Providing the highest quality education and opening all the doors of possibility for every child in our community has been a core value and longstanding priority for me. Hartford Promise offers a transformative opportunity to make the dream of higher education a reality for Hartford students. I’m very excited to begin this work alongside the Hartford Promise Champions and the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education who have made a powerful statement of commitment with their financial and organizational investments in Hartford Promise. I hope many others will join us in making HP a reality and in sustaining Hartford Promise – the Promise that all our children deserve. At Hartford Promise we will be relentless in our effort to reduce or eradicate the significant role that luck plays in the equation of success. Be it the ‘luck’ to have financial resources, ‘luck’ to find the right supports, ‘luck’ to connect with caring adults, ‘luck’ to find supportive peers, ‘luck’ to make the right college decisions, or ‘luck to have a good college transition,’ …we will be working to make sure that every Promise scholar has access to each of these resources. So I am asking you to get on board and be a part of the start – this promise, this responsibility belongs to all of us!
MEET THE TEAM
RICHARD SUGARMAN - PRESIDENT President Richard Sugarman has a varied background including nonprofit leadership, corporate management, investment management, and extensive community engagement work. Richard is the President of Hartford Promise, a new large scale College Scholarship Fund and College Success Program.
Prior to this he has been the Founding President of The Connecticut Forum for 23 years, an award winning non-profit organization that brings nationally renowned panelists to Hartford four times a year to discuss a variety of timely and important topics for audiences of 2800. Richard has served on many Boards including: CT Center for School Change, Conn CAN, The Learning Corridor, Police Athletic League, and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. He has advised and consulted with many organizations including: Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Melville Charitable Trust, Annie E. Casey Foundation, CT Mirror, Travelers, The Village for Families and Children, Partnership for Strong Communities, Children’s Trust Fund, CT Fair Housing Center, and Hartford Public Schools. He has received numerous awards including:
Lifetime Achievement Award, Hartford Business Journal
The Tapestry Award, from The Hartford Courant, in recognition for bringing diverse communities together
Community Leader of the Year, from Leadership Greater Hartford
The Renaissance Award for Education, from the Hartford Downtown Council
He and his wife Doris live in West Hartford, CT, have three sons; Skip, Jesse, and Scott…. all Buckeye fans.
SIVAN HINES MD - SENIOR DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE PARTNERSHIPS + SCHOLAR SUCCESS Sivan Hines is a pediatrician by training, and a community builder by choice. Prior to moving to West Hartford in July of 2022 to join Hartford Promise, Sivan worked for more than 20 years as a pediatrician at the Atlanta Georgia based Wellstar Pediatric & Adolescent Center, helping to grow the practice into one of the region’s largest and most successful pediatric practices. She has demonstrated a longtime focus on health, youth, and equity, and a deep commitment to community, serving on the boards of directors of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Covenant House of Georgia, Atlanta Youth Academy, Girls Inc. Of Greater Atlanta and the Brown Medical Alumni Association (current president-elect). Dr. Hines earned both her Bachelor of Arts in American Civilization and Neuroscience and her Doctorate of Medicine from Brown University.
In her role at Hartford Promise, Sivan will focus on operationalizing Hartford Promise's integrated college success model, providing students with the financial resources, support services and key relationships that lead to college success and economic mobility. In addition to her work at Hartford Promise, Sivan has been named to the board of Directors of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Sivan is married to her husband Jeff (who is a great guy and thankfully a great cook) and she has has two adult children. Sivan loves to travel, to bake and eat dessert, and to spend time with her four very energetic, young grandsons.
JOE ZWIEBEL - DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT + COMMUNICATION Joe is the Founding Publisher, and a former owner of the Hartford Business Journal, which he founded in 1992, and sold in June of 2020. He has been active in the Greater Hartford business community for 30 years, and has served on several nonprofit boards, including Junior Achievement, the Hartford Club, and the Connecticut Council for the Advancement of Diversity. Harford Promise is an organization which meshes completely with Joe’s personal values.
“When Richard Sugarman called me back in 2015 to tell me about his next adventure in founding Hartford Promise, I was blown away,” says Joe. The value proposition is so powerful, so leveraged, and so important, across the community, and across generations. Hartford needs Promise Scholars, and our country needs them too. Nothing I have seen lately gives me more optimism for our future, and I am thrilled and thankful to have the opportunity to contribute to such an important mission.” Joe is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Ma and has been married for 39 years to his beautiful and way smarter wife Raki. They have 3 grown children, two of whom are college graduates, with the third well underway. Joe Runs, swims, rides a racing bicycle, skis, and sings tenor in his local community choral group, all with reckless abandon, when he is not enthusiastically exploring food culture at home, or in distant places. He will try to practice his Spanish with anyone who will let him, and his lawn is a mess.
SAM LEVINE - DIRECTOR OF SCHOLARSHIPS Sam is an attorney by profession and is singularly committed to our Hartford community, particularly its young people and education. She is a versatile and engaging professional and is as effective with students as she is with executives. Her role at Hartford Promise includes leading college scholarship disbursements, high school outreach, event coordination, communications, promotions, and scholar outreach.
She is married to her husband Eric, a dentist, has 2 grown kids and is the youngest of 6 sisters. Sam is an avid cook and enjoys hiking and adventures. She has a dog named Lola who loves eating socks!
MELISSA PAUL - DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE PARTNERSHIPS + REACHING FORWARD Melissa Paul has always held a passion for education and youth development. She studied Music at UConn and went on to pursue a Masters in School Counseling at CCSU. She has worked in a variety of educational settings including public and private schools, and in the nonprofit sector. Most recently she has been engaged in college guidance and alumni support programs in New York City. Her role at Hartford Promise includes cultivating and managing partner college relationships, scholar communication and outreach, and tracking college success. Melissa also shares a passion for the performing arts as a singer and actress with several performing groups throughout the northeast. She and her husband, Jason, have a toddler whom she loves to bake, dance and sing with as much as possible.
JORDAN GREEN - DIRECTOR OF REACHING BACK SERVICES Jordan Green knows firsthand the importance of a college education, and what it can mean for Hartford high school students, and to our community. Jordan was born in Hartford and is a graduate of Trinity College. As a first-generation college student himself, Jordan has shown his personal commitment to encouraging students to reach higher, and to helping them succeed, throughout his successful career as a widely respected youth counselor, advisor, and educator.
Prior to joining Hartford Promise, Jordan served as Director of College and Career Readiness at Capital Prep, a Hartford Magnet School. There he established an internship program connecting professional organizations with Capital Prep students, and helped catalyze over $73,000,000 in scholarships and grants for high school students.
In his free time Jordan enjoys skydiving, volunteering, and writing. Jordan lives by the phrase, "Embrace your imperfect reality and be at peace".
LINDA MERLIN - FUND DEVELOPMENT + GRANT WRITING Linda Merlin is an attorney by profession, and used to practice large commercial litigation in both New York and Connecticut. She has organized local “get out the vote” efforts and championed local education budget issues. Linda is also a graduate of Encore! Hartford’s Non-Profit Leadership Program. She is eager to bring her legal writing skills, grass roots organization experience and commitment to education to Hartford Promise. Her responsibilities at Hartford Promise include grant writing, grant reporting and research, as well as development of new funding opportunities.
She is married to her husband, Larry, and has two grown kids.
NAHKIA HENRY - DIRECTOR OF CAREER DEVELOPMENT With roots in Hartford, Nahkia decided to remain in the area after receiving her BA in Communications from the University of Connecticut. Nahkia has over ten years of experience working in human resources, project management, and operations across several industries, including Investments, Manufacturing, and Insurance. As often as her time permits, Nahkia pursues opportunities that enable her to combine human resources and nonprofit work, two things for which she is most passionate. While always willing to commit her time to serve a variety of causes, Nahkia especially enjoys investing her time to improve the lives of youth in her community. In addition to serving as an avid volunteer for organizations like Hartford Youth Scholars and Career Beginnings Program, Nahkia was also a Senior Manager at INROADS. In her role as Director of Career Services, Nahkia continues to merge her passions assisting Hartford Promise Scholars with career-related consultation. At the same time, she builds relationships with local employers and corporate partners to invigorate their pipeline with more local talent.
Nahkia demonstrates a relentless commitment to nonprofit organizations in her community while also serving as a member of the Human Resources Association of Central Connecticut (HRACC) and Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). When not working or volunteering, she enjoys travel and is an avid sports fan.
CLOTILDE GANNON - OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR Clotilde Gannon is a first-generation college student who studied Political Science and Global Studies at the University of Connecticut. Clotilde continued her education at UConn earning a Masters in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management. She has various experience working and volunteering within the nonprofit sector in Connecticut.
Clotilde’s role at Hartford Promise supports her passion for public service and youth development. She believes in shining positivity, love, and kindness.
Other passions of Clotilde include reading, traveling, and listening to live music. Clotilde is living out her dream of traveling the world while working remotely for Hartford Promise.
TALIA CLARKE - REACHING FORWARD COACH Talia Clarke is a resident of Hartford, and a 2020 graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, with a BS in Public Health. She spent a semester abroad studying at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University in 2019. Before joining Hartford Promise, Ms. Clarke worked as a Nutrition Education Consultant at the Hartford Public Schools. Prior to that, she was an Americorps Service Member, where she served at Food Corps at Hartford Public Schools Child Nutritional Services.
As a Hartford Promise Scholar alumnus, "says Ms. Clarke, I’m thrilled to join the Hartford Promise team. I want to help scholars develop a profound sense of self, community and wellness, because I believe that a college education is a driver of both health and prosperity. My passion for working with students will help me ensure that the next generation of Hartford Promise Scholars has the tools they need to succeed."
Talia is a self-taught natural hairstylist, she started braiding hair at the age of 7. In her free time, she travels solo, runs a book club, and does dance/ aerial arts. Talia has competed in many dance competitions, including World of Dance, Hip-hop International, and many others!
HASION GASTON - REACHING FORWARD COACH Hasion Gaston resides in East Hartford, and is a 2020 graduate of Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, with BS degree in Social Work. Mr. Gaston Studied abroad at Marist’s Freshmen Florence Experience in Florence Italy between September of 2016 and May of 2017. At Marist, Mr. Gaston was the President of the Black Student Union, as well as an intern and mentor at the Marist Liberty Partnership Program.
Prior to joining Hartford Promise, he was a Statewide Community Organizer at both Community Action Works, and at the Katal Center in Harford. “I’ve dedicated my career to youth development and connecting communities to opportunities for growth,” says Mr. Gaston. “I’m eager to bring that passion and experience to my new role as a Reaching Forward Coach to support Hartford Scholars on their journey.
Aside from his work at Hartford Promise, Hasion is an entrepreneur, photographer, and podcaster. In his solo podcast called “20 conversations,” Hasion explores themes around self-awareness, and “adulting.” He is also a language enthusiast, who speaks both Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.
ERNA ALIC - REACHING BACK COACH Erna Alic resides in Hartford and is a 2021 Magna Cum Laude graduate of University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she earned a BA in Psychology and Human Rights, with a minor in Arabic.
Erna was born in Geneva, Switzerland where her family were asylum seekers from Bosnia. She came to the US with her family as refugees, in 2001, and became a US citizen in 2018. She is multilingual in Bosnian, English, and Beginner Spanish and Arabic.
Erna serves as a commissioner on the Hartford Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs and was intern for The Dodd Human Rights Digital Archives Project, helping to make important human rights documents easily accessible to the community. She has been active in many other causes as a volunteer, including Hartford Deportation Defense, Free Uyghur Now as media director, and Fundraising Intern for Helping Hand for Relief and Development. She currently also works as a Program Coordinator at the Hartford Public Library for the After School English Learner Success Program. When she's not busy being a Reaching Back Coach or trying to save the world, Erna enjoys listening to podcasts while taking very long walks, is an avid reader and coffee drinker and loves tending to her gardens, plants and her kitten, Smoki.
CHEREECE BURRELL - REACHING BACK COACH Chereece Latoya Burrell resides in Hartford, and is a 2022 graduate of University of Connecticut, where she earned a Bachelor of arts degree in Psychological Science, with a minor in Human Development and Family Sciences.
Chereece has interned at the UCONN Child Lab, where she engaged with, and provided care to infants from 4-12 months, and helped to develop learning plans for children under her care. She has been an active leader in the Hartford Student Senate, Junior achievement, and served as Valedictorian of Global Communications Academy. Chereece is also a registered behavior technician and works with children diagnosed with Autism and other developmental disabilities. As a Reaching Back Coach for Hartford Promise, Chereece looks forward to continuing to help students within the Hartford community prepare for their post-secondary education. Chereece likes to watch marvel movies, her favorite character is Doctor strange. Chereece Is very family oriented and enjoys spending time with her niece and nephews. She also enjoys doing DIY projects during her free time.
The board of directors serve as advisers and advocates in the development of Hartford Promise with particular focus on engaging the support of the business, philanthropic, and the general community.
CO-CHAIRS Robert E. Patricelli, Former Chairman, President & CEO, Women’s Health USA Walter Harrison, Former President, University of Hartford
BOARD MEMBERS Erin Haberman, Second Vice President, Travelers Foundation Charlie Klippel, Senior VP and General Counsel, Aetna Laura Marzi, Chief Marketing Officer, The Hartford Thea Montanez, Chief Operating Officer, Mayor Luke Bronin Hugh F. Murray III, Partner, McCarter and English Mark Scheinberg, President, Goodwin College Richard Sugarman, President, Hartford Promise Deidre Tavera, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Development, CPBM Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools Denise Zamore, Senior Associate General Counsel, United Healthcare Sarah Lewis,Vice President Health Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Hartford Healthcare Wizdom Powell, Director, Health Disparities Institute and Associate Professor, UConn Health Sheryl Burke, Senior Vice President Cross-Enterprise Strategic Innovation, Aetna
PROMISE SCHOLAR BOARD MEMBERS Andrea Sousa, University of Hartford Rashaun Davis, University of Connecticut
Hartford Promise 750 Main Street Hartford, CT 06103