Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Robert Clark is the Chief Executive Officer and Founding Executive Director of YouthBuild Newark (YBN), a non-profit organization that provides academic, vocational, and workforce development programs for low-income young people. Since launching YBN in 2003, Mr. Clark has been instrumental in helping over 2,500 people graduate with industry-recognized certifications and high school diplomas.
Mr. Clark has over 22 years of experience in youth development, and is the first YouthBuild graduate to found a YouthBuild program in a major city. As someone who has overcome a tumultuous adolescence, Mr. Clark knows the path to progress isn’t always a straight line. He uses that knowledge every day to help young people get back on track. Under Mr. Clark’s leadership, YBN has gained a national reputation for promoting juvenile justice reform, re-entry programming for school-aged young people, and vocational training.
In 2011, YBN partnered with Newark Public Schools to launch the Newark Leadership Academy, an alternative vocational high school that used YBN’s proven youth development model. This partnership led to Mr.Clark serving as a senior advisor to the public schools responsible for strategy and implementation of student support services, alternative education, school discipline, and new school development. YBN has since partnered with UPLIFT Academy to provide professional development and student support services.
Launched in 2016, Mr. Clark is the leading visionary behind the Newark Opportunity Youth Network, a cross-sectoral city-wide initiative that coordinates alternative high schools and community-based agencies to provide quality educational and workforce development training to out-of-school youth and students who are off-track. In 2016, YBN, under Mr. Clark’s leadership, launched the LEAD Charter School – the State of New Jersey’s first alternative charter high school.
Mr. Clark is a founding member of the My Brother’s Keeper Newark Advisory Council, and a board member of Newark Trust for Education and the Newark Workforce Development Board. He is a Boston native and holds a bachelor’s degree in Adult Training in Human Services from the University of Massachusetts. As a young adult, Mr. Clark participated in the nationally celebrated Public Allies leadership program. Before becoming the Founding Executive Director of YBN, he worked at the Boston Medical Center and the Boston Public Health Commission.
Executive Director of Finance & Operations
Dowayne Davis joined YouthBuild Newark and The Newark Opportunity Youth Network in 2017 as Executive Director of Finance and Operations. He is the former Assistant School Business Administrator for University Heights Charter School in Newark, NJ; School Business Administrator for People’s Preparatory Charter School in Newark, NJ; and a Graduate Fellow for Education Pioneers, an agency recognized for its efforts to prepare diverse individuals for educational leadership.
Mr. Davis brings broad experience in areas including instruction, school business administration, information systems management, and operations management. He holds a B.S in Information Systems Management and Technology from Syracuse University, an M.B.A focused on Operations and Information Systems from Baruch College and a Doctor of Education Degree in Education and Technology Leadership from the New Jersey City University. With a continued passion for academic research, Dowayne is an active writer and published author in the field of education and technology leadership.
Executive Director of Program & Instruction
Mark is the Executive Director of Programs and Instruction at Newark Opportunity Youth Network and a Founding Board Member of LEAD Charter School. Mr. Comesañas joined NOYN in 2017.
Mark is a lifelong Newarker giving back to the city that has sown so much in him. He has been an educational leader within the Newark Public Schools district for thirteen years – four of them as the founding principal of UPLIFT Academy (formerly known as Fast Track Success Academy), which is a partner alternative vocational high school that draws upon NOYN’s youth development framework to engage over-age and under-credited youth. He is also an active Community Advisory Board Member for My Brother’s Keeper Newark and sits on the Board of his local church, La Vid Verdadera (translated: The True Vine). Mark earned a Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University and a Bachelors degree from Rutgers University.
Director of Program & Supports
Jasmine Joseph-Forman is currently the Director of Program and Supports with the Newark Opportunity Youth Network, where it is her responsibility to ensure that the young people who are given a stigma (ranging from unreachable, menace, juvenile, failure etc.) within the school system and/or community have an opportunity to reconnect to meaningful education, and work towards completing their high school diplomas and acquiring marketable skills that will allow them to set post-secondary goals. Jasmine Joseph-Forman holds a B.A. in Psychology, Certificate in Law and Justice and M.A. degree in Organizational Leadership from Rider University. Ms. Joseph-Forman has more than 10 years of experience as a leader in Youth Development and Education. As a former employee of the Juvenile Justice Commission, she understands the struggles and hindrances that lay before many of the students, and works to help shift our current education model and lead communities toward social-emotional and academic excellence.
As a leader in an organization that strives to save young people’s lives daily, dismantling the “School to Prison Pipeline” is not an easy undertaking, which is why her position as a member of the Essex County Multi-Disciplinary Team is imperative. The ability to redirect the lives of young people through early academic and social-emotional interventions, skill development, job training and familial support, will allow our network of Schools to drive the city’s agenda in creating a preventative strategy targeting deviant behavior.
Ms. Joseph-Foreman is dedicated to the mission of equalizing educational opportunities amongst underserved communities, and is committed to expanding access to equitable resources.
Director of Program & Supports
Ms. Bond is the Director of Programs and Supports at Newark Opportunity Youth Network, where she is leading organization-wide efforts at the Re-Engagement Center. Ms. Bond joined NOYN in 2013 as a Manager of Network Supports for Newark Public Schools, providing site-based technical assistance, operational support and social-emotional learning (SEL) coaching for staff serving NOYN students. She is a native of Philadelphia, PA and has served in the following capacities: oversaw youth-based workforce development initiatives; provided psychological consultations to families with youth who were diagnosed with mental health disorders; provided aftercare services for adjudicated youth; served as a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) Liaison; and provided in-school counseling services within The School District of Philadelphia.
Ms. Bond has attained the following accolades: a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Temple University; a Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Rosemont College; a Pennsylvania Educational Specialist for Secondary Guidance Counseling certification; is a Visiting Fellow of the Education Pioneers, New Jersey 2016 cohort; and is pursuing a Doctorate in Psychology from Capella University. She is passionate about improving the lives of others and enjoys conducting research.
Director of Student Support Services
Darrell Price is a former New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commision (JJC) Director who possess over twenty (20) years of youth development programming experience. During his tenure with YouthBuild Newark, he has served as Program Manager, Director of Re-Entry and Program Director. Two years ago, he transitioned to become the Director of Climate and Culture at Newark Leadership Academy, which operated in partnership with YBN serving over-aged, under-credited high school students. He currently serves in the same capacity at LEAD Charter School.
Director of Climate & Culture
Mr. Odom is a Director of Climate & Culture at NOYN. Prior to Joining NOYN, he was the Program Manager for Hudson YouthBuild, a DOL replication recipient under YouthBuild Newark.
Throughout his career, Mr. Odom served in varying capacities, and throughout the Greater Essex County Area. He has more than 20 years of experience specializing in behavioral and mental health, substance abuse recovery, and housing services.
Mr. Odom is a native of Newark, having matriculated through the Newark Public School Systems. His post-secondary alma maters include: Essex County College, Rutgers University and Kean University. Mr. Odom is committed to preparing youth and young adults for the 21st Century.
Director of Student Support Services
Having joined the team in 2016, Ms. Soto serves as the Director of Student Support Services at Newark Opportunity Youth Network, overseeing the Culture and Climate of Newark Public Schools, Transfer School, and UPLIFT Academy. She provides professional development coaching to NOYN staff who directly serve the students of NOYN. Prior to joining the NOYN team, For more than 10 years, Ms. Soto served opportunity youth who were a part of programs throughout New York City, specifically as the Senior Program Director of In-School Youth at the Federal Employment & Guidance Service Health & Human Services.
Ms. Soto has expertise in fiscal management of government and private contracts, in program design, in youth development, and in grant-writing. Her education accolades include: a Masters of Education from City University of New York – Hunter, a participant of the National Afterschool Matters Practitioners Fellowship, and a Visiting Fellow of the Educational Pioneers program.
Born and raised in New York City, Ms. Soto matriculated through the city’s public school system. She is passionate about empowering inner-city youth and community with equitable resources, and in her spare time, she enjoys baking and passing secret family recipes to her two beautiful daughters.
Head of School, LEAD Charter School
Juan is the Head of School at LEAD Charter School. Prior to joining the Newark Opportunity Youth Network in 2017, Mr. Acevedo spent most of his career serving the youth of Philadelphia. While there, he served as an Assistant Principal at the Lenfest Campus of Mastery Charter Schools where he managed and evaluated math teachers in their professional and content growth, and oversaw the operations of the school serving over 550 students. Additionally, Mr. Acevedo was the Mathematics Department Chairman and Educator at South Philadelphia High School for five years where he taught Algebra and Geometry, and was awarded the Christian & Mary Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2010. Mr. Acevedo is a Teach For America 2008 Corps Member in which he also served as a Corps Member Advisor, managing and mentoring first-year teachers.
After nearly a decade of servitude in the city of brotherly love, Mr. Acevedo returned to his home state of New Jersey where he was the Director of Operations at Merit Preparatory Charter School in Newark, and now proudly joins LEAD in its inaugural year as the founding principal. Juan is a graduate from Cabrini College, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University earning his Masters in Educational Leadership, Instructional Certification and Bachelors Degree in Communications, respectively. He brings extensive experience within educational leadership, instructional coaching, curriculum development in mathematics, and operations management. Interestingly, Mr. Acevedo might have become a chef, considering his enjoyment of cooking, had he not become a principal. He is a proud father and enjoys spending quality time with his family.
Principal, UPLIFT Academy
Ms. Watkins is the Principal of UPLIFT Academy, a transfer school of the Newark Public Schools district. Having grown up in Newark, Ms. Watkins is intentional about serving its youth. In 2004, she began her career in the City of Newark as an English and Social Studies teacher at the Luis Munoz Marin Middle School. In September 2013, Ms. Watkins accepted a position at UPLIFT Academy as its School Operations Manager, and was promoted to Vice Principal of Curriculum and Instruction by the following August. In that role, Ms. Watkins collaborated with administrators, teachers and students in order to build a strong instructional program tailored to the unique needs of its students.
Ms. Watkins completed her undergraduate studies at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, and attained her Masters of Educational Leadership from The College of St. Elizabeth. She is a Board of Trustees member at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Newark, and is also highly engaged in community service activities through Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Through her sorority, she serves on the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy Committee, encouraging young girls between the ages of 11 and 14 to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Her life’s pride-and-joy is her only teenage son.
Chief Innovation Officer
Tiffany Overton joined NOYN in 2017. She serves as the School Chief Innovation Officer of the Newark Evening Educational Center. Ms. Overton has a broad range of educational experience working with children and families. She previously served as the Founding Partner of an educational service firm that served both domestic and international students. Ms. Overton has worked for Newark Public Schools as an elementary, middle school, and Adult Basic Skills/ESL instructor. In addition, she served as a Vice Principal and Principal of a public, K-8 charter school. During her tenure in this position, she personally devised and implemented a variety of professional development workshops for both teachers and paraprofessionals. Ms. Overton has also taught Introductory Education courses at the collegiate level - acclimating aspiring educators to the rigors of classroom instruction. Her education stems from a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Montclair State University, and a Master of Arts Degree in School Administration and Supervision from Saint Peter’s College. Ms. Overton is a very proud mother of three, published author, and soon to be TEDx Talk speaker.
Rosalina “Wendy” Melendez
Division Director, La Casa de Don Pedro, Inc.
Rosalina Melendez is the Division Director of La Casa de Don Pedro, Inc., Personal Development Division since 1998. Her previous appointments include working as the Assistant Program Director and Educational Coordinator at La Casa de Don Pedro's Hispanic Women’s Resource Center during 1992-1997. Under her stewardship, she is responsible for overseeing program delivery and development, fund development, budget management, coordinating and implementing activities for adult educational and immigration program services, and for creating collaborations and partnerships.
Ms. Melendez is an active member of the Essex County Workforce Development Board, Friends of the Hispanic Research and Information Center for the Newark Public Library, and serves as Treasurer of the New Jersey Association of Lifelong Learning. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Rutgers University in 1992, with a concentration in Sociology and Puerto Rican Studies.
Director of Workforce Development, New Community Corporation
Rodney Brutton joined New Community Corporation (NCC) as Chief Administrative Officer & Director of Workforce Development in 2013. He currently leads and oversees NCC’s nationally accredited post-secondary career and technical school, welfare-to-work employment initiatives, one-stop resource center, an academic enrichment program for disconnected youth, and Financial Opportunity Center (FOC).
Mr. Brutton previously served in a dual role as Executive Director of the Newark Workforce Investment Board (NWIB) and Director of Workforce Development for the city of Newark. His primary responsibility was overseeing the city’s workforce delivery system. Mr. Brutton’s position was within the Office of the Mayor under the leadership of Mayor Cory A. Booker. Prior to his time with the City of Newark, Rodney was the Director of Workforce Development at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJSIJ). He began his professional career as a Community Organizer at Unified Vailsburg Services Organization.
Mr. Brutton holds a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology/Education from Kean University and a Masters in Public Administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University-Public Administration Institute. He is also a graduate of Leadership Newark (LN), Community Foundation of NJ Neighborhood Leadership Initiative program (NLI), and is active with Kean and Fairleigh Dickinson Universities' alumni associations. Mr. Brutton is a founding Board Member of LEAD Charter School and is a member of several workforce development and education associations.