Staff and Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Ashika Brinkley, President
Goodwin University

Marinda Monfilston, Vice President
Yale University

Leslie Lyte, Secretary
Pratt & Whitney

Calvin Price, Treasurer
Liberty Bank, Retired

Ana Clara Blesso
UConn School of Business

Pamela Ellman
Attorney, Information & Referral service volunteer

Brandi Kennedy
The Village for Families and Children

Our Staff

Janée Woods Weber, Executive Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Janée is an activist, advocate, facilitator and trainer for social justice issues, and a long-time Connecticut resident. Before joining CWEALF, Woods Weber served five years as the Director of Organizational Culture for the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund in Hamden, a family philanthropic organization with a focus on achieving equity in education. In that role, she helped imbue antiracist, inclusive values into the Fund’s internal organizational culture and external strategy for working with grantees and community partners. Prior, Woods Weber worked as the Program Director for five years at Everyday Democracy, a national nonprofit in Hartford that helps communities across the country create action around important issues such as food security, community prosperity, immigration, education, and undoing racism.

In 2019, Woods Weber was appointed to the Women’s Policy Committee for the Lamont-Bysiewicz gubernatorial transition, which made recommendations for numerous policies the Governor should implement to uplift women and girls across the state of Connecticut, especially women and girls of color living in poverty.

In May 2021, Woods Weber, with host Alvin Hall, won the inaugural Ambie for Best History Podcast from The Podcast Academy for their acclaimed podcast Driving the Green Book. She currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for PoliticaCT, Co-Chair for the State Committee for the Connecticut Working Families Party, on the Board of Directors for the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and with Training for Change, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit peace group. Woods Weber attended Williams College and Pace University School of Law.

Meghan Dubois, Development and Communications Manager
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Meg views philanthropy as an incredibly powerful tool to advance women and girls’ opportunities. Meg is a lifelong Connecticut resident and loves to spend time outdoors with her family and dogs, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the northwest corner of the state. Meg earned her Master’s in Social Work from UConn and enjoys mentoring social work students today.

When Meg is not writing newsletters to donors, you can find her cooking and baking delicious vegan food, running, or reading. Meg believes that everyone can change the world for the better, even with small steps, as envisioned by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something!”

Madeline Granato, Policy Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

“You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to be courageous by couraging” a quote by Marie Daly, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, is a favorite of Madeline’s. Her years as a basketball player and watching her favorite Boston Celtics drives her goals to win for women at the State Capitol. In her role as Policy Director, Madeline learns something new every day as she represents CWEALF with legislators, state government, and coalition partners. She is most proud of her Masters of Social Work degree from UConn and leading the Campaign for Paid Family Medical Leave. She started at CWEALF as an intern writing fact sheets about paid leave and five years later led the passage of one of the strongest paid leave laws in the country. When not at CWEALF, you can find Madeline spending time with her nieces and nephews and soaking up the sun at the closest beach.

Jeniffer Perez Caraballo, Director of Community Organizing
Pronouns: Them/She

Jeniffer Perez Caraballo is a Hartford born-and-raised, English-as-a-second-language-speaking, queer, neurodivergent, spiritually inclined Boricua. She has played the role of community organizer, facilitator of transformative conversations, local artist, and Mami. Jen has been mentored and taught by radical BIPOC queer feminists and strives to continue the legacy of support and care in her role of Director of Community Organizing working with people where they are at to be moved to action that creates change. Recently, she has found renewed hope in leading with LOVE thanks to the writings of Bell Hooks. They currently live in Hartford with their son, dog, bunny, and houseplants.

Denise Rhone, Director of Racial Equity and Legal Education
Pronouns: She/Her(s)/Ella

Denise is energized by her multifaceted role as CWEALF’s Director of Racial Equity and Legal Education. She enjoys engaging both her creative and analytical skill sets to serve her community in a meaningful and authentic way. Denise is proud to hold a leadership role in a program where she shares many of the identities of the clients served: a Latina raised from a single parent household, a native of Hartford from a low-income and marginalized community, and a mother of two. Given her lived experience and passion to uplift people of color, Denise is excited to be a part of CWEALF’s journey to become an anti-racist and intersectional organization.

Beyond working towards more socially-just world, Denise is an avid reader who enjoys fantasy and literary fiction. She is a creative writer herself and regularly works on her craft. She loves to travel the globe and experience cultures and the natural world in a thoughtful and respectful way. If Denise had to choose one word to describe herself (which would be hard for a writer), it would be: intentional. Her identity is centered in her faith in God, personal growth, and commitment to loved ones. You can regularly find her watching well written indie and foreign films, laughing out loud with her husband, or dancing freely to bachata and Christian hip-hop with her daughter.

One of her favorite quotes comes from the book of Micah, 6:8: “God has told you, o human, what the Lord requires of you. It is to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Nilda Rivera, Community Advocacy Manager
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

When Nilda isn’t dancing to Spanish music, crocheting, or spending time with her seven grandchildren, she is traveling around the state to empower women during difficult times as a Community Advocacy Manager at CWEALF. “Nilda took the time to listen to me when no one else would,” said a CWEALF client, “and helped me feel confident to take the next step with my legal challenge.” Described as passionate, empathetic, conscious and supportive by clients and colleagues, Nilda is most proud of all she has learned from the women she has served over the years.

Along with her support for women, Nilda is our resident “green thumb,” and keeps our plants growing with water, love, and a little encouragement. With more than 15 years of experience in community advocacy, Nilda was an instrumental part of the design and implementation of the Peer Advocacy Program.  She is excited by CWEALF’s unique work and for the organization to expand its presence more throughout the state, so more young women can participate in her services.

Nicole Sanclemente, Policy and Program Coordinator
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Nicole’s role as Policy and Program Coordinator combines her talent for teaching advocacy skills through CWEALF’s She Leads Justice project and her determination to advance the rights of women and girls through legislative advocacy.

Nicole’s friends and family call her determined and loyal. Her CWEALF colleagues know her as a passionate advocate for immigrant rights. Nicole spent a year as CWEALF’s Bilingual Community Advocacy Fellow. Nicole grew up in Hartford and Marlborough. She graduated from UConn in 2019 with a degree in Urban and Community Studies and double minor in Psychology and Human Rights.

Her favorite quote comes from Michelle Obama, “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

When not working, you will find Nicole shopping or trying new makeup! Classmates in the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center at UConn recognized her skills and recruited Nicole to do the makeup for the Homecoming Lip Sync performers. She also performed with Lip Sync during her senior year at UConn.

Peer Advocates

B Diaz
Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

B Diaz is a pre-law student at the University of Connecticut studying political science and human rights. They are a human rights advocate and an aspiring scholar-activist. They have experience in community organizing, legal research, and social justice education. B strives to protect and advance universal human rights through policy, education, and social movements.

B is also the current President for UConn Collaborative Organizing (UCCO). In their work with student legislation, B has authored the Mental Care Act and co-authored the Reconstruction of Cultural Awareness Gen Ed Requirements. Through UCCO, they take on university initiatives in efforts to foster an inclusive community at UConn. As a first-generation college student and as someone who is queer and latine, they aspires to use their personal experiences and struggles to advocate for other marginalized groups and people.

Zulmary Velez
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Zulmary Velez is one of CWEALF’s She Leads Justice Peer Advocates for the 2021-2022 cohort. Zulmary is 28 years old and a proud Latina. She has two wonderful children, a son and a daughter, and is currently engaged to her fiancé, described by her as a marvelous man. Zulmary enjoys cooking, cleaning and spending quality time with her family. During her free time, Zulmary enjoys volunteering in her community, in the city of Hartford, through a Foodshare program. She also likes to exercise, sing, dance and binge watch telenovelas with some of her favorite snacks. Two of her favorite quotes are:

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” by Dr. Jane Goodall

“If you can dance and be free and not embarrassed you can rule the world.” by Amy Poehler