Board of Trustees
Diane has been employed by the New York City Department of Education for the past 13 years as an elementary school counselor at PS 11 in Brooklyn NY.
As a Stage 3 colon cancer survivor, Diane participates in cancer advocacy as a survivor/patient advocate. She is an Ambassador Constituent Team LEADER with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the legislative arm of the American Cancer Society. In this role, she meets with members of Congress and is engaged in policy development and advocacy of quality healthcare for people who have been affected by cancer.
Diane is a professional inspirational speaker on cancer health with A-Speakers International speakers bureau. She is the co-founder of “Beat Stage 3, Inc.,” a non-profit organization dedicated to raising community awareness about cancer health, screening and prevention. BS3 promotes image consciousness and renewed self-love for those who have suffered the ravages of cancer treatments. The organization highlights and implements health, beauty, and fashion makeovers to influence positive lifestyle changes and improve self-confidence that often disappears during and after treatment.
Her personal experience with cancer has afforded Diane the opportunity to join a research team of doctors and scientists from SUNY Downstate and SUNY Stony Brook Medical Center researching the disparities of “GI Cancer in African Americans” as the Community Liaison. Under the umbrella of “Beat Stage 3, Inc.,” “CAPE Events” (Cancer Awareness Protects Everyone) was created featuring innovative conversations with the community and medical partners discussing the importance of cancer prevention and screening in a stress-free environment. Diane volunteers by speaking and tabling at various health fairs and community events in New York City and other states. Diane feels so strongly about serving her community that she enrolled in SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, School of Public Health where she earned an Advanced Certificate in Public Health focusing on Community Health Science in May 2020.
Mellanie is currently a regulatory affairs scientist for Cargill Beauty where she researches ingredients for safety and global compliance. In her previous role as a scientist at Avon, she led a team of women in creating and developing STEAM initiatives to motivate young girls to pursue STEAM careers. Through her work leading this group, the team developed the first ever cosmetic science Girl Scout patch and won a congressional award for their mentoring work. She previously worked as a consultant for the Healthy Communities Initiative through Bon Secours Health Systems. Through this work, her main role and mission was to assist local bodegas with transitioning their stores to healthier options. In 2002, Mellanie received a B.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and in 2012, she received an M.S. in Public Health from New York Medical College with a specialization in Behavioral and Community Health.
Deborah is a Brooklyn native, born and raised, and a proud product of public New York City education. She received her B.A. in Deviant Behavior and Social Control from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Masters in Social Work from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Passionate about encouraging young people to bring their authentic selves to all spaces while being open to learn and grow, she worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC matching young people with caring adult mentors from partnering corporations. Deborah transitioned to Beginning with Children’s Legacy Network as the Associate Director supporting students in graduation completion, college and career readiness, and college success. She is currently a program manager at ProjectBasta where she supports cohorts of diverse, first-generation college students and a career pathway job.
“I wholeheartedly believe in BELA’s mission and their commitment to scholars, giving them a safe space to learn, be academically challenged and encouraged into their purpose”.
Stacy works at TAG Associates, a multi-family office based in New York City, where she focuses on manager research in public markets strategies and serves as a portfolio manager to client accounts. She is a member of TAG’s investment committee. Previously, Stacy was a vice president at D. E. Shaw & Co., L.P. and a member of D. E. Shaw group’s investor relations department where she engaged in marketing and client servicing across the firm’s institutional client channels. Prior to joining D. E. Shaw, Stacy worked in the global investment opportunities group at JPMorgan Chase & Co. where she provided investment advice and portfolio construction to ultra-high net worth individuals and family offices across the multi-asset class spectrum. Stacy is a CFA charterholder and a member of the CFA Society of New York. She graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
Brenda Canty is a retired educator from the New York City Department of Education. She provided guidance and support to over 300 principals and school counselors. She was responsible for suspensions, student placements, and the establishment of youth programs and other supportive services. She retired in 2018 with over 25 years of service. She is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority where she served as a member of the election and audit committee.
A transformational leader, Jonathan Dill boasts over 30 years of successful educational advocacy. He recently retired as principal of a New York City Department of Education elementary school in Brooklyn where he led a team of educators in the Mayor’s renewal initiative, with measured sustained growth. Jonathan is currently an educational consultant specializing in culturally relevant pedagogical practices and educational leadership. As a former classroom teacher, Jonathan has a deep appreciation for students’ cognitive and social-emotional development and he is eager to support educators as they collaborate to prepare all students for college and career readiness through equity and access. Jonathan earned a Bachelor of Science at St. John’s University. He went on to earn a Master of Science Education from City College of New York—CUNY. He is a graduate of the NYC Leadership Academy—LEAP. Jonathan enjoys playing golf, good coffee, and reading.
Dr. André McKenzie
External Affairs Committee
Dr. André McKenzie currently serves as Interim Dean of University Libraries and Vice Provost at St. John’s University where he has worked for the past 34 years. He provides leadership and supervision for 14 program areas that constitute the Divisions of Academic Support Services and Special & Opportunity Programs. In addition to his administrative duties, Dr. McKenzie is an adjunct associate professor in the University’s School of Education. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Dr. McKenzie received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Education from Illinois State University. He received an additional master’s degree and a Doctor of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a past-president of the Teachers College, Columbia University Alumni Council and a recipient of St. John’s University’s Vincentian Mission Award and The Spirit of St. John’s Award.
“I believe strongly in the mission and purpose of BELA – because of it, I am certain that the young women who enter our doors will have an enriching and transformative educational experience.”
Christina comes to BELA from a career in business operations with a passion for girls’ education and development. Christina currently works for Walmart’s Brooklyn-based incubation arm, Store No. 8, to help develop innovative new services and efficiencies for the retailer. She previously worked at Bridgewater Associates and Via Transportation where she first developed her interest and experience in business operations for high growth teams. Outside of work, Christina enjoys being a part of the BELA community. She believes there is no greater investment than an investment of time and money in the education and development of young women. She first joined BELA as a mentor in the school’s inaugural year and now enjoys being a team member behind the scenes with the BELA Board of Trustees.
Michael Lackwood is a founder of Spring Delta Asset Management after an extensive career on Wall Street. Michael built a career in the finance industry and a passion for helping others. He realized his clients deserved flexible, tailored solutions designed with their best interests in mind and started a firm that meets the need to provide innovative, personalized solutions to wealth management. Michael works to continually deliver innovative approaches to diversify financial services. He focuses on creating sustainable and secure futures for his client base, driving him to boldly confront his customers’ biggest financial challenges. Outside of his financial day job, Michael is an avid art collector and enthusiast and is the captain of a soccer team at Chelsea Piers.
Alma is a human capital strategist at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) where she focuses global workforce strategy for the firm. Previously, she was a management consultant with PwC working with clients on large-scale transformations and providing change management solutions around organizational and cultural change. She also worked in the nonprofit industry, first providing consulting services to small businesses and then managing economic and community development programs. She graduated with a B.A. in Economics from Tufts University and later received her MBA from Columbia University. Alma is of Ghanaian heritage and was raised in Houston, Texas, but has made New York City her home for more than 10 years. Her commitment to BELA is driven both by her belief in BELA’s mission as well as her personal experience in being raised by a mother who is a product of an all-female education. She believes that BELA’s program provides young women with the resources and opportunities to be stewards of change in their communities.
External Affairs Committee
Iymaani Aytes is the founder and principal consultant at The Aytes Agency, a consultancy based in Atlanta, Georgia committed to creating “arts access for all.” The Aytes Agency advises and supports arts and non-arts organizations to develop vibrant arts programming, build transformative strategic partnerships, and strengthen relations within the diverse communities they serve. For over 15 years, Iymaani has worked with educational and cultural institutions like New York University and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.
Iymaani’s greatest reward is building synergistic connections, leading mission-aligned partnerships, and establishing pipelines to education. She is known for her collaborative spirit, skilled leadership, creativity in developing programs, and for leading initiatives that build awareness and have social value.
With service at her core, Iymaani is a champion of education, wellness initiatives, and programs that address the needs of women and girls. She is a board member of The BLUE List, a membership-based non-profit organization in New York City whose mission is to create fair and equal access to basic resources for all. Additionally, Iymaani was a founding planning committee member for the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN), a national nonprofit that provides leadership development and career placement programs to shift the narrative of women of color in media, business, and the community-at-large.
Ms. Aytes holds a Master of Arts in Psychology in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Virginia State University.
BELA Board Meetings 2022-23