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Meet the Eli J. Segal Entrepreneurship Winners


2012Anita Yip
2012Ryan Sarafolean
2010Arianne McGinnis & Elliot McGann
2009Shawn Rubin
2008Rhonda Ulmer
2007Chris Myers Asch
2006David Breihan & Diana Epstein
2006Vernell Robinson
2002Peter Murray

2012: Anita Yip
Co-founder: Jasmine Asian Women Giving Circle

At 26, Anita Yip is the Assistant Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at her alma mater Wellesley College. For the past two years, she served at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston as part of the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship (AmeriCorps). Anita holds a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies and Media Arts and Sciences from Wellesley College and a master's degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication from Northeastern University.  In 2011, Anita co-founded the Jasmine Asian Women Giving Circle with six women in response to foundations giving less than 1% of philanthropic dollars to organizations and programs assisting Asian women, a desire to build a safe and supportive community among Asian women, and the need to collaborate to create lasting change. Her extensive community work includes helping to raise more than $100,000 in financial and in-kind donations for eight organizations since 2007. Anita currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Friday Night Supper Program and on the Advisory Board Fundraising Committee of the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship.

2012: Ryan Sarafolean
Founder and Executive Director: KGSA Foundation

Ryan Sarafolean is a community organizer, educator, and proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied issues of privilege, power, and identity in and outside of the classroom. For four years he worked at an after school program that served the at-risk and homeless community in Madison and implemented a structured, educational program focused around youth empowerment. Upon graduation, Ryan became an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow with Project SUCCESS, a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis. There, Ryan worked as the Civic Engagement Coordinator, working with middle school and high school youth to address local issues including gun violence.

Ryan now serves as the Founder and Executive Director of the KGSA Foundation, a nonprofit organization that reduces poverty and gender inequalities in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. KGSA Foundation works closely with local leaders in Kibera to provide free secondary education, artistic programming, and athletic opportunities to over 130 young women each year. The Kibera Girls Soccer Academy is the pilot program of KGSA Foundation. The core of the Foundation’s work is to build and harness the unique strength of women to lead their communities out of poverty. In fall 2012, Ryan will begin a graduate program in International Development at American University in Washington, D.C., where he will focus on Gender Studies and Community Development.

2010: Arianne McGinnis & Elliot McGann
Owners: Hope Grows Farm

This dynamic duo abandoned comfortable career paths to create Hope Grows, a six and a half acre sustainable farm in Southeast Georgia that produces food for over 150 families. To call them farmers would be an understatement. These AmeriCorps alumni are also activists, teachers, and entrepreneurs.

Each season, Arianne & Elliott teach 10 part-time apprentices and host hundreds of service learners eager to get their hands dirty. They regularly invite volunteers and community members to the farm to FEAST on the good ideas and food that Hope Grows: pasture-raised poultry, eggs, and pork. Their annual Egg Hunt and Pig Roast is THE go-to event in Sylvania, Georgia and is a testament to their work to rebuild local agriculture and rural life.

For Arianne and Elliott, outreach is as much of a priority as farm chores. They're experts at using social media tools and hilarious YouTube videos to encourage others who might wish to earn an honest living through honest work. As Arianne puts it, "We’re living proof that farming is a viable career option for people whose dreams don't fit into a cubicle.”

2009: Shawn Rubin
Founder and President: Longitude

Founded by Shawn Rubin, Longitude is a Rhode Island based 501 (c)3 non-profit organization working with visionary leaders of grassroots educational and human rights initiatives in resource-poor countries. Currently Longitude aids a community secretarial school in Ghana, and a human rights organization in India that helps members of India’s lowest caste.

Since its inception, Longitude has sent more than 150 volunteers overseas. These volunteers have raised more than $100,000 for Longitude’s partner projects while Longitude has spent less than $2,000 on overhead expenses during its four years of existence. Last year, Longitude and the PROFESA secretarial school in Ghana were the subjects of a documentary entitled "Big World, Small World.” To learn more about Longitude, click here.
Founder: Van Bokkelen Family Network

Over five years ago, Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn, Maryland was placed on the Maryland State Department of Education's takeover list for its low test scores. Realizing that parent involvement was a key factor in making the necessary changes to keep the school from being taken over by the state, Rhonda Ulmer, an AmeriCorps alum and PTA President of Van Bokkelen Elementary was accepted in the Maryland Parent Leadership Institute (MD-PLI).

The MD-PLI provided Rhonda with parent leadership training and a grant to create the Van Bokkelen Family Network. Equipped with new skills and empowered to implement change, Rhonda set out to improve student achievement and help families as a whole. By addressing the parents' needs first, Rhonda was able to foster a real sense of partnership between the school and the parents. Parents were asked for their input on school decisions in completing the three-way partnership between parents, teachers and the community to ensure the best interests of the children are met.

As a result of the dedication of Van Bokkelen's PTA and school staff, within the span of five years, the school has gone from being on the state's school takeover list to making adequate yearly progress for three years in a row. This innovative approach to school-community partnerships was honored in 2007 by receiving the PTA's highest national award—the Phoebe Apperson Hearst-National PTA Excellence in Education Partnership Award. Rhonda's application of the best practices of volunteer management to promote parental involvement is now recognized as a national model for schools and PTAs across the country.

Co-founder:US Public Service Academy

In less than ten years since his AmeriCorps service, Chris Myers Asch has launched two service initiatives: the Sunflower County Freedom Project and the U.S. Public Service Academy. Based in Sunflower, Mississippi (population 696), the Freedom Project is an intensive after-school program that prepares rural teenagers for success in college. Following students from seventh grade through high school graduation, the Freedom Project provides academic enrichment, leadership development, and educational travel opportunities year-round. The organization rehabilitated half a block in Sunflower to build the LEAD Center, a 7,000-square-foot study center that houses classrooms, a library, a theater, and a martial arts training area. Asch ran the Freedom Project from its inception in 1998 until 2006.

After witnessing the failures of public leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Asch wrote a proposal to create the U.S. Public Service Academy, a four-year, federally-subsidized college modeled on the military service academies. Students will receive an intensive undergraduate education focused on public service and leadership development. Following graduation, they will serve for five years in education, health care, emergency management, or other public service fields. In less than two years, the idea has earned support across the country and on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Public Service Academy Act, sponsored by Senators Hillary Clinton and Arlen Specter and Representatives Chris Shays and Jim Moran, now stands before the U.S. Congress. Continued support and action are expected in 2008.

2006: David Breihan, Diana Epstein
Co-founders: Beyond NCCC

Dr. Diana Epstein Diana Epstein is a senior research analyst at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Previously she worked on education policy at the American Institutes for Research, RAND Corporation, and the Center for American Progress. She served for two years in the AmeriCorps NCCC program as a Corps Member and a Team Leader at the Charleston, South Carolina campus. She has been involved with AmeriCorps Alums since 2005, serving as a chapter leader in Los Angeles, a board member in Boston, and a member of the previous iteration of the national Leadership Council. She was also involved in the Service Nation campaign as a Young Leader and a consultant, and she recently served as an Associate Board member at City Year DC. Diana has a BS from Brown, an MPP from UC Berkeley, and a PhD from the RAND graduate school. Her doctoral dissertation was an evaluation of the long-term impacts of AmeriCorps service on participants, utilizing both longitudinal survey data and in-depth interviews with AmeriCorps alums. In her free time she loves to hike, ski, and snowboard.

2006: Vernell Robinson
Advocate: Affordable Housing
Founder: Intergenerational Community Unity Organization 

Over the last ten years, Vernell Robinson has worked to create self- supporting opportunities in economic advancement for members of her community. Vernell enlisted in AmeriCorps in 2004 and 2005 to address affordable housing issues facing her community. Serving as an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity-NYC she volunteered in a non-profit environment which allowed her the opportunity to learn, gain experience and express herself in a more proactive and responsive manner. It was Habitat's stance on homeownership for low income families living in substandard housing that directed her energy around affordable housing. This experience lead her to develop the Intergenerational Community Unity Organization (ICU) in her community. The ICU serves as the catalyst for informational seminars and community service opportunities that connect / inform low income residents about housing and economic issues.

As a requirement for completing the service year, she created Dollars & Sense, a community service project that addressed economic disparities within low income communities throughout NYC. Beyond her term of service, Robinson built on the success of Dollars & Sense program by creating the AmeriCorps Hospitality House. Obtaining a four apartment building near the Far Rockaway beaches, the AmeriCorps Hospitality House was born. The house serves as a home away from home for relocating AmeriCorps participants and visiting alumni. The AmeriCorps Hospitality House also serves as the headquarters for the continuation of the Dollars & Sense program and creation of other community development programs. Robinson continues to build affordable housing partnerships and engage all five boroughs to collaborate in affordable housing efforts in New York City. Neighbors empowering neighbors is the legacy Robinson hopes to leave behind.

2002: Peter Murray

President:Center for Progressive Leadership

Peter is the founder and director of the Center for Progressive Leadership, a national training institute dedicated to developing the next generation of progressive leaders. Peter leads CPL's fundraising and organizational development efforts and directs CPL's outreach and partnership development with other progressive nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining CPL, Peter was the President and founder of the Empowerment Group, Philadelphia's largest minority entrepreneurship training organization. Peter was also the Executive Vice-President of the I Do Foundation, and CEO of Image Contractors. For his leadership in the nonprofit sector, Peter received the Eugene Lang Community Service Award in 1999 and was selected for Fast Company Magazine's 2002 "Fast 50,” which honors 50 leaders from around the world who are reshaping their sectors.

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