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Meet Our Team

Allison R. Brown
In loving memory of our North Star,
Allison Ranelle Brown, 1976 - 2020
See this stirring tribute video by our friends at the NEA Foundation
Visit with Allison and her writings, podcasts, and other wisdom here
Manuela Arciniegas

Executive Director

Manuela Arciniegas brings more than 20 years of experience in the racial justice nonprofit sector, ensuring young people and women from low-income communities grow as leaders and have the opportunity to hold their governments to account and step into their most powerful social, cultural, political and spiritual lives.


Manuela was previously the Program Officer for Ford Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership on the Civic Engagement and Government Team, where she stewarded over $60M+  in grants supporting organizations growing the civic participation and power of emerging leaders, including youth of color, LGBTQI+, Disability Justice, Immigration, Education Justice, Youth Justice, and other intersectional issues. Prior to her tenure at Ford, Manuela was director of the Andrus Family Fund, overseeing a grantmaking portfolio advancing policy, community organizing, direct service and capacity building for organizations serving youth advocating for change nationwide including Puerto Rico. She has additionally served as a grantmaker and community organizer across issues, including environmental justice, narrative change, arts and culture and education access.

Manuela is a funder organizer and the founder of the Visionary Freedom Fund, and has served as co-chair of Funders for Justice and on the advisory board of the Youth First State Advocacy Fund, the Youth Engagement Fund, the Funder’s Collaborative on Youth Organizing, the Youth Organizing and Cultural Change Fund, Filantropia PR, and Funders for Justice. She is a cultural arts organizer and is the founder and director of an all-women's Afro-Puerto Rican and Dominican folk drumming troupe, Legacy Women and a performer and manager of Afro-Puerto Rican bomba ensemble Alma Moyo. A proud mother of 4, Manuela is pursuing a PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center in Ethnomusicology focused on the role of Afro-Cuban religious music and power.


She is a selected participant of the Soros Social Justice Fellowship and New York Humanities Fellowship and a recipient of prizes from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, the New York State Council of the Arts, along with being recognized with the Kennedy Center’s Next 50 cultural leadership award.

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Jaime T. Koppel

Deputy Director of Programs

A self-identified policy wonk, Jaime is also a steadfast believer in the fundamental importance of centering community organizers’ expertise as we journey towards education justice and the schools our children deserve. Before CJSF, Jaime was a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), where she worked across federal agencies and with external partners towards eliminating punitive school discipline and increasing positive school climate. Prior to her time at the DOJ, Jaime served as the Director of Youth & Education Justice at the Children's Defense Fund - New York (CDF-NY), working with community organizers and advocates on efforts most aptly summed up as “seeking to decriminalize childhood” for youth of color. Jaime also served as Chief of Staff for the Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York City's Administration for Children's Services, an experience that cemented her belief in the importance of empowering families to imagine and create their own solutions. While living in Honduras from 2001 - 2003, Jaime founded Bilingual Education for Central America (BECA), a nonprofit working directly with financially disadvantaged families in Honduras to provide high-quality bilingual education. Jaime now serves as BECA’s Board Chair.

Jaime has a B.A. from Hamilton College and a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) from which she was awarded the Harvey Picker Prize for Public Service. She does this work because all children deserve to be seen, to be safe, and to be loved by school staff and curriculum that reflect them, their history, and their brilliant potential.

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Marianna Islam
Director of Movement Partnerships

Marianna Islam (she/they) is a spiritual abolitionist, caretaker, circle keeper and poet who works at the intersection of philanthropy and grassroots movements for social change. Marianna brings over two decades of experience in the philanthropic sector as a strategist, a racial justice organizer, and a youth worker with proven experience expanding solidarity efforts. Marianna's love and purpose grows from a practice of embodiment and deep remembering and her medicine is interacting with the essence of what wants to be known. Facilitating learning communities and anchoring integrated spaces for transformative change, community healing, and personal and collective power building has been a long-standing thread in Marianna’s work.


Marianna joins Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) as its inaugural Director of Movement Partnerships. Marianna will lead CJSF’s grantmaking and network development strategy and will take primary responsibility for building and nurturing healthy partnerships with community partners.


Prior to joining CJSF, Marianna served as the Director of Programs and Advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Associate Project Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Roadmaps to Health National Grants Program at Community Catalyst and Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Central Massachusetts. Marianna raises her two children in central Massachusetts on Nipmuc and Black liberator lands where she remains active, helping to support and be guided by the next generation of leaders.

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Jose De Jesus Santacruz
Programs Curator

Jose (they/them) comes from an organizing background, firmly rooted in the belief that philanthropy must center and take direction from the most directly impacted Black and brown communities. They are currently based on Unceded Ohlone Land, also known as oakland, california, and have worked to mobilize resources through their work with multiple nonprofits in Oakland and most recently with Borealis Philanthropy, a philanthropic intermediary, with the Spark Justice Fund and Communities Transforming Policing Fund, working to center formerly incarcerated and directly impacted folks in resourcing long-term visions of community safety across the country that do not rely on policing or incarceration, but rather on fruitful systems with plentiful resources and opportunities. They helped dream up and actualize the Communities Transforming Policing Fund's first Participatory Grantmaking process and look forward to building more innovative community-centric systems focusing on care and rest. They enjoy a great cup of coffee and reveling in the beauty of nature during their free time.

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Kimberly Ellis
Programs & Operations Curator

As a former special education teacher, Kimberly has had a longstanding passion for ensuring equitable and enriching educational experiences. She believes in crafting joyful education spaces that affirm all aspects of students' identities. She has an undergraduate degree in Sociology & African American Studies from Harvard University and a Master of Public Policy in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University. Kimberly looks forward to contributing knowledge gained from her experiences thus far into this new role while continuing to learn and grow with others.

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Briana Perry

Director of Liberatory Learning & Capacity Building

Briana Perry is a Black Southern feminist from Memphis, TN. She graduated from Vanderbilt University with her B.A. in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies in 2013. While an undergraduate, Briana developed a passion for Black feminism and community organizing, with a focus on reproductive justice. Before obtaining her master’s degree, Briana taught English, science, and social studies for two years. While teaching, she was also involved in local organizing efforts around reproductive health, sexual assault awareness, and racial justice. She went on to co-found the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter. In 2015, Briana returned to Nashville as a graduate student at Peabody College and completed her Master of Education in Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies in 2016. She continued organizing around gender equity and racial justice issues, and she worked closely with the Nashville Feminist Collective and the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt. Briana is currently an advisory committee member with the National Bailout Collective, the group that supports the Black Mama's Bailout, and a coordinating committee member with the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter. She is also a trained birth doula, community mediator, and Circle keeper. Her interests include decolonial Black feminism, transformative justice, and reproductive justice. She enjoys writing about the intersection of these issues and the need to center them in our organizing. Briana also enjoys traveling, being a beginner gardener, and playing with her dog, Zora.


Erika Roberson

Georgetown Policy Resident

Erika Roberson is the Georgetown Policy Resident for Communities for Just Schools Fund. Erika previously worked in state government roles at the Louisiana Department of Education as well as the Department of Health and Human Services in her home state, North Carolina. She has a passion for serving rural communities and ensuring that historically marginalized populations have access to quality resources. Her interest in Education Policy stems from her lived experience as a product of Title I public schools. She received a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Political Science from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently a Graduate student at Georgetown University studying Educational Transformation with a concentration in Advocacy and Policy.

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