Growing up in one of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, Dayanna Torres ’06, G’09 embraces challenges. She is taking that entrepreneurial spirit to heart as recently appointed director at the Blackstone Charitable Foundation in New York City, helping bring entrepreneurial skill-building to students who need it most through the Blackstone LaunchPad program. Read a beautiful recent feature story about Dayanna by Rob Enslin here in Syracuse University news.
Torres drives the operations, manages the relationships, and leads engagement strategy for members of Blackstone LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship network of 46 colleges and universities that includes Syracuse. “The LaunchPad program provides content, connections and expertise for those interested in entrepreneurship,” says Torres, a first-generation graduate who dual majored in communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and information management and technology in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and earned two master’s degrees from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “It’s the job of a lifetime.”
In 2020, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced a $40 million expansion of LaunchPad to exclusively support colleges and universities that have a majority diverse population or are serving under-resourced communities. In doing so, it will increase its program from 46 to 75 campuses over the next five years. Blackstone LaunchPad will work with UNCF, the largest scholarship provider for students of color, as a strategic advisor to help identify schools for growth and develop plans to support students.
Helping lead that effort will be Torres. As a student, she was part of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and was actively involved in student organizations including RAICES Dance Troupe, BLISTS, The Black Voice, Citrus TV Noticias en Español and Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Senoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. always dedicated to culture, diversity, inclusion, and equity. Her awards and recognition for her leadership at SU included the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO)/ Latino University Magazine Leader Award, Syracuse University Student Affairs C.O.R.E Award for Excellence in Leadership and the Syracuse University Office of Multicultural Affairs La Fuerza Community Enhancement Award. Upon graduation she went on to shape a career in social impact and equitable economic development.
Before joining the Blackstone Charitable Foundation as the Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad Network she had thirteen years of experience in higher education, nonprofit, and the public sector. Previously she worked as a consultant and for a nonprofit intermediary playing a leading role in working with local communities to develop new partnership and investment solutions that are responsive to the unique needs of underserved neighborhoods in New York City. Prior, she formed part of the inaugural partnerships department at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), leading projects aimed to spur inclusive economic development and talent pipeline solutions for the city’s high growth industry investments, city assets undergoing Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and company expansions.
Prior to NYCEDC, she served as the Founding Manager for Single Stop at CUNY John Jay College in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation, connecting first generation college students and their families with financial counseling, legal aid, and customized support services to navigate public systems and resources. She also held roles at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) where she launched and managed partnerships that connected public housing residents with adult education and training, financial literacy, and business development, and launched the Goodwill Industries Jobs Plus site and the North Bronx Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES) Zone. Prior to NYCHA, Dayanna served as the first Outreach Recruiter for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Brooklyn & Queens Mentoring Children of Prisoners program where she established partnerships with the NYC Department of Corrections and community organizations to connect youth impacted by incarceration to mentors. She started her career as HEOP undergraduate counselor at Syracuse University Office of Supportive Services.