Project Ascend Board of Directors

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Project ASCEND is actively recruiting for our board of directors. We are looking for smart, motivated, and community driven people to join the Project ASCEND team. Please send your resume and cover letter to team@project-ascend.org if you are interested.

Derrick Robinson, Board Member

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As a native New Yorker growing up in East Harlem during arguably one of the most tumultuous periods in the city’s history, Derrick saw firsthand the deleterious effect living in and around abject poverty plays on the perception of one’s role in the world and their potential level of achievement. After college, armed with the belief that part of the governments role is to protect and help its citizens who are unable to help themselves, Derrick embarked on a journey in pursuit of a role in public service; landing at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and then the White House Office of Communications where he plays a role in helping disseminate the administrations policy objectives.  Derrick attributes his transition from Harlem to DC to mentors helping him at every step of the way, and understands that the pursuit of personal achievement means nothing if you are not using your talents to help the person standing beside you. He now gives back in varying capacities and is excited to contribute to Project Ascend’s work in providing financial assistance to low-income young women in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.


Angel Nonye-John, Board Member

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Angel Nonye­-John is a junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying International Relations and
Politics. She is also pursuing minors in African and African American Studies and Hispanic
Studies. She is a research associate at the Center for International Relations and Politics and
works with minority recruitment in the Admissions Office at CMU. Angel Nonye-­John is also
serves as the President of the Young African Leaders Association on campus. In the community,
she tutors refugees and immigrants in ESL with FORGE and the Latino Family Center.

Sophia Cacciatore, Board Member

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Sophia is a fourth year at the University of Florida studying Telecommunication Management with a minor in Leadership, and is a Gainesville native. She is involved on campus with organizations such as the Student Conduct Committee, Student Honor Code Administration, Model UN, Friends of Hands to Love, the Clinton Global Initiative University, and She’s the First. Sophia also has a passion for non profits and the services they provide for the community. Currently she works for Hands to Love, a non profit that provides resources and a camp for children with congenital upper limb differences, and in the past she has worked for The Fresh Air Fund in New York City. She is thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful organization such as Project ASCEND and holds educational issues close to her heart, which drives her towards a career in education advocacy. 


Jennifer Pearse, Board Member

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Jennifer Soba Pearse  is a senior at the University of Maryland who hails from Rivers State, Nigeria. She is a student in the Individual Studies program studying Global Development and Diplomacy, with a minor in International Development and Conflict Management.  Ms. Pearse is very involved with her local community in the P.G area and volunteers with the “Terps for Change” organization as a tutor in Northwestern High School. Apart from being on the Board of Directors for Project Ascend, she also spends her time developing her newly found non-profit, “The Em-powerment Project,” which provides youth with various educational and leadership opportunities in South-South Nigeria. 

Erika Estrada, Board Member

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Erika L. Estrada is a born and raised Southern California. She takes much pride in her community and continuously works toward improvements in various public sectors. Being involved in the non-profit sector since the age of 17, she highly values the role of non-profit work. Educational and Health disparities have been a target of her work for the past several years. It is work she has engaged in via quantitative research as well as a social advocate. Currently, Erika works for Kaiser Permanente as a Research Associate in Downtown Pasadena, CA. As a researcher she is interested in how implicit class biases moderate the extent to which an individual’s socioeconomic status predicts health/educational outcomes. She believes it is key to further explore the relationships between socioeconomic status, implicit biases, immune system profiles, and ultimately health outcomes.


James Ojewumi, Board Member

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James Ojewumi was born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He is a graduate of Bowie State University with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. Presently, he works at Accenture but has past employment experiences at Morgan Stanley and Capital One Bank. He holds a deep passion for public service and believes in the power of higher education to advance the lives of at risk youth. He comes to Project ASCEND with the hopes of assisting in raising funds for this nonprofit college scholarship program.

Arianny Arias, Board Member

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<span “font-size:14.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:11.0pt;=”” line-height:115%”=””>Arianny is a senior at Dickinson College majoring in Political Science. Previous to this, she attended a high school in a low-income community. There she experienced the racial and economic disparities tied to our educational system. She became passionate about breaking the educational barriers affecting low-income, minority students. Following her passion, she served as an AmeriCorps member with the Maryland Multicultural Center for two years. There she tutored and mentored at-risk students in an after-school program providing them with life skill workshops and lesson plans.  She also volunteers almost every year since 2009 with the Valhen Hispanic College Institute and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund in their summer programs to provide students with information about the college application process and expose them to role models and leaders making a meaningful impact in their respective careers. She hopes to continue volunteering and making a meaningful impact in her community.