Elana Mintz Elana is the founder of Urban Adventure Squad and executive director of Urban Learning and Teaching Center, a D.C.-based, nonprofit organization that provides education support to working families on days when schools are closed, and which seeks to integrate community-based, experiential learning programs in the K-12 curriculum. Elana spent over 20 years in editorial and communications positions at CNA, the Brookings Institution, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Congressional Quarterly. Her two older children were founding members of Urban Adventure Squad.
Christy Brock is director of programming for UAS. She researches, develops curricula for, and leads all UAS programs. She is the Squad’s best resource for magical, not-to-be-missed, family-friendly places in D.C., but she won't divulge all Squad secrets! Christy graduated from American University in 2008 with a literature degree, and has cared for and taught children since then. Before becoming UAS director of programming, she was a nanny and taught preschool at Washington Hebrew Congregation's Early Childhood Center. Christy is certified in First Aid and CPR, and is a certified Freedom Barre Instructor and avid runner.
Brielle Brookins is working on her Ph.D. in developmental psychology at Howard University, where she earned her undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology. She has been a counselor in the aftercare program at Janney Elementary, a mentor with Big Brother Big Sister, a tutor at For the Love of Children, and a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. Brielle is certified in First Aid and CPR.
Nicole Distinto is a senior at Wilson High School this year, where she concentrates on environmental science. She's a soccer player, a former volunteer with the Special Olympics soccer team, and she has worked on a project to clean up Soapstone Creek. Nicole is working on her CPR and First Aid certifications.
Katie LaScaleia is a recent graduate from Georgetown University where she majored in Government and minored in Justice and Peace Studies, and she has lots of experience mentoring and educating kids. She’s been a tutor in the DC Reads program, a camp counselor in Massachusetts, and has spent time in Romania, Croatia, and South Africa as a volunteer English teacher. We’re excited to tap into her passion for writing and reading; Katie also has been a tutor in Georgetown’s Writing Center. Katie is certified in First Aid and CPR.
Gowri Manohari is currently working at the National Institutes of Health and is hoping to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. She moved to D.C. in 2016 from India with her husband, who is also employed at NIH. Gowri worked with underprivileged children in shelter homes in Bangalore, India, to provide afterschool support and mentoring in their academic pursuits. She has also worked with Avalokitesvara Trust to help set up libraries in remote, unequipped regions of India and conducted workshops and activities to encourage reading habits in children. Gowri is excited about integrating her passion for science with education and outreach to children and to communities.
Heather Minneman has been a stay-at-home mom to her adorable daughter, Hope, for the past four years. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Washington & Lee University (with concentrations in technical theater and physics), a master's of education in college counseling and student development from North Carolina State University, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. She is pursuing a certification in American Sign Language. Heather has worked as the assistant director of a math/science camp in Cary, NC, in the IT Industry, at Build-a-Bear Workshop, at Wake Tech Community College, and at American University. She loves teaching Squad members about physics and Rube Goldberg contraptions. Heather is certified in First Aid and CPR/AED.
Luke Morrissey recently earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history at American University. Coming from London, England, Luke has spent a time in a variety of settings working with children, including at Cape Cod Sea Camps and with City Year in the UK. Luke will graduate in December and is aiming to continue to working with children for his professional career. Luke is certified in First Aid and CPR/AED.
Michael Smith has a degree in screenwriting with a concentration in play and art therapy from Boston University. He's been a children’s author, television producer and pre-school show creator, and is the first UAS Squad leader who's ever been nominated for an Emmy--three of them!--for the popular show, "Blue’s Clues." More recently, also for Nickelodeon, Michael co-created "Team Umizoomi," an educational preschool program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of mathematics. We're looking forward to working with him in all kind of ways at the Squad. Mike is certified in First Aid and CPR/AED.
Pooja Tilvawala is a senior at American University pursuing degrees in International Studies and Economics. She spent the last year studying abroad at the London School of Economics. In addition to her studies, she has worked for AmeriCorps, where she served in the Jumpstart Program, an after-school mentoring program for preschoolers. She spent a summer in Madrid as an Au Pair for a family, and she served as a counselor at the YWCA for seven years. Pooja loves to dance, particularly to hip-hop and bhangra, and is certified in First Aid and CPR/AED.
Mercedes Subhani is a freshman at American University pursuing an interdisciplinary degree of CLEG (communications, law, economics and government) with a minor in literature. She comes from a bilingual (spanish) household in New Jersey and came to D.C. to further her passion of helping others and to pursue law school. Prior to UAS, she helped kids at a summer bible camp for three consecutive summers and interned at a law firm during her last two years of high school. Through her love of writing and politics, she hopes to make an impact here in D.C.
Laurel Clark is a sophomore at American University pursuing degrees in environmental studies and public relations. Prior to UAS, Laurel volunteered as an assistant teacher at Dumbarton Oaks Parks Conservancy, working with students on environmental education. She also worked as the Vice President of Recognition for her 1,200 person dormitory through American University’s Residence Hall Association. Laurel was also involved with on-campus literary publications, working as the assistant poetry editor for AMLIT and a writer for AWOL. This year, she works as the National Communications Coordinator on the Executive Board for the Residence Hall Association. Through her love of writing and environmental education, she hopes to find small ways to strengthen both her direct and indirect communities.