OUR TEAM

Choose a Category below to see team members across all locations

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.

Kioka Abbott

Kioka Abbott

Career Navigator / Internship Coordinator

Pronouns: She/Her.

 
Kioka Abbott

Kioka Abbott

Position: Career Navigator / Internship Coordinator

Pronouns: She/Her.

Danya Allswang

Program Associate

Danya is a visionary and a leader. She has had...

 

Danya Allswang

Position: Program Associate
Email: http://dallswang@summersearch.org/

Danya is a visionary and a leader. She has had the opportunity to mentor individuals of all ages in various settings such as dance studios, foster homes, and correctional facilities. Driven by innovation and a desire to see a better tomorrow, Danya has utilized rehabilitative and restorative justice practices, as well as formal and informal therapeutic techniques, to encourage positive development.
After graduating high school, Danya took a gap year to volunteer with foster youth overseas. After a year of self-growth, she obtained her B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland.
An avid dancer, Danya has practiced many forms of the art including: West African, Jazz, Modern, Afro-Jazz, Ballet, and, her favorite and most studied, Hip-Hop. Her favorite animal is the baby elephant and she has never eaten a waffle that she didn’t love!

Alfonso Beale

School & Community Engagement Manager

As an emerging change-agent, Alfonso believes every young person has...

 

Alfonso Beale

Position: School & Community Engagement Manager
Email: abeale@summersearch.org

As an emerging change-agent, Alfonso believes every young person has limitless potential. He believes with intentional exposure and support along with healthy spaces—each young person can actualize their potential. Prior to Summer Search, Alfonso worked as a Budget and Policy Analyst with the legislative branch in Prince George’s County, Maryland while working as a Program Coordinator with a non-profit organization in Washington DC that serves black and brown boys and young men.

Originally from Silver Spring Maryland, Alfonso graduated from Howard University where he received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Bachelor of Arts in English, and Masters of Social Work from the Howard University School of Social Work. He comes with vast experience and is excited about the opportunity to contribute to the mission and vision of Summer Search.

In his free time, you can catch Alfonso sitting in front of his laptop crafting blogs for his website, looking up cheap flights to different countries for his next trip, or exploring New York City and all the food and culture it has to offer.

Borah Coburn

Program Manager

Every human being deserves to live, learn, laugh, and develop...

 

Borah Coburn

Position: Program Manager
Email: bcoburn@summersearch.org

Every human being deserves to live, learn, laugh, and develop their dreams in a just world. As a Program Associate at Summer Search, Borah supports mentees with love, advocacy, and strategy to help them realize future success and celebrate current triumphs.

Before joining Summer Search, Borah taught literacy and global citizenship in the Bronx. Borah was honored to receive the 2017 Excellence in Education award from the Committee for Teaching on the United Nations for her work as a NYC Junior Ambassador educator.

Borah holds a BA from Boston University and an MA from the Hunter College School of Education. An adventurer herself, Borah recently joined an archeologic expedition in Mongolia. Future adventures will hopefully include retracing a medieval pilgrimage route, climbing Machu Picchu, and skydiving. But on any given Tuesday, you’ll find Borah swing dancing (or trying!), haunting East Harlem farmers’ markets, and singing duets with her partner.

Dariela Colon

Post-Secondary Program Coordinator

Dariela is a Summer Search alum who is passionate about...

 

Dariela Colon

Position: Post-Secondary Program Coordinator
Email: dcolon@summersearch.org

Dariela is a Summer Search alum who is passionate about youth development and giving back. After high school, Dariela learned just how critical it is to have a strong support system and access to resources. Dariela had a community she could turn to for support but knew this was not the case for everybody. She decided to pursue a career in youth development and work towards bridging the equity gap. Before joining the Summer Search team, she worked with buildOn where she engaged youth in service-learning. This experience allowed her to explore different ways to support students and work with them to address community issues that mattered to them.

Dariela attended Fordham University where she earned her B.S in Psychology and is currently pursuing her MPA from Baruch. When she is not at Summer Search, Dariela can be found reading poetry, spending time with her family, exploring new recipes or training.

Dariela is excited to be a part of the team and give back to a community that had such a profound impact on her.

Naima Fine Iles

High School Program Director

Driven to change the world for young people of color,...

 

Naima Fine Iles

Position: High School Program Director
Email: naima@summersearch.org

Driven to change the world for young people of color, Naima comes to Summer Search emboldened to inspire our students to “be the change they wish to see in the world.”

Naima went to the New School, loves to wear her many hats, and is invigorated by direct service in youth work. She led a team of activists to the Dominican Republic where they advocated for children’s rights, an end to machismo, and conducted anti-racist conversations. She is comfortable being sister, friend, Mother, activist, leader, counselor, advisor, challenger, mentor to her students and fights for them every single day.

On a day Naima isn’t working, she is usually laughing, talking emphatically, cozied up with some of her favorite novels, drinking hot chocolate, listening to Sade, playing capoeira, watching bad TV, being lit up with joy by her nieces, and loving hard.

Cynthia Garcia

Senior Program Associate

Cynthia is first generation Mexican-American born and raised in San...

 

Cynthia Garcia

Position: Senior Program Associate
Email: cgarcia@summersearch.org

Cynthia is first generation Mexican-American born and raised in San Clemente, California. Being one of the first in her family, she graduated Loyola Marymount University in 2016 where she received her B.A. in Modern Languages. Soon after she committed to a year of service, providing counseling services to high school students in Bushwick, through Good Shepherd Volunteers.

Cynthia strongly believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to explore their highest potential. The phrase “It takes a village” highly resonates with the amount of support she believes we all need in order to help achieve all our goals. Cynthia strives to be able to help youth reach their goals, be part of that “village,” and be the support they need and want. When she is not at work, Cynthia enjoys spending time with her friends and going back to California to visit her family. Being relatively new to New York City, she enjoys exploring new areas and discovering what this city has to offer.

Maya Hawkins

Program Associate

Maya is passionate about working with and empowering youth to...

 

Maya Hawkins

Position: Program Associate
Email: mhawkins@summersearch.org

Maya is passionate about working with and empowering youth to slowly take over the world and make it a better place. She also cares a lot about addressing systemic inequality and sees those two passions as intrinsically connected. Maya grew up in New York City and went to NYU for college. She graduated in 2018 having studied Anthropology with a focus on race and gender. After college Maya organized volunteers in schools through an organization called Repair the World, where she became (more) passionate about educational equity.

In her free time, Maya enjoys reading pretty much all books but especially sci-fi, and walking into comic book and book shops around the city. Maya lives in Brooklyn with many, many roommates and even more plants.

Bethany Nelson

Director of Development

Pronouns: She/Her. As a dedicated proponent of educational equity and...

 

Bethany Nelson

Position: Director of Development
Email: bnelson@summersearch.org

Pronouns: She/Her.

As a dedicated proponent of educational equity and opportunity, Bethany is passionate about Summer Search’s mission. Having worked on the program side for several years, leading outreach and recruitment of new Summer Search students, Bethany is excited to bring her relationship-building skills to fundraising. She is driven by a deep desire to ensure all youth have equitable access to the resources and opportunities that cultivate self-empowerment, joy and growth.

Bethany spent several years as the Director of Youth Programs at Hartley House. She has also worked as a research assistant in housing policy issues and interned at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in D.C. She graduated from Pace University with a BA in Applied Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies and received her Masters of Public Administration from Baruch College. Proud of having lived in four out of NYC’s five boroughs, she can currently be found in Sunnyside, Queens.

Sheakira Perry-West

Sheakira Perry-West

Program Manager

Born and raised in the South Bronx, growing up Sheakira...

 
Sheakira Perry-West

Sheakira Perry-West

Position: Program Manager
Email: sperrywest@summersearch.org

Born and raised in the South Bronx, growing up Sheakira fully understood the challenges that came with living in poverty. Never getting discouraged Sheakira has fostered resiliency and a profound commitment to receiving a higher education. With the power of mentorship, Sheakira was able to study both Community Health Education and Psychology at Hunter College.

Passionate about ending social disparities and helping individuals reach their fullest potential by the means of empowerment, Sheakira has done an array of duties in the fields of advocacy and youth development. Before working at Summer Search she has served as a behavior interventionist in which she applied restorative justice practices. She has also done community organizing work, one of the things that she has done is organize a Peace and Justice fair in which youth were able to bring awareness to the injustices they felt they faced as black and brown teens.

When Sheakira is not working at Summer Search, she is practicing self-care. She loves to eat sushi, coach softball to youth, read novels, write poetry, volunteer in her community and spend time with her family preferably traveling around the world.

Mat Pryfogle

Associate Director of Program Partnerships

Harvey Fierstein said “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow...

 

Mat Pryfogle

Position: Associate Director of Program Partnerships
Email: mpryfogle@summersearch.org

Harvey Fierstein said “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” It is this sentiment of courage and ambition that motivates me to empower our amazing students to make the same decisions for themselves. 

Mat holds a BS degree in French Education from Bowling Green State University and has thirst for knowledge that led him to study and work in France, Burkina Faso, French Canada & China. 

Mat has worked at a summer camp that taught peace, social justice & environmental stewardship, and at buildOn where he engaged high school students in community service and led service trips to developing countries. 

Silvi Shameti

Program Associate

Silvi believes that critical awareness of one’s identity can be...

 

Silvi Shameti

Position: Program Associate
Email: sshameti@summersearch.org

Silvi believes that critical awareness of one’s identity can be the foundation of strength, resilience, and self-love. She wants to help youth feel empowered and independent in a world that is filled with navigating difficult situations and emotions.

Silvi is an immigrant and a staunch New Yorker whose childhood was built in Brooklyn. She received a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Education from Haverford College. After graduation, Silvi joined Teach for America and received an M.A. in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Silvi previously taught 6th grade biology and loved to watch her students’ faces as they carried out experiments and investigations in the classroom. In her spare time, she enjoys being part of a book club, traveling to new places, and trying out new recipes.

Jené Toussaint

Director of Staff and Student Support

Dedicated to social change and a commitment to understanding history,...

 

Jené Toussaint

Position: Director of Staff and Student Support
Email: jtoussaint@summersearch.org

Dedicated to social change and a commitment to understanding history, culture and the impact that racism and other intersections have on individuals and communities, Jené is continually inspired by authentic conversations and relationship building.

Jené provides mentoring and training support to Program Associates and loves the opportunity to create spaces where people feel supported and heard.

Jené graduated from Brandeis University and holds a MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work.

In her spare time, Jené enjoys laughing, learning from, and supporting her friends and family. She enjoys music, reading fantasy books, cats, swimming in the ocean, and sleeping in. She has spent the last couple of summers travelling to Cuba, and getting involved with community organizing efforts.

She currently lives in Brooklyn, and dreams of spending the winters in the Caribbean.

Joceline Nieves

Program Associate

As a Summer Search Alum, Joceline is passionate about supporting...

 

Joceline Nieves

Position: Program Associate
Email: jnieves@summersearch.org

As a Summer Search Alum, Joceline is passionate about supporting and uplifting youth in her community. She believes that today’s youth with flourish greatly through having significant, therapeutic relationships with adults. From her own experience with an individual mentor, she knows that the holistic guidance provided can change a students’ life! Her goal is to give back and support the youth in her community.

Joceline grew up in Brooklyn but went to New Paltz for college. She enjoyed being close to the mountains and trees but not too far from the city and her family. Joceline graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in Deaf Studies. After college Joceline worked as a Case Planner in Foster Care for 2 years where she worked to safely reunite families in her community. After Foster Care, Joceline worked at Bottom Line for 2 years supporting over 150 low-income, first-generation college students through their undergraduate career.

In her free time, Joceline enjoys watching tv shows like Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy and The Office! If not watching tv shows Joceline enjoys playing PS4 games like Borderlands, Beat Saber, or the SIMS. She has also started to learn how to knit and crochet and hopes to make her dog some homemade outfits!

Julian Perez

Julian Perez

Post-Secondary Program Coordinator

Julian’s path to Summer Search was motivated by his experiences...

 
Julian Perez

Julian Perez

Position: Post-Secondary Program Coordinator

Julian’s path to Summer Search was motivated by his experiences post High School. Being the first in his family to go to college, he struggled to find his footing and a home in a setting so unfamiliar. Not knowing where to access resources or how to ask for help, it took Julian a bit of time to get settled. Eventually, he found his footing and found his community while studying Anthropology at Princeton. He explored affordable housing at Princeton, advocated for the rights of immigrants, challenged standardized notions of Latinidad, and learned to become a better accomplice, friend, and comrade.

Previously Julian was a college advisor where he assisted students in planning for life after high school. Being the oldest of five, working with youth and providing support for them always came easy and has always been a passion of his. He sees the immense potential and the amazing goals students of color have and wants to support that.

Julian is a first-generation American and proud of his Mexican parents who have given everything to support him. He loves the Bronx and thinks it is the best borough and is excited to be working in the community he loves so much.

In his off time, he loves playing and watching soccer. He wants to travel more once the opportunity arises and wants to make more use of his experience with Ballet Folklorico.

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!

Tiffany Viruet

Tiffany Viruet

Program Associate

Pronouns: She/Her Program Mentor. Youth Development Obsessed person. Laughter addict....

 
Tiffany Viruet

Tiffany Viruet

Position: Program Associate

Pronouns: She/Her

Program Mentor. Youth Development Obsessed person. Laughter addict. Introverted extrovert. Sagittarius. Wanna-be Philosopher. Poet, Writer. Teaching Artist. Lowkey Interior Decorator. High key Home Chef. Vegetarian. Cat & plant mom. Yoga & Meditation Instructor. Travel Enthusiast. Lover of nature. Lover of God. Lover of all things love.