ThriveMV hosted the first annual Mahoning Valley Welcoming Week in 2019.

During this annual series of events across the country, communities bring together immigrants, refugees, returning citizens, international students, and long-time residents in a spirit of unity to build strong connections across the community and affirm the benefits of welcoming everyone. In 2018, there were over 2,000 events in 400 communities during the week, with more than 80,000 people participating and over 14 million social media impressions.

Welcoming Week 2019 took place Sept. 13-22.  Check out the Mahoning Valley events on social media with hashtag #MVwelcoming2019. 


Thrive Mahoning Valley started with a collaborative project to support families relocating to the Mahoning Valley from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Our team wanted a way for these families to have easy access to reliable resources and not have to worry about information being lost in translation. The project was initiated through the efforts of Justin Mondok and Christopher Tennant, both alumni of the Raymond John Wean Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program. The project received initial support from The Raymond John Wean Foundation’s Community Investment Grant Progam and through collaboration with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.

Thrive Mahoning Valley comenzó con un proyecto colaborativo para apoyar a las familias que se trasladan al valle de Mahoning desde Puerto Rico después de los huracanes María e Irma. Nuestro equipo quería una manera para que estas familias tuvieran acceso fácil a recursos confiables y no tuvieran que preocuparse de que la información se perdiera en la traducción. El proyecto se inició a través de los esfuerzos de Justin Mondok y Christopher Tennant, ambos egresados de Raymond John Wean Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program.  El proyecto recibió  apoyo inicial de una beca de inversión comunitaria de la Fundación Raymond John Wean y a través de la colaboración con la Corporación de desarrollo vecinal de Youngstown.



Justin Mondok  | Co-Director

Accessibility is a central focus of Justin’s professional work as an Urban Planner and much of the community work he engages. He believes in the idea of easily accessible information and physical places to better connect people to the things they need.

Follow Justin on Twitter @justin_mondok to learn more about the work he does.


Christopher Tennant  | Co-Director

For over 16 years, Chris  worked as a social worker and business development professional in the healthcare industry. Upon completion of his master’s degree (MPH) in 2017, Chris found himself seeking new opportunities that support his goal of a healthier, more equitable, and more welcoming Mahoning Valley. He currently works as a school-based therapist with The Red Zone and consults with local organizations on event planning and diversity & inclusion. Chris is a proud Puerto Rican who has personally assisted families relocating to the area. 


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Nicole Pettitt  |  Board President

Nicole Pettitt, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Youngstown State University, where she researches and writes about immigrant and refugee education, teaches courses in Linguistics, and coordinates the university’s K-12 TESOL licensure endorsement (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Nicole is a former teacher of TESOL and Spanish, and comes to us by way of Minneapolis and Atlanta.

More information about Nicole’s scholarship and teaching is available on her YSU faculty site:  https://ysu.edu/directory/people/nicole-pettitt



Ariana Wyndham  |  Board Recorder

Ariana is a DACA recipient working hard to achieve inclusivity and diversity in communities through the arts and social activism. She currently resides in Trumbull County with her beautiful family.



Ra'Cole Taltoan  |  Board Treasurer

Ra'Cole is the owner/partner of Rockbrook Business Services, LLC. They offer accounting, business, and administrative services with a 100% customer satisfaction guaranteed.

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Sarah Wilschek  |  Board Member

Sarah Wilschek is the Executive Director of Congregation Rodef Sholom in Youngstown, Ohio. In her current role, Wilschek works to further the mission and vision of her congregation. Additionally, she works to ensure the sustainability and future of the Jewish community of the greater Youngstown area. A native to the Mahoning Valley, Sarah has a natural passion and commitment for our community to succeed and continue to meet and exceed all expectations. Sarah received her undergraduate degree from THE Ohio State University in Business Administration and her master's degree from Gratz College in Non-Profit Management and a Fellowship and certification in Jewish Communal Service.

Sarah also acts as a leader and volunteer in our community as a board member of the Commission for Jewish Education, Ohio Nonviolence Week committee member, We are a Generation, and Homes and Hops.


Arlene Floyd  |  Board Member

Arlene brings a wealth of experience to this board. She spent almost 20 years at Youngstown State before retiring in 2019 and beginning work as a consultant She has over 35 years experience working in education and recruitment. She specialized in technology programs and STEM. Other specialties include: enrollment management, curriculum development, program development, fiscal management, program administration, data analysis, academic coaching, college transition specialist, fundraising, entrepreneurship training, multicultural training, grant reading and grant writing.


Terry Vicars  |  Board Member

Terry is currently a case manager with Catholic Charities' Regional Agency in Youngstown. His passion is eliminating all disparities in the Mahoning Valley.



Cassandra Clevenger

Cassandra was a supporter of ThriveMV from the start and served as the first president of our Board of Directors. Cassandra was vital in helping Thrive establish in the Valley and we are forever grateful for her contributions.


Genna Petrolla

Genna was a supporter of ThriveMV from the start and an early member of our Board of Directors that helped guide our organizational development


Lorene Swartz

Lorene was instrumental in helping Thrive MV establish by providing Spanish translation services to help us launch the website and resource guide


The Raymond John Wean Foundation


The project received initial support from The Raymond John Wean Foundation’s Community Investment Grant Progam as well as technical assistance to get the project off the ground. The Thrive Mahoning Valley founders are all alumni of the Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program. Visit the Foundation’s website at rjweanfdn.org. 

Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation


YNDC works to transform neighborhoods into meaningful places where people invest time, money and energy into their homes and neighborhoods; where neighbors have the capacity to manage day-to-day issues; and where neighbors feel confident about the future of their neighborhood. YNDC provided collaborative support to assist in project getting started. Learn more about their work at yndc.org