305 S Plain St Ithaca, NY

Our Board of Directors

The Southside Community Center’s Board of Directors is responsible for the oversight of the Center’s operations, for ensuring its financial stability, and for leading the Center’s long-term vision and planning. Our board is representative of the historic and diverse community that the Center serves and many of us have been involved with the Center as young people, parents, employees and/or community volunteers throughout the years. As a group we are committed to empowering, uplifting, and cultivating self-pride amongst African American community members in the greater Ithaca area.

Nia Michelle Nunn

Dr. Nia Nunn, President

Born in Ithaca, New York, Dr. Nia Michelle Nunn is currently an Assistant Professor in Education at Ithaca College, a performer-scholar-mother-activist, and the President of the Southside Community Center's Board of Directors.  As a Girl Scout participant at SSCC and festival performer for many of her early years, she has always cherished the agency’s mission and purpose. Today, Dr. Nia is committed to not only contributing to the mission and purpose, but also a vision and higher potential for the Southside Community Center, Inc. She brings to SSCC her expertise as a teacher, teacher trainer, and director of programs designed to empower and uplift the voices of young Black women and girls.

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Richard Onyejuruwa, Vice President

Richard Onyejuruwa is the Assistant Director of Admissions at Cornell University.  He has worked in Higher Education in the areas of community outreach, human resources and administration at both Cornell and Ithaca College since 2010. Richard was born and raised in the Bronx, by a single mom from Nigeria, he has spent most of his career as a champion for under-served and under-privileged young people. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in Politics.  He is proud to serve on the Board of Directors of the Southside Community Center.

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Sarah Chalmbers Simmons, Secretary

Sarah Chalmers Simmons is an applied theatre practitioner, teacher, and actor based in Ithaca, NY.  Sarah is currently the Director of Civic Engagement for Ithaca-based theatre company, Civic Ensemble. In addition to her work with Civic Ensemble, Sarah teaches theatre at Binghamton University. With Civic Ensemble, Sarah has facilitated the creation of community-based plays, Safety: Community-Police Relations and On the Corner. She has created theatre programming in detention centers, museums, schools, and community centers. Sarah holds an M.A. in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York and a B.F.A. in Acting from Ithaca College.


Vannessa De Jesus

Vannessa De Jesus

Vannessa De Jesus was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Ithaca, New York in Spring of 1992. Vannessa studied accounting at TC3 and has three children, one boy and two girls and also raised her cousin. She has been employed at Salvation Army for nine years. Southside Community Center Inc. has been a part of Vannessa’s life as well as her children’s life for many years. Vannessa and her family have always had a deep love and devotion for Southside Community Center, Inc. and the neighborhood.


Jamila Walida Simon

Jamila Walida Simon is the 4-H Civic Engagement Specialist for New York State. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from Wells College in Environmental Science and Policy Values and her Master's Degree from Cornell University in Natural Resource Management. After she completed her master's degree she joined the staff at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County where she served as the Program Manager of the 4-H Urban Outreach Program at West Village. In addition, in 2010, Jamila Walida joined the NYS 4-H team part-time and served as a Civic Engagement Coordinator and Communications Coordinator. Jamila Walida currently serves as a Board Advisor to Our Children's Future a non-profit program run by parents at West Village apartments and sponsored by the Village at Ithaca. She is a partner in K.A.S.H. Kreating Attainable Sustainable Help youth entrepreneurship program and a founding member/advisor of Free Will Awareness another new non-profit benefiting Ithaca's youth.

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Sonya Hicks

Sonya has lived in Ithaca since 1990 and from the first year of moving to Ithaca she has been active in many different community projects at the SSCC. Sonya have held three different positions of employment at the center.  She believes that SSCC offers excellent programs for all families and a solid board of directors is needed to help keep the center centered and moving in the best possible direction for our community. As a board member She is committed to the success of the Southside Community Center.

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Pastor Nathaniel Wright

Pastor Nathaniel Wright has served as the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Ithaca NY since January 2004.  A native of Ithaca, NY and a long time beneficiary and supporter of the Southside Community Center, Pastor Wright began his ministry at the age of fifteen. He was licensed to the ministry on December 8, 1996 at the Calvary Baptist Church and served as a youth minister until he was ordained on September 28, 2003 and made a Pastor. Pastor Wright has been acknowledged for his ministry at many prestigious events including as a speaker at the 1999 American Baptist Churches New York State Black Caucus and speaker for Cornell University’s Festival of Black Gospel 2008. Pastor Wright serves as a member of the Tompkins County Human Services Coalition and on the Ithaca College Protestant Board. In 2008 he was recognized as Young Person of the Year and as the most influential person under 40 in Tompkins County.  Past Wright lives in Ithaca with his wife Stephanie Wright, and their son Malachi Nathaniel Wright.

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Alkay Waller 

Was born in Queens, New York and grew up in both North Carolina and Brooklyn. He studied architectural drafting at the High School of Art and Design and at the age  of 18 enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he served for three years specializing in aviation structural mechanics. After his enlistmeny he moved to Miami Florida where he discovered his interest for body work and a love for music.  Alkay cherishes quality time with his daughter, and values his family and friends first and foremost.  He is honored to be a part of this great community and serve as a member  on the Board of Directors of the Southside Community Center. He believes that SSCC has a bright future, and that in unison the Board and Southside will make a difference for the community and future generations of leaders.


Matthew Van Houten

Matthew Van Houten 

Matt Van Houten has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2015.  Matt grew up in Cortland County and graduated from Dryden High School in 1985.  After graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1989, he served in the Army until 1992 when he enrolled in law school.  Matt has more than twenty years of experience as an attorney practicing in Ithaca, and was elected to serve as the Tompkins County District Attorney in 2016.  Matt’s wife Monica is the audiologist at the Franziska Racker Center and they have three children.

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Raquel Mercado

Raquel Mercado works as a Teacher Assistant at Fall Creek Elementary School. She is a long time supporter and member of the Southside Community Center’s programs and activities.