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.
Lawrence 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.
Lawrence/Lowell Mentor
Ever since she was younger, Franchesca Arias has been passionate about giving back to her community and guiding children in the right direction. Arias is now 21 years old and a junior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is a sociology major driven to pursue a career in Education. For six years she has worked/volunteered for youth development organizations such as Si, Se Puede and YDO in Lawrence as a mentor. Recently she has spent the last few months working as a swim instructor/lifeguard for the YMCA in both Lawrence and North Andover. Franchesca’s hopes are to continue giving back and being a helping hand where it is needed. She states, “I am excited to be a part of the Aaron’s Present team and help students reach their goals, bringing their creative ideas to life.” She believes that support is everything; not only is it a gateway to a positive life but also to endless opportunities for success!
Grant Writer
Bio coming soon!
Lawrence Mentor
Bio coming soon!
Programs & Operations Coordinator
Valerie Galvao became connected with Aaron’s Presents through Agassiz Village Summer Camp while processing some of our participants’ camper registrations in the summer of 2018. Valerie graduated GLTHS in 1999 and spent the last eighteen years focused on raising her son, Christian. Valerie is a full-time student at Middlesex Community College studying Human Services. She has volunteered in the community of Lowell for nine years with other nonprofit organizations such as SomeBody Cares of Lowell, From the Pumpkin Patch, Community Table associated with Salvation Army of Lowell, and Agassiz Village Summer Camp located in Poland, Maine. Before coming to Aaron’s Presents she served as the Direct Care Supervisor at Brigid’s Crossing/Catholic Charities of Lowell. The best part of her role there was mentoring clients who are DCF-based young mothers. Valerie is passionate about helping others and empowering youth, as she strongly believes that empowering youth has a significant positive impact on their future.
North Shore Regional Director & Mentor
Kimberly joined Aaron’s Presents in September 2014 as the North Shore Regional Director based in Danvers, MA. This position has given her an opportunity combine her previous non-profit and business experience with her passion for working with kids. Kim’s previous roles include Development Manager for Teen Voices Magazine in Boston, Residential Counselor at The Lakeside School for Boys in Peabody and Account Manager for Concentra in Woburn. She holds a B.S. in Management from Endicott College. Personally, Kim has always enjoyed encouraging creativity in kids and thrives on the energy they bring to any organization. Kim is an active volunteer at her son’s school, the Danvers Rotary Club and serves on several committees in her hometown of Danvers, where she lives with her husband Jeff and their son, Bryce.
Lowell Mentor
Bio coming soon!
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.
Lowell Mentor
Bio coming soon!

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Katelyn Adams
Board President
See above for Kate’s bio!

Rosemary Infante Costello
Director
Rosemary joined the Aaron’s Presents Board after serving on its mentor team through the Entrepreneurship For All–Lowell Accelerator 2015. Also on the board of Wellspring House in Gloucester, she has 20+ years experience in economic and community development. Currently serving on the United Way of Mass. Bay’s North Shore Local Council, Rosemary also performs community grant review for the Essex County and the Greater Lowell Community Foundations. She lives in Beverly with her husband and son. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Sara Eaton Gaunt
Director
Sara Eaton Gaunt came to know Aaron’s Presents via her two boys who have completed multiple Aaron’s Presents projects including leading sports activities for local toddlers, providing after-school academics for Kindergarteners in Lawrence, MA, and collecting school supplies for students in Nigeria. Sara holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a Master’s degree in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. Formerly a Development Editor of college composition textbooks for Bedford/St. Martin’s (now Macmillan) in Boston, Sara lives in Andover, MA with her husband and sons.

John Hilliard
Director
John Hilliard is a senior software engineer and has worked at Next Jump since 2008. After graduating from MIT, John joined Next Jump and has worked on a wide range of engineering projects from an email platform to an e-commerce architecture. After a few years at Next Jump, John joined Next Jump’s leadership team and played a larger role in growing both the business results and the culture of the company.

Along the way, John discovered his passion for mentoring engineers, teaching and giving back. In 2012, he led the development of OO.com. That platform ended up raising over one million dollars to fund thousands of high poverty classrooms all over the country. More recently, John worked with local non-profit Cambridge Community Services to create and teach a course that taught coding skills to local high school students. In the summer of 2015, John was the recipient of Next Jump’s highest honor: The Avengers Award. The Avengers Award is a peer-nominated recognition that highlights service to others.

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
NetImpact Board Fellow 2018-19
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.

Nefeli Mourti
NetImpact Board Fellow 2018-19
Nefeli is a senior associate at Social Strategy Associates, where she manages many of the firm’s foundation and nonprofit accounts through research, data analysis, communications, document preparation, and day-to-day operations. She also brings significant experience working with organizations on their marketing and event planning needs, notably spearheading clients’ involvement in exhibitions and conferences around the world. Nefeli moved to New York City from Athens, Greece, where she most recently worked as an account manager at DeonPR, a Greek marketing and communications agency. Nefeli earned her MBA from the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College at the City University of New York (CUNY), focusing on sustainable business and entrepreneurship. There, she was president of the Sustainable Business Club, the graduate chapter of Net Impact. She earned a bachelor’s degree in law in Greece.

Aldonsa Pereyra
Director
Bio coming soon!

Teg Rood
Director and CFO
As principal of Rood Consulting, Teg works with clients to deliver a superior customer experience. His pro bono work includes projects with Community Action Partners and Entrepreneurship for All. Teg has also served in senior management positions over a 30 year career with several electronics manufacturers.

Anny Mercedes Vargas
Director
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.

BOARD OF ADVISORS

Carlene Alpert
Heidi Burgess
Marianne Cashman (Founding Board member)
Dr. Connie Chung (Founding Board member)
Sheila Corbitt
Elizabeth Dill
Dona Flamme
Jooé Kim (Founding Board Member)
Fabio Malagisi
Dr. Paul Nguyen (Founding Board Member)
Natalie Nicholson
Barb Petricone
Victor Sheen (Founding Board Member)
Marjory Sherman-Bindman
Rishub Solan
Dr. Jocelyn Thein