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.

Ivan Aguilera

Career Navigator & Internship Coordinator

Ivan is passionate about social justice and creating a more...

 

Ivan Aguilera

Position: Career Navigator & Internship Coordinator
Email: iaguilera@summersearch.org

Ivan is passionate about social justice and creating a more equitable world that creates opportunities for those that lack them. He was inspired to do this work when he served as a youth mentor in his hometown of Stockton, California.

After changing majors from engineering to sociology, Ivan transferred to San Francisco State University where he continued his new passion of teaching and mentoring youth. He spent over 5 years in the Mission District of San Francisco where he supported youth and their families in making higher education the expectation.
After living in California his entire life, he moved to New York City to continue this work of inspiring marginalized youth to achieve their goals and dreams. He currently lives in Jackson Heights in Queens and is enjoying the diverse community.

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.

Emily Behan

Development Director

Emily works with Summer Search’s corporate partners to build strong...

 

Emily Behan

Position: Development Director
Email: ebehan@summersearch.org

Emily works with Summer Search’s corporate partners to build strong relationships that result in more opportunities for Summer Search students. She is thrilled to be part of a team that is focused on helping young adults reach their full potential, and is inspired by the many successes – both big and small – of Summer Search students and alums.

Prior to joining Summer Search, Emily was the Development Manager at Community Solutions International, where she worked with foundations and corporations to fund systems-level initiatives aimed at improving public health outcomes. She has also held development roles at CCS Fundraising, Freeman Philanthropic Services, and New York Needs You.
 
Emily graduated from Furman University with a degree in Economics and went on to take classes at Columbia University’s Masters in Fundraising Management program. In her spare time, you might find her updating her list of New York City restaurants to eat at or reading back issues of her favorite magazines.

Whitney Childs

Development Manager

Whitney supports Summer Search’s New York City and Seattle development...

 

Whitney Childs

Position: Development Manager
Email: wchilds@summersearch.org

Whitney supports Summer Search’s New York City and Seattle development teams, focusing on institutional giving and development operations. After working for Summer Search for many years, she remains inspired by the students she has been able to meet and committed to ending educational inequity across the country.

Whitney earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University. In addition to her work with Summer Search, Whitney has worked in international development, managing institutional fundraising for a women’s university in Rwanda.

After ten years in New York City, Whitney recently relocated to Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, you can find her testing out hiking trails, exploring her new city or watching reality television – all under the supervision of her two dogs.

Jason Choi

Regional Program Director

Motivated by the desire for all people to see their...

 

Jason Choi

Position: Regional Program Director
Email: jchoi@summersearch.org

Motivated by the desire for all people to see their true value, Jason is wholeheartedly committed to Summer Search’s mission and vision. 

Jason supports newer mentors and is particularly focused on using data to inform decisions and improve program quality. 

Jason earned his BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida and his MA in Mathematics Education from the University of Central Florida. Prior to Summer Search, Jason was a math teacher and spent semester breaks touring the eastern US, singing songs for strangers and sampling local cuisine. 

These days he enjoys quiet mornings of prayer and louder evenings with friends, family, and food. Jason resides in Brooklyn with his lovely wife.

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.

Emily FitzGerald

Director of PS Program & Alumni Relations

Emily believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive. Her commitment...

 

Emily FitzGerald

Position: Director of PS Program & Alumni Relations
Email: efitzgerald@summersearch.org

Emily believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive. Her commitment to education equality is her constant compass. 

Emily came to Summer Search as a mentor and helped launch the College Success program. She experiences the beauty and power of the longevity of Summer Search as college freshmen become college graduates before her eyes. 

Emily holds a B.A. in Classical Languages from Hamilton College and worked at NYC Audubon as the Development Associate and Membership Director. She served in AmeriCorps as a Literacy Tutor at an elementary school in Oakland, California and taught English along the Amazon River in Peru. 

When she’s not laughing with her hilarious coworkers, she can be found doing crossword puzzles, hiking in the Hudson River Valley, exploring her hometown on her bicycle or birding in the city’s parks. She lives in Brooklyn and plays Frisbee with her husband.

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

Corporate Relations Manager

As a dedicated proponent of educational equity and opportunity, Bethany...

 

Bethany Nelson

Position: Corporate Relations Manager
Email: bnelson@summersearch.org

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. 

Maxiel Sanchez

Development Associate

Maxiel is passionate about helping youth from underrepresented backgrounds and...

 

Maxiel Sanchez

Position: Development Associate
Email: msanchez@summersearch.org

Maxiel is passionate about helping youth from underrepresented backgrounds and communities. She is a Summer Search alumna and graduated high school in 2013. Right after college, she went to pursue her BA at Connecticut College from where she graduated in May 2017. Maxiel is looking to give back to low-income communities all the support and guidance that she received from Summer Search.

Maxiel double majored in Sociology and Hispanic Studies while at Connecticut College. The summer of her Junior year she interned at Hola Magazine in the Dominican Republic. During her time there she researched the miss-representation of Black Dominican women in the country and how such misrepresentation speaks to the internalized racism that exists in the Dominican Republic.

In her spare time, Maxiel likes to travel, watch movies and read books. One of her favorite books is the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because of the idea behind it of appreciating what happens in the path to finding your destiny. She also loves to spend quality time with her friends and family.

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.