BOARD OF DIRECTORS
DON C. SAWYER III, Ph.D
Don C. Sawyer III, Ph.D. is the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. He is a tenured associate professor in the department of sociology, criminal justice, and anthropology, as well as an assistant clinical professor in the Frank H. Netter, MD, School of Medicine. He teaches courses on Race, Education, Popular Culture, and Social Research Methods, including the university's first course dedicated to the sociological study of hip-hop culture. He earned his Ph.D. and MA in Sociology and M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University and a B.A. in Psychology from Hartwick College. His scholarly focus is on the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals, race, social justice, urban education, and hip-hop culture.
ALTHEA MARSHALL BROOKS
Althea Marshall Brooks currently serves as the Executive Director of Bridge to Success Community Partnership in Waterbury, Connecticut. Waterbury Bridge to Success (BTS) is a partnership joining forces to ensure the city’s youth, from cradle to career, have access to the quality education and support to be successful in school, work and life. In this position, Mrs. Brooks is responsible for coordinating and guiding the community vision and strategy as well as building community capacity to complete this vitally important work. Prior to this appointment, she served as the New Haven Public Schools Director of Coordinated School Health where she was responsible for oversight of district health and wellness initiatives for students, staff and the broader community.
She has her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Connecticut School of Family Studies, Master of Science degree in sociology from Southern Connecticut State University and a Master of Divinity in theology from Yale Divinity School. In addition to her service as Board Chair for EMERGE Connecticut, she also serves on various non-profit boards and committees. She is the proud wife of Darrell, mother to DJ and two step daughters, Chelsea and Paige.
Brent Peterkin is the Executive Director of Gather New Haven a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization located in New Haven, CT, committed to social and environmental justice. Previously, Brent led a violence reduction model as Statewide Director for Project Longevity, a nationally recognized program of the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, focused on reducing group and gang gun violence in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven.
Brent has also served on the Governor’s Youth and Urban Violence Commission and the Bridgeport Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs. As a ZOOM Policy Fellow in the Office of the Governor, Brent worked in support of the Office of Early Childhood, where he focused on parent engagement and fatherhood development. Brent also worked with a Yale University-based global anti-poverty initiative and supported at-risk high school students with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities in Yonkers, New York.
Brent studied public policy and public administration, non-profit leadership, and social impact strategy at Fordham University, Northwestern University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Darius Jones’ path to success started in 2008 when he first enrolled in Elm City YouthBuild. After successfully completing YouthBuild in 2009, Darius decided to pursue a path of higher education at Gateway Community College where he majored in Accounting and received an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration. He went on to Southern Connecticut State University to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Darius serves as a volunteer tax preparer for the free tax preparation program V.I.T.A. He currently works as a staff accountant for an accredited public accounting firm and actively working towards his CPA credentials.
Michael received an MBA from Columbia University with Honors in 1997. From 1997 to 2005, Michael served as the CFO of the Construction Division of Travelers Insurance Co. In 2005, he changed careers after acquiring his teaching certification in mathematics and taught at The Foote School and Hopkins School. In 2007, he became the Director of Pathfinder Hopkins School, an award-winning academic enrichment middle schoolers from New Haven-area public and parochial schools. Deeply engaged in the New Haven community, Michael currently serves on the boards Elm City Montessori School and Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). An SVP Connecticut Partner since 2019, Michael joined the SVP staff in April 2020 as Director of Organization Development and Stakeholder Engagement.
William Tisdale is a Field Crew Member at Yale's Urban Resources Initiative (URI) and is also a successful graduate of EMERGE's transitional employment program. Mr. Tisdale began working at EMERGE in 2015 and quickly advanced from a crew member to a supervisor. During his three years with us, he became involved in URI's tree planting initiative. Upon graduating from EMERGE in Spring 2018, he officially joined the staff at URI and now leads the initiative's GreenSkills tree planting crews. Mr. Tisdale has expertly planted hundreds of New Haven’s trees through the GreenSkills program and continues to be a mentor for EMERGE crew members.
MICHAEL VAN LEESTEN
REINALDO CRUZ III
Director of Training and Business Development
I saw an opportunity to share my talents with great people who honestly want to learn what I have to offer. The staff and leadership give me a sense of belonging and I know that they will help me evolve into a more purposeful person for my community. The honesty, compassion, and dedication to the people we serve is very real!
JAMES "JD" DIXON
I work at EMERGE because it gives me a perspective on helping other people, and I like what I do.
TABARI "RA" HASHIM
I work at EMERGE for the level up and to help assist greatness!
I work at EMERGE because I was given an opportunity to seek employment and I just took full advantage of that opportunity. I stay here because it’s family-oriented, structured, and I get to give people that come here the same training that was given to me.
I work at EMERGE because it provided me with the opportunity to see myself from a different point of view. Now I strive to challenge the narratives step by step and am working to make it right.
I work at EMERGE because it has allowed me to work with an inspiring network of individuals.
I work at EMERGE because it has given me the opportunity to contribute something positive back into the community.
Personal Development Coordinator
I work at EMERGE because it showed me that the only ceiling I have is the one I place on myself.
In 2013, this place gave me a home and a purpose in New Haven. I've had the privilege of being mentored by Dan Jusino, our founding Executive Director, who saw something in me before I saw it in myself. The team here inspires me every day, and the model and culture is one that makes a tremendous impact on everyone involved.
Director of Planning and Partnership
I work at EMERGE believing in the urgency and necessity of building up systems of healing and communal care in the face of prisons and policing. After witnessing Real Talk as a graduate student and seeing the depth of care that makes EMERGE unique, I'm glad to join in supporting the team full-time and inviting partners into this work.