Who We Are

Driven by the desire to help, even if it's just for one star, our team is devoted to making a difference.

 Meet the Founders + Directors

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Beth Mayr

Co-Founder, Board Vice President, & Advancement Committee Chair

Beth started volunteering at a young age – but never did she think that serving her community would lead her to start a non-profit in a foreign nation! In high school, Beth served with Key Club, among other service organizations. In college, Beth continued her service activities mostly through Villanova’s campus ministry department, the Center for Peace and Justice, and with internships through Catholic Relief Services, the Romero Center, and the VU Migrant Worker Clinic.

After completing her degree in mathematics with a concentration in peace and justice, Beth volunteered for a year in Ecuador with Rostro de Cristo. After her return to the United States in 2011, Beth co-founded The Starfish Foundation, as she began working for Catholic Charities of Baltimore. She formerly served in volunteer management at two different Catholic Charities programs over a four-year span. Currently, Beth works in communications for a Catholic church and school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. On top of that, Beth volunteers extensively for HOBY, the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Seminar, a non-profit that empowers youth to be the best leader they can be. She is also active in other volunteer opportunities to better the beautiful city of Baltimore, Maryland.

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Jenn Zocco

Co-Founder, Program Committee Chair, & Advancement Committee Member

Jenn graduated from Fairfield University, where she majored in international studies and social justice in Latin America, with minors in Spanish and French.  It was through her Jesuit education at Fairfield that she developed her passion for Latin America, social justice, and development work.  At Fairfield, Jenn participated in many extracurricular activities through campus ministry, as well as the Center for Faith & Public Life and the international student life office.  She also mentored high school juniors and seniors through a college preparatory program at an inner-city high school and interned at a local organization working with immigrants. After participating in several service trips and a semester abroad in Nicaragua, the next step was clear: a year of volunteer service with Rostro de Cristo in Ecuador.

During her volunteer year in Ecuador, Jenn was inspired to co-found The Starfish Foundation as a way to continue to serve the people who had opened their hearts and homes over the past year.  As a community organizer in an invasion community called Mount Sinai, and a teacher in a shelter for street kids, she was witness to extreme poverty, and also incredible strength.  She is currently the Director in Guayaquil, Ecuador for all Starfish programs, managing 20 employees and work-study volunteers and mentoring over 120 students. She also coordinates collaboration with other community organizations, facilitates parent meetings, and coordinates international volunteers, among other tasks.  She believes that education is the way to stop the cycle of poverty, and that one by one, we can all make a difference! 


Board of Directors

Our board consists of unpaid volunteers who believe in the power of education to empower youth.

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Don Awalt

Advancement Committee Member

Don, who lives with his wife Kathy in Cockeysville, Maryland, founded RDA Corporation, a software development firm, in 1988. Under his direction, the company opened and sustained six offices throughout the United States. Don was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Computer Systems for Maryland in 1997. He retired in 2006 to pursue a vocation in ministry. Don was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2011, and he was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Cockeysville. He and his wife, Kathy, married in 1981, and have one daughter, Beth, a 2010 graduate of Villanova University. Don graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 1976 (B.A. Computer Science, B.A. Mathematics), and he received an M.B.A. from Loyola in 1978.

Don believes that education is the purest form of investment a society can offer to its families, so he tries to offer advice and insight into the strategies, directions, and plans being considered by the founders and board of Starfish, based on his years of experience in founding and growing a business. He also tries to help in charitable efforts and in any other way that he is able, since one of the founders is his daughter!

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Kathy Awalt

Board Secretary & Advancement Committee Member

Kathy is a former teacher and loves to work with children and youth of all ages. She volunteers with an international youth leadership organization and local non-profits that help low-income people. She enjoys travel, running 5K races, and spending time with her family and friends.

She values her work with The Starfish Foundation because, as a former teacher, she realizes the importance of education in improving and enriching the lives of students and their families.  She wants to be part of the effort to help disadvantaged youth in Ecuador earn a bright future.


Casey Bryant

Governance Committee Chair & Advancement Committee Member

Casey graduated from Bucknell University with majors in political science, Latin American studies, and Spanish.  At Bucknell, she participated in the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua, a program that provides translation and medical assistance services to the community of Nueva Vida.  Casey also traveled to Lima and Trujillo, Peru, as an ambassador of the Lions Club International and representative of the National Baton Twirling Association.  She enjoyed performing with fellow national champion baton twirlers throughout Peru on a goodwill tour.  Casey brought Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society’s major fundraiser, to Bucknell University and served on the national steering committee of collegiate chapters.  
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Casey began working as a litigation attorney in Baltimore, Maryland.  She also coaches baton twirling students through parks and recreation programs as well as private students in Maryland and Pennsylvania.  She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, an organization that serves at-risk and disabled youth across the country.


Kaitlyn Hammel

Program Committee Member

Kaitlyn is an elementary school teacher in a dual-language school in Baltimore, Maryland. Throughout her college years, Kaitlyn became involved with several nonprofits and community service sites in her community with the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ) at Loyola University Maryland. She felt a calling to be an urban educator because of her service through CCSJ, as working with youth in Baltimore showed her the opportunities and power that education holds. At the end of her freshman year, Kaitlyn first went to Guayaquil, Ecuador, on an immersion trip through Rostro de Cristo. Kaitlyn was struck by the warmth and hospitality of the people in Ecuador and has had a desire to serve the Guayaquil community since then!

After graduating with her Bachelor of Arts in education from Loyola, Kaitlyn served in the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps through Boston College (BC), where she taught for two years in Mission Hill. From BC, Kaitlyn earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a focus in literacy, language, and culture, and a certificate in serving exceptional learners.

It was after graduating from BC that Kaitlyn first dove into the Starfish world, in the summer of 2016, and volunteered in Flor de Bastión during her summer break. Serving the Starfish Foundation combines Kaitlyn’s passions of education, social justice, serving those in poverty, and youth in Latin America. Outside of work Kaitlyn loves to travel! She also enjoys running, yoga, reading, the beach, improving her Spanish, and spending time with friends and family.

Jerica Itterly

Advancement Committee Member

Jerica joined Starfish in 2013.  She has a master's degree in international political economy and development, and currently works for an international relief agency.  Prior to her graduate studies, Jerica worked as an auditor at Ernst & Young in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She also served as a member of the board of directors for Water for Waslala for several years, and volunteered for one year at an orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Jerica is excited to be working with Starfish because she is passionate about educational opportunities for youth, especially in Latin America.


Steve Kupres

Board Treasurer & Advancement Committee Member

Steve joined Starfish in December 2018. He is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of RDA Corporation. He joined RDA in 1990, became part of the executive team in the late 1990s, and transitioned into an ownership role in 2006 when Don Awalt retired. Steve’s responsibilities span multiple disciplines within RDA, including financial operations, internal information systems, human resources, and recruiting.

Steve was also nominated by Governor Robert Ehrlich to serve as a consumer member of the Maryland Real Estate Commission. He spent five years helping the commission regulate 40,000-plus real estate agents and brokers, culminating in the role of Vice Chairman.

Steve and his family reside in Parkton, Maryland. He is an avid fisherman and woodworker. He graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 1991 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in accounting.

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Marybeth Mueller

Board President

Marybeth appreciates the value of education and the opportunity it can bring. She witnessed this first-hand when she worked at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, Maryland. There, she was part of a team managing relationships, supervising students, and operating the work-study program for all students enrolled in the school. She was part of a committee that developed a curriculum for the Cristo Rey Network, to ensure that all Cristo Rey students nationwide graduate with the skills required of in the 21st-century workplace.

Marybeth graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor's degree in business administration. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, gardening, catching a baseball game, and spending time with her cute dog.

Danny Newell

Program Committee Member

Danny was born and raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  He graduated from Villanova University in 2013, where he studied management information systems and economics.  Since then, he has worked at Deloitte Consulting doing technology consulting on various SAP supply chain and order processing engagements.  He learned about the Starfish Foundation through co-founder Beth Awalt, after working with Beth on campus ministry activities at Villanova University. Since then, he has been fortunate to see the Starfish Foundation grow over the years by supporting in various capacities, including visiting the programs in Guayaquil in 2013 (and again in 2015), supporting the program advisory team, developing the Salesforce.com platform, organizing the March Madness fundraiser, volunteering on the social media team, supporting the first benefit dinner, and writing with pen pal students in Guayaquil.

Outside work, Danny enjoys running, reading, skiing, listening to a variety of podcasts and radio stations, and volunteering with the Starfish Foundation. He has also spent time volunteering as a tax preparer for the IRS-sponsored VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). Danny looks forward to seeing the growth and success of the Starfish students as the organization continues to develop.

Laura Picciano

Finance Committee Member & Advancement Committee Member

Laura is an executive director at JPMorgan Chase & Co. She serves as the CFO for the Chief Marketing Officer of Consumer and Community Banking, working across lines of business to evaluate investments in the firm's brand and marketing technology, and to direct customer engagement marketing. 

Previously, Laura was the program manager for Card Services' capital stress testing exercise, responsible for driving the re-design of the regulatory forecasting process and submission. Laura joined JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2010 as a rotating analyst in the Chase Leadership Development Program, holding positions in marketing operations, risk management, and financial planning and analysis.

Laura holds a Bachelor of Science in economics and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Villanova University, and is an undergraduate student mentor for the Villanova School of Business.  She is currently the board president of the Philadelphia professional chapter of Net Impact, and, in 2015, was selected to be a fellow in their board observation program. She is a lifetime member of the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society.


Sanchia Rodrigues

Program Committee Member

Sanchia is an English teacher and teacher trainer. She has been passionate about education since her childhood, when she first became aware of the developmental and cultural differences between the school system in India, where she was born, and England, where she grew up. Having benefited from academic scholarships throughout high school, Sanchia began to volunteer in the education sector as a university student, mentoring incoming students and later becoming the chapter president of a charity providing disadvantaged teenagers with free after-school tuition.

After graduating from University College London, Sanchia began her Starfish career in 2014 as a volunteer in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Inspired by the Foundation's incredible mission statement and moved by its daily commitment to making education a tool for empowerment, she served as a volunteer coordinator and, later, a program advisor in Flor de Bastión before returning to Europe in 2016. Her conviction in the work that Starfish does and her first-hand experience of the powerful impact that this work has on its local community in Guayaquil led her to rejoin the Foundation as a board member in 2018.

Sanchia currently works in the south of Italy, where you are likely to find her teaching teenagers, designing bespoke syllabuses, or presenting at national and international conferences. Away from education, she is a culture vulture; she has visited thirty-six countries, speaks four languages, and is an unapologetic foodie with a penchant for East-West fusion cuisine.