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First minority executives tapped as community finance fellows

Real estate diversity program, Project REAP, has named the first fellows to take part in a new initiative to drive money and know-how into building new communities.

The pilot Open Access Fellowship Program in Community Development Finance will provide a pathway for black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) to work in a sector of real estate finance that can help build new communities and improve the health, education and access to wealth of economically disadvantaged populations.

 “REAP is proud to help launch the rollout of Open Access, a program that will increase the representation of persons of color in community development finance,” said REAP chief program officer Osayamen Asemota-Bartholomew.

“The current disproportionately low number of BIPOC professionals in the field both deprives neighborhoods of the cultural affinities offered by persons who reflect the ethnicity of the communities served and leaves large groups of talent unaware of and lacking access to career opportunities. We are glad to welcome the first round of Open Access fellows, a stellar and dedicated group.” 

The community development finance industry, bolstered by the recent reauthorization of the New Markets Tax Credit Program, offers economic support to low-income areas in the form of lower than market rate interest loans and other economic incentives to help support small businesses, housing organizations and other areas requiring assistance.

The industry is urgently needed as the nation strains to recover from a pandemic that disproportionately affected communities of color in terms of health crises and the ensuing economic devastation that has witnessed unparalleled unemployment rates, evictions realized and threatened, food deprivation, and small businesses forced to close or struggle to stay viable.

Yet, while community development often serves communities of color, it is currently grossly under-represented by Black and Latinx individuals.

Open Access is a newly organized group of executive-level individuals led by co-founders Gina Nisbeth, a director at Citi, and Jeff Monge, managing partner of Monge Capital.

Open Access provides paid virtual fellowships as well as online experience, training, mentorships, and networking sessions to talented professionals of color seeking careers in community development finance.

The program is presented in collaboration with Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Program), the nation’s most successful diversity initiative connecting professionals to commercial real estate (CRE) for over two decades.

The group chose MLK Day, January 18, 2021, to announce the selection of 23 professionals for the pilot  Open Access Fellowship Program in community development finance that will run through Friday, April 16, 2021.

The fellows were chosen from a wide pool of candidates spanning the nation from LA and Denver to Chicago, New Orleans, Newark, New York City and many other major cities.

The Inaugural Open Access Fellows are:

Fellow Fellowship Headquarters
Trevor Nelson Advantage Capital New Orleans, LA
Anika Wright Advantage Capital New Orleans, LA
Jaquis McCullough Baker Tilly US, LLP Chicago, IL
Melanie McNeely Chicago Community Loan Fund Chicago, IL
Ja’Shar Hartley Cinnaire Lansing, MI
John Moore Classic Lake Consulting Los Angeles, CA
Ed Chatmon Cleveland Development Advisors Cleveland, OH
Christen Richardson Greenline Ventures Denver, CO
Isaiah Williams Greenline Ventures Denver, CO
Chabelli Caceres Monge Capital Newark, NJ
Chima Joseph Monge Capital Newark, NJ
Brianne Andrea Lund Monge Capital Newark, NJ
Giovanni Araujo National Trust Community Investment Corporation Washington, DC
Danielle Salters New Jersey Community Capital New Brunswick, NJ
Jocelyn Moore New Markets Support Company Chicago, IL
Rob Ebanks New Markets Support Company Chicago, IL
Allison Bernstein Novogradac & Company LLP San Francisco, CA
Ashley McMichael Novogradac & Company LLP San Francisco, CA
Jessica Washington Novogradac & Company LLP San Francisco, CA
Nicole Dillard Stonehenge Capital Columbus, OH
Marcus Jones TELACU Los Angeles, CA
Steven McClendon Reinvestment Fund Philadelphia, PA
Desiree Thomas TruFund Financial Services New York, NY

In addition to paid fellowship sponsorships, other programmatic financial sponsors include JPM Chase, U.S. Bank, Citi, PNC Bank, Novogradac, Dudley Ventures, Advantage Capital, NTCIC, and Monge Capital. For more information see

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