About the Team

TRF Staff

Michael Jascz, Executive Director

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Michael Jascz is the founder of The Relationship Foundation, an educational initiative at the forefront of a unique approach to Social and Emotional Learning with proven results. For 20 years, Michael has dedicated himself to helping people build healthy and meaningful relationships as a coach and a teacher. Michael and the staff have developed a groundbreaking program entitled “Healthy Relationships 101,” which has been implemented in New York City high schools since 2007.

Before working in the school setting, Michael studied the work of leading relationship authors and lecturers — Harville Hendrix and Marshall Rosenberg — whose work inspired the Healthy Relationships 101 curriculum and guidebook. He has given numerous relationship presentations and seminars throughout the United States, and he maintains a private coaching practice. Michael holds a degree in political science and anthropology from the honors program at Ohio State University.

Mary-Louise Hildebrandt, Associate Director

Untitled designMary-Louise is the Associate Director of The Relationship Foundation. She values kindness, vulnerability, and empathy, all of which are integral aspects of her work and relationships. Mary-Louise has an MS in Clinical and Community Psychology with a dissertation analyzing Empowerment and Inclusion within Universities using de-colonial, feminist, and critical psychology theories. Mary-Louise is dedicated to improving mental health through structural approaches such as community projects and at the institutional level with TRF. She is the author of “Building Resilience through Healthy Relationships,” her first zine, which allows readers to take this work home, and learn how to identify and build resilience to trauma by strengthening relationships. Mary-Louise is a fellow of Women Influencing Systems and History, a fellowship that equips participants to be effective social justice activists through policy reform. Mary-Louise’s goals for the future are to bridge the gaps between trauma research and implementation to build resilience through her current work at TRF as well as education policy reform. Mary-Louise strives to make meaningful connections with herself and others through art, music, and poetry. 


image0Amelia Browne, Managing Director

Amelia is the Director of Education at the Relationship Foundation. She is double majoring in Psychology and Humanitarian Studies with a minor in Peace and Justice studies at Fordham University. She has taught classes in healthy relationships and domestic violence prevention, and is Vice President of Fordham University’s Mock Trial Team. Amelia is passionate about aiding those who have been through trauma, and understanding the ways that trauma can shape our lives in seen and unseen ways.




derrick edwards trfDerrick Edwards, Senior Instructor

Derrick Edwards is an instructor for the Relationship Foundation. A jack of many trades Derrick has worked as a paraprofessional with an Autistic child, as a substitute teacher for the Department of Education for several years, a tutor, and NYC tour guide. Derrick holds a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Derrick has seen the power of bringing people together and this curriculum has helped enlighten him on humanity’s common bonds. 


IMG 4466Konner Ezra, Director of Research

Konner Ezra is the Director of Research at the Relationship Foundation. He is currently studying psychology while minoring in entrepreneurship at Pace University. Konner has always had a natural affinity for aiding people with mental health-related difficulties. He strongly believes in the importance of healthy relationships and strives to make a difference through his research at The Relationship Foundation. 


IMG 6801 1Kristen Giaimo, Associate Director of Research

Kristen Giaimo is the Associate Director of Research at The Relationship Foundation. She is a graduate at Fordham University with a major in social work and a minor in women and gender studies. She is passionate about providing mental health resources to others. Kristen believes that healthy relationships are a key skill that we continue to improve on each day.



IMG 0968 2Emily Norum, Director of Development

Emily Norum is the Associate Director of Development at the Relationship Foundation. She is a sophomore at Hamilton College pursuing majors in Psychology and Chinese. Emily has always believed that having strong relationships with others is the key to a fulfilling life. She is also a member of the Hamilton College Varsity Women’s Rowing team and is a tutor at the Clinton Middle School during the school year. Emily hopes to help The Relationship Foundation spread its message and to help others better understand themselves and the people around them.



Sean 1Sean Huff, Research Analyst

Sean Huff is the Research Analyst at the Relationship Foundation.  He is a member of the class of 2022 at Fordham University majoring in psychology with a minor in mathematics.  Sean has long tried to be a light to those plagued by the darkness of mental health-related hardships in life.  He believes that the teachings about healthy relationships and non-violent communication supported by the Relationship Foundation will help to provide relief to those with these burdens, and wishes to help however possible in this cause.




EmilyGEmily Giovanelli, Associate Director of Development

Emily Giovanelli is the Associate Director of Development. She is currently receiving her Master’s in both Public Health and Social Work at the University of Michigan. She has a passion for public service after serving in AmeriCorps for two years, and is interested in a career in health education and school social work. Emily is a wellness coach at the University of Michigan and has extensive training in motivational interviewing. Emily believes that The Relationship Foundation’s mission to bring relationship education to schools will fill a much needed gap in trauma informed care for children and adolescents.

Kristen Lee, Summer 2020 InternKristenL

Kristen Lee is the Summer 2020 Intern for The Relationship Foundation. She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison this past May and studied Human Development & Family Studies with a Certificate in Global Health & Education/Education Services. Her past involvement at the UW-Madison BRAVE Research Lab & BASES (Building Academic, Social, Emotional Supports for children experiencing homelessness) mentor program has revealed the importance of addressing trauma and mental health for young children. She is excited about the organization’s push for Trauma-Informed Education programs as it can make headway for a better environment for young children and their communities.

Sam Rigotti, Grants Analystimg 1234

Sam Rigotti has nearly a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising and is the Senior Manager of Institutional Giving at the Center for Employment Opportunities, a national employment reentry organization. He got his start in the social sector through the AmeriCorps VISTA program and has since secured grant funding to support organizations working in the education, civic engagement, and criminal justice fields. He holds a B.A. from Allegheny College and an M.P.S. from The George Washington University.




Rebecca Lefton, Strategic Consultantrebecca lefton trf

Rebecca Lefton is a Strategic Consultant with more than a dozen years of experience working with non-profits and B-corporations in program management, policy development, advocacy, communications, and coalition building at the local, national, and international levels. During her career in Washington D.C., Ms. Lefton served as Director of Policy and Research at Climate Advisers where she directed the firm’s global advocacy initiatives and gender equality practice. Previously, Rebecca was a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress where she represented the organization at global climate and sustainability negotiations, including the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development. She has established a volume of work on the nexus between poverty, gender quality, climate and energy and has been quoted in The Washington Post and The Guardian. Rebecca holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

nya gregor fleron trfNya Fleron, Web Master & IT Consultant

Nya Gregor Fleron grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark and has since made her home in New York City. For the past 13 years, she has run a web and graphic design business with an international clientele - Vidya Design. She works primarily with smaller companies and can take care of most of their marketing needs, including general IT support, software training, newsletter, and other promotional marketing and web design and maintenance. She is also the author of the self-help book Staying Happy and the novel Kali’s Gift. Besides making websites and writing books, her primary purpose and commitment in life is to spread joy and love, by adding a smile or a laugh to someone’s day.

Karen Torbjornsen, Consultant/Instructor

After moving to New York City from the Berkshires, where she co-founded a theater ensemble for young actors at Shakespeare & Company, Karen has worked closely with diverse populations in all five boroughs for over fifteen years. In addition to her work as a theater director with teen actors, she has been a teacher and counselor for elementary, middle, high school and GED students in both traditional schools and transitional housing settings. As part of a DoE Professional Development series for teachers, administrators, guidance staff, parents and students, Karen designed and facilitated workshops around self-care, crisis management, and skills for psychological recovery.


TRF Board Members

  • David Fishelson


    David J. Fishelson is a producer, playwright, and director for film, theatre, and television. He was the lead producer of Golda's Balcony, the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history (2003–05), and is the founder/producer of Manhattan Ensemble Theatre ("MET"), an award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company. His films have been broadcast on PBS, exhibited theatrically, and presented nationally and internationally. 

  • Sylvia Schwartz


    Sylvia Schwartz is a seasoned marketing professional who has applied her skills in assisting leading financial institutions in New York (CitiBank, BNYMellon, Smith Barney, TIAA) achieve their goals. She has served on the boards of the Hoboken Historical Museum and the Mile Square Theatre.

  • Dr. Ron Gentile



    Dr. Gentile is a Professor of Ophthalmology. He serves as a Director at Ocular Trauma Service, and Surgeon Director at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEEI). Some of his trials have resulted in the newest therapies used today that save the vision of thousands of patients worldwide. He has lead humanitarian missions (operationrestorevision) to Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

  • Sam Rigotti


    Board Member

    Sam Rigotti has nearly a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising and is the Senior Manager of Institutional Giving at the Center for Employment Opportunities, a national employment reentry organization. He holds a B.A. from Allegheny College and an M.P.S. from The George Washington University. He also serves as a Grants Analyst for The Relationship Foundation.

  • Rebecca Lefton


    Board Member

    Rebecca Lefton is a Strategic Consultant with over 10 years of experience working with non-profits and B-corporations in program management, policy development, advocacy, and communications. Rebecca holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

  • Brian Dworkin 


    Board Member

    Brian is the Director of the Domestic Violence and Family Law Advocacy Project and Lawyer with the Queens Legal Services.

  • Gayla Thompson


    Board Member

    Gayla Thompson is a Leadership and Instructional Coach for principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders through the City University of New York Affinity Group. She is a former NYC Principal and assisted with the development of the Healthy Relationships 101 Curriculum and guidebook. 

  • Latoya Attis 


    Board Member

    Latoya Attis is an Academic Advising Administrator and Adjunct Faculty at Iona College. She teaches General Psychology I & II, Substance Abuse Treatment and Referral Methods, Drug and Alcohol Counseling, and co-teaches Seminars for Academic Success for probationary students. She holds an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy and an M.S. in Early Childhood Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities from Mercy College.

  • Jessica Klein

    PhD, MSW, M.Ed.

    Board Member

    Jessica Klein is an Adelphi University (AU) Associate professor of sociology/criminal justice. She is the author of The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools (NYU Press: 2012). She incorporates Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication in her work. She is also the co-author of the Healthy Relationships 101 Curriculum.