Staff

 

Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD

Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD

Founding Director

Renée Boynton-Jarrett is a practicing primary care pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, a social epidemiologist and the founding director of the Vital Village Community Engagement Network. Through the Vital Village Network, she is supporting the development of community-based strategies to promote child well-being in three Boston neighborhoods. She joined the faculty at Boston University School of Medicine in 2007 and is currently an Associate Professor of Pediatrics. She received her AB from Princeton University, her MD from Yale School of Medicine, ScD in Social Epidemiology from Harvard School of Public Health, and completed residency in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her work focuses on the role of early-life adversities as life course social determinants of health. She has a specific interest in the intersection of community violence, intimate partner violence, and child abuse and neglect and neighborhood characteristics that influence these patterns.  

Erica Pike, MS

Erica Pike, MS

Communications and Policy Manager

Passionate for systems-level change, Erica Pike has been working in public health as a youth worker, trainer, project manager, and community advocate since 2010. Pike graduated with a Bachelor’s in Dance from Drexel University in 2013 and a Master’s in Applied Nutrition from Northeastern University in 2015. As an AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow and young public health professional, she became committed to improving maternal & child wellbeing and engaging communities to create lasting change.

Yusuf Ali

Yusuf Ali

Network Coordinator

Yusuf Ali grew up and has worked professionally in the communities of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan over the last 8 years. Yusuf graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Florida A& M University in 2008. Yusuf is passionate about holistic healthy lifestyles and has focused his work towards empowering and providing families & individuals with resources in the areas of access to wealth, food access, and civic engagement.

Desiree Hartman

Desiree Hartman

Community Mobilization Coordinator - AmeriCorps VISTA

Desiree (Desi) Hartman graduated from Colorado College in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Global Health. Reflecting on her own life as an infant adopted from the Philippines who grew up in America, Hartman used her undergrad experience to understand how early childhood experiences impact one’s developmental trajectory and grappled with the larger social barriers that impact children. As a part of GlobeMed--a global health undergraduate student organization--Desi advocated for and interned with the group’s long-term partnership organization located in Kenya, the Western Organization for People Living with HIV/AIDS (WOPLAH). Desi also conducted field research on infant attachment at the institution she was adopted from in the Philippines, the Children’s Shelter of Cebu. Hartman is dedicated to fighting for a world that actualizes every child’s right to health and believes meaningful, cross-sector partnerships will help us achieve system-level change.

Amita Wanar

Amita Wanar

Community Mobilization Coordinator

Amita Wanar is passionate about promoting health and economic justice and empowering communities by highlighting local voices. She recently graduated from Barnard College with a B.A in Neuroscience and Behavior. During her time in New York City, Amita’s work with prenatal patients and incarcerated students energized her to continue utilizing education and the social determinants of health to create sustainable change. She is excited to bring her experiences in community health education and maternal health to the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition. 

Mesa Merritt

Mesa Merritt

Community Mobilization Coordinator

Mesa Merritt is driven to promote accessibility in education, and opportunities for lifelong learning. Graduating from the University of Vermont, Merritt holds a B.S. in Human Development & Family Studies and a minor in Psychological Science. Having both gone through and guided service-learning endeavors, Merritt joined the Network with the belief that impactful growth is cultivated through creating rich and diverse connections and mutual respect. During her time volunteering and conducting research in the public school system, Merritt became passionate about creating inclusive and nurturing environments for young children, which allow them to be supported on their own developmental pathways. Merritt is excited to work with young leaders in their pursuit to create sustainable change in their own communities, and inspire other leaders and learners to become involved.

Ronda Alexander

Ronda Alexander

Director of Operations - Project NOW

Ronda Alexander is a native Detroiter dedicated to working with communities to reach their desired goals by aligning and leveraging their resources.  Ronda joins us from the United Way for Southeastern Michigan where she served as the Director of Corporate and Community Alignment on the organization’s College and Career Pathways team.  In her role at United Way Ronda worked to help external corporate partners find meaningful ways to engage with both students and educators; as well as worked across teams within the organization to align and leverage resources. Prior to joining United Way Ronda worked on the premier education initiative of Ford Motor Company Fund – Ford Next Generation (Ford NGL) for nine years.  While at Ford Fund Ronda served a variety of roles including Professional Development/Technical Assistance Specialist and Program Manager for STEM initiatives.  In all of her roles with Ford Fund Ronda worked with and supported multiple communities across the country as they worked to transform their communities through education.

Diana Austria Rivera, MSW, MPH

Diana Austria Rivera, MSW, MPH

Senior Program Associate - Project NOW

As a public health social worker, Diana is committed to advancing racial, economic, and health equity ensuring that our most vulnerable communities thrive in healthy communities of opportunity and are at the forefront driving policy and systems-level change. Born in the Philippines and raised in Houston, Texas, she graduated with a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University in 2008 and a dual Masters in Social Welfare and Public Health from University of California, Berkeley in 2015. Prior to joining the Vital Village team, she engaged in research, capacity building, and policy advocacy to build equitable food systems and inclusive health workforce policies at PolicyLink. Diana also brings experience in school-based health research, health career pathway programs, youth leadership development, community engagement, and immigrant health.