Directions For Our Youth, Inc. (DFOY) is a non-profit community-based youth development organization based in the Bronx. We provide quality out-of-school and in-school programs throughout NYC to help children and youth reach their full potential.
DFOY was founded in May 1991 by a group of concerned and dedicated neighborhood residents who wanted to address the lack of economic and educational opportunities for local youth.
Today, Directions For Our Youth, Inc. operates youth development programs at different ten locations within the Bronx and Manhattan. DFOY provides after-school services, summer programs, and continued learning programs within the New York City Department of Education and New York City Housing Authority locations.
Directions for Our Youth, Inc. (DFOY) is a non-profit youth development organization that provides programming in underserved areas of New York City for over 2,000 young people enrolled in grades K-12. Our mission is to engage participants as active partners in their own development as they seek to become thriving, self-sufficient adults and agents of change within their local and global communities. DFOY believes in the abilities of young people, and provides its participants with high quality, engaging programs that encourage, among other things, educational enrichment, career awareness, civic engagement, and personal development.
For more than 20 years, Elisa has successfully managed and developed non-profit organizations in New York City, with an emphasis on youth programming and education for vulnerable communities.
Elisa joined Directions For Our Youth in 2019 as the organization’s Executive Director. She currently oversees all strategic and programmatic initiatives for the organization, as well as the execution of DFOY’s mission.
Prior to joining DFOY, she previously served as Executive Director for Chances for Children – NY and Storefront Academy. Under her leadership, Ms. Istueta strengthened organizational capacity and led the development of new programs, expanding each organization’s impact. She spent 15 years working with direct service organizations in the Bronx, including Department Director of Children and Youth Programs at BronxWorks .
Elisa serves on the board of Yspaniola, an education non-profit organization based in Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic. She received her B.A. from Weselyan University and her M.A. in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University Teachers College. Elisa has been an East Harlem resident for many years and lives there with her three children.
Chief Operating Officer
Nana Apenteng is the Chief Operating Officer at Directions For Our Youth where he oversees organization-wide operations, and works closely with the Executive Director as well as senior program leadership. He has been with DFOY for over 7 years, and since he originally started as a Program Director, he has been recognized by the Board of Trustees for his ability to wear many hats in progressive leadership roles. Nana has been instrumental in DFOY’s recent growth and under his leadership, developed systems for improved program implementation.
Prior to joining DFOY, Nana worked at New York Life where he worked with financial models to assess risk. He developed a passion for education and working with youth during his time as a volunteer Math tutor to struggling students in his community. Nana received his B.S. in Mathematics from University of Science and Technology in Ghana. In his spare time, Nana enjoys chess, swimming, and traveling. Nana has visited 6 continents, and hopes to finish his world tour in Antarctica one day.
Director of FinanceBio Coming Soon!
Elizabeth Marrero Jenkins
Director Of Operations
Elizabeth Marrero Jenkins is the Director of Operations at Directions for Our Youth where she works closely with the administrative staff. Elizabeth has been with the organization for ____ years, taking on additional responsibilities as she has grown within the organization, including vendor management, finance, and human resources functions. She has worked with non-profit organizations for over 22 years, and enjoys the mission-driven nature of her work.
At DFOY, Elizabeth enjoys her interaction with the organization’s programs and seeing how the children interact with site leaders. For Elizabeth, the vision for DFOY has always been to help as many children as possible see their potential, and being part of a community willing to help take the kids off the streets, has been her most rewarding experience thus far.
Senior Program Director
Frances Alamo is a Senior Program Director at Directions For Our Youth where she oversees Elementary Programs and enjoys working closely with program site directors. She has been working with DFOY for over 5 years, and was previously the Program Director at P.S. 72. Frances emphasizes staff development as part of her leadership and empowers program participants to get involved in their communities.
Prior to joining DFOY, Frances served in multiple education roles at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in the Bronx, and has over 15 years of experience in the field. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Mercy College, and recently complete the High Performing Managers Initiative at Community Resource Exchange. Frances is a lifelong Bronx resident, and when she is she is not reviewing lesson plans, Frances enjoys taking in Broadway productions – her favorite show is Beauty and the Beast.
Senior Program Director
Lucrecia Martinez serves as a Senior Program Director at Directions For Our Youth where she manages Middle School programs and agency-wide compliance. She has been with DFOY for over 10 years, when she originally joined as a Program Aide. Lucrecia leverages her experience from previous DFOY program roles to work closely with the team, and also direct program strategy. She enjoys mentoring DFOY staff and engaging with families because of the unique backgrounds and stories within the DFOY community.
Lucrecia is a native of Honduras and lives in the Bronx with her family. When she is not at DFOY or with her family, Lucrecia enjoys reading and retail therapy.
Program Director (Butler Community Center)
Clyde H. Thompson is currently Program Director of the Directions For Our Youth Cornerstone Program at Butler Community Center, and has more than 30 years of experience implementing youth development, employment assistance, and job readiness programming. Clyde’s strength is building community based partnerships with local leaders, parents, educators, and the business community. He brings more than 18 years of grant writing experience to DFOY, and has successfully secured funding opportunities from state, city, federal and private institutions.
Clyde is fully committed to providing youth with opportunities to grow, learn, and develop into positive, productive members of their community and family.
Program Director (Learning To Work – Satellite Academy)
Bio Coming Soon!
Program Director (P.S. 204)
Michelle Edwards is a Program Director at Directions For Our Youth (DFOY), where she is responsible for day-to-day operations of programs at P.S. 204. Under her leadership, programs focus on STEM-based learning activities and a plethora of other activities. Prior to joining DFOY, Michelle has worked with several reputable youth agencies over her forty-year education career, including New York Presbyterian Hospital, Young Adult Learning Academy, A Better Bronx for Youth, The Valley Inc., and also currently serves as Co-Pastor/Co-Founder of New Genesis Christian Fellowship Inc.
Michelle has developed a creative team at P.S. 204 and as a result, has built strong relationships with school and community stakeholders. Michelle continuously strives to educate and empower young people by allowing them to experience the world from different lenses. The P.S. 204 team produced events including a carnival, a “Minion” themed STEM science fair, Black History Month programming, “Fairy Tales,” “Avatar,” and “Rio.” She is always seeking new resources and partnerships for her participants, parents, and staff.
Michelle is a seventh generation Bronx resident; her motto is: “If I can help somebody as I travel along the way, then my living is not in vain.”
Program Director (P.S. 72)
Sharai Edwards-Martinez is a Program Director at Directions For Our Youth where she leads programs at P.S. 72. Sharai’s leadership focuses on the core STEM, literacy and physical fitness curriculum, but also teaches self-acceptance, as well as self-love to participants and staff. She emphasizes encouraging all to strive to be a better self and believes that can make a difference in the world.
Sharai is a singer, dancer, and actress from the Bronx, N.Y. She believes that sharing what she loves with the DFOY participants makes work an equally rewarding experience for her, as well as program participants. Through incorporating her passion for the arts into program leadership, Sharai has successfully produced large scale musical productions such as “Beauty and The Beast,” “The Lion King,” “The Greatest Showman” and “Toy Story.” During her tenure at P.S. 72, she has increased parent and community engagement, and is a resource for DFOY participants and families to help each student reach their potential.
Program Director (P.S. 498)
Amelfis Rodriguez is a Program Director at Directions For Our Youth where she oversees DFOY’s out-of-school-time programming at P.S. 498/Van Nest Academy. She has been with DFOY and the P.S 498 community for over five years, first joining as a Group Leader. As Program Director, Amelfis focuses on collaboration with fellow DFOY leaders and other community organizations that partner with Van Nest Academy. She begins each school year by setting the tone through clear communication to make sure participants and staff have a fun, exciting year.
Prior to joining DFOY, Amelfis started her youth development career at Aspira of New York and then held progressive roles at Mosholu Montifiore Community Center. As Bronx native and an alumna of Aspira’s after-school program, Amelfis appreciates the deep relationships that she has formed with participants and families. When she is not at Van Nest Academy, Amelfis enjoys online shopping!
Program Director (I.S. 181)
Sahquana Crawley is a Program Director for Directions For Our Youth at I.S. 181. Sahquana leads the after-school and summer programs, including setting goals and strategic direction for the programs, organizing activities, as well as promoting a safe and fun environment for youth. Sahquana believes reaching youth through after-cchool and teaching them life skills can create a positive impact as they continue their growth. Under Sahquana’s direction, the I.S. 181 program focuses on leadership skills development to enhance their confidence.
Sahquana is an Artist and Stepper from New Jersey. She has competed in competitions, and is a member of a dance group where she has performed in high schools, parades, and other events.
Program Director (M.S. 180)
Carolyn Encarnacion is a Program Director for Directions For Our Youth at M.S. 180, where she cultivates an environment that promotes service-learning through youth leadership by creating events that provide program youth with leadership opportunities, while also promoting change in the community. Under Carolyn’s leadership, DFOY collaborates with the M.S. 180 community on common goals to ensure participants are maximizing their academic and enrichment involvement. She emphasizes the importance of youth empowerment and partners with organizations that provide students a voice, including We Walk for Water, Why Women Matter and other co-op programs between schools.
Carolyn is from the South Bronx and in her free time, loves traveling and karaoke.
Program Director (M.S. 498)
Shardelle Anderson is a Program Director at Directions For Our Youth where she leads programs at M.S. 498, and inspires youth to become thriving young adults.
Shardelle has successfully written and directed musical productions for DFOY, including Self Love, “Mama I Want To Sing,” “Home Alone: Lost In The City of Lights,” and “Different Ways of Beautiful”. Under Shardelle’s leadership, DFOY dancers have performed for several Bronx parades, and also went on to perform for DYCD’s Step-Up Competition. Shardelle previously worked with DFOY as a Program Assistant at M.S. 181 to create a safe space for all participants to have fun, engaging activities, while educating them to reach for success. She hopes to do the same for M.S. 498 community.
Shardelle is a dancer and creative who resides in the Bronx. Shardelle believes every child is unique in their own way, and has the ability to showcase their talents to the world with the correct guidance.
Program Director (St. Ignatius)
Alicia Ludlow is a Program Director at Directions For Our Youth at St. Ignatius School, where her responsibilities include hiring staff, writing schedules, and maintaining positive relationships with our community partners. Alicia believes that all children deserve access to high-quality educational programming that will help them learn about their own strengths.
Alicia launched the after-school program as it exists today at St. Ignatius School, and has strengthened parent partnerships and involvement at the school. In her role as Program Director, Alicia coordinates a program that helps participants discover their interests and hone skills that they can use both inside and outside of the classroom, as well as in the future.
Alicia is originally from Buffalo, NY, currently lives in Manhattan, and enjoys reading and crocheting.
Program Director (Cornelia Connelly Center)Bio Coming Soon!
Our Board of Directors
Marisa is a Consultant with Pfizer’s Medical Oncology division, where she leads the creation and implementation of the group’s tools to improve efficiencies. Prior to joining Pfizer, Marisa worked with Morgan Stanley and spent over ten years with Credit Suisse, where most recently served as Director of the Emerging Market Group, Fixed Income Division located in London, UK. Marisa started her career at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York as a Financial Analyst, and then transitioned to American Express working as a Business Manager in Establishment Services.
She obtained her MBA at Fordham University in 2003 and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of San Diego. As Board Chair, Marisa has always had a passion for giving back as clearly seen by her additional work with Junior Achievement of New York, iMentor and her annual support at the PUW Parkinson’s Unity Walk. She serves as an active committee member for the USD Alumni Association, and is DFOY’s longest-serving board member.
Sandra Paris is a Principal Consultant in the Capital Markets practice at Capco based out of New York. Sandra has over 20+ years of experience in finance and business consulting, specializing in complex, large-scale program/project management, delivery, and post-merger integration. Prior to joining Capco, Sandra served as Director of Treasury at Carver Federal Savings Bank, where she managed the bank’s investment and borrowing portfolios. Earlier in her career, Sandra served as a Financial Analyst for many years at several financial institutions.
Sandra holds a BA in Economics from SUNY at Stony Brook and an MS in Finance from Baruch College in New York, where she graduated with honors as a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society.
Thelma Ofori is Vice President in the Legal and Compliance Department at Morgan Stanley. In her role, she advises the Company on all matters relating to its employee benefit plans and programs, including design, implementation, administration, compliance and funding. Before joining Morgan Stanley, Thelma was an associate in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group at Proskauer Rose LLP and Corporate ERISA/Tax Counsel at Xerox.
Camille C. Bent
Camille is a Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights Associate at BakerHostetler LLP. Camille focuses her practice on commercial bankruptcy reorganizations, liquidations, and on commercial litigation matters.
She received J.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Emory University, and her B.A. in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University. Camille attended Pablo Casals Middle School 181, home to a DFOY site location in the Co-op City section of the Bronx. Camille is a member of the board’s Audit and Fundraising Committees.
Rene Hamilton serves as an Assistant Vice President for Helmsley Spear focusing on the commercial leasing segment of the market place. Rene began his commercial real estate career with Vicus Partners, a boutique tenant representative brokerage firm, as a tenant agent. With Vicus, his clients ranged from international financial firms, light manufacturing and law firms.
Rene began his professional career in the non-profit/education sector, and his mission-oriented work attracted him to serving on the Directions For Our Youth board. In addition to his leadership role at DFOY, Rene also serves on the board of the Council of Urban Real Estate (CURE).
Rene earned his BA degree from Williams College and lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He enjoys traveling internationally, trying out new food recipes, and watching Chelsea Football Club. He hopes to have time to train for another triathlon.