Jeff Lafata-Hernandez, Founder & Executive Director
Jeff founded Empowering People for Inclusive Communities (EPIC) in March of 2011, to address the growing need for transition aged youth with disabilities to develop their leadership skills, and to become more active in their communities.
With a lifelong passion for social justice and community service, Jeff began his career in the fall of 1999 as a member of the City Year Boston corps. Through his work at the Nathan Hale Elementary School in Roxbury, MA, Jeff first worked with youth with learning disabilities in a 3rd-5th grade special education classroom. Inspired daily by his student’s contributions, growth and leadership potential, Jeff was awed by their commitment to their own personal development.
Since that time, Jeff has devoted his career to working within the disability community in varied settings: classrooms, community organizations, residential programs and vocational environments. His work includes time at Perkins School for the Blind, North Suffolk Mental Health Association, Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and countless hours of volunteer service at numerous organizations.
Jeff’s favorite quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” - Martin Luther King Jr
Krystal Linn, Worcester Youth Programs Specialist
Krystal hails from Southbridge, and has spent the last 15 years working in Human Services. They have worked for several different organizations including Head Start, Worcester Public Schools, and the Seven Hills Foundation. Krystal has experience developing inclusive social programs for people with ID, Autism Spectrum disorders, and Brain Injury.
Krystal graduated from BayPath University with a degree in Psychology and additional certifications in Visual Thinking Strategies. They also serve as a member of the National Speaker’s Bureau for Planned Parenthood, sharing their personal stories and speaking both within Massachusetts and nationally on healthcare issues.
Krystal is the wearer of many hats. Along with their work for EPIC, they are mother to seven children: a mixture of biological, step, and foster children. They are also a tireless advocate for disability inclusivity, LGBTQ rights, and healthcare accessibility, having experience lobbying on both the state and national level. They also sit on the board of their local food share as a volunteer and fundraising committee member.
Krystal's favorite quote: “I like to think of ideas as potential energy. They're really wonderful, but nothing will happen until we risk putting them into action.” - Mae Jemison
Ocan Ortiz, EPIC Personal Care Attendant
Ocan is from Boston, MA, but born to Puerto Rican parents. He lived most of his life in Jamaica Plain, however, also lived in Dorchester, Roxbury, Watertown, Brighton, and Hyde Park. Throughout his life, Ocan has also lived in various cities such as Manhattan, Miami, Springfield, Hartford, Chicago, and New Haven. His travels have taken him to Cuba (8x's), Mexico (5x's), Panama, Dominican Republic (2x's), Turkey, Puerto Rico (4x's), and Isreal. Though, Ocan has lived in many areas and traveled abroad. His life focus and career in youth leadership development, social and racial justice education, financial development, curriculum building, program and evaluation development, management, event planning, fund development, funder cultivation, and relationship management is his life. In Boston and Miami, Ocan gained notoriety and respect from his peers, other sector professionals, and youth because he wholeheartedly commits to his work and the delivery of outcomes.
“Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi
Dorothy Whitfield, AmeriCorps VISTA, Development Coordinator
Dorothy Whitfield is from Houston, Texas, and relocated to Boston merely a month before Hurricane Harvey. With her versatile personality, she successfully involved herself in an administrative career: acting as an office manager and as admin support for several companies. Dorothy developed a passion for social work after being inspired by Michelle Obama’s book, “The Becoming.” She plans to become apart of an organization where she can help develop it into a more thriving non-profit.
"You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages," - Michelle Obama 2016 City College of New York commencement speech.
EPIC Youth Trainers
All youth trainers co-facilitate EPIC's Community Training. Youth trainers are comprised of current Service Warriors or Service Warrior Alumni.
Austin Carr, '14 & '19
Kamisha Heriveaux, '14 & '15
Nick Plaisime, '17 & '19
Samuel Paster, '16 & '20
Zuleny Gonzalez, '19, '20
Malika Jefferson, '19
Tyrel Watkins, '16
EPIC Youth Group Peer Leaders
'14 & '15
Austin Carr,'14 & '19
Zuleny Gonzalez, '19
EPIC Advisory Board
Delia O'Connor, Board Chair
Johnathan Palumbo, Board Co-Chair
Boston Public Schools
Lauren Piscopo, Board Co-Chair
Michael Baker, Becker College
Michelle Benjamin, Open Sky Community Service
Robert Bureau, Resiliency Soluntions
Rachel Donovan, EPIC Alumni
Amy Ebbeson, Worcester ACTS
Melanie Figueiredo, GBH
Judy Freeman, Worcester Public Schools
Dan Harris, Boston Ceneter for Independent Living (BCIL)
Edward Sandford, Vericel Solutions
Meredith Tranquin, City Year Boston
Martine Vanpee, Bay State Medical Center