Our People

We use an indigenous staffing model to promote best practices and quality services. Over 75% of our staff members were born and raised in Southwest Detroit, and all come from low-income communities of color. Moreover, many of our staff members have participated in past DHDC programming, or programs from similar organizations. These hiring practices help to ensure that all program participants will receive quality, culturally-competent services throughout their relationship with DHDC.

Director Bios

Angela G. Reyes, Executive Director and Founder

AngieAngela started DHDC in 1997 from her living room “because [she] was tired of burying children”. Ms. Reyes was born in Southwest Detroit, and continues to reside there as a community activist for over 30 years. As a teenager, Angie, began working with ‘at-risk’ and gang-involved youth. She is the mother of four adult children, and has seven grandchildren.

Passionate about education and policy, she received her Master’s in Public Health from The University of Michigan and is known for her expertise in critical policy issues that impact not only Southwest Detroit neighborhoods, but common issues facing other urban areas. Angela has addressed international and national audiences sharing best practices in resolving community issues, including cultural awareness, youth gangs and violence, substance abuse, immigration, educational reform, community-based participatory research, policy development, and community organizing.

Sherita Smith, Director of Development

Sherita Smith oversees all resource development activities including corporate, foundation and individual giving programs.  She is also responsible for DHDC’s marketing and communications.  With more than 15 years experience in community development, she has devoted most of her professional life to community revitalization in the city of Detroit as a leader and advocate.  Born and raised in the city, Sherita currently resides on the east side of Detroit with her husband, Marcellis and four sons: Ellington, Carlito, Maximillian and Judah.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wayne State University, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Michigan.

Alexis (Lex) Zavala, Director of Programs

LexLex manages the Youth Department and provides oversight and expertise to the after-school Urban Arts Academy, as well as the Southwest Pa’lante (Moving Forward) Youth Rising Leadership Program. As someone from a strong line of influential, community leaders, Lex has been involved in community services since the age of 17. As a young person, he witnessed and experienced the many negative effects of gangs, violence, and drugs on his community. He became a self-taught media artist and began using hip-hop as a tool to empower his community, and now uses it to engage youth and create tomorrow’s community leaders. He resides in Southwest Detroit with his pitbull Lady, and spends his free time on his multimedia and promotions company, ME Entertainment and independent record label “Dirty Politix Records.”

Fernanda Sanchez, Family Services Manager

FernandaFernanda manages our Family Services programs and provides expertise to several parent-based initiatives in Southwest Detroit. She facilitates the parenting program Padres Unidos (Parents United), a 12-week workshop for parents of school age children. Furthermore, she provides oversight to the Tobacco Prevention Program, Parents’ Leadership Institute, and Parent Mentor Program. Currently, she is pursuing her Bachelor of Social Work degree from Madonna University. A Southwest Detroit native, Fernanda lived in Mexico for nine years before returning to Detroit, and lives with her husband Eustacio, daughter Jazmín, and son Simón.

Maria Orozco, Family Education Manager

MariaMaria manages our Family Education programs and provides oversight and expertise to the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and childcare program. Furthermore, she helps to transition ESL students to General Education Diploma (GED) classes offered at DHDC. She began her journey with DHDC as a childcare worker and part-time receptionist. Upon Ms. Reyes’ discovery of her teaching skills, she was transitioned to the Adult Education program. Now, she is a certified Expert TESOL Instructor for adults and children, and is completing the TESOL Business Certification. A Detroit native, Maria lived in Georgia for 10 years and resides in Southwest Detroit with her partner David, and daughters Ellisha and Estrella Luz.

Monica Alvarado, Re-entry Program Manager

Monica is responsible for case management for prisoner reentry services and the Freedom Ink Tattoo Removal Program for prisoner reentry program participants, as well as those who may be gang-involved. Monica helps connect people trying to enter the workforce with employment opportunities, and has a degree in Criminal Justice. Freedom Ink is a volunteer-based tattoo removal program with volunteer physicians from Botsford Hospital and the Skin & Vein Center. Monica continues to reside in Detroit, where she has lived the majority of her life, and helps provide opportunities to those from the reentry population.

Samantha Magdaleno, Community Organizing Manager

Samantha managsamanthaes the Department of Community Organizing and provides oversight and expertise to several organizations in Southwest Detroit around community empowerment. She facilitates the new collaborative group, The WISDOMS (We Identify Southwest Detroit Obstacles and Make Strides). This group is currently made of four organizations that are organizing here in Southwest Detroit. The organizations include 1 Michigan for Immigrant Rights, CLAVE (Community of Artists Visionaries and Educators), RAICES (Ballet Folklorico Raices Mexicanas de Detroit), and United Hispanic Workers of Detroit. Samantha is a third generation Detroiter.  Her family migrated here from Mexico and at age 13, she participated in the summer youth program at DHDC. She has a BA in Psychology from University of Texas Pan American, and has done community organizing work in the United States and Mexico around immigrant rights. She recently made her way back home to Detroit and is glad to be a part of the DHDC team doing the work she loves.  Samantha spends her free time with her three younger siblings Jasmine 16, Giuliana 6, and Octavios 3.



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