Meet Our Team!

Backbone Support     Leadership Team     Resident Consultants

Backbone Support


Neyda DeJesus

HEZ Coordinator

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.

(401) 236.8344

Jessica Walsh

Director of Prevention

Jessica Walsh has been with the Women’s Resource Center for fourteen years. Currently the Director of Prevention, she oversees the Newport Health Equity Zone Project, funded through the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the DELTA FOCUS project, funded though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Working in collaboration with the community, Ms Walsh supports the implementation and evaluation of strategies designed to decrease domestic violence by addressing the social determinants of health.

Previously, she was a violence prevention educator, delivering the agency’s Peace Promotion curricula in 15 local schools to over 2,000 students. She was responsible for the updating and creating new curriculum. She also assisted in the development and implementation of several new after-school programs for elementary and middle school students. She co-facilitated Summer Peace Camp as well as designing and facilitating parent, teacher, and community violence prevention training workshops. Jessica holds a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island in Communication Studies and Sociology.

Jessica lives with her two beautiful kids, supportive husband, enthusiastic dog, a chicken and a rabbit in Exeter, RI.

(401) 236.8344

Angela Marandola

HEZ Coordinator

Angela Marandola began working at the Women’s Resource Center in September 2017. She is a HEZ Coordinator alongside Neyda DeJesus. Together they oversee the Newport Health Equity Zone Project and work to mitigate health disparities in the North End and Broadway.

Angela began her work in prevention in 2007 with the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center as a Domestic Violence Helpline Advocate and a Family Advocate with DCYF. Over the next 5 years, Angela continued working for domestic violence prevention initiatives with several organizations including the Rhode Island National Guard where she trained men and women in the armed forces on domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.

In 2013 she developed the SHIELD for Life program, which highlights Rhode Island’s Primary Seat Belt Law. Since its inception, the SHIELD for Life program has reached more than 8,000 individuals. Angela became a Child Passenger Safety technician in 2013 and received an Award of Achievement in Child Passenger Safety from Safe Kids Rhode Island. In 2015 she received the Highway Safety Champion Partnership Award for Outstanding Achievement in Highway Safety Partnership Activities. She currently sits on the Safe Kids RI Board.

Angela holds a B.A. from Emmanuel College in English Communications and Religious Studies.

(401) 236.8344

Sydney Ormerod

DELTA Community Organizer & HEZ Civic Engagement

 I began interning for the Women’s Resource Center when I was in my junior year of high school at the East Bay Met School. The summer before my senior year I was hired to work on the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership through Alliances (DELTA). I spent my senior year up until now focusing on bringing communities together and creating a closer cohesion in hopes that the rates of domestic violence would lower due to neighborhoods being more connected. While completing DELTA, in November of 2017, I joined the Newport Health Equity Zone (HEZ) to help with the civic engagement part. My roles for HEZ include; facilitate when needed, write up the outlines/agendas, debrief, update of website, etc.

(401) 236.8344

Elizabeth Fuerte

DELTA Community Organizer & HEZ Civic Engagement

(401) 236.8344

Jazmine L. Wray

Certified Community Health Worker: HEZ Food Access Fellow

 I am a Certified Community Health Worker. My fellowship with HEZ is in Food Access. Also, I am a part-time nursing student at Community College of RI. My current goals and interests are working on various projects that will allow me to help increase access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables for residents within the North End and Broadway neighborhoods. I also facilitate the Diabetes Self-Management Education program. I provide self-care management tools to residents who have been diagnosed with diabetes through a six week educational class held within the HEZ.

(401) 236.8344

Latisha Michel

Certified Community Health Worker: Maternal Child Health Fellow

 I am a born and raised Newport resident. I grew up in the North End of Newport where I continue to live and raise my children with my husband. The betterment of my community has always been a passion of mine, which is why I have helped serve in my community for the past 10 years. I have helped my community with family engagement, health and wellness, food access and education just to name a few. I now help serve my community as a Certified Community Health Worker with the Newport Health Equity Zone (HEZ). It is such a fulfillment to be able to help navigate resources for the needs of my community.

(401) 236.8344

Varina Gunn

Certified Community Health Worker: Chronic Disease Management Fellow

The thing I love about living in the Newport Health Equity Zone is the creativity and resilience of my community. Some people who live here have very limited incomes. We manage to build meaningful lives with limited resources. People from other parts of the city make certain assumptions about the quality of our lives. They have no idea about how our lives are rich in ways that cannot be replaced with material things. I know many people have left this community and become leaders who make a positive impact in other parts of the country.

Through my evidence based classes, I help empower my community to improve their health and well-being. I hope Newport will be a community where everyone has the chance to live a productive healthy life. I encourage people to add affordable healthy snacks and meals to their diet. In the future, I want to impact this by teaching shopping and nutrition basics for building healthy meals. My dream is to perform cooking demonstrations for those who may not be comfortable preparing certain healthy menu options.

I chose to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, because of the health disparities I experienced within my family. Early on, I could see the impact diet had on my relatives’ health conditions. I have learned about Health disparities in the classroom for over 20 years. It’s scary to see the prevalence of diabetes increase, as projected twenty years ago, when I first saw the shaded map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention representing diabetes per capita in each state. I have worked in research and realized that I don’t want to sit inside an office or laboratory each day to impact public health. My goal was to work on the frontline directly interacting with my community.

I first learned the term Community Health Worker at a conference that the HEZ sent myself and my coworkers to about two years ago. I had been hired as a Lifestyle Coach and Resident Consultant. During the conference we had an interesting conversation during a roundtable breakout session. I realized my work was that of a Community Health Worker. A few months later the HEZ called for applications to become a Community Health Worker Fellow. This was a dream come true. I studied and worked in Public Health, but this was a new approach to the field. I have the opportunity to be part of the solution. I feel excited to impact the health disparities, right here in my hometown.

(401) 236.8344

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!

Rose Kenyon

Coming soon.

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


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!).

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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

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


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!


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.