Jan 14, 2021 Press Release

Robin Hood's Newest Power Fund Cohort Elevates Latinx Leaders

Robin Hood’s Power Fund addresses systemic racism by investing in nonprofit leaders of color.

NEW YORK – Robin Hood, NYC’s largest poverty-fighting organization, today announced two new Latinx leaders who have joined the Power Fund: Gisele Castro of exalt and Jose Ortiz, Jr. of New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC). Robin Hood’s Power Fund addresses a critical funding disparity for nonprofit leaders of color by elevating leaders who are reflective of the communities they serve. Both Castro and Ortiz are tackling inequities and driving solutions across New York City, while bringing perspective, proximity, and expertise to the fight against poverty.

The Latinx population now makes up around 18% of the U.S. population, yet only around 1% of philanthropic dollars are directly invested in Latinx-focused organizations. “The Power Fund is forging a new grantmaking approach for Robin Hood, which ensures that we are centering diversity and equity in our approach to poverty-fighting by fueling leaders of color who are putting New Yorkers on pathways to economic mobility,” said Wes Moore, Chief Executive Officer at Robin Hood. “The two newest Power Fund leaders bring two critical ingredients to our grant making success: lived experience and offering deeply impactful solutions for our communities. I am honored to welcome them to the Robin Hood family.”

Gisele Castro, Executive Director of exalt, is elevating expectations of personal success for youth ages 15-19 who have been involved in the criminal justice system. “exalt students come from some of the most economically depressed neighborhoods in the City and are often facing potentially life-altering circumstances. I am proud to be one of the very few Latinas leading work of this kind in New York and privileged to lead a team that is 90% people of color, as we do our part to elevate our youth out of the oppressive school to prison pipeline so many of them are trapped in,” said Castro. “By moving our youth, who are presently in the justice system, away from incarceration and towards re-engagement with education, they now have a brighter future. The Power Fund will enable exalt to continue to address the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the judicial system, and through our work, will refocus the system on redemption and rehabilitation.”

Jose Ortiz, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC), is working to ensure that every New Yorker has access to the skills, training, and education needed to thrive in the local economy, and that every business is able to maintain a highly skilled workforce. “Addressing poverty in historically marginalized communities requires a holistic strategy that includes all of the essential services needed for an individual to thrive versus survive,” said Ortiz. “For me, effective talent development, and access to quality employment opportunities with ladders to careers, is a human right. It is up to organizations like ours to advocate for policies that dismantle the harmful stereotypes placed on historically marginalized communities. Only then can every New Yorker access economic opportunity and purpose which, in the long term, will lead to a more inclusive and equitable New York City for all.”

Previous Power Fund leaders named last fall include Barika X. Williams, Executive Director of Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD); LaRay Brown, President & CEO of One Brooklyn Health System; Jessica Santana and Evin Robinson, Co-Founders of America on Tech; Jerelyn Rodriguez, Executive Director & CEO of The Knowledge House; and Bernell K. Grier, Executive Director of IMPACCT Brooklyn.

Power Fund organizations each receive catalytic investment and benefit from the access of Robin Hood’s management assistance and network support to build their capacity, including assistance with board member recruitment, fundraising, and strategic planning, in addition to intentional access to philanthropic, government, and community partner networks. The leaders also receive self-directed funding for leadership elevation support.

The Power Fund benefits from the guidance of its esteemed Advisory, including Cecilia A. Conrad of Lever for Change, Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, Jennifer Ching of North Star Fund, Khalil Muhammad of Harvard Kennedy School, Kriste Dragon of Pahara Institute, Marc Morial of the National Urban League, Shawn Lytle of Macquarie Group, Sheena Wright of United Way of New York City, Soledad O’Brien of Soledad O’Brien Productions, and Vanita Gupta of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights.

The Power Fund was seeded with an initial investment of $10 million by Robin Hood, with additional investments from partners, including Salesforce, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, BlackRock, Capital One, Macquarie Group, NBCUniversal, and Warburg Pincus, in addition to employee match program support from Bridgewater Associates, Goldman Sachs Gives, and Tudor Investment Corporation. Robin Hood will continue to announce Power Fund leaders on a quarterly basis. To learn more about the Power Fund, visit www.robinhood.org/the-power-fund.

About Robin Hood:

Founded in 1988, Robin Hood finds, fuels, and creates the most impactful and scalable solutions lifting families out of poverty in New York City, with models that can work across the country. In 2020, Robin Hood invested nearly $200 million to provide COVID relief, legal services, housing, meals, workforce development training, education programs and more to families in poverty in New York City. Robin Hood tracks every program with rigorous metrics, and since Robin Hood’s Board of Directors covers all overhead, 100 percent of every donation goes directly to the poverty fight. Learn more at robinhood.org.

About exalt:

exalt elevates expectations of personal success for youth ages 15-19 who have been involved in the criminal justice system. exalt inspires youth at a critical crossroads to believe in their worth, from the first steps in contemplation through the journey to create lasting behavioral change. The organization’s powerful combination of structured classes for tangible skill development, individualized support to navigate the education and justice systems, placement in paid internships, and an alumni network of resources equips youth with the tools and experience to avoid further criminal justice system involvement. exalt empowers youth to see a future filled with hope—and provides the road map to get there. exalt is led by people of color deeply committed to racial equity and justice for black and brown youth in criminal justice avoidance, academic progression, and employability. Learn more at exaltyouth.org.


NYCETC is the voice of New York’s workforce development community and we work to ensure that every New Yorker has access to the skills, training, and education needed to thrive in the local economy, and that every business is able to maintain a highly skilled workforce. With over 180 members serving half a million New Yorkers, NYCETC works with community-based organizations, educational institutions and labor management organizations to improve policy, practices, and outcomes to achieve economic inclusion for the city’s workers, job-seekers and employers. Learn more at nycetc.org.