at NASA, fellow at Camelback Ventures, and the Entrepreneur in Residence at the BXL: Bronx Business Incubator.

Jerelyn Rodriguez
Vice Chair

Jerelyn Rodriguez is Co-Founder and CEO of The Knowledge House. Alumna of the first KIPP schools, Ms. Rodriguez was raised with the belief that knowledge is power. This hunger for knowledge and the opportunity to leverage technology for social good inspired her to start The Knowledge House. Previously, she coordinated STEM after-school programming at Beyond Z and was the Bronx Field Director for Reshma Saujani's 2013 campaign for NYC Public Advocate. In 2011, she joined Students for Education Reform (SFER) as the National Program Director, organizing and coaching college students in 35 states to advocate for education reform. Prior to SFER, she worked in the public school system, teaching and designing student programs. Ms. Rodriguez holds a BA from Columbia University. She is on the Leadership Council for South Bronx Rising Together, founding Datanaut at NASA, fellow at Camelback Ventures, and the Entrepreneur in Residence at the BXL: Bronx Business Incubator.

  Natasha Trivers   Natasha Trivers is Superintendent of Democracy Prep Public Schools, a high performing charter network that now serves over 6,500 students in five regions. She manages Executive Directors and Head of Schools at 22 schools and oversees curriculum and assessments, arts and athletic programming, student support services, special education curricular materials, and special education teacher training. Ms. Trivers earned her BA at Rutgers University, MA in Teaching English at Teachers College and her MA in Educational Leadership at Simmons College. Raised in Queens and Brooklyn, she attended public school for her entire educational career. She sometimes had extraordinary teachers who would push her to new heights, and, at other times was faced with teachers who were grossly unprepared to teach or who had very low standards for their classroom. She joined the field of education so that she could secure a high-quality college preparatory education for as many children as possible in this country. She taught for nine years in Providence, RI and Boston, MA and joined the Democracy Prep team as an Assistant Head of School in 2011.

Natasha Trivers

Natasha Trivers is Superintendent of Democracy Prep Public Schools, a high performing charter network that now serves over 6,500 students in five regions. She manages Executive Directors and Head of Schools at 22 schools and oversees curriculum and assessments, arts and athletic programming, student support services, special education curricular materials, and special education teacher training. Ms. Trivers earned her BA at Rutgers University, MA in Teaching English at Teachers College and her MA in Educational Leadership at Simmons College. Raised in Queens and Brooklyn, she attended public school for her entire educational career. She sometimes had extraordinary teachers who would push her to new heights, and, at other times was faced with teachers who were grossly unprepared to teach or who had very low standards for their classroom. She joined the field of education so that she could secure a high-quality college preparatory education for as many children as possible in this country. She taught for nine years in Providence, RI and Boston, MA and joined the Democracy Prep team as an Assistant Head of School in 2011.