Yamilée has personally experienced the extraordinary benefits of a STEM education and dance. After studying mechanical engineering at MIT and being an avid dancer for 21 years, she switched gears to teach high school algebra in an under-served community in East New York, Brooklyn through Teach For America. As a teacher, her eyes were opened to the multitude of opportunities her students didn’t have access to; there was an abundance of potential that would never be unleashed. Therefore, she set out to provide students with something greater than what the school system could provide. She started STEM From Dance with the hope that a strong dance and STEM supplemental education would help to increase the number of under-represented minority high school girls across the nation who pursue a STEM undergraduate education.
Bryan Ballegeer, Board Chair
Bryan is a graduate of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, majoring in Public and Non Profit Administration. From 2011 - 2017 Bryan worked for Success Academy Charter Schools helping lead the Operations of its 48+ schools. Since 2018 Bryan has been the Vice President of Education for KI Furniture; traveling the country to assist schools in actualizing their vision of the future. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys anything and everything to do with music whether that be playing guitar, attending concerts, or writing his own songs.
Heather Barash, Board Member
Heather Barash is a young professional who studied Business, Psychology, and Economics at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. After graduation, she moved to New York City to start her career in the insurance industry at AIG. Through coursework and work experience, she’s developed an avid curiosity for STEM and took on an additional role to connect employees with technology within her company. Heather’s other passions include spending time with family and friends, traveling, hiking, reading, and dancing. Heather began dancing when she was four years old and it remains an important staple in her life. She’s excited to help underserved and minority youth build confidence and reach their potentials by intertwining STEM and dance.
Nia Adeniji, Founding Board Member
Nia is the epitome of what SFD students can become. With a chemical engineering B.S. and a biological engineering M.Eng from MIT, she is a research scientist at Genentech helping to develop the next generation of oncology and immunology therapies. She attributes much her success through high school and college to the combination of a dance and STEM education, which taught her the skills necessary to become a confident and creative leader. She values the importance of education, particularly increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, and through numerous programs, has tutored and taught students from this target demographic in math, chemistry, and reading.
Caitlin Teres, Board Member
Caitlin Teres graduated from Vassar College and earned an MBA at NYU Stern School of Business. She has spent the majority of her career in the Fashion Retail sector, and currently works as a Merchandise Planner for Ann Taylor. She started dance at age four and continued with it into college where she was a member of the Vassar Repertory Dance Theater. She credits the discipline she learned in dance for her academic and career successes, and is therefore excited to be part of an organization that enriches the lives of young girls through participation in dance and STEM.
Devika Thapar, Board Member
A global professional with a career spanning Delhi, London, New York and Amsterdam, Devika’s belief in a world without borders arises from a cosmopolitan curiosity driven by human interaction. Impelled by ideas but rooted in execution, Devika is a product strategy and management executive in the emerging technology sector. Her experience and interest in artificial intelligence, education and financial services technology and product design reflects her disposition to engage with people spanning visionary disciplines. She is a traveler and hiker through countries and concepts with a passion for curation (playlists, interiors or rare coffee beans). Her background in classical and jazz dance echoes her love for movement; both individual and global. Learn more here.
Mikala Streeter, Computer Science Consultant
Mikala is a teacher, coder and entrepreneur. As a graduate of MIT (B.S. Computer Science & Engineering) and Stanford University (M.A. Education – Learning, Design, and Technology) and as a former high school Computer Science instructor, she loves nothing more than getting students excited about expressing themselves through code. Mikala finds designing curriculum for STEM From Dance particularly exciting because the program adds a purposeful element of movement to an otherwise sedentary endeavor. When she’s not coding or teaching someone to code, Mikala enjoys reading, binging on Netflix, and spending time with family and friends.
Eliana Uku, Board Member
Eliana is a Corporate Strategy professional at PayPal, based in New York. She focuses on strategic growth initiatives that span PayPal's global presence. Prior to PayPal, she served as Head of Strategy for a B2B retail-technology startup, INTURN, helping the company meet its capital needs and scale effectively. Prior to INTURN, she was an investment banking analyst in the Global Leveraged Finance group at BMO Capital Markets. Eliana holds a B.A. in Economics & Mathematics from Barnard College of Columbia University. She is passionate about female empowerment, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), and using the cross-section of dance and mathematics to create female leaders in the tech space.
Nakia James-Jenkins, Board Member
Nakia James-Jenkins has a plethora of knowledge that spans over two decades in the field of Human Resources and Operations. Her people first approach has defined her career choices and set her apart in her field. She is currently a Principal at On-Ramps, a recruiting and consulting firm that works with mission-driven organizations. Prior to joining On-Ramps, Nakia served in senior leadership positions at Girls Who Code, KIPP NYC, and the Manhattan Borough President’s office, driving the development of people and cultures. Throughout her personal and professional life, Nakia has championed educational advancement for women through volunteerism, mentorship, financial contributions, and career advisory. Nakia is an accomplished scholar who holds an M.P.A. from CUNY Baruch College, Marxe School of Public, and International Affairs, an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Mercy College and a B.S. in Organizational Management from Nyack College. Originally from Harlem, NY, Nakia lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and two sons.
Claire Tunkel, Program Director
Originally from Virginia, Claire Tunkel has been a dancer, artist, and educator in New York City for the past 20 years. She has been committed to arts education, working for organizations including Ballet Tech, Manhattan New Music Project, Urban Arts Partnership and Alvin Ailey Arts In Education and Community Programs. Dance brought her to New York originally. Performing with the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, Nathan Trice Rituals, and the Ellis Wood Dance Company, to name a few, she was given the opportunity to travel and see the world through dance. Her passion for integrating the arts into education fuels her desire to find new ways of engaging young people and providing them with the opportunity to amplify their unique voices. As the Program Director of STEM From Dance, she is committed to inspiring a new generation of engineers, scientists, and techies through dance.
Rocio Cuevas, Administrative Associate
Rocio Cuevas is a graduate of New York University, she majored in Psychology with minors in Creative Writing, and Child & Adolescent Mental Health Studies. Prior to joining the STEM From Dance team, Rocio worked at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, helping new students reduce and eliminate their remedial needs. Rocio is passionate about education, women’s rights, and issues affecting the immigrant community. In her spare time sheenjoys writing, exploring Pinterest, and watching DC TV shows.
Stacie Cannon, Lead Dance Instructor
Stacie Canon is a native of Portsmouth, VA. She graduated from the Conservatory of Shenandoah University in 2009 with a Bachelor's in Dance. In 2012, Stacie moved to New York City to attend Peridance Capezio Center's 2-year certificate program, furthering her studies in ballet and contemporary dance. While Stacie is currently a professional dancer for the Matthew Westerby Company, she truly enjoys the rewards of being a dance coach for STEM From Dance. Without having any prior experience with coding, Stacie was excited to learn more and help introduce students to the STEM world through dance. She understands how certain skills gained from dance can translate into skills that are necessary for young women to be successful in STEM.
Jacobe Bell, Founding Board Member
Jacobe is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a Masters in Urban Education from Mercy College. Having worked in education for over a decade, Jacobe is passionate about closing the achievement gap. As an Educational Consultant, she currently works directly with teachers, teacher leaders, and principals to improve school effectiveness. Her professional interests lie in curriculum design, instructional strategies, leadership development, and student engagement in urban schools. Also as an avid dancer herself for over 20 years, Jacobe is excited to be a part of the STEM From Dance community.