Our National Team
Donna A. Lawrence
President & CEO
Donna Lawrence has extensive experience in advocacy and policy development in support of disadvantaged children, youth and families. She spent many years at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) where she served in both a statewide role as Director of the CDF-NY office and in a national position as Vice President of National Field Operations. She also worked as Director of the Mayor’s Office for Children and Families under New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and was his Senior Policy Advisor on Children and Youth when he was Manhattan Borough President.
Donna most recently served as Vice President at the JPB Foundation, a relatively new family foundation with a grantmaking program that will grow to over $200M annually. Prior to this, Donna was the Children & Youth Programme Director at The Atlantic Philanthropies, responsible for directing a $100M global grant making program for disadvantaged children and youth, and the Executive Director of The Riggio Foundation, where she worked to develop a strategic social justice agenda and funding guidelines for the foundation, and served as a liaison to existing grantees. In that position she managed a $20M grant for building 150 homes for poor New Orleans families who lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Prior to joining the Riggio Foundation, she was the Executive Director of the New York office of the Susan Komen Breast Cancer foundation. In addition to these, Donna has held many other leadership and managerial roles in her professional career.
Donna has an M.A. in Political Science from Columbia University and a B.S. in Social Work from Cornell University. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Revson Fellowship and Outstanding Women Achievers. Donna brings a wealth of experience in the foundation, government and not-for-profit sectors; strong organisational and managerial skills, and a commitment to work for social justice and equality for all people.
Finance and Administration Assistant
Cheryl joined the “I Have A Dream” staff in January 2003. In addition to her duties as Office Manager, she provides general administrative support to the national staff.
Prior to joining “I Have A Dream”, Cheryl worked at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), where she was a member of the national staff for 13 years. She studied computer programming at Fordham University. Cheryl is a member of the North Central Bronx Hospital Auxiliary Board advocating for improved patient care for a predominantly immigrant community.
Soji N. Adewumi
Chief Program Officer
In her role as the Chief Program Officer, Soji partners with the Foundation’s network of Affiliates to use data inquiry, design thinking and new technologies to help drive program outcomes and improve program effectiveness. Soji oversees the National Foundation’s portfolio of initiatives focused on promoting higher education and increasing our Dreamers’ access to and success through their college pursuits.
Soji joined the “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s staff in 2015 as a Fellow through Education Pioneers, an organization which matches private sector professionals with education nonprofits to put their skills to use for education causes. Soji holds a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining IHDF, Soji held several positions in Program Management, Process Design, and Technology Consulting at large and Fortune 500 companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Nationwide, and Kaiser Permanente, among others. In her spare time, Soji teaches yoga and enjoys international travel.
Director, Marketing & Communications
Kaitlin is currently leading the National “I Have A Dream” Foundation in reimagining their brand and increasing their visibility as they launch a strategic plan to double their program impact by 2020. As a designer, creative director, and communications strategist, she is interested in the social impact of visual communications. With experience in communications design, new media, and the nonprofit sector, Kaitlin founded Incendiary Designs, a Brooklyn-based design & communications firm, in 2013, and has since worked with nonprofits, startups, and corporate clients on 5 continents. Kaitlin believes in a multimedia design process that is both iterative and forward-thinking. In 2015, she piloted Spark, a design education program for startups & nonprofits.
Before founding Incendiary, Kaitlin managed communications for The Futuro Media Group, producers of Latino USA on NPR and America By The Numbers on PBS (eventually leading the rebrand for both of these signature programs). Kaitlin holds a BFA in Illustration and a BA in Anthropology with Honors from the University of Connecticut, as well as certificates in Building Restoration and Traditional Painting Techniques and Conservation Issues from the International Institute for Restoration and Preservation Studies in San Gemini, Italy. Kaitlin is an actively exhibiting visual artist and has taught public art, screen-printing, and zine-making workshops across the northeast.
Director of Dreamer Programs
Marvin serves as the Director of Dreamer Programs where he supports Dreamers from kindergarteners to alumni. Marvin always had wanted to return to his community and give back in some way. His dream became a reality with the “I Have A Dream” Foundation. Marvin has dedicated his life to serving youth. Before joining the National office, he was the Program Director for the “I Have a Dream” New York’s DeHostos-Wise program where he celebrated Dreamers’ daily achievements and college aspirations. He also worked at Columbia University’s Double Discovery Center where he directed one of its TRIO programs serving youth with a specific focus on academic tutoring, enrichment activities, and college counseling help.
Marvin continues to remain connected to his old neighborhood and currently serves on the DOME Project’s board, the organization that he attributes to changing his life. When not developing programming, Marvin is focused on art and running. He is the founder of Art in a Suitcase, an organization that encourages youth across continents to learn about one another through art. He is also an avid runner having completed the New York, Chicago, and Chiang Mai marathons. Marvin holds a BA from Wesleyan University and an MBA from Columbia University.
Senior Executive Admin/ Office Manager
Manager of Performance Reporting & Evaluation
Andrea joined the “I Have A Dream” Foundation Team in November of 2016 as the Manager of Performance Reporting & Evaluation. In this role, she is responsible for executing the national office’s performance measurement efforts. Andrea oversees and executes national outcome reporting activities both internally and externally and ensures that high quality program evaluations are regularly performed. Born, raised, and educated in Washington DC, Andrea witnessed first-hand the extent to which zip codes arbitrarily determine the quality of an education; she has since held a lifelong passion for promoting quality and equality in the public school system.
Prior to joining “I Have A Dream”, Andrea worked for the NYC Department of Education, where she managed data and reporting for the After School Professional Development program, which provides professional learning opportunities to New York City teachers. Before moving to New York, Andrea spent several years in her native Washington, DC, working as a political consultant on Capitol Hill. Andrea holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and an M.S. in Government Analytics from Johns Hopkins University, and is an alumna of the Education Pioneers Analyst Fellowship. In her spare time, Andrea enjoys traveling, hiking, and spending time with her foster dogs.
Chief Operating Officer
Eugena is the Chief Operating Officer at the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, working to build our administrative, operational, and program-support functions to maximize efficacy and achieve our ambitious goals. Eugena is also our legal counsel and is responsible for overseeing the governance and operations of “I Have A Dream” Foundation affiliate sites. Her passion for civil rights and social justice inspired her to become involved in education and youth empowerment.
Prior to joining “I Have A Dream,” Eugena practiced commercial and products liability law, and served in development, strategy, and operations roles within several non-profit organizations, including Teach For America – New York City, Rock The Vote, and Washington State Court Appointed Special Advocates.
Eugena received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and her J.D. from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Due to poor life planning, Eugena took (and passed) the bar exam in four states, in just as many years; she would not recommend this to anyone.
Laura Persichette Owens
Chief of Staff
As the Chief of Staff, Laura provides the “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s CEO and Management Team with external support and leads internal management projects as well as special projects assigned by our CEO. Laura also created and leads the Foundation’s innovative College Savings Account program. Laura was drawn to this work by her desire is for all students, regardless of race, zip code, or family income to have access to a high quality education and all of the opportunities that comes with that experience.
Prior to “I Have A Dream,” Laura served in project management, human resources, strategy, and operations roles in government and the non-profit sector. Most recently Laura worked at the New York City Department of Education under Chancellor Joel Klein. As the Director of Talent for the Division of Academics, Performance, and Support, Laura was responsible for all human resource processes across a division of 300 people and directed key projects and pilots, including various performance management processes, a division staff satisfaction survey, and staff professional development opportunities. Prior to that role, Laura worked as a project manager on the ARIS project, a website that provides parents, principals and teachers across NYC the ability to view student information, explore instructional resources, and collaborate with other educators across the city.
Laura holds degrees from Loyola University Maryland and New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Policy. These days, her “hobbies” are running after her two young kids.
As the Program Associate, Justine helps the national team secure data, build the alumni base, and support programming for Dreamers.
Before joining the national “I Have A Dream” Foundation team, Justine worked as the 12th Grade Program Manager at SEO Scholars, an academic enrichment program for low-income high school students. Prior to that, she worked at a Title I high school in Queens, NY as a college advisor through the NYU College Advising Corps. Her direct experience working with underserved students inspires her to ensure that all students get the resources and support they deserve. She holds a B.A. in history and minor in gender studies from Eugene Lang College, The New School. In her free time, she enjoys exploring different neighborhoods and eating all the amazing food New York City has to offer.
Manager of Affiliate Expansion
As the Manager of Affiliate Expansion, Shawn works closely with the senior leadership team to lead the development and execution of the organization’s strategic growth plan. Shawn directly oversees the process of bringing new affiliates to the “I Have a Dream” network, and helping those affiliates launch successfully in alignment with the organization’s mission.
Shawn joined the staff in November of 2016. He holds a B.A. in History from Morehouse College and a M.A. in International Educational Development from Teachers College at Columbia University. Prior to joining IHDF, he worked at Krossover, a sports-tech startup where he led the development, strategy, launch, and operations of a new product aimed at college and high school conferences. Before joining Krossover, Shawn had over 15 years of experience as a K-12 educator—working as a high school counselor, middle school dean of students, director of high school placement, and kindergarten teacher.
As a first generation college student, Shawn is committed to helping young people find their path to and through college. Shawn is passionate about exploring the intersections of education, entrepreneurship, social justice, and technology. In his spare time Shawn enjoys spending time with his family, sports, bike commuting, traveling, Brazilian jiujitsu, and dreaming.
As the “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s Manager of Event/Donor Relations, Nadira leads the planning, implementation, and execution of all special events, donor stewardship, gift processing, and gift reporting.
Nadira’s passion for social justice work was born during her tenure as the director of health and fitness at Girls for Gender Equity, where she worked to enforce Title IX’s mandate to increase athletic opportunities for young women in middle and high school. She is a dedicated advocate for youth and LGBTQ folks, is committed to dismantling the institutionalized criminalization of race and poverty, and has done community organizing and published writings on sexual violence.
Nadira’s career also encompasses experience in production management and event administration for large scale concerts and festivals hosting between 50,000 and 80,000 attendees.
Nadira studied Psychology at Georgia State University and completed the American Sign Language program at Georgia Gwinnett College. She holds a National Interpreter Certification.
Chief Development Officer
Robert brings over 30 years of experience as a development practitioner and INGO/NGO senior executive to the “I Have A Dream” Foundation. After spending the first half of his career in higher education and corporate fundraising, Robert moved into the global health and humanitarian fields, working first for the United Nations Association, the largest advocacy organization supporting UN causes in the US, and later for the Institute for Cancer Prevention, Columbia University Medical Center, and as Chief Development Officer for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Save the Children. He has engaged numerous multinationals and international donors in disaster relief and long-term development initiatives and worked with many other public and private groups in the U.S. and around the world. Most recently, Robert served as Executive Vice President & Chief Philanthropy Officer at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Senior Director of Affiliate Programs
As the Senior Director of Affiliate Programs, Sandy supports the program and operations of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s affiliate sites, including the development, implementation of core program components and standards of affiliate start up, maintenance, and growth. She provides capacity building, professional development, training and technical assistance to affiliates. Sandy will help drive IHDF’s future national policy and advocacy work.
Sandy was drawn to IHDF because like the Dreamers, she was the first and only member of her family to go to college, having benefited from the anti-poverty youth programs she attended, staffed by caring adults, growing up in San Francisco, CA.
Sandy has worked in New York City’s public and non-profit sectors focused on children and family services, community development, philanthropy, and public health. Sandy has worked at The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Children’s Defense Fund-NY, the Office of Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins, Mayor Dinkins’ Office for Children and Families, and Goddard Riverside Community Center. Her experience includes organizing, policy and legislative advocacy on city, state and national levels. Sandy is a life-long activist on racial, economic and social justice, community empowerment, education, childcare, youth development, women’s rights and immigration issues. Sandy holds a BA from Barnard College in Latin American Studies and Elementary Education. For 30+ years, Sandy has been running daily!
Senior Director of Development
As the Senior Director of Development, Tamara manages all aspects of IHDF’s fundraising activities including major gifts, corporations and foundations, strategic partnerships, and events. Tamara is focused on diversifying IHDF’s funding revenue and expanding IHDF’s national presence. She also works with the Program team to provide technical assistance to affiliates.
Previously, Tamara worked at the Robin Hood Foundation and Mount Sinai Medical Center. Most recently she was the Director of College Guidance and Programming at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women. Tamara built the college access program and supported students, starting with the first graduating class in 2013, in all aspects of the college application process. Tamara joined IHDF with a desire to provide more students with the necessary resources to make higher education accessible.
Tamara has a BA from Northeastern University and a MPA from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. Tamara is an active member of her community in Harlem, where she lives with her husband and two children.