About Us
kids
STAFF
Leah1
Founder and Executive Director
Leah Okimoto started Aaron’s Presents in January 2014 as a way to honor the memory of her son by creating a unique opportunity for other children to start thinking of themselves as community members with unique qualities to be developed and put to good purpose. At other phases of her life, she has composed music for musical theatre, run a legal recruiting firm, tutored and mentored kids, and volunteered at homeless shelters, hospitals, schools and meal kitchens. She currently lives on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters.
Merrimack Valley Mentor
Kate Adams became connected with Aaron’s Presents as a volunteer in the fall of 2016 while pursuing her master’s degree at Merrimack College in Community Engagement. She has worked in the community of Lowell for ten years with youth. Before coming to Aaron’s Presents she served as the Program Coordinator at Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell and worked at North Shore Community College in their Service Learning office. Kate had the privilege of volunteering in the city of Lawrence in college and she was THRILLED to work with Aaron’s Presents youth in Lawrence as a Mentor last year at four fantastic after-school programs. Along with her current role at Aaron’s Presents, Kate works at Salem State University as Assistant Director of their Center for Civic Engagement planning service opportunities for students and leading advocacy programs at the college. In her spare time, you can find Kate traveling, hiking, and going to the theatre. What Kate loves most about Aaron’s Presents is the organization’s ability to invest in young people’s ideas and empower them to be agents of change in their community.
Lynn Mentor
Bio coming soon!
Lynn Mentor
My name is Desmond Heffner and I recently moved out to the North Shore upon completion of my degree at Westfield State University. Volunteering and nonprofits have been a passion of mine since entering the workforce a little over 5 years ago, with my positions ranging from Boys and Girls Club Teen Coordinator to the Assistant Coach for the West Springfield Special Olympic Basketball and Football teams. Volunteering also played a role in my academic career, as I was part of Fostering a Culture of Empowerment and Success (F.A.C.E.S) program and successfully ran fundraising campaigns for Westfield Food Pantry. Yet, not only did I find enjoyment in my positions, I found a calling. Many obstacles I’ve faced throughout have fueled my passion for giving back. As I now live my life with the motto of, “Be who you needed when you were younger,” I plan to live up to that throughout the rest of my life. When I came across the opportunity of being a Mentor at Aaron’s Presents, I could not pass it up. It is my mission to continue to spread the positive effects that giving back can have not only on the youth of the community, but on the future of our world.
Lawrence/Haverhill Mentor
My name is Francess. I graduated with my Bachelors degree in Crime and Justice Studies and work for a Detention Diversion program for juveniles out of Boston Juvenile Court. I became an AP Mentor because I never had one growing up. Instead I had people who showed me what NOT to do. So I decided to become a mentor to be of service to the youth in my community, for them to know that anyone can be a positive product of their environment.
Lawrence Mentor
Bio coming soon!
Lowell Mentor
Two things that Tim is super-duper passionate about: teaching dance choreography and working with young people. He has been involved in community work for over 7 years and has taught hip-hop dance since the age of 14. Tim recently joined the AP family in 2020 and continues to fall in love with the organization because of what they stand for. Tim believes that our youth are the backbones to this nation, that they are capable of creating positive changes in society when empowered, and given the opportunity.
Lowell Mentor
Monica Veth is a passionate Youth Worker from Lowell, MA, who has been involved in her community over the past ten years. She became a Mentor at Aaron’s Presents in the summer of 2018 after gravitating toward the organization’s mission and the opportunity it gives to kids who want to share their gifts by helping others through community service projects. Monica also currently works full-time at Lowell Community Health Center Teen BLOCK, engaging teens in positive youth development activities such as violence prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, and health & wellness. Aside from working with young people, her other passion is performing arts. Dancing with the Angkor Dance Troupe has been a way of keeping her Cambodian culture alive. She is one of Flying Orb Productions co-founders, a performing arts group showcasing Southeast Asian experiences through experimental film, dance, and theater. Monica believes that art can be a powerful tool for communication and healing. She loves the way Aaron’s Presents create space for kids to utilize the power within themselves to make a positive impact in the lives of others – what a beautiful way to validate their sense of purpose in this world!
Lynn Mentor
My name is Ebony White and I am Lynn native who is all about my community and also a mother of two wonderful kids named Jason age 11 and Jordin age 9. I am a graduate with a Bachelors degree in Communication and pursuing a Masters at Suffolk University. I’ve been employed at a great organization called Centerboard for the last 10 years where I am the Assistant Director of Youth Services. I work endless hours and dedicate my heart and soul to all the at-risk youth who are victims to their own trauma that has impacted how they move through the world. No matter what I have accomplished thus far, I never forget where I came from and what I have had to do to get where I am today. Providing free programs for youth and families to be successful was always a goal and now being apart of Aaron’s presents as a Project Mentor, I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity for Lynn Community. Being able to give back to the city of Lynn is rewarding and I wish there were programs like Aaron’s Presents when I was growing up.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Katelyn Adams
Board President
See above for Kate’s bio!
TJ Keough
Director
Timothy Keough is an attorney with White and Williams LLP. He splits his time between the firm’s Boston and Providence offices. Tim’s practice focuses on complex civil litigation where he represents product manufacturers, distributors, retailers, banks, construction companies, premises owners, and insurers of all sizes in the defense of lawsuits brought in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In addition to serving on the Board for Aaron’s Presents, Tim also represents individuals seeking asylum in the United States. In his spare time, he is an avid disc golfer.

Dinesh Makhija
Director
Dinesh is Software Development Manager at Amazon-Lab126 in Cambridge. Prior to joining Amazon, he held various leadership roles with Coero, Alcatel, Lucent, Motorola developing products in security, networking and mobile technologies. Dinesh’s passion for volunteer grassroots work stems from his student days in India while working with national organizations on social causes with villages. He believes that kindness needs to be passed forward and it starts with kids and young adults as they begin to explore higher causes and develop a sense of compassion in community.  He has a keen interest in bringing research/technology to help the causes.

Samantha Meserve
Clerk
Samantha Meserve is a Renewable Thermal Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. She first began her career at the Department administering the Solar Carve-Out II portion of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard before transitioning to working on the regulatory proceeding and implementation of including renewable thermal technologies in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. She was hired at the Department after graduating with her Bachelors of Science in Environmental Resources Engineering from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry and is currently in school to receive her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. She came to Aaron’s Presents as a NetImpact Board Fellow in 2018-19.

Chelsey Ntoro
Board Fellow
Bio coming soon!

Jessica Reed-O’Neil and Zachary O’Neil
Co-Directors
Zach O’Neil and Jessica Reed-O’Neil became involved with Aaron’s Presents after taking some deserving AP youth on a mall shopping spree. They were drawn to Leah’s spirit and Aaron’s Presents mission and joined the board as a result. Zach and Jessica have a deep calling to philanthropic endeavors. Whether that be sponsoring a Water Well project in an isolated village in Malawi, volunteering in Haiti, or supporting local families in the surrounding areas. Zach works as a Healthcare IT consultant while Jessica coaches High School cheerleading.

Aldonsa Pereyra
Director
Bio coming soon!

Teg Rood
Treasurer and CFO
Before coming to Aaron’s Presents, Teg served in senior management positions over a 30-year career with several electronics manufacturers and was Principal of Rood Consulting. He has also done many pro bono projects with Community Action Partners and Entrepreneurship for All. Teg came to Aaron’s Presents while volunteering with EforAll Lowell’s Business Accelerator program as Leah’s mentor. After the accelerator he continued to volunteer at Aaron’s Presents, bringing his years of operations and accounting experience to solve back office challenges. He joined the Board of Directors in 2016 and became Treasurer and CFO in 2017. In his words: “I believe children have an enormous amount to learn to thrive in today’s world – and they learn best by doing. That’s where Aaron’s Presents stands out in two ways–
1) Children learn that they already have the power to bring change – just as they are – and Aaron’s Presents gives them opportunities to do it.
2) Through doing their projects, children learn that community, cooperation and teamwork can make a lot more difference than going it alone – that “We” is a lot more powerful than “I”.
I’m certain that Aaron’s Presents kids will change the world for the better. Knowing I play a role in making that happen is enormously satisfying.”

Carina Schusterman
Director
Bio Coming Soon!

Randi Sterrn
Director
Bio coming soon!

Anny Mercedes Vargas
Vice Chair
Anny Mercedes Vargas is pursuing her (B.A) in Political Science and Spanish Language from Emmanuel College. While in college, she has helped numerous individuals and has enhanced their studies. She primarily focused on Spanish and tutoring those who needed to strengthen their language abilities. Her position as an Academic Peer Tutor allowed her to give back to her college’s community and strengthen ties with professors. She also expanded her role by accepting a position as an Enrichment Tutor at the Edward F. Parthum School in Lawrence, MA. Here, she fostered strong relationships with children from K-4th and worked alongside a group of professionals. At the Parthum school, her work consisted of developing multiple projects in relation to different fields of study in education. These projects strengthened each child’s learning style and challenged them as well. Anny, strived to be strategic as she guided both IEP and ESL students to be feel confident in their ability to learn. Lastly, she had the opportunity to intern at the Law Office of Gomez and Palumbo LLC., which inspired her to pursue a career in legal practice. This law office became the cornerstone for her interest in Immigration Law. At this law office, Anny learned the rewarding feeling of making a difference in someone’s life. At the Law Office of Gomez and Palumbo LLC., she understood how to deepen confidence in the community, and be an advocate that exhibits leadership and transparency in their work. In the future, Anny is looking forward to a career in Immigration Law to help educate the community on legal matters.

Len Williamson
Director
Len Williamson is the Dean of Students at Pingree School in South Hamilton. He is passionate about enhancing opportunities for young people to learn about themselves, about the world around them, and about ways they can be impactful citizens in their communities. Len played professional basketball overseas and was a youth basketball coach and trainer before working at Pingree. He brings experience as a teacher and a coach to the Aaron’s Presents team, excited about the growth and skill development opportunities that the AP programs offer for local youth.

BOARD OF ADVISORS

Carlene Alpert
Marianne Cashman (Founding Board member)
Dr. Connie Chung (Founding Board member)
Sheila Corbitt
Sara Eaton Gaunt (Former Board member)
Rosemary Infante Costello (Former Board member)
Elizabeth Dill
Jooé Kim (Founding Board Member)
Fabio Malagisi
Lorie Mendoza
Dr. Paul Nguyen (Founding Board Member)
Natalie Nicholson
Barb Petricone
Victor Sheen (Founding Board Member)
Marjory Sherman-Bindman
Rishub Solan (Former Board member)
Dr. Jocelyn Thein
Kirsten Walters (Former NetImpact Board Fellow)