Elizabeth M. Beal
Scholar Coach and Financial Aid Manager
Elizabeth has been working with high school and college students for the past 15 years. Since 2008 she has been the college counselor at Fenway High School in Boston. Prior to this, she was an Associate Director of Admission at Smith College, as well as working at another local college and with post-secondary access programs in several Boston Public Schools. Elizabeth is passionate about working towards greater equity and access to higher education. She is thrilled to be joining the Wily Network, and to help provide support and advocacy to its scholars as they navigate the college landscape.
Elizabeth received her B.A. in Psychology from Bucknell University and her M.Ed. from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Brandon Christensen, LCSW
After completing his MSW in New York City, Brandon moved to Boston to work as an In-Home Therapist, specifically in the realm of trauma and attachment with children. He brings with him a diverse background working with issues ranging from substance abuse and homelessness to personality disorder. Brandon was intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and applies the principles of Mindfulness to all aspects of his life. With his passion for working with college students, and his sense of humor, he proudly joins the Wily Pack.
Brandon received his B.S. in psychology from Utah Valley University as well as an advanced certificate in substance abuse disorder counseling and his MSW from Columbia University.
Executive Director (volunteer position)
After more than 30 years of working with children who struggle with serious emotional and behavioral problems, Judi feels the strongest connection to children without supportive families. Throughout her career at Wediko Children’s Services, as a clinician, administrator, program director, and development officer, her dedication to these children has never wavered.
Judi has an optimistic outlook and driven desire to help these young students. She’ll tirelessly prepare for them, anticipate their needs, listen to their stressors, and champion their successes. In sum, she’ll meet these young adults where they are and serve as their safety net through college graduation.
Judi earned her B.A. and Master’s degree in Psychology at Hamilton College and Boston College, respectively. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Judi lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with her husband and the youngest of their three daughters.
Katherine (Kat) Castañeda MacDonald, LICSW
Director of Coaching and Scholar Coach
Kat has 11 years of experience working with youth and families in the Boston area. She has worked in a variety of positions in residential, school, re-entry, home-based, and community settings. Her work has focused primarily on mind-body interventions, social and racial justice, dynamics of trauma and attachment, and post-traumatic growth. She really enjoys working with Wily scholars and supporting Wily’s program development. Her previous clinical and program development experience bolsters her capacity to help the Wily Network build and implement a holistic, sustainable, and trauma-informed model.
Kat received her B.A. from Oberlin College and her M.A. in Social Work from Simmons School of Social Work.
Board of Directors
Katie has spent the majority of her working career involved in the not-for-profit world. Currently, she serves on the Board of Ambassadors of The Steppingstone Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on programs to prepare underserved students for educational success that leads to college. Additionally, Katie serves on Middlebury College’s President’s Leadership Council.
Previously, Katie was on the Board of Directors for Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Media and Child Health where she took a leadership role on the Strategic Planning Committee. She has also held numerous positions in a volunteer capacity within the school systems and sports teams of her four children over the past 21 years.
Prior to her not-for-profit involvement, Katie held marketing and sales positions at Reebok, Polaroid and IBM. She received her B.A. from Brown University in 1986 and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1993.
Gong Ke Gouldstone
Gong Ke Gouldstone grew up in China and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 13 years old. She is a graduate of MIT (EECS ’99, MEng ’00) and Harvard Business School (MBA 2015). She has worked at top technology companies such as Akamai, Google and TripAdvisor in a variety of roles from engineer, technical sales and digital marketing. She also founded and exited a premium tea chain. She is passionate about education and giving back to the entrepreneurship community. She is a mentor at MassChallenge, TechStars Boston and a member of the MIT Alumni Angels. As a board member at Wily Network, Ms. Gouldstone focuses on creating processes and operations to help the organization grow. She lives in Arlington with her husband and three children.
Allison Polley Hirsch (Treasurer)
Allison retired in Spring 2014 from Deutsche Bank after 16 years, most recently serving as Director of European Equity Sales. She is currently spending more time with her children, 10 and 7 years of age, and working on a consulting project for Boston Preparatory Charter School. She has been and continues to enjoy working with organizations that advance the causes of children and community. She works with the Combined Jewish Philanthropy and is currently on the MBA Advisory Board for Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
Allison became interested in how individual action could help children when she became a Big Sister in New York in the early 1990s. Her Little Sister, Angela, opened her eyes to the challenges of inner-city children with limited family support. Her greatest frustration with the program was that it did not permit Big Sisters to provide material support such as clothes and money to their Little Sisters. The Wily Network has two great components in her mind—it lets youth with foster care experience know that there is a strong network of caring individuals but almost, more importantly, it will give students the resources to succeed.
Joe Hoffman (Clerk)
Financial Advisor, Edward Jones
Joe grew up in rural Vermont and graduated from Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia, with a degree in Economics. He began his financial services career with Vanguard Mutual Fund Company in New York with BNY Mellon. Joe earned a master’s degree at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He and his family currently live in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Currently, Joe runs a wealth management practice with Edward Jones in town. He has two children, and his hobbies include cycling, snowboarding and general outdoor activity with his children.
Joe is eager to work with the Wily Network because he will be helping young adults succeed. He has had the privilege of mentoring high school students in various programs over the last dozen years and has found the experience among the most rewarding of his life.
Michael is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where he earned a degree in American History and Africana Studies. He participated in theater, ran on the cross country and track teams, and produced and anchored the Bowdoin Cable Network sports television show. Michael grew up in rural Maine and now resides in Concord, Massachusetts, with his wife.
Michael is excited to work with the Wily Network as he is a first-generation college attendee who believes the power of a great education should be accessible to all.
Judi Alperin King
Founder and Board President
See above under “Staff”
Senior Business Analyst, Connance, Inc.
Sara graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a political science degree, focusing on education policy. During her junior year in college, she spent nine months studying in Washington, D.C., and interning at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, experiences that furthered her interest in policy relating to underserved communities. Currently, Sara works at a healthcare technology firm as a business analyst in the consulting branch. She served two years with City Year Boston, an AmeriCorps program aiming to address the high school dropout crisis by providing attendance, coursework, and social-emotional coaching to students.
Sara’s time serving in a 7th-grade classroom in Dorchester, Massachusetts, illuminated for her the vast differences in resources and support that low-income students and communities receive compared to those in areas of greater wealth, as well as the different needs of students in these circumstances. Sara is excited to continue her involvement with education in the greater Boston area through the Wily Network.
Kathryn has worked in public policy for most of her career, primarily as editor of academic journal articles and book manuscripts. From 2006 to 2016, she was manuscript editor at Education Next, a quarterly journal on national education policy published by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Now based in Portland, Maine, Kathryn is focusing primarily on food policy as it relates to childhood hunger and poverty.
Kathryn has a B.A. in Economics and Religious Studies from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in Ethics from the University of Virginia. As a member of the Wily Network board, she hopes to help improve the education outcomes and ultimately the lives of college students who lack the support of a permanent family.
Director, Opportunity Scholarships and Outreach Programs, Northeastern University
Jennifer has been working in higher education for more than 25 years, at colleges and universities on both coasts. She has a BA in English and Political Science from Muhlenberg College and an M.Ed in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from the University of Vermont. She has used her experiences in admissions, orientation, residence life, student activities, and career development to help first-generation college-bound students through the challenges of the college admissions process and to navigate the universities they attend. One of her proudest moments is founding the Champions Program for youth and alumni of foster care at the University of Washington.
In her spare time, Jennifer is working on her doctoral degree, trying to get on her bicycle as often as possible, and learning how to podcast. She lives in Dedham with her wife and two dogs.
Assistant Media Buyer, Deutsch, Inc.
Neelum is an Assistant Media Buyer on the National TV team at Deutsch Inc. As an ardent humanitarian, Neelum has always been drawn to NGO work and opportunities to help others. In her past roles, she worked in development at Boston Children’s Hospital and helped acquire funding for the hospital’s critical programs and ground-breaking research. Neelum has also served on the executive team of her alma mater’s chapter of Right To Play. She is mission-driven and is a strong proponent of the Wily Network’s mission. She is looking forward to this learning experience and to being involved in the Wily Network’s growth and success.
Leann Walsh (Board Chair)
Associate, Goodwin Proctor LLP
Leann is a Senior Employment Law Associate at the Boston law firm of Goodwin Procter LLP, where her practice focuses on litigation and counseling for clients on employment issues. She is a member of the firm’s higher education practice group. Leann’s pro bono work has included employment law counseling for nonprofit organizations and coordinating the firm’s program to represent low-income tenants facing eviction. In October of 2015, she was selected to participate in a program through which she will act as a special assistant district attorney in Woburn District Court until May of 2016.
Leann is excited to help with the Wily Network’s mission. Her parents dedicated their careers to their local Florida community college and emphasized throughout her upbringing the importance of making higher education available to all students.
Leann earned a BA in economics and political science from the University of Florida and received her law degree from Boston College Law School. She lives with her husband and daughter in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Haobo “Richard” Zhang (Rich)
Wily Network Intern
Rich is currently an MBA candidate at Babson College. After several years in analytics and strategy, Rich realized he wanted to pursue something with greater social impact than merely helping companies increase their profit margins. At Babson, Rich is concentrating in Entrepreneurship with focuses in both products and services for social enterprises and hopes to start his own organization one day.
Rich joined the Wily Network through Babson’s career services office after hearing that Judi wanted to help foster students succeed in college. Although Rich was not a foster child, he is able to relate to some of the difficulties that foster students face through his own experiences growing up. He jumped on board with the Wily Network to help make a difference in the lives of these students.
President, The Steppingstone Foundation
Kelly has dedicated most of her career to increasing college access and success for underserved students in Boston, holding a number of fundraising and administrative roles at The Steppingstone Foundation since 1992. The Wily Network is a natural extension of her work at Steppingstone, and she is thrilled to help the organization achieve its mission of providing young people without supportive families with the services they need to reach their goals of college.
Kelly has a B.A. in English from Colby College and a M.A. in English from University College London. Prior to joining Steppingstone, Kelly worked for two years in the development office at Dana Hall School. In 2012, Kelly completed Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program. Kelly lives in Boston with her husband and two children.
Margaret Rose Lewis, LCSW
Clinical Coordinator, Brookline Community Mental Health Center
Margaret brings more than eight years of experience working with at-risk children, youth, and their families in residential, school, hospital, and home-based settings. Her experiences as a therapist, program coordinator, and case manager have inspired her to work passionately to create strengths-based, flexible, community-focused supports for students transitioning out of foster care.
Margaret received her B.S. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University in 2009. She earned her Masters in Social Work, concentrating in clinical social work and evidence-based practice, from the University of Chicago in 2013. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Massachusetts. Currently, Margaret works for the Brookline Community Mental Health Center as the clinical coordinator of the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition program (BRYT) at Brookline High School.
Founder and President, Independent Consultants of Education
Edward Walker is an experienced educator who has committed his entire professional career to the realm of education. Whether recruiting prospective students for colleges, guiding high school students through the college application and selection process, or assisting individuals to achieve their next level of education, Ed has always had the desire to aid others in educational advancement. Ed obtained his B.A. in African American Studies with a concentration in English and then obtained a M.Ed. in School Psychology and Counseling with an initial license in School Guidance. Over the last decade, Ed has served as Associate Director of College Counseling and Director of Alumni Relations at Prospect Hill Academy and the lead College Counseling Consultant for talented and gifted scholars of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard. Prior to joining the secondary school circuit, Ed was an Assistant Dean in Admissions at Bates College and a Senior Assistant Director in admissions at Wheaton College, where he led initiatives in diversity through his efforts with Multicultural Recruitment.
In 2008, Ed founded Independent Consultants in Education (I.C.E), which is a consortium of educators devoted to helping individuals and groups to achieve higher education. Finally, Ed has established himself as an influential inspirational speaker, known as Ed “Inspire for Higher” Walker, who has had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of youth and adults at the middle school, high school, and collegiate levels.