Education Luncheon: IDEA Panel Discussion

IDEA Program

You won’t want to miss this important conversation! Our panel will discuss the roots of inequity in Fairfield County and how organizations are implementing systemic solutions to address those inequities. Reserve your seat now!

Our Moderator:

Dr. Tanya A. Hills – Director, Learning & Evaluation at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation

Dr. Tanya A. Hills joined Fairfield County’s Community Foundation in 2022. As Director, Learning & Evaluation, Dr. Hills is responsible for managing the learning and evaluation practices of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

Prior to joining the Community Foundation, Dr. Hills began her career at Lawyers Without Borders, where she developed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated research, measurement, and evaluation plans for international rule of law programs and provided data-driven strategic direction to the efficacy and fidelity of programs, curricula and trainings.

She is an applied Research & Evaluation professional with fifteen years of expertise in leveraging research and evaluation methods to improve learning, strategic planning, and strategic decision-making. Dr. Hills is a published author; her research is focused on evaluation capacity building. In practice, Dr. Hills leverages research and evaluation to help mission-based organizations achieve measurable social change.

Dr. Hills received a Doctorate in Health Education from A.T. Still University, master’s degree in Public Policy & Law from Trinity College and bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Bard College.

Our Panel:

Carolyn Vermont – CEO, Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County

Dr. Carolyn Vermont serves as the CEO for Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County. She previously served as the Mayor’s Community Liaison for the City of Bridgeport. She has provided consulting services in the areas of government relations, community engagement, ethics, nonprofit board development, violence prevention, conflict resolution, anger management & leadership.  Carolyn served as a Workshop & Retreat Facilitator for the Parent Leadership Training Institute. She also held the position of Director of Urban Initiatives for CT Against Gun Violence; Manager for INROADS New England Region, Inc.; Community Relations Consultant for Action for Bridgeport Community Development, Inc (A.B.C.D., Inc.); and Diversity Recruitment Consultant for University College at Fairfield University. Other past professional positions include serving as the Director for the Employment Training Division of A.B.C.D,  Inc;  Loaned Executive for the United Way of Eastern Fairfield County; Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator for the City of Bridgeport; Coordinator of an Upward Bound Program at the University of Bridgeport; Executive Director of a Parent Leadership Program (P.E.A.R.L.); Case Manager for State of CT Department of Social Service; and consulting assignments with various non-profit agencies.

Carolyn received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Fairfield University. She also pursued doctoral studies in Educational Leadership at the University of Bridgeport. Carolyn currently volunteers as Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport Board Member; CT Against Gun Violence Board Member;  Charter Member & Public Policy Chair of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women-NHM Chapter; Kolbe Cathedral High School Board Member; Fairfield University Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions Advisory Board Member; Fairfield County Community Foundation Bridgeport Public Housing Resident Support Fund Advisory Committee; Vice President & Public Relations Chair for the West Indian-American Association of Greater Bridgeport (WIAAGB); Member of Association of Black Foundation Executives; Bridgeport PLTI Civic Design Team; M&T Bank Multicultural Small Business Lab Competition Judge; and as a Shepherds Mentor.

Carolyn’s past volunteer involvement includes serving as a member of 1st Lady Michelle Obama Women’s Roundtable; ChangeMaker at the 2016 White House United States of Women Summit by President Obama’s Administration; Ethics & Charter Revision Commissioner for the City of Bridgeport;  President of Rotary Club of Bridgeport; Fairfield County Community Foundation Beards Teachers Recognition Committee; Bridgeport Federation of Democratic Women; Board of Trustee Member at Fairfield University; Member of Fairfield University Trustees Advisory Council, Member of Fairfield University President’s Circle and Annual Giving Committee; Trustee of The Prosperity Foundation; President of the Greater Bridgeport Branch NAACP; Vice President of Operations for National Black-MBA WGC Chapter; Member of the Patient/Family Advisory Board at St. Vincent’s Medical Center; Board Member at the Cardinal Shehan Center; Board Member of the United Way of Eastern Fairfield County where she chaired the Allocations Council and Project Blueprint for Diversity; Board Member of Housatonic Girl Scout Council; Member of the Workplace, Inc. Workforce Investment Act Youth Council; Board Member of Inner-City Day Care; Member of BCAC Violence Task Force; Board Chair for the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County; Chair of National Political Congress of Black Women; Community Advisor for the Daily Voice Newspaper; Member of the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network;  Member of the Urban League’s Nominating and Women’s Summit Committee; and WIBO Alumni Association.

Carolyn has received many community awards including Fairfield University & Housatonic Community College Honorary Degrees; Fairfield University Alumni Service Award; Black Business Alliance Women Leadership Award; Circle of Hands Foundation Community Service Award; Norman K. Parsells Memorial Award; Abraham I. Gordon Rotarian of the Year; Bridgeport Regional Business Council Susan L. Davis Community Leadership Award; West Indian Social Club Community Service Award; WB-11 Community Service Award; The Chase Award; United Way of Eastern Fairfield County Community Builder’s Award; Cardinal Shehan Center Volunteer of the Year; Girl Scout of Housatonic Council Women of Distinction; West Indian American Association President Award & Community Service Award; Negro Business and Professional Women Community Service Award; National Council of Negro Women-GBS Bethune Award; National Black MBA-WGC MBA of The Year Award; CT 100 Women of Color Award, Masjid Al-Aziz Community Service Award; Calvary 7th Day Adventist Community Service Award; Eastend Baptist Church Women’s Day Award; Phenomenal Woman Award; Sister Girl Foundation Community Leadership Award; National Coalition of 100 Black Women-NHM Chapter Public Service Award and Bridgeport City Lights Community Service Award.

Carolyn’s greatest joy in life is the blessing of her two children: Nicole and Noel.

Mark Abraham, MPH – Executive Director, DataHaven

Mark Abraham is the Executive Director of DataHaven, a non-profit organization that partners with local and state government agencies, academic and health care institutions, foundations, and community organizations to collect, share, and interpret public information about Connecticut.

In his role at DataHaven, Mark has authored or co-authored cross-sector reports including the Greater New HavenFairfield County, and Greater Hartford Community Wellbeing Indexes. He established the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey program that has created an unprecedented source of statewide- and neighborhood-level information about community life, public health, economic security, and other topics through in-depth interviews with over 50,000 randomly-selected adults from 2012 through 2024.

From 2014 to 2017, Mark served as a Fellow of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as part of a national cohort focused on Racial Equity. Mark has received an “Impact Award” from the Community Indicators Consortium and a national “40 under 40 in public health” award from the de Beaumont Foundation, and was elected to the Executive Committee of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (Washington, DC).

Mark received his MPH in Applied Biostatistics and Epidemiology from the Yale School of Public Health, and his BA from Yale College.

Ayesha R. Clarke – Executive Director, Health Equity Solutions (HES)

Ayesha Clarke, is a native of Hartford, CT. Ayesha has built a career centered on elevating the voices of those often left out around the city of Hartford. She is a fierce advocate who believes in the power of keeping and establishing meaningful relationships with the community and other stakeholders to accomplish tangible outcomes. Ayesha Clarke holds a master’s degree in social work with a policy practice concentration (UCONN) and public health (Benedictine University) with a healthcare institution concentration. She also holds a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Connecticut with a concentration in business.; Ayesha has a passion for policy and advocacy work centered on health, criminal justice, and education. Ayesha has a keen understanding of the intersection of community and policy. She is an appointed member of the Harford Community on Public Health and Addiction and worked with the State Department of Public Health to translate a report on the opioid crisis into actionable policy. She also connected with a broad spectrum of stakeholders as a Regional Field Organizer and Treasurer for political campaigns. Ayesha is a Co-Chair of the Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health for the State of Connecticut. Her public office position bolstered her professional career and community service, and Ayesha was the former Hartford Board of Education Chairperson, where she served in elected office from 2017-2021. She currently works for Health Equity Solutions as the Executive Director, where they focus on residents of CT obtaining optimal health care regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Ayesha is a member of The Citadel of Love, the Greater Hartford Branch NAACP, an adjunct professor, and an advisor for the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Ayesha further serves the community through her active participation as the Board Chairperson-Elect for The Children’s Museum and an Executive board member of Community Health Resources (CHR). A proud member of the Hartford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Ayesha is also a wife for 14 years and the mother of two young boys.

Ayesha enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, watching movies, and dancing.

Rosa Velazquez – Director, CT Students for A Dream

Teacher by profession, advocate by choice, Rosa loves being involved in the community. First generation immigrant from her beloved México City, Rosa came to the US when she was 5. Her abuelo, a bracero, chose Arkansas as their home.

Actively organizing and advocating for immigrant’s rights since the Federal DREAM Act Campaign in 2010, Rosa became involved with the youth lead organization United We Dream, where she was elected as National Coordinator for the MidSouth Region of the country. During her time as National Coordinator, Rosa engaged, advocated, empowered and helped build a national immigrant youth movement, geared towards student activism and community organizing. Her work ranged from writing and passing local city resolutions that aided immigrant families, passing state laws like in-state tuition equity and building youth lead immigrant advocacy college and community chapters throughout the country.

In 2012, Rosa helped develop the #Right2Dream Campaign, where she played a vital role in the immigration policy change we now know as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA. With six states under her supervision, she trained and led various teams in the implementation that helped thousands of dreamers apply for relief under DACA, including about 3,500 Arkansans. During the 2019 Arkansas Legislative Session, Rosa chaired the campaign that assured the passage of the Arkansas State DREAM Act and DACA Nurses, now laws. In the 2021 Legislative Session, she led efforts to help pass DACA Teachers and Professional Licenses for DACA Recipients, which are also now laws in Arkansas.

Most recently, Rosa created and directed The Arkansas Movement Collective, a transformative community organizing accelerator aiming to intentionally diversify the organizing community and place Black & Brown voices front and center in Arkansas. With a focus in leadership development and community organizing, The Arkansas Movement Collective provides a disruption to the traditional “expert-learner” community organizer dynamic and instills practices of self-growth and the ability to hold complexity, including teach backs, site visits, and facilitation exposure. After raising $1M, in December 2022, Rosa graduated 11 fellows, awarding each a $10,000 grant that was used to reinvest back into the community.

Rosa is now serving as Executive Director of Connecticut Students for a Dream, where she and her staff are leading efforts to expand Medicaid, provide direction for the C4D College Access Program and bring resources to undocumented students in Connecticut, as well as being a voice and leader in the national fight for immigrants’ rights.

Pete Harrison – CT Director, Regional Plan Association

Pete Harrison joined Regional Plan Association in February 2022 as the DesegregateCT Director, leading a statewide program to enact equitable and sustainable land use policies in Connecticut. In 2024 he became RPA’s director of Connecticut programs. Pete previously served for a year as Senior Policy Fellow for DesegregateCT crafting the 80-member coalition’s policy briefs, communications strategy, and local organizing campaigns and helped pass the first statewide zoning reform bill in over 30 years.

Prior to joining DesegregateCT, Pete worked on the intersection of housing, climate, and land use policy as a research scholar for the Buell Center of Architecture at Columbia University. He co-authored a portion of the textbook Green Reconstruction: A Curricular Toolkit for the Built Environment laying out a framework for graduate-level planning, architecture, and preservation programs to center equity and sustainability in their practices. Before that he was the senior national housing advisor for the progressive think tank, Data for Progress, where he co-authored briefs and articles on federal housing and land use policy including the Homes for All report. He also advised on the presidential campaigns of Vice President Kamala Harris, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

Pete has extensive political campaign experience, both as a former congressional candidate, and as a volunteer for multiple candidates including Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and New York State Senator Julia Salazar. He spent over a decade as a local housing organizer in and around New York City.

Pete grew up in Avon, CT and holds a BA in history from the College of the Holy Cross and an MUP from Columbia University. He also teaches at the City University of New York.


Thank you to Our Sponsor:



Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2024
11:30 AM Registration and Networking
12:00-1:30 PM Lunch and Program
Location: Havyn, 320 Boston Post Road, Suite 180, Darien, CT 06820


Luncheon Fee