Our Story

Why We Exist

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average number of students assigned to each high school guidance counselor in NYC
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average number of students assigned to each high school guidance counselor nationally
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college graduation rate for first generation students

Friends of WHEELS was founded in 2012 by teachers and leaders from the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, a public, district, unscreened preK–12 school in 2012. We are one of the few NYC nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting all of its students—not just the highest-performing—to identify and reach their college, career and future goals.

Vision

Friends of WHEELS envisions equitable preK–college and career opportunities that propel all youth to thrive in postsecondary life and strengthen our communities.

Mission

Friends of WHEELS amplifies youth and community power by inspiring, guiding, and advocating for youth to determine their college, career, and leadership futures.

Core Values

Educational Equity

We will work to change the deep educational inequities rooted in systemic racial and socioeconomic segregation, lifting up every child’s right to a quality education.

Racial Justice

We will work to undo the structural racism that permeates every part of our society in order to build a just and equitable future in which all people can reach their full potential.

Youth Leadership

We will work to ensure that young people’s voices are included in the decisions that affect their communities.

Environmental Justice

We will work to combat the climate crisis by improving the environmental conditions that empower and sustain communities in Washington Heights and Northern Manhattan.

Community

We will work to create and sustain community partnerships to win results and spark change, rooted in our commitment to Washington Heights.

Board of Directors

Alex Roberto

Capital One

Stephanie Boarden

Open Society Foundation

​Mallory Calhoun

Macquarie Capital

Ashish Gupta

Google

James McGuire

Capital One

Andrew Morris

Linklaters LLP

​Kristin Ohnstad

Oxeon Partners

Joel Perelmuth

Perelmuth & Associates

Rayner Ramirez

Tilt Shift Media

Tom Rochowicz

Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (ex-officio)

Kimani Rogers

JPMorgan Chase

Aileen Tejada

Alchemy Education & Wellness

Jennifer Negron

Pinkerton Foundation

Jonathan Vazcones

M&T Bank

Staff

Molly Delano

she/her

Executive Director

Molly is an educator, youth advocate and nonprofit manager. Molly’s background includes leadership positions at Global Kids, Hostos Community College, and the YMCA of Greater NY. In addition, she has worked as a consultant for a range of youth organizations, developing curriculum and providing training for educators.  Molly’s expertise includes creating and leading innovative youth leadership programs, facilitating community partnerships to strengthen college access and persistence with first generation students and facilitating staff professional development and capacity building initiatives. Most recently, Molly was the Director of Government Initiatives and Special Projects at the Youth Development Institute.  Molly holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, an MPA, with a concentration in public policy, from the Baruch School of Public Affairs, where she was a United Way Senior Fellow, and nonprofit leadership credentials from the Columbia Business School.

Génesis Abreu

they/them

Youth Environmental Program Manager

Génesis Abreu is a genderqueer person of color with Mayan and Nahuat Pipil Indigenous roots and Salvadoran and Dominican ancestry. They were raised and still live in occupied Shorakapok located in Manhahtaan (Mannahatta) in Lenapehoking, the stolen and unceded traditional lands of the Lenni Lenape people. Today, occupied Shorakapok is referred to as Inwood and Washington Heights in northern Manhattan.

Génesis is a community organizer, educator, and researcher whose work centers on Indigenous and Black self-determination rooted in practices of gender, language, climate, and environmental justice.

They have gained vast experience in community organizing and outreach, youth environmental justice education, and community participatory research, through their work with WE ACT for Environmental Justice, North Brooklyn Neighbors, and the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment Initiative. In 2015, Génesis was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to Cusco, Peru, where they worked alongside Quechua Indigenous farmers from the Potato Park to document the cultural, environmental, and economic implications of the climate crisis on potato production.

Génesis has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Marist College and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management from The New School.

Rocco Rosselli

he/him

Lead College Counselor

Rocco Rosselli, a New York native, has been supporting predominately first-generation, low-income, students of color from underserved and underrepresented communities to and through college for over 5 years. After graduating from the University at Albany (SUNY) with a B.A. in Sociology, Rocco earned his Ed.M. in School Counseling from Hunter College. Prior to joining Friends of WHEELS, Rocco worked at East Harlem Tutorial Prep and Harlem Village Academy, aiding students through the college application process and helping them find their best post-secondary fit. At the foundation of his philosophy to college counseling is establishing strong relationships with students and families. That relationship is essential to empower all students to find their best fit college, and narrow the gap in our country that has led to a huge disparity in college attainment between students from the highest income quartile and those in the lowest. Rocco believes that the college admissions process can be viewed as not just a means to an end, but rather a learning opportunity that can help students find their voice. It is Rocco’s role as a college counselor is to ensure that all students have access to superior college counseling. We need to reach, inspire, and empower every student, regardless of background.

Lisa LoFaso

she/her

Director of Postsecondary Pathways

Lisa joins the WHEELS team with deep experience in developing youth leadership, program management, and college access and success. After receiving her Masters in Social Work from Boston University, where she interned at a college access program in Brookline, MA, she worked in college access and youth mentoring at iMentor and then spent five years running the Franklin K. Lane Student Success Center with Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. A first generation college student herself, her professional mission is to build equity for all students in getting to and through college. Lisa is a proud Manhattan College alumnae, a NYC marathoner, an avid sports and comic book fan. She is eager to use her experience to design and implement quality postsecondary programming for the alumni of WHEELS.

Sittra Omer

she/her

Fund Development and Communications Manager​

Sittra joins Friends of WHEELS as our first ever Fund Development and Communications Manager from Growth for Good, where she was a Special Projects and Events Director. Sittra is passionate about changing the world. A strategic communications major from Penn State, Sittra started her career as a marketing associate focused on social media and a communications specialist for a New York-based commercial real estate company, Eastern Consolidated. Sittra brings fundraising skills that prioritize developing and nurturing relationships. She will help FOW develop and improve fundraising and communications systems, so critical in building a culture of philanthropy that touches every part of the fundraising process. When Sittra is not working, you can find her rooting for Penn State’s Nittany Lions or helping out in her family’s celebrated Ethiopian restaurant. Sittra is an avid athlete and ardent baker. Most recently, she added running to her exercise regimen, and she is training for a half marathon. Sittra lives in Hoboken NJ.

Join our 2021 TCS New York City Marathon Team

Priority Deadline: August 15th