EPIC Team

 

Jeff Lafata-Hernandez, Founder & Executive Director

A picture of Jeff Lafata-Hernandez, a white, bald man, wearing black glasses and an EPIC shirt smiling at the camera

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. 

 

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

A picture of Krystal,a white person with short dark hair, black glasses, and wearing an EPIC vest while smiling at the camera

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

An image of Ocan, a latino male with short gray hair, wearing a white t-shirt and EPIC jacket as he is smiling at the camera

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, Boston Youth Programs Specialist

An image of Dorothy, a black woman with long brown hair, wearing a black shirt and EPIC vest as she is smiling at the camera

Dorothy 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 joined the EPIC team in 2020 as an AmeriCorps VISTA.  After her AmeriCorps year at EPIC, Dorothy decided to come on board to continue supporting EPIC youth as the Boston Youth Programs Specialist.  

"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

EPIC Advisory Board

A picture of the EPIC Advisory Board, a diverse group of 14 people gathered around an EPIC banner all smiling at the camera

Delia O'Connor, Board Chair

Citizens Bank 

 

Jonathan Palumbo, Board Co-Chair

Harvard University 

Lauren Piscopo, Board Co-Chair

Cotting School 

Michael Baker, Becker College

Michelle Benjamin, Open Sky Community Service

Ashley Boyd Fermin, Department of Developmental Services (DDS)

Robert Bureau, Resiliency Solutions

Rachel Donovan, Easterseals MA, EPIC Alumni 

Melanie Figueiredo, URL Media

Edward Sandford, Vericel Corporation

Meredith Tranquin, Minds Matter

Martine Vanpee, Retired