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Meet Our Staff

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Amatullah Mervin
Executive Director

Amatullah Mervin (she/hers) is a Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts native. She is experienced in youth and community organizing, social justice program development and organizational leadership. As a youth and community organizer herself for 10+ years, her work has placed her at the center of supporting youth with recognizing their power and using that power to fight for liberation in grassroots movements. She has successfully worked on numerous campaigns both in the city of Boston and around the nation including Youthway on the MBTA, ending Stop-and-Frisk in New York City and the work to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Amatullah is a lover of people, travel, good food, culture and difficult conversations around justice, equity and the fight to dismantle oppression for Black youth especially.  Her  sheros include Fannie Lou Hamer, Assata Shakur & Ella Baker, and she models much of her work after their ideology and methodology. Amatullah holds a B.A. in Sociology and has her Masters in Theology from Boston University.

What's your favorite memory of The City School?
My favorite memory​ of The City School is having my niece (Janessa, SLP '17') get in the car after attending the SLP retreat and explaining how much she would forever be changed from the 3 days and 2 nights she spent with her SLP cohort. It reminded me of the moment I realized youth organizing and social justice education has the power to drastically change who you are for the better.

Favorite TV Show:
Grey's Anatomy (a show created by a dope Black woman, which makes it revolutionary in my book)

Favorite Poem:
In the Event of My Demise by Tupac Shakur

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Shanick Chacon
Operations Manager

Shanick (she/hers) grew up in Roxbury and is Afro-Latina. She graduated from Lesley University with a bachelor’s in Global studies. She also minored in Africana Studies, Sociology, and Psychology. She found her passion for social justice work in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin. Since then, she has been eager to contribute to social justice and bring awareness to the many social problems that plague our society. Shanick first began working with TCS two years ago as an intern; learning about the ins and outs of community organizing. Then, Shanick worked as a Lead Facilitator during SLP 2021. These two experiences  alowed her to learn and fall more in love with community work.

What's something that inspires you and helps you sustain hope?

Community!! One of my favorite sayings is “it takes a village,” because it truly does! How can you not feel hopeful when you have people who are willing to support you in any way that they can? Witnessing my village and other villages that operate in love and mindfulness is always an inspiring sight. 

If you could have coffee with one revolutionary, who would it be and why?

I would love to have coffee with the late bell hooks. I would LOVE to discuss how she believed self-love and wholeness are forms of resistance against white supremacy. Her analysis and strong advocacy for love, in its many forms, have always resonated with me. 

What’s a surprising or interesting fact about you?

I am not sure if this is a very interesting fact, but I LOVE Oreos. Oreos are not just milk’s favorite cookies, but mine. A top-tier cookie in my opinion. 

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Ziquelle Smalls
Summer Leadership Program and Social Justice Leadership Institute Director

With a family history and childhood roots in Boston’s movement ecosystem, Ziquelle (they/he) has been involved and grew up with a multitude of youth organizations, and has deep roots in organizations and movement formations in Boston and South Florida. Ziquelle is committed to the development of leaders who will lead future movements in their lifetime. 

Now,  Ziquelle is the Senior Organizer at Community Labor United and The City School’s SLP & SJLI Director working to advance an assessment of the youth organizing field and support the development of leadership institutes in Boston.

What's your favorite memory of The City School?

My favorite memory of The City School was likely directing a youth-led education conference in August of 2013 called “Educate to Liberate” where organizing teachers aligned with students who deeply cared about issues of education, racial justice, ageism, and more.

If you could have coffee with one revolutionary, who would it be and why?
I would love to have conversations and coffee with Amilcar Cabral, who is an inspiration to many as he was one of Africa’s leading anti colonialists and Marxian theorists in the struggle against Portuguese rule in Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.

A song or artist you would recommend?

Listening to music is a huge part of resilience for me and I've been loving an artist named Keshi, whose music brings me feelings of tenderness and passion. I've been listening to “Somebody” and “Touch,” which are songs I'd recommend.

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Tara Venkatraman
Director of Programs and Strategy

Tara Deviki Venkatraman (she/hers) is the Director of Programs and Strategy at The City School and a youth worker, organizer, political educator and therapist. Tara has been rooted in Boston-area racial justice youth organizing for over a decade. From 2011-2017, Tara served as a youth worker and Program Director at The City School, where she co-directed the Summer Leadership Program and Pathways to Change. During that time, Tara also organized with Youth Justice and Power Union in their campaign to decrease funding for police to increase funding for youth jobs in Boston. 


As a Licensed Clinical social worker, Tara is also committed to building out mental health and transformative justice practices within communities of color and organizing spaces. She has a therapy practice focused on young people and young adults of color. Tara also loves reading, writing, astrology, teaching people to drive, baking, watching basketball and all things superhero (including grassroots organizing groups!)

What are a few of the issues you're passionate about and why?

I am passionate about abolition and transformative justice, and the current work TCS is doing to fight for non-police, community-based models of collective care.

What is a favorite book or TV show?

So many! A few favorite shows are: Schitts Creek, She-Ra and We Are Lady Parts. Too many favorite books to count, but some that I return to are: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, An Unncessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, and Last Days by Tamiko Beyer.

What is a surprising or interesting fact about you?

People are often surprised that I am a huge Celtics fan!

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Mariko Dodson
Social Justice Leadership Institute + Social Justice Education Institute Coordinator & Coach 

Mariko Dodson (she/hers) grew up in Boston and is proud to call both New England and Southern California home. As a 4th generation (Yonsei) Japanese American, Mariko feels pulled to the intersection of her multiracial heritage. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Occidental College, and her true passion lies developing grassroots leadership for social change. Popular education, community building, martial arts, meditation, home-cooked foods and song are some of her favorite tools in the journey towards liberation. 

What's something that inspires you and helps you sustain hope? The return of spring, year after year, gives me an incredible bodily, felt sense of hope.

What's a surprising or interesting fact about you?

I’m learning to ride a bike at 28 years old!


Favorite TV Show

Steven Universe


Favorite Song

Que Será, Será by Sly and the Family Stone


Favorite Book

Radical Dharma by Lama Rod Owens and Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams


Favorite Poem

Right now I’m re-reading I Worried by Mary Oliver

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Patricha Paul
Director of Finance

Patricha Paul (she/hers) is a sharp, driven professional with more than 14 years of proven experience in banking, accounting and business operations, and a specialized ability to design tools for greater efficiency and profitability. She has earned a reputation as a perceptive and practical troubleshooter with a unique ability to solve large-scale problems often deemed too challenging for others. Patricha was formerly TCS's Accounting Specialist and currently serves as the Director of Finance.

What's something that inspires you and helps you sustain hope? My Faith & Spirituality 

What's a surprising or interesting fact about you?
I was a cheerleader in high school.

What are a few of the issues that you're most passionate about and why?
Human rights, government oppression and economic equality.

Favorite TV Show/Movie:

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Betiel Brhane
Pathways to Change Program Director

Betiel Brhane (she/hers) is an SLP grad from 2015, and has worked at The City School in many capacities from then through now, including as a Youth Staff, Lead Facilitator and Pathways Director in SLP. Currently, Betiel is our Pathways to Change school-year program director. Betiel has organized in many capacities in Boston, including with Youth Justice and Power Union. Betiel is also an undergraduate student at UMass Boston, working to become a math teacher.


What's your favorite memory of The City School?

My most formative experience is my memory is the Speak Out from my first SLP. Hearing peers talk about things that impacted them in angry, funny ways was really helpful for me. It was the first time that I felt moved to speak loudly, and I felt a lot of power and “aha” moments from that. 

What's something that inspires you and helps you sustain hope?

Lately I’ve been trying to practice Mariame Kaba’s wise and precise words where she shares that hope is a discipline. There are many days where I feel like things are overwhelming, and the things that we are fighting against are really big. What keeps me hopeful is my family, and the practice of programming. In Pathways, the rituals that we have in place that have been co-created by the Pathways youth and staff: starting programming with tea together, having a grounded and honest check in at the start of program -- all of these rituals have been giving me hope. I’m trying to show up to those places with a lot of trust, and offer care to myself and other people. 

Board of Directors

Talia Attar (SLP '18)

Yasmin Bailey

Shaquanda Brown

Connie Chow

Paula Lozano

Whitney Golden

Max Greenberg
Nastasia Lawton-Sticklor
Wendy Ramos (SLP '03)

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