Aline Alcindor is the Assistant Executive Director of The Commons. Her experience in youth development began when she volunteered at a local camp at the age of 13. When she entered college, she decided to reconnect with youth by volunteering with NY Cares. She became involved with various community service projects including painting libraries at local elementary schools, reading to elementary school students and volunteering at community centers. Aline continued her work and schooling, gaining a Bachelors in Sociology with a minor in Human Resources Management.
Janice Bethea is the Director of Housing and Social Services. She specializes in Eviction Prevention, Crisis Intervention, and Entitlement Benefits. With nearly 18 years of experience in the eviction prevention and social service field, Janice has worked with a diverse group of adults, with participant’s ages ranging from 21 to 95. She provides case management services to clients who are at risk of entry into the NYC Shelter System through advocacy, information and referrals. Janice is passionate about her work at the Commons. She’s empowered by the organization’s mission, positively impacting the lives of so many individuals in need of our services. Janice prides herself on exhausting all possible solutions to help her clients accomplish their goals.
Erica Bynum is the Site Director for LACASA at PS84. Erica’s experience working with nonprofits began when she was 14 years old and first applied to SYEP with the help of Strycker’s Bay/LACASA, and she’s been with Strycker’s Bay/LACASA ever since. She has extensive skills working with children and the community at large, and is a great asset to the organization and the families we serve. Erica is a graduate of York Preparatory School and attended Mary Mount Manhattan College. She is trained in RTE, CPR, MATT.
Christine Byrd-Tucker is the Director of Youth Services and has evolved her role within the organization over the last few years. Starting as an AmeriCorps member at The DOME Project, she has had the opportunity to be a part of many of the programs each organization has to offer, and helped in the development and sustainability of each one. Christine has a dual degree in History (with a concentration in US history) and Jewish Studies. Prior to college, she attended Millennium High School, where the focus was on college prep and youth development practices from the YMCA. This gave Christine her first insight into Youth Development and it is why she is so invested in it today.
Rebecca Castka is the Commons’ Director of Institutional Giving; she is a grant writing and institutional giving professional with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and twelve years of experience in development services to nonprofit organizations. She has a successful track record of securing foundation, corporate, and government funds totaling more than $30 million.
Yanira Gonzalez is the Director of External Communications at the West Side Commons and has over 15 years of experience in community-based programming, working with diverse audiences in college and career counseling, theme-based afterschool program management, staff development, and special events. She has worked with a wide range of age groups in varying capacities, including teaching girls self defense and preparing women to enter the construction trades. Yanira also holds a position in the Education department at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. There, she assists in the management of stage production and theater administration internships for teens, seminars focused on behind the scenes careers in the arts and entertainment industries for high schools across the city, and creating numerous opportunities for young artists to engage in cultural experiences.
Kieran Howard is the Middle School Program Coordinator at the Commons. In 2004 Kieran spent a year travelling with Americorps NCCC, where he was assigned to a mobile team tasked with completing community service projects along the Eastern Seaboard. Americorps offered Kieran his first taste of community-based work, partnering his team with various nonprofits to support their local missions. Kieran graduated from Amherst College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law Jurisprudence and Social Thought and his easy-going temperament helps him do his job well. When in the classroom, where effective management of the sundry aptitudes, attitudes and attention-spans among the students is absolutely critical, he is usually slow to anger, quick to joke, and committed to being consistent and fair, which helps in building good relationships with the kids he teaches.
Diana Metz worked with Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council for 10 years in varying capacities. She began as a Junior Group Counselor and is now the Administrative Assistant to the AED of the West Side Commons. Diana completed her B.A. in Sociology and Human Services and is now working on her M.A. in Latin American Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her dedication to youth and community have made her a great asset to the program and the population we serve.
Doris Roman is the Site Coordinator for The Commons at DeHostos Community Center. She first came to LACASA/Strycker’s Bay in the late 90’s as a youth counselor, before spending some time working on a degree at John Jay College in Forensic Science. Doris develops creative solutions in carrying out daily activities, manages various projects, and ensures that the children at the Commons are well cared for, often going the extra mile to ensure that her students leave the building with a smile.
Ramon Vasquez, also known as “Been”, was born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1960s at a time when his home, 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, was considered one of the most dangerous places to live in New York. Been has seen New York City through the eyes of a child to Dominican immigrants who brought with them the ways and traditions of their homeland. New York City during the 1970s had nothing to offer a young teen in search of an outlet for his artist expression, yet Been found ways to cultivate his art. From graffiti black books, to street murals, clubbing, DJ-ing, T-shirt design, and taking pictures, Been’s artistic talents and expression can now be seen through his photographic lens and writing talents. Author of 3 books, he is working on his fourth book. For years he used his connection to the graffiti and underground arts world to curate a fundraising art auction for Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council. The auctions received support from artists around the world, grossing more than $15,000. Through his work with the Commons, Been has touched the lives of thousands of young people over the last 20 years and inspired many to pick up a camera and document the world around them. Father to a fourteen year old girl, Mya, Been is committed to teaching and mentoring children to look at the world creatively and as independent thinkers.
Menelik Washington is the YPP Program Coordinator at the Westside Commons. He is also charged with the 4th grade after school group at PS 84. Menelik attended Harvard University for 3 years and spent some time working for Prep for Prep before finding his home at the Commons. He cares deeply for the success of everyone that he works with, and is willing to create and adapt to whatever success means for his team and his students.
Kelley Williams is The Executive Director of Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council and The DOME Project. She helped lead the effort to organize the DOME/Strycker’s Bay partnership and co-authored the The Commons Concept Paper. Her experience in the youth development field grew from her work as a community and tenant organizer and as a parent in need of affordable quality afterschool programming. Kelley is an alumnus of The DOME Project’s 1978-79 Drop-Out Prevention Program which offered her the opportunity to be paid for the volunteer work she was already doing at Strycker’s Bay provided she acquired her GED before the program ended. She continued to work with Strycker’s Bay after graduating from the program and became the Executive Director in 1987 at age 25. Kelley went on to found LACASA, the youth program now operating at The Commons as part of its portfolio of programs, which has been in operation since 1993. She also co-founded The Community Action School (middle school) located in the Joan of Arc School Complex on West 93rd Street. She has a strong background in program development and operations and believes in developing strong long term relationships while helping every child reach their academic potential. Because of her bi-racial background and life-long connection to the Latino community on the Upper West Side, she is able to communicate with diverse audiences and creates a personal connection with the people and groups she works with.