Use technology to enhance education and stimulate imaginations of students in underdeveloped countries while respecting and incorporating values of the local culture — especially cooperation over competition, community over the individual, modesty over pride, and spirituality over materiality.
All students in underdeveloped countries experiencing the joys of technology: efficient production, easy access to information, and communication with others
Board of Directors
Matt Cohen, CPA, Chair
Matt Cohen is a partner at Curcio & Cohen, CPA’s, P.C. Matthew joined the firm in 1995. He specializes in auditing and financial statement preparation, planning and tax services for corporations, partnerships and individuals, handling traditional attest functions, due diligence examinations for banking institutions and special non-attest engagements. Internally, Matthew heads the firm’s peer review committee and internal monitoring program. Matthew is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. He is a graduate of Brooklyn College.
Janice Lathen, Founder & President
Janice Lathen was inspired to start Powering Potential in 2006 during a school visit in the Karatu District of Tanzania which was part of a safari vacation. After introducing herself in Swahili, she was overwhelmed by the students’ expression of appreciation and the heartfelt connection she experienced. Janice has been an entrepreneur throughout her career. Prior to starting Powering Potential, she managed her computer consulting business in New York City, specializing in training. Previously, she worked as an actress and a model after receiving a B.A. degree in Communications and Theater from the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota.
Greg Obenshain, Treasurer
Greg Obenshain manages Obenshain Capital, a corporate credit investment firm. He previously ran investment portfolios at Apollo Global Management and Stone Tower Capital. Prior thereto he completed GE’s post-MBA leadership program. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
James Allen is an Operations Group Supervisor at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. James is the organizer of the largest LGBTQIA Vegan Meetup in the country – VegOutNYC. He is an abolitionist regarding animal exploitation and lobbies in Albany on behalf of animal protection bills going before the New York State Legislature. He has worked locally to ban the carriage horse industry in New York City. James also serves as a volunteer at the New York Insight Meditation Center in NYC. He holds a B.A. from New York University.
Nile was for 30-years a Biology and Physics teacher in Oakland, CA. Nile was known as a creative teacher who centered his programs on activities, experimentation, and students working cooperatively. A native of Minnesota, Nile got his BA from U. of Minnesota. Brought to California by the army, he did post-graduate work at San Francisco State and Cal State-Hayward. He went on a research expedition to Mt. Orizaba, Mexico where he collected amphibian and reptile specimens which are now housed at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Nile devoted many hours at the PC Clubhouse in Hayward, a volunteer computer group that refurbished donated computers and gave them to schools. Fascinated by the Raspberry Pi computer, he enthusiastically supports Powering Potential.
Eng. Albin Mathias
Albin Mathias was born and grew up in Arusha in the north of Tanzania. He went to Tanga Technical Secondary School in 2002 and then to Old Moshi High School in 2006. After graduation he worked as physics and chemistry teacher at Banjika Secondary School where he was able to get more practice working with computers, and he conducted Technology Tent training events at Banjika, Noonkodin and Oltoroto schools, introducing computer to secondary and high school students. In 2014 he graduated from St. Joseph University in Tanzania with a degree of Bachelor of Engineering in Information Systems and Network Engineering. He has served as Powering Potential’s Country Director since 2011.
Janice Lathen is an entrepreneur and in 1987 she started a computer consulting business in New York City specializing in training. Her clients included Citibank, Time Warner, Saturday Night Live, Lippincott & Margulies, Bard College, Spence School, Al Franken and Jimmy Breslin. Prior to starting her computer business Janice worked as an actress and a model. Fulfilling a childhood dream to visit Africa and see animals living freely, Janice safaried to Tanzania in 2006. When she introduced herself in Swahili to a classroom of students, they burst into excited applause and she was stunned by their deep appreciation. She decided then to go home, raise money and come back to the school with ten computers and spend time teaching them how to use the computers. From that experience Powering Potential was born and in 2010 Janice gave up her 23-year computer consulting business to focus full-time on growing Powering Potential. The animals drew Janice to Tanzania and the Tanzanians draw her back. Their extraordinary warmth and gentleness, uplifting spirit, and deep sense of appreciation inspire her to action.
Rich Segal earned his Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Washington. He is a member of the research staff at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center where he researches the application of artificial-intelligence and machine-learning techniques to real-world business problems. Rich and his wife Joanna are the parents of three girls. Rich is an avid bicyclist who has completed the 200-mile Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic nine times. Rich’s charitable interests include Africa, children with special needs, and epilepsy. He also serves as a board member of the Segal Family Foundation, a strong supporter of Powering Potential since its inception.
V. Ena Haines
V. Ena Haines recently retired from her position as Director of Information Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, leading the IT department of 45 staff who handle everything from faculty and student computing to administrative systems, the data network, desktop support, telephony and cable TV in the dorms. She has previously worked at other institutions of higher education, over the course of 40+ years in IT. Her interest is in making technology work for people, particularly enabling activities that are not really feasible otherwise. She holds a BA from Smith College in Biochemistry (summa cum laude) and a Master’s in Library Science. A lifelong New Yorker, Ena first visited Africa in 2009 and found the engaging people as unforgettable as the majesty of the Serengeti. Seeing the work that Powering Potential had begun at Banjika School, she and her husband Michael were inspired to support its growth.
Dana Rensi is an Educational Media Specialist in the Ashland, Oregon school district. She is a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching recipient with a BA in Spanish and Education and an MA in Education/Educational Technology from Southern Oregon University, and has twenty years’ experience teaching Spanish in the United States. Throughout her career, she has taught and worked in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Peru. In 2006 she was selected to participate in a year-long Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in Iquitos, Peru. She is leading Powering Potential’s Peruvian expansion.
Eng. Albin Mathias, Country Director
Albin was born and grew up in Arusha in the north of Tanzania. He went to Tanga Technical Secondary School in 2002 and then to Old Moshi High School in 2006. After graduation he worked as physics and chemistry teacher at Banjika Secondary School where he was able to get more practice working with computers, and he conducted Technology Tent training events at Banjika, Noonkodin and Oltoroto schools, introducing computer to secondary and high school students. In 2014 he recently graduated from St. Joseph University in Tanzania with a degree of Bachelor of Engineering in Information Systems and Network Engineering. He has served as Powering Potential’s Country Director since 2010.
Neema Lyimo, ICT Manager
Neema Lyimo Earned her Diploma in Computer Engineering at JR Institute of Information and Technology (JRIIT) in Arusha, Tanzania. She started working at Powering Potential as a Computer technician in June 2014, where she builds on her experience in networking, computer software and hardware.
Denis Christopher, Technical Consultant/Social Media Manager
Denis Christopher was born and grew up Mwanza in the lake Zone of Tanzania. He went to Tabora Boys’ Secondary School in 2002 and then to Tarime High School in 2006. From June 2008 to July 2009 he was working at African Barrick Gold (ABG) as Process Plant Operator. In 2009 he joined St Joseph University in Tanzania and graduated on December 2013. He is a Graduate Engineer in Information System Systems and Network Engineering with Membership Number 9840 and a Member of The Institution of Engineers Tanzania (IET). After graduation he worked as Computer Preventive Maintenance Engineer at Computer Information Systems (CIS) where he was able to get more practice working with Computer Hardware and Software.
Elitumaini Rweyemamu, Community Relations Manager
Elitumaini Rweyemamu, was born in the Mang’ola valley near lake Eyasi. He holds Bachelor of Education in Language and Management from Mzumbe University. Elitumaini is one of Powering Potential’s first beneficiaries. He studied his primary Education at Mangola and joined our pilot school Banjika for secondary Education, he later went to Majengo high school in Kilimanjaro for advanced level studies. Elitumaini attended various short courses in agriculture from Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), and Horticulture Institute Tengeru, Arusha. He also worked as literature teacher at Tumaini Junior school and Ganako High school.
Lydia Sierra, Development Director
Lydia Sierra established Lydia Sierra Consulting, LLC in 2005. She is a Bronx native whose life experiences have given her a unique aptitude for understanding and addressing the needs of underrepresented communities. She holds a Masters of Administration in Human Services and has more than two decades’ experience working with faith- and community-based organizations. Her passions include youth development, juvenile justice, arts education, and community development. Lydia specializes in fund development, executive coaching and organizational development training.
Zack Sherzad, Writer
Zack Sherzad is a native Californian and returned Peace Corps volunteer (Tanzania 2012-2014). He believes the sum total of human knowledge is a shared resource, and dreams of a future where everyone, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status, has unrestricted access to the internet. When he isn’t writing for Powering Potential, he’s writing for himself.
Emmanuel Ackerman, Software Engineer (Volunteer)
Emmanuel (Manny) Ackerman, born in 1949 in Madison Wisconsin. Mostly grew up in State College, Pennsylvania and Rochester, Minnesota. Graduated from Reed College (Portland, Ore.) in 1971 with BA in mathematics. Conscientious Objector status in draft in 1971. Manny has worked in many fields as a programmer and a researcher since 1969. From 1979 until his retirement in 2009 he worked at Depository Trust Company, which later became Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), as an analyst and engineer, eventually becoming an Enterprise Architect leading a team of a dozen programmers working on special projects within the company. Manny’s first personal computer was a CPM machine with 8” floppy disks in 1979, later replaced by an Amiga and then a PC in the mid-1980s. Among his other interests are making pottery, Sufi and participating in Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreading.
Christopher Nickolas, CPA, Accountant
Christopher Nickolas was born and raised in New York City, in the borough of Queens. He is a senior accountant at Curcio & Cohen, CPA’s, PC. Chris earned his BA in Accounting and Information Systems and Master of Science in Accounting from Queens College. He joined Powering Potential’s team in June 2014, where he brings his experience of working on financial statement services of not-for-profit organizations.
Georgia Allen, Event Planner
Native of Spartanburg, S. C., Georgia is a graduate of Cecil’s Business College and holds a certificate from the Institute in Arts Administration, Harvard University. Her career began as news director at Converse College, a four-year liberal arts college for women. She later served as director of the Spartanburg Council Arts Council. Moving to New York City in 1982, she worked in advertising and then established her own public relations agency, Georgia Allen Communications. Currently she enjoys working in a support role for several organizations.
Jitendra Joshi, Software Freedom Activist (Volunteer)
Jitendra lives in Rajasthan, India and serves as Volunteer Web master for Powering Potential.
Taylor Smears, Marketing Manager (Volunteer)
Taylor is an entrepreneur and marketer. He cofounded Mobvantage Marketing, an ad-tech startup that promotes iOS and Android apps. He was born and raised in a small town in British Columbia, Canada and loves to travel and has lived in Montreal, Berlin and Hong Kong. Taylor currently resides in Vancouver, where he enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding and surfing. He also built a campervan with solar powered appliances, which originally got him interested in off-grid solar applications.
Walter Minja is a Tanzanian who grew up in Dar es Salaam where he acquired his early education. Mr. Minja received his first degree, a B.S. in Computer Science from Mysore University in India. He returned home after finishing his degree and began his professional career working at Tansoft System and General Tyre (T). In 2001, Mr. Minja joined Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) where he worked on bringing technology to rural areas within the country. After spending four years on ICT for rural development projects, he moved to the US for further studies and opportunities. Mr. Minja continues with his passion of giving back to his country; in 2010 he joined Powering Potential. He brings valuable cultural, government and technical knowledge to the team.
Mteule Amon Nkomo
Growing up in Tanzania, Nkomo joined Powering Potential in 2015 as an advisor. His experience in grants, contracts and budget management, administration and general coordination, and also donor-funded programs in Tanzania will add a substantial value to Powering Potential in the area of ICT for rural development in Tanzania. Nkomo managed Deloitte/USAID funded capacity building program focusing on Improving Leadership and Management Capacity of Local Government Authorities in Tanzania (2012-2015). He also managed a US$46m USAID funded TUNAJALI HIV Care, Treatment and PMTCT program implemented by Deloitte in partnership with Family Health International (FHI) and Emerging Markets Group (EMG) (2007-2012). Mr. Nkomo holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in International Business from Lincoln University, Oakland, California, USA, and he is a registered member of the Tanzanian National Board of Accountants and Auditors (MBAA) as an Associate Certified Public Accountant in Public Practice (ACPA-PP).
Milton Finger is retired deputy director, Department of Defense Programs Office, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He has served on numerous scientific boards including task forces for the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and the Defense Science Board. Finger has received the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service and the U.S. Army Award for Patriotic Service. In his community service as a member of the Livermore Rotary Club, he has supported local K-8 schools with dictionaries as well as scholarships. International projects include potable water systems in South India; orphanage support in Nepal with the Gates Foundation; the eradication of polio worldwide; a burn center in Chile and equipping a pediatric ward in Kosovo.
Eric Jacobson has been Chief Financial Officer of Tufenkian Artisan Carpets since he joined in 1999. Prior to this, Eric has served as a financial executive for several technology companies – active noise control, smart card technology and computer leasing. He has expertise in accounting, tax and treasury transactions. Eric has also managed the IT, HR and Legal functions for companies that he has served. Eric is an avid rower and currently serves on the Board of Harlem River Community Rowing. A community based organization whose mission is to bring quality, affordable and accessible rowing to New Yorkers. Eric is a CPA and graduated from the University of Montana.
Scott Morgan completed his MPA in International Non-Profit Policy and Management at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and currently serves a Deputy Executive Director for TAG (Treatment Action Group). He had a long career in the corporate sector managing domestic and global outsourcing and services contracts. He worked at NPower NY where he used his technical and operations management background to provide consulting services to non-profits throughout New York City. Scott has worked in Tanzania teaching and creating HIV prevention programs.
Surya Ganguly is the Senior Director at The Asia Foundation, a 60 yr old nonprofit that promotes peace, prosperity and a just and open society. Surya has worked as an international eRider, consulted for nonprofits, NGOs and the U.S. Government, leading technology strategy, training and project management. Surya holds MCSD and CISSP certifications and attended Whitman College for a B.A. in Mathematics, and received his J.D. from NYU in 2009.
Anand Sethupathy is an avid supporter of the Powering Potential organization. He is an experienced technology manager and has been working in the space for more than a decade. He currently serves as Executive Director in JPMorgan Chase’s technology organization heading up the CAO Social Good Programs group. Prior to JPMorgan Chase, Anand worked as a Senior Manager at NPower where he was responsible for getting effective technology into the hands of Nonprofit organizations. Anand’s prior experience also includes a technology company that he founded and ran for more than three years. Anand holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management and attended NYU for his Bachelors degree.