Meet Our Board of Directors

Awakening Voices Non-Profit Board of Directors

Each member of the Awakening Voices Board of Directors has years of experience in his/her area of expertise, including finance, film production, human resources and youth empowerment. Our board provides guidance, wisdom and support for the Executive Team. We are fortunate to have each board member and are grateful for their participation. To review a particular member’s bio material, please scroll down or click on the name below.

Awakening Voices Non-Profit Board of Directors:

Joseph Jessup, Chief Financial Officer




Joe Jessup is an accomplished finance and management professional with over 30 years of experience as a banker, consultant and entrepreneur. Over an extended career as a Citibank Vice President from 1980-93, Mr. Jessup held positions in New York, Chicago and London, initiating multi-million dollar financings for private and public corporate entities, running large banking syndicates and overseeing restructurings and recoveries for several major multi-bank problem loans and portfolios.

As an independent consultant since 1993, Mr. Jessup has worked with high net worth investors, business owners and entrepreneurs, providing analytical, strategic and deal structuring support for new ventures and funding projects. In the course of this work, Mr. Jessup launched and ran, an online marketing and customer interface website for independent financial advisors. The venture’s mission was to use the power of the internet to improve the quality of investment advice provided to non-HNW individuals.

Most recently, through his firm, JCJCo, Inc., Mr. Jessup has concentrated on start-up and early stage businesses. As an integral part of his client’s strategy development and execution team, and as a co-investor, Mr. Jessup has fulfilled the role of Chief Financial Officer, with responsibilities for business planning, investor presentations, accounting systems, analytical and forecasting needs, among other responsibilities. His clients have included: “Zylie the Bear”, a multi-award winning, educational plush toy; Sky Fund, LLC, the developer and marketer of a patented hedge fund rating system; and the NYC–Tribeca-based Sun Studios.

Mr. Jessup is a native of Indiana, doing his undergraduate work in economics at DePauw University and was a two sport college athlete. He completed his MBA at the Kelly School, Indiana University with a concentration in finance and banking. He is also a CFA, and has remained active in athletics as a marathoner, triathlete, golfer and regular fitness enthusiast. He currently resides in Chappaqua, NY with his wife and two college age sons.

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Lisa Bruce, Producer




Lisa Bruce has an extensive background in domestic and international feature production for both independent and studio films. She has produced 16 theatrically released feature films and recently launched the LA based film production company, The Film Kitchen.  Bruce’s most recent film, The Theory of Everything, was nominated for 2015 Oscar Awards for best picture, actor, actress, adapted screenplay and music score.  The Theory of Everything is a fiction film based on the astounding life of Stephen Hawking.

Bruce recently worked with veteran director Phillip Noyce on Mary and Martha, a Working Title and HBO feature film starring Hilary Swank. In the same year, she was the Executive Producer for the new indie film, Arthur Newman, starring Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, which premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Prior to this, she was the Executive Producer for the successful Paramount Pictures release, No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman and for Fighting, a Universal Pictures/Rogue Pictures release, starring Channing Tatum and Terence Howard.

Bruce’s other producing credits include Curtain Call; The Perfect You; Tumbleweeds; The Emperor’s Club; A Lot Like Love; the HBO film Walkout;and Paramount Pictures’ 2010 release, Case 39, starring Renee Zellweger.

Her films have appeared as official selections in festivals around the world including Tokyo, Berlin, Hamburg, Deauville, Los Angeles, Cannes, Toronto and Sundance. Tumbleweeds was honored by the National Board of Review as one of the “Top 10 Movies of the Year” and its lead actress, Janet McTeer, was nominated for an Academy Award® and won the Golden Globe. Walkout was nominated for the 2006 DGA Directing Award.

Bruce was a founding partner of Orenda Films, a New York based company that developed, produced and managed the delivery and distribution of several internationally released feature films including The Search for One-Eye Jimmy, No Way Home and Auf Wiedersehen Amerika.

Prior to producing features, Bruce wrote and directed Raw Images, a nationally distributed documentary, and produced five shorts, including the Student Academy Award® winning film Go to Hell. She also wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning short film Night’s Window. She was featured in the 1986 BBC Special Women in Film along with Barbra Streisand, Susan Seidelman and Joan Micklin Silver.

Bruce has taught international workshops on Independent Feature Film Producing at New York University, Ohio University, Loyola Marymount University and for the George Soros funded Eastern European Film Academy in Groznjan, Croatia. She was appointed to and served on the Chase Manhattan Bank Entertainment Advisory Board from 1994 to 1996.

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Dejan Georgevich, Cinematographer | ASC

Dejan Georgevich | BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Cinematographer | ASC


“Perhaps it all started when I struggled to carry a big old film projector half my size down the hallways of my elementary school,” says cinematographer Dejan Georgevich, ASC. “After experiencing the thrill and power of the film image on a giant screen, captivating several hundred spellbound kids, I was hooked and my journey into the world of cinema began.”

Georgevich has an extensive background as a Cinematographer for feature films, Television series, documentaries and commercials. Most recently, Georgevich was director of photography for the NBC-TV series Mercy and the ABC-TV series, Cupid, (Bobby Cannevale). He was also one of the cinematographer for the controversial NBC-TV series The Book of Daniel (Aidan Quinn and Ellen Burstyn), and CBS-TV series 3 lbs, (Stanley Tucci and Cynthia Nixon).

In addition to over 500 commercials, Georgevich’s work includes the Emmy award-winning CBS-TV series, The Education of Max Bickford (with Richard Dreyfuss, Marcia Gay Harden, Eli Wallach), PBS Hollywood Presents: Copshop (with Richard Dreyfuss, Rita Moreno, Rosie Perez) and CBS’ Now and Again. A partial list of his films include The Beatle Fan (Peter Stormare), Mirrors(Keifer Sutherland), The Emperor’s Club (Kevin Kline), Woo (with Jada Pinkett Smith), and Universal Pictures’ Satan’s Little Helper (with Amanda Plummer).

Georgevich has also helmed the visuals on high-profile documentaries including 2012’s Ordinary Miracles: New York Photo League; 2009’s PBS special, A Wayfarer’s Journey: Listening to Mahler, and the TV pilot, Adoption shot in Romania for Hallmark Channel. In 1995, he filmed the Emmy award-winning documentary film, Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World an HBO production shot in part on location in South Africa with Nelson Mandela. He recently completed filming in El Salvador, South Africa and Indonesia for the World Wildlife Fund.

Dejan’s awards include a 1996 Emmy for HBO’s Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World; 1997 Hamptons’ International Film Festival, Best American Independent Feature Film nomination (Crossing Fields), Emmy nomination for My Sergei(CBS); a Gold Hugo from the Chicago Film Festival, and more than 20 other awards from major international and domestic film festivals.

A respected professor of cinematography (NY’s School of Visual Arts), Dejan Georgevich is a national executive board member of the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600, I.A.T.S.E., and member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), and the Directors Guild of America.

In 2012, Dejan Georgevich received the Deluxe Bud Stone Award for Outstanding Educational Contributions to the Art and Craft of Cinematography from the International Cinematographers Guild.  He holds a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch Graduate Institute of Film, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Denver.  Additionally, Georgevich is a frequent lecturer and panelist at many colleges, universities, and professional symposiums.

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Sinikka Laitamaki, Human Resources

Sinikka Laitamaki | BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Human Resources


Sinikka Laitamaki has an extensive background in corporate human resources. She is an NJ SHRM Award winning Senior Director who develops strategic HR, Talent and OD solutions. Partnering with senior management, Sinikka institutes and oversees each initiative to deliver operational excellence and efficiencies. She engages cross-functional teams to drive customer focused programs and enhance employee commitment. Her focus has been on the following industries: global pharmaceutical, consumer, insurance and information solutions industry experience. She speaks four languages.


HIGH PERFORMANCE from WITHIN, Westfield, NJ | 2012 –
Independent Consultant advising clients on change management, operational effectiveness, talent development and HR

  • Directing a culture change initiative in Europe to enhance customer focus and leadership development.
  • Presented at the NJOD conference on HR/OD, as well as spoke at several universities.
  • Coached and provided career planning and individual mentoring for clients.

THOMSON REUTERS, New York, NY | 2009-2011
Senior Director, Organizational Development, Tax and Accounting
Strategic partner that designed OD strategy to enhance operational efficiencies and to drive a culture change.

  • Led organizational design leadership team and implemented a customer focused global structure.
  • Consulted with the Leadership Team and directed culture change and enhanced performance via operational process improvements. Directed operational excellence teams in multiple locations.
  • Spearheaded acquired GRC’s transformation via Lean Six Sigma. Enhanced sales process and improved product implementation cycle by 50%. Submitted initiative to the Awards of Excellence.
  • Translated Employee Engagement survey results into action plans to create commitment.

Senior Director, Human Resources, Business Compliance & Knowledge Solutions
Developed HR strategy that facilitated culture change and global business growth.

  • Executed succession planning and aligned talent development strategy with global expansion and effectiveness. Focused on talent development and drove employee development program participation to the highest level.
  • Initiated a performance management program to facilitate high performance culture and stretch goal achievement.

ALEXANDER CONSULTING, Westfield, NJ | 2005-2008
Independent Consultant advising clients on HR issues and change strategy.

  • Developed HR strategy for client’s culture change and performance management programs.
  • Created cutting-edge program, High Performance from Within™, and presented at the NJOD Conference.
  • Co-authored articles on HR Strategy and Best Practices; published in the Estonian Business School Review.
  • Conducted customized Leadership Development sessions for Finnish Executive MBAs, NYU and Rutgers MBAs.

GLAXOSMITHKLINE, Global Manufacturing Supply (GMS) | 1995-2004
Director, HR /OD/OE (Simultaneously held HR, Operational Excellence Champion and M&A Roles
Business Partner: Aligned HR systems to facilitate the expansion strategy to 30 markets and KPI implementation.

  • Designed recruiting, talent development and compensation systems based on high performance competencies.
  • Directed the Talent Review program and succession planning and implemented a high potential program.
  • Led off-site leadership sessions focusing on culture profile analysis and leadership excellence.
  • Invited to the Company’s HR Excellence Team to review the HR structure and service delivery model.

Operational Excellence Champion (OE)/Lean Six Sigma – Business Role: Established Operational Excellence function and led operations and culture transformation towards customer focus and teamwork.

  • Led development of vision, culture change and OE strategy. Generated multi-million dollar savings.
  • Achieved ‘silo-breaking’ collaboration via leading cross-divisional improvement teams (Commercial, R&D).
  • Created a talent development strategy that focused on key capabilities needed to deliver results and change.
  • Certified Operational Excellence Assessor that benchmarked operations and HR against worldwide standards. Rolled-out Knowledge Management program with ‘best practices’ sharing. Developed an OE reward program.
  • Directed Kaizens and used other Lean Six Sigma methods to increase efficiencies. Received the President Award.
  • Led teams that improved key processes by 60%, provided flexibility for additional launches, and enhanced customer service. Selected for the company’s Accelerated Operational Excellence ‘Blue Chip’ pilot program.

Merger & Acquisition: Managed all HR aspects of GSK integration of Block Drug and Puerto Rico-900 employees.

  • Successfully completed closure of Puerto Rico and integration of businesses to GSK against accelerated timelines.
  • Key member of Integration Culture and Policy Team that implemented solutions to enhance assimilation.
  • Managed the Integration Workforce Planning and Mission Critical strategy. Received the highest Impact Award for providing HR direction for seamless integration, completed six months ahead of schedule.

Human Resource Manager, SmithKline Beecham | (1995-2000)
Executed the development and implementation of high performance capabilities and culture.

  • Established HR strategy and systems alignment to drive collaborative high performance team operations.
  • Received SHRM Best Practice Award for the design of competency based performance and compensation system.
  • Developed new roles and executed a comprehensive training strategy focused on acquiring critical capabilities.
  • Designed talent development and retention strategy incorporating rotational assignments and ladder movements.

MERCK & CO., Inc., Rahway, NJ | 1989-1995
Manager, HR, Manufacturing (MMD) | (1994-1995)
Designed HR Strategy including culture change and workforce development initiatives and utilized Covey program.

  • Directed a cross-divisional College Recruiting Redesign Team based on ‘Work-Out’ method. Executed a centralized, efficient recruiting program with $1M savings that profiled the company as ‘One Merck’.
  • Key contributor for development and execution of 360° performance review program with global roll-out to 12,000 employees. Leveraged results as one of the key drivers for a culture change towards collaboration.

Associate Manager, HR, Generalist roles in several Business Units (1989-1993)
Recruited for a competitive, rotational HR Development program with strategic moves to various business units.

  • Managed divisional EEO and diversity programs; presented recommendations monthly at President’s meetings.
  • Developed US Compensation hiring salary guidelines for the company. Managed the US Salary Plan.

CORNELL UNIVERSITY, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Ithaca, NY. Recipient of full Netter Scholarship
M.S., Human Resources, Organizational Development and Behavior. Thesis on Recruiting Effectiveness.
TAMPERE UNIVERSITY, Tampere, Finland, M. Ed. Thesis on Accelerated Learning Methods – Suggestopaedia

  • Operational Excellence Model Assessor, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Projects, 360° Feedback Certification
  • Strategic HR Planning Executive Program, University of Michigan Business School
  • Co-Author for ‘Inclusive Multicultural Organizations’ Research Presented at IHRM Conference in Australia
  • Invited Speaker on ‘High Performance Teams’ at the World Congress on HR Management in Venezuela
  • Presented ‘Aligning HR Systems with High Performance Teams Strategy’ at the DDI Conference
  • Cornell Alumni ILR Mentor, Member of SHRM, the NeuroLeadership Institute, ASTD and NJOD Network
  • Founding Member of the Finnish Language School in New York, NY

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Sonia M. Toledo


Youth Activist and After-school Program Specialist


For the past 25 years, Sonia M. Toledo has worked in the after-school field building quality programs for students in elementary through high school.

Currently, Ms. Toledo is Vice President of Youth Development for YMCA of Hartford, CT and is responsible for over 38 after schools and child care centers. Additionally, Ms. Toledo is Founder and CEO of Dignity of Children, Inc. Providing professional development services to after-school organizations and their personnel, Dignity of Children enables organizations to meet the training requirements of the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and School Age Child Care (SACC). It also offers consultation to Community Based Organizations (CBO) to help create strong infrastructure for quality services and design programs to empower families.

Working with children and educators has been Ms. Toledo’s mission. During her first 10 years as a hands-on director for Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, and Children’s Aid Society, Ms. Toledo discovered first-hand the impact a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence has on a child’s future success. During this period, she created a workshop for after-school staff that focused on building a child’s self-esteem. Based on the success of her programs, Ms. Toledo began training and advocacy on a state and a national level.

From conception to institutionalization, Ms. Toledo has been integral to the creation of grass-roots projects for not-for-profit organizations and public schools. As former President of the New York State School Age Care Coalition (NYSSACC), she spearheaded a strategic plan with the Board of Directors to bring the organization to the next level of institutionalization, creating statewide infrastructure to support the building of quality after-school programs and enhancing professionalism in the field. In 1998, Ms. Toledo became a National Endorser for the National After School Association, assessing after school programs for accreditation, a position she still holds today.

During Ms. Toledo’s nine years at Child Care, Inc., she streamlined and upgraded the school-age department to deliver nationally recognized standards and best practices to thousands of program directors and staff members of after-school programs throughout New York City.

As a single mother of two sons, Ms. Toledo has faced the challenges of raising boys in New York City, and the experience has clarified and energized her passion for making a difference in the lives of whole families—not just children. It was out of this passion that in 2008, Ms. Toledo founded Dignity of Children, Inc. Along with providing professional services, DOC’s mission is to create programs that support entire families holistically. This vision acknowledges the fact that working with only a child still leaves a gap; children experience a greater sense of success when their families are included in programs. Ms. Toledo’s approach is to educate adults, parents, caregivers, and teachers by helping them to create environments for children that will make them feel emotionally safe and develop their self-worth.

Additional Career Notations

  • Supported the first New York City nationally accredited Program: the Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc. As of February 8th 2011, (CPC) P.S. 124 became the first urban NYC accredited program.
  • 2007: Designed a curriculum and structure for the Adult Literacy Program at Baychester Youth Council, Inc., in the Bronx, preparing more than 200 adults annually to earn their GEDs, get a better job, or continue their education.
  • 2006: Designed and implemented a Supplemental Educational Services (SES) program to tutor more than 150 elementary students in English Language Learners (ESL) at the Bayche ster Youth Council, Inc., in the Bronx.
  • 2004-2002: Led a working committee to develop and implement the New York State School Age Care Credential. Guided a statewide collaborative, with 14 statewide host organizations, to provide preparation coursework for more than 300 candidates. As of December 2004,245 professionals were successfully credentialed. Today, New York State is leading the country in providing a professional credential for after-school providers.
  • 2003: Designed a curriculum and developed a structure for Youth Works: the School Age Care Training Program. The program trains 19–21-year-olds in eight competency goals to demonstrate their understanding of child development and their knowledge of how to work with school age-children in after-school environments.

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