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Our Staff


Amanda Aguilar
Admissions Coordinator
(212) 430-5980 x 1135

Amanda Aguilar joined the Oliver team in July 2015. While at Pace University, Amanda enrolled in a civic engagement course that fostered her passion for serving the community of New York. Before making the transition to the Nonprofit Sector, Amanda worked at ZenithOptimedia, an advertising agency, as an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Finance. She is very pleased to have joined the Oliver family and is eager to help our scholars achieve their personal goals!


David Allyn
Chief Executive Officer


David brings to Oliver over 15 years of experience working in the field of educational access for high-achieving students. He previously served as Director of Education at NJ SEEDS, where he oversaw programs serving 750 students. He is the author of four books and dozens of articles and has taught at Princeton University and has served as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. David holds a B.A. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. His daughter Jordan is a graduate of Packer Collegiate. He has spoken at many national conferences, including the annual meeting of The College Board Forum, The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), The National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA), and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC). He serves on the board of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and is currently a visiting scholar at The New School.


Cheyenne Bascoe
Recruitment Officer


Cheyenne Bascoe is new to the Oliver Scholars program, joining the team on September 1st, 2016. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Old Westbury with a dual major in Special Education/Childhood Education with a concentration in English. Cheyenne is very passionate about helping the youth, and ultimately giving back to her community, Brooklyn where she was born and raised. Before joining the Oliver’s team, Cheyenne worked as a Youth Support Counselor for children in foster care. Cheyenne plans on using her past experience and knowledge to help Oliver’s mission continue on to change the lives of our Scholars and their families.



Juliet K. Buder
Director of Development
(212) 430-6026

Juliet joined The Oliver Scholars Program in 2016 and brings over six years of experience in fundraising for nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she served as the Development Officer at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Prior to Juliet’s time in New York City, she worked as the Development Manager at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School in Washington, D.C. Juliet is passionate about increasing access to education for all individuals, and she believes that philanthropy can transform an organization and the community served by it. She holds a B.A. from Duke University and an M.S.W. from the Catholic University.

Lena Chao


Lena Chao
Director of College Counseling


Lena Chao joined the Oliver team in May 2013. Lena attended SUNY Buffalo, majoring in Biomedical Science, and was planning to continue on to optometry school. During her senior year, she took a few education courses that changed her life. That experience left her with a strong conviction that young people needed to be understood holistically. Lena recently graduated with her Masters in School Counseling. You can find her biking, running, rock-climbing, playing beach volleyball, or eating. She is an avid volunteer at Achilles International, an organization that pairs legally blind athletes to athletes.



Gail Cooper
Director of Marketing and Communications


Gail Cooper is a writer, researcher, and visual producer who has worked across a wide variety of nonprofit organizations including the Ford Foundation, International Rescue Committee, Human Rights Watch, and, most recently, Re:Gender. She also has extensive experience developing projects that stimulate new ways of thinking about the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and social equity within the U.S. and abroad.


Masiel Encarnación
Assistant Director of Scholar Services


Masiel Encarnación received her bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has spent her career serving youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. Before coming to Oliver, Masiel was the director of a college access program at Raw Art Works in Lynn, MA. The community she served was one of the most dangerous in the state, with over 30 gangs and nearly half of all violent crime being gang-related. During her time at RAW she effectively created and facilitated programming in a multiple of topic areas relevant to students of color and their families. Masiel is a proud Afro-Latina who’s also passionate about fitness and social justice.



Jhoselyn Escobar
Placement Assistant


Jhoselyn was born and raised in Ecuador. She received a BA in French and International Studies from St. John’s University in 2016. She wants to build a career empowering children through education. During her college years, she was fortunate enough to work for non-profits in different parts of the world. Jhoselyn joined the Oliver team in December 2016, she feels extremely happy to be part of the placement team. You can find her at public libraries and old bookshops, where she is looking for the next piece to add to her book collection. She loves to have picnics at the park and cannot live without a cup of coffee a day.


Alex Fernandez
Recruitment Officer – Alumni Felllow


Alex is an alumnus of the Oliver Scholars Program. He graduated Concord Academy in 2011 and Dickinson College in 2015, with a BA in sociology. While in high school and college, he engaged in mentoring and guiding his peers in his roles as a Resident Adviser and a member of Scroll and Key, a group of male seniors brought together in their final year to give back to the community and leave a positive impact. Prior to joining the Oliver Scholars Program in September 2016, Alex worked as a Paralegal Casehandler for The Legal Aid Society. Alex believes that without Oliver, he would not be where he is today and is grateful to have the opportunity to give back and recruit future Scholars.



Leovanny Fernondez
Programs Coordinator - Placement and Scholar Services


Leovanny is an alumnus of the Oliver Scholars Program, graduating from Brooklyn Friends School in 2010 and Bowdoin College in 2014, with a B.A. in Government and Legal Studies. He has demonstrated continuous involvement with Oliver after completing the program, including as a summer counselor and as a member of the Junior Board. His wide breadth of interests is not limited to social justice causes; you might find him rock climbing in the Gunks or at Brooklyn Boulders, building a website in a café, or even visiting Hong Kong. After working for over a year in administration at the Corlears School, Leovanny joined the Oliver Scholars programs team in November of 2016. He is excited to join the team and is looking forward to giving back to the community that he feels gave so much to him.


Michele Hickey
Grant Writer


Michele Hickey has more than twenty-five years working with not-for-profit organizations in education, historic preservation, the arts, and human and social services. Michele has an MS in Professional and Technical Communication from NJIT, an MA in Nonprofit Management from the New School University, a BA in Business Administration from Rutgers University, and has been a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 1998. She also teaches grant writing courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University and is a member of the faculty at the University’s Center for Excellence in Leadership, Governance, and Philanthropy. Michele is excited to be working with The Oliver Scholars Program, and looks forward to helping the organization build its capacity for helping children reach their full potential.

Heidi Idrovo


Heidi Idrovo
Development Associate


Heidi Idrovo joined the Oliver team in March 2014. A native New Yorker, Heidi attended CUNY Lehman, majoring in English Literature with in a minor in Multimedia Journalism. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Heidi worked as a Visitor Services Representative for the South Street Seaport Museum giving tours, assisting in the maintenance of its collections and spreading the word on the importance of preserving New York’s historic landmarks.


Fausto Jimenez
Director of Placement
(212) 430-5980 x 1107

Fausto started as the Pre-Scholar Programs Associate at Oliver in 2005.  After moving to the US with his family from the Dominican Republic, he attended PS 192, graduated from the Mott Hall School ‘98 and went on to the A. Philip Randolph Campus High School ‘02, where he concentrated in medical studies.  He graduated from Columbia University having majored in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology and attained the Gates Millennium Scholarship and Ronald E. McNair Fellowship.  Although his training concentrated in the sciences, he holds that it is important to help as many young people as possible attain their dreams, much as people helped him while he was involved with the Harlem Education Activities Fund (HEAF).  Fausto currently serves on the Alumni Committee at HEAF and enjoys learning Flamenco.

Amanda Johnson


Amanda Johnson
Deputy Director
(212) 430-6027

Amanda Johnson joined The Oliver Scholars Program in 2013. Originally from the Boston area, Amanda graduated from Thayer Academy, and holds a BA in Art History from Drew University and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University. Amanda taught English and developmental writing at the college level before transitioning into the nonprofit sector. She spent six years at Figure Skating in Harlem, first as Assistant Skating Director and Academic Coordinator, and then as Director of Programming. Amanda’s work with underrepresented students earned her Drew University’s 2014 Young Alumni Achievement Award. In her spare time, Amanda serves as a mentor with Of Home, Family, and Future, an organization that helps students from the foster care system succeed in college. Amanda also sits on Brooklyn Ice’s Junior Board, and works as a coach with Central Park Ice, the largest synchronized skating program in New York City.


Makeda Lewis
Assistant Director of Scholar Services


Makeda Lewis joined the Oliver team as the Assistant Director of Scholar Services in September 2015. After gaining a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she returned to her home state of New York and completed a master’s degree in Higher & Post-Secondary Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University. Across the years, she has not only worked with esteemed faculty members and senior staff across various universities and departments, she enjoys using her past experiences to embrace the mission of the Oliver Scholars Program. In her spare time, she enjoys mentoring, gardening and attending networking events.


Tracey Lundgren
Assistant Director of Scholar Services - College Support


Tracey Lundgren brings more than six years of non-profit experience to Oliver Scholars. Before joining the Oliver team, she served as the Manager of Educational Opportunities at Figure Skating in Harlem where she connected students and families with educational resources and guided them through the high school and college application process. In addition, Tracey has worked as a curriculum writer and teacher for a leading educational nonprofit in Philadelphia focusing on college access. Tracey received her bachelor's degree in psychology from George Washington University and her master's degree in education from Drexel University. In her free time, she serves on the young professionals' board of Friends of the Children.


Elmer Meza
Database Manager


Elmer joined the team in June 2016. After earning his AB from Dartmouth College in 2010, he spent a year in Shanghai, China learning Mandarin Chinese. Since then he’s picked up a few more languages, including his current favorite, JavaScript. He is excited to leverage his web development and data management skills to assist in welcoming new scholars.

Francisco Peña


Francisco Peña
Assistant Director of Scholar Services - Student Engagement


Francisco Peña was born and raised in the Inwood section of New York City. He transferred to Dumont High School when he and his family moved to New Jersey. Francisco went on to receive his BA in 2010 from Rutgers University with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Labor Studies. During his time at Rutgers, Francisco dedicated countless hours volunteering as a tutor for local elementary school students in the city of New Brunswick. After graduation, Francisco joined the Washington Heights-Inwood Coalition as a youth counselor primarily focusing on the development of problem-solving skills in children between the ages of 6 - 11. Franciso is very passionate about education.


Carmen Pimentel
Finance Assistant


Carmen Pimentel moved to New York from Huancayo, Peru in 2006, embarking on a new adventure and creating opportunities for herself in the city that never sleeps. Carmen joined The Oliver Scholars as a Finance Assistant in May 2016, but prior to that she participated in two internships. The first being at a NYC Mid-Size Accounting firm and the second with the NYC Office of the Comptroller, Bureau of Law and Adjustment. Her first internship, with the accounting firm, taught her how to apply accounting concepts to real case scenarios including real estate, Housing, Apparel, for profit and non for profit business organizations. Her second internship, working in the Public Sector, enabled her to work closely with the Comptroller’s representatives at the Supreme Courts, investigating, evaluating, and negotiating financial settlements of claims against the city of NY and its agencies. Throughout her career thus far, Carmen has been cultivating her abilities on investigation and detail orientation which are very important for the Accounting field. Further, for the last three years, she has worked for a small startup fashion company, which has helped her gain valuable experience in business operations as well as general bookkeeping. Carmen has earned a degree in Business Administration from Baruch College, and she is currently enrolled at Hunter College pursuing her second degree, this time in Accounting. After completing her Accounting credits at Hunter College she would like to pursue and earn her CPA license. In her free time Carmen tries to do community service work. Last winter she volunteered with VITA, a program organized by the IRS which helps low income New Yorkers in preparation of individual taxes.


Sheila Plotnick
Database Coordinator


Sheila Plotnick has been working with databases for educational and philanthropic organizations since 1999, including National Public Radio, IEEE History Center, Paley Center for Media, Columbia University, Roundabout Theatre Company, Fraunces Tavern Museum, and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. She was born and raised in Piscataway, NJ and has lived in Australia, Texas, Illinois, Italy, Washington D.C., Louisiana, and all five of New York City’s boroughs. Sheila has a Bachelor's Degree in Latin from Loyola University-Chicago and has pursued postgraduate studies in Library Science (Rutgers), Broadcasting (University of Louisiana, Monroe), and Early Childhood Education (CUNY). Sheila is proud and delighted to have joined Oliver Scholars in 2014.



Samantha Reidy
Alumni and External Relations Coordinator


Samantha Reidy joined the Oliver team in November of 2016. Samantha graduated from Canisius College in 2014 and went on to intern with the Fulbright Association, where she realized her passion for education and the nonprofit sector. Prior to pursuing a career in the nonprofit field, Samantha assisted as a caseworker in a congressional office. For two years she served the greater community of Western New York, which she also calls home. She is thrilled to join the Oliver team and start down a new path, while being apart of something much bigger than herself!


Sandra Reina
Director of Finance & Administration


Sandra is a native of Quito, Ecuador and immigrated to the US at the age of 18. She settled in NY and acquired her Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting, while also working full time at Odyssey House, Inc., an organization that provides support to teen and adults with problems of substance abuse. Subsequently, Sandra worked for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), where she improved and upheld the accounting system and procedures for the organization and its seven national chapters, in conjunction with the Finance Director.

After learning about Oliver Scholars in March 2007, Sandra was delighted to join the team, since she deeply supports its mission and considers Oliver "an exceptional opportunity for Latino and African-American students." She enjoys working for the nonprofit sector, and has since attained her CNAP (Certified Non-Profit Accounting Professional) certification.

Tarmla "Tammy" Small
Director of Recruitment and Admissions
(212) 430-5980 x1104


Tarmla Small joined Oliver Scholars in July 2015. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she is passionate about closing the achievement gap, and connecting under-represented students to elite educational opportunities that support and nurture their academic and professional ambitions. Tarmla brings over 15 years of experience in nonprofit education, with eight of those years managing admissions. Prior to coming to Oliver, Tarmla served in the Counseling, Admissions and Preparatory components at Prep for Prep, and won the Alumni Prize, before pursuing her interest in teaching. Most recently, she taught at the Greene Hill School in Brooklyn.

Emanuel 'Manny' Vega '04


Emanuel "Manny" Vega '04
Director of Programs
(212) 430-5980 x 1110


Manny is an alumnus of the Oliver Scholars Program. He attended the Salomé Ureña de Henriquez Campus School in Washington Heights and later attended Phillips Exeter Academy. Manny graduated from Wesleyan University in 2008 with a major in sociology. While in college, he pursued his passion for dance and was active in the local neighborhood through community service. Prior to joining the Oliver Scholars Program in March 2010, Mr. Vega worked for Major League Baseball and for the Florida Marlins baseball team. He is grateful to Oliver for instilling in him a passion for giving back and is proud to be where much of his personal development is grounded.