Board of Directors
A passionate commitment!
Our Board of Directors is comprised entirely of volunteers. Members include the program coordinators at each facility, educators, Rising Hope alumni and others.
Read about their impressive backgrounds here, or select a photo for an individual biography.
Academic Records Coordinator
Coordinator, Fishkill Correctional Facility
Coordinator, Woodbourne Correctional Facility
Coordinator, Re-Entry Program
Coordinator, Sing Sing Correctional Facility
Past Pillars of
Rising Hope, Inc.
We owe a debt of gratitude to these individuals that played a vital role in the life of our organization. We miss them!
Rising Hope had its beginnings in 1995 when George “Bill” Webber, President of New York Theological Seminary saw the need for post secondary education in prisons. With the help of incarcerated individuals who had received their Masters in Theological Studies while at Sing Sing, Dr. Webber created the Certificate in Ministry and Human Services program. Still referred to by some as the CMHS program, the name was changed to Rising Hope when it was incorporated in 2003 and achieved 501 (c3) status.
Sr. Marian Bohan, PhD, a member of the Ursuline order, was enlisted by Dr. Webber at the program’s inception in 1995 and served as Program Coordinator of the Certificate in Ministry and Human Services Program (now called Rising Hope) through May 2003.
Robert Lukey first became involved with Rising Hope in 1996 and became treasurer in 2002. He went on to become President of the Board, a post he held until 2014.
Kathleen Reid taught at Woodbourne Correctional Facility and served as secretary of our board for many years.
(Pictured with alumnus Rasheed Hart)
Learn more about our
Board of Directors
Kimberly Malone – President – Kimberly has been teaching with Rising Hope since 2018. During the 2020 pandemic she joined the board and stepped into the role of Sing Sing Facility Coordinator, where she helped the program pivot to correspondence learning during that time. Her background is in not for profit administration. During the course of her professional and volunteer experience she has worked in the fields of community development, addiction, homelessness, education, volunteer support, and incarceration. She is a certified Spiritual Director, and has a MA in Theology and a MA in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Seminary.
Kimberly loves cooking, swimming, flying trapeze, and has a goal to be one of the best versions of herself at 80 years old. She lives in Mahwah, NJ with her husband and two stepsons.
Melissa Szobota – Vice President – Melissa is a senior change management and strategic engagement leader with fifteen years of experience building teams and curating programming highlighting culture and community, organizational design, and overall engagement. As a leader at Twitter and as a nine-year member of Columbia University (previous Director), Melissa stewarded high performing groups dedicated to institutional vision and mission. Melissa considers herself an educator and social worker at heart. She completed her undergraduate work at Boston College and her graduate work in social policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Melissa has written policies and led program management for nonprofits, family funds, tech firms, and corporate businesses. She has also consulted with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School’s McNulty Leadership Program and as a media strategist. Melissa lives in Fairfield County of CT with her spouse Erik, son Erik, daughter Lenna, and three Chihuahuas.
Olivia Pocock – Secretary, Curriculum Coordinator – Olivia brings a varied experience in public school education.
Gary Carriero – Treasurer – “I’ve been a member of the RHI Board and Treasurer for seven years. Most of my professional career was spent in social service and mental health organizations. Before retiring three years ago, I was an Assistant Vice President with the NYS Housing Finance Agency, which provided financing for affordable housing throughout the state. I’ve always felt people deserve a second chance in making their lives better which is what RHI is able to do for those incarcerated in NYS prisons.”
Dr. Mark Lindeman – Academic Records Coordinator– Mark is acting co-director of Verified Voting, a national non-profit organization that advocates for trustworthy election technology and practices. He has served on the Rising Hope board (and has managed grade reports) since 2014.
Dr. Murthy Cheruvu – Coordinator, Fishkill Correctional Facility – Dr. Murthy Cheruvu is retired from IBM where he specialized in research and development. While employed at IBM, he helped juvenile offenders prepare for their GED at a local Community Transition Center. He also volunteered at Dutchess County Jail and Green Haven Correctional Facility, where he initiated and facilitated “Self Awareness Integration” groups for over a decade. Later, he taught pre-college mathematics in Shawangunk Correctional Facility. In 2017, he conducted several workshops on Personal Finance and Decision Making for the Rising Hope Alumni at Woodbourne. He has been the site coordinator of Rising Hope’s program at Fishkill Correctional Facility since 2018, where he has also taught World Religions, Ethics, and Creative Problem Solving.
Susan Ulrich – Coordinator, Woodbourne Correctional Facility – “Professionally, I worked as administrator, nurse and secretary in a medical office. For a number of years before becoming actively involved in prison education, I kept being nudged in that direction. There was the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus explains that when we visit the person in prison we are visiting him. A respected pastor asked me, “And what have you done for the person in prison?” There was a well done program at Rye Presbyterian Church which asked, “Can any good come out of prison?” The answer, made by men who had indeed been within the walls, proclaimed a resounding,”Yes”. Beginning first as a co teacher, then as coordinator at Woodbourne and soon after the President of the Board, I have found the work which I began seventeen years ago to be challenging, eye opening, never dull, and endlessly rewarding.”
Ernest Henry – Re-Entry Coordinator – Ernest Henry spent 24 consecutive years in various New York State Maximum Prisons. During his incarceration, he became a State Certified Paralegal, and worked in four facility Law Libraries for 20 years, assisting his peers to understand their legal rights.For 10 years, totaling over 10,000 hours, Ernest served as the Chairman of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where he trained others and facilitated workshops in conflict resolution skills. Ernest was also a founder of the Peace Initiative Network, in which for three consecutive years, he and fellow AVP facilitators conducted week and month long programs toward peace and the reduction of violence, at Sing- Sing Prison, one of New York State’s most violent prisons.
Ernest was one of the first graduates of Hudson Link (the first independently funded college program in the State of New York), where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Management from Nyack College and was selected by his classmates as Valedictorian of the Class of 2001. He also earned a Masters Degree in Professional Studies from New York Theological Seminary, and was again selected Class Speaker for the Class of 2003.
Ernest has 15 years’ experience creating and facilitating workshops and programs for incarcerated people, and seven years’ direct experience as a ReEntry Specialist in Employment, Housing and Community Outreach. He also held the position of Director of ReEntry Services and is currently the Executive Director of a newly formed non-for-profit 501(C)(3) organization called Hudson Valley ReEntry Network (which caters to the needs of formerly incarcerated people returning to the Hudson Valley Region of New York State).
For the past thirteen, Ernest has hosted Voices Beyond the Wall (91.3 WVKR FM), a Radio Talk show catering to the views of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, and their families, focusing on ReEntry and Parole, and the legal issues surrounding the two.
Ernest is also the Founder and Co-Owner, with his wife, Kathy, of FBTW, Inc., which serves the incarcerated population and their families throughout the United States. Ernest currently resides in New York, with his wife, Kathy, and their three dogs.
Wayne Atwell, CFA – Wayne Atwell’s working career was in finance for over 40 years and he has been involved in outreach and community service over the last twenty plus years. He is on two public service boards. He is on the board of Rising Hope, Inc. which provides college for the incarcertated in three houses of detention. He is head of the audit committee and on the board of Exodus Transitional Community, which helps those released from incarceration to reenter society. It helps with the creation of a resume, arranges employment interviews, provides an interview wardrobe, and offers anger management classes. He has been mentoring a formerly incarcerated man for five years.
Mr. Atwell was a member of the Mission and Outreach Committee at the Rye Presbyterian Church for twenty years and was chairman of the committee for three years. The committee made 30 grants a year totaling $150,000. He organized and lead two mission trips to under developed countries. One mission trip built a school for grade school children in Nicaragua in a village an hour and a half off a paved road. The other mission trip built a school for 3-5 year old untouchable caste children in India. He also went on a mission trip to Haiti to help rebuild a high school which was destroyed by a mud slide.
Mr. Atwell started and ran a Saturday morning program for homeless children which helped them with their reading skills, provided art projects and took them to museums and cultural sites. He started an after school STEM program for sixth graders in Yonkers, New York, which helped them build their STEM skills and appreciate the potential of a STEM education. He started a college scholarship program for children of color.
Mr. Atwell put together a lecture on personal finance which he has taught in prisons and colleges.
Darryl Varlack-Butler – MPS, MSW – Darryl is a native of Harlem, New York, and New York State. Darryl is a returned citizen having spent 25 years in NYS prisons. Darryl’s humble beginnings exposed him to poverty, poor education, gangs, and a myriad of crime generative factors. Darryl is a man of faith with ties to the Quakers, and Christian fellowship and services ministries. He proudly asserts that Jesus saved his life. He is a Veteran that supports military persons serving and returning home. Darryl is a graduate of the Certificate in Ministry program, now evolved into Rising Hope, Inc, and received numerous trainings in Non-Violent Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Crisis Intervention. Darryl has over 18 years of Restorative Justice experience including Victim-Offender Mediation and Dialogue for men in prison. He is the Co-founder of Worth Justice Inc, dba as WORTHshop Inc., a Social Worker, Restorative Justice Practitioner, and Reentry Consultant. Darryl brings experience as a Wellness Specialist on a New York ACT team, serving persons with severe mental illness and mentored youth and young adults on probation with FEDCAP. He graduated from Fordham University with an MSW, was a Children’s First Scholar and his work in higher education at Fordham University’s Beck Institute on Poverty and Religion included public speaking, fundraising, and supporting social justice using restorative practices for Veterans, persons impacted by Homelessness, Domestic Violence, and the Coming Home program for persons impacted by mass incarceration. Darryl is an International speaker traveling to Haiti to study the resiliency of a culture devastated by natural disasters, global racism, and social mapping. While in Haiti, he worked with orphanages and presented on childhood slavery. He also holds a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee (CASACT). To expand his restorative practice, Darryl trained with Dr. Tom Cavanagh of Colorado State University, Restorative Justice Education with a focus on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline in K-12; and with Elizabeth Clements, of Planning Change, located in New York City, focusing on peacemaking circles and healing harm. Darryl’s commitment to this work is exemplified in being a recipient of the Restorative Justice Facilitation and Leadership Professional Certificate scholarship at the University of San Diego. Darryl believes that affirming worth is the catalyst for changing lives. To be human is to know the pain and suffering that often leaves people without developing a healthy sense of self-worth. When a person cannot see a place for themselves in the world, it leaves them depressed, merely existing and marginalized. This contributes to high rates of drug/alcohol abuse, school dropouts, homelessness, violence, crime, PTSD, gang involvement, incarceration, and episodes that trigger mental illness. It is time to strip away the things that divide us and instill fear or indifference. We are all human beings, and when we connect at that place of humanity, we stop harm, we heal, and we make the world a better place. Humanity Now!
Bob Walker – Coordinator, Sing Sing Correctional Facility – Bob has been teaching courses for Rising Hope in the Greenhaven CF and the Sing Sing CF’s for the past 13 years. He is a retired United Methodist minister and has served as pastor of churches in Texas, New York and Connecticut. Before his retirement in 2021, he served as Assistant to the Bishop of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He also served as a Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College (New Rochelle, NY) from 2008-2018. Bob has been married to Donna Henry for 45 years. Donna also retired in 2021 from a career in the investments field. Bob is an avid hiker, rower, and greatly enjoys traveling to new and wild places.
Nascimento Blair is a Graduate of New York Theological Seminary where he earned his Masters in Professional Studies. He earned his undergraduate degree through the Hudson Link/Mery college program where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, and was named to the dean’s list twice. While incarcerated he, along with two of his colleagues created and wrote for the Newsletter, The Abeng; which was widely circulated throughout the population. The Newsletter focused on highlighting the discrepancies of crime and incarceration and how it affected various communities. In addition, Blair, as he is called by many, have worked for the past years in Social Services catering to the justice impacted peoples and the influx of migrants crossing the southern borders who were bussed to New York. Mr. Blair has also worked as a research fellow at Columbia University’s Hayman Centers for Humanity and is currently attending Columbia Law School through the PPI initiative. He is a father, Poet and a Manchester United fan. His aim in life is to open the eyes of the underserved to ensure they too understand their role in God’s plan.
Dario Peña is an alumnus of the Rising Hope Certificate of Ministry and Human Services Program (CMHSP). He also graduated from the Hudson Link/Mercy College program with a Bachelors in Behavioral Science and a Master’s degree in Professional Studies from the NY Theological Seminary while incarcerated at Sing Sing prison. He now works as Student Success Manager for the Justice Through Code (JTC) program at the Center For Justice at Columbia University.
Maureen Cameron has spent most of her professional career in the nonprofit space working on both the national and local levels, and is passionate about helping those in need. She has significant experience in fundraising to individuals, corporations and foundations, and has led successful philanthropy efforts in support of education, domestic violence, youth leadership, mentoring programs, and services dedicated to the elderly. She is currently Director of Resource Development at the Boys and Girls Club of Clifton, NJ. She earned her BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Rutgers University and is a proud first-generation college graduate. She lives in Bergen County with her husband Tom and has three adult children.
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