Meet Our Team!

Backbone Support     Leadership Team     Resident Consultants

Backbone Support

Olivia Kachingwe

I like to describe myself as a nomad. I was born in Malawi, Africa and lived there until I was 11yrs old. I absolutely loved it! I then moved to the south side of Chicago where I attended an inner city public high school and was quickly immersed into the “American pop-culture”. Needless to say, this was definitely a culture shock and took years of adjustment. I then went on to receive a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Health and Societies with a minor in Sociology, followed by a MPH from Brown University. I now live in Newport, and love it here too!

Living in so many different cities has definitely affirmed my interest and deep passion in mitigating health disparities. Working as the HEZ project coordinator allows me to not only strive for health equity, but it also allows me to be a part of such a dynamic, energetic, passionate and driven community! I could not ask for a better job!

(401) 236.8344

Jessica Walsh

Coming Soon.

Isabel Griffith

I was born and raised in Dallas, TX, began my teaching career in Virginia and taught in elementary, middle, and high schools as well as in higher education. Two single sex, girls’ boarding schools helped shape my career. There I served as Department Chair (Science), worked in Admissions and became Academic Dean, Associate Head and finally, Interim Head of School. While living in Virginia, my (then) husband and I operated a farm and had some success racing horses in MD, NY, PA and DE. I was Upper School Head at The Latin School of Chicago before becoming a consultant to independent schools conducting searches for administrators and school heads throughout the United States.

After eleven years in Princeton, New Jersey, I moved to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1997 and retired here in 2004. Since moving to Newport I have lived in the Point Neighborhood where I served as President of the Point Association. I was Chair of the most recent Newport Charter Review Commission and am currently Co-President of Alliance for a Livable Newport. My hobbies are gardening, reading and volunteering in municipal affairs. I am foolishly proud that I own neither a mobile phone nor a television set.

Maureen Cronin

For the past 20 years, I have been engaged in my life’s work of improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities throughout the world, including right here on Aquidneck Island. As co-founder and CEO of Worldways Social Marketing, I have built an agency that is recognized as one of the top 5 social marketing agencies in the U.S., a three-time Inc. 5000 awardee, and one of only two Certified B Corporations in RI, and 1700 in the world independently audited for their social contribution. Most importantly, I have had the privilege of working and learning with highly diverse communities on four continents, through nearly 200 client engagements focused on such topics as health equity, health promotion and disease prevention, early childhood development and more. I am passionate about community-driven design, about equal opportunity for self-determination, and about our local community. My volunteerism reflects my passion, serving as a founding chancellor of the global Opportunity Collaboration for Poverty Alleviation, founding investor in the Impact Hub, and partner with Rhode Island’s Social Enterprise Greenhouse. Like the great movements of the 60’s, I am glad we are all in this together!

Bryanna Mellen

I was born and raised in Massachusetts, but I have been in Rhode Island for 6 years now, and I absolutely love it here! I graduated from the University of Rhode Island with my B.S. in Public Health with a focus on Health Promotion. Currently I am an Account Coordinator at Worldways Social Marketing, the lead marketing agency for the Newport Health Equity Zone. In addition to the Newport Health Equity Zone, I have the pleasure of working with some great organizations around Newport, South County, Providence, and New York, who do truly amazing work for the Public Health community. Four years ago I started a non-profit organization called The On Guard Initiative, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention among Correction Officers. In the four years since we we’ve been established, we have helped countless Correction Officers and their families by creating our Emergency Relief Fund, we have had three 5k Walk/Runs which promote physical fitness and family togetherness, we hold support groups for Officers and their families, and much more. Newport HEZ is an amazing initiative, and I am so glad to be a part of such a great movement in Newport.

Cynthia Roberts

My name is Cynthia Roberts. I work in the capacity of Empowerment Evaluator on the Newport HEZ project. What this means is that I advise the project leaders on planning and implementing the HEZ’s evaluation activities. Empowerment evaluation is not something that is done to a project, rather, it builds the capacity of the people within the project to determine what they consider to be the most important questions to include in the evaluation, and how to arrive at the answers. Empowerment Evaluation honors the inspiration and intelligence of the people who are the closest to the work, and builds evaluation capacity for sustainability. What I love most about working as a public health evaluator is that I can bring together my training and education from a vast array of formal and informal fields. My degrees are in English (BA) with a French minor, Intercultural Relations (MA), and Psychology (PhD). I am a student and teacher of Kundalini Yoga. Connecting with Nature, learning deeply about Philosophy and World Religions, and witnessing people’s lives are what ground me to this life and work. I’m a mother, wife, family member, Return Peace Corps Volunteer, and community activist. A most recent accomplishment about which I am proud is helping to establish a school/community garden in my home town of North Smithfield, Rhode Island.

(401) 467-9940

Kelsea Dixon

I joined the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center team in May of 2016 as the Wellness Hub Coordinator. I work primarily on the Health Equity Zone grant, but also coordinate community dinners and other programs for MLK Center clients. I came to the center after working in the fields of domestic violence and special education for about 3 years. I graduated from Endicott College in Beverly, MA with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with a focus on Human Services. When I’m not working, I enjoy reading, scrapbooking, kayaking, and hiking with my partner and dog. I also volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of South County’s Young Professionals Group, South County Domestic Violence Resource Center, and Newport Hospital.

(401) 846-4828

Leadership Team

John Hirschboeck

I’m a former ad agency “mad man,” starting my career on Madison Avenue in the 70’s. My clients included General Mills cereals and Legg’s pantyhose (remember them?).

In the 1980’s, my wife Mary and I moved from New York to Southern California and then on to Australia, working as the agency’s president on our Toyota and Lexus automotive accounts.

Eight years ago, when our two children left for college in New England, we decided to retire to Newport, having fallen in love with all that this wonderful city has to offer. I now have the time to get involved with civic causes that I am passionate about.

To keep busy (and out of the house), I serve as co-president of the Alliance for a Livable Newport, vice president of the Arts & Culture Alliance of Newport county, a member of the Cliff Walk Commission and the Project Coordinator for “Daffodillion,” a Newport beautification effort that has a goal of planting 1 million daffodils throughout Newport. (Have you gone daffy yet??). One other thing: if you want to go out on a harbor tour of Newport on the M/V Gansett, you may find me with a microphone, not my daffy hat, as your guide in the summer months.

Molly Sexton

I’m a Rhode Islander by luck and a Newporter by choice – I’ve lived here 15 years now, although I’ve had family here since the 1970s.  Before coming to Newport, I worked as project manager for a garden designer, a librarian for an environmental consulting company, selling text books and later fine and rare used books, as a communications officer for a San Francisco dot com, as a tour guide at a historic farm, and a lot of other vaguely odd jobs.  For the past fifteen years I’ve worked as a grants writer and nonprofit consultant for schools, hospitals, scientists, social change and advocacy projects, and many arts organizations.

I volunteered with Project One, a grassroots public art organization that did creative interventions in public spaces in Newport for 7 years, 4 as director, and I volunteered with Planned Parenthood of RI for more than 20 years. I’ve also written a book about Newport with local photographer Sandy Nesbitt, and am currently, slowly, writing a book called The Mechanics of Hammocks about movement, looking after one another, and the power of idle thinking.

I live in the HEZ with my sweetheart – an artist – and two cats.  I like to cook and garden, to knit, and I read a ridiculous number of detective novels.  I have no interest in kite boarding or shrimp, and when I go to the beach I don’t usually swim, but I love living by the salty sea, or spending an afternoon in a rowboat.  Someone once pointed out to me that if you spend time on the water in Newport, the city is twice as big; there are a hundred ways to expand our experience of this little old town, and I see the work of the HEZ Collaborative as developing them.

Nancy McAuliffe

I am presently the president of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Newport County, one of the six partners in the HEZ project.

I began my career as a professional ballerina. Currently, I am a dance teacher and choreographer and own my own school, RI Ballet Arts Academy in North Kingstown, RI. I am also the founder and artistic director of Rhode Island’s ballet theatre; a pre-professional training company for dancers aged 9 to 18.

I have been on the Board of Directors of the Festival Ballet and the Island Moving Company. Presently, I am also on the Board of Directors of the Miss RI Scholarship Pageant for the Miss America organization.

I am a native Rhode Islander and currently live in Middletown.

401- 847-5301

Scott Nicholson

Business Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County

I joined the BGC team in March of 2015 as the Director of Adult Marketing and became the Interim Aquatics Director this October. I graduated from Williston Academy Prep School and went on to the University of New Hampshire where he majored in Business. While in college, I was a member of UNH’s basketball and baseball teams. Prior to the Boys and Girls Club I was the Executive Director of Aquidneck Island Outreach, the Business Development Director for RelateCare and President of Calgreg Electronics. Growing up, I played many sports including baseball, basketball, soccer, and was a member of my prep school’s swim team. In my off time I enjoy paddle boarding, surfing and boating. I live in Newport and have two grown children Brady and Madeline.

Alex Chuman

I’m the stewardship director at Aquidneck Land Trust, a land conservation organization that works across Aquidneck Island. At the land trust, we preserve and protect open spaces in Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth like publically accessible parks and trails, working farms, scenic vistas, watershed lands, and wildlife habitat. In my position I manage and monitor our land preserves and hiking trails, help plan our future conservation efforts, work on special projects and collaborations, and coordinate volunteers and outdoorsy activities. When I’m not in the office, you’ll find me out and about running, eating local foods, or getting lost in the woods (in which case you might not find me!).

401-849-2799 x14

Erin Wood

Athletic Director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County

I received a B.S. in Health Education with a concentration in Community Health from Rhode Island College. I came to BGC from The Special Events Department at The Preservation Society of Newport County. Prior to that, I had an internship at The New Bedford Recreation Department, and 7 years experience working for The Newport Recreation Department. I coached girls’ basketball at Thompson Middle School and continue to coach at Rogers High School. I live in Newport with my husband and daughter and enjoy playing golf.

Steve Heath

I am the founder and executive director of FabNewport. I have 25 years experience creating innovative learning environments in public and private schools in Boston, Chicago and Rhode Island. I am an experienced journalist, community activist and a skilled connector with a passion for nurturing ideas.  At FabNewport our “mission is to liberate the maker intrinsic in all of us.” We inspire youth and adults to develop ideas and skills, empowering them to create passionate, creative lives.  The time is ripe for educational transformation and FabNewport is here to support those interested in making a great life. In my spare time I enjoy reading, writing, cycling, swimming and playing games.

(401) 439-0160

Nancy Harten

I currently serve as the Director of Hunger Services and Volunteers at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in Newport, RI. I began my career with the MLKCC in April 2013 as the Food 2 Friends (F2F) and Volunteer Coordinator. In that capacity I oversaw the expansion of the brand new F2F program and developed a centralized volunteer system.

I graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a B.A. in Spanish and Speech Communication. I worked in customer service for the New England Telephone Company and Bank of Boston. While at Bank of Boston (BKB) I transitioned into Human Resources as the College Relations Officer where I was responsible for the recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students for BKB’s management training programs.

I then took a 25 year hiatus to raise my three children. During that time I tallied numerous hours as a volunteer in my church and at my children’s schools. In 2010 I was hired for a one year grant position with Parent’s as Teachers in the North Kingstown School Department, as the Fatherhood Outreach Coordinator.

My husband Steve and I live in North Kingstown and are the blessed grandparents of three wonderful little girls. Yes, I drive “all that way,” over two bridges to work and it is absolutely wonderful! I love my commute!

(401) 846-4828 x103

Marilyn Warren

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, I never would have envisioned becoming a Navy wife, living in 13 different houses, or settling down in the beautiful state of Rhode Island. My husband Tom and I moved to Rhode Island with our three children in 1982, so RI is definitely now HOME.

My journey to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, where I am now Executive Director, was certainly not a straight line. I have a B.S in Speech Pathology and an M.S. in Audiology, which allowed me to work as an audiologist in a hospital and an ENT doctor’s office, but also become a teacher of hearing impaired children. While my children were still young, I went back to school to earn a degree in Interior Design. Even though I loved the design world, after a while my job felt very shallow and without meaning. That’s when I decided to start volunteering at Youth Pride (YPI) in Providence. I think I must have bugged the staff so much for another project to tackle, that they hired me! I loved working at YPI, where I learned so much from all of the kids and the staff and I became the surrogate mother. The youth were in inspiration – they were so honest, resilient, and willing to do the work necessary to become comfortable in their own skin.

Our three children are scattered all over the place; our daughter and her family live in Seattle, one son lives in New York, and the other lives in Middletown. We are blessed with 3 grandsons and a granddaughter. In my spare time, I love to be creative – whether making jewelry, baking, or creating special projects with my granddaughter.

Somehow all of my crazy experiences have brought me to the MLK Community Center where I’m constantly inspired and challenged by the people I meet every day. I love being a part of this community!


Mary Ellen Lynch

During my ten years plus working in the non-profit sector, I have focused much of my time working with immigrants and refugees in Providence in my previous roles as Director of Community Outreach at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and as Director of Welcoming Rhode Island, an initiative to bridge the divide between foreign-born newcomers and native-born Rhode Islanders to foster a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere.

Most recently I worked with Year Up Providence helping to close the opportunity divide by assisting urban young adults with gaining access to higher education and employment. In addition to community organizing, I am an educator and have served as an Adjunct Instructor teaching International Relations at Quinebaug Valley Community College.

I have extensive experience cultivating relationships with a wide-ranging group of individuals, organizations and corporations. I am a Newport resident who enjoys biking for transportation and recreation. I am excited to represent Bike Newport in leading the transportation working group collaborating with local residents and organizations in the community that I love and have made home.

Resident Consultants

Glory Ramos

Honorary Resident Consultant

My name is Glorimar Ramos-Yunqué and I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. In the summer of 2012, I decided to move to Newport, Rhode Island. Since that same year, I’ve been working as a legal secretary for a local law firm and as a tutor for the After School Program of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. My bi-cultural background and focus on community collaboration has led me to a number of volunteer opportunities and community leadership roles such as the Newport Health Equity Zone. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies at the University of Puerto Rico – CAAM Campus in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

Penny Fitch

Growing up in rural Wisconsin and spending my grade school years in a one-room school has given me an interesting and strong foundation.  My work experience includes being part of a small team in the founding of the Newport Music Festival, bookkeeping and office management in the marine and hospitality industries and establishing a private housekeeping business.

My core values include believing good things always come out of bad experiences, never letting regret take the place of taking a risk and balancing activity and stress with leisure and fun.  I love Newport, the ocean, sailing and spending time with positive people.  Helping others and being a positive influence continues to lead me in the direction of my goals in life.

(401) 849-5862

Allyson McCalla

Born and raised in Newport, RI, I was always outdoors, taking “adventures” with my friends, learning the ins and outs of our city streets. Basketball was my favorite sport, so I made sure that I knew where every basketball court was located around Newport- indoors, and outdoors. I would ride my bike, rollerblade, or walk around town with my friends (or by myself- making new friends) enjoying the fresh air. I grew up in a single parent home with my three siblings. We lived above a tattoo parlor, and a Bonanza bus stop. The Boys and Girls club was my second home- it was the place to be! The dances, and the Flo Harvey basketball games were most memorable for me.

During my teenage years, I joined a youth outreach program, and performing dance troupe that provided me the chance to travel nationally, and internationally. This opportunity was an eye opener for me because I didn’t realize how big the world was outside of Newport, RI. I met many different people, whom I share close relationships with today.

For the past fifteen years, I’ve worked within the Human Services field- six of these years I’ve managed trauma informed treatment programs for Child and Family, specializing in working on individual goals to nurture and foster growth, and change. Recently, I’ve returned to college to focus on Business, and Communications. I always find the time to give back to communities. Currently, I sit on a Board of Directors for a local non-profit youth outreach program to help keep kids off of the streets, and give them a positive outlet through health and wellness. During my personal time, I enjoy spending time with my family, cruising the bay, meeting new people, and just about everything besides beets, liver, and roller coasters!

Jeannette Oliveira

I was born and raised in Newport, R.I.  I still live here because I love being near the water and I think it’s absolutely beautiful here.  I have family in California, Philadelphia and New Bedford, MA so I can live elsewhere if I choose.

In the early days of the 60’s, I was quite the activist.  We started a group called “Fair Welfare” and picketed The Welfare Department, the Housing Authority, New Visions (now known as East Bay) and anywhere else we felt needed to change. After picketing New Visions, I was hired as the bookkeeper.  I worked there for eight years.  There were only two of us in the financial department.  I worked with the Financial Officer and unlike some people who feel threatened when it comes to training someone he taught me everything he knew.  That was a blessing because when he passed away I was in charge of the whole agency for two years.  I left the agency when I wasn’t able to move into his job because I didn’t have a degree in accounting.  From there I got a job in Bristol, R.I in the old Converse sneaker factory.  I worked in the Personnel Department and loved it.  After a year, I was laid off and got a job with the Department of Defense working at NUWC which was NUSC at the time.  I retired in 2007 after 26 years.

Even though I’m retired I manage to keep busy.  I volunteer at the Park Holm Senior Center distributing vegetables every Tuesday and whatever else I can do and even babysit my grandchildren on occasion. I’m currently working with the Women’s Resource Center on the HEZ Project and I go to the YMCA every morning so I won’t rust.


Trip Wolfskehl

I consider myself an avid outdoorsman – I love to bike, mountain bike, sail, run on the cliffwalk and swim in God’s beautiful blue ocean.

When I was 15 years old I was sailing into Newport harbor on a sailboat delivery from Rye, NY. It was 5 AM and as we were steaming around Fort Adams, I knew I loved this place and that I wanted to live here – all before I even stepped foot on land! Newport is the best place on earth.

I am proudly serving on the Transportation Team of the HEZ project and I would love nothing more than to help more kids get on BIKES! Amen? For kids, bikes = freedom and I want to provide boys and girls the opportunities that I had when I was an unstoppable boy with a bike!

Margaret Carlin

I am a born-and-raised Newporter who grew up in the North Broadway neighborhood. I left Newport for the west coast when I started college at 17 (in the mid-90’s) and spent a considerable amount of time there and elsewhere. I had a period of about 10 years when I was an on-again, off-again Newporter, moving back for spurts of time, then packing my bags for greener pastures. Over and over again. Roughly five years ago, I moved back again and quickly decided that this where I want to stay permanently. I now reside in the fantastic Broadway/Warner neighborhood and I love it.

On a personal level, my passions are fairly limitless. I find that Newport is a place where I can fit into my many niches as well as discover new interests to entertain.   It’s a town built for exploration; I find new things here on an almost daily basis, be it a hidden cove to swim in, a small inscription on a building or an entire street that had previously gone unnoticed. Professionally, I have an extensive background in Youth Development. While I am no longer working in that field, I consider myself lucky to have been involved with it to the extent that I was. I am thrilled to be a Resident Consultant in the Health Equity Zone’s Education and Economic Innovation working group as it offers me the opportunity to apply the skills and background I have in this area toward effecting positive change in the community.

Phyllis Parker

My name is Phyllis Parker born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. As a youth I was member of the Elks, a Drum and Bugle core, were I was majorette. We marched in various cities of Rhode Island and Connecticut. I was also a member of the “Rec” and afternoon program. We were taught sewing and cooking. We also had a girls’ basketball and softball team. The softball team, which was called the Patels came in first place. At that time, dancing and listening to music was my pastime. After graduation, I moved to Chicago, where I worked and retired from the Internal Revenue Service as a management analyst. I returned back to Newport in 2000, where I worked for the Housing Hotline. My job was to answer the phone, assist family members with rent and utilities, and give information in regards to landlord and tenants’ rights. Additionally, for six years I worked for Jackson Hewitt preparing tax returns. I am presently a member of the Park Holm Senior center.

Neyda DeJesus

In 2008, I moved to Newport, Rhode Island in hopes for a fresh new start and that is exactly what I found. My life has changed tremendously since I made that decision. As soon as I got my family settled here in our newly built apartment, I did not waste any time in getting to know my neighborhood and my community. I am a responsible and hard working person. I will go the extra mile for anyone who needs my support because that just genuinely who I am. I have a passion for helping people. I am very well liked among my friends, peers, and those who I’ve only just met for the first time. Learning human nature is one of my interests and that why I have decided to go back to school to study Human Service with a major in Social Work at the Community College of Rhode Island. I also enjoy volunteering for my community. Volunteering has given me the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. In my spare time I love to make new memories with my family. This helps me stay grounded and humble.