Jerome Barner, Field Manager Best 4 Buildings
Jerome first came to SSBx as a BEST Academy B4B student in 2009, after having completed his bachelor’s degree at Mercy College and having worked as a barber, a substance abuse counselor, and in construction. He sees green construction as an important new direction in New York City, and a way to protect his three children and help others at the same time. As a Field Manager, he helps BEST students complete their fieldwork and succeed in their course work. “I’ve become the Paul Revere of my friends and in my neighborhood, encouraging the troops to do right for Mother Earth,” says Jerome. “The Bronx is my home. Born and raised, and there is nothing better than improving your own.”
Michael Brotchner, Executive Director
Michael Brotchner joined Sustainable South Bronx in October 2011. From 2007 to 2011, he served as the Executive Director of Generation Rwanda, an organization dedicated to helping orphans and other socially vulnerable young people in Rwanda pursue a university education and become Rwanda’s future leaders. He has also served as the Director of Development for the Fund for Public Schools, and the Director of Development for Fair Trade USA. He has served on the Boards of numerous nonprofits, including Root Capital, which provides affordable financial services to small and medium-sized enterprises operating in environmentally sensitive areas of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. He has an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. with high honors from Wesleyan University. “Coming to work and learning that another BEST grad has landed a job or secured a promotion is my favorite part of working at Sustainable South Bronx,” he says. “I’m also an extremely amateur bird-watcher, so I love the fact that our work on the Greenway helps promote local wildlife.”
Rhonda James, Office Manager
Rhonda James joined SSBx in 2013, after a decade working as an independent business consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. Prior to that, she spent nearly 20 years providing administrative assistance to companies in various industries, including investment banking and legal services. Rhonda has a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Touro College, as well as an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science. A native of the Bronx, she learned about SSBx when she was looking to retrofit her two-family home to make it more energy efficient. She became a client of SSBx’s Bronx Energy Efficiency Program, and then an employee of SSBx. She’s been married for 22 years and has three children. In addition to retrofitting their home, Rhonda and her family recycle and minimize use of disposable plastics.
Amilcar Laboy, Greenway Steward
Amilcar Laboy graduated from BEST ECO in 2006 and has been working as Sustainable South Bronx’s Greenway Steward since 2007. He oversees landscaping and community greening projects, often with the help of volunteer groups. Examples of Amilcar’s work includes the tree guards that protect trees through Hunts Point and the South Bronx Greenway. Born in Puerto Rico, Amilcar has lived in Hunts Point since he was five lears old. He attended Alfred E. Smith High School (which, incidentally, has a green roof on its campus that Amilcar helped install).
Jonathan Rivera, Human Resources and Marketing Associate
Jonathan Rivera helps BEST Academy students and grads find and keep jobs. He facilitates workshops and does one-on-one counseling about career goals, job opportunities, and workforce literacy. Prior to coming to SSBx, Jonathan earned his B.S. in Social Sciences with a concentration in Adolescent Education at St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York. While pursuing his degree, he taught economics and global history at Nyack High School and at Clarkstown High School North. He loves working at SSBx because he can help generate opportunities for people from the borough where he was born and raised. “I’ve seen what happens to people who don’t have the opportunity to better themselves,” says Jonathan. “I believe everyone can learn, but that the training has to be tailored to them. Being a part of the BEST team lets me help students transform their lives.” Jonathan is pursuing a Master’s degree in Literacy Education, and aspires to pursue a Doctorate in Urban Education.
Gabriella Stern, Community Greening Coordinator
Gabriella Stern joins Sustainable South Bronx as an New York City Service Civic Corps member. She is a recent graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies. During college, she combined her academics and extracurricular activities to address environmental justice issues and food access on campus. She is proud to have the opportunity to work at SSBx.
Liz Sylvan, Director of Development
Liz Sylvan came to SSBx from the Greater New York Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), where she oversaw major gifts, foundation grants, and communications. Prior to working at CCFA, she worked for over 6 years at DOROT, Inc, a social service agency for the elderly on the Upper West Side, first in volunteer coordination and then in development. She began her nonprofit career as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, working for the school’s Center for the Arts. Upon graduation, she helped launch The Green Street Arts Center, a community arts center in Middletown, CT. She is thrilled to serve as the Director of Development at SSBx, where she develops and implements fundraising and communications initiatives.
Migdalia Taveras, BEST Academy Director
Migdalia Taveras brings her energy and enthusiasm to the task of guiding BEST students and graduates through the process of finding employment. Prior to joining SSBx, she served as the Special Assistant to the President of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, where she worked on economic development projects and community initiatives. Her years working in the Bronx have helped her develop relationships with community and business leaders, government representatives, and elected officials. She worked in the Office of Neighborhood Services in Washington D.C., where she successfully led and coordinated city agency resources for district residents. Migdalia holds a Master’s degree in Public Management from the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. She enjoys working with the BEST team, “and connecting students to opportunities they normally would not have had.”
Angela Tovar, Director of Sustainable Policy and Research
Angela Tovar joined SSBx in 2011, after spending a year as a Research Fellow for The Center for Community Planning and Development at Hunter College, Prior to that, she spent five years as a Senior Manager of Corporate Volunteerism for Chicago Cares, where she coordinated large-scale community volunteer projects for companies including Target, Home Depot, and Deloitte. She also worked as a National Civilian Community Volunteer through Americorps, helping with community-based projects including eco-restoration in the Florida Keys, Habitat Humanity in Alabama, and trail building in Tennessee. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from the College of Charleston, in Charleston, S.C. and a Master’s in Urban Planning from Hunter College. Her passions include social justice, cities, cooking, and the Chicago White Sox. A native of Chicago, Angela has lived in New York City for three years. “The Bronx is such a diverse place, and its beauty really surprises you,” says Angela. “There are so many hidden gems, from the green roof atop the Bronx County building to the view from Barretto Point Park to the Botanical Garden. But I still think Chicago has a better hotdog.”
Geraldo Vasquez, Director of Finance
Geraldo Vasquez joined SSBx in September, 2012, after serving as the Director of Finance and Administration at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and as a Senior Auditor for the Office of the New York State Comptroller. He has also taught accounting at Brooklyn College and Queens College. Before making the switch to the nonprofit world, he was a vice president at Merrill Lynch and Co. He holds a Master’s degree in Accounting from Queens College and is currently pursuing his doctorate in Public and Urban Policy at the Milano Graduate School of The New School.
Annette Williams, Deputy Director
Annette Williams has more than 30 years of experience working as a program coordinator for community organizations and as an activist for environmental justice, including the difficult and sometimes dangerous work of ecological remediation. She was the Head Gardener of the Bathgate Community Garden for eight years. Prior to that, she worked as the Bronx Field Director for New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). She also has done Life-Skill and TEAM Building Exercise Sessions for the Americorps teams, worked with Westchester field park crews, and with youth faith groups. “My motto is this: ‘The earth needs us as much as we need it,’” says Annette. She holds a bachelors degree in early childhood development, and is the mother of seven and grandmother of 14. When not working to improve the physical aspects of the environment, she nurtures the many children and young adults in her community.
Case Wyse, Community Greening Coordinator
Case Wyse is currently serving as a member of the New York City Civic Corps. Case earned his Bachelor of Science studying Ecology and Sustainable Forestry from The Evergreen State College before serving a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the City of Newburgh. Through coordinating garden activities, volunteer events, and educating first time homebuyers, Case has taken to heart the value of service and continues to connect the needs of the community with environmental justice. “It is an absolute honor,” Case says, “to work alongside a community that has so much to offer.”