Founded in 2016, Denari is an innovation nonprofit that provides world-class enrichment education programs to disadvantaged children across the quad-state region of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. 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 Quad-state area.
LEADERSHIP - DIRECTORS
Diane Kaldany is the Co-Founder of the C&SG Group 'Capitalism and the Social Good', a consulting firm that advocates for more socially conscious business practices and impact investing. Diane has worked as a professional fundraiser, event planner, business developer in diverse industries. Her corporate experience included positions at HSBC International Private Banking, the Guardian Life Insurance Co and JD Capital Solutions yet ten years ago she pivoted to a NGO, Teach For Lebanon. Diane immigrated to the United States with her family from the Middle East. She holds a BA from Fordham University and has held FINRA Licenses 7 & 6; now pursuing Series 82 to connect investors to sustainable opportunities. She is fluent in five languages and a passionate promoter of entrepreneurship, the arts, early education and human rights. Diane is serving in governance or advisory roles at FJK Dance Company, the Kota Alliance, Amal Alliance as well as on the steering committee of two business networking groups.
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 is married and enjoys spending time with his family. Armando is a native of Naples, Italy.
Richard Shusman, CFA, CAIA, is the Director of US Institutional Business Development at Capital Dynamics, a $17 billion private asset management company. He has over 14 years of experience in marketing investments to the institutional investor base, across asset classes. Prior to joining Capital Dynamics, Rich was an Institutional Sales and Consultant Relations Manager at Voya Investment Management, where he was responsible for business development activities related to the institutional investor community. Earlier in his career he worked at FactSet Research Systems, where he was an institutional salesperson, specializing in asset management, including risk and performance analysis, portfolio attribution, and optimization. Rich holds a Bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Series 7 and 63 licenses, as well as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designations. Rich is a member of the Park Avenue Synagogue. Rich is married and has two children.
Colleen Dunne is Head of RFP (Marketing Communications) in North America for Invesco, an investment management firm with over 8,000 employees and $1.2 trillion AUM. Prior to joining Invesco, she was Head of RFP at Voya Investment Management. Colleen was Vice President of Product Marketing for JPMorgan, Global Fixed Income where she launched JPM Asset Management’s first external blog. In addition, Colleen has also served in marketing communication roles at Cammack Investment Consulting, BlackRock, and Merrill
Lynch Investment Management. She began her career with the online brokerage firm, Datek Online, in content development and product management. Colleen holds a BS in Interpersonal Communications from Ohio University, MA in Communication Studies from Kent State University. Colleen lives in Manhattan and has one son who is a graduate of Bowdoin College.
Valarian Abrams is Chief Architect, Founder, Vice-Chair of Denari Youth. A native of Alabama, Val is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar, Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, Aspen Socrates Fellow in Aspen, Colorado. 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 2% 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 also served his country for ten years in the United States Army.
Val completed a BA from Howard University, holds a masters certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Social Enterprise program at Columbia Business School. Val is a member of the National Eagle Scout Association and serves as a Director of the Yale Nonprofit Alliance Development Board and Futures and Options Steering Committee. He 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 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. Johanna is 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 Assistant Headmaster at the Greenwich Academy. He is former CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich for several years; 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. Bobby serves as Greenwich First Selectman’s Diversity Group vice chair; Greenwich Hospital Board of Directors; Advisory Boards of Junior League of Greenwich and Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich. Bobby is married and has three children.
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: