Our Team

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Gemariah Wright

"GE"

Lead In School /Out of School Facilitator,

Program Director

Gemariah Wright, favorably known as Ge, has been a part of MACM since she was in high school. She started out a part of the Summer Intern program, now known as the Summer Incubator program where youth are trained to become facilitators. Hired on full time during COVID, Ge takes on many roles here at Make A Chess Move. Ge helps head our media department, is a Podcast Host, a Workshop Lead, a In School & After School Facilitator, and a Program Director. Ge has faced many hardships throughout her life. One in particular being arrested and getting kicked out of  Grambling State University; a situation that led to a depressing time where she could have fell to complete darkness but instead she took her opportunity to MACM and is now on the road to accomplishing a successful life surrounded with love, joy, craziness, happiness, and peace. 

Gemariah@makeachessmove.onmicrosoft.com

Mark Johnathan Hill II​

"MJ"

Lead In School Facilitator

Mark Johnathan Hill II. Mark Johnathan Hill II or MJ for short (22 years old) 
"Originally from Florida but Colorado is my second home"! Mark has been with MACM since 2014 and is a Lead Facilitator. Mark graduated from Denver School of Science and Technology. MACM had contributed to my being able to be in a long distance relationship while also upgrading my life. Mark is fortunate enough to have both of my biological parents in my life. "My mother who I call my first love, is exactly that, A beautiful strong minded individual who loves unconditionally. My father, a provider, protector and professor of his faith and love". Honored to have taken qualities from both  parents which he says include being respectful, attentive, protective, loving, and strong and I use them all for the work we do with the youth. Because of this, "I’ve learned to always think 3 moves ahead to ensure I make every move with purpose. This is why I love working with youth, because it’s never too late to reteach common sense, and the work we do has changed many lives and will continue to change lives"! Oh and he  also loves potatoes.. like LOVES!

mark@makeachessmove.onmicrosoft.com

Aaron Smith

"AJ "

Lead Out of School Facilitator

Aaron Smith, as a Lead Facilitator and OST Specialist here at MACM strives to make an impact in the community. Being born and raised in Denver Colorado,  Aaron was able to experience different root programs that have developed and diminished throughout the East Denver community, therefore, has seen the necessary results and impacts from an organization from the past, similar to MACM. Aaron currently Attends Metropolitan State University majoring in Sports Management, and is an alumni of both Whittier K-8 and Denver School of Science and Technology: Montview. A huge highlight of Aaron’s experience in MACM programming has been from 2015 when as a part of a group of youth facilitators, they were able to share their knowledge of chess and life at the Hiawatha Davis Recreation Center with the youth in that community. “From my own experience I have learned that when surrounded by a great support system of youth and elders, the sky's the limit for all youth to develop and grow into great leaders. As I continue my education to gain a Sports Management Degree, I am devoted to helping others reach for their passions here at MACM!”

Aaron@makeachessmove.onmicrosoft.com

Andre Jackson

In School, Co-Facilitator

Andre Jackson is a young man progressing to be a better man and father day by day "MACM is in me, not on me and I say that literal because I make my next move my best move everyday".  Andre joined MACM his freshman year at Manual High School, "after that it was like a non stop thing on and off for me until I made a decision that "changed my world".  Andre is now a MACM Co-Facilitator. "Being a dad has enlightened my whole life, my son makes me want to MACM, he is 1 person I know will never leave my side, no matter what. My family is my everything and the MACM organization is my family".

 Andre@makeachessmove.onmicrosoft.com

Oujaa Brown

 Lead Facilitator, Administrative Assistant and Workshop Coordinator

Oujaa Brown, our Workshop Coordinator and organizer, Administrative Assistant, as well as Graphic Designer has been with us for almost two years.  Because she has completed MACM’s summer programs every summer, she is also a very experienced Lead Facilitator. Oujaa is currently in her second year of college at Houston Community College , majoring in Nursing.  Although this is the longest consecutive time that she’s worked for MACM, she has been here from the very beginning. MACM created the opportunity for Oujaa to develop numerous lifelong skills, such as communication, and leadership skills.

oujaa@makeachessmove.onmicrosoft.com

Mauryell Smith El

Media Manager, Co-Facilitator

Mauryell Smith El was born and raised in Chicago where he played football, ran track, and learned a multitude of lessons. Mauryell went on to college at the University of Missouri to study Broadcast Journalism. During Spring 2017 in his time of college he became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity Inc. and went on to become the chapter president. Other things Mauryell was involved in  during school was being an Ambassador for the college of Arts and Science, a Trio Cat scholar, and Outreach Coordinator for Minorities in Sports. He would also go on to create his own sports blog Concrete Sports and  create a platform for sports to be told from an African minded viewpoint.  He would go on to hire other students in Mzzou's Journalism School to give them experience to get internships in the field of journalism as well. Mauryell would go on to graduate from Mizzou in 2019. He moved to Denver, CO in June of 2019 and started working for the Denver Post's Advertising department in August of 2019. Mauryell would stay with the Post up until the start of COVID in 2020. Later in August of 2020 he founded Vessel Spring Water to teach people about the inner workings of their bodies and proper hydration. In January of 2020 Mauryell became a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America. In February of 2021 he was allowed to start a mission here in Colorado to teach the Urban Community about their history and nationality. Mauryell is proud to be a member of MACM because he wants to make a difference in the lives of the youth so they can be productive members of their nation, and MACM is helping him with that platform.

Mauryell@makeachessmove.onmicrosoft.com

Phillip Douglas 

 FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 

MACM is lead by Phillip Douglas. Phillip has been working with youth in Northeast Denver since he was a 14-year-old freshman at Manual High School. In 1998, he became involved with a local youth development nonprofit organization, YouthBiz, where he served as a youth leader and facilitator before becoming a full-time staff member. Phillip has 20 years of experience working with youth that share many of the struggles he experienced growing up in the neighborhood.

Although MACM's founder Phillip Douglas, performed well in school, his academic success was not enough to keep him off the school-to-prison pipeline. The critical thinking skills developed in school are not sufficient to overpower the multiple risk factors youth face on a daily basis. Too many young people of color share this same experience. 

phillip@makeachessmove.org

Gerald Hamel

Program Accountability & Development

Mr. hamel has invested in community centered development in Northeast Denver for over 13 years.  Mr. hamel was a founding board member of Make a Chess Move (MACM), and now a staff member at MACM- the Man in the Chair-PAD (Program Accountability & Development).  Mr. hamel is the BASIC (Bridging Accountable Safe Inclusive Communities) Project Coordinator who Advocates for Justice With Communities of Color.  Mr. hamel has been a member of East5ide Unified Unidos(EUU) since 2019.  East5ide Unified Unido is a community-centered effort to ensure all children and families are valued, healthy and thriving. Mr. hamel launched the annual community centered HarvestSHARE Festival in 2013 for neighbors to come together to HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) with the SHARE Network.  Mr. hamel was a community centered member of the Denver Workforce Board’s Youth Advisory Committee from 2018 to 2022.

In 2008, Mr. hamel founded Love UpRising to promote organic community development. The Love UpRising Vision is that in a truly self-reliant culturally rich neighborhood, all the food, crafts, and services needed can be found within a walk from home. In 2014, Love UpRising piloted a non-profit grocer in Skyland, Franks Food Mart, which closed in May 2017. Mr. hamel currently serves as the Fundraising Chair for the Whittier Neighborhood Association. Mr. hamel has served the community of Treasurer of the North City Park Civic Association, and President of the Civic Association of Clayton neighborhood.  Mr. hamel helped facilitate the East Y Visioning Process for the former East Denver YMCA in North City Park. Mr. hamel is a recovering CFO (Chief Financial Officer) who is learning to listen to lead in a support role for youth and community.

gerald@makeachessmove.org

Omni Benjamin

Operations Coordinator

Omni Benjamin, a native of Denver CO has watched the birth of MACM since the beginning in 2011, in 2020 "I was blessed with the opportunity to join MACM" as the Operations Coordinator in June with the impact of COVID-19. Currently leading MACM's HR Department and  implementing Financial Goals Budgeting Omni brings a wide range of policy and structure to the MACM team with over 15 years of corporate experience and 5 years of account management, Omni's goal is to help empower and develop financial freedom in our community.

omni@makeachessmove.org

Directors

Jason Torrez, Board Chair

Denver Inner City Parish

Director of Youth Development – LA Academia Professional

Development Institute

Norma Benjamin, Treasurer 

Retired Educator

Tenishia Jones, Secretary

Batch Operations

FAST Enterprises INC.

 

Ashlee Wedgeworth, Board Member

President

Urban League Young Professionals 

&

Community Engagement Co-Lead 

Office of Councilwoman Candi Cdebaca 

Denver City Council District 9