Our Team

Staff & Board

Laura McCargar

Laura McCargar


Laura McCargar was appointed as President of the Perrin Family Foundation (PFF) in June of 2016. Laura joined the foundation in 2011 as a Program Officer, where she played a central role in designing the foundation’s youth-led social change grantmaking and the oversaw the development and implementation of capacity building initiatives designed to strengthen, promote and expand youth organizing across Connecticut.Laura’s work in the philanthropic sector and her deep belief in the power of youth-led social change is informed by her experience as a youth worker and organizer.

Prior to joining the Perrin Family Foundation, Laura was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship from Open Society Foundations to engage in research and organizing around the previously little known role that alternative schools and adult education programs play in Connecticut’s school-to-prison pipeline. From 2002-2010, Laura served as the founding Executive Director of Youth Rights Media, a New Haven-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth to use media and organizing strategies to create community change.

During her tenure at Youth Rights Media, young people created dozens of award-winning films and documentaries and launched successful campaigns to improve police training, reform the state’s juvenile and criminal justice system and challenge the use of punitive school discipline policies. In 2007, Laura was awarded the International Reebok Human Rights Award in recognition of her outstanding efforts to advance youth justice.Laura’s commitment to social and racial justice was born and nurtured in her hometown of Oakland, California where as a high school she vividly remembers participating in student protests, walkouts, and facilitating know-your-rights workshops.

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in 2002 with a degree in American Studies. In the time since, she has authored several publications about youth, education, and organizing in Connecticut including Invisible Students (2011) and A New Role for CT Youth: Leaders of Social Change (2013).In addition to her work at the Perrin Family Foundation, Laura serves on the board of the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing, a national organization that works to build a more powerful, well-resourced, and interconnected youth organizing field. She resides in New Haven and is a proud mother of two.

Amarilis Perez
Amarilis Perez


Amarilis joined the Perrin Family Foundation as a program officer in 2016.  Prior to joining PFF, Amarilis worked at the Educational Alliance, a settlement house in the Lower East Side of New York City.  During her ten year tenure there, she navigated various roles in the Youth Development department, starting in direct practice work and over time transitioning to the Director of Adolescent Services where she managed a vibrant youth development department serving over 1,700 pre-teens, teens and young adults annually.

As a youth development practitioner, Amarilis designed, implemented and managed initiatives that bridged leadership development, college access, visual arts, social emotional wellness, undergirded by an anti-oppressive lens and analysis.  Amarilis earned a Bachelors of Arts in from Temple University and a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University.

Mercedes MacAlpine


Mercedes currently serves as the Program Associate at The Perrin Family Foundation. Prior to joining The Perrin Family Foundation in 2017, Mercedes served as an AmeriCorps Public Ally in Hartford. Through that nonprofit management apprenticeship, she gained invaluable skills, working with teammates to record and analyze qualitative data, host community events, and collaborate with local organizations. She was formally partnered with Husky Programs and UCONN Husky Sport where she curated social media content and delivered wellness education through a sports-based youth-development lens to students in Hartford.

With a background in systems analysis and social change, in college, Mercedes enjoyed community-building work, and participated in both grassroots activism and administrative efforts towards campus change. Recognizing that so much of her personal growth and success thus far has come from the support, guidance, and compassion of those around her, she has experienced first-hand the transformative power of youth-adult partnerships, and is excited to be beginning this work in the philanthropic field. A former New York resident, Mercedes likes city streets and summer heat, and looks forward to learning more about New Haven and the culture of the city. Mercedes earned a Bachelors of Arts in from Amherst College.

Sheila Perrin


Sheila founded the Perrin Family Foundation with her husband, Charlie in 1994. In her position as president and with the experience of working with many CT non-profit boards, she has actively stewarded the foundation’s evolution from a more traditional family foundation with general funding priorities to one with a specific mission and focus areas.

Closely working with the PFF board which includes her husband, two sons and daughter in law and PFF Staff, Sheila led the development of a strategy which moved youth voice to the center of PFF grant making. Her past experience as a teacher and youth counselor helped her to understand the importance of listening to youth who know best about the issues in their lives.



Chiedza Rodriguez


Chiedza Rodriguez is the Chief Executive Officer of GARO Consulting, a technical assistance and training company. Mrs. Rodriguez is a youth advocate and a seasoned facilitator. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Human Services, specializing in Organizational Management and Leadership. Chiedza has 12 years of experience working in the youth service field, seven of which focused on training Hartford youth to conduct Participatory Action Research projects.

During her tenure as the Training and Capacity Building Coordinator for the City of Hartford Office for Youth Services, Chiedza facilitated the city’s youth commission, ultimately leading to the youth planning and leading the annual Youth 4 Change Conference. She is an Adjunct Professor at Capital Community College where she teaches a psychology course on group dynamics, and where she worked as part of a team to design the curriculum for the Community Change Studies degree program. In addition, she currently works as the Director of Talent Development at Our Piece of the Pie where she is charged with the ongoing training of all 65 staff. Her interests include: social justice; curriculum design; group facilitation; youth leadership; and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender issues.

Caprice Taylor-Mendez


Caprice Taylor-Mendez is currently a social change agent consultant for non-profits and youth development institutions, focusing on organizing, policy advocacy, grant writing and strategic planning. Prior to her work as a consultant, she was the Youth Service Director for the City of New Haven. Caprice has more than 18 years of experience leading policy advocacy and organizing efforts with youth and adults to address issues on health, education, and land development at a local, statewide, and national level. In her work as an organizer in Massachusetts she helped build campaigns that led to gaining land for a youth educational and recreational facility, initiating community wide voter mobilization efforts, over $4 million in funding allocations for specific public schools, and creating state wide coalitions to address health disparities.

She has served on various non-profit boards for over the past ten years, including serving as a founding board member of Oiste – a Massachusetts-based Latino political non-profit, and as former Board President of City Life, which sought to increase affordable housing opportunities organizing against unjust evictions and predatory lending. Caprice is a first-generation Guatemalan raised in New Haven. She has a Masters degree from Harvard University’s School of Education in Administration, Social Policy and Planning, and an undergraduate degree in psychology from Boston College

Lorenzo Jones


Lorenzo Jones is the Executive Director of A Better Way Foundation (ABWF). No stranger to social justice, Mr. Jones has spent 20 years as a community organizer and executive director and has trained organizers, advocates, community leaders, and not-­‐for-­‐profit staffers across the United States and Europe. Mr. Jones came to ABWF in 2005. He had developed successful local and statewide community organizing campaigns for criminal justice reform, access to healthcare, prescription drug assistance for low and fixed income families, drug treatment, pretrial diversion for nonviolent offenders, and comprehensive partnerships between city/state staff business owners, faith-­‐based groups and community residents.

These campaigns have made CT a national model for progressive drug policy as well as helped to protect of healthcare benefits, establish Hartford’s Community Court, and developed hundreds of new leaders across the state. In addition, under the direction of Mr. Jones, ABWF has supported youth programming with parents who are either formerly or currently incarcerated, helped to set up multiple advocacy groups that are led by women of color, and collaborated with international advocacy groups to train drug policy reformers in more than 10 states and contribute to international working groups on Drug Policy Reform in Poland (Open Society Institute), Budapest (Council of Europe’s Pompidou Group), the Czech Republic, and Jamaica. In 2011 Philanthropedia recognized ABWF as a top 20 organization doing criminal justice reform in the United States, and in 2013 the Drug Policy Alliance awarded Mr. Jones with the Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action.