The backbone staff of Norwalk ACTS is the coordinating body of the partnership. They provide cornerstone capacity, convene and facilitate meetings, and align the efforts and resources of members and community partners who work to improve agreed-upon community-level outcomes.
Jennifer Barahona / firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Executive Officer
Jennifer D. Barahona, LCSW, 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 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Foundation played a critical leadership role in developing short- and long-term funding support for the community and those most impacted by the tragedy. 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 and 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 and 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 has also served as an adjunct professor in the Social Work Department at Sacred Heart University.
JESSE BUCCOLO / JBuccolo@NORWALKACTS.ORG
Jesse joined Norwalk ACTS in 2020 and is the Deputy Director. His responsibilities include overseeing strategic planning, data, communications, and operations. Jesse cares deeply about making a system-level impact on communities that face inequity in his hometown of Norwalk.
Jesse taught for five years in urban classrooms and worked as a Policy and Communications Associate for the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). He has taught at three high-performing schools nationwide—Chicago, Washington DC, and New Haven—that serve historically underrepresented students. He began his teaching career as a Teach For America Corps member, teaching English Language Arts to high school students with special needs. At the NYCDOE, Jesse worked for the Office of School Quality, which conducts Quality Reviews that support student learning and teacher practice. .
Jesse holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from American University, a Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education from National Louis University, and a Master of Education in Education Policy & Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He serves as an Associate Board member for the Waterside School in Stamford. Jesse was born and raised in Norwalk and resides there with his wife and dog.
MJ Chironna / email@example.com
Manager of Community Engagement
M.J. Chironna joined Norwalk ACTS as Manager of Community Engagement in March 2020. Prior to this role, she led 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 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 ones 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 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.
Ray Leslie / firstname.lastname@example.org
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 a long-time member of the Norwalk community. He was born and raised in Norwalk and is also a student who graduated from Brien McMahon High School as a member of the Class of 2010.
Before 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 world’s largest e-commerce and travel booking platforms: Priceline.com and Booking.com. During that time, his passion for data analytics and technology began to grow even further. Since then, Ray has devoted his time, focus, and energy toward pivoting career paths and becoming a student of data. Ray is a self-taught Tableau Software and Python Programming enthusiast living in Portland, Maine.
Anamilena Moreno / email@example.com
Community Engagement Coordinator
Anamilena was born and raised in Norwalk. She was involved in various school activities, choir, and sports throughout her Norwalk Public School 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 was 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.
The support of FCA and the experience of working directly with families made her want to pursue an advanced degree. She received her Master’s 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.
Paula Palermo / firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Before Norwalk ACTS, Paula was a technology consultant for 20 years, providing support to customers in the area’s education, healthcare, private industry, and non-profit sectors. 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.
Denique Weidema-Lewis / email@example.com
Director of Equity and Collaboration
Denique Weidema-Lewis joined Norwalk ACTS in June 2020 as the Manager of Implementation and Collaborative Action. In her new role, she facilitates and supports the work of the Norwalk ACTS Initiatives and Working Groups.
Prior to joining Norwalk ACTS, she was the Director of Prevention at Positive Directions – The Center for Prevention and Counseling, where she provided oversight and support to Mid-Fairfield coalitions tasked with reducing rates of substance use among young people. Before joining Positive Directions, she was the Regional Action Council Director who led project management, coordination, and technical assistance for the six communities comprising of the Greater Bridgeport area at RYASAP. Denique is a national and international workshop presenter, providing workshops for the National Prevention Network, Strive Together, and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). Denique received a Bachelor of Science in English from Southern Connecticut State University. She currently lives in Bridgeport, CT, with her husband and their five children.
BARBARA BEAUJOUR / BBEAUJOUR@NORWALKACTS.ORG
Barbara Beaujour is the operations coordinator at Norwalk ACTS. Her responsibilities include providing operational support to the backbone team and managing the organization’s Salesforce CRM platform.
Like many working parents, Barbara experienced the challenges of remote learning. She joined Norwalk ACTS in the spring of 2021 as a volunteer and then as a Community Advocate. Her initial focus was to educate herself on the resources available to her and share the information with her community of friends who are moms. Her first experience out in the community was as an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) liaison. The pilot program was successful, resulting in an over 20% increase in parent participation.
Barbara is a first-generation Norwalk native of Haitian heritage. She is fluent in English and Haitian Creole and holds degrees in Business Administration from Norwalk Community College and the University of Bridgeport.
Rhea Henry / firstname.lastname@example.org
WORKPLACE DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
Rhea Henry functions as the Workforce Development Coordinator for Norwalk ACTS. Rhea joined Norwalk ACTS in September 2022, and her responsibilities include facilitating and supporting community stakeholders in creating a centralized workforce development infrastructure.
Rhea is passionate about social justice and has worked in many policy areas focusing on economic mobility, gender equity, racial justice, and criminal justice reform. Prior to joining Norwalk ACTS, Rhea served as a Community Development Specialist at the National Center for Arts & Technology (NCAT) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. NCAT is dedicated to assisting communities in creating workforce training programs and youth development programs. In this role, she was responsible for fostering high levels of engagement and collaboration among community residents, employers, education institutions, and community-based organizations.
Rhea is a first-generation Jamaican-American and an active Bridgeport community member. Rhea holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Religious Studies from the University of South Florida.