Staff & Leadership
Julie Stein Brockway, LCSW
Co-Executive Director Julie Stein Brockway, LCSW, oversees CFLSP's youth development and community building programs at ten local public schools. She has over 40 years of experience at CFLSP, where she founded the nationally-recognized “Life Lines” Community Arts Project in 1982. As chair of the Sunset Park High School Task Force, she worked a large and diverse group of community stakeholders to advocate for the neighborhood’s long-awaited public high school and to ensure that SPHS is a high quality, inclusive school that responds to community needs and fosters the success of every student. She received her BA from Yale University and MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work. She conducts training in social group work, has been a Group Work instructor at Hunter School of Social Work, and has taught Group Work with Youth in the new graduate Youth Studies program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.
Julia Jean-Francois, LCSW, PhD
Co-Executive Director Julia Jean-François, LCSW, PhD, oversees CFLSP family counseling, community resource center, employment services and cooperative business development. Before joining CFLSP in 2003, she was Director of Operations at the Puerto Rican Family Institute. She has extensive experience in child welfare and mental health services, teaches research methods and ethno-cultural methods in social work practice at the NYU School of Social Work and Rutgers School of Social Work, and has taught statistics and sociology at the University of the People. She received her MSW from NYU and PhD from the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Maria Ferreira, LMSW
Program Director, Adult Employment Program
As Program Director of the Center for Family Life Adult Employment Program, Maria oversees the Job Readiness and Placement Program, DYCD funded portfolio which includes the Immigrant Families and the Healthy Families Programs as well as Literacy Services (Discretionary ESL and ESL/Civics Instruction). She also supervises the Mother Cabrini Foundation grant which expanded the provision of case management services to immigrant families and individuals. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the City College of the City University of New York. She holds a Master’s degree from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Work. She received her SIFI from Hunter College and completed a Middle Management Certificate Program offered by the Institute for Non-for-Profit Management at Colombia Graduate school of Business. Maria started at the Center for Family Life Adult Employment Program as a volunteer (in 1985), shortly after she was hired as Employment Counselor. Within a few years she was promoted to Program Coordinator, and subsequently became Program Director.
Cathy Vargas, LMSW
Program Coordinator, Community Services Program
Cathy Vargas is a Sunset Park native who is passionate about improving the well-being of the community using a trauma-informed approach. She holds a BA in Psychology and MA in Applied Psychology from St. Francis College and an MSW from Fordham University. She was honored with the Florence Denmark Award for Research Excellence for her research on the disparity of mental health services in the Latino community. Before joining CFL, she worked in Addiction Counseling. She transitioned from working with children and families at CFL's Family Counseling Program to her current role. Outside of work, Cathy enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters watching movies and exploring the city.
Juan Cuautle, MA
Program Director, Cooperative Development Program
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, he joined CFL's Cooperative Development Program in 2016 as a Business Developer, where he had incubated worker cooperatives, provided technical assistance to operating businesses, and supported the development of organizations such as Coopportunity, Up & Go and Alianza CUSP. Juan holds a B.A. in International Relations from Universidad de las Américas Puebla; an M.A. in Public Administration and Public Policy from Tecnológico de Monterrey; and has taken executive courses in public administration at Harvard University, project management at Baruch College, and nonprofit leadership development at Columbia University. Juan lives in Staten Island with his wife and three Mexican-Russian-American children.
Jennifer Wittlin, LCSW
Co-Program Director, Family Counseling Program
Jen Wittlin began working at the Center for Family Life in 2010 and started as the Foster Care Coordinator. In 2019 she transitioned from foster care to being a supervisor for preventive services. In 2020 she was promoted to the position of Co-Director of Family Counseling. Jen is a social worker and earned her MSW from Simmons School of Social Work in 1997. She is proud to live and work in Sunset Park and loves being an active community member. In her spare time, she is a beekeeper and all-around crafter.
Kristie Mancell, LMSW
Multi-Site Supervisor, School-Based Programs
Program Director, Sunset Park High School
Kristie Mancell, has been working in the field of positive youth development for 20 years. She has spent the past seventeen years in a series of supervisory roles in CFL's school-based programs. Her experience in the field includes direct service, program administration, social group work and management training, and strategic planning. Ms. Mancell is currently a multi-site supervisor for CFL school-based programs as well as Program Director for CFL’s Sunset Park High School site, where she oversees all program components, supervises leadership staff for multiple public and private contracts, coordinates the in-school advisory program partnership, and leads weekly professional development for CFL staff and SPHS teachers. Ms. Mancell earned both a B.A. in Psychology and her M.S.W. at the University of Michigan. She also holds certifications from the Columbia Business School Developing Leaders for Nonprofit Professionals Program as well as Silberman School of Social Social Work Seminar in Field Instruction. Kristie is also an adjunct lecturer at CUNY School of Professional Studies in the Youth Studies Masters Program teaching the course Group Work with Youth.
Jhodessa Reimer, MSW
Multi-Site Supervisor, School-Based Programs
“Life Lines” Program Director
Jhodessa Reimer is a program supervisor at Center for Family Life in Sunset Park. She holds an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work and a BFA from North Carolina School of the Arts. In the 15 years she has been with CFL, she has held several roles including dance instructor, group leader, service learning coordinator, high school advisor, and program director. Currently, she oversees programming in four of CFL's schools. She is passionate about using the arts as a tool for community building, youth leadership development, and education reform. She enjoys camping, biking and croissants. She lives in Sunset Park with her family.
Olney Edmondson, MSW
Program Director, PS 516
Olney started at CFL in June of 2013. She was hired as a performing arts specialist at PS 169. After 3 years, she relocated to PS 971 and worked as a Performing Artist Specialist and Assistant Program Director. In Fall of 2018, she was promoted to Program Director. She has a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from Sam Houston State University and a Masters in Social Work from Hunter college in August of 2021. Outside of work she loves to dance, do professional style nails, read, crochet, and watch movies. She’s been teaching dance to families and children for almost 20 years and working with youth for almost 10. It gives her joy to empower members of the community to learn and grow together.
Xinzhu Rao, LMSW
Program Director, PS 94
Xinzhu Rao, LMSW, came to the United States and started interning at Center for Family Life in Fall 2015 while she was working on her MSW at Fordham University. Xinzhu interned at CFL as a Case Planner and then started working for "Life Lines" in 2017. Xinzhu has worked at "Life Lines," led CFL Virtual Afterschool, and she is currently the program director at PS 94 and a doctoral student in Social Work at Fordham. Xinzhu enjoys documenting all of the memorable moments she helps put together at Special Event Days!
Colleen MacDonald, LMSW
Program Director, PS 503/506
Colleen MacDonald, LMSW, has been with CFL since January 2019 where she began as the Social Worker and Program Coordinator at CFL at PS 503 and 506. Colleen was also part of CFL’s advisory partnership at Sunset Park High School, where she worked with an 11th grade class to develop a service learning partnership with District 75 students. She earned her MSW at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and her Bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University and has over a decade of experience in youth development services. Colleen enjoys using her imagination to make people think and laugh, playing basketball, and being outdoors.
Yuchen Shan, LCSW
Assistant Program Director, Family Counseling Program
Yuchen Shan began working at the Center for Family Life in 2015 after graduated from NYU MSW program and started as a bilingual case planner. In 2020 she was promoted to the foster care coordinator and supervisor position in Family Counseling Program. In the Spring of 2022, she was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of Family Counseling Program. Yuchen is proud to be a social worker and loves helping people! Yuchen enjoys painting in her spare time.
Co-Program Director, PS 1
David started at the Center for Family Life as a 5-year-old participant in the PS 1 summer camp program. He continued as a participant throughout childhood, and as a teen started volunteering his time at PS 1 and joined the Counselor-in-Training Program. Over the years David has climbed just about every rung of leadership in the school-based programs including dance assistant, assistant group leader, group leader, instructor, CIT Coordinator, and Program Coordinator. David went from a child in the PS 1 program to the Co-Director, a full circle. He especially enjoys cultivating the next generation of CFL leaders through his work with children, teens, and young adult staff. His work is grounded in CFL’s long standing traditions of social group work and community building.
Yolanda Nunez, MA
Co-Program Director, PS 1
For the past 20 years, Yolanda has dedicated a large portion of her life to the field of youth development. She first got involved with CFL as a teen in 1997. Yolanda has had many unique opportunities in her time at CFL, including Co-Director of Neighborhood Center at PS 314 (now PS 503/506), Case Planner in Family Counseling Program, and Program Coordinator roles at SPHS and PS 1. All that Yolanda has learned along the way is now solidified as a set of tools that she shares with her Program Co-Director at PS 1. Yolanda earned a B.A. in Psychology at Brooklyn College and Masters in Psychology with a minor in School Counseling at Touro University. Yolanda grew up in Sunset Park and giving back to the community means the world to her. Yolanda enjoys empowering our community members to have a voice and to advocate for the resources they need.
Shanice Peters, MSW
Program Director, MS 136
Shanice Peters is the Program Director at MS 136. She received her MSW from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service and a BA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. She was part of the first graduating class from Sunset Park High School where she spent all 4 years involved in the "Life Lines" program by participating in their performing arts troupes. Throughout her time at CFL, she has been a participant, a group leader, a high school advisor, LIT (Leaders in Training) supervisor, an assistant and director of the "Life Lines" Summer Arts Camp, and a Program Coordinator for "Life Lines". She’s passionate about developing and inspiring the next generation of young leaders. In her free time, she enjoys collecting makeup, playing with her tuxedo cat and discovering amazing food in NYC.
Malissa McSwain, MSW
Co-Director, PS 169
Malissa joined CFL's school-based programs in 2021 as a program coordinator and high school advisor. Her prior experience in language instruction, youth leadership development, parent engagement/education advocacy, and immigrants' rights organizing informs her work with families and her commitment to social justice. She completed her MSW at Columbia University and holds a BA from Davidson College. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling.
Taide Acevedo, MSW
Program Director, PS 971
Taide was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She received her MSW from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She started her journey at CFL as a 5-year-old participant in the afterschool program at PS 503/506 (formerly PS 314). As a teen Taide started volunteering her time at PS 503/506 and joined their Counselor-in-Training Program. Since then, Taide has climbed just about every rung of leadership in the school-based programs including, assistant group leader and then group leader in the "Life Lines" Community Arts Project at MS 136/821, instructor for group games and healthy living at PS 169 and PS 971, CIT/SYEP Coordinator at PS 169 and PS 971, and Assistant Program Director at PS 169 and PS 971. Taide went from a child in the PS 503/506 program to the Director of PS 971, a full circle. Taide also had the opportunity to intern at the Mother Cabrini Counseling program in CFLSP Family Counseling and the Adult Employment office while a social work student. Taide is a passionate Latina who hopes to develop strong and inspiring leaders in her community to break generational traumas and speak on issues that affect their community and loved ones. In her free time, she is an entrepreneur who makes and sells jewelry, while also making time to play with her cat, Cheetah, and satisfying her craving for seafood boils.
Anna Kaganova, BA
Anna began her role as Development Associate at Center for Family Life in October 2022. She graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Business and a certificate in Eurasian, Russian, and Eastern European studies. Prior to becoming a grants manager at CFLSP, Anna worked as a Grants Administrator at Network for Developing Conscious Communities, a D.C. based non-profit. Anna is passionate about supporting others and ensuring that vital community programs receive the resources they need to continue their work. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, reading, meditating, and watching travel videos and documentaries.
Carrie Stewart, LCSW-R
Co-Director, Family Counseling Program
Carrie rejoined CFL in 2022 as Co-Director of the Family Counseling Program, supervising family counseling and an array of programs serving immigrant families. Carrie started as a social worker in family counseling in 2000, becoming a clinical supervisor and foster care coordinator during her 12+ years with CFL before leaving to work with SCO Family of Services, where she was most recently Vice President of Community Services, overseeing family and educational support services, and collective impact initiatives. Prior to initially joining CFL, Carrie worked for 10 years in child welfare and forensic social work. In addition, Carrie consulted with New York University Law School Family Defense Clinic for several years. She has an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work with a group work concentration, a post-masters certificate in family therapy from Ackerman Institute for the Family, a Seminar in Field Instruction certification, and has participated in emerging leaders programs through Columbia University. Carrie is passionate about working with teams to initiate new programs, reading, and being a working Mom of two boys.
Cynthia Taylor, M.S.
Cynthia Taylor is the Finance Manager at Center for Family Life in Sunset Park. Cynthia earned her B.S. in Business Management and Finance from Brooklyn College and her M.S. in Applied Analytics from Columbia University. Prior to joining CFL, Cynthia was the Assistant Director of Finance & Administration for the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) at Columbia University. She has multiple years of experience in procurement, budget, finance, and grants administration. Cynthia is committed to leveraging her skills to make a meaningful difference in the Sunset Park community. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, traveling, and listening to music.
Kathleen Lion, BA
Kathleen joined Center for Family Life as a Development Associate in August 2022 after graduating from Binghamton University with a BA in History. Kathleen is passionate about promoting positive social change by collaborating with and assisting others. As a Development Associate, she hopes to help provide necessary funding to the various programs at CFL and seeks to strengthen CFL’s communication networks. She enjoys travelling, being outside, reading and spending time with her family and friends.
Stephanie Ruiz, BSW
Co-Program Director, PS 169
Stephanie started at CFL in September of 2014. Over the years Stephanie has climbed up the ladder of leadership in the school-based programs including office aid, assistant group leader, group leader, CIT coordinator, high school advisor, and activity specialist. Stephanie went from being a SYEP counselor as a teen to the PS 169 Co-Director. She is passionate about developing and inspiring the next generation of young leaders to continue advocating for their communities. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts and spending time with her family.
Charly is the IT Director at Center for Family Life in Sunset Park. He graduated from Technical Career Institute, holding a degree in Network Technology and has acquired numerous IT Certifications. Prior to joining CFL, Charly held several network administration positions before starting and running his own computer consulting company. Charly then began working with CFL starting in 2004, holding many roles including Network Field Technician, Systems Administrator, Systems & Facilities Manager and now heads CFL’s IT Department. He is passionate about providing the technology needed to support our organization in its mission to serve the community. In Charly’s spare time, he enjoys learning or playing with everything technology related and spending time with his family.
Tatyana Lotarevich, MPH
Director of Data Systems and Analytics
Tatyana Lotarevich is CFL’s Director of Data Systems and Analytics. She oversees data entry, analysis, and reporting. She manages all aspects of CFL’s client and donor databases and assists with the management of CFL’s grants and payroll databases. Prior to assuming the director position in 2023, she was CFL’s Data Manager. She enjoys learning new data systems and using data to further CFL’s work. Before joining CFL in 2019, Ms. Lotarevich worked for close to a decade for an organization that conducts research in reproductive and maternal health. She holds an MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and is a summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, where she earned a BA in Sociology. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, taking walks, and listening to music and podcasts.
Gina Puppo, BS
Director of Human Resources
Gina has been a senior member of CFL since August 2022 and brings over 19 years of Human Capital experience to the team. Gina provides guidance and support to the CFL Leadership and management team to help them achieve strategic and operational goals, while mitigating risk. Gina’s HR expertise includes talent acquisition, employee labor relations, compliance, compensation and benefits, retention, diversity and inclusion, performance and talent management, organizational development, workers’ compensation, workforce planning and leadership and management coaching and development. Prior to CFL, she provided HR Capital services to both large and mid-sized, financial, government contracts, consulting, and hospitality organizations. Gina holds a Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Excelsior College in Albany, New York and is SHRM -SPHR Certified. Gina is passionate about helping businesses make the most of their resources and talent. When Gina isn’t working, she enjoys spending her free time exploring New York, swimming, and teaching family members how to swim as it’s an important skill to have.
Liz Jones, LMSW
Program Director, MS 821
Liz Jones has been with the "Life Lines" Community Arts Project at the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park since 2018. Prior to joining CFL, she was a founder of Page 73 Productions, a Tony and OBIE Award-winning theater company that develops and produces the works of early career playwrights and served as its Co-Executive Director from 1997 to 2016. Liz has also previously held positions in arts management or social service provision at National Corporate Theatre Fund, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Children’s Aid Society, and The Door - A Center of Alternatives, among others. She is thrilled to be able to combine her passions for the arts, youth development and community building in her work at CFL. Liz holds a BA in American Studies from Yale University an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MSW from Fordham University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son, and rambunctious pup.