OUR TEAM

Choose a Category below to see team members across all locations

John Brennan

Bay Area Board Chair

 

John Brennan

Position: Bay Area Board Chair
Professional Title: Former Vice President of Human Resources, Advent Software

JEFF DORIGAN

Boston Board Chair

 

JEFF DORIGAN

Position: Boston Board Chair
Professional Title: Senior Vice President, Brown Brothers Harriman
Kris Leja

Kristine Leja

Bay Area Executive Director

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers Kristine Leja has over 15 years of experience...

 
Kris Leja

Kristine Leja

Position: Bay Area Executive Director

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Kristine Leja has over 15 years of experience in fundraising, communications and non-profit management. She has held leadership positions at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, Edgewood Center for Children in Families and Westside Community Mental Health Services. Most recently she served as the Chief Development Officer and Interim CEO at Habitat Greater SF.

She has been a speaker/presenter at the Commonwealth Club, Foundation Center, NTEN, the Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals on the topics of non-profit management, marketing and fundraising. A native of Chicago, Ms. Leja holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Illinois and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She is also an advisory panel member of the International Rogare Fundraising Think Tank out of Plymouth University and has served on the board of Voice of Witness for the last six years.

Hermese Velasquez

Hermese Velasquez

Executive Director, Boston

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers A native of Belize, Central America and a...

 
Hermese Velasquez

Hermese Velasquez

Position: Executive Director, Boston
Email: HVelasquez@summersearch.org

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

A native of Belize, Central America and a first-generation college graduate, Hermese has firsthand experience with the game changing power of education. Hermese’s long-standing commitment to Summer Search spans multiple roles, including participant during her high school years, Alumni Board Chair, and member of the Summer Search Boston Board of Directors. It is Hermese’s delight and Summer Search’s great fortune to have her add staff member to that list, stepping into the role of Boston Executive Director in December 2016.

Before joining the Summer Search staff, Hermese was a results-oriented Project Manager in the travel industry. She has provided project management over several top priority initiatives and enterprise wide implementations, cultivating her skills in data analysis, risk assessment, communication, relationship building, and change management, vital talents for a non-profit leader. While her professional experience is heavy in the project management capacity, her volunteer experience has been dominated by Summer Search! Though Hermese’s after work haven is now her full-time gig, she continues to volunteer as a coach for adults reentering college.

During the warmer months, Hermese enjoys daily 5Ks while listening to Beyoncé and Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits! She also loves to travel and has visited at least 1 new country a year for the past 5 years; with 5 continents, down and 2 more to go! Hermese and her family live in Boston.

Peter Retzlaff

Peter Retzlaff

New York City Executive Director

Pronouns: He/Him/His Following a number of years running his own...

 
Peter Retzlaff

Peter Retzlaff

Position: New York City Executive Director
Email: pretzlaff@summersearch.org

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Following a number of years running his own business, Peter began his journey in the nonprofit sector after deciding he wanted to do work with a more permanent impact on the world around him. Now, more than a decade into his career in youth development, Peter is motivated by the trajectory shift that can occur in a young person’s life as a result of intentional, high quality programming. The belief that the most profound impact of this work is that the benefits will continue to reveal themselves over years, lifetimes and even generations of families is a critical driver to what we get to do in this field.

Prior to Summer Search Peter led Community for Youth, a life-skills and mentoring program in Seattle where he lived for many years. In Seattle Peter also did extensive work with Youth Development Executives of King County, The Weikert Center’s Youth Program Quality Assessment tool, and Washington State Mentors Quality Mentoring Assessment Pathway Taskforce all of which worked to elevate the impact of mentoring young people. That work, seeing the incredible results that uncommonly intentional and professionalized mentoring yield, elevated the type of program that he wanted to work with. A move back home to the east coast brought him eagerly to Summer Search NYC.

Peter’s commitment to social justice extends beyond the workplace to a number of Boards and other volunteer opportunities including Fremont Community Therapy Project, Providence Hospitality House and work in King County Jail and Monroe State Prison. Now in NJ/NY after more than 20 years out west, Peter is looking forward to getting re-engaged in the local community. And in the days between there is always more live music to check out, more books to read, and more movies to see.

Graves Tompkins

NYC Board Chair

 

Graves Tompkins

Position: NYC Board Chair
Professional Title: Managing Director and Head of Capital Partnering, General Atlantic
Sylvia Watts McKinney

Sylvia Watts McKinney

Philadelphia Executive Director

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers Sylvia is motivated by the belief that all...

 
Sylvia Watts McKinney

Sylvia Watts McKinney

Position: Philadelphia Executive Director
Email: smckinney@summersearch.org

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Sylvia is motivated by the belief that all youth should have access to college regardless of their zip code, and is excited to serve this mission as the Executive Director of the Summer Search Philadelphia office.

Prior to joining Summer Search, Sylvia built an exemplary career in education and entrepreneurship. Sylvia started her real estate career with a start-up company, Taylor Properties, where she successfully negotiated and finalized construction, permanent and equity loans with private banks and government agencies to build and sell affordable, fee simple housing as well as commercial properties.

As Executive Director of the Museum of Afro American History in Boston and the Philadelphia chapter of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, she provided leadership on key strategic plans and implemented fundraising programs with staff and stakeholders, collaborated with the members of the media to promote the missions of these organizations, resulting in various articles, live television coverage and the creation of videos/films.

While as the director of the MAAH, the late Senator Edward Kennedy introduced her to First Lady Hilary Clinton. Senator Kennedy also invited her to witness the late President Nelson Mandela be presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from President Bill Clinton. These profound experiences re-ignited her passion to work for organizations to alleviate poverty in this country.

Sylvia holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of South Carolina and Masters of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her hobbies include travel, biking, golfing, and reading tons of comic books, especially the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series!

Pamela Lehrer

Philadelphia Board Chair

 

Pamela Lehrer

Position: Philadelphia Board Chair
Professional Title: Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Berwind Corporation
Melanie Lyons

Melanie Lyons

Seattle Executive Director

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers Melanie began mentoring and investing in the power...

 
Melanie Lyons

Melanie Lyons

Position: Seattle Executive Director
Email: mlyons@summersearch.org

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Melanie began mentoring and investing in the power of young people when she was in her teens and has never looked back. Over the last 14 years Melanie has been working in nonprofit organizations that support young people to use their power, potential and talent in personal, local and global leadership.

Melanie received her BA and subsequently, a Masters in Social Work and Masters in Public Administration – all at the University of Washington.

She craves outdoor adventures and can often be seen on her light green bicycle named Sweet Pea. She has made a fun-filled and friend-filled home with her partner Tina and her beloved puggle Theo. She will forever be a double Husky – go UCONN and UW!

Erik Toth

Seattle Board Chair

 

Erik Toth

Position: Seattle Board Chair
Professional Title: Principal, Toth Construction
Gisel Endara

Gisel Endara

Regional Operations Manager

Pronouns: They/Them. Gisel comes to Summer Search with a deep...

 
Gisel Endara

Gisel Endara

Position: Regional Operations Manager

Pronouns: They/Them.

Gisel comes to Summer Search with a deep passion for intersectional justice. As a first-generation migrant born in Ecuador, they understand first-hand the effects of environmental racism on low-income brown and black communities. They have facilitated youth-based workshops with Theatre of the Oppressed & Centro Corona and hold a BFA from the School of Visual Arts here in NYC where they studied Visual and Critical Studies.

When Gisel is not working at Summer Search, they are organizing in their community and cooking up new foods!

Ethan George

Director of Program Operations

Pronouns: He/Him/His Ethan believes that confidence building through adventure and...

 

Ethan George

Position: Director of Program Operations
Email: egeorge@summersearch.org

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Ethan believes that confidence building through adventure and mentorship is key to supporting teen development. Ethan also understands the need for deeper equity in Boston, a city with a widening opportunity gap. Before arriving at Summer Search, Ethan worked at Youth Enrichment Services managing adventure programs and volunteers. His work experience also includes student instruction at Thompson Island Outward Bound, case management at Action for Boston Community Development, and coaching at Boston College High School.

Ethan holds a BA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire and a Core Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice.

Outside of his work, Ethan enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, gardening, and playing speed chess.

Trish Borrell- Kutnyak

Post Secondary Manager

pronouns: she/her/hers

 

Trish Borrell- Kutnyak

Position: Post Secondary Manager

pronouns: she/her/hers

Carmita Champ

Carmita Champ

Post-Secondary Director

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmita-champ/ Carmita, a Philadelphia native, experienced first-hand...

 
Carmita Champ

Carmita Champ

Position: Post-Secondary Director
Phone: 215.399.9106
Email: cchamp@summersearch.org

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmita-champ/

Carmita, a Philadelphia native, experienced first-hand the disparities of educational attainment, financial stability, and support systems within the City of Brotherly Love. As a higher education professional with over 15 years of experience within academic and student affairs, she’s committed to advocating for student needs and championing access to educational opportunities in the Philadelphia Area. 

Prior to joining Summer Search, Carmita served as the Director of Graduate Student Services at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. In this role, Carmita was responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of admissions, academic advising, program management and alumni relations. Carmita created a holistic approach to operationalize academic programming and student services; supporting the realities of students as they entered, moved through, and graduated from the university. Grappling with historically low admission rates from minority student applicants, Carmita created the Underrepresented Minority (URM) Scholarship fund which resulted in a more diverse student body and helped close the financial gap for students of color into LeBow College of Business MBA and Master’s programs.

For Carmita, joining the Summer Search Philadelphia team presents the opportunity to leverage her expertise within higher education to intentionally support young people of color to better prepare for their futures beyond high school.

Carmita earned her Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Drexel University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Peirce College. As a first-generation graduate, Carmita credits Peirce College in providing a community for her to thrive as a student. 

When she’s not indulging in a pint of ice cream or a great Philly restaurant, Carmita, is in her happy space tending to her flower garden or working on her latest DIY project.