Jennifer D. Barahona, LCSW
Jennifer joined Norwalk ACTS as Chief Executive Officer in April 2019. Prior to taking the helm at Norwalk ACTS Jennifer served as Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation. Founded after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Foundation played a critical leadership role in the development of short and long term funding support for the community and those who were most impacted by the tragedy. Jennifer built the Foundation from the ground up and continues to serve as an advisor to the Foundation and Newtown community.
As a licensed clinical social worker, Jennifer has spent her career in the social sector. During her 13 year tenure at Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk, she served as Director of Youth Services as well as a long-term member of the team assigned to assist with the recovery efforts and follow up work with families in Connecticut who lost loved ones in the September 11th terrorist attacks. Jennifer developed a passion for social justice during her early career as an advocate working with women and children exposed to domestic violence and educating young people about healthy relationships through community education. She credits Columbia professor Richard Cloward, as well as her work as a policy researcher and community organizer for the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, for her lifelong passion for social justice and the engagement of disenfranchised communities. Eager to help grow the macro-level perspective in the field of social work and develop new talent, Jennifer serves as an adjunct professor in the Social Work Department at Sacred Heart University.
Jennifer received a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Relations from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s of Science in Social Work from Columbia University. She lives in Fairfield, CT with her husband, a local high school teacher, and their two school-aged children.
Paula Palermo is the Data Director for Norwalk ACTS, a Cradle to Career Collective Impact Organization in Norwalk, CT. Her responsibilities include providing data management and visualization support for Norwalk ACTS’ members and leading the effort to better analyze and use community and student data to improve outcomes for Norwalk’s children. In 2018, Paula completed an 8-month fellowship with Tableau Software with participants from 17 cities around the United States that are members of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network.
Prior to Norwalk ACTS, Paula was a technology consultant for 20 years, providing support to customers in the education, healthcare, private industry, and non-profits sectors in the area. Before that, she held engineering positions at Black & Decker and Perkin Elmer. She is a graduate of RIT with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.
Paula has served on three boards, the Norwalk Education Foundation (2 years as co-chair) and currently the Norwalk River Rowing Association, where she has been an active member of the rowing community since 2007, and InformCT (CT Data Collaborative) since 2018.
Ray Leslie is a Data Assistant at Norwalk ACTS, supporting many of the data initiative projects for Norwalk ACTS under Data Director, Paula Palermo. His responsibilities include assistance in data collection, manipulation, and visualization projects in collaboration with the Data Director to support Norwalk ACTS’ members and to help lead the effort in using student and community data to improve the outcomes for Norwalk’s children. Ray is one of the newest members of Norwalk ACTS, but he is a long-time member of the Norwalk community. He was born and raised in Norwalk, and also a student who went on to graduate Brien McMahon High School as a member of the Class of 2010.
Prior to joining Norwalk ACTS, Ray graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Business Management Consulting and spent four years gaining valuable experience in a data-driven atmosphere working for two of the largest e-commerce and travel booking platforms in the world: Priceline.com and Booking.com. It was during that time where his passion for data analytics and technology began to grow even further. Since then, Ray has devoted his time, focus, and energy towards pivoting career paths and becoming a student of data. Ray is a self-taught Tableau Software and Python Programming enthusiast and currently lives in Stamford, CT.
Ray’s LinkedIn profile can be seen at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayleslie44/
M.J. Chironna joined Norwalk ACTS as a Social-Emotional Community Organizer in October 2019. In this role, she is leading a community planning process around social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care. Through her work in the social sector, she has fostered valuable relationships and connected community members to support helping them improve their lives. She has led community outreach efforts to actively engage Norwalk families in decisions made about themselves. As a Parents as Teachers (PAT) Educator, she provided family support, strengthened Norwalk families, and promoted positive parent-child interactions. As a Community Organizer focused on the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Bridgeport, she mentored homeless individuals and facilitated the monthly consumer advisory forums. In addition, she co-facilitated an after-school leadership program for middle school girls. Her social work experience began at Family & Children’s Agency in Norwalk as a Coordinator of Volunteer Services and simultaneously as a FEMA Outreach Worker assisting with the recovery efforts and follow up work with families in Connecticut who lost loved one in the September 11th terrorist attacks
Besides her work in the social sector, she oversaw the day to day operations of e-Biz Technologies, Inc., an IT Professional Services Company, provided administrative support to the Naramake Family Resource Center including the preschool program, and worked at investment management firms including a pension investment consultant organization
As a resident of Norwalk for over 25 years, she has been passionate about improving the lives of children and youth in Norwalk. She has actively volunteered at many Norwalk schools and social service organizations. Her three daughters have attended the Norwalk Public Schools for over 20 years. M.J. received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Social Work from the University of Connecticut.
Anamilena was born and raised in Norwalk. She was involved in various school activities, choir, and sports throughout her Norwalk Public School’s education. She graduated from Norwalk High School in 2010 and received her Bachelor’s in Psychology, at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, CT, in 2014.
She worked as a parent educator for the Parents As Teachers home visiting program at Family and Children’s Agency. Anamilena offered encouragement, helped parents learn about their child’s development and how to support it, and connected families to the local community.
It was with the support of FCA and the experience working directly with families that made her want to pursue an advanced degree. She received her Masters in Social Work from Sacred Heart University, with a concentration in Community Organizing.
Anamilena comes from a large, Colombian family and enjoys learning about different cultures. She believes that the environment in which people are born and raised should not define them, but rather it should protect them. She is honored to be a part of Norwalk’s transformation by working with Norwalk ACTS.