Founded in 2016, Denari is an innovation nonprofit that provides world-class enrichment education programs to disadvantaged children across the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The name Denari comes from a silver currency that was widely circulated during the Roman Empire.
We seek to serve up to 20,000 disadvantaged children annually across the tri-state areas of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Denari Youth was founded in 2016 by Val Abrams, a social entrepreneur with extensive experience leading a youth-serving organization. Val moved to the New York area in his early 20s to work in financial services. Abrams’ father’s experiences growing up in extreme poverty in rural Alabama inspired him to form an organization to address equity in youth education.
We seek to serve up to 30,000 disadvantaged children per year across the Tri-state area.
LEADERSHIP - DIRECTORS
Diane Kaldany is a professional fundraiser, event planner, business developer with a diversified professional background. Her most recent role was Executive Vice President at ChairSeven Companies. Her other professional experience includes HSBC Private Banking, Guardian Life, and Teach for Lebanon. Diane immigrated to the United States with her family from the Middle East. Diane holds a BA from Fordham University. She has held NASD registrations 7, 63, and is pursuing 82. She is fluent in five languages and a passionate promoter of entrepreneurship, the arts, children and human rights, serving/served in governance or advisor roles at FJK Dance Company, Teach for Lebanon, St. Bart’s Episcopal Peace Fellowship (Treasurer), Kota Alliance, Amal Alliance, and an M&T Bank network group.
Armando La Rocca, MBA, is Chief Strategist and Head of Business Operations at Better Mortgage Company. Better.com is a $1 billion Fintech, mortgage company startup backed by Goldman Sachs, American Express, and Citi, which serves customers in sixteen states. Prior to his tenure at Better, Mr. La Rocca was a senior management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he ranked in the top 10% of consultants. Armando earned a BA from Universite de Bocconi, one of the premier schools for business and commerce in Europe. He also completed an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Armando enjoys spending time with his wife, Tatjana. Armando is a native of Naples, Italy.
Caroline Oehm, CPA, is a Senior Vice President within Corporate and Institutional Coverage for Lloyds Banking Group, based in New York City. Lloyds Banking Group (United Kingdom) is a focused retail and commercial bank with more than 30 million customers across the globe and part of the FTSE 100. Caroline holds a BA from the University of Newcastle and FINRA series 63 & 79 licenses and is qualified as an Australian CPA.
Caroline is an avid traveler having lived in Australia, Argentina, UK and USA. A native of Australia, she spent a large part of childhood in her mother’s homeland of Argentina and is fluent in Spanish. Caroline is passionate about children’s education given her experiences with her son’s ADHD, autism and development delays.
Valarian Abrams is Founder, Vice-Chair of Denari Youth. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar, Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, Aspen Socrates Fellow. As a social entrepreneur and champion for children, Val successfully fundraised $875,000 for a previous youth organization, winning two multi-year grants from the US Department of Education as a first-time applicant (top 1% nationally) and international recognition from the Aspen Institute. In addition to Denari, his work experience includes Goldman Sachs, UBS, and JPMorgan in various roles. Val served his country for ten years in the United States Army. Val also completed a BA from Howard University and a graduate certificate from the Institute of Not-For-Profit Management (Social Enterprise) at Columbia University. He is a member of the National Eagle Scout Association and Yale Nonprofit Alliance Development Board. Val has co-published two scientific publications and loves sustainable architecture, outdoors, and is an avid traveler, having lived in Germany and visited 45 countries; he attends Trinity Grace Church and has worked part-time at Temple Emanuel, Brooklyn Heights, and Town & Village Synagogues.
STAFF AND ADVISORY DIRECTORS
Paul Ashley is Executive Director of Wingspan Arts, an art and education after school program in Metropolitan New York. Paul has a strong connection to the arts and education communities in New York City and spent a number of years traveling nationally and internationally as an actor. His many stage credits include Crazy For You (National Tour), Mame (w/Carol Lawrence and Loretta Swit), and Forever Plaid. In New York, he was seen in The Donkey Show (DJ) and in the Fringe Festival award-winning a cappella musical, Minimum Wage: Blue Code Ringo! Paul holds a BA in Musical Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado and is an alumna of Columbia Business School’s Institute for Not-For-Profit Management and Harvard Business School’s Executive Education course in Performance Measurement.
Johanna Dejesus Cortes is Executive Director of La Peninsula, a HeadStart early childhood organization in Bronx, New York. Johanna was the former Senior Vice President of Programs and Operations (COO) at South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. She comes to SoBRO as a Bronx native, a product of the New York City public school system, public housing, and a former teen mom. Johanna has over 15 years of managerial and direct-service experience, having built exemplary youth, young adult, and family programs for underserved communities throughout New York City. She received a BA from the College of New Rochelle and is currently pursuing an MA in Human Services Leadership at St. Joseph’s College. In addition, Johanna is a graduate of the National Urban Fellows Leadership Development Program having completed an MPA from Baruch College.
Bobby Walker is President and CEO, Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich. He was Headmaster and Teacher of the Middle School at King Low Heywood Thomas School in Stamford, CT, where he has served for nine years. From 2000 to 2005, Bobby was Dean of Middle School Students at McDonogh School, a boarding and day school in Owings Mills, MD. Bobby launched his teaching career at St. Marks School of Texas, where he taught U.S. History, Language Arts and Life Skills. Bobby received a BA from Williams College and an MA from Johns Hopkins University. At Williams, he was a six-time All-American and national champion in the hammer throw. Upon graduation, he received the prestigious Purple Key Award as the college’s top overall male athlete, as well as the Muhammad Kenyatta Community Service Award. He was also distinguished as the Division III Male Athlete of the Year by the New England College Athletic Conference.
Catherine Youngman is former President of the Junior League in Greenwich, where she was awarded Leadership and Spirit of League awards. Catherine holds a BA in International Relations from Boston University; MA from Bard Graduate Center; and MBA studies at American University. She also worked as Asia and Middle East program manager at Save the Children. In her professional career, she also worked as a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.
Patricia Machir, Executive Director, Futures and Options
Patty Machir is Executive Director of Futures and Options, Inc. Before Futures and Options, Patty was Director of Volunteer Services at The Children's Aid Society, one of the oldest and largest children's welfare agencies in New York City. She serves on the board for New York City's Department of Youth & Community Development, a longstanding NYC agency with a budget of over $900 million per year. Prior to Futures and Options, Patty was president of the Board of Directors for Dallas for Children, a volunteer-run fundraising organization for needy children. Patty holds a BS in Psychology from Georgetown University, an MA in Education from George Washington University.
Our funders and volunteers come from these institutions:
New York Life
People's United Bank