*Please click on the pictures to read board member biographies.
Executive Board of Directors
DREAM Board Members
Damary Checo, Human Resources Executive
S. Ted Foster, Consultant
Letty Gutierrez, Banco Central RD
Tim Hall, Honorary Canadian Consul, DR North Coast
Laura Messina Pilson, Philanthropist
Oliver Montas, Financial Analyst & Investor
Donald Rabinovitch, Entrepreneur in Media and Health Care
Yokasta Segura-Baez, Financial Analyst & Investor
Celines Toribio, Actress and TV Personality
Joana Vargas, Public Relations Executive
Dascha Polanco is the immigrant daughter of a mechanic and cosmetologist who has shared the story of losing her mother, becoming a teen mom, and struggling with self confidence to millions of people. The single mother of two has captivated the hearts of the public with her personal story and work as a strong advocate for Latino representation in Hollywood. She was recently honored by The 6th Annual Dominican Film Festival in New York for her work in TV and film. In addition, she is fighting for Dominicans to get more seats at the table in the TV and film industries, and for the stories culturally to be told. Dascha broke into Hollywood in her early 30s with her first role opposite Vanessa Hudgens and Rosario Dawson in the dramatic independent film,“Gimme Shelter”. Her main recognition has been with the hit Emmy Award winning and Golden Globe nominated Netflix original show “Orange Is The New Black” as a series regular on five seasons, which she began while attending classes for nursing at LIU and working as a Central Sterile Manager/Surgical Tech in two New York City hospitals. The three-time SAG Award winning actress has been recognized by The Today Show as a Style Hero in 2016 and named one of the 40 Young Latino Powerhouses in Hollywood by The Hollywood Reporter. Dascha was also recognized by Huffington Post in 2016 as one of the Latinas to be "Breaking The Mold”.
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the John Sargent, Sr., First Novel Prize; the National Book Critics Circle Award; the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. Díaz has been awarded the Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the 2002 PEN/Malamud Award, the 2003 U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review and the Rudge (1948), and Nancy Allen Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives in Cambridge.
Leslie Grace was born in The Bronx, New York and raised in Davie, Florida, where she attended Indian Ridge Middle School and Western High School, participating in musicals, talent shows, and choral performances during her tenure at both. Her loving parents have their roots in the DR and their visit in 2015 was an inspiration to our kids, as well as Leslie. Grace's mainstream debut came with Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, a bilingual cover of the 1961 Shirelles hit. Her bachata-tinged rendition peaked at number one on both the Billboard Tropical Songs chart and Billboard Latin Airplay charts, becoming the youngest female artist to do so. Her self-titled second studio album, Leslie Grace (2013) reached number four on the Billboard Latin Albums chart, and number three on the Billboard Tropical Albums chart. Grace is the face of Colgate toothpaste, McDonalds and has signed a distribution deal with Sony Music Latin and a worldwide contract with Sony-ATV.
Michel Zaleski is a founder of the DREAM Project and served as the President of DREAM through 2018 and is currently Chairman of the Board. In 1995 he initiated a program that ultimately grew into DREAM by bringing Dartmouth College students down to teach in the Cabarete public schools and by funding major construction projects at a number of schools.
He is an investor in companies and real estate and resides in New York City. He also has a home in Cabarete. Over the last 30 years, he has served on the Board of Directors of 16 companies including six publicly traded companies as well as many non-profit entities. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an Overseer of Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering, Chairman of the Board of the Soros Economic Development Fund, and a recent Trustee of an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art: P.S. 1 Institute of Contemporary Art. Michel is a graduate of Dartmouth College and its engineering school and holds a Masters degree from MIT.
Marie Josee Barshi
Marie Josee Barshi has made her home in the Dominican Republic since 1984. In Cabarete, she is known as the owner of the Carib Wind Sailing Center, leader of the DREAM public library, and a board member of the International School of Sosua. MJ, as her friends call her, joined the DREAM board of directors in 2009. Offering her expertise as a financial controller, she is creating the base for a smoother financial operation following a solid budget.
William S. Friedman
Mr. Friedman is a graduate of Brandeis University and Columbia University School of Law. From 1965 to 1967 he and his wife, Lucy, were Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic. Mr. Friedman has lectured on real estate development and finance to graduate students at Columbia University’s School of Architecture and Urban Affairs, Pace University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He is presently specializing in the acquisition, development and management of affordable housing communities for seniors or families in various markets in the United States.
Mirtha Cabral McQuilling
Mirtha brings over 25 years of finance, management and real estate experience to the DREAM Board. She led the initial development phase of Playa Grande Holdings, Inc. a resort development in the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Prior to that, she spent the bulk of her career in the Investment and Corporate Banking Divisions of Citigroup, both in the Santo Domingo and in the New York City offices. Mirtha received her B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Brown University and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is a member of Brown University’s Annual Fund Leadership Council, was elected to the Executive Board of the Carol Morgan School, the leading English language school in the Dominican Republic, where she also currently serves on the Facilities and Strategic Learning Committees, was a founding Board member of ADETI, the Dominican Republic’s association for tourism real estate development and has also been on the Board of BARNA, the country’s leading business school. Mirtha is a long-time supporter of the DREAM Project.
Benjamin de Menil
Benjamin de Menil is an acclaimed producer of traditional Dominican music. Through iASO Records, a music production company that he founded in 2001, Benjamin has drawn global attention to the Dominican Republic’s vibrant music scene. He has helped to organize hundreds of concerts in North American and Europe, and has produced widely circulated recordings, compilations, and videos that have received critical praise from outlets that include The New York Times, NPR All Things Considered, The Los Angeles Times, and The Huffington Post.
In partnership with DREAM, Benjamin has established the iASO Bachata Academy on the DREAM campus in Cabarete. The program is the first in the world to focus on bachata, the music of the barrios, which has become an important Dominican cultural export. Its mission is to foster high standards of musical excellence and to train a new generation of bachateros and bachateras that will astound the world.
Benjamin is the President and Chief Investment Officer of the Demvest Management Company, a visiting scholar at The CUNY Graduate Center, and a trustee and member of the finance committee of the Menil Collection. He received an MBA from The Harvard Business School, and a BA in Computer Science from Brown University.
Adriano Espaillat, in 1996, became the first Dominican-American elected to a State House in the United States. He represented the 72nd Assembly District in Upper Manhattan. He was then appointed by New York State Assembly Speaker Silver to Chair the New York State Task Force on New Americans. In 2010, he was elected New York State Senator. In 2016, he was elected the first Dominican-American member of congress, serving in the United States House of Representatives.
Espaillat has an outstanding record as a community activist and supporter of issues that affect the disadvantaged, working people, families, and that protect economic development and neighborhood revitalization. He believes that an effective leader must have the compassion to feel for our problems and the leadership to provide viable solutions.
He is a graduate of Queens College and has completed postgraduate work in Public Administration at New York University.
Spencer W. Kimball
Spencer W. Kimball has worked at Google, Inc., one of the world’s leading software and online advertising companies, since 2002, as a software engineer contributing to research and development of large scale storage systems. Previously, he was a founder and co-CTO of WeGo Systems, a Mayfield-backed internet startup that provided hierarchically managed portals for non-profits, political grassroots campaigns, and corporations.
Mr. Kimball also co-authored the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), Open Source software for photo editing. The GIMP is considered one of the most successful Open Source applications, still undergoing development with 100′s of contributors worldwide and a user base numbering in the 10s of millions. He co-produced an adjunct effort, Online PhotoLab, in 2002, which was subsequently turned into the backend for Kodak’s popular online photo editing software. In 2001, Mr. Kimball co-wrote the Unix-based version of Gnutella, the first peer-to-peer file sharing software.
Prior to the internet boom in the late 1990s, Mr Kimball worked as a quantitative analyst at a boutique investment bank, and as a consultant for Andersen Consulting. Mr Kimball is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.
Mr. Kimball lives in New York City and first came to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic in 2005, where he fell in love with the town of Cabrera and built a home.
Kevin P. Manning (Emeritus)
Kevin P. Manning recently retired from AES Dominicana, the largest investor in the Dominican energy sector, where he assisted management in the reformation of their electrical generation and distribution activities. Previously, he was President of Itabo, an AES/El Paso joint venture in a privatized generating company and guided the operation through a major rehabilitation program to restore the plants original capacity. Mr. Manning returned to the Dominican Republic in 1998 as Executive Director of the Smith Enron Cogeneration L.P. on the North Coast.
Prior to joining the energy sector, Mr. Manning spent 36 years in Latin America in natural resource development. He has held senior executive positions in the Braden Copper Company (Chile), Southern Peru Copper Corporation (Peru), Rosario Resources Corporation (Honduras & Dominican Republic), AMAX Corporation (Chile), Falconbridge Dominicana (Dominican Republic) and Carbones del Guasare (Venezuela).
A leader in corporate social responsibility, Mr. Manning received the 2002 Distinguished American Citizen Award from the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Dominican People. Earlier, his community work on the North Coast was acknowledged with the presentation of the 2000 Puertoplateño Sobresalienteaward. Mr. Manning is currently a Board member of the American Chamber of Commerce after serving two terms as President of the Chamber. Mr. Manning has also served on the Boards of the Dominican-American Cultural Institute,Acción Para La Educación Básica (EDUCA)and Dominican Junior Achievement and at present, is on the Executive Committee of the Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring Project (DREAM).
Mr. Manning began his career in the New York office of Arthur Young & Company, public accountants, and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Manhattan College. N.Y. Mr. Manning also served in the U.S.Army in the Special Services Division
Scott is a 28-year veteran of the investment industry. Having led clients through four bear markets, he has the expertise to effectively navigate challenging economic times and turbulent markets. His primary goal is to protect client assets against market uncertainties and to produce steady returns.
Scott and the Continuum Group joined Morgan Stanley in 2013. He was previously employed by JP Morgan Securities and has also held positions with Bear Stearns and Co., Lehman Brothers and First Institutional Securities Corporation. Scott is consistently recognized as a top financial advisor by industry publications and has been named as one of Barron’s list of Top 100 Financial Advisors in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012. He is a regular speaker on the topic of fixed income at industry conferences and has been the subject of investment-related articles in Barron’s magazine.
Scott is a graduate of University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the Robert H. Smith School of Business. He is active in several charitable organizations and currently sits on the board of the DREAM Project, which aims to break the cycle of poverty in the Dominican Republic by running inclusive, sustainable education programs for children and youth. He has been married for over 25 years to his wife Deborah, has two daughters, Amanda and Jaynie, and is a long time resident of Livingston, New Jersey.
Karla Farach de Athanasopoulos
Karla Farach de Athanasopoulos, born and raised in the Dominican Republic, received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Bentley University and her Graduate degree in International Business from Boston University. Ms. Farach has worked in the Pharma industry in the Dominican Republic, and in NY has worked in many projects in the Beauty and Health industry. She resides with her husband and children in New York City.
Darlene Cordero is an event planning, hospitality, and executive support specialist with more than two decades of experience working side-by-side with corporate executives at Univision, Warburg Pincus, Credit Suisse, and Pfizer. She currently supports the executive team at Chobani.
Darlene is a proud Dominican-American born and raised in Queens, New York, and grew up spending summers with family and friends in the DR. She is a graduate of the State University of New York, Empire State College and resides in New York City. She is the mother of a beautiful teenage son.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989, Catherine DeLaura joined the Peace Corps in Micronesia as a teacher and youth developer. Her experiences there ignited her life-long passion for education. Through a Peace Corps Fellows Scholarship, she pursued a Masters in TESOL at Teacher’s College, Columbia University and taught full-time at Taft High School in the South Bronx. While at Taft, she realized that the public school system was flawed and set out to change it. As a leader of a restructuring process, she founded the first small school within Taft called the Academy of the Arts. After five years at Taft, she moved on to teach and develop her leadership skills at The Heritage School, a new public school in East Harlem.
Her passion for providing educational opportunities to all students and applying new tools to education led her to pursue an MBA from Columbia Business School in 2001. She was then selected to be the Assistant, and after one year, the Principal of School of the Future (SOF), a model school of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Her experience at SOF allowed her to re-conceptualize her vision of education based on small schools that allow students to develop critical thinking skills in personalized learning communities.
Since 2009, Catherine has led the DREAM Project as it has grown and focused on developing a culture of reading and replicating DREAM’s high quality Montessori pre-school program in new areas around the country to serve as a model on how to make an impact on student learning and change communities.