Catherine Lepone, Executive Director
Catherine has been working in the nonprofit sector for more than 25 years in a number of leadership capacities. She comes to us directly from Making Headway Foundation, in Chappaqua, NY where she served as their Executive Director. With a BS in Business Administration from the University at Albany, she brings a strong business background to her work in philanthropy.
“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. .” — Plato
Vanessa Santiago, Director of Programs
Vanessa Santiago holds a BA from Brooklyn College, CUNY and received her Master’s in Nonprofit Management from The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, a graduate school of The New School University. With almost 2 decades of youth leadership and program development experience, Vanessa manages all facets of our programs from school based programming to county wide programs and loves to see all programs in action.
“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” — Sheryl Sandberg
Heather Apollonio, Development Coordinator
Heather is a development professional and project manager with over fifteen years international and domestic experience in the not-for-profit and private sectors. She has an B.A. (Anthropology) from Syracuse University, and an M.A. (Archaeology) from the University of Cape Town. She started her career as an archaeologist, working in Louisiana, the Caribbean, and South Africa. In 2005, she completed the Association of Development Officer’s Certificate in Fundraising & Board Development, and has worked in a variety of development roles including institutional and annual giving, event planning, and database management.
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Lexy Nistico, High School Site Director
Lexy has dedicated several years to providing opportunities for young women to work towards gender equity. She is excited to continue her work at Girls Inc. Westchester by strengthening afterschool programming, and empowering girls to explore their passions, build on skill sets and explore their potential to be amazing, powerful, influential women in their community and beyond.
“In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.” — Audre Lorde
Elisha Simpson, Life Skills Facilitator
Elisha is working toward her second Masters as a candidate of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She has over a decade of experience in nonprofits and mentoring youth through compassionate, mindful and yoga education. She is a certified Mindful Based Stress Reduction for Teens (MBSR-T) instructor, and founder of the nonprofit organization the Crossover Yoga Project empowering at-risk girls through trauma informed yoga, mindfulness and art to move toward positive change. Her passion is to guide girls toward gaining insight, skills, and practical tools while becoming more accountable for themselves, for others and their community.
“A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.” — Nancy Rathburn