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!”
Michael A. Jiménez, Jr. is the co-owner of Capital Kids DC, an educational preschool and pre-kindergarten, in Washington, DC. Prior to this career change, Michael served as corporate counsel at a technology company. Michael was born and raised in Florida and earned his B.A. from Florida International University in Miami. He later earned his J.D. from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago. He has served on the Association of Corporate Counsel’s National Capital Region’s Diversity Programming Sub-Committee (2018-2020) and as an Associate Board Member of the Center for Economic Progress (2013-2016). As someone who identifies as mixed race, Latino, and gay, is married to a Muslim man, and has an adopted son, Michael champions diversity, inclusion, and equity both in and out of the office as those concepts are central to his family and life. As the owner of a childcare center and the parent of a young child, Michael is passionate about improving early childhood development and education in our community.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I want to help ensure members of our community have access to the resources they need that allow them to prosper, realize their dreams, and be successful in whatever they choose to do.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Gabriela Dveksler is a biomedical researcher in the field of immunology and a professor of pathology in the graduate program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda. Gabriela earned her Ph.D at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from the Center of Advanced Studies in Exact Sciences in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gabriela moved to the United States from Buenos Aires more than three decades ago. She and her husband live in Montgomery County and their two sons attended MCPS. She joined the Board of Identity in 2021.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because I believe the work that Identity does is crucial for supporting vulnerable communities. I hope to contribute to this Institution with my experience as a science educator and parent of students that have navigated the MCPS school system.”
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.”
Erwin Hesse has over a decade of admissions and recruitment experience in higher education. He is currently the executive director of enrollment management at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, where he is also an adjunct faculty member in the Master’s of Higher Education Administration program. He is also the Cofounder of Admissions Gambit, a college admissions and essay editing company. Erwin is a first-generation American, born and raised in Montgomery County, and former Youth Development Worker at Identity. After overcoming significant odds during his youth, he earned a doctorate in education from Johns Hopkins University in 2018. His research and dissertation focused on multicultural competencies with regards to undocumented students in the state of Maryland. He lives in Montgomery County with his wife and three young boys.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors because this is more than just a nonprofit. Identity, at its core, is about improving the lives of our Latino community in Montgomery County and beyond. I am honored to have worked at Identity as a Youth Development Worker over a decade ago, and now to come back and serve on the Board.”
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.“
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors to give back, support and help create opportunities for the people of color that they serve. As a bilingual Latina woman who grew up in this county, and who is raising my family here, it is important for me to make sure these communities get all of the support they deserve.”
Monica Marquina is a legislative strategist with deep connections in Montgomery County. She currently serves as Government Affairs Manager with WSSC Water as a liaison to Montgomery County Government and municipalities. Previously, Monica worked for the City of Gaithersburg, most recently as the Legislative Affairs Manager where she successfully advocated for several MCPS Capital Improvement Projects as well as state funded grants for multiple City capital projects. Monica brings her perspective as a parent of MCPS students, former PTA officer, proud graduate of Gaithersburg High School, and her advocacy and communications expertise to her role as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence.
“I joined Identity’s Board of Directors to advocate on behalf of Latino youth so they may be offered the opportunities and the means necessary to thrive and achieve. As a child of immigrants who grew up in a focus area served by Identity, I recognize the critical role Identity plays in narrowing the opportunity gap for our young people.”
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.”