Our Team

Our Team

DC Action’s team is highly respected for their research, data, policy-advocacy, coalition-building and campaigns expertise.

With decades of experience in their specific areas, our experts work closely with policymakers and influential leaders to evaluate, craft, promote, and implement scalable change for kids.

RUQIYYAH Anbar-Shaheen
Director of Early Childhood

Ruqiyyah's work combines her experience with direct service, coalition building, and policy research and analysis. In her role, she conducts research, advocacy, and coalition-building to promote policies that make DC a place where all children have equitable opportunities to thrive.

After completing her undergraduate education at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2011, Ruqiyyah served as an AmeriCorps member to support low-income, first-generation high school students in preparing for and applying to college. Her AmeriCorps service reinforced her understanding of the structural barriers that women, children and families face in achieving their full potential.

This experience inspired her to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, with coursework and research focused on health, gender and family policy. Her educational background coupled with her recent experience working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on disease prevention policy and her service in community has given her work the benefit of a lens built on a combination of direct service and policy analysis. She is excited to apply that lens to work serving DC children.

Policy Analyst

As a Policy Analyst, Jarred works with the Under 3 DC coalition to monitor, evaluate and promote key public investments in the City’s early childhood education community. Jarred brings his expertise in child well-being, race equity and youth development to deepen relationships with key stakeholders focusing on issues affecting Black and Brown families.

As a fifth generation Washingtonian, Jarred is deeply passionate about DC’s youth and is committed to using research and advocacy to build political power for young people and their families. In response to early encounters with systemic injustice and inequality, Jarred has been involved in grassroots organizing from a very young age, and has won several major victories on local, state, and national legislative campaigns. As a proponent of cooperative movement building, Jarred believes in combining research with local engagement to build educational equity that includes and supports historically marginalized communities.

Jarred most recently served as the School Climate Policy Analyst at the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, where he managed the District’s groundbreaking school climate data collection program and played a key role in leading the agency's initiative to expand school climate surveys and multi-tiered systems of support to all DC schools.

His prior research includes examining the organizational conditions of urban schools and assessing the relationship between well-being, sense of belonging and confidence in Black male students.

Jarred holds a B.S. in Government, Politics & History from St. John’s University and a Master’s in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He lives close to his early-childhood home in Riggs Park, and is excited to be a part of the DC Action family.

RYLLIE Danylko
Policy Analyst

As Policy Analyst, Ryllie brings her background in community engagement, and social policy to support the development of child and youth focused policy, with a focus on out-of-school-time,  expanded learning and youth workforce.

Prior to joining DC Action, Ryllie assisted with workforce development programming at A Wider Circle, where she also provided job search assistance to residents across the DC-area experiencing poverty. She has also worked at DC Hunger Solutions, where she supported District residents in signing up for SNAP and resolving issues with their benefits. 

Ryllie developed a passion for economic, racial, and social justice while working as a communications specialist for the public school district in Cleveland. There, she documented the district’s efforts to transform schools that had experienced decades of disinvestment in communities marred by a history of racist policy and administration. 

Ryllie holds a B.A. in Journalism from John Carroll University. She is currently working toward completing her Master’s in Public Administration, with a social policy concentration, at American University. 

Outside of work, Ryllie enjoys exploring various genres of dance through attending performances, taking classes, and teaching young dancers.

HANNAH Francis
Program Coordinator

Hannah is excited to bring her program and project management skills along with her passion and energy to support DC Action's mission as Program Coordinator.  She most recently served the District's children and the people who support them at the Capital Area Food Bank where she managed the youth-focused direct service food access programs for the DC metropolitan area. 

Hannah achieved her joint undergraduate degrees in Public Health BS and International Service BA from American University. Her previous research with the DC Health Matters Collaborative focused on inclusive health programming and best practices to improve health literacy in the District. 

When she's not working, you often can find Hannah rock climbing, cheering for the Packers, or reading a good book.

Chief of Staff

As Chief of Staff, Mat works alongside the Executive Director to help grow the organization and build power among its constituents. He provides leadership and management of staff, execution of the organization's strategic plan, and ensures racial justice and equity is fully integrated into the work at every level. 

Mat has spent more than a decade working to promote economic, racial and social justice. He joins DC Action after serving as the DC Director for the Working Families Party, a national organization that unites activists, community and labor organizations to advance systemic change. During his time there, he used electoral, political and legislative strategies that concentrated on increasing economic security for low-income families and bringing greater fairness and equity to our elections. He helped oversee large and small teams, developed and set organizational strategy as well as organized and built winning coalitions that united advocates, business owners, faith leaders, policy experts, unions and other allies. These efforts have resulted in policy changes that have successfully raised statewide minimum wages for more than half a million workers in Maryland and Washington, DC, passed and implemented one of the most progressive public financing of elections programs in the country, and helped secure funding for early childhood education and health programs. 

He has worked at the local, national and international level. A graduate from the City University of New York, he is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, a proud father, and Ward 7 resident.

NISA Hussain
Program Manager

Nisa brings her maternal and child health background, skills in program coordination and workforce development to her role as Program Manager to support the priorities of the Early Childhood team.

While completing her undergraduate degree in Community Health at the University of Maryland, College Park, Nisa discovered a passion for women’s health, sexual health, and health promotion. Before coming to DC Action, she managed a workforce and leadership development portfolio at the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs. Through her experience in that role, she recognized the demand for change around health disparities, racial inequities, and cultural competence within public health and the policies that impact maternal and child health populations. 

Outside of work, she loves to spend her time going to concerts around the city, supporting reproductive rights campaigns, and enjoying a good book.

Senior Communications Manager

Tawana Jacobs leads strategic brand and communications efforts for Under 3 DC and shines a spotlight on the need for more public investments for families with infants and toddlers.

Tawana is an accredited public relations (APR) professional with over 20 years of experience in leading marketing communications programs and public interest campaigns for nonprofits, government agencies, and strategic communication firms. She is a 2020 Higher Heights Senior Leadership Fellow and a proud Terp as a University of Maryland graduate.

Prior to joining DC Action, Tawana was a consultant for the Montgomery County, Maryland’s Early Care and Education and Policy Office, and the National Black Coalition for Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable. She began her career at DC’s Bread for the City. Her wide-ranging background includes international development communications - she led communications for an alliance of international nongovernmental organizations at the Pittsburgh G20. 

When Tawana is not working, she spends her spare time cooking tasty plant-based meals, enjoying music, sports, and art and traveling to and from her hometown of Detroit to spend time with her husband (a DC native) who is a design student.

CARLOS Manjarrez
Director, Policy and Equity Research

Carlos comes to DC Action with 20 years of experience in social policy think tanks and federal agencies. Over the years, he has worked on projects that focus on public housing, evictions and homelessness, information access and cultural policy, food security, and civil legal aid. Although the substantive issues have changed over the years, the common thread that connects this work is a commitment to progressive community change and the empowerment of under-resourced communities. He specializes in leveraging municipal, administrative data with other sources of public data to inform advocacy and organizing efforts. 

Prior to DC Action, Carlos spent a decade at the Urban Institute in the housing policy group. From there he went on to found the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, establishing the first cultural statistics program in the Federal Statistical System in the United States. After IMLS, he served as the Chief Data Officer at the Legal Services Corporation and as the founding director of the agency’s Office of Data Governance and Research, building the agency’s first data science team. He has been an invited speaker for national and international conferences, managed over 25 national projects, and received grant support from a wide range of foundations and public agencies. Carlos earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, master’s degree from Northwestern University, and a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from University of Maryland. He serves as an advisor to The Policy Academies and the National Center for Access to Justice and is a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute for Technology Policy and Law at the Georgetown Law Center.

He is excited to serve and learn from parents and youth of the District of Columbia and to partner with advocates across the city.

Research and Data Manager

As Research and Data Manager, Rachel works to collect, analyze, and share data that can help advocates understand and address issues facing DC's kids and youth, particularly kids and youth of color. She produces the DC KIDS COUNT suite of publications and online data center, DC Action’s interactive data tools, as well as translating the national KIDS COUNT press releases, annual reports, and other publications into the DC context.

As an undergraduate, Rachel performed demographic and policy research at the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network for its State of the States report. After completing her undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary, she worked with Illinois Action for Children to research barriers to accessing and delivering quality early childhood care and education and to help providers and programs connect with resources for improvement. This experience inspired her to bolster her research skills by pursuing a Master’s degree at Ben Gurion University, after which she spent time in the classroom as a substitute teacher at a Navajo Nation school.

Since then she has continued to build her data and policy skills. She led and supervised rigorous quality assurance checks of paper and online student, teacher, school, and district reports in the Assessment Division at American Institutes for Research. And most recently, at The Education Trust she researched, analyzed, and interpreted key teacher and other education data, with a focus on understanding patterns of access to strong, well-supported teachers for low-income students and students of color.

Rachel is excited to bring her experience with data, research, and policy to help raise awareness and advocate to dismantle structural barriers that stand in the way of all young people reaching their full potential.

Executive Director

Kimberly is one of the nation's leading experts in child and youth advocacy, leading racial equity in nonprofit organizations, and civic engagement.

A former teacher turned lobbyist, Kimberly's work building powerful campaigns and organizations to amplify citizen's voices has resulted in critical policy changes to improve the lives of nearly 30 million children, youth and families across the globe. 

As DC Action's executive director, she has set a vision to achieve racial equity in child and youth outcomes, and is ramping up the organization's resources, human capital, and networks to break down structural barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential.

She is most well known as Founding Director of DC Hunger Solutions, Vice President of the Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Executive Director of DC Vote, as well as other key advisory roles in public policy advocacy and philanthropy.

Kimberly serves on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hunger Center, the Community Housing Trust, and is Chair of Highest Ground.

When she’s not working you can find her at home perfecting recipes with her family, watching and producing documentaries, salsa dancing, or on a hiking trail.

You can also find Kimberly on Linkedin and Twitter.

Digital Organizer

As a Digital Organizer, Vanessa Petion uses social media and online platforms to drive awareness and organize engagement and support for DC Action's campaigns that advance education, health and racial equity.

Vanessa is a first generation Haitian American, born and raised in Orlando, Florida. She obtained her M.A. in Strategic Communication at American University and worked at a local DC elementary school as an AmeriCorps VISTA. As a child of Haitian immigrants, Vanessa’s cultural background served as a starting point for her passion in storytelling and social change. This passion has since evolved with her interest in collective memory and the role that communication plays in acts of social change. She believes that encouraging people impacted by social issues and structural barriers, not only taps into the power and agency that people already have but also bridges gaps in information and fuels social change and awareness.

Before joining DC Action, Vanessa worked as a Communications Coordinator for a DC Councilmember, where she helped highlight legislative priorities to District residents via social media. She also served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, a role that allowed her to become active in the DC community, where she connected the school where she was stationed with local and corporate partners to provide activities, programs and resources that adhered to student and staff needs. Much of the work Vanessa has done in the last few years has focused on amplifying voices, racial equity, and social justice. She hopes that her work with DC Action will drive awareness about the social issues impacting District residents and encourage systemic change in the DC government.

When she is not working, you can find Vanessa listening to music, knitting, or reading a good book. She also loves pop culture, watching re-runs of One Tree Hill and going to bookstores.

NATASHA Riddle Romero
Community Organizer

As a Bilingual Community Organizer, Natasha Riddle Romero focuses on building and mobilizing a base of Spanish speaking parents, childcare providers, and workers around DC Action’s Under 3 DC campaign. 

Natasha is a third-culture Salvadoran-American who spent her childhood between Central America and the midwest. She landed in the District, where she got a B.A. in Literature and Cinema Studies at American University. Her multinational background, combined with her love of art and film led her to the world of social justice. As she sees it, books and movies are windows into the lives of others-- they show us the details of life, but also expose the overarching systems in which each of us operates; the blood versus the body. She believes that joining the stories of others and grassroots organizing can lead to more political awareness and greater social change. 

Before joining DC Action, she worked on a DC Councilmember campaign. She is also a former restaurant worker who became active in organizing restaurant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, she connected with parent-workers-- particularly Spanish-speaking immigrants-- who were not aware of the services the city has to help working families. Much of the work she has done in the past year has been focused on increasing awareness and access amongst Spanish-speaking immigrants to programs like WIC, food stamps, and Medicaid. She hopes for that awareness to be expanded so that immigrants-- regardless of legal status-- have a bigger say in DC’s political process. Central American families have had a particularly difficult time in the US over the past three decades, and she hopes her work at DC Action can push DC government to invest more resources in the youngest members of these communities. 

When she is not thinking or working to bring about systems change, she can be found in the kitchen cooking up something complicated and messy. She also enjoys biking around the city and getting to know DC’s history.

BETSY Rosenblatt Rosso
BETSY Rosenblatt Rosso
Senior Writer

As Senior Writer for DC Action, Betsy creates compelling stories, messages, and narratives.

Before joining the staff of DC Action, Betsy ran Rosso Writing, a communications consulting practice, for 16 years. In this role she worked with hundreds of organizations to help them tell their stories so the people and communities they serve could thrive. While many of her clients focused on children, youth, families, and education, Betsy has also worked in the areas of the arts, health, housing, human services, military service, philanthropy, and science.

Prior to launching her consulting practice, Betsy served as communications officer for the Meyer Foundation and as senior editor for BoardSource. Betsy earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the College of William and Mary.

Betsy also hosts a podcast, writes two blogs, and interviews people to write their personal histories. She is active in her community and enjoys sharing her love of reading and writing with young people. Betsy loves books, board games, and being with family and friends.

RACHEL White, J.D.
RACHEL White, J.D.
Senior Youth Policy Analyst

As the Senior Youth Policy Analyst, Rachel brings nearly a decade of youth advocacy experience to DC Action. After obtaining her law degree from Wake Forest University, Rachel worked for and directly alongside youth in New York City's foster care system, advocating for their individual needs in child welfare legal proceedings. While advocating for youth and families involved in the child welfare system, Rachel began guiding the next generation of youth advocates at Montclair State University, teaching courses such as Introduction to Child Advocacy, Cultural Competence in Child Welfare, Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, and Introduction to Child Welfare Policy. 

During her career, the correlation of systemic racism and disparate outcomes for Black and brown youth within the child welfare system became strikingly clear. As a result Rachel pivoted her career from direct service to child welfare policy to effect change on a larger scale, centering racial equity. As Child Welfare Policy Director at Advocates for Children and Youth in Maryland, Rachel successfully advocated for race impact statements to be included in the analysis of bills before the Maryland General Assembly, widened access to higher education for youth experiencing homelessness and youth involved in the child welfare system, and ensured that youth experiencing homelessness received housing priority on college campuses. 

In her free time, Rachel enjoys traveling, trying new recipes, and spending time with close friends and family.