staff

xiomara ayala, LCSW
xiomara ayala, LCSWdirector of social work

xiomara@rockingtheboat.org

Xiomara was raised in the Bronx and graduated with her BA in sociology from SUNY Stony Brook in 2002 and MSW from NYU Silver School of Social Work in 2005. Since then, she has focused on therapeutic work with adolescents and young adults in a variety of settings. They include home-based substance use treatment for juvenile justice-involved youth, and mental health and crisis services at a community health clinic. She most recently worked with adolescents and young adults diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and with LGBTQ+ youth exploring their identities at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center’s PROJECT Impact, providing them with an array of crisis intervention, case management, and short and long term counseling.
benjamin bentley
benjamin bentleyboatbuilding job skills program director

ben@rockingtheboat.org

Ben came to the position with nine years of experience building and restoring wooden boats of all sizes, most recently with Wooden Boatworks, a boatyard specializing in classic wooden yachts on Long Island. Ben draws from his own experience as a teenager growing up in the inner city of Rochester, attending public schools where students were not exposed to many options for the future. His background includes managing large-scale building projects, running a crew and a shop, scheduling work, sourcing materials, and managing employees who were recent graduates of the International Yacht Restoration School, where he himself completed the Restoration Certificate Program after studying Industrial Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
jasmine benitez
jasmine benitezenvironmental student program director

jasmine@rockingtheboat.org

Jasmine was born and raised in the Bronx, and was first introduced to Rocking the Boat when her high school participated in an On-Water Classroom program in 2009. Jasmine participated in Rocking the Boat's On-Water Program until she graduated then went on to pursue her Bachelor's degree in Psychology (with a minor in Environmental Studies) at St. John's University. She returned to work at Rocking the Boat as a Program Assistant while attending college, during which she also served as an Assistant Instructor/Student Mentor with the National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC), participating in workshops as distant as New Mexico. After earning her degree, Jasmine began working as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Bronx River Alliance, and Rocking the Boat is now thrilled to have her back!
joe bly
joe blydirector of institutional giving

joe@rockingtheboat.org

Joe comes to Rocking the Boat with a novel perspective from a 15-year career in documentary film and television. Since completing a double major in Film Studies and History from the University of Pittsburgh and teaching English abroad, Joe has worked as a Researcher, Producer and Writer on programs for networks such as PBS, Discovery Channel, History Channel, A&E, and AMC, as well as developing new series and filming independent projects including his own award-winning documentary. Covering subjects ranging from American history, religion, criminal justice, and science, to music and neighborhood food, Joe first became interested in youth education while working on a Ford Foundation documentary exploring solutions to the academic performance gap plaguing black males in school. In 2016 he began volunteering for Rocking the Boat, interviewing alumni and developing biographical profiles. As Director of Institutional Giving, Joe brings his sense of narrative to grant writing and fundraising, telling the stories of theses remarkable young people to foundations and public funders.
joaquin cotten
joaquin cottencommunications director

joaquin@rockingtheboat.org

Joaquin has been involved with Rocking the Boat since the early 2000s. In that time he has been a volunteer, boatbuilding student, On-Water Program Apprentice, and always a photographer. He became Rocking the Boat's first Photography Apprentice, and has now elevated to the first full time staff position ever held by a former student. Joaquin is responsible for all visual documentation and presentation of Rocking the Boat activities, including photography, graphic design, and web design.
carlos duran
carlos duransailing student program director

carlos@rockingtheboat.org

Rocking the Boat's newly minted Sailing Student Program Director was a Boatbuilding student from 2006 to 2008 and served as a Program Assistant on and off for the past six years before serving as a Fleet Manager for one year. He has proven to be as skilled at sailing boats as he is at building them, and is a natural-born teacher. In between stints as Bo'sun, 2nd Mate, and most recently Chief Mate on the Sloop Clearwater and an Apprentice boatbuilder at Brennan Boatbuilding in Ossining, NY, Carlos has, since 2013, been back at Rocking the Boat running sailboats in both the Youth Development and On-Water Classroom Programs. In his new role he will be responsible for managing and maintaining Rocking the Boat's sailing fleet as well as assisting in running the sailing program.
stevi feinberg, LCSW
stevi feinberg, LCSWsocial worker

stevi@rockingtheboat.org

Stevi graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a double major in Sociology and Communication. After gaining her first experience in the field as an intern at Attention Homes, where she helped refer at-risk adolescents living in a group home to social work services, Stevi interned at the Aspen Hope Center. As part of her graduate studies at New York University's Silver School of Social Work, Stevi spent nine months interning at Rocking the Boat, providing both individual counseling and group programming for 30 students. She continued working in the Bronx, at the Morris Heights Health Center, during her second year of graduate school, and for the past year, has held the position of Head Coach at Dynamo Girl, an organization dedicated to building self-esteem and self-confidence through physical activity and coaching. Having now earned her MSW, Stevi is thrilled to be back at Rocking the Boat working with high school juniors and seniors as they prepare to graduate from high school and start the next chapter of their lives.
debbie forester
debbie foresterdirector of programs and operations

debbie@rockingtheboat.org

Debbie holds a B.S. from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and a Master's degree from the University of Idaho. She is a seasoned program manager and the co-founder of Roots and Wisdom, a garden-based youth development program in Schenectady, NY that engages young people in growing and selling fresh produce in an urban area. Debbie has spent much of her 30 year career working overseas—starting as a Peace Corp volunteer in Guatemala, and most recently serving as a Program Advisor for the Grumeti Fund in Tanzania. She has extensive experience managing day-to-day program operations, as well as developing forward-thinking organizational goals. With her deep commitment to using her environmental science background to help youth build self-confidence and create positive change in their communities, Debbie is a highly effective leader, supporter, and motivator of Rocking the Boat's diverse Program Staff.
toniann german
toniann germanassistant director of public programs

toniann@rockingtheboat.org

Toniann first joined Rocking the Boat when she was a high school freshman. She fell in love with the Bronx River and progressed through every level of the Environmental Science Program from student to apprentice to Program Assistant. She attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and, inspired largely by her Rocking the Boat experience, graduated from City College with a BS in education and disability studies. During four years of teaching preschool, Toni making special effort to bring environmental science into her early childhood classrooms. Eager to reconnect with the River, she held the position of recreational coordinator for the Bronx River Alliance, running all of the educational canoeing, fishing, and “paddle and pick up” ie litter clean up, events.
kinney glass
kinney glassprogram and operations assistant
adam green
adam greenfounder and executive director

adam@rockingtheboat.org

Adam started the volunteer project that would become Rocking the Boat in 1995 during a semester off from Vassar College. Influenced by his experience teaching kids about the Hudson River aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, he developed a program that used the process of building and using wooden boats as a way to educate and empower young people from underserved communities. He has received numerous awards and accolades for Rocking the Boat, including an Echoing Green Fellowship, a Union Square Award for grassroots organizing, and a Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award. Most recently, he was named one of 25 international 2014 CNN Heroes.
briana hickson
briana hicksonoffice manager

briana@rockingtheboat.org

Briana grew up in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, just three blocks away from Rocking the Boat’s shop. First hearing about the organization through a friend, Briana couldn’t believe that it was possible to get out on the water right in her own neighborhood and needed to see for herself. She joined the On-Water Program in 2011 when she was a high school sophomore, progressed to the Environmental Job Skills Program, and was hired as an Environmental Program Assistant while pursuing her Associate’s degree at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Briana is thrilled to be back as Rocking the Boat’s Office Manager and loves sharing with current students stories of her experience in the program and of the positive impact Rocking the Boat has had on her life.
svea holmvig, LMSWsocial worker

svea@rockingtheboat.org

Svea comes to Rocking the Boat with an extensive background in working with youth, from alternative-to-incarceration programs, various school settings, childcare, and summer camps. Before receiving her MSW from Hunter's Silberman School of Social Work, Svea was a full spectrum doula with NYC's Doula Project and a sexuality educator and trainer with Planned Parenthood of NYC. Svea grew up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and is very excited to be working near the water.
victor isayev
victor isayevdirector of finance and administration

victor@rockingtheboat.org

Victor is a natural fit for Rocking the Boat, given his background and history. Victor grew up in the Bronx under very similar circumstances as Rocking the Boat's students. He took music classes at a local community center in his neighborhood which opened up a world of possibilities just like Rocking the Boat does for its participants. Music took him to LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts and then to SUNY Purchase where he earned a degree in Music Performance. After working as an accounting consultant for Robert Half, Victor worked at the Bronx Defenders, a nonprofit law firm, before coming to Rocking the Boat in 2009. In 2011 he enrolled in the MBA program at Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business, and in 2012 he co-founded his own non-profit organization with a mission to deliver meaningful music education experiences for parents and children through a curriculum designed to bring families closer together while enhancing language, speech and cognitive development.
talene kelly
talene kellydirector of special events

talene@rockingtheboat.org

A graduate of The New School, Talene has spent the last five years overseeing various fundraising events as a volunteer. A New York City public school downtown is the beneficiary of the Taste of Battery Park City, a community food tasting event she co-founded, and an annual auction and gala she co-chaired. She has also served as a volunteer tennis coach for the USTA and softball coach in Downtown Little League. In her spare time, Talene enjoys writing and acting.
sarah miles
sarah milesdirector of public programs

sarah@rockingtheboat.org

Sarah most recently worked as the Coordinator of the Explainer Program at the New York Botanical Gardens, and before that as Director of the Nature Based Career Training Program at Green Chimneys. Both roles provided a depth of experience creating and implementing youth development programs for high school students. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire and a Master’s from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is presently working on a BS in Environmental Science at Southern New Hampshire University.
jaye pockriss
jaye pockrissdevelopment director

jaye@rockingtheboat.org

A graduate of Vassar College, Jaye has worked in development for more than 20 years including for a historic preservation organization, a music festival, and a residential social service agency. She also raised funds in her free time as President of the Brooklyn Heights Music Society. Jaye learned about Rocking the Boat during the summer that 20 students came to build a boat at Philipsburg Manor, a living history museum operated by Historic Hudson Valley, where her husband Peter (a Rocking the Boat Advisory Board member) is Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives.
edmanuel roman
edmanuel romanboatbuilding student program director

e@rockingtheboat.org

Manny grew up living three floors above Rocking the Boat's shop back when it was located on 174th Street and Walton Avenue. As soon as he was eligible, 14-year-old Manny signed onto the Boatbuilding Program and worked to build Aurora—the first of 14 vessels he would help to construct. Over the years, Manny has held various roles at Rocking the Boat including Boatbuilding Assistant, Interim Boatbuilding Job Skills Program Director, and Restoration Manager.
matthew wierzbach
matthew wierzbachsailing job skills program director

matthew@rockingtheboat.org

Matt grew up both sailing and powerboating on Lake Michigan. He learned to sail at the Sheboygan Youth Sailing Center, and went on to become an instructor there for six years. His arrival at Rocking the Boat follows more than four years as Program Director at Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS), where he developed new programming with local schools and chaired the 2018 Para World Sailing Championship. Matt’s undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is in History.


kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474

info@rockingtheboat.org
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892

Search