YMI Staff

YMI Staff

Special Assistant
Charissa Townsend | Deputy Executive Director

Charissa Townsend’s belief that everyone should have equal access to opportunities and resources that enable successful lives has grounded her personal and professional work over the last decade. She puts this belief into action in her current role as Deputy Executive Director of the Young Men’s Initiative (YMI), a public-private partnership created to address the increasing disparities among Black and Latino boys and men.

Charissa’s focus on helping vulnerable populations began in her home state of Michigan where she helped local residents gain financial literacy as a means to build assets and afford to stay in their neighborhoods. From there, she worked to support community development and increase education outcomes in Chicago through work at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. As a New York resident since 2009, Charissa has worked with universities, nonprofits, and other community-based groups to help New Yorkers in need through program design and implementation, funding and policy change.

She holds a B.A. in Sociology and M.S. in Community Resource Development, both from Michigan State University, where her focus was on evidence-based methods of community-led development and improvement. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two sons.

Director of Programs
Natalia Diaz | Director of Programs

Natalia Diaz is the Director of Programs for the Young Men’s Initiative. Natalia has been with the Young Men’s Initiative team since June 2015. Natalia is currently responsible for overseeing the investments YMI is making in education programming and supporting the development of new programs and initiatives. She previously served as the Strategic Partnerships Coordinator.

Prior to joining YMI, Natalia was the NY Organizing Manager for Young Invincibles where she served as a Navigator in New York’s Hudson Valley and served as Junior Board Co-President for St. Christopher’s Inc. in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Natalia holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and an M.P.A. from Pace University.

Director of External Affairs
Christopher Yarrell | Director of External Affairs

As Director of External Affairs, Chris is responsible for managing all strategic partnerships, intergovernmental affairs, communications, and digital strategy for the Young Men’s Initiative’s (YMI).

Chris began his career in public service as a City Year AmeriCorps Member – serving as a 7thand 8thgrade ELA and math tutor, respectively.

In 2014, he joined the de Blasio Administration’s Pre-K for All effort as a Community Coordinator, helping families and community-based organizations navigate the pre-K application and enrollment processes. Since then, Chris has held positions within the NYC Department of Education, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and NYC Office of the Mayor.

Chris holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Georgia, and an M.A. in Sociology and Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn with his fiancé, Jasmine.

Special Assistant
Jahvaris Fulton | Special Assistant

Jahvaris Fulton is a Special Assistant for the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI). In this role, he assists YMI’s efforts with both public and private agencies to create opportunities for young people of color, specifically in the areas of juvenile justice, health, education, and employment. Mr. Fulton also contributes to YMI’s community engagement strategies, identifying opportunities and platforms to better engage young people of color in YMI’s programming.

Prior to joining YMI, he was a congressional intern in the Office of Frederica S. Wilson, serving three consecutive summers in both her district and DC office. Mr. Fulton is a graduate of Florida International University with a B.S. in Information Technology.

Special Assistant/Fellow
Jason Spear | Special Assistant/Fellow

Jason Spear has a Bachelor's degree from Tuskegee University and is a current MPA candidate in the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University where he is a recipient of the Dean's Scholarship.

Mr. Spear was raised by his hardworking mother, Agnes Spear in Piedmont, Alabama, who taught him sound morals such as the difference between right and wrong, the importance of setting goals, integrity, and the value of hard work. The morals she instilled in him paved the way for his future career and success.

Jason moved to Washington D.C. in 2010 after being awarded an internship in the Obama White House. After a brief stint as a White House Intern and Associate, Mr. Spear joined the staff of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), spending more than five years as her Legislative Associate and Deputy Communications Director, where he managed a portfolio of issues including healthcare, education, and foreign affairs. Jason also served as Senior Adviser and Event Specialist for the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.

Currently, Jason is a Special Assistant/Fellow for the NYC Young Men's Initiative. He is also a co-founder of the Hustlers Guild, a non- profit that seeks to empower youth from underrepresented communities in the D.C. area to drive innovation that will impact the future. In his free time, Mr. Spear is an avid photographer whose work has been featured in several national publications.