Our Team


Daniel Colbert, Esq.
serves as the Vice Chair of the board and was introduced to Aquinas Center through a law fellowship with Drexel University. He helped to facilitate the center’s partnership with Liberti Church, which includes the annual Easter Outreach, an ecumenical retreat program for college students, and volunteer opportunities for adults and families. Daniel provides important support to the community through immigration related advocacy. He enjoys backyard gardening and home brewing. Daniel and his wife recently bought a home near the center.

Matthew Davis
 serves as Secretary for the board. He is the Director for the Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Matthew is from Millville, New Jersey and studied Religious Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He did an additional 2 years study of Philosophy at Kenrick Glennon Seminary and St. Louis University. He has taught ESOL in St. Louis, Boston, and in the Dominican Republic. For six years, he helped refugees in Boston secure employment and job training. He spent 1.5 years living and working in the Dominican Republic before taking his current position.

María Paula Ghiso, Ed.D
 serves as the Board Chair. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University whose scholarly interests include early childhood literacy, multilingualism, teacher education, and children’s literature. Her current research investigates the transcultural and multilingual literacy practices of Latina/o emergent bilinguals as they document their neighborhood experiences through multimodal forms of inquiry. María Paula is a former New York City dual language teacher and has facilitated professional development in a range of national and international contexts.

Michael Jordan Laskey
 is the director of Life & Justice Ministries for the Diocese of Camden, NJ. Before moving to the diocese, Mike was a program coordinator for the Center for FaithJustice, a Catholic nonprofit that runs service immersion trips near Trenton, NJ.  Mike completed an MA in theology from the University of Notre Dame through the university’s Echo: Faith Formation Leadership Program, and he has a BA in English, also from Notre Dame. Mike lives with his wife in Haddon Township, NJ. He blogs for the Camden diocese at http://camdenlifejustice.wordpress.com.

Lan Ngo, Ph.D. serves as the Board Treasurer and was introduced to Aquinas Center through her graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.  She has been in the field of education for over a decade in various roles, including as a teacher, research fellow, and the director of a university writing center.  Lan is currently a project manager in edtech at Penn, where she is also an education lecturer.

Roedy Wibisono is a proud husband and a proud father. He seeks to live everyday in God’s name and spread his word thoroughly. Roedy is an active member of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Community with leadership roles in the Indonesian Catholic Community or KKI. He resides in South Philadelphia.


Lila Bhide is the center’s part time Garden Coordinator. She  has years of experience with farming, youth engagement, food justice, and cooking. She helped lead youth and farm programs with The Food Project in Boston and has worked locally with Urban Tree Connection and the University of Pennsylvania.

Bernard Convento was the very first Aquinas Center volunteer back in 2012 and is a graduate of our Youth Voices program. Bernard is the facilities coordinator, a critical part of the Encounter Team that creates a welcoming space for visitors and neighbors alike. He is a South Philly resident and will be a first year college student this fall.

Shirley Dessein is serving as a part time youth organizer and the social work supervisor for Aquinas Center. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University with a Masters in Social Work. She loves working with people and enjoys cooking and dancing. Shirley is from Maplewood, New Jersey now living in Northeast Philadelphia.

Rachel Dunlap 
serves as our Encounter Coordinator through a partnership with the Franciscan Volunteers: No Risk, No Gain program. Rachel is originally from Iowa, completed an internship with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development during college, and relocated to the Philadelphia area to pursue a social justice focused volunteer program. Rachel communicates with visiting groups, handling all the scheduling and business side of these experiences.

Arlene Garcia serves as our Advocacy Intern through a partnership with Civic House at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently studying Biology and Medical Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and hopes to one day attend medical school. In her free time, she enjoys reading, learning new languages, and exploring new places. Arlene is excited to join the Aquinas Center, and become more involved with social justice in the Philadelphia area.

Chris Geraghty serves as the resident advisor and summer camp director. He provides hospitality in a variety of ways, frequently welcoming visiting groups with a hot cup of coffee and plenty of pens to complete forms. Chris is a regular volunteer in the adult English Class and is a catechist for the parish’s Spanish language sacramental prep program.


Martina Hyacinth is a part time operations coordinator who provides a welcoming presence and facility support at the center. She is a native of the Commonwealth of Dominica, which is located in the West Indies. She came to Philadelphia in 1999 by way of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Martina loves to garden, practice yoga at Studio Mandala, and help the parish with decorations and flowers in the church. She attends Mass daily and likes to bring people together across cultures.

Mara Imms is an Americorps VISTA volunteer serving through a partnership with Catholic Charities USA at the Aquinas Center. She will be coordinating the Youth Mural Corps, building capacity with our ESOL program, and assisting with YEP. Mara graduated in May from Colgate University with a degree in Spanish, although her interests extend to art and education as well. In her free time, Mara can be found drawing, reading, spending time outside, or hanging out with her family.

Carid Maranan works with high school students and community-based small businesses as coordinator of the Youth Entrepreneurship Project (YEP). He functions in the role of a youth organizer as part of the Aquinas Center Advocacy Team.  He is a member of the Green & Growing Summer Camp team, serving as Gym Coordinator.

Guadalupe Mendez is a part time program assistant providing support across a number of initiatives, including the Green and Growing Summer Camp, Folklore and Culture Club, and the immigration legal services, which will launch in September 2018. Guadalupe was raised in South Philly, is a fantastic baker, loves to dance salsa, and currently attends Cabrini University.

Kimberly Quintero serves as our part-time Director of Advocacy and Legal Outreach. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Global Affairs with a concentration in Gender studies at NYU. During her free time, Kim enjoys learning new languages and exploring new cuisines! She is excited to be back at the Aquinas Center and looks forward to learning and growing with the community.

Bethany J. Welch, Ph.D.  is the Executive Director of Aquinas Center. Her research on the Catholic Church and urban revitalization prompted Philadelphia’s St. Thomas Aquinas parish to invite her to help them repurpose a former convent to create a space that builds unity in diversity, supports learning, and inspires thoughtful action. In 2014, Dr. Welch was recognized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops with the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award for how her work addresses poverty and injustice. Welch, a VISTA volunteer from 2003-2004, also received a Spirit of Service Award in 2006 from the Corporation for National and Community Service for advancing transformational change in urban communities through research, planning, and capacity building. She has a PhD from the University of Delaware, MS from the University of Rochester, and BS from Roberts Wesleyan College. Dr. Welch recently co-authored a book on the unique collaborative research undertaken by the Aquinas community and students at the University of Pennsylvania. Partnering with Immigrant Communitieswas published in 2016 by Teachers College Press. Bethany is an adjunct faculty member in the Religious Studies department at Cabrini University. To see a list of recent publications and upcoming talks, click here.

Monika Zurowski is a part time Special Projects Coordinator assisting with nonprofit management tasks, including donor acknowledgement and administrative support.



High school teens with at least one year of volunteer experience can apply for paid positions as research assistants, classroom assistants, camp leaders, tour guides, and Mural Corps members. Available positions are dependent on grant funding and program commitments. Inquire with Dr. Welch about opportunities.