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Staff


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Alfa Demmellash - Chief Executive Officer

Alfa Demmellash co-founded Rising Tide Capital in May 2004. As Chief Executive Officer, she oversees strategic growth, programmatic innovation and stakeholder engagement at Rising Tide Capital. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in Government. Alfa is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from St. Peter's University and New Jersey City University and has won numerous awards for her work as a leading social entrepreneur. 


Read Alfa's Extended Bio 

Read more about Alfa


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Alex Forrester - Chief Operations Officer

Alex Forrester co-founded Rising Tide Capital in May 2004. As Chief Operations Officer, he has been principally responsible for program evaluation and outcome measurement, financial management, and fundraising. Forrester graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2004 with an accelerated Bachelor of Arts in Postmodern Theology and Philosophy. Alex is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from New Jersey City University.


Read Alex's Extended Bio


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Carlee Catena - Executive Assistant

As Executive Assistant, Carlee provides direct support for Rising Tide Capital’s co-founders Alex Forrester and Alfa Demmellash. She joins Rising Tide Capital with a passion for community service and 11 years of administrative experience. Most recently, she served as the Executive/Administrative Assistant at the HIV Prevention Community Planning Support and Development Initiative at Rutgers University.  Carlee graduated from Rutgers University with a dual degree in Anthropology and Classics in 2006. After graduating, she spent two years working and traveling abroad. A New Jersey native, she is excited about the opportunity to directly impact the state where she was born and raised. When she is not at Rising Tide Capital, Carlee enjoys rollerskating and mentoring youth through the Catholic Charities Connections Program in Edison, New Jersey. 

Read more about Carlee


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Michael Caslin - Managing Director, Strategy and Development

Michael Caslin brings to RTC a passion for entrepreneurship and 3 decades of proven success in social enterprise and business venture development.  Over a 20-year career as the CEO of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Michael helped lead the nonprofit from start-up turn-around stage in 1988 to what it is today - a social enterprise with $20 million in annual revenue and 4,000 NFTE teachers and 1.4 million graduates across 31 states and 14 countries.

He is the founder of several triple bottom line ventures including URGENT VC- CleanTech Venture Development for renewed urban centers and sustainable tribal reservations; and the Urban Ecology Institute founded with Boston College. A recognized expert on entrepreneurship, he has been called to testify before various institutions including the United Nations, U.S. Congress and the White House. He has been a featured lecturer at numerous universities including Harvard, Babson, Stanford, Duke, NYU, Columbia and University of Hong Kong and Prague Business Schools.

Currently, Michael serves as an Adjunct Faculty member of Babson College’s Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Sustainability at CUNY- Baruch Zicklin Business School in New York (ranked #1 and #8 respectively in the USA).


Mike was featured in Babson's 2012 Alumni Magazine 

Read more about Mike


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Jay Savulich - Managing Director, Programs

Jay Savulich oversees both the Community Business Academy and Business Acceleration Services, and works directly with clients as an instructor and business coach. Before starting at Rising Tide Capital, he had a twenty-year career owning and operating successful restaurants in New York City. He also has worked as a technology trainer in the developing world, and continues to work as a photographer. His passion is using his varied experience to help others learn the steps to achieving success in small business and in their lives. Previously, he spent three years as an instructor, business counselor, and microloan officer at a similar organization in Brooklyn. He has been teaching the Community Business Academy classes at Rising Tide Capital since they began in September 2006.

Read more about Jay


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Keith Dent - Senior Manager for Regional Programs

As Senior Manager for Regional Programs, Keith is facilitating the pilot replication of our programs in Essex County as Rising Tide Capital expands into Northern New Jersey. He is responsible for community outreach—establishing and maintaining stakeholder relationships to ensure that our programs reach potential entrepreneurs living in distressed urban centers in Essex County. A resident of West Orange for the past 13 years, Keith has over 5 years experience as a Program Manager for IMPACT Community Development Corporation in Montclair, NJ. He holds a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management from Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Georgetown University. He is also a certified empowerment coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC).

Read more about Keith


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Briana Sellers - Marketing and Outreach Coordinator

 

As Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for our Newark office, Brianna is in charge of attending networking events, meeting with community partners and conducting outreach in Essex County. Briana has always had a passion for service, grassroots organizing and policy innovation, and brings prior experience as a community organizer for both Senator Cory Booker and President Obama. She received her Bachelor’s degree in History from Hampton University and joined RTC to work for a cause that would benefit the community. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new foods, attending art exhibits, concerts and shopping.

 

 


 Seedra

 

Seedra Enver - Grants Coordinator


Seedra’s passion for the sciences and commitment to non-profit work brought her to the Rising Tide Capital Fundraising Team. She holds a degree in Biological Sciences and Public Health with a Certification in Health Education from Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, Seedra served as the Finance Coordinator for various organizations, including the New Jersey chapter of AlMaghrib Institute where she organized a campaign that raised more than $32,000 for international humanitarian relief.Seedra also enjoys mentoring youth and giving back to her community. Her commitment to mentorship and entrepreneurship lead her to become one of the youngest National Coordinators for the YM Youth Group in the organization’s history. Seedra personally identifies with RTC’s mission as her parents owned and operated a small business in Central New Jersey while she was growing up. In her free time Seedra loves to travel, read, and experiment in the kitchen with east-meets-west cuisine.

 

Read more about Seedra


  Max

Max McGowen - Replication and Public Policy Assistant– AmeriCorps VISTA

Max joined Rising Tide Capital as the Replication and Public Policy Assistant AmeriCorps VISTA because RTC offers a unique opportunity for him to apply his past experiences to an innovative effort that makes a real difference in the lives of ordinary people. Max brings a variety of experiences from the education, nonprofit, and government sectors to his current role. He received his B.A. in Political Science from The George Washington University (GWU) in 2011 and subsequently completed an additional year of study there to obtain his M.A. in Legislative Affairs. His interest in social justice and economic development stems from his prior roles as a research and editorial assistant at various academic and nonprofit organizations, including GWU’s Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project and the United Nations Association of the USA. Through his role as Replication and Public Policy Assistant, he will assist in efforts to expand Rising Tide Capital’s distinctive model to underserved communities within and outside of New Jersey. In his spare time, Max enjoys writing, photography, and planning his next travel adventure (usually to the west coast).


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Louisa Cousins - Program Evaluation Manager

Louisa Cousins joined Rising Tide Capital in January 2011. She oversees the critical area of program evaluation. This includes reporting our activities to our funders and developing a performance framework to measure our programs’ success. With over nine years of experience in non-profit program evaluation and administration, Louisa has brought a wealth of experience to our team. Prior to RTC, Louisa worked for the UK Film Council where she was responsible for evaluation and reporting on nationwide funding programs. She holds an honors degree in Social Sciences from City University in London.

Read more about Louisa.


Claire

Claire Corea- Fundraising and Research Assistant– AmeriCorps VISTA

 

 

Claire joined RTC in November as the Fundraising and Research Assistant, AmeriCorps VISTA. She received her B.A. from Boston College in May 2014, where she majored in Political Science and minored in American Studies. During her academic career, Claire was a member of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and interned with an organization to connect legal permanent residents to resources to obtain their citizenship. In her role with the Development team, Claire will work to expand and maintain RTC’s donor base, assist with research in the program evaluation department and work to support RTC’s Local Living Economy Summit. In her spare time, Claire enjoys painting, drawing and playing her trumpet.

 

 

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Rachael Gambino- Fundraising and Development Assistant– AmeriCorps VISTA

 

Rachael joins RTC as the Fundraising and Development Assistant. In May 2013, she graduated from SUNY Cortland with a degree in Mass Communications and a concentration in Public Relations and Advertising.  Rachael’s passion for service began at a young age. She participated in various community clean-ups, organized fundraisers and participated in food collections. This passion followed her into adulthood, as she spent last year aiding Hurricane Sandy survivors as a community outreach liaison.  Through her role on the Development team, Rachael will increase capacity by helping to create innovative events that cultivate new partnerships and funders. In her free time, she likes to travel and volunteer.

 


Mary J. Sansait - Senior  Program Manager, The Community Business Academy

Mary Sansait is the Senior Program Manager of the Community Business Academy (CBA), working with Jay Savulich, Managing Director of Programs. In addition to administrative support for our signature 12-week program, she is responsible for developing and managing community partner relationships in Hudson County. Mary oversees the implementation of recruitment goals and outreach strategies, enabling our CBA to reach high potential Hudson County participants. Upon completion of her Planning and Public Policy degree at Rutgers University, Mary's passion for community development grew stronger while serving an AmeriCorps term as Volunteer Coordinator and Violence Against Women Act Specialist for the International Institute of New Jersey.

Mary is also an accomplished singer, recording artist and entrepreneur who uses her skills to engage creative entrepreneurs in the community with markets in the North Jersey area. Her passion in fusing community development with the arts is a direct result of Rising Tide Capital’s art, music and vendor festival called ARTfest! which showcases Rising Tide’s artist entrepreneurs.

Read more about Mary


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Roger Cervantes - Senior Program Manager, Business Acceleration Services

Roger Cervantes provides support to Rising Tide Capital’s  Business Acceleration Services programs.  Upon receiving his degree in Religion at Montclair State University, he went on to work for Bank of America, providing low-income workers with access to financial services as a CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) Representative & Assistant Branch Manager.  In addition to his passion for economic development, he also brings more than 7 years of combined experience in Retail Management and as an Executive Assistant in the fields of Labor and Community Development.  As a long-time Jersey City resident, Roger admires the important role that Rising Tide Capital plays in his community and looks forward to helping the organization further its mission.


Read more about Roger


 Raul Mercado

 Raul Mercado – Program Coordinator and Small Business Coach

With more than 17 years of small business development experience, Jersey City native Raul Mercado joined Rising Tide Capital in July 2013. Through intensive mentoring and one-on-one coaching he will assist Rising Tide Entrepreneurs to build capacity by connecting them to professional resources, access to capital, and procurement opportunities.

Raul grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and knows what it takes to grow a business. As owner of The Mercado Group, Inc. he has established strategic alliances with partners that offer customized capacity building advisory services, project management, and employee benefits solutions. During his tenure as Supplier Diversity Development Manager for Schering-Plough, he developed innovative strategies that significantly increased corporate procurement from small, minority, women, LGBT and veteran-owned businesses.  His positions as Business Development Manager/Certification Specialist at the NY & NJ Minority Supplier Development Council, and Special Improvement Project Manager for the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation, have deepened his small business development experience.

Raul has received recognition for his achievements from the U.S. House of Representatives, Diversity Plus, NJ  Biz, Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information magazines, Odyssey International and the nationally syndicated television news show, Hispanics Today. 

 Read More about Raul.


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Victoria Rodriguez – Business Service Coordinator

Victoria brings 15 years of experience helping entrepreneurs actualize their dreams to her position as Business Services Coordinator at Rising Tide Capital. Her dedication to entrepreneurship stemmed from her first internship with small-business development organization, Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO), where she continued to work full time after receiving her degree in History from Brooklyn College. Victoria’s passion for micro-businesses and her prior experience in coordinating events, managing and developing alumni relations and connecting entrepreneurs to resources makes her a perfect fit for this position. As the Business Services Coordinator, she will be in charge of working directly with Rising Tide Entrepreneurs to assess their needs, schedule appointments with business coaches and connect graduates to business resources. When she is not in the office, Victoria enjoys hanging out with her niece and nephew in the park and exploring different restaurants.

 

Read more about Victoria


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Milaury Herrera – Programs Assistant

 

A Jersey City native, Milaury is honored to work with an organization that aims to positively enact change in her community. She previously worked for Jersey City Public Schools, where she discovered her passion for providing social services in the field of education. Her passion for providing great customer service and helping individuals succeed brought her to RTC. As Program Assistant for the Community Business Academy (CBA), Milaury provides information about the program for potential applicants interested in starting a business. She hopes to build strong relationships with potential entrepreneurs and offer them the motivation and encouragement they need to start their business. Milaury is a proud graduate of William Paterson University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She plans to continue her education in the near future by attending graduate school for social work. In her free time she enjoys exercising, volunteering and spending time with her family.

 

 Read more about Milaury


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Alfreda Rogers – Action Plan Coordinator

 

Alfreda Rogers’ dedication to human development and community service brings her to RTC’s programs department.   Alfreda received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Rutgers University and has since returned to pursue her Master’s in Public Administration, Financial Planning and Budgeting. Prior to her position at RTC, Alfreda worked at Viacom Media Networks, developing tactics and marketing campaigns to expand the audience of MTV network programs.  Through her role as Action Plan Coordinator, she will help make critical services like the Help Desk and Access-to-Capital program, available to Community Business Academy graduates. She hopes to contribute to the development and success of Rising Tide Capital’s entrepreneurs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling and volunteering.

 

Read more about Alfreda


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Lucas Belury - Volunteer Coordinator- AmeriCorps VISTA

With a background in urban economics, Lucas Belury joins the Rising Tide Capital Team as Volunteer Coordinator, AmeriCorps Vista.  He graduated from Trinity University in May 2014 with a degree in Urban and Latino American Studies. During his tenure he served as captain of the men's swim team and assistant- principal cellist of the Trinity Symphony Orchestra.  As Volunteer Coordinator he aims to expand RTC’s incubator network and strengthen the pool of volunteers. In the future he plans to work for city government ensuring access to quality affordable housing in the United States and Latin America. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring new cities and eating Tex-Mex.

Learn how to volunteer with Rising Tide Capital


Jessenia

Jessenia Silvero - Spanish Language Coordinator

Born and raised in the South Bronx, Jessenia Silvero is passionate about uplifting and inspiring  local communities. A current resident of Jersey City, she is working toward her degree in Human Services at Hudson County Community College. Prior to Rising Tide Capital, Jessenia volunteered and worked as Program Manager for Dress for Success Hudson County, where she received several awards of recognition. She brings nearly a decade of program management and community outreach experience to her role as Spanish-language Programs Coordinator. She is excited to manage support services for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs as well as develop and maintain partnerships with key stakeholders in Hispanic communities. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and bird watching.


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Renesha Lee - Community and Outreach Assistant- Americorps VISTA

Hoping to make a positive impact on her community of Jersey City, Renesha joins Rising Tide Capital as the Programs and Outreach Assistant, AmeriCorps VISTA.  While working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor in African American studies at Montclair University, she served at local non-profit Jersey Cares as the Programs intern. There she gained experience in recruitment and community outreach, skills which she now brings to her role at RTC. Throughout the year, she will plan and execute strategies and events to help RTC sustainably serve more entrepreneurs and increase awareness of its programs. Renesha comes from a family of entrepreneurs and, in her spare time, enjoys vending her family’s all-natural bath and body products at local fairs, volunteering and trying new food.

 


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 Jill Belurgy- Entrepreneur Training Assistant- Americorps VISTA

 


Jill brings a drive for making a difference in local and global communities to her role as Entrepreneur Training Assistant, AmeriCorps VISTA. While at Rowan University, Jill served as a mentor, played field hockey and spent time studying the environment in Costa Rica. After graduating from Rowan University in May 2013 with a degree in Environmental Studies, she spent two years teaching children in outdoor classrooms in Connecticut and Northern Nevada. As the first-ever Entrepreneur Training assistant, Jill will work to help stabilize and document RTC's training and coaching programs to prepare for replication. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, hiking and playing frisbee.


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 Robi Jaffrey- BAS Programs Coordinator- Americorps VISTA

 


Born and raised in Jersey City, Robi joins the team eager to build capacity through his role as BAS Programs Coordinator, AmeriCorps Vista. He received a degree in Environmental Economics from Bates College and has since worked with a variety of nonprofits. Robi brings prior experience in microfinance and has taught environmental classes in Guatemala and Ecuador. He will use these experiences along with his proficiency in Spanish to expand the Action Plan Program and the Help Desk to better serve CBA graduates. In his spare time Robi can be found travelling, taking photographs, collecting cookbooks and playing tennis. ​


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Tawanda Taylor - Finance & Administration Manager

Tawanda Taylor joined the Rising Tide Capital staff in July of 2010. A Jersey City native, she is a recent graduate of New Jersey City University, with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Taylor has worked in the non-profit sector for over five years, with her most recent position being with the American Red Cross of Greater New York where she was a finance bookkeeper for three years. While employed at the American Red Cross, she assisted thousands of people who were victims of Hurricane Katrina. Prior to her work at the Red Cross, she worked for the New York Foundling Hospital for two and a half years as a junior accountant in the finance department. In the future, she looks to pursue her master’s degree in Accounting, as well as take the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam.

Read more about Tawanda


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Esther Fraser - Director of Communications

As the Director of Communications, Esther Fraser supports Rising Tide Capital's programs, services and activities with a mixture of public relations and marketing tactics and strategies, desktop publishing, graphic design, and a passion for non-profit communications. Esther oversees the production  of all the communication and marketing materials produced by the organization, and generates content for all of Rising Tide Capital's communications platforms. Prior to joining Rising Tide Capital as Communications Associate in 2009, Esther worked at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, as well as at the Guardian ad Litem Program in Miami-Dade, Florida. She holds a master's degree in Media Management from the S I Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, as well as a Bachelor in Communications from Florida Memorial University.

 

Read more about Esther


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Justyna Krygowska - Communications Manager

As Communications Manager, Justyna Krygowska works on a variety of projects to ensure that the mission behind Rising Tide Capital is reinforced by quality communication materials. A talented designer with a unique point of view, Justyna creates written and graphic content for Rising Tide Capital’s media and communications platforms. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Design with a concentration in Communication Design and Design and Management, from Parsons the New School for Design in New York City. In the future Justyna hopes to expand her passion for helping others by pursuing a Masters Degree in Communications or Small Business and Nonprofit Management.

Read more about Justyna.


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Shanea Phillips - Public Relations Associate- AmeriCorps VISTA

Shanea Phillips has a passion for community service and giving back to people in need. She is excited to combine her passion for public relations to tell the stories of the Rising Tide Capital community. She graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a BS in Public Relations in Spring 2013. While there she held numerous leadership roles in Student Government, The A&T Register, and the National Association of Black Journalists. She also served as the Community Outreach Coordinator on the Student University Activities Board, providing students with volunteer opportunities within the Greensboro community. Shanea’s proudest accomplishment was receiving the Campus Enhancement Award and graduating Suma Cum Laude. Shanea hopes to continue her career in the nonprofit sector and obtain her masters in non-profit management with a focus in communications. During her service period at RTC, she hopes to make a difference in her community while cultivating new relationships and gaining valuable experience.

 

Read more about Shanea


  Diana

Diana Kantor - Communications Associate- AmeriCorps VISTA

With a combined love of writing and helping others, Diana Kantor joined RTC as the Communications Assistant AmeriCorps VISTA to tell the stories of Rising Tide Entrepreneurs. She graduated from Saint Peter’s University with a BA in Communications and a Minor in English, and has a strong background in broadcast and social media. While there she was heavily involved in her school’s newspaper, The Pauw Wow, and was one of the founding members of the University’s online news broadcast. A longtime resident of Metuchen, NJ—a town with a major small business presence—Diana firmly believes that entrepreneurship is the way to establishing a thriving community. She is excited to tell the inspirational stories of CBA graduates as they contribute to their local communities through the creation of their businesses. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, making jewelry, and spending time with family. 

 

Read more about Diana


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Fred Dominguez - Community Business Academy Instructor & Business Coach

Fred Dominguez joined the staff in Fall 2010 as a part-time Community Business Academy Instructor and Business Coach. Dominguez comes to RTC with 37 years of experience in the banking industry, and a love for small businesses. An NYC native, Dominguez attended Lehman College where he received his BA in Economics and Business Administration, and furthered his education by attaining his graduate degree in Finance from Long Island University.  Throughout the years, he has held various positions in the banking industry from branch manager, to assistant department manager, to working with installment loans, and small business community lending. He has worked for Banco Popular, Banco de Ponce, and City National Bank of New Jersey to name a few. Dominguez has been consulting and dealing with small business lending most of his life. He has taught the small business plan course for the New Jersey Economic Authority, as well as lectured on small business development at Rutgers University and Kean University.


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Winston Trumpet - Community Business Academy Instructor & Business Coach

Community Business Academy alumnus and entrepreneurial-success, Winston C. Trumpet is excited to return to the CBA as the newest instructor. Trumpet is the CEO and founder of Strategic Business Associates, LLC and has been coaching managers and business executives for more than a decade. Since he graduated from the fall 2009 CBA, he has played an active role in Rising Tide Capital, leading multiple workshops and speaking at events including the 2010 celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week. He is certified in the Strategic Mindset Coaching Process, a program of the Growth Coach Franchise and holds a BSBA from San Francisco State University. He is also the Senior Pastor of Trumpet Family Ministries “The Church with No walls” of Jersey City. In his free time, he enjoys watching crime films, jogging, and spending time with his family. As a CBA instructor he will draw on his personal experience as an entrepreneur and passion for helping others achieve excellence in their businesses.


Read about how Winston became a CBA instructor


kene turner

Kene Turner - Community Business Academy Instructor & Business Coach

Kene Turner brings more than ten years of teaching experience to Rising Tide Capital. An avid entrepreneur, he is the founder of Epilife Consulting Inc. which helps businesses incorporate community engagement into their business models. His prior positions include the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and DEFY Ventures, a nonprofit organization which provides entrepreneurship training for the formerly incarcerated. Turner joined Rising Tide Capital in 2013 and now teaches the Wednesday night CBA in Union City. Outside of class, Turner enjoys spending time with his wife and three children at their home in Staten Island. He loves to play basketball, write, and volunteer with his local church.


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