Believe in Syracuse Board of Directors

Believe in Syracuse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is governed by its Board of Directors. 



Paul Colabufo - President of the Board

Paul is the President of the Board of Directors of Believe in Syracuse. Paul also chairs the Neighborhood committee of Believe in Syracuse. Paul has a Bachelors degree from SUNY Fredonia and his Juris Doctor from the SUNY Buffalo Law School. Paul is the commissioner of Turbo Bocce, a recreational Bocce League in Syracuse. He also works for Advocates Inc. as a mentor. Paul is a graduate of Liverpool High School.







Esther Zorn - Sergeant at Arms

Esther is the Sergeant at Arms of Believe in Syracuse's Board of Directors. Esther is the chair of the nominating committee which considers and nominates applicants interested in joining the Board of Directors. Esther is the managing broker at Exit Eagan Real Estate on James Street in Syracuse. Esther grew up in Upstate NY and currently resides in the Meadowbrook Neighborhood in the City of Syracuse. Esther got her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and International Relations from Syracuse University. Esther previously worked in Public Relations and is a past president of the WBOC of Syracuse (Women Business Owners Connection).





Brian Burns - Treasurer

Brian is the Treasurer of Believe in Syracuse. Brian has twenty-two years of administrative and program oversight of not-for-profit corporations and an NCAA Division III athletic program. Brian has served in similar voluntary roles as founding member, executive director, vice president, and/or treasurer in a variety of different Central New York organizations over the years including three 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporations. In his professional capacity, He has managed fiscal planning; budgeting; accounting and bookkeeping for annual audits and ongoing fiscal reports; annual, quarterly, and monthly reports; and payroll. Brian has been serving as the Treasurer of the NYS Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association since 2004.





Yvonne Scott-Younis - Vice President

Yvonne is a member of the Board of Directors of Believe in Syracuse. She holds an M.B.A. from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. More recently she earned a Certificate in Professional Fundraising from Boston University. Yvonne is the Director of Development for the Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society, located in downtown Syracuse. Her background includes marketing HVAC products for Carrier Corporation in Syracuse and product portfolio management for surgical medical devices with ConMed Corporation in Utica, NY. Yvonne and her husband Michael (a senior attorney at Hiscock Legal Aid, but you may know him as the “S.U. Towel Guy”) are both native Syracusans. They have always called Syracuse home with the exception of a five year stint with the U.S. Army, living in such great places at Monterey Bay, CA, Birkenfeld, Germany, and Hampton, VA. They are avid SU sports fans and reside in Liverpool.






Rosalyn Peterson - Board Member

Rosalyn is a member of the Board of Directors of Believe in Syracuse. She also chairs Believe in Syracuse's Marketing/Development Committee. Rosalyn studied Marketing at Nichols College and received a degree in Communications and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University. She was employed as a Senior Administrator at Syracuse University. Rosalyn is the owner of a catering business called Comfort Foods and a Grocery Delivery business called The Basics. Rosalyn lives in the Salt Springs neighborhood in the City of Syracuse.






Lekia K. Hill - Board Member

Lekia K. Hill is a member of the Board of Directors of Believe in Syracuse. She is an active participant in our community organizing program and Believe in Syracuse's South Side Neighborhood Team. She studied Business Administration at Monroe College in New Rochelle, NY. Lekia grew up in Yonkers, NY. Lekia has lived in the Syracuse area for a number of years now. For the duration of her time in CNY she has been involved in local non-profits and advocacy groups. Lekia is employed at InterFaith Works, a non-profit that affirms the dignity of each person and every faith community in Syracuse, working to create relationships and understanding among us. Lekia is also the Owner of 3Es Consulting Group, a multi-empowerment service training agency.




Mery Liranzo Nieves - Board Member

Mery is a 3 year resident of Syracuse, originally from South Jersey. She has a B.S. from Stockton University in NJ in Business Management. Mery is currently employed with the Social Security Administration.  She lives in Eastwood with her significant other and her 2 boys/kitties. She has always loved volunteering and giving a helping hand.  Mery is excited to call Syracuse her home and loves everything that the wonderful city has to offer. 




Matthew McArdle, CPA - Secretary

Matthew is a member of the Board of Directors of Believe in Syracuse. Matthew graduated from Westhill High School and received a Bachelors of Science from Syracuse University where he studied accounting and finance. Matthew is a Certified Public Accountant and a Manager at DiMarco, Abiusi, & Pascarella CPA.






MarkAvery Claridge - Board Member

MarkAvery was born and raised in the Syracuse Area. He is a Navy veteran and returned to Syracuse to complete his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Neuroscience at Syracuse University. He is pursuing a Masters of Arts in Public Relations online while working as a stay at home dad. He also is developing City Connect, a business that promotes small business, community and growth in the Syracuse area. MarkAvery is happy to be part of Believe in Syracuse and honored to be part of the Board.


Believe in Syracuse Staff


john.jpg  John DeSantis - Executive Director

As Executive Director, John is responsible for day to day operations of the organization. John is the founder of Believe in Syracuse. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Syracuse University in 2008. From 2009 until 2012 John wasemployed by the Obama Campaign working in grassroots field organizing, first as a Field Organizer and then as Regional Field Director. John grew up in DeWitt and is a graduate of Jamesville-DeWitt High School. John and his wife Abby live in Eastwood.





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