LDR Facilitators

Meghan Lowney, Lead Facilitator

Meghan Lowney is the founding Executive Director of The ZOOM Foundation, a Connecticut family foundation that focuses its philanthropic investments on innovative change efforts that have the high potential for sustainable impact, particularly in the areas of education and the environment. Among other initiatives, Meghan designed and launched The Prize for Parent Organizing in 2015, to support community organizing initiatives that unlock parent power and to create a sustainable movement for educational equity and justice in Connecticut.

In 2006, Meghan founded Ripple Effect Consulting, a leadership and organizational development company specializing in services to individuals, nonprofits and philanthropists. In 2008, she founded and continues to oversee the Leadership Development Roundtable (LDR), a professional development program geared to developing a powerful movement of leaders working to effect social change in Connecticut. LDR is now the flagship program of Five Frogs, Inc., an organization Meghan founded in 2016 to build a powerful movement of diverse leaders with the competencies, mindset, drive and relationships necessary to create lasting, positive change for an equitable Connecticut.

Prior to opening her consultation business, Ms. Lowney served as the Executive Director of Operation Hope of Fairfield, a nonprofit providing innovative solutions to homelessness. In recognition of her work, Fairfield University bestowed upon her an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2007.

Meghan has served on numerous boards and committees, currently serving as the president of the board of Five Frogs, Inc. Ms. Lowney earned her BA from Boston College and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Connecticut.

Carrie Kramer, Co-Facilitator

Carrie Kramer, LDR alum (’10), served as a former coach to LDR Program participants and is currently a co-facilitator. She is a full-time faculty member and assistant professor in the Counseling and Family Therapy Department at Central Connecticut State University. Carrie has worked as a professional in the disability community for the past 27 years. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor as well as a Brain Injury Specialist and holds a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from New York University. Additionally, she is a fashion stylist for Cabi. When not working, she can be found frolicking with her spouse, four boys and their retired racing greyhound.

Marina Rodriguez, Co-Facilitator

Marina Rodriguez, LDR alum (’16), was born in Puerto Rico. The youngest of 4, she was raised by a single mother who gave everything she had to raise her children. At the young age of 12 Marina arrived at New Haven, Connecticut where she has spent all of her adult life. Marina was raised in a family of strong women who all cared for each other’s children. Thus, supporting other women to realize their own potential comes naturally to her. A true advocate for women and children. Marina works purposefully to support adults who work with children at providing rich, responsive, culturally and developmentally appropriate practices and spaces for children. Her journey in early childhood began when she was a volunteer in her son’s Head Start classroom when she was just 18 years old. Later Marina continued her education and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood and has been in the field of education for the past 20 years.

Marina has worked in many aspects of education and community organizing, from the coordination and management of early care and family services to program management for school-age children during out-of-school time.

LDR Coaches

Isonia Cole

Isonia Cole has worked in the healthcare field for over 15 years. Currently, she’s a Center Manager at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) at their Bridgeport health center. Isonia is responsible for all health center operations; processes protocols and personnel. Ensuring high quality health care services that support the whole person is what drives her and it aligns with Planned Parenthood’s mission.

Isonia is dedicated to leadership and cultivating those around her. She is a LDR alum (’17) and has completed PPSNE Great People Leader’s series, as well as Living as Great People Leaders. Isonia holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from Goodwin College. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Organization Leadership. Isonia enjoys spending time helping others and relaxing with family and friends. Although she was born in Ohio and spent time there, she considers Connecticut her home.

Chris Duffy

After completing his undergrad studies at Drexel University, Chris Duffy cut his teeth in leadership and coaching at General Electric, where he graduated from one of their rotational leadership programs. Over 7 years at GE, he lived in Philadelphia, Louisville, Cleveland, Shanghai, and Hartford. In 2010, Chris joined his current company, Travelers insurance, and has held numerous leadership roles with increasing responsibility. Chris graduated from Columbia University with his master’s degree in organizational psychology and a specialization in change leadership. Chris coaches and mentors both in and out of his formal roles. He is an executive coach for leaders in the nonprofit and private sectors. He is also an organizational development consultant, helping organizations improve effectiveness and employee morale, as well as leadership succession and talent development.

Chris is an adjunct leadership professor at Goodwin College and Eastern Connecticut State University. He is also a volunteer firefighter/EMT and serves on nonprofit board of directors. He loves fighting for the underdog, propelled by his own self-identification and that he’s been helped by many in his life and a strong desire to pay it forward. In 2017, Chris was named in Hartford Business Journal's 40 Under 40.

RJ Mercede

RJ Mercede, LDR alum (’13), is the Director of Programming and Development at Hilarity for Charity, a national nonprofit founded by Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen to accelerate progress in Alzheimer's care, education, and research. Previously, he served as the Manager of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence at Fairfield County's Community Foundation and as the Bridgeport Program Manager of Public Allies Connecticut. He is a three-time AmeriCorps member and can regularly be found supporting his favorite hometown businesses and nonprofits in Stamford.

Joel Rivera

Joel Rivera, LDR alum (’17), is the Director of the Hartford Working Cities Initiative. Joel comes to us with the goal of addressing systemic poverty, focusing on systems change and organizational behavior to create new programs and impact communities that need it the most. He started his career in workforce development in 1998 in New York City (Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn), where he worked in Welfare to Work programs with economically disadvantaged communities helping them to achieve self-sufficiency. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Bradford College in 1998, as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Mercy College in 2004 and a Master of Science in Professional Counseling from Central Connecticut State University in 2009. Most recently Joel directed a suite of financial empowerment programs throughout the state of Connecticut for low-to-moderate income communities. He also worked for 10 years with the State of Connecticut Department of Rehabilitation Services. Joel is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Nationally Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.

Roosevelt Smith

Roosevelt Smith is a seasoned consultant, facilitator, coach and administrator with proven success in supporting start-up, transition, and capacity building phases for nonprofit organizations. He has twenty-five years of rich and extensive experience leading organizations and providing consulting services and training to nonprofits in the areas of strategic planning, organizational assessment/development, board governance, retreat facilitation, executive transitions and leadership development. Roosevelt’s work has included large, small and volunteer-run nonprofit organizations in a wide array of mission areas such as youth development, housing, human services, human rights/social justice, environmental and food justice, and arts.

Roosevelt attended New York University as a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar. He earned Certificates from the Harvard University Executive Education Program, the Association for Fundraising Professionals (Boston Chapter) and the Boston University, Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership.

Lindsey Tengatenga

Lindsey Tengatenga, LDR alum (’15), is the Executive Director of Public Allies Connecticut (PACT), an organization working to create a more just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it. In this role, Tengatenga uses her experience in team development, adult learning, leadership coaching, creativity and collaboration to support homegrown, emerging leaders and organizations in Connecticut’s major cities to make meaningful change. Prior to joining PACT in 2011, she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Trinity College. She completed her Master's degree in Public Policy while working as the Assistant Director for the college's Office for Community Service and Civic Engagement developing programs to support student leaders in their passion projects and fostering community partnerships. A Chicago native, her volunteer work in Connecticut since she arrived in 2004 has been largely centered around community dialogue and civic participation efforts, policy work to support youth with incarcerated parents, farmers’ markets, and various local boards. Lindsey lives in New Haven with her husband and 3.5-year-old daughter and loves to frequent her neighborhood library, coffee shops, and hiking trails.

Katherine Velez

Katherine Velez, LMSW, LDR alum (’15), is a Clinical Social Worker working as a Research Coordinator for Columbia University Medical Center Nurture Science Program. Her focus is conducting randomized clinical trials for the Nurture Science Program in CT for preschool age children and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York. She began working in nonprofit prior to graduating with an MSW from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services. Her experience has been working with vulnerable children and families with a concentration on the Spanish speaking population. As a coach, she looks forward to empowering a new generation of leaders to help maximize their impact in our communities. In her spare time, she loves reading, spending time with her daughter and with her Scottish Terrier Grace!

Anne Watkins

Anne Watkins is founder & principal at Watkins Strategy Group, LLC, a consulting practice focused on organizational development and executive coaching. Anne has held executive and board leadership positions in a number of organizations, including serving as executive director of the Greater Bridgeport Area Foundation and CT Campus Compact. She garnered extensive leadership development and facilitation experience with diverse communities working as a community organizer in California and Pennsylvania and managing local planning processes in cities and towns throughout California. Early in her career, Anne served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa. She has an MPH from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and a BA from Boston University. Anne lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her family.

Darlene Yule

Darlene Yule, MPH, LDR alum (’18), is the Farm Education Manager at Auerfarm in Bloomfield where she leads a team of educators in creating and delivering dynamic learning opportunities on agriculture and environment for children and adults from the Greater Hartford area. Previously she was the Community Health & Development Director leading the New York State childhood obesity prevention programs, Farm to Preschool and Eat Well Play Hard, at the Capital District Child Care Council. She is a public health and allied health professional with nearly 20 years of developing and implementing health and wellness programs at the clinical, community, and higher education levels. Throughout her career, Darlene has worked extensively in community health and has received multiple awards recognizing her dedication to health and agriculture in local communities and in Latin America.

LDR Administration

Alexis Northrop, Program Administrator

Alexis Northrop serves as the part-time program administrator for the LDR Program at Five Frogs, Inc. Prior to joining Five Frogs, Alexis worked at The ZOOM Foundation and Fifth Street Advisors providing administrative support for multiple projects, both in the nonprofit and financial sectors. In the past, with a BA from Villanova University, Alexis worked in the enrollment services arena at universities in New Jersey and Texas helping students navigate the financial aid, bursar and admissions processes. Additionally, she was the functional implementation specialist during a department wide software implementation for the student financials module. Most recently, Alexis enjoyed an amazing three years living in London with her family before settling in Fairfield.