BEST Staff

Marie Downey is the Executive Director of BEST. Her passion and commitment to hotel workers is born out of personal experience. In 1984, Marie got a job as a food server at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. This job with a Collective Bargaining Agreement changed the course of her life. A high school dropout who grew up in poverty in South Boston, she had been working as a waitress at low wages with no benefits. With a well-paid job in a beautiful downtown hotel, her view of life expanded and, over the years, she found her voice and took advantage of the comprehensive benefits package available to her. While working at the hotel, Marie went back to school and eventually received a Master’s in Social Work from Boston College. She worked for over twenty years at Modern Assistance Programs (MAP), an employee assistance program where she witnessed the challenges facing the largest segment of employees in the hospitality industry: immigrants. In 2004 she founded BEST Corp.

At BEST, Marie comes face-to-face with hotel workers who are where she was 30 years ago. She knows that the $55 for a pair of nonskid shoes for your first day of work can be the difference between success or failure. She knows that a dental plan that can transform one’s smile can also transform one’s life. She used the first time homebuyer’s grant to purchase her first home. She has since repaid the loan and that money was used by another hotel worker to become a homeowner. She knows, from personal and professional experience, how access to mental and physical health care allows people to retain good jobs and become healthy and successful in life. She understands and promotes the importance of UNITE HERE Local 26 as the foundation that supports hotel workers. Marie’s life journey is the template for the approach BEST believes in: good training, good jobs, and good benefits create pathways out of poverty.

Marie has been a board member of Julie’s Family Learning Program, Maria Droste Services, Edwina Martin House and other community agencies. In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick appointed Marie to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Workforce Investment Board and in 2010, she was appointed to the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Advisory Board. She received the distinction of “Marano Fellow” from the Sector Skills Academy in 2010, as well as a certificate of achievement from the Institute for Non Profit Management and Leadership at Boston University. Marie completed LeadBoston’s experiential executive program in 2013., x 207

Joan Abbot, Assistant Director, works closely with the Executive Director and oversees data management as well as the education program. Joan has over 20 years of experience as an ESOL teacher, teacher trainer and supervisor both in the U.S. and abroad (Sudan and Thailand). She has taught workforce development for hospitality in pre-employment and incumbent worker programs, and holds an M.Ed from Harvard University. Joan earned a certificate in Non-Profit Management and Leadership from Boston University and completed LeadBoston’s experiential executive program. Joan is a member of the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Advisory Board., x 203

Katherine Bailey is BEST’s Data Manager. She has over seven years of database management and data analysis experience at other workforce development nonprofits including JVS Boston and the International Institute of New England. Katherine has a B.A. in Anthropology and Sociology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Data Analytics at Southern New Hampshire University. She manages BEST’s Salesforce for Nonprofits database and is responsible for data quality, data security, reporting, and process improvement., x 214

Nelly Chan is a Career Coach and has taught literacy at BEST. Clients work with her to get jobs and/or promotions and reach other personal goals. Nelly is also a caseworker at Modern Assistance Program, the employee assistance program for Local 26 hotel workers and has worked there since 1997. In that role, she has helped hundreds of hotel workers and their families with their mental health, substance abuse and alternative care issues. Nelly speaks and writes English, Cantonese and Mandarin., x 307

Huiling Chen, Program Manager, manages BEST’s English for Hospitality classes as well as the volunteer program and supervises all EFH teachers. She brings over fifteen years of ESOL teaching experience, two years of professional guest service experience, and a firsthand understanding of the hospitality industry. Huiling first joined BEST as a student in our Room Attendant Training Program in 2011 and began working at BEST in the fall of 2011. Huiling is a member of the Community Advisory Council at First Literacy. She is fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English., x 205 Save & Exit

Joe Coughlin is the Financial Controller at BEST Hospitality Training. He has over 21 years of financial management experience at other non-profits such as Father Bill’s and MainSpring, Inc., the Bromley Health Tenant Management Corporation, and Volunteers of America in Jamaica Plain. Joe has a B.S. in Management from Boston State College. At BEST Hospitality Training, Joe handles all the financial operations., x 204

Mary Cronin brings over 30 years of experience in professional kitchens to BEST’s Hospitality Training Center. Mary joined the team in 2008 to design and teach the culinary skills program. Her role has expanded greatly since, and she is currently the Director of Skills Training and Operations. Mary oversees all skills training programs, including Culinary, On-Call Banquet Server, and the Introduction to Hospitality Training Program. A seasoned manager, she also supervises the skills training team and all facilities management. Mary is fluent in Brazilian Portuguese and a certified trainer in TiPS, MA Allergens, Red Cross Chokesaver, and Food Safety., x 213

Hallie D’Angelo is interning with BEST as part of her MSW program at Boston College School of Social Work. She splits her time between the incumbent and the job seeker programs, helping clients advance in their personal and professional lives.

Edwin Gonzalez began working at BEST as an AmeriCorps member in 2011. Since completing his service year, Edwin now works in the front office as Intake Coordinator. He greets visitors, handles intake for new clients, and helps students register for classes and trainings. Edwin speaks fluent Spanish and studies Business and Administration at Bunker Hill Community College., x 216

William Gove, began serving as a Massachusetts Service Alliance Commonwealth Corps member at BEST in August of 2018. He is BEST’s Resource and Referral Specialist, helping people who need all kinds of services, beyond what BEST can provide in-house. He studied at Tulane’s AB Freeman School of Business for two years and found BEST while looking to learn more about non-profits. Originally from Boston, Bill is grateful for the opportunity to be of service in his community., x 309

Lauren Greenwood joined BEST Hospitality as an AmeriCorps member in 2018. She recently received a B.S. in Human Development from Brigham Young University. As a BEST Career Coach, Lauren will be helping individuals from the community secure employment and gain financial stability. Lauren is excited to be on a team with passionate individuals who share the same mission., x 305

Chau (Rachel) Huynh, is BEST’s Northeastern Coop student and is part of the career coaching team in our Dudley Square location. At Northeastern, Rachel is studying for a B.S. in Business Administration., x 312

Alexis Kubana is a Computer Instructor. He joined BEST in August 2017 as our Massachusetts Service Alliance Commonwealth Corps Volunteer Management Specialist. In this role, he recruited, trained and supported BEST volunteers, in particular tutors to help with English, citizenship, math, or computers. Before working at BEST, Alexis worked with his fellow refugees as a trainer and a field coordinator for six years in East Africa. He is skilled in capacity building, volunteer management, education, and community outreach.

Shery Murphy, Director, Employment Services, oversees the development, implementation, and management of BEST Hospitality Training’s career programs. Leading and supporting a team of career counselors, she designs, facilitates, and coordinates program activities for unemployed and underemployed, multi-cultural clients that allow for their personal and professional growth. Shery has over 18 years of HR leadership experience, most recently at Verizon Wireless, designing and driving HR strategies to meet business objectives. In addition to workforce development, Shery’s skills include organizational design, talent management, talent acquisition, compensation administration, employee relations, HRIS, and training. She has also served extensively in numerous communities across the U.S, supporting equal employment opportunity, fair housing, and domestic violence programs. She has a BBA and MBA in Human Resources Management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications, and is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management., x 302

Aisha Necoechea, Workforce Development Strategist, joined BEST in September 2016. She is responsible for brand implementation, grants development and management, funding procurement, and strategic planning. Aisha began her career at the International Institute of New England as an Employment Specialist and over the next 14 years moved on to become Training Programs Manager, Director of Workforce Development, and Site Director. In addition, she served as President of the Job Training Alliance from 2014 to 2016. Aisha holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and Religious Studies from Emmanuel College and is fluent in Spanish. As an immigrant herself, she understands the needs and barriers that immigrants face when they arrive in this country., x 210

Mei Ngo began as a volunteer Tech Assistant at BEST and is now the Instructor and Technology Manager. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in Communication. She has previously taught international young adults as well as tutored adult learners one-on-one., x 206

Dorrie Nord is Lead Skills Instructor at BEST Hospitality Training. Dorrie has been an Adult Educator and Program Coordinator in the Boston area for more than 15 years. During her career, she has provided Workplace Readiness training at St. Francis House Moving Ahead Program, ESOL and College Prep instruction at 1199 SEIU Training & Upgrading Fund, and High School Equivalency preparation at Julie’s Family Learning Program. She completed graduate coursework in Mathematics Education at Harvard University Extension School and holds a BA from Wesleyan University, an AA from Hartford College for Women, and a Certificate in Arts Administration from New York University.

Luther Pinckney, Community Engagement Specialist, comes to BEST with more than 20 years of experience in hotels and restaurants. His approach to recruitment, training and coaching of students is sure to increase diversity hiring and promotion. The BEST mission aligns with Luther’s commitment to improve diversity and inclusion at every level in the Greater Boston hospitality industry. We welcome Mr. Pinckney to BEST Hospitality Training Center.

Brenda Richardson is the Program Coordinator at BEST Hospitality Training’s Dudley Square location. In her role, Brenda is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the office ensuring efficient and effective operations and coordinating all issues affecting the daily operations of the office. She provides gracious and responsive support to our students as well as to those seeking training. She also manages all administrative aspects of the intake process. Prior to joining BEST in 2013, Brenda worked as an administrative assistant at STRIVE in Dorchester. In addition to her extensive experience in non-profits, she has also held office manager and administrative positions within healthcare and information technology organizations. Brenda is a Katharine Gibbs School alumni and is certified in computer technical support systems, accounting technologies, and office skills. She is proficient in the use of Salesforce and is certified to conduct BEST Plus tests., x 301

Olivia Shiffman joined BEST Hospitality as an AmeriCorps member in 2018. She serves as an English for Hospitality and Citizenship instructor in Medford. She has several years of experience in the hospitality industry, working as a banquet server and bartender. She is currently a student at the University of Massachusetts pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology., x 202

Peter Swank is a Skills Instructor at BEST. He has over 11 years of experience in customer service and hospitality plus 12 years as a corporate manager. He has lived in five countries and is passionate about multiculturalism. He is certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Coffee/Barista, Food Safety, TIPS, and Microsoft systems. He is preparing for his Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. He holds a double Masters Degree in Human Capital Management and International Business from Bellevue University in Nebraska. His Bachelors in Business Information Systems is also from Bellevue. During his spare time, he volunteers with the New England Aquarium, attends concerts and performing arts events, and enjoys sailing on the Charles River and in Boston Harbor.

Lori Sylvia is the Apprenticeship Director and has been both a Career Coach and a Lead Instructor for the Room Attendant Training Program, the Mel King Empowerment Program – Introduction to Hospitality Class, and the Professional Guest Services Class at BEST. She has over 15 years of experience in human resources, most recently with The Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Lori brings a wealth of knowledge to BEST with her hotel experience as well as her expertise in teaching topics such as customer service and professionalism. She has managed hotel recruitment, conducted associate and manager training and provided career counseling to countless hotel workers. She is certified in the behavioral interview techniques used by Starwood Hotels and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Bates College and a Human Resource Management Certificate from Bentley University., x 212

Jerry Wheelock has been managing the implementation of SalesForce since February 2013. He is responsible for data integrity, reporting, and processes. Jerry worked for 14 years in Information Technology in the private sector and is now returning to the non-profit world. He has a Master’s in Vocational Rehabilitation and in Computer Science.

Marsha Wise, Career Coach, brings a rich work history to BEST, including jobs in government, human services and for many years a college instructor at a mortuary college. She knows about preparing students for careers with demanding standards. Marsha wants to help students identify and assess their own transferable job skills so they can keep excelling in their chosen careers., x 304

Lifen Yang has 20 years of work experience in an office administration setting abroad and in the United States. In addition, she has teaching experience with both, children and adults. Lifen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English as a Foreign Language from Granite State College and an Interpretation Certificate from Cambridge College. Lifen has been at BEST since 2015 as an Office Assistant and Tutor, where she performs a range of administrative duties and tutors individuals in the Education Program to help students improve their language skills.

Patrick Yu is BEST’s evening Office Assistant. Patrick has many years of experience working in the restaurant industry and also is trained as a literacy and ESOL tutor. At BEST, Patrick does a myriad of other administrative office tasks.