Women’s History Month Highlight

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are connecting with some of Fordham’s incredible female community partners. Meet Women Making History, and read on to learn what they love about their jobs and their advice for young people.

This week’s spotlight is on Stephanie Ashley Caban from Part of the Solution. We asked Stephanie a series of questions about her work. Check out her responses below!

Who you are, where do you work, what do you do?

My name is Stephanie Ashley Caban (she/her) and I am the Volunteer Coordinator at POTS (Part of the Solution) on Webster Avenue.

What do you love about your job? What would you want to share about your work? What should we know about your work?

I love the community aspect of my job. So many people come and go and to be a part of people’s lives, no matter how small, is a privilege. I love being with community members and focusing on their paths, and mostly just being friends with everyone. I would love to share how honored I feel to be a member of this community, to be a Bronxite, because The Bronx is filled with a lot of laughter and also a lot of resilience. You should know that I don’t do this work because it’s rewarding. I don’t see that getting a paycheck because poverty exists is rewarding, but I see this work as something that must be done with a justice-filled lens. 

Advice for young women/people?

It’s hard to talk when people interrupt you, so feel free to memorize phrases like, “I wasn’t done with my thought,” or “I actually wasn’t done so I’m going to finish my sentence.” Your voice is significant , and I’ll be damned if anyone thinks otherwise. 

Cassandra Agredo from Xavier Mission

Who you are, where do you work, what do you do?

I’m Cassandra Agredo and I’m the Executive Director of Xavier Mission, a for-impact organization in Manhattan providing basic needs services and opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-empowerment. I graduated from FCLC in 2004 with a BS in Psychology and a Bachelor of Social Work. I then attended the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service and graduated with a Masters in Social Work in 2006. I started working for St. Francis Xavier Church as the Director of Outreach in July of 2006. In 2012 the outreach programs of the church were incorporated as a separate for-impact (non-profit) organization, Xavier Mission, and I was named Executive Director. I oversee all aspects of the organization, including fundraising and development, communications and marketing, program development, finances, and human resources. 

What do you love about your job? What would you want to share about your work? What should we know about your work?

What I love the most about my job is the people that I get to work with. My team is incredible – they work so hard each and every day to make the world a better place. They show up, even when things in their own lives are tough, to reach out a hand with compassion and understanding to others who are struggling. I love connecting with people who reach out for help and getting to know them and hear their stories. Every story gives me a better understanding of the world and of human behavior. I’m constantly learning and I’m so grateful to our guests for teaching me. 

Something to know about the work that I do is that it shouldn’t be necessary. There is no reason on earth why every single person shouldn’t have enough food to eat, a safe place to live, and a decent job that pays a living wage and enables them to afford all of their basic needs. No one should have to depend on the kindness of strangers to determine whether or not their children go to bed hungry at night. Greed, selfishness, and a total lack of political will to make changes to the systems that oppress people are the reasons why I have a job. We all have a role to play in changing these systems and we all have a responsibility to play that role. 

Who inspires you?

The Xavier Mission team inspires me with their generosity and humility to be a better leader, and a more empathetic social worker. Our guests, with their perseverance and determination to survive, even in the face of immense obstacles, inspire me to be strong and to keep fighting for justice and equity. My kids inspire me to find the joy in life and to not take any of the wonderful things I have for granted. 

Advice for young women/people?

My advice to young people, but to women especially, is to remember to strive for balance. No single person can save the world. No person is perfect. As women, we are often expected to carry an inordinate amount of responsibility – for work, for family, for personal success – on our shoulders, and it’s a toxic and unrealistic expectation. We need to remember to look for joy where we can, to take care of ourselves (and not just so that we can take care of others, but simply because we are important too!), and to set boundaries and realistic expectations for ourselves and for others. Strive for excellence and do the best that you can do in all things, but be kind to yourself and remember that you are beautiful and worthy of love and support. 

Anything else you would like to share?

I’m truly grateful for all of the support that we receive from our community, volunteers, donors, and community partners who make it possible to keep providing services, and who also understand the larger societal issues at play. We couldn’t do this work without them!

Jumelia Abrahamson from University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP)

Who are you, where do you work, what do you do?

Jumelia Abrahamson, Director of Programs at University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP), a community-based nonprofit based in the northwest Bronx. In my role I have the pleasure to engage with NYC residents, local organizations, banks and many interns and volunteers who make our service work possible.

I was raised in the Bronx and I’m honored to continue to work for (and with) the people that live in these same neighborhoods. Since the start of the pandemic UNHP’s programming has been offered virtually – over zoom meetings, emails and text conversations. During this time, I’ve worked closely with our staff, partners and student volunteers to ensure our program users continue to benefit from our services (despite everyone having different comfort with technology). It’s also important for us that our families can receive reliable information especially as it relates to Covid relief programs and securing affordable housing for themselves and their household – all which became more urgent as they had to social distance and share crowded spaces with children that participated in remote school.  

What do you love about your job? What would you want to share about your work? What should we know about your work?

I’m passionate about sharing financial resources with our community and ensuring that those that call the Bronx home, can lead full and unrestrictive lives, especially as it relates to opportunities around education, food, health, housing, jobs, retirement and financial goals.  The current economy and tax system is more complex for low income families and this is by design. I love to contribute to these systemic problems, even if it’s in a small way, but my contribution is guided by a multi-level view from my own work with people, government agencies and financial institutions/regulators.  I love that this position allows me the ability to witness immediate progress – like a tax filer receiving a much needed tax refund, a family being approved for a benefit program – while also being able to work towards larger advocacy goals that make NYC more equitable for all. I love that I’m surrounded by a group of people that are always ready to remind the world that the Bronx is “deserving” and that we can do better with the policies to support low income families and people of color. And I love that 13 years in, I’m still excited to work towards these disparities – credit inequity in ‘banking deserts’, tax breaks for mixed status immigrant families who are NYC essential workers, proper vehicles and products for low income families to build generational wealth and non predatory ways to access tax credits/deductions.

Who inspires you?

Our program users and their resilience inspires me- the low income earners that manage to fund their child’s college dream, the senior on a fixed income who properly budgets to never miss a bill, the entrepreneurial families that have multiple side hustles to make ends meet – and their collective dreams to provide a better financial future for the next generation, makes me hopefully that people of color and low income earners can live with dignity in this economy. I’m inspired by the many leaders in the Northwest Bronx and their own individual stories – past and present. The many local orgs that are driven by mission not profit. My colleagues, many who have been great mentors and have poured so much into this fight. And I’m inspired by the energy of recent college grads that are ready to bring new perspectives and technology, as a way to level the playfield.  

Advice for young women/people?

As a college student, take the time to walk the Bronx, visit local parks, eat at mom and pop restaurants, go to the Zoo and the Botanical Garden (remember they offer free admission on certain days). Allow yourself to ‘people watch’ and fall in love with life outside of the Rose Hill Campus. You’ll be surprised by how much you learn about yourself and your passions. You don’t need to have everything figured out. Not having an answer or asking others for help is not a sign of weakness, tap into the power of community, you become a better leader by it – so stay connected to your peers, colleagues and family members.

Catherine Clark from University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP)

Catherine Clarke, Director of Development at UNHP

Who you are, where do you work, what do you do?

My name is Catherine Clarke and I am the Director of Development at a community-based Bronx organization called University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP). Born in Brooklyn, I graduated from Fordham as an urban studies major and began my Bronx community development career. I have worked in this corner of the northwest Bronx since I graduated in 1983 – as a merchant organizer, vacant building renovation manager, community reinvestment staff and now as a grant writer. I was inspired by the Bronx of the early 80s and desired to be part of the grass roots community-based revitalization work that was going on during a time of decline, vacant buildings and disinvestment by both the public and private sectors in NYC and the Bronx. UNHP works to create and preserve affordable housing and bring resources to our community. I help raise money for our work, communicate our mission and am part of our direct service team with Jumelia Abrahamson.

What do you love about your job? What would you want to share about your work? What should we know about your work?

One thing I love about my job is the sense of history and experience I have after more than 30 years working in the Bronx. Working in community development – I have been lucky enough to see Bronx leaders fight for bank reinvestment, building renovation and community development and then see the lending, building and growth of Bronx community groups. I saw the work of community organizers with great Bronx leaders make change happen in the 80s and 90s. In 2022, I still get to see new efforts to make sure Bronx residents have a decent, affordable place to live in a thriving, safe community and have a connection to current Bronx residents. That is a privilege. While I have seen so many improvements in the Bronx over the years, I have also seen an increase in inequities. When I started working affordability of apartments was not an issue – the conditions of buildings, the many vacant buildings and disinvestment by banks was the problem. Today Bronx residents are under so much pressure – rising rents, stagnant wages, fixed incomes, real estate speculation and the lending entities that finance it and then all the financial services that prey on people who are struggling to get by. I get to see first-hand that lower-income Black and Hispanic families in the Bronx have the cards stacked against them. There is a lot of work happening to address that inequity – but it is going to take much more work to make a change.

Who inspires you?

Jumelia, our Director of Programs and all the young people I work with inspire me with their enthusiasm and hope. My boss, Jim inspires me as well as other long-time Bronx champions, who still believe that change can happen if the people affected by the issues can be empowered. The Bronx leaders I met early on in my career inspired me with their commitment to fight for their neighborhood and against redlining and unfair practices that excluded Bronx neighborhoods from public and private investment. The Bronx people I have been able to meet and get to know still inspire me – as they meet many challenges to provide for themselves and their families and still can share a laugh and a story.

Advice for young women/people?

I became an urban studies major because I was excited about the work of community groups to improve the Bronx.  It certainly didn’t seem like I could have a career in that kind of work – but it did become my career. My advice – Start with what excites you and the path will open.

Olga Baez from Strive Higher

Who you are, where do you work, what do you do?

I am a first generation college graduate, and the first in my family to pursue a master’s degree and start a nonprofit. I am a Bronx native and a mom. I currently work in the office of Residential Life and run a Bronx based nonprofit called StriveHigher Inc.  Through my nonprofit I provide educational programs that empower and prepare students to reach their full potential.

What do you love about your job? What would you want to share about your work? What should we know about your work?

The work that I do focuses on providing programs that educate, empower, and encourage students to become well rounded individuals. We create fun, intentional programs and events that expose students to a variety of experiential learning experiences, skills, and professionals. Due to the low Bronx literacy rates and low number of books at home, we also strive to provide access to free books through tabling in the community and hosting read alouds while giving away free books.  What I love the most about my work is the privilege that I have to help impact a student’s or family’s life. I see it as planting seeds that will continue to flourish in the future.  I also love fostering relationships with families and being a resource for them. I believe that when we help one another we truly make our communities better. Our reading buddy program has helped students increase their reading skills and confidence. Just within a year, many students have moved up several reading levels and improved their reading skills. That program could not happen without the amazing reading buddy volunteers who make it the successful program that it is. Thank you to our Fordham reading buddy volunteers!

Who inspires you?

People who persevere through life inspire me. There are so many incredible stories of people who experience some very difficult times but still manage to get through it and continue moving forward.  

Advice for young women/people?

My advice would be to remember that everything in life is about what we prioritize. Make time for the things and the people that bring you joy! 

Anything else you would like to share?

Whenever possible, please volunteer. It’s an easy way to make a big impact. 

Holy Week Schedule

Easter Service, University Church, Fordham, April 3,, 2021 Photo by Bruce Gilbert





Mass of the Lord’s Supper:

7 p.m. 



Celebration of the Lord’s Passion:

3 p.m. 

Tenebrae Service:

8 p.m. 



 Easter Vigil Mass:

8 p.m.



 Easter Sunday Mass:

11 a.m.

 Please note: There will only be one Mass on Easter Sunday.