Ruben Melendez serves as the Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund program. Melendez earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Saint Peter’s University.
Originally a high school teacher in Newark, Melendez has been in higher education since 1998. He began working in Admissions at Saint Peter’s before transitioning to being an EOF Counselor at his alma mater. He moved on to become the Director of EOF at Hudson County Community College for seven years followed by eight years as the Director of EOF at Union County College before starting at Kean University in 2021.
Melendez has spent many years serving on the executive board of the Educational Opportunity Fund Professional Association of New Jersey (EOPFANJ) and was elected as State Sector Representative for the North region for the 2021-23 term. When he’s not working, he is spending time with his family and actively keeping up with his beloved New York Mets.
Petal Britton-Gadsden serves as the Associate Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund program. She is a proud alum of the New York State Educational Opportunity Program from SUNY at Purchase College where she earned her Bachelors in Psychology with a focus on Women's Studies. She also holds a Masters in Social Work from Monmouth University with a concentration in Community Development.
Previously, Gadsden served for five years as the Recruitment Coordinator for the Educational Opportunity Fund program at Monmouth University and for thirteen years as a Senior Counselor for Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences, Educational Opportunity Fund Program. She is passionate about helping student access and persist through college. Her areas of interest are recruitment, financial education and preparing students for life after college. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her family, travel and watch Law and Order.
Linda L. Lashley
Linda Lashley serves as the Budget Coordinator and the undergraduate and graduate grants administrator for the Kean EOF Program. Lashley worked in Trenton for 24 years starting out as an assistant legislative liaison in the Commissioner’s Office of the Department of Human Services and moved on to work as a budget analyst for the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services where she worked with the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees on all fiscal and budgetary matters. Lashley also worked as a fiscal analyst for the non-profit Association of State Colleges and Universities which advocates for legislative and fiscal policies affecting higher education at the State level.
In her free time she enjoys spending time with her son, family, friends and loyal four legged companion, Mad Maxx, affectionately known as Maxx.
Timothy Longman serves as the Learning Center Coordinator for the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program overseeing the tutoring center, Circle of 8 mentoring, and the required academic support of EOF students. Tim has a deep connection to Kean University as he earned his undergraduate degree in English studies at Kean University in 2011, and then furthered his education at Kean University with a Master’s degree in Writing Studies in 2013.
Due to his experience as a graduate assistant in Kean’s Writing Center, Tim transitioned swiftly into teaching English writing courses as an adjunct for Kean’s English department and other Universities from 2013 – 2017. During this time he also worked for the Youth Advocate Program in Newark, N.J. advocating for minors in the foster care and juvenile justice system before landing his current position assisting EOF students in 2017.
Tim values student engagement, mentoring and building connections with students to help encourage them toward successful habits and achievement. In his spare time Tim enjoys reading, writing, playing basketball, hiking and spending time with friends and family. He also has a secret love for history and nature documentaries.
Chrysten Colacicco serves as an EOF counselor. Chrysten earned her Bachelor's degree in Public Relations from Penn State University and her Master's degree in Counseling at Montclair State University. In addition to supporting her student caseload, Chrysten oversees sophomore programming, the EOF program's social media and the EOF Society student group. Her areas of interest in counseling include assisting students away from academic probation status, supporting high-achieving students, career counseling and trauma-informed counseling.
As a graduate student, Chrysten found her love of working with EOF students while completing her internship with Kean's EOF Summer Program. Chrysten began her career in education as a school counselor in Newark, N.J., where she helped high school students through the college and EOF admissions process. In 2019, Chrysten returned to Kean University as an EOF counselor. As a counselor, Chrysten advocates for her students, while teaching students how to advocate for themselves post-graduation. In her spare time, Chrysten enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking (and eating), running (slowly), listening to podcasts and caring for her many plants.
Debora Rivera, Ph.D.
Debora Rivera, Ph.D., serves as an EOF Counselor. In addition to managing her caseload, she oversees junior programming workshops and assists with the assessment outcomes for the program. Rivera earned her Bachelor’s from Saint Elizabeth University, her Master’s from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her Doctorate from Rowan University.
Rivera started her higher education career at Saint Elizabeth University in 2006 as a Student Development Specialist for the Educational Opportunity Fund program and as an adjunct faculty member in the Psychology and Sociology departments. She then transitioned to Union County College where she spent the next 11 years in the Student Affairs Division. Her roles at that time included Student Development Specialist, Assistant Director of Advising, Career and Transfer Services and Student Conduct Officer. Rivera has now been with Kean University since 2019. She fully embraces the fundamental concept that all students can learn and deserve exposure to a wide array of educational opportunities. This tenet underpins her professional passion and drive. It fuels her determination to tackle student achievement and make meaningful inroads toward improving processes and outcomes for the division.
Rivera is also an adjunct faculty member in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Saint Elizabeth University. When she is not working with her EOF students or teaching, she is spending time with family and friends, traveling, enjoying foods from different cultures and watching America’s # 1 football team during the season - Go Dallas Cowboys!!
Florangel Cabrera serves as a Counselor in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program. She is also a proud EOF aluma with a Bachelor's degree in Communications from Ramapo College and a Master's degree in Justice Administration and Public Service from Saint Elizabeth University. In addition to supporting students on her caseload, Florangel oversees Transfer Student Orientation and the Epsilon Epsilon Omega Honor Society.
Cabrera has over a decade of working in the college setting, from serving as an adjunct to working in Student Affairs and Academic Affairs. She is very passionate about working with students, especially assisting them with making “college to real world” connections in order to build a toolkit to persist through life after Kean. She was elected as the EOFPANJ Corresponding Secretary for the 2021-23 term. Off of the clock, she enjoys spending time doing outdoorsy things, cycling, cultivating relationships (preferably through travel, near a body of water and good food) and collecting house plants. She is also a sister of Lambda Tau Omega, Sorority Inc.
Kristina Jones serves as a Counselor in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program. In addition to her caseload, Kristina oversees senior programming, the senior awards ceremony and assists with assessment outcomes. Kristina is a first generation college student. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Bloomfield College. She also earned two Master Degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University, a Masters in Public Administration and a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Kristina started her career in higher education in 2002 at Fairleigh Dickinson University as an Assistant Director/Counselor/Financial Aid Coordinator. She spent 15 years at FDU before taking on the role as Director of the EOF program at Bloomfield College. Kristina has also taught First Year Seminar classes, helping freshmen transition into college both at Fairleigh Dickinson University and at Bloomfield College.
Kristina is very passionate about working with students and helping them realize their full potential. She has helped numerous students graduate from college throughout her many years of experience. Kristina acknowledges the R.E.A.D.Y Foundation for her accomplishments and is very eager to continue helping students succeed in life just as the R.E.A.D.Y program helped her. When Kristina is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading books, listening to music and traveling.
Lawrence Rivers serves as the Student Development Specialist for the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program here at Kean University. He is a proud EOF alumnus who understands the importance of opportunity programs in the lives of students who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise. Lawrence graduated from Bloomfield College with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. In addition, he obtained his Master of Science degree in Management with a concentration in Organizational Change from Saint Elizabeth University, formally known as the College of Saint Elizabeth. In his role at Kean University, he advises a caseload of students from SC to Z.
Prior to his appointment at Kean University, he served as the Director of the EOF program at Saint Elizabeth University. Lawrence has worked in higher education in many capacities and he desires to be a change agent for students who doubt their capacity for being a college student. He also served as the independent sector representative for the Educational Opportunity Fund Professional Association of New Jersey (EOFPANJ, Inc.). He was recently voted the next Financial Secretary for the EOFPANJ board and will soon begin to transition into his new role.
Lawrence believes that we need to lead by example and that we are not defined by our circumstances.
Jennifer Daro serves as the Recruitment/Admissions Counselor for the Educational Opportunity Fund Program. She has earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Communications with a Concentration in Graphic Design and a Master of Arts degree in Human Behavior and Organizational Psychology from Kean University.
Prior to her current role as EOF Recruitment/Admissions Counselors, Jennifer served as a college advisor for the College of Liberal Arts at Kean University and served as a One Stop Service Center generalist. She has 20 years of service at Kean, assisting students from enrollment to degree completion. She has served on various academic committees including academic advising, enrollment services, general education, academic appeals, SAP and distance learning.
In addition to helping students on campus, Jennifer is an active volunteer with Kean University’s “Be the Change” community service group. From knitting items for the homeless in Newark, to supporting cancer patients and survivors, to supporting human rights, to delivering food to those in need during the COVID pandemic, her support for students extends beyond campus into the community. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Zakeeyah Speight serves at the Recruitment/Admissions Counselor and Internship Coordinator in Educational Opportunity Fund program. Zakeeyah earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Substance Abuse and Women Studies from Ramapo College, Master of Arts in Student Services Administration with a concentration in Financial Aid from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Prior to her arrival at Kean University, Zakeeyah was the Job Developer/Recruiter at Union County College for the Nursing and Allied Health/TAACCCT NJ-Prep Grant program where she provided externship development and work cooperatively with academic advisors, faculty and staff to serve students with career and program placement.
Zakeeyah is an EOF alumni and has a passion for giving back to the community by serving on numerous committees. Zakeeyah enjoys spending time with her family and friends and loves traveling with her daughter.
Ana Freire serves as a Professional Services Specialist in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program. She is also a proud Kean University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Public Administration. In addition to supporting budget, Ana Freire coordinates many essential seasonal student projects such as the EOF Summer and Winter Funding, EOF Summer Academy course placement and other projects alike.
Freire has over two decades of experience working in the college environment especially the EOF Program. She is extremely motivated highly organized and very passionate about her work and feels very fortunate to be part of the students’ educational and future professional goals. During her leisure time, she enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, swimming and watching classic movies.
Asia Williams-Stokes serves as the Administrative Assistant/Secretary to the Director and Associate Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Administration from Purdue Global University.
Asia has worked at Kean University for almost 21 years, with 16 of those years spent in EOF providing support to the Director, Associate Director, Budget Coordinator and EOF Counselors. She is dedicated to serving Kean students not only with her wisdom but also with personal experiences. Prior to her role in EOF, Asia worked in the Teacher Certification Department providing support to students interested in obtaining a post-baccalaureate degree and in the Accounts Payable Department.
In her spare time, Asia enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, reading, cycling and doing her best to make a difference in someone’s life each and every day.
Donna Hunter is proud to be part of the EOF family and has worked for Kean almost 23 years. Donna started her journey at Kean in 1998 working in the Management Science Department and then the Early Childhood Program. Donna started the EOF Book Lending Program in 2010. The Book Lending Program is now in its 10th year and has helped many students through the years.
When Donna is not working, she spends time with her loving and very good looking husband Joe and her two loyal pets Mr. Lee (dog) who is 12 and Ms. Fum Bum (kitty) who is now 14. Her brother and sisters live far but she tries to talk to them as much as possible (3 sisters & 1 brother) through a family text thread. Their lives are as busy as hers so that is their way of communicating right now, but they are ready for a family vacation soon! Donna also has girlfriends she has known since 10th grade who she talks to every other day She says they are the family she chose.
Donna feels extremely blessed to have so much love in her life. She feels her students are the children she couldn’t have and feels so lucky to have them in her life.