Black History Month Workforce Trailblazer Spotlight

Feb 28, 2022
Workforce Trailblazer Spotlight

In honor of Black History Month, we acknowledge the ongoing contributions of African American & African-Caribbean leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to supporting the workforce development system and the economic mobility needs of New Yorkers. We want to thank our Trailblazers for serving as mentors and role models for our emerging workforce and the thousands of clients they serve.  

Although Black History Month is coming to an end, we are committed to continue celebrating, elevating and promoting their contributions and accomplishments.

Learn more about them here:

 

Elizabeth Ajasin serves as the Workforce Development Planner for HempsteadWorks, a One-Stop Career Center located in Hempstead, NY.  Elizabeth primarily provides administrative support to the Town of Hempstead/City Long Beach Workforce Development Board, including developing and managing grants; writing policies and special reports; planning meetings; developing and maintaining partnerships; and monitoring programs.  Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College and an MBA from Long Island University with a concentration in Finance.


Paula Bailey, Executive Vice President and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Grant Associates, has been a trailblazer in the field of workforce development and a fierce advocate for our nation's underserved communities for over thirty years. Paula’s first job after graduating from Cornell was as a caseworker for children in the foster care system. That early experience helped her witness first-hand the impact education and employment obstacles had on families. She went on to be the Employment Director and Policy Analyst for Partnership for New York, where she led a public policy initiative on neighborhood improvement and interfaced with business and government to help local businesses navigate around the red tape of obtaining business tax credits. This groundbreaking work was also one of the first place-based workforce development initiatives, growing local entrepreneurs who hired local people. In 1997 Paula, became one of the founding partners of Grant Associates along with Dale Grant, and Diane Edelson. Over the past 25 years, Grant Associates has become one of the leading workforce development companies in the nation. Their mission to raise the economic security of the people, businesses, and communities they serve has sparked many innovative programs and solutions that have inspired local residents, supported regional enterprises, developed industry sectors, and helped communities across the United States realize their workforce potential. The company has helped over 1.25 million people gain access to good jobs with career advancement potential and countless businesses to start, operate and expand. 


Dr. Kanasha L. N. Blue is a native of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and has resided in Western New York since 1997. Kanasha is a Veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and a retired Staff Sergeant of the New York Army National Guard.
 
As an Employment Services Representative for New York State Department of Labor, Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions, Kanasha assists job seekers and businesses in meeting their employment and labor relation needs. Kanasha has connected over 2000+ businesses and community organizations with Department of Labor services and initiatives across Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming Counties (GLOW), and Western New York. She plans, coordinates, and executes career fairs and customized recruitments, conducts community engagement workshops, and evaluates job seekers and businesses to determine program eligibility. In addition, as a member of the Western New York and Orleans County Employment Strikeforce Initiatives, Kanasha focuses on removing employment barriers for minority individuals who live in improvised targeted areas with high and prolonged unemployment.
 
Kanasha is also an accomplished Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant. Kanasha strives to help others, give back to her community and preserve human dignity in every aspect of her life. While deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Kanasha organized a drive for personal care items and clothing for local workers in need. This drive was successful in helping 60+ men and women meet their basic personal care needs. Kanasha supports deployed troops with personal care item drives through her Mary Kay business resulting in hundreds of dollars in products donated to the cause.
 
Kanasha’s community involvement includes being an executive committee member of the Buffalo Branch NAACP and a founding member of the Young Adult Action Committee. The Young Adult Action Committee addresses the economic, education, public safety, and criminal justice issues affecting young adults in our local community. In addition, Kanasha is the recipient of the Buffalo Branch NAACP Rufus Frasier Human Relations Award, honoring her service to the Branch and Buffalo community.
 
In addition, Kanasha is also the First Vice Commander of the American Legion Jesse Clipper Post 430. She volunteers, rendering final salutes to fallen veterans and service members and educating school-age children about patriotism. Kanasha also services as a member of the Board of Directors for the Buffalo and Erie County Naval Park and is a founding member of the Diversity Inclusion and Equity Committee. This committee strives to eliminate barriers to minorities and create a more inclusive organization. Furthermore, Kanasha is a Deaconess and former President of the Missionary Ministry at Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna, NY. She also volunteers at Second Baptist Foundation Food Pantry and local nursing homes and mentored youth with the Buffalo/Niagara Mentorship Program Inc.
 
In 2010, Kanasha graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY Buffalo State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with an Intelligence Analysis concentration. In 2015, Kanasha graduated from Marist College with a master’s degree in Public Administration with an Ethical Leadership concentration. Kanasha earned her doctorate in Leadership and Policy from Niagara University in 2021. Her studies focus on the intersection of criminal justice policies and workforce opportunities. Kanasha’s dissertation is entitled: A phenomenological examination of the impact of New York State criminal sealing law on previously incarcerated individuals.
 
Kanasha is married to her best friend Robert E. Blue; they are the parents of four-year-old Robyn Elizabeth Blue. Kanasha has a tremendous support system comprised of family, mentors, and friends.


Sheree Ferguson-Cousins is director of Career Advance, a program funded by the NYC Human Resource Administration and operated by Goodwill Industries of Greater NY and Northern NJ, Inc. (Goodwill NYNJ). Sheree has a successful 2-decade career in the Social Service sector and has worked in the workforce development division of Goodwill NYNJ for the last twelve years. She led her team to implement and manage the training unit to serve public assistance applicants and recipients residing in NYC. Sheree has created innovative new programs for job-seekers from diverse populations. She developed Youth Pathways, a holistic program model tailored to empower youth to seek career advancement and income mobility. The city of NY later replicated the Goodwill Youth Pathway model. She also secured a Google grant to provide tech training to individuals struggling to get jobs.


Retha Fernandez is the inaugural Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Suffolk County. She assumed the newly created role to promote diversity and inclusion in the County workforce in coordination with the County Personnel Officer and the County Executive in 2020. In this role, Retha leads the development and implementation of Suffolk County’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Her strategic and collaborative approach is aligned with the County leadership and the vision that Suffolk County will become the employer of choice. In 2021, Retha led the launch of an inaugural county-wide employee feedback survey on diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging, the launch of the Creating Inclusive Workplaces Leadership Training series for more than 300 leaders and managers. She also facilitated County Executive Steve Bellone’s mandate to empower employees with the skills needed to recognize, address, and overcome unconscious bias and form better relationships with each other through county-wide implicit bias training. Retha convened a collaborative working group of County employees to develop a recruiting plan which prioritizes broad community outreach and promotes the benefits of working in public service to ensure a growing workforce that is reflective of the vibrant County population. Retha also serves the County as a member of the Suffolk County Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force and served as a member of the search committee for Suffolk County’s Police Commissioner.

Prior to joining the County, Retha was the Project Director of the State of Black Long Island (SOBLI) Equity Council, a project convened by the Urban League of Long Island to develop an equity agenda to improve the quality of life in Black communities on Long Island. Retha worked in the private sector for more than 15 years in technology strategy development and execution, serving in executive leadership roles at a Fortune 500 company and is also a Certified Meditation Instructor.

Since her teenage years, Retha has had a passion for service and helping others live fuller lives; and has always understood the importance of community and service. She believes in the interdependence of all people and holds equity, compassion, self-care, and duty as her personal values. Retha has received several citations and recognitions including, the 2016 Nassau County Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for community service, and the Women of Distinction Award from New York State Assembly Woman Christine Pellegrino in April 2018. In 2019, she was honored for her public policy advocacy work by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Long Island Chapter, Inc. and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Sigma Psi Omega Chapter. Retha received the Long Island Business News 2020 Diversity Trailblazer Award, and has been named to City & State NY’s Long Island Power 100 lists in 2020 and 2021. She serves on the Girls Inc. of Long Island Advisory Board, NYATEP Advisory Committee, Stony Brook University School of Professional Development’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Board and Discover Long Island’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Retha’s deep commitment to community service, youth development and advocacy is demonstrated through her full engagement as a member of the Urban League of Long Island, Jack & Jill of America, Inc. Suffolk County Chapter and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Suffolk County Chapter.

Retha holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from St. Joseph’s College. She resides in Babylon with her husband of 15 years and their teenage son.


Founded in February 2019, The UpState New York Black Chamber of Commerce is based in Albany and represents the Upstate New York region including the Capital Region, Central New York, Western New York and the Hudson Valley Region on behalf of Black Businesses and Underserved Communities.

Raised in Albany, Anthony is a graduate of The Albany Academies and attended The University of Chicago and The University of Southern California.

Anthony is very active in the community, having served as Vice-President of the Schenectady County Public Libraries, the NAACP and the Empire State Black Arts & Cultural Festival and several other organizations before relocating back to his native Albany.

He currently serves as Vice-President of 4th Family, an Albany-based nonprofit that focuses on teaching STEM through sports, as well as a Board Member of the Albany IDA and CRC, Capitalize Albany, Berkshire Bank Advisory Council and the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation, Junior Achievement, and most recently served on the City of Albany COVID Recovery Task Force.


Dr. LaTasha Hamlett-Carver is the Division Coordinator of Workforce Development and Community Education at SUNY Westchester Community College (WCC) and serves as the Jacqueline & Allan Stuart Endowed Faculty Co-Chair in Workforce Development.  Dr. Hamlett- Carver is a workforce development professional with over 10 years’ experience designing and managing workforce, education, college, and social services programs.  During her tenure at WCC she has identified, coordinated, and advanced strategic public-private partnerships and effective programming with businesses, business associations, and community organizations to advance workforce development initiatives. These initiatives served various populations including youth, adults, individuals with barriers to education and training, entry-level job seekers, and professionals in need of specialized training and degree programs. 

Prior to joining SUNY Westchester Community College, Dr. Hamlett-Carver spent 6 years with the Westchester Putnam Workforce Development Board (WPWDB) under the auspices of the Westchester County Department of Social Socials (WCDSS). Highlights of tenure at WPWDB includes authoring their Career Pathways strategy that is used to guide and place residents of Westchester and Putnam counties on a career track that improves their technical and employability skills; while providing them with continuous education and training that leads them recognized credentials and subsequent employment opportunities.

Additionally, Dr. LaTasha Hamlett–Carver was instrumental in the acquisition of over 20 million dollars in federal, state, regional, and local grants for youth with barriers to employment, reentry, unemployed, underemployed, long-term unemployed, and incumbent workers.  She monitored, implemented, and managed these grant programs to ensure compliance and success.   During 2018 – 2020, Dr. Hamlett-Carver also assisted 1000 individuals enrolled in these grant funded programs obtain gainful employment and 812 individuals obtain industry recognized credentials in high growth industries. 

As a first-generation college student, Dr. Hamlett-Caver understands the importance of a quality educational experience. Most importantly, understanding the significance of serving a diverse community of learners by providing multiple accessible pathways to education by creating deliberate career pathways, building, and nurturing relationships, and collaborating across the community.  She is committed to building effective workforce programs and pathways that support all learners and community members in achieving their educational and career goals that propel them into destiny. 

Dr. Hamlett- Carver holds a BA in Social Science, an MS in Communications from The College of New Rochelle, an Education Doctorate in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College, and a Business U practitioner certification in Business Engagement. She currently serves as the Board Secretary for Deployed at Home an organization that is focused on creating sustainable change within the Veteran population. 


My name is Richard Hill and I am the Logistics Leader at Advanced Atomization Technologies (AA TECH.)  I have worked here for four years and have been in manufacturing since 1998.  During my time with AA TECH, I have had the opportunity to work in Workforce Development.  Alongside my work at AAT TECH, I am an adjunct instructor at FLCC.  Part of my responsibilities was to interact with high school and college students and others who may be considering a career in manufacturing.  Taking the jobs and training to the people is a different yet necessary approach.  As a good corporate citizen of the community, we must be innovative in the ways we attract, recruit and train new team members.  Even when we are at full employment, there are other manufacturers who may not be.  That’s why we continue to do our part to promote the Finger Lakes region as a good place to work, operate a business and support your family.  When the objective is to help others achieve their goals, the work is very satisfying. 


Damien is the Executive Vice President of Social Ventures. He has been with Per Scholas for more than 20 years helping to drive long-term growth and entrepreneurial initiatives. He is currently responsible for all employer engagement strategies as well as launching and scaling revenue-generating enterprises that fuel innovation. He is also the creator of the national conversation series called Diverse by Design.

Damien is also responsible for launching and leading the highly sophisticated, multi-million-dollar customized training solution delivered by Per Scholas in New York, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Charlotte, Denver and Boston. A large-scale, customized training effort which contracts with enterprise level companies to source, train and development dynamic and diverse talent. He’s also responsible for customized training solutions which he has launched with the City of White Plains, New Orleans and Emblem Health.

Damien has a proven track record of strategically developing diverse talent pipelines, within major companies, by taking a thoughtful and consultative approach to implementing corporate customized training solutions. Since the launch of our Customized training solution in late 2017, Damien has been able to double revenue and tackle extremely complex business challenges which has led to stellar performance outcomes across the country.

While contributing to annual training and revenue growth goals, Damien provides executive leadership and oversight to his staff nationwide. In addition, he brings a wealth of experience around vision creation, management, enterprise sales, operations, program delivery and fiscal management. Prior to his current role, he led the Employer Engagement team in New York.

Damien attended Baruch College and is a graduate of the Columbia Business School Institute for Nonprofit Management.


Dan Lloyd is a dedicated social entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and founder of Minority Millennials. Dan features an extensive 10+ year background in the public and private investment spaces involving network building, and policy/program development focused on reducing disparities to meet the needs of underserved communities.

Since its inception in 2017, Minority Millennials has helped hundreds of young people from diverse backgrounds access jobs, build wealth, and become civically engaged. Furthermore, it has proactively addressed disempowering narratives around majority minority communities while mobilizing young people of color with tools needed to become the next generation of change-makers in society.

Its workforce developments, civic education training, and economic development initiatives have steadily expanded due to the partnerships with many public and private organizations such as M&T Bank, Merrill Lynch, Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Sheriff, Newsday Media Group, AHRC Nassau, Nassau IDA, Babylon IDA, and many more.

In addition, Dan served(ing) on several Boards of Directors and Boards of Advisors in the non-profit sector, including the United Way of Long Island, Community Development Corp of Long Island, Discover Long Island, NAACP Central LI Branch, Urban League of LI and the Town of Babylon Trustee at Suffolk County Parks. During this time, Dan spent numerous hours mentoring Wyandanch Elementary School 5th-graders with the New York State Mentoring Association and has spoken at various speaking engagements covering the intricacies of economic inclusion. 

In 2021, Dan was recognized as one of the Top 35 Non-profit Founders to impact the world by Cause Artist and was recognized by Long Island Business News as a Trailblazer of Diversity. He also received the Equity Foundation Award from the Urban League of LI and was recognized by Gold Coast Bank as one of Long Island's most influential millennials.

Overall, Dan has a genuine passion for translating economic development goals into tangible realities. From bridging disparity and socioeconomic gaps to delivering necessary building blocks for both minorities and young adults to evolve from, Dan demonstrates his resilience through his strategic, forward-thinking approaches that help solidify growth-driven futures. 

Dan holds a BA in Finance from Rutgers University, an MBA in Global Management from Westwood College, and an MA in Public Policy from Stony Brook University.


Tondalaya London is a dedicated professional committed to helping others succeed. As a leader in workforce development and business services, she feels grateful to be able to make a difference in the lives of many.

Over the course of her sixteen-year career, Tondalaya has worked with multiple organizations in a variety of capacities. For a large portion of her professional tenure, Tondalaya has worked with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, currently serving as Vice President of Business Services and as Director of the NYC Business Solutions Center. Among other things, she is directly responsible for overseeing all aspects of program management (outcomes, measurement, marketing, outreach, partnership development etc.) as well as implementing strategies to improve business services/ workforce development performance. Under her leadership, the NYC Business Solutions Center continues to outperform goals and remains the top Center in the city.

Tondalaya has been instrumental in growing the Chamber’s workforce development programming as a whole. She is continually networking and establishing new partnerships with Brooklyn-based businesses as well as spearheading new initiatives. One such program is Good Help On-The-Go, partnering with multiple community organizations and stakeholders that collaborate to promote Professional Development workshops within low to moderate income neighborhoods. Tondalaya was also instrumental in leading the Chamber’s first ever Brooklyn Manufacturing Industry Partnership which led to establishing the Brooklyn Metal Works Training Program which was a hands-on training approach to teaching individuals the fundamentals of welding and obtaining a national accreditation in the American Welding Society (AWS). In addition to launching successful initiatives, she has also created and facilitated the Chamber’s Brooklyn Bridge to Employment Career Expo, which brought over 90 employers and 1500 job seekers together.

She currently serves as liaison for the Chamber’s Workforce Development Committee (which she started) and is an active board member on the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island.

In 2021, Tondalaya was named an honoree for the Schneps Media “Power Women of Brooklyn” award. Born and raised in Flatbush Brooklyn, Tondalaya takes a hands-on approach and aims to make a strong, positive impact on the people of Brooklyn.


I have been a Workforce Development Professional for almost 50 years. I have been Director of the Oneida County Office of Workforce Development since 1986, serving previously as Deputy Director from 1980-86. Prior to that , I served as Director of Job Development and Placement Unit at the Career Development of the Utica School District from 1974-80; Executive Director of the Mohawk Valley Opportunities Industrialization Center (MOVOIC) from 1973-74 and as MVOIC Director of Training 1972-73. I have directed Workforce Development Programs under the Manpower and Development and Training Act (MDTA),  Comprehensive Employment and Training Act ( CETA ), Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA), Workforce Investment Act ( WIA ) and the Workforce Innovation And Opportunity Act (WIOA) during my career in Workforce Development.

I have been a member of the Mohawk Valley Community College Board of Trustees since 1977, serving as Board Chair eight times. I am the Immediate Past Chair of Board of Directors of the Association of Community College Trustees. Currently I also serve on the Board of Directors of the following organizations: ARC of Oneida-Lewis Counties, Stanley Center for the Arts, Helio Health, New York State Workforce Investment Board, Oneida County NAACP, Oneida County Federal Credit Union, Upstate Family Health Center, Hope Chapel AME Zion Church, Oneida County BOCES School and Business Alliance and the Mohawk Valley Community College Alumni Association.

Previously, I serve on the following on following Boards: Utica Board of Education, Cosmopolitan Center of Utica, Utica Red Cross, Utica YMCA, Family Services of Utica, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Utica Zoological Society, Planned

Parenthood of the Mohawk Valley, Utica Head Start , Mohawk Valley Community Action, United Way of Greater Utica and the Mohawk Valley, American Lung Association, Neighborhood Center of Utica, Utica Neighborhood Housing Services, Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, New York State Affirmation Action Officers Association, House of the Good Shepherd, Mohawk Valley Council of Churches, Cornhill People United, Munson-Williams-Proctor-Arts Institute  and the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals 1986-98, Board President 1994-96. I served on the State University of New York Chancellor’s Task Force on Community Colleges in 1986 and 1995.

My Community involvement has resulted in numerous awards among them: United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area, Mohawk Valley Community College Alumnus of the Year, Utica Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year, New York State Governor’s African American of Distinction Award , Faculty Council of Community Colleges of New York Distinguished Service Award, Utica College Outstanding Alumnus Award, Oneida County NAACP Achievement Award, Salvation Army Outstanding Award, American Red Cross President’s Fund Award for Cultural Diversity, Oneida County Historical Society Living Legend Selection, New York Community College Trustees Anne Bushnell Memorial Award, Association of Community College Trustees M. Dale Ensign Leadership Award, BOCES Consortium Of Consortium of Continuing Education Senator James A. Donovan Award, Genesis Group Joseph R. Carucci Legacy Award and the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals 2013 Workforce Leadership Award.

I am a graduate of Mohawk Valley Community College and Utica College of Syracuse University. I am married and have four children and six grandsons.


Maryann McKenzie-Cameron is currently the Career Center Supervisor at Dutchess One Stop.  She has over 15 years of career development, and job placement, counseling, and rehabilitation case management experience.  Maryann began working at the Dutchess One Stop 2016 as a Training and Employment Specialist, and was promoted to her current position.  Maryann is responsible for staff engagement and development, as well as the overall performance of her team.  She holds an Economics degree from the State University of New York College at New Paltz.

 


Chris holds a doctorate in Counseling Psychology specializing in assessment, and career development theory and practice. As Manager of the Program Development Office at the New York State Department of Labor, he oversees the Customer Engagement, and Future of Work Teams; and the coordination of services for youth, individuals with disabilities, and job seekers with criminal records. Additional responsibilities include oversight of the National Work Readiness Credential initiative in New York State, and the content development and implementation planning for the CareerZone website.


Marjorie D. Parker serves as the President and CEO of JobsFirstNYC, a New York City nonprofit intermediary that creates and advances solutions to break down barriers and transform the systems supporting young adults and their communities in the pursuit of economic opportunities. JobsFirstNYC achieves this by identifying challenges, incubating new solutions, and advancing what works in the key areas of Work, Education, Community and Policy. Marjorie has more than 25 years of experience overseeing adult and youth services initiatives and consulting for nonprofit organizations. Marjorie served as deputy executive director before assuming leadership of JobsFirstNYC in 2017. Prior to joining JobsFirstNYC, she was the deputy executive director of programs at Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow.

Marjorie has also held positions at the CUNY Research Foundation and New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. She serves as the current Board Chair of Reconnect NYC and is a member of the South Bronx Rising Together Leadership Council. Marjorie holds a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, master’s in public administration from New York University, and Certificate, Executive Education, Senior Leaders Program, Columbia University Business School. Marjorie was recently named one of Robin Hood’s 2022 Power Fund Leaders.


Dr. Simone Rodriguez serves as the Vice President for Workforce Development, Continuing Education and Strategic Partnerships at Kingsborough Community College. She has more than 20 years of professional experience working with youth and adults in higher education. Prior to becoming vice president at Kingsborough, she served as associate provost, dean and associate dean at three CUNY Colleges. 

She has presented at regional, national and international conferences focusing on pre-college programs, workforce development, adult and continuing education.   Her professional service includes serving as a peer evaluator for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; membership on Continuing Education Association of New York (CEANY) and New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP).

She currently presides over 20 federal, state, city and privately-funded programs and has held positions at private and public institutions in New York and New Jersey. 


 

Dr. Juhanna Rogers is a motivational speaker, commentator, artist, and education activist committed to social justice, education, and the arts. In 2017, Dr. Rogers joined CenterState CEO, an economic development strategist and chamber of commerce located in Syracuse, NY. Her roles evolved from Director of Performance to Director of Community Engagement & Empowerment for the Economic Inclusion team, where she developed communication and engagement activities and strategies to drive change. In her current position as Vice President of Racial Equity and Social Impact, Dr. Rogers helps develop and deploy DEI strategies that achieve more equitable outcomes both internally and across the organization’s portfolio of work, including helping institutions establish strategic action-oriented plans that drive inclusive change in their respective workplaces. To complement these plans, she hosts conversation series to help support employees and trains individual employees to help manage and continue to proactively drive inclusion strategies.


Veronica Rose-Craig was born in Havana, Cuba.  Her family immigrated to the USA and settled in the Bronx, NY.  Her parents emphasized hard work, getting an education and perseverance.  Ms. Rose-Craig was a product of the NYC public school system.  She attended Stuyvesant High School – long before there was such a thing as a S.T.EM. curriculum.  Veronica always loved helping people.  To be better equipped for that cause, she pursued and eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Services from New York University and later a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Hunter College.  In her 35 years of Vocational Rehabilitation expertise, she has worked with many diverse populations.  She enjoys working to level the playing field and breaking down educational and vocational barriers that block success of individuals with disabilities and other disenfranchised in our society.

Ms. Rose-Craig has been employed by the New York State Department of Education – ACCES-VR for --- years. In that time, she has held various positions with the organization and presently she is the Regional Coordinator for the Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland Counties. She excels in her responsibilities in providing leadership and guidance to the district offices, providers, and community partners. She ensures the provision of quality services to participants and mentoring office staff members.  Ms. Rose-Craig believes that work is therapeutic and that employment for all is important, as it helps empower, provides dignity and independence to the individual.

Veronica uses all the skills and education that she has acquired throughout the years to ensure that both participants and her staff are given opportunities to be treated respectfully and fairly. Her philosophy is that each person deserves dignity, hope and reverence-they will succeed and advance with proper support and guidance.  


Sharon Sewell-Fairman joined WPTI in 2010 as its Director of Programs and in 2012 was appointed by the Board of Directors to lead and navigate the organization’s future as its Executive Director. She was recently promoted to CEO, the position she holds today.

Ms. Sewell-Fairman is a highly respected, passionate and nationally known workforce development leader with over 20 years’ experience at the local, state and national level in both the non-profit and private sectors. She began her career as Manager of Training and Technical Assistance with the New York Association of Training & Employment Professionals (NYATEP), a workforce development member organization based in Albany, NY. Subsequent to this, she held senior leadership roles with the New York City Employment & Training Coalition and the National Association of Workforce Boards in Washington, DC where she worked with the nation's 600+ workforce boards including 15,000 business leaders and Congressional staff on a diverse range of workforce development policy and operational matters. In the private sector, Ms. Sewell-Fairman was a Senior Consultant for both Maher and Maher and Vice President of Workforce Development for Wadley-Donovan Growth Tech, LLC where her practice included advising clients across the US about complex workforce and economic development policy and operational matters. 

Ms. Sewell-Fairman is fierce advocate for delivering high quality, outcome-driven program services to meet the diverse needs of low to moderate income individuals engaged in workforce programs, leadership development, digital learning and leveraging advances in technology innovation to drive capacity building resources to support nonprofit provider organizations. 

Ms. Sewell-Fairman holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from State University at Albany; an MBA in International Business from the University of Maryland University College; a Certificate in International Business Studies from the University of Antwerp in Belgium; and a Certificate of Business Excellence, Senior Leaders Program for Non-profit Professionals from Columbia University. Ms. Sewell-Fairman previously served on the Board of Day One New York and the New York Association of Training & Employment Professionals (NYATEP).


Lavon Stephens is a retired US Army Intelligence professional with an extensive international background.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s in Business Administration from Medaille College, Buffalo, NY. He currently serves as the Administrative Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium.  The Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, Inc. (WDC) has been established by the City of Buffalo and County of Erie to be your One-Stop Operator on their behalf.

Partnered with the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board to lead the administrative operations of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs in Erie County.


Crickett Thomas-O’Dell joined WDI in 2019 after spending 3 years commuting bi-weekly to Washington, DC as the VP of Operations for a transportation services company. Prior to that Crickett has spent the bulk of her professional career working in education settings- enrollment management, print to digital learning environments, international educational travel and STEM curriculum implementation at the high school and middle school levels. Her professional career began in telecommunications in the voice and data industry. A graduate of Albany High School (NY), both her undergraduate and graduate education occurred at Russell Sage College and Sage Graduate School where Crickett was very active on campus receiving several honors and awards for her contributions to campus life. She also played both volleyball and basketball for the Sage Gators. Crickett and her husband Dennis are the proud parents of one daughter, Brianna (Bre) who after graduating from Shenendehowa High School followed in her parents’ footsteps and played collegiate basketball at RIT- Rochester Inst. Of Technology –while studying engineering. Living in Saratoga County Crickett and her family enjoy basketball – she and her daughter Bre are both basketball referees, volleyball and the martial arts. Crickett holds a 5th degree Black Belt in Karate and a 1 st degree Black Belt in Judo. A member of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Albany, NY she is active in the Usher Ministry, the Women’s Ministry, the Praise/Liturgical Dance Ministry and sings in the Women’s Day Choir. Crickett currently serves as the president of the Saratoga Sparks Girls AAU Basketball organization, the secretary of the Capital District Girls Basketball League, a statistician for the NYS Public High School Athletic Assoc. Media Committee-State Basketball Championships and has served previously on several boards including the Troy YWCA, Troy Boys & Girls Club, RSC Alumnae Association, NYS Association of College Admission Counselors, the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals, Faculty Member for the National Assoc. of College Admission Counselors, and the Capital District Counselors Association. Working within a wide range of industries through meetings with businesses, educational institutions, community-based organizations and unions Crickett has developed strong relationships and collaborates with a network of professionals who are dedicated to workforce development solutions with a focus on preparing youth, women and underserved communities for the workforce of today and tomorrow. Crickett works very closely with several Workforce Development Boards, Central Labor Councils, and High School Career & Technical Education Committees. She has been featured by the Capital Region [email protected] magazine, has been asked to serve on several panels, is a member of the Capital Region Professional Women of Color and a 2021 graduate of Capital Region Chambers’ Leadership Tech Valley. 


Andre D. White is the Executive Director & CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods.

Andre has been recognized as a national leader in the field of youth employment and brings nearly two decades of public service, experience and accomplishments to this role.

As Deputy Commissioner of Youth Workforce Development at the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), Andre managed $220 million in annual public and private funding for youth employment, internships, training and high school dropout prevention services. He oversaw the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)—the nation’s largest summer jobs initiative—and was instrumental in the program’s innovative redesign and the building of strategic partnerships that have enhanced the program experience for New York City's young people. Andre’s role in the development of innovative programs for opportunity youth have been recognized by advocates, elected leaders and the communities he serves. He led the design and launch of Advance & Earn, a new career pathways training and employment program model that helps opportunity youth further their educational and career goals through comprehensive High School Equivalency (HSE) test preparation, employer-recognized trainings, credentials and certifications, and paid internships.

Prior to joining DYCD in 2008, Andre was a Policy Analyst for the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, serving as a liaison to elected officials, community-based organizations, government agencies and constituents. He played a lead role in developing needs assessments, strategies and conducting research targeting social, health, and economic development issues specifically impacting Brooklyn youth. Andre began his public service career as the Program Coordinator for Project Reach Youth where he connected young people to career and higher education opportunities through job fairs, college workshops and work readiness training.

Andre served on numerous Citywide task forces and currently sits on JobsFirst NYC’s Board of Directors. Andre’s leadership has been recognized, receiving nominations in 2021 as a City & State Nonprofit Power 100 and by Schneps Media’s Inaugural Bronx PowerList. His educational background includes a BA in Political Science and a MA in Political Science, Urban Policy and Administration from the City University of New York at Brooklyn College.


Marie L. Wiggins, National Director of Workforce Development and Special Projects at Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United; is the creator of Colors Hospitality Opportunities for Workers, Institute (CHOW, Inst.). She has held multiple roles in the organization over the past seventeen years; from being a member, a worker-owner at Original Colors Restaurant, training coordinator, serving as ROC-NY Director, National Member Benefits and Resource Coordinator, Deputy of HR, Finance, and Operations. In her previous professional career, she had twelve years with the New York City Board of Education, Marie was active in three unions: Communication Workers Association, International Brotherhood of Teamsters - Local 237, and District Council 37; had ten years in Corporate America as a Cash Manager. She also enjoys an extensive career as a Girl Scout Leader [Lifer]; Train the Trainer Facilitator, served as Service Unit Manager and Delegate for Girl Scouts Council of Greater New York, as well as a Mary Kay Independent Sales Director.


Antwan has been a part of the RochesterWorks! team for 18 years. Prior to joining our team he worked at Action for a Better Community as a Summer Youth Employment & Training Program Coordinator. Antwan’s passion for helping youth become self-sufficient and productive members of society began through his experience as a 14 year-old participant in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Antwan was a part of the special education system in a low-income single-family household and can truly relate to the struggles faced by the youth in our city. He truly believes that while we don’t have control over the hand that life has dealt us, we must play that hand to the best of our ability in order to succeed and stay in the game.

Early on in his career Antwan joined RochesterWorks! as a Youth Program Monitor for SYEP. Today, as the Director of Youth System Services, he manages multi grant funded programs exceeding 5.5 million dollars. Antwan enjoys having the ability to directly impact and streamline complex processes in order to produce maximum results. On December 20, 2016, RochesterWorks! for Youth was presented with the Organizational Leadership Quality Award, this award is a testament to Antwan’s vision of working smarter and not harder. The award was given by the Youth Services Quality Council of Rochester and Monroe County. Under Anwan’s leadership, the Youth Department is now co-located in downtown Rochester in the City’s Recreation Bureau.  Through this collaboration Youth Services have been streamlined to maximize services for youth, families and system partners. 


Sharon Williams is a seasoned professional as an advocate for youth and families, community development and a facilitator of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and business/operational systems.   With over 25 years of expertise in workforce development, family engagement, youth development, young adult advocacy, and community development, Sharon is committed to helping provide access to resources, and empowering individuals to explore their options for pursuing their passion and purpose.  

Sharon holds a BS in Education from Pace University, a Masters in Nonprofit Management from the New School University and a Law degree from Brooklyn Law School.  

Currently, Sharon is the Director of the Office of Employment and Training and Workforce Development Board in Ulster County, NY.  Her goal is to create a “one-stop” location where career seekers can find the tools and training they need to be successful in the workforce, business leaders can learn about best practices and innovation in their industry and all employers will be able to recruit and retain the best workforce in the County.

Sharon and her husband are the parents of two children, and have resided in Orange County for over sixteen years.  An active community volunteer member (PTO/PTA, Scouting, Sports), Sharon is involved in the “goings on” where she lives, and also serves as a trustee on the local School District Board of Education.