Gisele Castro


Executive Director

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Gisele Castro has dedicated her career to creating and leading organizations focused on ensuring equity in justice for court-involved youth. With over twenty years of experience, she holds a Master’s of Public Administration and Non-Profit Management from Pace University and graduated as a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. Gisele also studied at the graduate level at Oxford University, where she researched U.S. vs. U.K. juvenile justice systems. As a Sterling Clark Foundation Fellow, Gisele is committed to ensuring their mission of “helping create a vibrant New York City – one that is strong, healthy, livable and just.”

Prior to becoming Executive Director of exalt, Gisele was Director at CASES, Family Court division, and was instrumental in redesigning the program model and structure. Gisele is currently an adjunct faculty member of New York University, teaching a Masters level course on Youth Organization’s Prevention and Intervention Strategies. As a visiting faculty member at Bank Street College, she taught courses on leadership development, while advising students in the Master’s in Education and Leadership in Community-Based Learning program. Her role at Bank Street was expanded in 2015 to redesign the program for Leadership in Community-Based Organizations. Most recently, Gisele was appointed to the Board of Directors of SparkYouth NYC.

Under Gisele’s leadership, exalt achieved strong financial stability despite significant challenges, including budget deficits, leadership changes, and the confluence crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice. As a result, exalt was able to increase their budget size from $950,000 in FY2016 to $2.9 million during her first year as ED and launch a campaign to raise 8.4 million dollars in three years (from 2018 to 2021). Gisele launched a strategic growth plan in FY2019, and relocated exalt to its new headquarters in Manhattan, served 834 youth (exalt’ s largest to date), increased staff capacity; won the Spark Prize in 2016 recognizing exalt as an outstanding pioneering nonprofit organizations that has demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing racial and social justice; received an endorsement by the Governor in NYC’s Raise the Age policy implementation, and NYU-Steinhardt as the 2019 Internship Partner of the Year.

In 2020, exalt received a competitive contract by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice under the Alternative to Incarceration Initiative, which is one of the programs that deliver the City’s commitment to safely reduce the number of people in its jails by providing alternatives for individuals with an open case while they are awaiting the conclusion of their case, or instead of a jail sentence. Through her leadership, exalt was selected runner-up for the Nonprofit Excellence Awards for best management practices, and Gisele has been recognized as one of the “Responsible 100” by City and State New York Magazine as one of NY’s most effective executives, thought leaders, visionaries and influencers, who are setting new standards of excellence, dedication and leadership by improving their communities and making transformative change. Recently, Gisele was one of two Latinx to join the Robin Hood Power Fund which was established to address a critical funding disparity for nonprofit leaders of color by elevating leaders who are reflective of the communities they serve.

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