Meet Our Staff

WEDI is composed of ambitious, dedicated, and passionate individuals who firmly believe in the mission of the organization, in the potential of the people who utilize our services, and that WEDI's work can truly impact the community in a positive way. Learn more about the WEDI team and what they bring to the organization. And if you want to join us, check out our employment opportunities.

WEDI is composed of ambitious, dedicated, and passionate individuals who firmly believe in the mission of the organization, in the potential of the people who utilize our services, and that WEDI's work can truly impact the community in a positive way. Learn more about the WEDI team and what they bring to the organization

Carolynn Welch | Interim Executive Director

 Carolynn received a B.S.in Psychology from D'Youville College. She began her career in the non- profit world immediately out of college. She has worked in a variety of areas including program management, corporate compliance and development. She has been actively involved in Education programs for over 10 years. During this time she served as a member of the Erie County Youth Board and as a consultant for Computers For Children. She has a passion for enriching the lives of children and providing them new and enriching opportunities through after school programs.

Carolynn received a B.S.in Psychology from D'Youville College. She began her career in the non- profit world immediately out of college. She has worked in a variety of areas including program management, corporate compliance and development. She has been actively involved in Education programs for over 10 years. During this time she served as a member of the Erie County Youth Board and as a consultant for Computers For Children. She has a passion for enriching the lives of children and providing them with new and enriching opportunities through after-school programs.

Joshua Brenner | Loan Operations Manager

Joshua joined WEDI as a member of Economic Development Corps after graduating from the University at Buffalo with a degree in Economics in 2017. During his time at the University at Buffalo, Joshua spent 4 months interning in London at a search-engine marketing company where he learned the fundamentals of business development and gained the cultural proficiency required to work with a diverse range of populations.

Joshua joined WEDI as a member of Economic Development Corps after graduating from the University at Buffalo with a degree in Economics in 2017. During his time at the University at Buffalo, Joshua spent 4 months interning in London at a search-engine marketing company where he learned the fundamentals of business development and gained the cultural proficiency required to work with a diverse range of populations.

Joshua serves the organization on the Economic Development team with the role of coordinating and managing the day to day operations of WEDI's Small Business Microloan Program. In addition, he leads WEDI's Economic Development team in the assessment of potential borrowers and developing WEDI's loan underwriting processes. Joshua is excited to help provide opportunities to empower the people of Buffalo and help small businesses thrive in the local economy.

Kat Cejka | Marketing Manager

Kat has joined WEDI as an Americorps Vista, and will be working with the Development Team as a Development Assistant to advance WEDI’s capacity building. She received her Bachelor’s degree in the pre-health program from Canisius College. With a strong liberal arts background, she majored in psychology and minored in neuropsychology. She is driven by her academic background and her creative passions to give rise to connections within our community, facilitate healing, and promote wellbeing. Her role will focus on improving volunteer management and recognition, managing fundraising activities, and assisting in design and promotional strategies.

Kat received her Bachelor’s degree in the pre-health program from Canisius College. With a strong liberal arts background, she majored in psychology and minored in neuropsychology. Her academic interests lie primarily in the intersectionalities of intergenerational trauma, community-based healing, and community ownership.

Kat is driven to give rise to connections within the community, facilitate healing, and promote wellbeing. She is passionate about telling great stories, promoting world-changing ideas and enabling the creative spark that follows when people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise get in a room to discuss anything with sincerity and respect. Kat is excited to use this passion to highlight the stories embedded within WEDI’s work and to cultivate marketing strategies for a more just, creative, and collaborative community.

Dave Chambers | Small Business Counselor

An international business lawyer for 35 years, David took on the role of Economic Development Specialist with WEDI in 2016.  In addition to serving as senior Counsel to several global corporations, David has been intensely involved with Western New York economic development initiatives, serving on the Board of Directors

 An international business lawyer for 35 years, David took on the role of Small Business Counselor with WEDI in 2016.  In addition to serving as senior Counsel to several global corporations, David has been intensely involved with Western New York economic development initiatives, serving on the Board of Directors of Erie County Economic Development Agency; and as the chief of Economic Development Policy for the Erie County (New York) Executive, among other positions.  A graduate of the University at Buffalo and The Cornell Law School, David brings with him a continuing passion for the resurgence of Western New York and its diverse and wonderful communities. 

Cody Clement-Sanders | Grant Manager

Cody Clement-Sanders started at WEDI as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and now holds the position of Grant Specialist. He supports the organization’s growth through project-based initiatives that improve WEDI’s sustainability and impact and brings highly relevant experience. Cody graduated from SUNY at Buffalo, earning a Masters in Urban Planning with dual specializations in Neighborhood Planning & Community Development and Economic Development & International Planning. He previously interned and worked for small for-profit and nonprofit firms where he helped complete grants and develop client base expansion strategies using ArcGIS to visualize spatial data.\

Cody Clement-Sanders started at WEDI as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and now holds the position of Grant Specialist. He supports the organization’s growth through project-based initiatives that improve WEDI’s sustainability and impact and brings highly relevant experience. Cody graduated from SUNY at Buffalo, earning a Masters in Urban Planning with dual specializations in Neighborhood Planning & Community Development and Economic Development & International Planning. He previously interned and worked for small for-profit and nonprofit firms where he helped complete grants and develop client base expansion strategies using ArcGIS to visualize spatial data."

Bob Doyle | Community Development Director

Bob is a lifelong Buffalonian excited to take on a new role as Operations Manager at the West Side Bazaar. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from SUNY Buffalo, and has spent over a decade working in restaurants and nonprofits in Buffalo. Bob loves traveling, cooking, gardening, eating, and learning new languages. In addition to his native English he speaks fluent Italian, as well as conversational Spanish and French. 

 Bob is a lifelong Buffalonian excited to take on a new role as Community Development Director. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from SUNY Buffalo, and has spent over a decade working in restaurants and nonprofits in Buffalo. Bob loves traveling, cooking, gardening, eating, and learning new languages. In addition to his native English he speaks fluent Italian, as well as conversational Spanish and French. 

 

 

Jazmine Frazier | Program Support Specialist

 Jazmine moved to Buffalo from Alabama’s Gulf Coast in 2011 and took a winding path through different industries before she began her service with Americorps at WEDI in February 2018. Having spent her formative years in historically impoverished areas in the South, her passion for helping under-served communities establish stability for themselves brought her into the nonprofit world. In working with WEDI, she brings her degree in Communication and Media Arts and many life experiences that lends to the people-first approach that is close to her heart.

Jazmine moved to Buffalo from Alabama’s Gulf Coast in 2011 and took a winding path through different industries before she began her service with Americorps at WEDI in February 2018. Having spent her formative years in historically impoverished areas in the South, her passion for helping under-served communities establish stability for themselves brought her into the nonprofit world. In working with WEDI, she brings her degree in Communication and Media Arts and many life experiences that lends to the people-first approach that is close to her heart.

Cristen Gregory| Small Business Counselor

Headshot17.jpgCristen Gregory is originally from Toronto, Canada.  She comes to WEDI from a background in the Performing Arts, having traveled the world singing opera.  She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and earned an MBA from Medaille College. She has been a professor at Niagara University and currently at Canisius College.  She has served as a director on many diverse Boards throughout the region. She joins the Economic Development team as a Small Business Counselor, helping entrepreneurs develop their potential and realize their business goals.

Nate Gray| Business Development Officer

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Motivated by the increasing economic injustices imposed on the disadvantaged and the importance he places on childhood development, Nate joined WEDI in 2018.  Upon completing his B.S. in Business Administration at Indiana Wesleyan University, he taught for two years in the New York City Department of Education followed with careers at Oppenheimer and as a Director for a Healthcare Eligibility Advocacy organization in Detroit, MI. Additionally, he and his brother founded and transferred control of a non-profit in Long Island, NY, where the importance and value of community were impressed and made an indelible mark. 

 

John Khalaf| Business Intelligence Analyst

 John joined WEDI as a member of Economic Development team after graduating from the Houghton College with a degree in Computer Science in 2018. During his time at the  Houghton College, John spent 4 months interning for at his school where he learned the fundamentals of reporting services and Data Base management and another 4 months at Land O' Lakes where he learned the fundamentals of business development  and Data Science skills and gained the cultural proficiency required to work with a diverse range of populations. John serves the organization on the economic development team with the role of Economic Development Data Specialist, John's goal is to understand the business needs and leverage our systems to meet those needs and allow for more efficiency in our process.  As John says: “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”

John joined WEDI as a member of Economic Development team after graduating from the Houghton College with a degree in Computer Science in 2018. During his time at the  Houghton College, John spent 4 months interning for at his school where he learned the fundamentals of reporting services and Data Base management and another 4 months at Land O' Lakes where he learned the fundamentals of business development  and Data Science skills and gained the cultural proficiency required to work with a diverse range of populations. John serves the organization on the economic development team with the role of Economic Development Data Specialist, John's goal is to understand the business needs and leverage our systems to meet those needs and allow for more efficiency in our process.  As John says: “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”

Grove Potter | Development Director

  Grove joined WEDI in 2018, drawn by the organization’s work to help folks get a foot on the economic ladder and start climbing. He believes that WEDI’s work helping new and existing residents get started in business and helping educate their children is a powerful two-tiered economic tool that will enhance the city’s economy and strengthen communities. Grove was the Executive Business Editor at The Buffalo News for 17 years, and worked at the University at Buffalo as a news content manager writing about research and new businesses the university is fostering. He also edits the UB School of Dentistry alumni magazine. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont and holds an MBA from UB.

 Grove joined WEDI in 2018, drawn by the organization’s work to help folks get a foot on the economic ladder and start climbing. He believes that WEDI’s work helping new and existing residents get started in business and helping educate their children is a powerful two-tiered economic tool that will enhance the city’s economy and strengthen communities. Grove was the Executive Business Editor at The Buffalo News for 17 years, and worked at the University at Buffalo as a news content manager writing about research and new businesses the university is fostering. He also edits the UB School of Dentistry alumni magazine. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont and holds an MBA from UB.

 

Esperance (Hope) Rwigamba | Economic Development Specialist

  Esperance is originally from Rwanda and came to the United States in 2005. Back in her country, she worked as a small loans consultant at a local bank and as a supervisor of Save the Children, an organization whose sole focus was to support orphans and single parents. She has a B.A. in Business Administration from Medaille College and completed her Master’s degree in Public Administration at Buffalo State College in 2015. Esperance currently serves as WEDI’s Economic Development Specialist and enjoys seeing local businesses that are supported by WEDI become even more successful.

 Esperance is originally from Rwanda and came to the United States in 2005. Back in her country, she worked as a small loans consultant at a local bank and as a supervisor of Save the Children, an organization whose sole focus was to support orphans and single parents. She has a B.A. in Business Administration from Medaille College and completed her Master’s degree in Public Administration at Buffalo State College in 2015. Esperance currently serves as WEDI’s Economic Development Specialist and enjoys seeing local businesses that are supported by WEDI become even more successful.

Yanush Sanmugaraja | Economic Development Director

  Yanush graduated from State University of New York Geneseo with a dual degree in Economics and Sociology in 2016. Before being hired as program director, he served as a WEDI Economic Development Specialist through AmeriCorps, utilizing his experiences in technology, development, and design. When Yanush was 12, he built an online, self-sustaining community for teenagers, which operates on its own to this day. Yanush is dedicated to the mission of the organization and is excited to assist blossoming businesses.

 Yanush graduated from State University of New York Geneseo with a dual degree in Economics and Sociology in 2016. Before being hired as program director, he served as a WEDI Economic Development Specialist through AmeriCorps, utilizing his experiences in technology, development, and design. When Yanush was 12, he built an online, self-sustaining community for teenagers, which operates on its own to this day. Yanush is dedicated to the mission of the organization and is excited to assist blossoming businesses.

Aye Min Thant | Community Development Assistant 

Aye started out in the AmeriCorps ABLE program were she worked with Cradle Beach Project S.O.A.R; improving emotional intelligence, and expanding the overall development of children through meaningful experiences. She has joined WEDI as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and will be working with the Community Development Team as a Community Development Assistant. She assists with coordinating business mentors and the West Side Bazaar expansion. She is also currently attending SUNY Buffalo State College, where she is majoring in Art and Letters. She was also one of Dr. Podolefsky's Fellowship Students at the Community Academic Center, is involved in the Alternative Break Team at Buffalo State, and is an active person for her community. Aye also works at Albright Knox Art Gallery as a studio art teacher. Aye started out in the AmeriCorps ABLE program were she worked with Cradle Beach Project S.O.A.R; improving emotional intelligence, and expanding the overall development of children through meaningful experiences. She has joined WEDI as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and will be working with the Community Development Team as a Community Development Assistant. She assists with coordinating business mentors and the West Side Bazaar expansion. She is also currently attending SUNY Buffalo State College, where she is majoring in Art and Letters. She was also one of Dr. Podolefsky's Fellowship Students at the Community Academic Center, is involved in the Alternative Break Team at Buffalo State, and is an active person for her community. Aye also works at Albright Knox Art Gallery as a studio art teacher. 

 

Courtney Yonce | Interim Education Director/Launch Program Coordinator 

 Courtney's passion for teaching English to speakers of other languages began in during her year abroad through Rotary International in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Before graduating from SUNY Geneseo, she took a year off to serve as an Americorps ABLE member at Buffalo Public School 80. The following year, she served a second term, but transferred to WEDI's middle school program, FLY. During this time, she finished her undergrad, receiving her BA in English and Anthropology. Now that her second term of service with Americorps is over, she is stepping up into the new role of Launch Program Coordinator for the pilot high school program at Lafayette International High School.

Courtney's passion for teaching English to speakers of other languages began in during her year abroad through Rotary International in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Before graduating from SUNY Geneseo, she took a year off to serve as an Americorps ABLE member at Buffalo Public School 80. The following year, she served a second term, but transferred to WEDI's middle school program, FLY. During this time, she finished her undergrad, receiving her BA in English and Anthropology. Now that her second term of service with Americorps is over, she is stepping up into the new role of Launch Program Coordinator for the pilot high school program at Lafayette International High School.

Alyssa Wojciechowski | ENERGY Program Coordinator

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 Alyssa graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.A. in Linguistics.  After instructing adult refugee English Language Learners through Erie 1 BOCES on the West Side for two years, she decided to ride her bike across the country. She continued to teach Pre-Employment Training classes to adult refugee populations in the Pacific Northwest at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, but soon realized that there is no place like home and returned to Buffalo to pursue a humanitarian career, completing a year of service as an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity Buffalo.  She began volunteering at the ENERGY Literacy for Children program in 2016, and after working for a year as Program Assistant, now happily helps the ENERGY students improve their reading and writing skills as the Program Coordinator.

 

Nagalaa Zaki | FLY Program Assistant

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Naglaa serves on the education team as the FLY Program Assistant. Before starting at WEDI, she received her bachelor's degree in Arts, majored in English Language, and received her diploma in general education. Her passion for teaching started five years ago during her senior year at university when she was volunteering at a school for a year. She realized that she wanted to continue in the teaching field and her passion for the field continues to grow. She is an active member of her community and participates in various volunteering activities.

 


AmeriCorps volunteers supported significantly by:

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