…I strongly believe in Identity’s important mission and wish to help the organization achieve its goals.
…I am passionate about Identity’s work supporting and empowering youth to build Montgomery County’s future!
…I wanted to contribute to the important work being done to empower Latino youth and to ensure that they are given opportunities to learn, work, and thrive.
… as a Latino, I want to see our youth be given the same opportunities I was fortunate to be given, so they can live the life they’ve always dreamt about.
…I want to lend my service toward making Latino youth feel welcome and valued in our community.
…I believe in Identity’s mission to empower Latino youth to reach their fullest potential.
…Identity has a powerful impact on Latino youth and families in Montgomery County.
…I believe Identity is among the nation’s most effective and compassionate groups for helping Latino youth and families realize their highest potential.
… Identity works every day to build a better future for all, and especially those who would be overlooked without its help.
…of its profound and inspiring mission and its demonstrated effectiveness in empowering Montgomery County’s Latino youth and their families to reach their potential. What a unique honor to extend my life’s work and passion for pursuing-change-making a difference in people’s lives, transforming their challenges to possibilities for success and dignity!
…I wanted to work with Identity to improve the education of Latino students and assist their families to support the education and careers of their children.
…of the fundamental urgent need to engage, develop and empower the future generations of leaders who will shape a more compassionate, inclusive and just society.
Stephen Metz is a Principal at the law firm of Offit Kurman, P.A. in Bethesda, Maryland. At Offit Kurman, he primarily handles all types of bankruptcy and real estate dispute matters. Previously, Mr. Metz was a member of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A. where he served as co-chair of the Bankruptcy & Creditors Rights Group and chair of the Title Dispute Resolution Group. Mr. Metz is a past president of the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the District of Maryland and is a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association, the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Simon E. Sobeloff Law Society and the Walter Chandler American Inn of Court. Prior to joining Shulman Rogers, Mr. Metz clerked for a judge in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland. He also clerked for several judges in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. Mr. Metz has also been awarded a top AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and has repeatedly been named to Maryland SuperLawyers. Mr. Metz earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Logistics from the University of Maryland and a Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from the Dickinson School of Law at the Pennsylvania State University.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I strongly believe in Identity’s important mission and wish to help Identity achieve its mission and goals. Because of my professional background, I am particularly interested in financial literacy issues.”
Sarah E. Whitesell has held a variety of senior management roles in the federal government, where she is currently employed. From 2016 to 2018, Ms. Whitesell served as the Co-Executive Director of a national non-profit devoted to improving the legal representation for domestic violence survivors in interstate custody cases. In her role, Ms. Whitesell oversaw the legal and policy work of the organization, as well as fundraising and finances. Ms. Whitesell has also served as a member of the Telecommunications Task Force for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and as an associate at the law firm that is now Wilmer Hale LLP. She has taught telecommunications law as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and legal writing as an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School. Ms. Whitesell graduated from Davidson College and the Yale Law School. She clerked for the Honorable Jane R. Roth, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I am passionate about Identity’s work supporting and empowering Montgomery County youth to build our county’s future!”
Communications, Marketing, and Community Engagement Consultant
Aggie Alvez is a communications, marketing and community engagement consultant to school districts, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations. She previously served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Discovery Education, a global leader in digital content for K-12 and community college instruction. Alvez has led the communications and public engagement divisions for two large school districts — Houston Independent School District and Montgomery County Public Schools – where she oversaw media relations, multimedia production, and family, community, and business partnerships. She is a former high school social studies teacher and TV news writer and is an active member of the American Bar Association.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I wanted to contribute to the important work being done to empower Latino youth and to ensure that they are given opportunities to learn, work, and thrive.”
Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration
Kevin Toruno is the Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration for LIFT Inc and has served as a CFO for other organizations. Kevin is a first-generation American and a proud graduate of Watkins Mill High School. He is also a first-generation college-goer. He earned a BS in Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of MD, College Park, a Masters in Financial Management from the University of MD, University College, a Masters in Business Administration from the University of MD, University College and is a Certified Public Accountant candidate in the state of Maryland.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because as a Latino, I want to see our youth be given the same opportunities I was fortunate to be given so they can live the life they’ve always dreamt about. I want them to know nothing is impossible if you work hard and don’t let any setbacks stop you from reaching your goals.”
Yonis Benitez is the Co-Founder/CEO of Parkour Method, a mobile location management company. Over the past three years, Yonis led country and city launches for venture capital-backed technology startups. In 2013, he co-founded and became the CEO of Gridskppr, an advanced location manager and mobile advertising technology for smartphones. This successful technology startup was acquired in November 2014 by SocialRadar, where Yonis led business development as Vice President until May 2015. Yonis was born in El Salvador and is first in his family to graduate from high school and college. Yonis received a B.A. in Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University and an MBA with a focus in entrepreneurship from EDHEC Business School in Nice, France. Yonis was one of Identity’s first youth program participants and has remained involved with Identity through their peer educator program and later as a Youth Program Facilitator and Junior Program Manager. He is very passionate about helping other Latino youth have the same opportunity for success that he has had.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I believe in Identity’s mission to empower Latino youth to reach their fullest potential. I am an example of the impact Identity has on Latino youth’s lives and I want to make sure other Latino youth have the same opportunities that were afforded to me.”
Shirley Brandman currently works as an education advocate in Montgomery County. She is Chair-Emeritus of the Board of Directors for Identity as well Chair of the Board of Advisors for the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). Most recently, Shirley worked as the founding Executive Director for the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development at the Aspen Institute. In 2014, Shirley completed two terms as an elected member of the Montgomery County Board of Education where she was twice selected to serve as President.While on the Board of Education, Shirley participated in countywide efforts directed at improving the wellbeing of youth. In 2011, then County Executive Leggett appointed her as a co-Chair of the countywide Latino Youth Collaborative Oversight Work group. Prior to her service on the Board of Education, Shirley directed the Domestic Violence Clinic at the Washington College of Law. She began her career as an attorney representing children and youth in abuse/neglect and juvenile delinquency cases in Newark, New Jersey and she launched the first Child Advocacy Clinic at Cornell Law School. Shirley is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale University and earned her Master¹s Degree in Special Education from American University. She is a first generation American.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because our Latino youth are the future of Montgomery County. How effectively we educate them and support their dreams will shape the well-being of our County for years to come.”
I had been impressed by the high quality of Identity’s work and, as the child of immigrants myself, wanted to lend my service toward making Latino youth feel welcome and valued in our community.”
Stew Edelstein joined the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) as Executive Director in 2002 and was named Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University System of Maryland in 2007. Under his leadership, USG has expanded the number of participating universities, the breadth and depth of its undergraduate and graduate programs, and grown enrollment to more than 4000 students. He has also led the collaboration between USG, Montgomery College, and Montgomery County Public Schools to articulate curriculum planning and college access initiatives in the County. Stew serves on the board of directors of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and as Co-Chair of its Education and Workforce Preparation Committee. He is a member of the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education, the Montgomery County Bioscience Task Force, the Montgomery County Smart Growth Initiative, the Montgomery County Economic Advisory Council, and the Montgomery County Life Sciences Advisory Committee. He received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because of the powerful impact it has on Latino youth and families in Montgomery County.”
Orion Ventures, LLC and SkillSmart, Inc.
Mike Knapp is CEO and Co-Founder of SkillSmart and has spent more than 25 years identifying opportunities to use technology to improve people’s lives and create economic opportunity. SkillSmart develops SaaS products to make stronger communities by improving outcomes for economic projects through improved tracking and reporting workforce compliance, using skills-based applications to overcome the skills gap, improve hiring outcomes and develop career pathways increasing transparency between employers, employees, and education resources. Prior to beginning SkillSmart, he served two terms on the County Council of Montgomery County, MD, and was elected Council President, giving him first-hand insight into how growing a pipeline of skilled workers matched to the needs of local and regional employers can stimulate the economy.
Mike also founded Orion Ventures, a technology, and policy consulting firm, managed business development at Celera Genomics, the National Center for Genome Resources, and The Institute for Genomic Research, and served as legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Peter V. Domenici of New Mexico. He currently chairs the Board of Trustees at Montgomery College, and the Board of Advisors at the Universities at Shady Grove, co-chair of Montgomery Moving Forward and as a member of the board of the Healthcare Initiative Foundation and Identity, Inc.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I believe this organization is among the nation’s most effective and compassionate organizations for helping Latino youth and families fulfill their goals and realize their highest potential.“
Don founded Mooers Immigration, where he is a practicing attorney focusing solely on immigration and nationality law matters. He has achieved success in meeting the needs of clients on employment and family-related immigration law, as well as complex citizenship and naturalization cases. He counsels and represents clients before the Departments of Labor, Homeland Security, and State. Don has been invited to share his expertise at conferences and seminars sponsored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Federal Bar Association, InsideNGO, and numerous additional national and regional organizations. He is a popular speaker and has also been asked to comment and advise Congress, media outlets, and national organizations on immigration law and policy issues. He currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Immigration Law at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. Previously, Don worked for nearly two decades in the fields of diplomacy and international development, primarily in Africa, Asia, and Eastern and Central Europe. He served as a key Congressional Aide and later as a Senior Adviser at the U.S. Department of State. At the Peace Corps, he served as Regional Director for Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia. He has directed international development programs, negotiated international agreements, and advised government leaders and international organizations around the world. He started his international career as a Peace Corps Volunteer, where he served for two years in a small rural village in Sierra Leone. He earned his Bachelor’s degree at Duke University and his Juris Doctorate degree at the George Washington University Law School. He studied at Oxford University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Mauritius. In 1996, he was the Democratic nominee for Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District.
Christian “Chris” J. Mixter first connected with Identity in 2018 as a Compass volunteer consultant and then joined the Board in 2020. He serves as Counsel (Retired Partner) with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP in Washington DC. Previously, he was Chief Litigation Council with the Division of Enforcement for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and Associate Counsel with the Office of the Independent Counsel (Iran/Contra). Chris earned his JD at Duke University and his BA at Ohio State University.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because Identity works every day to build a better future for all, and especially those who would be overlooked without its help.”
Diego is co-founder of Identity and served as Deputy Executive Director from 2004 to July 2011 when he assumed the position of Executive Director. In this capacity, he is responsible for the strategic direction of the organization and stewardship of a broad range of federal, state, local and private grants. Prior to co-founding Identity, Diego worked as a psychotherapist at various community-based organizations in the Washington, DC area that work with the Latino population. Diego participates in a several Montgomery County task forces and working groups: he is Co-Chair of the Latino Youth Collaborative Oversight Committee and of the steering committee of the Latino Health Initiative; and member of the steering committee of Nonprofit Montgomery and the Latino Public Safety Workgroup. Diego holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Belgrano in Argentina.
Tal B. Widdes retired in 2018 after serving for 14 years as Chief Operating Officer of the Jewish Social Service Agency. Previously, for twenty years, Tal served in leadership positions as Vice President and Brand Manager of Assisted Living and Special Care for Marriott Senior Living Services and Manor Care Health Services. Tal earned her MPH at Yale University, and her M.Ed and B.A. at the University of Rochester. Tal joined the Identity Board in 2020 and also serves on the Board of JCRC. Tal emigrated to the United States in 1968.
“I joined the Identity Board of Directors because of its profound and inspiring mission and its demonstrated effectiveness in empowering Montgomery County’s Latino youth and their families to reach their potential. What a unique honor to extend my life’s work and passion for pursuing-change-making a difference in people’s lives, transforming their challenges to possibilities for success and dignity!”
Teresa Wright has worked in Montgomery County Public Schools since 1979, where she pioneered staff cultural awareness training and initiated programs to increase the involvement of Latino parents in the school system. She has been a Parent Resource Teacher in MCPS’s Division of ESOL and Bilingual Programs since 1995. Teresa has been working tirelessly to ensure that immigrant families and their children in the Gaithersburg and Watkins Mill clusters have an opportunity to achieve success. Her work extends well beyond school-related issues. She is a member of the County Executive’s Latin American Advisory Group and was a founding member of the County’s Hispanic Alliance. She also served on the Montgomery County Latino Youth Collaborative, and worked with Family Services to open the Teen Mom Center in Gaithersburg. Born in Mexico City, she earned an undergraduate degree from the Normal Superior School of Guadalajara and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Teresa has been honored with countless awards, among them Identity’s Teresa Wright Award for excellence in service to Latino youth, which was created in her honor in 2011.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I wanted to work with Identity to improve the education of Latino students and assist their families to support the education and careers of their children.”
Alejandro Yepes brings to Identity a history of leadership positions in large and small organizations and commitment to social justice and community development. Alejandro currently volunteers with Friends of White Flint and KID Museum and manages a real estate investment partnership. Previously, he served as Senior Policy Associate with Bridgewater Associates, Program Manager for Onboarding at the World Bank Group, and in the District of Columbia Government. Alejandro earned his MPP-UP at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He has a long history of activism, primarily related to children, youth, and economic development. Alejandro is fluent in French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors becauseof the fundamental urgent need to engage, develop and empower the future generations of leaders who will shape a more compassionate, inclusive and just society.”