Meet Us

Our Board

Justin Pinn

Board Chair

Justin Pinn believes that his mission and calling in life is to ensure excellent educational opportunities and equitable access for all children. After obtaining his undergraduate degree as a first-generation college student from Georgetown University, Pinn in May of 2013 relocated to Miami, Florida as a Teach for America Corps Member, teaching secondary science at Miami Central Senior High School. After leaving the classroom, Justin transitioned to Breakthrough Miami where he served as the Founding Director of two academies (STEM and Success). Currently, Justin works for Teach for America Miami-Dade as the Director, Strategic Initiatives. In this role, he has the privilege of mobilizing Teach for America’s alumni base towards leadership pathways that have been identified as critical to ensuring more educational equity and social change throughout Miami-Dade county. In his spare time, Justin loves to go fishing, travel, and hang out in Miami with friends and family.

Aimee Ferrer

Vice Chair

Aimee Ferrer is a semi-native Miamian, who was born here, but grew up moving at regular intervals between New Jersey and Miami. She has a deep love for Miami as a city and believes it’s a better place when everyone who lives here is engaged, represented and involved. Aimee is a double Hoya, having attended Georgetown University for both college and law school. She’s now an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Miami Office of the Federal Public Defender. She believes deeply in ensuring that all members of our community are heard and have opportunities to excel. She’s lived all over, including stints in D.C., New York, Madrid, London, Quito, and Israel. She’s an avid adventurer who likes to explore the world as often as possible.

Victoria Fear

Board Secretary

A proud New Jersey native, Victoria has lived in Miami since 2012. She strongly believes in the power of community and economic development and civic engagement for a more just, equitable society. Victoria is a three-time AmeriCorps Alum and completed her M.S.Ed at University of Miami. She also serves on the boards of Philanthropy Miami and EPIP Florida.

Gus Perez

Treasurer

Gustavo was raised in Miami, Fl, after emigrating from Venezuela in 1996. His engagement in local activism started with the passing of Miami Forever Bond, where he joined local groups in advocating for residents to have a real seat at the table and to be the overseers of how the bond and how its funds are being spent. That ended up in Gustavo becoming a member of the oversight board.

Passionate about local government, history, and civic engagement, Gustavo is a proud graduate of Miami-Dade Public Schools and Babson College.

Jude Bruno

Board Member

Jude Bruno is a Miami native who has been involved in the non-profit world for more than ten years. Having been among the first to have graduated from Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial High School, Jude is a born believer in the power of collective action. He is a former Student Advisor to the School Board, where he represented the interest of students for the nation’s fourth-largest school district, Miami-Dade County Public School.

Jude is nationally known within PTA/PTSA for his work at a past National PTA Youth Involvement Committee Chair, a position where he curated a Youth Leadership Summit for PTA members with National PTA staff and spearheaded efforts for PTAs’ on the Higher Education level. Jude works for United Teachers of Dade and advocates on behalf of public-school employees and directly supports union members in 34+ public schools and nearly 50+ central and regional offices. He is currently the Chair of Florida PTA’s Student Engagement Committee, serves on the National PTA Board of Directors and on the Legislative Committee.

 

Cherie Cancio

Board Member

A Miami native, Cherie’s focus on new ideas and passion around communities has led her to serve in several roles within the private, public, and non profit sector. Cherie has been recognized for changing the image of Miami Girls, and has remained active in her community by supporting and leading initiatives programs that serve as a catalyst for innovation and opportunity. Her parents’ American experience and her pursuit in exploring her personal history and cultural identity led her to become a founder and board member at the CubaOne Foundation, a Miami based-nonprofit seek to foster, encourage, and promote dialogue and cooperation between the United States and Cuba by offering a new generation of Cuban-Americans the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people and experience Cuba through high-impact, curated trips.

 

Cherie currently serves on the leadership staff at City Year Miami, one of the fastest growing nonprofits in the country with a national footprint and infrastructure focused on addressing the implementation gap in schools needed to keep students on track to high school graduation. You can find her sharing her passion to serve, connect, and spread the good word of cafecito, communidad, and cultura.

 

Rodney Jacobs

Board Member

Rodney is from Philadelphia, PA, and a son of an Army Veteran. His foundational cultural life experiences were formed by living throughout the nation as a kid, during his father’s time in service. Currently, he serves as the Assistant Director for the City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP). The CIP is department tasked with investigating abusive practices within the City of Miami Police Department. Rodney, is also a military intelligence first lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve. Rodney, is a graduate of Hiram College (OH), University of Dayton School of Law (OH). Rodney is currently working towards his Master’s in Public Administration and Public Health from the University Of Miami (FL). Rodney understands that the function of non-profits in Miami is necessary for a positive future. Rodney is committed to working and influencing aspects of public health, law, and government. In his free time, Rodney enjoys being a restaurateur with his wife Ramona, and playing tennis.

 

James Lopez

Board Member

James Lopez is currently the Executive Director of Power U Center for Social Change. An Afro-Latino native of Rochester, New York, James began organizing through legal advocacy institutions. At the Western New York Law Center, he organized participants of their Consumer Debt Clinic, and advocated to change New York state policies around predatory lending, payday loans, and Community Reinvestment issues. Prior to coming to Power U, James was an organizer for VOICE-Buffalo, where he organized with residents and those formerly incarcerated in order to push policy on policing reform and reducing incarceration rates in the city. He was also part of Just Resisting (JR), which is a collective of organizers of color in the city of Buffalo committed to developing transformational organizing in the city of Buffalo.

James is an alum of Black Organizing for Leader and Dignity (BOLD) Directors Training and is committed to assisting in the development of Black and Brown working class leadership necessary to move forward a world void of racism, sexism, and economic exploitation.

 

Atqiya Khan

Board Member

Born in Bangladesh, Atqiya was brought to Miami as a child and is a first-generation college student. As a strong advocate of equal opportunity and youth empowerment, she has dedicated her time to seeing these values nurtured within the South Florida community. Atqiya is the founder and CEO of Victor Labs, a non-profit dedicated to giving young people in underserved areas a foundation in computer science. She also spends much of her time volunteering with the Refugee Assistance Alliance and Amnesty International locally. She previously finished as a top graduate from Miami Dade College and is currently studying Political Science, Philosophy, and Mathematics at the University of Miami. In her free time, Atqiya enjoys photography and publishing zines with artwork cultivated by local Miami artists and friends.

 

Yami Rodriguez

Board Member

Yamile (Yami) Rodriguez is a Miami native and first-generation Cuban-American. A returned Peace Corps volunteer with a passion for travel, the arts, and community development. She served as a Youth in Development volunteer for two years, helping mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS in Botswana’s youth population. In returning home, she decided to give back to her community by working with under-resourced youth in Miami-Dade County. Her work ensured local students had access to excellent high-schools and experiential learning opportunities to help them become future leaders. She’s currently a communications professional at a local not-for-profit and earning her M.S. in Global Strategic Communications at FIU. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Nyah Project.

Our Staff

Rebecca Pelham

Executive Director

rebecca@engage.miami

Rebecca (she/her) previously served as the Director of the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and as a leader of the Miami Climate Alliance Steering Committee after having completed a M.S.Ed. in Education and Social Change from the University of Miami. Her passions for democracy, sustainability, and education have guided her professional journey, and she is honored to work with the amazing team at Engage fighting for Florida’s future with joy, determination, and lots of love for Miami.

Gilbert Placeres

Organizing Director

gilbert@engage.miami

Gilbert (he/him) grew up between New York City, Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep. and Miami. He was first trained as an organizer during President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 here in Miami, before attending Tufts University where he double majored in Political Science and Quantitative Economics. He continued to organize by joining NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election campaign in 2014 and founding a Students Against Mass Incarceration chapter on his campus. Gilbert is passionate about affordable housing, economic justice and empowering marginalized communities, and in the long-term would like to combine his organizing and policy & data analysis skills to advance these causes.

Isa Zuluaga

Operations Manager

isa@engage.miami

Isa (she/they) is a nonbinary, Colombian-Peruvian, who migrated to Miami (Miccosukee, Tequesta, and Seminole lands) in 2001. She has been organizing with communities and working with nonprofits for nearly a decade in areas ranging from social justice education praxis, tenant-rights, prison abolition, queer survival, and economic freedom. She has a scholarly background in decolonial feminism and holds a degree in Critical Social Thought from Mount Holyoke College. At Engage, Isa uses an array of skills and competencies in organizational management to support the entire team. In her spare time she creates digital content, often partnering with BIQPOC, and enjoys the company of her furry loved ones!

Briyana Joseph

Lead Program Coordinator

Raised in Liberty City, Miami, Briyana has always wanted to create a better reality for the people in her community. While finding her voice to speak up about many issues, she realized that she can help others find theirs too. She has been actively serving marginalized populations and fighting for the rights of sexual minorities for a while, but honed her craft (of civic engagement) the past four years while attending Mount Holyoke College, where she graduated with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. She is passionate about economic justice, feminism, affordable healthcare and providing people the tools to speak up for themselves so that they can change the world around them.

Jessica Saint-fleur

Advocacy Organizer

Jessica was born and raised in Little Haiti. She has always exhibited a spirit of activism in her community, as well as the world around her. A recent graduate of Pitzer College, where she obtained a BA in Human Biology as a first-generation student, Jessica began to explore her identity and find her voice. Through her passion directed towards healthcare reform and the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement, Jessica naturally emerged with an intersectional social justice approach in life, leading her to give back to her own community now with Engage Miami.

Maryan Firpo

Program Coordinator

As a Hialeah native, Maryan’s preferred language is Spanglish. Her immigrant parents made sure she had full exposure to the heart and blight of Miami and instilled a great love of reading and language. Since 2010, she has been an active enthusiast in Miami’s cultural scene through participation and leadership in community events. During this time, she also dedicated herself to practicing Applied Behavior Analysis as a Registered Behavior Technician, working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to help them understand, effectively communicate with, and be understood by the world around them. She hopes to merge all these passions and talents into something sustainable, inclusive, and progressive to benefit and empower people from marginalized communities.

Levell Strong

Field Manager

levell@engage.miami

Levell Strong is a community organizer, activist, and advocate working on building black political and economical power. He is a member of the Dream Defenders, BYP100, the Movement 4 Black Lives, and causes rooted in liberation. Levell is working to shift the political landscape in Florida by providing greater access to the ballot and elections.  As an organizer with Second Chances FL. Levell led volunteer petition gathering efforts that helped Amendment 4 make the ballot in 2018. As an alum of the Electoral Justice Project Levell helped mobilize, register, and turn out voters in South Florida leading to a successful passing of Amendment 4, with nearly 80% of voters voting Yes for Voting Rights Restoration in his home of Broward County. 

Anthony

Anthony Abeja

Voter Engagement Organizer

Anthony was born and raised in Homestead, FL. When he left home to attend Syracuse University, he never would have imagined that he would graduate, four years later, with keen interests in language, geography, and, most importantly, community. Yet, this is exactly what happened. And so, Anthony constantly asks himself what it means to build community; what it means to give back to the people and spaces that raised him, and to forge new connections and nurture them so that they may grow interdependently. Does it mean advocating for a marginalized group of people? Does it mean learning about the history of a place? Or, does it just simply mean spending time with another? In his downtime, Anthony enjoys singing, dancing, going down Internet rabbit holes, and playing Tetris.

Brianna Lafontant

Development and Outreach Manager

Brianna is a Jacksonville, Florida native. In college she developed a deep understanding of and passion for the social issues that disproportionately affect black and brown communities. After graduation, in the Fall of 2017, she taught middle school to begin her journey to end the inequities that exist within the education system. Since then she has dedicated her life to ending social injustices. In her spare time she enjoys coaching and playing soccer, spending time with her family, and relaxing on the beach.

Cinnamon Williams

Quality Control and Data Manager

Cinnamon Williams is a graduate of Miami-Dade College where she majored in Computer Science. While at Miami-Dade, she was a Vote Everywhere Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation responsible for encouraging voters rights and education. Her work at Miami-Dade College led her to be nominated as a Delegate for College Debate 16 where she represented Miami-Dade College and the state of Florida in an initiative to hear millennial voices during the 2016 Presidential Election. After she graduated, Cinnamon became a Public Ally placed at The University of Miami Office of Civic and Community Engagement where she helped to bridge the gap between low income students and college through education. Currently, Cinnamon is continuing her passion of politics and computer science at Engage Miami