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 thriving relationships as a coach and an instructor.  Doing this work has helped him to face his childhood trauma and ensuing anxiety and depression. His greatest hope is that getting this work out widespread will support educators in creating a safe space for children of all ages in every school in the nation. The drive to bring this work to the public has been a deliverance for him. Michael and the TRF staff have developed a groundbreaking program “Healthy Relationships 101,” which has been introduced in New York City high schools since 2007.

Michael studied the work of leading educators such as Jim Sporleder and relationship authors and lecturers —Marshall Rosenberg, and Harville Hendrix— whose work inspired the Healthy Relationships 101 curriculum and guidebook. He has given numerous relationship presentations and seminars throughout the United States, and coaching couples and singles. 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 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.

 

 

Cicely Gutierrez, Managing DirectorCicely Gutierrez

Cicely has long had a passion for children and education, as well as physical and mental health. She is a Certified Birth and Bereavement Doula and a childbirth educator. Through birthwork she learned about racial disparites in healthcare and the unusually high mortality rate of women of color when giving birth. She lives on the border of the largest Native American Tribe in the United States (the Navajo/Diné people) and has seen firsthand the effects of discrimination and poverty on the reservation. She has 17 year of administrative experience, 13 years of financial experience, and four years of experience in non-profit work, including databases, donor relations, and gifts management. Her previous positions include the well known Make-A-Wish Foundation of America working as a Major Gifts Officer. She is very excited to be a part of TRF as it reaches more people and helps them learn relationship skills.  Her motto in life is "When You Know Better, You Do Better."

Michael Harkins, Research & Development Manager

Michael is a recent graduate from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and a minor in Spanish. Having five years of prior work experience with children, he is passionate about the overall improvement of the lives of the youth, and he believes that the mission and programs of The Relationship Foundation perfectly accomplish this goal. Michael knows that empathic listening and healthy relationships, while not generally taught in schools, are extremely crucial to the growth and development of children. Through his work at The Relationship Foundation, he hopes to create meaningful and lasting change in education and other communities. 

Sophie Roth, Grants and Development Executive Assistant 

Pic for Bio 1Sophie is excited to be working at The Relationship Foundation because of her interest in improving relationships. Currently, she is finishing her Master’s degree at the California Institute of Integral Studies where she majors in Expressive Art Therapy. She understands that healthy relationships are important because they offer support, love, and respect. Her favorite courses include themes of positivity, creativity, and hope and those have inspired her to go into the field of therapy. She hopes to combine her interests in Expressive Art Therapy with her work at The Relationship Foundation because she also knows that the arts can have positive effects on others. Her dream is to have her own practice one day. Sophie received her BA from Goucher College in Maryland where she majored in Women’s Studies and unofficially minored in Psychology. After she graduated, she worked as the Marketing Intern and Local Voices Bookstore (pop up) Manager at the theater her father, Ari Roth runs called Mosaic Theater Company of DC. She also did some freelance jobs on the side. She decided to switch gears a couple of years ago and go to graduate school. This was the next step on her path to creating a life she’s always dreamed of. Next, she plans to finish graduate school and become a Marriage and Family Therapist using Expressive Art Therapy techniques. In the meantime, she wants to focus on having fun, making friends, making art, doing her own self care through equine therapy and creating meaningful work at The Relationship Foundation! 

Isabelle Ortiz, Grants & Research Assistant

Bio and photo coming soon!

Mindy Hoang, Grants & Research AssistantMindyH.bmp

Mindy is a junior at Occidental College, majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology and public health. From her studies, she has gained a passion for learning how the human mind works and how both internal and environmental factors influence a person’s mental state and wellbeing. When she’s older, Mindy hopes to become a specialized therapist, assisting people to have a much healthier mindset and lifestyle. At The Relationship Foundation, she hopes to establish children are living to their full potential by encouraging respectful communication and helping people eliminate the stigma around mental health.

 
 
 

Morgan Banks, Marketing & Grants Assistantmorgan

Morgan is a marketing and accounting double major at Shippensburg University. She is in her sophomore year. In the past, she has worked with many other non-profits including Planet Love Joy and Called to Love Outreach. She is passionate about giving back, education, and one day hopes to create her own non-profit in order to help students afford a post secondary degree. She’s excited to move forward with The Relationship Foundation in order to help develop their program and continue learning valuable life lessons from them. 

Katie Merikallio, Grants & Research Assistant

Bio and photo coming soon!

Taylor Gonzalez, Grants & Research Assistant

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Taylor is a senior at the University of Central Florida where she is majoring in psychology with a specialization in neuroscience and minoring in health sciences. She previously worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and local school districts as a mental health advocate while serving as a local titleholder in the Miss America Organization. After graduating she hopes to continue gaining clinical experience in her role as a behavior technician and later earn her Master's to become a Physician Assistant, specializing in mental health. She is thrilled to be a part of The Relationship Foundation, which blends her love of science and mental health with her passion for education. 

Hannah Luther 

Bio and photo coming soon!

Erin Robinson

Bio and photo coming soon!

Sam Rigotti, Grants Analyst

Sam Rigotti

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.

 

 

derrick edwards trfDerrick Edwards, Senior Instructor

Derrick is 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. 

 

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

  • Cicely Gutierrez

    Chairperson

    Cicely is a TRF staff member and a non-voting member of the board, but has non-profit and financial experience that contributes to board efficiency.

  • Sylvia Schwartz

    Secretary

    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

    MD, FACS, FASRS

    Treasurer

    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

    MPS

    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.

  • Alice Kim
    Board Member
    Alice Kim is an Executive Director and Head of Investor Relations and Business Development for Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners. Alice is also on the leadership team for Morgan Stanley’s Mindfulness Initiative and a co-founder of Mindful on Wall Street. Alice has been trained by the Flow Research Collective as a peak performance coach, and is passionate about sharing the intersection of optimal performance and mindfulness practices - to provide tools and techniques for professionals to perform in their high intensity roles with greater ease. Alice is also a certified yoga instructor, and teaches at Sky Ting and the Studio, both in New York City.

  • Latoya Attis 

    M.Ed.

    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.

  • Brooke Arent
    Board Member
    Brooke is a corporate Director of Project Management for a Fortune 100 company. She holds a B.S. from the Ohio State University’s College of Medicine in Health Sciences and has helped numerous non-profits over the last fifteen years within: marketing, branding, feasibility studies, presentations, fundraising and program development. She is deeply passionate about Adverse Childhood Experiences and has created a blog about resiliency www.becomingindomitable.com to help others overcome traumatic experiences. 

  • Sarah Chen
    Board Member

    Sarah is a corporate attorney working at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Since her time at college, she has worked with a number of non-profit organizations in New York City through various public service programs. She also currently serves as an alumni board member of Columbia University's Public Interest Law Foundation, a student led non-profit organization committed to serving the public interest. 
  • Michelle Lin
    Board Member
    Michelle is a California native now living in New York City. She has a wide range of work experience having started with nonprofits, dabbling in brand management, and transitioning to working in operations in the finance industry. Today she works as an economics and statistics consultant at KPMG LLP, focusing her work on data analytics and modeling and its role in strategic and executive decision making.

  • Diandra D'Amico
    Board Member 
    Diandra is a teacher with the New York Department of Education and serves as an Education Consultant with The Relationship Foundation.
  • 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.

  • Rebecca Lefton

    MPP

    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.

  • David Fishelson

    Board Member
    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.