President & CEO
Jonathan Richmond is President and Chief Executive Officer of Takeoff Space. Jonathan has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics; a Master of Science in Transportation from MIT for which he was a Fulbright Scholar; and a Phd in transportation planning from MIT’s civil engineering department. The author of two books, Jonathan’s work experience has included a two-year stint teaching in Thailand where he pioneered student-centered teaching for developing country students, proving that students used to rote learning can become highly communicative, and assignments as senior advisor on transportation system and organization development in a variety of countries including Mauritius, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Singapore. Jonathan took a strong stand against corruption as part of this work and has lectured widely on moving from corruption to good governance. Following threats against his personal safety related to his anticorruption activities, he decided it was time for a new career path.
William Navarre, Clerk on the board of Takeoff Space Inc., advisor on operations, and assistant with corporate fundraising, was a computer science major at MIT and currently works as a programmer at Dimensional Insight. William is from Orland, Maine. He was fortunate to attend high school at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine, where he received much encouragement. He applied to MIT with support from family and teachers, and understands the importance of good advising. While at MIT, he served as co-treasurer of the MIT Educational Studies Program and was Executive Editor of The Tech, MIT’s student newspaper.
Harvard Based Mentoring Team
Head of Mentoring
Jordan H. Barton is Head of Mentoring for the Takeoff Space Harvard Based Mentoring Team, having shown great sophistication as well as caring in handling difficult mentoring situations in our Fall 2019 program as well as taken on secretarial and administrative duties. In addition to mentoring, Jordan is in charge of administration for the Harvard team and is also our liaison to Harvard University.
Jordan is a first-year student at Harvard College from Andrews, Texas planning on concentrating in either Government or Philosophy. He is a First-Generation, Low-Income student, a QuestBridge Scholar, and a 2019 United States Department of Education Presidential Scholar. Outside of Takeoff Space, he is involved as an editor for the Harvard College Law Review, the Harvard Political Review, and a member of the Institute of Politics Criminal Justice Policy team. Jordan is passionate about low-income and disadvantaged college mentorship. Coming from a similar background himself, and in high school kickstarting a local non-profit to aid in college admissions access for similar students, Takeoff Space is what Jordan sees as a step in the right direction to continue to aid brilliant, disadvantaged students in attending the nation’s finest institutions of learning with near to complete financial aid.
Deputy Head of Mentoring
Preston Stewart is Deputy Head of Mentoring for the Harvard Based Mentoring Team, having shown great sophistication as well as caring in handling difficult mentoring situations in our Fall 2019 program. In addition to mentoring, Preston is also a Takeoff Space Ambassador to high school applicants to our program, helping with recruitment and answering questions from applicants.
Preston is a sophomore at Harvard College studying Government. He moved from Singapore to the US when he was eight, studying and living in Maine while adjusting to New England. Preston is involved in a number of public-service related activities, including serving as a volunteer at the Y2Y Youth Homeless Shelter. He is also a Citizenship Tutor, working with Harvard staff to help them fill out their application for US citizenship and prepare for the Civics exam. In high school, Preston was a peer counselor and was involved with his school’s Speech and Debate Team as well as the school’s theatre program. He was also an active member of his Boy Scout troop, reaching the rank of Eagle Scout. Preston is excited to work for Takeoff Space with high school students who have put in a tremendous amount of effort toward attending college despite challenging backgrounds.
Osazi Al Khaliq
Osazi Al Khaliq hails from Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School as an International Baccalaureate candidate. At Maynard, Osazi was designated as a Questbridge and Posse Scholarship Finalist as well as a Horatio Alger Scholar and Emerging Leader Scholar.
Osazi has been honored by the Georgia Board of Education, Atlanta City Council, and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for his work within the Harvard Debate Council. He was also keynote speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Atlanta State of the Union Address, and Coca Cola Teen Summit among others.
A Harvard freshman, he plans to concentrate in Philosophy and Government, he is a member of the Harvard Mock Trial and Policy Debate team. After graduation he plans to attend law school.
In his free time, Osazi enjoys volunteering with and mentoring youth within the Cambridge area on their college applications as well as serving as a mentor for Takeoff Space. As a first generation, low income college student, Osazi enjoys helping underserved youth gain better access and opportunity to help them be competitive applicants.
Yana Lazarova-Weng is a first-year at Harvard University. Yana is originally from Brookline, Massachusetts, but her mixed ethnicity has provided her with the opportunities to spend summers with family in Bulgaria and visit relatives in China. Yana plans on concentrating in Neuroscience through the Mind Brain Behavior Track and pursuing a secondary in either Philosophy or Linguistics.
Beyond academics, Yana is a member of the Women’s Varsity Rugby Team and enjoys running, writing and exploring the outdoors. Yana has always been passionate about challenging her ideas, learning with others and getting involved with the communities that surround her. She hopes to use her education to pursue a field where she can continue to positively impact others, and is already very much doing so with her work as a mentor for Takeoff Space.
Isabel Lopez, is a freshman at Harvard College planning to be a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator. will be mentoring for Takeoff Space. From Miami, Florida, Isabel is a freshman at Harvard University and a first generation college student. In high school, Isabel was President of the Science National Honor Society, a member of the Varsity Cross Country and Track Team, and President of the Animal Service Club.
Coming from an under resourced community and background, Isabel navigated the college process largely through her own discovery and research and understands the importance of guidance. She has a passion for mentorship and, through Takeoff Space, looks forward to having the opportunity to provide help to students who may otherwise not receive any.
Sabrina Morales, originally from Westchester, New York, is a sophomore at Harvard College, currently studying Molecular & Cellular Biology with a citation in Spanish and considering a secondary in Global Health & Health Policy. On campus, she is mainly involved in Harvard UNICEF, the Ultimate Frisbee team, and tutoring. Outside college academics and extracurriculars, Sabrina really enjoy running, hiking, baking, and anything where I get to interact with young kids.
Sabrina loves being a part of Takeoff Space because she too was the first in her family to grow up in the U.S. and go to college, so she knows how overwhelming and unequal the college admissions process can be. Sabrina says she wants to be as helpful as she can to help ease the struggle and see these students achieve their goals.
In addition to mentoring, Sabrina is also a Takeoff Space Ambassador to high school applicants to our program, helping with recruitment and answering questions from applicants.
Recent MIT Graduate Mentor
Wei Xun He
Wei is in charge of training our participants to present themselves effectively in interviews, and also assists with arranging on-campus activities for our highschoolers at MIT and with general mentoring. A 2019 Course 2 (MechE) graduate of MIT with minors in Entrepreneurship and Design, he was involved in numerous technical and entrepreneurial activities at MIT and was also treasurer at his independent living group. He currently works at Tulip Interfaces as a Manufacturing Engineer of the Future where he works with present day manufacturing engineers to help them digitize theirworkflow.
Wei writes: “I came to America at the age of ten. I didn’t speak any English and just blindly followed my parents onto a plane. I spent the past 13 years overcoming challenges including but not limited to language barriers, low-income conditions, and tackling the MIT engineering curriculum. But it’s not about how hard you get hit, but all about how you respond. I graduated recently from MIT as a first generation engineer debt-free and I want to guide future college students to realize their true potential. I am looking to work with students from disadvantaged backgrounds who possess ambition and drive. I am skilled with the college and scholarship application process, interviewing, and personal development.”
Wei is a member of the MIT Educational Council who interviews undergraduate applicants for admission to MIT and we are privileged to have him onboard to help our kids, who lack interview experience, gain the confidence needed to present themselves effectively. Wei is also in the process of writing a guide to effective college application essay writing that we hope to make available to our high-school kids when complete.
Stanford University Representative
Advisor to Takeoff Space Stanford Applicants
Julius Zhang was a Takeoff Space Scholar in 2018/19 and we helped him gain admission to Stanford Universtity where he is currently majoring in mathematics and computer science while he completed studies at St Paul’s School in London where founder Jonathan Richmond had been a pupil. A keen artist as well as scientist, Julius was a member of the National Portrait Gallery youth forum, where he shared his enthusiasm for portraiture and led tours.
Julius has shown great resilience in life. As a child he suffered from Tourette Syndrome for which he was bullied by teachers at his rural Chinese school who misconstrued his illness as a behavioral problem. He never allowed this to get in the way of showing brilliance across the spectrum of arts and sciences, and his experience leads him to advocate for the next generation of bright youngsters who have encountered trauma growing up.
University of Pennsylvania Representative
Advisor to Takeoff Space Penn Applicants
David Rolnick Davie Rolnick helps advise on mentoring activities and with evaluation of the mathematical ability of our students. He is also pleased to advise our students interested in applying to study at Penn or MIT.
David is an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and holds bachelors and doctoral degrees in mathematics from MIT. At MIT, David was the founder and president of Communicating Science @ MIT commit.mit.edu, a teacher with Art of Problem Solving artofproblemsolving.com and the MIT Educational Studies Program esp.mit.edu, and a writer for The Tech thetech.com. He recently founded Climate Change AI, leading a group of academic and industry leaders in furthering applications of machine learning that meaningfully address the climate crisis.
Lowell High School Graduate Team
Lowell-based Ambassador to Lowell High School and Advisor
Sim Dy, helps introduce Takeoff Space to students at Lowell High School and is available to answer questions about our program from them. He also advises on running our program in the context of the needs of Lowell High School kids. Sim is an Emerging Technologies Engineer for MITRE corporation, having completed a distinguished career as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he completed a triple major in Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science. At UMass he was Program Manager for a NASA undergraduate Student instrument Project, President of the Honors Ambassador Council, Senator for Student Government, co-founder and Treasurer of the Undergraduate Science Council and founder of the “Hawkathon” hacking program.
The son of Cambodian immigrants to the United States, Sim attended Lowell High School, and believes that mentoring and supporting smart students from troubled backgrounds is vitally important for the future success of these studentsʼ lives.
Cullin Lam, a Lowell High School graduate, advises our students interested in Computer Science and involves them in Mill City Coders, a group he founded to encourage coding learning and activity amongst young people in Lowell. He also advises us on running our program in the context of the needs of Lowell High School kids. Cullin is a software engineer at Cimpress, having completed bachelor’s degree work in Bioinformatics and Computer Science at UMass, Lowell, where he was also the founder of the Urban Choreography Club.
Cullin’s parents immigrated to the United States from Cambodia and Vietnam and he attended Lowell High School where he became aware of the need for effective mentoring to improve students’ educational and career outcomes.
Ataur Rahman (Shuvo)
User Experience Lead
Ataur Rahman is developing and coordinating the online user experience for Takeoff Space. Lead UX Researcher at FinTech in Amsterdam, Shuvo has a Professional Doctorate in User System Interaction and Human Computer Interaction from Eindhoven Univsersity of Technology, a Masters in Human Computer Interaction from the University of Nottingham, and a bachelor’s in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering from North South University, Bangladesh.
Shuvo was the founder of Batchmate in Bangladesh, a tutoring program that offered university admissions coaching and he has work experience in three countries: Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
Nazmul Hossain (Nihal)
Full Stack Developer
Nihal implemented the latest redesign of the Takeoff Space site and is helping us keep it up-to-date.
Nihal is currently doing a bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering at North South University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a senior member of the North South University Communications Club and an undergraduate teaching assistant.
User Experience Adviser
Jenifer Tidwell is advising Shuvo on Takeoff Space user experience development. A UX specialist and author of Designing Interfaces from O’Reilly, Jenifer has experience in designing both desktop and Web applications.
Jenifer, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from MIT, worked on redesigning the interface for Google Books and, as a user interface designer at The MathWorks, was instrumental in a redesign of the charting and visualization UI of MATLAB, which is used by researchers, students, and engineers worldwide to develop cars, planes, proteins, and theories about the universe. She currently designs and develops websites for small businesses.
Carl La Combe
Carl Lacombe graduated from high school in Vermont. He did his undergraduate work in mathematics at MIT, spent a few years doing actuarial work for a pension benefits consulting firm, then completed graduate study in mathematics at Tufts University. He currently teaches mathematics at Worcester Academy. Outside of school, he enjoys reading, bicycling, hiking, and exploring new cuisines.
Asad holds a bacheolor’s degree from Occidental College and masters in management from MIT. Asad has worked in VAT and payments for about 20 years and is particularly known for introducing VAT refunding to Asia and seeding the internationalization of the Dynamic Currency Conversion business which allows customers to pay for goods overseas in the home currency of their credit card. Asad now operates his own company, The Scotts Group Pte Ltd, which takes strategic stakes in businesses centered on real estate, financial services and technology. He serves on several boards including educational and charitable foundations.
Mark Kantrowitz is a nationally-recognized expert on student financial aid. His mission is to deliver practical information, advice, and tools to students and their families so they can make informed decisions about planning and paying for college.
Mark is publisher and VP Research at savingforcollege.com is also the author of four bestselling books about scholarships and financial aid. He has been quoted in more than 10,000 newspaper and magazine articles, and written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reuters, Huffington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Money Magazine, Bottom Line/Personal, Forbes, Newsweek and Time Magazine. He was named a Money Hero by Money Magazine.
Mark serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Student Financial Aid and the editorial advisory board of Bottom Line/Personal. He sits on the board of trustees of the Center for Excellence in Education. Mark holds bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Philosophy from MIT and a masters in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.
Ari Gildengers is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, whre he also has a clinical practice. He has specialist interests in Bipolar Disorder and prevention of depression in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Ari has a bachelors degree in math from MIT, an MD from New Jersey Medical School, and served a residency at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry before joining the faculty there.
Eric Starkman is president of The Stark Difference and has over 20 years consulting and business development experience serving leading manufacturing companies. He specializes particularly in Product Lifecycle Management(PLM) technologies and their application to business process improvement and Information Technology experience across a broad range of technologies, across all phases of the system and project lifecycle. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science > from MIT.
Meenakshi Chakraverti is a writer, and also offers dialogue, conflict resolution, leadership development, and program development consultation to organizations and communities that proactively seek to engage the richness and challenges of multiple dimensions of difference across their members and stakeholders.
With a Masterʼs in Public Affairs from Princeton University and a doctorate in social anthropology from Cornell University, Meenakshi brings experience in economic research, grassroots community work, ethnographic research, business entrepreneurship, dialogue training and facilitation, and strategic program development. Most recently, Meenakshi was Director of the Leadership Institute at the University of San Diego. Before that, Meenakshi was Vice President for Program Development at Public Conversations Project. Meenakshi has also taught at the University of California, San Diego, and Princeton University.
Thaya Uthayophas is Program and Legal Associate pursuing his passion for Human Rights Law at International Bridges to Justice in Geneva. Thaya graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with an independently-developed major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, subjects he also studied during a year away at Oxford University. At Brown, Thaya was a fellow in the Royce, Liman and Social Innovations programs, created a summer policy debate camp for Rhode Island high-school students, worked on a language exchange start-up in Southeast Asia, advocated for prisoner’s rights in super maximum facilities in Connecticut, and conducted award-winning independent research on law, religion, and human rights violations in Thailand. Thaya received his JD from Harvard Law School which honored him with a Harvey A. Baker Fellowship.