Staff and Leadership | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

Staff and Leadership

Jon Gay
Executive Director

Jonathan Gay has worked with Playworks since 2006 and is continually inspired by the power of play in education. Beginning as a program coordinator at an elementary school in East Boston, he has grown within the organization serving in such positions as program manager, development manager, and director of partnerships and development. Now in the role of executive director, he is responsible for the fiscal management and development, day-to-day operations, and leadership and supervision of Playworks Massachusetts’ staff.

During his tenure, Playworks Massachusetts has grown from seven to forty elementary schools serving 25,000 children statewide through direct service programs and professional development trainings. Additionally, Playworks was recognized as a Social Innovator by Root Cause’s Social Innovation Forum in 2010.

Jon graduated from Bates College where he studied political science and Spanish, played soccer and rugby, and became actively involved with Bates’ service-learning community. He later received his Masters in Sports Leadership from Northeastern University focusing on sports-based youth development.

Jon plays actively by running and mountain biking, chasing around his two-year-old daughter Eliza, and walking his dog Miles in the Arboretum.

Andrew Jackson
Major Gifts Officer

Andrew Jackson serves Playworks with nearly a decade of community development experience. His previous roles have encompassed government relations, nonprofit programming, and business development concerning issues such as disability services, hunger, health-related disorders, and youth empowerment. Andrew has served in roles that directly impact communities by educating and offering proper resources in a time of need while spearheading various development campaigns.

Andrew has a strong background in cause-related nonprofit management. As the Senior Manager, Major Giving, Andrew leads the individual giving campaign for the New England region. Andrew is a true believer in the power of play and is very excited to have the opportunity to ensure that every child has an environment for safe, fun, and healthy play every day.

Karleen Herbst
Development Director

Karleen Herbst is entering her fourth year with Playworks Massachusetts. She began her career as the Program Associate, transitioned into the Development Associate, and is now serving as the Development Manager. Growing up actively involved in sports, Karleen is aware of the importance of play and the important life skills it can instill in children at a young age. She is passionate about building the Playworks movement throughout Massachusetts and the rest of the country.

Rebeca Pazo
Program Director

Rebeca Pazo is a veteran Playworker. Prior to becoming a program director, Rebeca was a program manager for four years. Before that, she worked as a program coordinator for three years at a bilingual school in the Boston area. One of her proudest accomplishments with Playworks was helping expand programs into Lawrence and Somerville.

Rebeca really believes in the power of play. As a program coordinator and a program manager, Rebeca has seen first hand the impact Playworks has in the communities it serves. Rebeca’s own life has been deeply impacted by play. As a young girl, she joined a youth volleyball team and it was volleyball that taught her about discipline, teamwork, empathy, and leadership. Thanks to Playworks she is now able to offer those same opportunities to communities across New England.

Caroline Barclay
Program Manager

Entering her fifth year with Playworks, Caroline began her career in 2013 working as a program coordinator at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston, MA. In 2015, she transitioned to her new pilot role as site coordinator, launching TeamUp programming in over four schools in the Somerville School District. Caroline is excited for yet another challenge as Program Manger and is passionate about finding unique ways to motivate staff, and inspiring educators to believe in the play movement in elementary schools across
New England.

Caroline is a Massachusetts native and a Boston College graduate with degrees in communications and inclusive education. Pursuing her Masters degree in Sports Leadership from Northeastern, Caroline is eager to continue to expand her knowledge on how to use sports, play, and leadership to promote greater social change. In her spare time, Caroline enjoys coaching lacrosse, hanging out with friends and family, and cheering for the New England Patriots.

Sam Englert
Program Manager

After spending one year as a program coordinator with Playworks, followed by one year in the classroom, Sam is returning to Playworks Massachusetts as a program manager and is excited to get back in the game. Sam moved to Boston from a small rural town in Indiana after graduating college and instantly fell in love with the history and vibrant culture. He has worked with youth for more than six years in a variety of settings such as camps, daycares, and schools. In his spare time, you can find Sam outside enjoying a variety of activities such as running, camping, and hiking. Sam values the power of play and strives to bring this to all students across Massachusetts.

Akeem Flowers
Program Manager

Akeem joined Playworks in 2012 as a Playworks AmeriCorps coach and spent his first two years at Joseph Lee Elementary School. In 2014, Akeem launched programming at Mattahunt Elementary School.

Born in Belize, but raised in Las Vegas, Akeem is no stranger to new environments. Akeem is excited to transition into the role of program manager, where he will continue to motivate Playworks staff members and do even more to help Playworks reach its aim to ensure that EVERY kid gets to play.

When he’s not on the recess yard giving high-fives, Akeem can be found traveling the world, cooking, and watching every Patriots game during football season.

Stephon Lilly
Program Manager

Stephon Lilly has over ten years of experience working with children and adults who care for children. Stephon Joined Playworks in 2015 as an AmeriCorps coach and launched programming at the Sarah Greenwood Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He was born and raised in New York and came to Boston in search of new opportunities to continue helping children in need. Stephon firmly believes that a caring, consistent adult is one of the foundations for success in a child's life. You can find Stephon nurturing his playfulness by building with his massive LEGO collection, DJing, producing music, and bike riding.

Briana Gilvarg
Program Associate

Briana recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Bachelor's degree in Communications. After spending six years working as a camp counselor, she was able to see the real difference that safe and positive play makes in a child's day and overall attitude. Once introduced to Playworks, she knew it was a perfect fit to combine her knowledge of youth development and nonprofit experience. Briana is excited to be a part of a team that is so focused on making a difference in children's lives. When Briana is not working, she enjoys being active outside, relaxing at the beach, and spending time with friends and family.

Matthew Antonelli
Operations Manager

Matthew Antonelli spent the last eight years managing operations in the private sector. He has now joined Playworks New England as the regional operations manager. Matthew combines his distinct skill set with his passion for helping EVERY child have access to safe, inclusive, and fun play. Having been born and raised in Massachusetts, his experience gives a unique insight into the Massachusetts schooling system. When Matthew isn't overseeing systems management, he is collecting passport stamps while writing and posting on social media along the way!

Deb Sugerman
Senior Pro Trainer

Deb Sugerman comes with 20 years of experience teaching in higher education, where she trained educators to design youth programs and lead activities with elementary and middle school students. She also ran a consulting business where she trained adults in group facilitation skills. She has a background in program evaluation, most recently evaluating the impact of activity-based programs on youth participants.  Deb believes that youth workers who value the power of play have the ability to positively impact children and organizations. Deb is an avid outdoors person and spends her free time hiking and kayaking.

Jill Barry
Pro Trainer

Jill comes to the role of pro trainer for Playworks after eight years of working in education, including a year serving as a Playworks program coordinator in Boston, Massachusetts. Her experience facilitating learning with adults is varied, from creating original theater with military veterans in New York City to designing and implementing workshops with college students at the University of Rwanda. She is passionate about impacting the children of New England by working with educators to bring safe, healthy play back into learning! Jill holds a BA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MA in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York.

Trevor Perry
Program Specialist

Trevor has been interested in youth development since he started coaching elementary school basketball at the age of 16. He went on to graduate from Worcester State University with a degree in Psychology in 2014. For the next two years, Trevor was an AmeriCorps member in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he mentored and tutored students in Baton Rouge Public Schools. It was in Baton Rouge where Trevor's interest in youth development grew into a passion. Trevor joined Playworks Louisiana last year as a program coordinator, serving the Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester.

Jessica "DC" Duarte-Cherrie
Site Coordinator

Known for her energy, enthusiasm, and unique style, Coach DC will be entering her fourth year at Playworks. She holds a bachelor's degree in sports and entertainment management and enjoys being active. In her first three years with Playworks, she coached at the King K-8 School in Dorchester where she built amazing rapport with students, staff, and parents. In her fourth year, Coach DC is now a TeamUp site coordinator for the Brockton Public School District. She plays to make a positive difference in each child's life and wants to continue to model the Playworks culture.

Caitlin Whited
Site Coordinator

Caitlin originally grew up in Western Massachusetts exploring the woods her home town had to offer, often times spending her recesses playing in those woods. After spending eight years in Minnesota and getting her degree in Psychology, she decided it was time to come back to the Massachusetts and work with kids in an urban environment. After spending one year as an AmeriCorps Program Coordinator for Playworks at UP Academy Dorchester, Caitlin is excited to spend the year launching Playworks in New Bedford as a site coordinator. Outside of work, Caitlin enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and visiting her friends and family in New England.

Ann Barysh
Encore Fellow

Ann Barysh has been a high school and middle school history and social studies teacher in rural, suburban, and urban schools. She has also been a vice principal for curriculum and supervision in an urban middle school and a curriculum coach and director in turnaround districts and schools. In addition to her work in public schools, Ann has taught at the university level and most recently delivered a paper at UCLA entitled, "The History of History Education." Ann retired from education in 2015. After spending a year reading, working voter registration drives, and biking through Italy, she was itching to get back in the game. Ann became a fellow with Encore, a national organization that provides retirees an opportunity to apply their skills in new settings.

In her role as the Playworks Encore Fellow, Ann will be working on the Generation2Generation campaign with the mission to connect volunteers from the age 50+ generation with organizations that focus primarily on youth and children. Specifically, Ann will create a pilot program for 50+ volunteers in Playworks partner schools across Massachusetts. Although new to Playworks, Ann is deeply committed to its mission and the impact Playworks has on participating schools. Ann is an avid cyclist, swimmer, and lover of yoga. Moreover, she is very excited to become a grandmother in February 2017 and plans on making play a major part of her relationship with her new grandchild.

Molly Blake
FAO Schwartz Family Foundation Fellow

Molly joined Playworks last summer as an AmeriCorps coach and spent her year at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston. She has a degree in Public and Community Service Studies from Providence College where she was able to get experience working with youth in Providence. Molly is passionate about the power of play and is very interested in conflict resolution and social emotional learning. As the FAO Schwartz Fellow for Playworks, she will be focusing on social emotional learning within Playworks programming along with direct service to support our coaches. In her spare time, Molly enjoys running, rooting for the Red Sox, and spending time with family and friends.

Amy French
Development Associate

Amy has a degree in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis and significant experience working in youth-development nonprofits. Amy is originally from New Jersey and joins the Playworks team after a year in South Africa working for a sport-based adolescent health organization that leverages the power of soccer to educate and inspire youth in developing countries to live healthier lives. Amy is thrilled to work for an organization in the field she's most passionate about—play! Amy loves to play soccer, play music, and play outside. She is very excited to help provide opportunities for safe and healthy play to youth in New England communities.

Gianna Carchia
Site Coordinator

Gianna spent her first two years with Playworks as a coach at the Blackstone Innovation School. For her third year, she will support four TeamUp schools in Dorchester and Roslindale as a site coordinator. After growing up between Cape Cod and Vermont, she attended Suffolk University, where her three years of service with Jumpstart sparked her passion for youth development. Throughout the past seven years, she has met incredible children, families, and educators and has witnessed the outstanding impact of a positive school climate. She is dedicated to spreading the power of play and is proud to contribute to positive change for youth in Boston and beyond.

Fidelis Teixeira
Site Coordinator

Fidelis is going into his first year working as a site coordinator after serving two years as an AmeriCorps coach at the Harvard Kent Elementary school and the Conservatory Lab Charter School. Fidelis came to Playworks with over seven years of experience working in youth development in and around Boston. Being born and raised in Boston, Fidelis has a lot passion for the work he does with Playworks. He's very excited to start his new role as a site coordinator, and looks forward to seeing more students and building relationships with more educators. If not at recess, you could probably see Fidelis on a run around the city or finding new places to satisfy his cravings for great food.

Brendan Toohey
Program Manager

Brendan Toohey is entering his third year with Playworks. He spent his first two years as a Playworks AmeriCorps coach at Midvale Elementary in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has now come back home to Boston. He is excited to take his experience from the playground into the program manager role with Playworks New England. He strongly believes that play is a powerful conduit to create lasting change in elementary school communities, and loves that Playworks provides that safe space for play to happen. Brendan is a lifelong competitive skier, and when there isn’t snow on the ground, he runs, spends time outdoors, and spends time with family and friends.