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Power Moves: The Samuel S. Fels Fund announces two new appointments

December 9, 2019 Category: ColumnFeaturedLongPeople

Power Moves is a semi-regular column chronicling leadership movements within Philly’s social impact community. Send announcements to

1. At the Fels Fund, Shanell Ransom is named program officer, Michelle Currica becomes grants & operations manager.

Shanell Ransom, formerly the Samuel S. Fels Fund‘s grants and operations manager, has been promoted to a newly created program officer role at the private foundation, which committed to improving conditions and opportunities for communities that are marginalized in Philadelphia. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, Ransom will be responsible for the social, racial and economic justice grants portfolio while increasing her focus on ‘Beyond the Grant’ support for the Fund’s grantee partners.

“And because she and we wouldn’t have it any other way, Shanell will continue to help Fels embed equitable philanthropic practices across the organization,” Sarah Martinez-Helfman, president of the Fund, told Generocity in an email. “From day one, Shanell’s been committed to the justice mission of Fels and has worked to ensure we are walking our talk. As she has grown, so has the Samuel S. Fels Fund grown, and we are thrilled to see her step into this new role.”

Prior to her work with the Fels Fund, Ransom served as the neighborhood planning grants program national pilot intern at Wells Fargo, and a physical education consultant for the Ministry of Education of Belize City in Belize. She has a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and a bachelor’s from the College of Charleston.

Stepping into the role Ransom vacates will be Michelle Currica, who served as program manager at the Philadelphia Cultural Fund for the past six-plus years. An alum of Agnes Scott College, Currica is trilingual (English, Spanish and Japanese) and, prior to her work at the Cultural Fund, served as an international student advisor at Kaplan International Colleges; as assistant language teacher at Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), and subsequently as a JET program prefectural advisor at the Kochi Prefecture Office of International Relations and Culture.

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“Michelle has dedicated much of the past seven years to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund where she is known for her technological wizardry, is the ‘go-to’ for participatory grantmaking practice and has become a trusted source for hundreds of arts and culture organizations in Philadelphia,” said Martinez-Helfman. “As one person who worked closely with Michelle observed, ‘She’s got the administrative chops that leave the rest of us in the dust.’”

2. Esperanza announces four recent top-level hires across various program areas.

Esperanza, the faith-based nonprofit focused on strengthening Latino communities through education, economic development, and advocacy, recently appointed a new CEO for Esperanza Cyber Charter School, a new executive dean for Esperanza College of Eastern University, a new executive director for Esperanza Immigration Legal Services and a new vice president of development for Esperanza Inc.

Camille Van Kote. (Courtesy photo)

Camille Van Kote is the new executive director for Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS). Van Kote has dedicated her career to providing trauma-informed legal services to immigrants, particularly those who are survivors of violence and human trafficking. Van Kote comes to EILS after completing an Equal Justice Works Fellowship during which she served as a staff attorney in the Crime Victims’ Assistance Program of Catholic Charities in Houston, Texas. Van Kote holds a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

Dr. Jon Marsh. (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Jon Marsh is the new CEO for Esperanza Cyber Charter School. Marsh has more than 18 years of charter school leadership experience, 11 of them as the CEO of 21st Century Cyber Charter School.

Marsh was part of the national charter school movement in Minnesota since its inception in 1994, and was a member of the small team that opened the first charter school in that state in 1997. In Pennsylvania, he led the implementation of numerous Pennsylvania Department of Education pilot initiatives online, including CDTs, PVAAS, computer-based PSSAs and Keystones.

Marsh holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota at Duluth, and his master’s and doctorate from Drexel University. He is involved with his local church, where he serves as president of the church council.  Marsh is married to Dr. Rose Marsh, a biology teacher.

Marilyn Marsh. (Courtesy photo)

Marilyn Marsh is the new executive dean of Esperanza College of Eastern University. Prior to her appointment to Esperanza College, she served as the national sales director at Publicis Healthcare Solutions, and before that, she was in management at Merck & Co.

Marsh has a bachelor’s from Morgan State University, a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Theological Studies from Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University. She instructed and advised business students for several years as part of Rutgers University’s online executive education program, and is involved in church and community as a volunteer nonprofit organizational director and leader of adult, youth and children’s ministries.

“I believe that Marilyn Marsh will bring a perspective that we might not find in a more traditionally prepared person,” Rev. Luis Cortés, Esperanza founder and CEO, said in the emailed announcement. “She comes from a production orientation, and she knows that mission is tied to the ability to develop and continually assess teams for continuous improvement.”

Christine Nieves. (Courtesy)

Christine Nieves has been named vice president of development for Esperanza Inc. Nieves comes to Esperanza from Women Against Abuse (WAA), where she deepened corporate relationships, diversified funding streams and expanded the agency’s signature fundraising event. Additionally, she advised board, leadership and staff as WAA’s racial equity officer.

Nieves also served as as a member of Esperanza’s development staff from 2007-2012.

Nieves is a graduate of Williams College where her thesis focused on housing for Puerto Ricans in New York and Philadelphia from 1964-1985. She is also recognized as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).

3. Jennifer Farmer becomes the CEO of Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance.

Jennifer Farmer. (Courtesy)

The board of directors at the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) in Downingtown (Chester County) recently announced the promotion of Jennifer Farmer to the role of CEO.

Serving as the executive director for FARA since 2007, Farmer was instrumental in the growth and stewardship of FARA’s research programs from $1 million in funding to $6 million today. She is also credited with the expansion of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Clinical Research Network, and the establishment of the Center of Excellence at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Prior to serving as executive director, Farmer split her time between grant manager for FARA and genetic counselor and clinical research coordinator in Dr. David Lynch’s FA clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In these earlier roles, she was directly involved in the establishment of the collaborative clinical research network in FA, the creation of the FA patient registry, and managed FARA’s grant program.

As CEO, Farmer will continue to work with FARA’s scientific and research officers and directors and scientific advisory board to prioritize and direct research discovery that answers key questions in the understanding of Friedreich’s ataxia. She will also continue to work closely with FARA’s biopharmaceutical industry partners.

“Throughout her tenure, Jen has consistently displayed an exceptional commitment to our mission of curing Friedreich’s Ataxia,” said Paul Avery, FARA board chair, in the emailed announcement. “Her unwavering work ethic, collaborative spirit, thoughtful strategic mindset, and overall managerial talents, are a few of the many traits that highlight her effective leadership style.”

4. Sundrop Carter announces her intention to leave P.I.C.C. in early 2021.

Sundrop Carter. (Courtesy)

Sundrop Carter, the executive director of Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, announced via the organization’s newsletter that she will be stepping down from her post in the spring of 2021.

“When I stepped into the role of PICC’s executive director in the summer of 2015, I did so with a commitment to ensuring PICC’s work was rooted in and led by the needs of immigrant and refugee communities and to building a sustainable organization that could lift up and support the work of our membership,” Carter said in the newsletter. “I also came to this position with the strong belief that as a white, US-born citizen, I had an obligation to create space for immigrant leaders within our organization. For me, this meant focusing on recruiting and supporting a diverse staff that reflects the diversity of immigrant and refugee communities in our state, and ultimately stepping aside as executive director. I believe this is the time for that final step.”

Carter went on to outline the organizational priorities during the remainder of her tenure, as well as signalling her intention to be part of the search for her replacement.

“Over the next 18 months, I will be focused on the work of ensuring immigrant and refugee communities have a strong voice during a year that will profoundly impact our local and national political landscape,” she said. “PICC will be supporting our members to ensure that immigrants and refugees are counted in the 2020 Census and that their voices are front and center in local, state, and federal elections. We will continue to support campaigns to pass critical legislation like tuition equity and access to driver’s licenses for all, and we will be expanding our capacity building program — offering community navigator trainings across the state and developing new trainings for immigrant leaders and service providers. We will also continue to develop movement resources and have set a goal of building PA is Ready! to be able to offer $1 million in grants annually.

“Over the next 18 months PICC’s board, staff, and membership will also be engaging in a thoughtful process to find the next leader of PICC,” Carter said in conclusion, “one who is excited and ready to lead PICC into a critical new political moment.”


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