Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director
Christian Fuscarino has deep roots in New Jersey, growing up in Belmar and spending much of his youth in and around Asbury Park. Fuscarino has been an activist and organizer in the LGBT community for over a decade. He credits his positive experiences in Asbury Park as helping influence him to become an activist. In 2016, PolitickerNJ named Christian the 2nd most influential advocate in New Jersey politics and later that year The Observer listed him on the Power List 100.
At GLSEN, Christian worked with high school Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) for several years. In 2007, Christian joined the Pride Connections Center of New Jersey as a program developer serving gay inner-city youth. That same year, he won a student Emmy award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his End the Silence public service announcement. In 2008, Christian founded The Pride Network, a national leadership development non-profit.
In 2013, Christian joined Alan van Capelle, former Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda, by serving as his digital strategist at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. They focused on mobilizing Jews to advance social issues by speaking out against injustice and inequality. One of the organization’s greatest accomplishments was a campaign that resulted in California Governor Jerry Brown signing The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
Christian served as the Communications Director for the Educational Alliance until 2016. The Alliance is a non-profit organization that aims to break the cycle of poverty for low-income children and families through preschool, after school and college prep programs.
Fuscarino’s volunteer work has received numerous accolades, including recognition from the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly, Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Donald Payne, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, and Governor Jon Corzine. Media outlets such as CBS News, Sirius XM and Genre Magazine have featured Christian in groundbreaking stories. Hofstra University honored Christian, an alum, as their 2012 Man of the Year for his work developing a safe-campus space for LGBT students while earning his BA in digital media and LGBT studies.
Christian recently moved back to New Jersey from Brooklyn where he was living with his partner, Aaron Williams, a tennis instructor, now serving in the Marines.
Aaron Potenza, Director of Programs
Aaron Potenza is an educator and historian by training, and has taught courses on the histories of race and ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender identity at Yale University and Trinity College Hartford. He did his undergraduate work in History and Gender Studies at the University of Rhode Island and his graduate work in American Studies at Yale University. He has a background in nonprofit management, and is passionate about legislative and electoral politics, public policy, and program development. At Garden State Equality he manages programs on LGBT health and wellness, LGBT youth and safe schools, and LGBT older adults. Aaron is a very hands on director, providing policy consultation and training to schools and medical providers; doing advocacy work; and working with national and local leaders to improve the lives of LGBT New Jerseyans. In addition to managing programs, Aaron works on our legislative and policy agenda. He recently served on Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team, as a member of the Education, Access, and Opportunity committee. Aaron identifies as a transgender gay man, and uses male pronouns. Outside of work Aaron enjoys exploring new places and hiking with his husband James and their German Shepherd Hound mix Jack.
Denise Rodriguez, Director of Development
Denise Rodriguez joined Garden State Equality in 2018. Previously, she worked at Millennium Strategies, where she managed eight municipal clients and wrote federal, corporate, and foundation grants for a variety of projects across multiple areas, including health/wellness, community development, parks/recreation, and arts/culture. During her time there, she secured millions of dollars of funding for her clients. Prior to working at Millennium, Denise served as the Grants Manager and Community Liaison at Hope Academy Charter School in Asbury Park, where she worked closely with school administrators and local organizations and businesses to develop programs and garner public awareness and support for the school. Her accomplishments included the launch of a successful collaboration with Lakehouse Music Academy and the establishment of an after school enrichment program. Denise graduated Magna CUM Laude with a BA in English and minor in Spanish from Wagner College. She holds a PhD in English from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she studied under Pulitzer-Prize-winning scholar Louis Menand. She was a Writing Fellow at Borough of Manhattan Community College, an Adjunct Professor of English at City College, and an Assistant Professor of English at The College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York. Her academic work is in the area of contemporary multicultural literature and includes scholarly articles and many conference presentations in her field. She is the Vice President of the Bradley Beach School Board and the mother of three. When not at work or reading, she and her husband enjoy visiting museums, flea markets, and antique shops with their reluctant children in tow.
Colin DeLucca, Communications Manager
Colin DeLucca is a passionate communicator who is driven by creativity, teamwork and community involvement. Colin’s career has been centered around non-profit organizations and communication to both small communities and mass populations. He worked as the Marketing Manager for a Credit Union whose mission was to provide financial support and education to teachers all over Middlesex County. During this time he built and oversaw the marketing department, which helped to inform thousands of Middlesex County community members about fiscal planning and responsibility. Colin also has ties to mass communication, having worked in various radio and television broadcasting networks, such as Elvis Duran and the Z100 Morning Show, both during and after college. He received his B.A. in Communications-Public Relations from Kean University in 2014. Colin has lived in New Jersey his whole life whilst advocating for the rights of his fellow LGBTQ community members, making the Communications Manager role at Garden State Equality a dream job for him. Outside of work, Colin loves to play volleyball on the beach, go see a broadway show, and spend time with his family and two dogs, Amber and Duke.
Ashley Chiappano, Safe Schools Coordinator
Ashley Chiappano is a parent, advocate, facilitator and trainer. She has worked in the non-profit and public service fields for over 8 years. During her time as a public servant and child welfare professional, she trained and licensed many LGBT foster/adoptive parents for the Department of Child Protection and Permanency while also participated in their Safe Space Program. She took pride in working for an All Children-All Family recognized state that welcomes and celebrates LGBT families. She educated and trained families in areas related to trauma, child development, abuse/neglect and case practice. Prior to this work, she was a Resource Family Advocate at Foster and Adoptive Family services, where her focus was to educate, advocate and assist families by utilizing CP&P policy to resolve issues and create positive change. During her time as a Resource Family Advocate, she was a licensed resource parent and adoptive mother. Ashley received her B.A. in Communication-Public Relations and Journalism from Monmouth University in 2005 and her M.A. in Human Service from Capella University in 2010. She loves educating others on how to make schools safer for LGBT youth and is committed to creating safe and affirming school environments. Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband Pete, their dog Elsa and their four amazing kids.
Bianca Chanel Mayes, Health & Wellness Coordinator
Bianca Chanel Mayes is a dedicated public health advocate for the health and wellness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. In this role, she is responsible for developing and training LGBT cultural and clinical competency for healthcare professionals, senior housing developments, and more. Bianca’s career has been centered around general healthcare for vulnerable populations. She worked at Atlantic Health System as a Health Educator and Research Associate for Community Health and Population Health Sciences. She currently attends Montclair State University as a full-time graduate student and will graduate May 2018 as a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Education. During Bianca’s education at Montclair State University, she worked as a Health Promotion Supervisor for the Health Promotion department. For her graduate internship, Bianca worked as a Digital Education Specialist for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Bianca received her B.S. at William Paterson University of New Jersey with a minor in Women’s & Gender Studies in 2015. Bianca was born and raised in New Jersey. In her free time, this Gryffindor loves to travel, read, and explore new restaurants!
Kayvon Paul, Community Outreach Coordinator
Kayvon Paul is an undergraduate political science student at Monmouth University where he served as a former President of the Gender Studies club and now serves as the current President of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. At Garden State Equality, Kayvon serves as the outreach coordinator where his responsibilities include: managing the internship and volunteer programs, building and strengthening community partnerships, and organizing and planning events throughout the state of New Jersey. Previously, Kayvon was an intern for Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. and then went on to work on a successful local Board of Education campaign which resulted in one incumbent being re-elected and two new additional board members. Soon after, Kayvon became a field organizer for Assemblymembers Eric Houghtaling, Joanne Downey and State Senator Vin Gopal's campaign. A Native of Asbury Park, New Jersey, Kayvon now serves as a member of the Asbury Park Democrat committee and is helping to establish the Young Asbury Park Democrats. In his spare time, Kayvon volunteers his time to local campaigns and non-profit organizations.