Founding Staff

Kristen Shroff


Founder and Head of School, Kristen Shroff. Emblaze Academy was founded through the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, a rigorous, yearlong comprehensive training program in urban charter school creation and leadership. Mrs. Shroff has spent her entire career in public education in New York City, first as a teacher at both traditional district and public charter schools, then as a teacher leader and staff developer with The New Teacher Project. Prior to Building Excellent Schools, Mrs. Shroff was an Academic Dean at Achievement First Brownsville Middle School where she coached teachers, developed curriculum, led school-wide professional development, was accountable for school-wide academic performance. Mrs. Shroff holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.S. in Education for Students with Disabilities with a Bilingual Extension from the City College of New York and is unwavering in her belief that all children deserve a rigorous, high-quality education.


 Erienne Rojas


Founding Director of Operations, Erienne E. Rojas was born and raised in the Bronx. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry at the City College of New York, where she also received her Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Jewish Studies. She also completed the The Publishing Certificate Program at CCNY. Ms. Rojas holds a High-Performing Managers Initiative certificate from Community Resource Exchange, as well as certificates in Literacy Supervision from The After School Corporation and Mental Health First Aid from Youth Mental Health First Aid USA. She has five years of experience in the non-profit management field; she has held various roles int he community based sector as an ELA tutor, literacy coordinator, college essay writing instructor, workshop facilitator, and Program Coordinator of a high school ArtWorks Internship Program in collaboration with local stakeholders. She has also operated and supervised a portfolio of after school programs in several charter schools. Ms. Rojas founded an "Arts with a Life Purpose" enrichment program in partnership with Harlem Village Academies East Middle School.  In her previous position, Ms. Rojas served as an Associate Director of Programs for a South Bronx entity. Ms. Rojas hopes to continue to empower the whole-child with creative and meaningful opportunities that inspire youth purpose and well-being.

Founding Board Members

Tameka Beckford-Young


Founding Board Member and Board Secretary, Tameka Beckford-Young is Legal Counsel at Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc. In that role, she oversees all legal issues affecting the company; drafts, reviews and negotiates a variety of commercial agreements; and provides risk management strategies to the executive team.  Prior to Kawasaki Rail Car, Ms. Beckford-Young was an associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP where her law firm practice focused on complex commercial litigation.  Outside the office, Ms. Beckford-Young serves as a member of NYC Bar Association's newly formed In-House Counsel Committee.  A Bronx native and former New York City public school student, Ms. Beckford-Young earned her BA in Government from Georgetown University and JD from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.  While at Northwestern, she was a student advocate representing refugees seeking asylum in the United States, served as community service chair for the Black Law Students Association, and was one of two student representatives selected by the administration to assist the admissions office with initiatives to increase enrollment of diverse students. 

Daniela Cuevas


Founding Board Member, Daniela Cuevas is Managing Partner and Creative Director at The Spark Group, a Digital Marketing Agency in NYC. At The Spark Group, Ms. Cuevas develops marketing strategies by offering her clients services including: Strategy Development, Market & Audience insights, Creative Services, Social Marketing, Community Management, Website Development, and Monitoring & Analytics. In offering these services she strategizes, launches, executes, and optimizes cross-platform marketing strategies for organizations spanning a diverse set of industries, including Financial Services, Real Estate, Hospitality, Technology, Lifestyle, Health & Fitness, Retail, Education, Government, Advocacy, Non Profit, Legal, and Creative Disciplines. Her goal as Founding Board Member at Emblaze Academy is to use her marketing knowledge to amplify the community’s awareness of Emblaze Academy, educate the community about the school's mission and values, and engage with the community to assist in creating a school that caters to their precise needs. Ms. Cuevas holds a B.S. in Media, Culture, and Communications from New York University.


Shelly Evans


Founding Board Member, Shelly Evans is an experienced Human Resource Executive and founder of HR Pro Resources. Ms. Evans’ experience as a Human Resources Generalist has enabled her to gain experience in all aspects of Human Resources including talent development and management, benefit selection, compensation, reward and recognition programs as well as performance management. Ms. Evans is an active member of the National Society of Human Resources as well as the local New York City chapter, serving on various committees.  In addition, Ms. Evans currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at LIM College in Manhattan; as the chairperson for Mentoring 4 Leadership, a program that focuses on first generation college students; and as a committee member for the Scholarship Committee at Sharon Baptist Church ensuring that high school students within the community are better prepared for their next journey in education. Ms. Evans is a first generation college graduate and earned her BS in Accounting at Kean University and her MS in Human Resource Management from New School University. Her journey of pursuing higher education was non-traditional, which made her accomplishments even more rewarding.  Ms. Evans’ journey is what has inspired her in this stage in her career to find ways to make the path clearer for others in their educational journey

Marlin Jenkins

Founding Board Member, Marlin Jenkins is the Founder, CEO and President of Neture, Inc., social venture founded to provide free, sustainable high speed internet access to underserved markets, beginning in the South Bronx. Neture leverages its network to connect low income families to local resources, services and service providers and works with local organizations to ensure that the families are provided every opportunity to increase access to educational and economic opportunities in their communities. Mr. Jenkins has been a Bronx resident since attending Fordham University in 1992. After surviving the World Trade Center tragedy, Mr. Jenkins opened his first business, QuadInfinity, an entertainment company. It was QuadInfinity that first connected him to committing to serving others, through the donation of space and time, to help low income families cope by enjoying themselves. After the closing of QuadInfinity, he joined MidBronx Senior Citizens Council as Vice President/Special Assistant to the Executive Director, and shortly after, founded Neture. Mr. Jenkins’ goal is to have a positive impact on as many people as possible.

Matthew Kirby-Smith

Founding Board Member, Matthew Kirby-Smith is a Vice President and General Manager in Jones Lang LaSalle’s Property Management practice in New York City. In his current role, Mr. Kirby-Smith is responsible for managing operations and construction activities at 140 Broadway, a 1.2 Million Square Foot Landmarked office tower in the financial district. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Mr. Kirby-Smith serves on the board of The enCourage Kids Foundation and previously mentored with the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund in Washington DC. Mr. Kirby-Smith holds a BS in Business Management and Sports Management from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC.

Margaret Marrer

Founding Board Member, Margaret Marrer is the Regional Assistant Superintendent at Democracy Prep Public Schools, a nationwide network of public charter schools. Margaret has spent her career working to ensuring all scholars have access to great schools, particularly in New York City. Ms. Marrer holds a BSFS in International Political Economics from Georgetown University, a MST in Secondary Mathematics from Pace University and MED in Educational Leadership from Columbia University. 





Harini Mittal

Founding Board Member and Board Treasurer, Harini Mittal is an Assistant Professor of Finance, Economics, and Entrepreneurship at Bronx Community College. Ms. Mittal is the founder of the BCC Entrepreneurship Club and is an entrepreneur herself, having previously co-founded an IT company dedicated to the education sector. Ms. Mittal has expertise in corporate finance, especially mergers and acquisitions, valuation of M&A, valuation of start-ups and mid-sized companies for VC/PE deals; structuring and documentation of VC/PE deals; hire, purchase, and lease financing; resource mobilization, including term loans and IPOs; and project finance including infrastructure finance, carbon finance, and insurance. Through her work with her students at BCC, Ms. Mittal is committed to creating strong educational options for the students of the Bronx. Ms. Mittal holds a B.A. from the University of Madras, an MBA from the BK School of Business Management, and a Ph.D. in Management and Finance from Nirma University.

Rosann Santos


Founding Board Member and Board Vice-Chair, Rosann Santos is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at John Jay College and Founder of Latinas in Higher Education, a nonprofit that provides affordable professional development opportunities for women who want to move up in their chosen careers. In her role at John Jay College, Ms. Santos supervises the Office of Student Transition Programs and the Office of Communications, Marketing, and Social Media, and plays an integral role in strategic policy decision making integral to the future of the college. In addition to her professional commitments, Ms. Santos serves on the board of the NASPA Latino/a Knowledge Community and is the Chairwoman of Sigma Lambda Upsilon Sorority. A Bronx native, Ms. Santos is passionate creating quality school options for the future leaders of the Bronx. Ms. Santos holds a B.A. in History and Math from Syracuse University, an M.A. in History from the State University of New York at Albany, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Geraldo Vasquez

Founding Board Member and Board Chair, Geraldo (Gerry) Vasquez is an Associate Professor of Accounting in the Department of Accounting and Finance of the School of Business and Information Systems of the City University of New York-York College. Prior to joining the faculty at the City University of New York, Dr. Vasquez spent over 15 years in the private and public sectors. He has considerable financial and administrative management, technology project management and auditing experience. Dr. Vasquez served as the Chief Financial Officer of Sustainable South Bronx, Inc., the Founding Director of Finance and Administration of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a Senior Auditor for the Office of the New York State Comptroller in the public sector. In the private sector, Dr. Vasquez was responsible for various finance, budgeting, accounting and technology project management functions as a Vice President of Merrill Lynch and Co., Inc. Dr. Vasquez holds a D.B.A. from the Fox School of Business and Management (AACSB accredited) of Temple University. He also holds a M.Sc. and B.A., cum laude in Accounting from the City University of New York-Queens College. Dr. Vasquez is also a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.