Angel Cotto

Angel joined the Hub in September 2015 as an Action Researcher. He is a very energetic young man who gives a younger view to the hub. Angel joined the Hub in September 2015 as an Action Researcher. Since he is a teen, he has experience in the way youth talk, what they like, and what ways they get information. He joined to better help people and make a difference and is a senior at High School Inc., a business and insurance academy located in Hartford.

Angel is interested in attending Central Connecticut State University when he graduates to study mathematics. He is currently working for Bear’s Smokehouse, a restaurant in Downtown Hartford, but he also likes to volunteer in the community and help others in his spare time. Angel is a part of youth advocacy group in Hartford called Compass Junior Peacebuilders. He volunteers there in different communities to help advocate for educational rights. He wants to advocate more for youth and LGBTQ+ rights and also spends time going to helping youth organizations around Hartford. He has worked with neighborhoods and organizations advocate for different rights and community issues, event planning, social media outreach, and getting youth involved. In his my spare time he competes in triathlons, travels, and loves to play video games.

For inquiries about our social media presence, contact him at:

13267730_10153717329083251_5355624996638916743_nDiana Fontaine

Diana joined the team as an Action Researcher with direct experience with youth homelessness in September 2015. In Summer of the same year, she helped to establish a crisis hotline for youth and young adults through Advocacy Unlimited and received an award from the Keep The Promise Coalition for being active in advocacy and research towards ending homelessness in CT.

Diana is currently working on a certification for IT & Networking, and plans to further her education. She aspires to use her professional training and experience at the Institute for Community Research to make a difference in the LGBT+ community.  As someone who has experienced homelessness and struggled with her identity, she is motivated to help create a more positive world for people like them.  In her spare time, she likes to pet dogs and play video games.


2016-06-16-19-46-08Jay Perry

Jay is an Action Researcher at the Institute for the Community Research’s Youth Action Hub, joining the team on February 19th 2016. Jay’s research interests focus on understanding the scope of youth homelessness in Connecticut and what can be done to end youth homelessness.

Jay is currently enrolled in college to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. He has completed two years at Capital Community College and earned an associate’s degree in human services. In addition to his educational background, he has had direct experience with homelessness and DCF.  He enjoys watching TV, cleaning and hanging with his family and friends. Jay is a very opened minded person who enjoys having fun. He is a big supporter of the LGBTQ+ Community.

For inquiries about community involvement, contact him at:


 Natalie Garcia

Natalie is a research coordinator at the Youth Action Hub. She is a big part of the behind-the-scenes activities of the project. Scheduling meetings and events, talking to youth, and managing data collection and outreach are just some of her contributions to the team. She brings positivity and critical thinking to the team, preferring to play devil’s advocate during heated discussions at the hub. She is very passionate about helping and guiding people in vulnerable situations, because of the help that she’s received in her past when she was struggling with being LGBT and dealing with a toxic home situation. She wants to be able to help other people who have had struggles due to rejection by families and communities.

Natalie graduated from UConn in the Fall of 2014 with a bachelors in Psychology, and wants to continue working in the field surrounding human services. She strives to understand best practices for reaching and engaging others in vulnerable populations, so that she may work in the future to engage these populations, as well as educate others on best practices. Her goal in life is to spread happiness, hope, and positivity to those around her and to enjoy life along the way regardless of life’s ups and downs. Her hobbies include art, music, and she is an avid video game nerd.

For general inquiries, contact her at:

Melenie Serrano

Melenie joined the Hub in March 2017 as a youth action researcher. Mel is a very humorous and outgoing young woman to everyone she meets. She joined to help youth have a voice and to organize better living situations. She was once homeless and wants to let people know that it’s not the end of the world, even when you hit rock bottom. You can’t give up on your dreams just because you feel numb with your life, it should give you more of a reason to do better and become who you want to be.

Melenie is currently a Senior at New Britain High School and plans to attend Tunxis Community College in the fall. She plans on becoming a Child Protective Investigator and her goal is to get her Master’s degree in social work. She was president of the GSA club in NBHS her junior year, and she’s also employed at the Meriden mall as a sales associate in Rue 21. She’s very friendly and sweet and communicates well with others. Melenie spends most of her free time drawing and writing, she plans on publishing her experience with homelessness and having other situations to inspire young teens to never give up.

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brian-m.jpgBrian Mathis                   

Brian is a 23 year old man that grew up in the city of Hartford, CT.  Growing up he was forced to face many obstacles from abandonment and being homeless, which sometimes gave him lack of hope. When he looks at today’s society he sees so many young kids that are facing the same things he once did. Working at the Youth Action Hub gives him an opportunity to give back and help out in the community. Brian loves his job and what he does; giving back to the community gives him great joy. Brian plans on furthering his education to get his CDL to drive trucks across the country. One of his dreams is to open up his own business and start a music record label. Some of his hobbies include playing sports, especially basketball. He also loves to give back to the community and help people who have struggled like him.

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Heather Mosher

Dr. Heather Mosher is a Research Scientist and the founder and director of the Youth Action Hub at the Institute for Community Research. Dr. Mosher received her doctorate in systems science and social/community psychology. She specializes in youth participatory action research, youth-adult partnerships, systems science, and mixed-method research community-based participatory research that utilizes longitudinal design, quantitative and qualitative research methods, ethnography, participatory video, and system dynamic modeling. Dr. Mosher’s research focuses on social determinants of health, community prevention, mental health, youth homelessness and housing.

For inquiries about the Youth Action Hub model, contact her at: