Meet Our Team

Rain of Hope Staff

Jennifer Ricker, Founder/Executive Director
With a Bachelor’s of Science degree in International Business and French, and a Master’s of Science in Hospitality Management from Florida International University (FIU), Jennifer has 7 years in sales and marketing, along with over 10 years planning large-scale fundraising events.  Working with Event 360, a national event company that primarily works with non-profits, Jennifer enjoyed making a difference through her work with Event 360.   Today, Jennifer focuses her energy on her passion, teaching individuals to care. Through her work at Rain of Hope, Jennifer hopes to empower others, from 5 to 95, to fully understand that we all have a voice and the power to change our world.

Originally from Philadelphia, she has lived in many different areas ranging from Florida to Colorado to France. Jennifer enjoys meeting new people and living new experiences. Now settled with her husband and little ones in Connecticut, her free time is spent exploring and playing games with her family.

Deborah Curry, Ph.D., Program Director
Debbie Curry’s advising comes from 17 years experience in the field of education.  Having received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special education from Kutztown University, a Masters in Special Education from Nova Southeastern University FL; and Rank 1 (Master’s degree plus 30 credits) in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Director of Special Education from Western University, KY, Debbie has a  vast experience having taught grades K through 12. While living in Kentucky, Debbie was the Director of Special Education and Preschool for Elizabeth School District.  Today, Debbie teaches Kindergarten at a newly opened charter school in Northeastern Florida.


Debbie has learned that there are many students who are not labeled “Special Needs” that have many educational deficits. She believes that, if we are to close the gap with students across all populations, the educational leaders must keep current with educational trends and must possess strong leadership abilities. Furthermore, it is imperative that we understand how we can best work with children to meet their academic, behavioral and social needs. Debbie focuses efforts to improve the education and meet the needs of all students.


As an Army wife, Debbie has had the privilege of teaching in many places: PA, SC, GA, TX, KY. Now that her husband has retired from the Army, Debbie has moved to Florida with her husband and two wonderful children ages 7 and 13.


Reeshema Norfleet, Program Manager

We are excited to welcome Reeshema to our community!  Please come back to learn more about Reeshema and her choice to help Rain of Hope empower youth.

Danielle Lippold, Office Assistant

We are excited to have Danielle as part of our community!  Please come back to learn more about her choice to join Rain of Hope's community.

Board of Directors

Marybeth Stiberth, President
Marybeth has over 25 years of professional experience that includes Business Strategy, Public Relations, Advertising, and Start-ups.  Marybeth holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from The Ohio State University and a Masters of Business Administration in Human Resource Management and is currently Senior Director at Oracle.  She is an active volunteer and/or contributor to several charities including St. Jude’s, CT Food Bank, and the Salvation Army.  Marybeth currently resides in Fairfield, CT with her husband and three children.  As a mother, Marybeth believes that Rain of Hope can make a difference through programs that actively teach youth to care for and respect one another.


Natalie Bennettson, Secretary, and Treasurer
Natalie has been a member of the Board of Directors since Rain of Hope’s inception and was appointed Secretary and Treasurer in 2013. With a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Marketing from Rider University, Natalie has over 15 years’ experience in both profit and non-profit corporate environments and has assisted in the financials of a small family business.  She became involved with Rain of Hope because she believes today’s society needs more programs that actively engage individuals in creating caring communities. The old belief that it takes a village to raise a child has been cast aside and replaced by technology, violence and a lack of accountability. Natalie is actively involved in both her children’s school community and the community in which she resides.


Aparna Chellappan

With a BA, LLB degree and Post Graduate Diploma in IPR from India, Aparna has about 5 years of experience as an in-house Legal Counsel working for MNC's such as Novo Nordisk and The Himalaya Drug Company in Bangalore, India. She has worked on topics pertaining to intellectual property rights, labor laws, healthcare laws, corporate law, contract drafting, negotiating, legal research, risk mitigation, and business development. 


Aparna came to the U.S. in June 2014, and since then she has been actively involved with New Haven Reads as a tutor. In April 2015, she became involved with Rain of Hope because she believes in giving back to the society and is willing to dedicate her time and knowledge in helping Rain of Hope reach its goal. 

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council consists of experts in various fields who voluntarily offer non-binding strategic advice to the management of Rain of Hope.

Laura Bower-Phipps, Ph.D.
Laura Bower-Phipps is an Associate Professor of Education at Southern Connecticut State University. Laura worked as a public school teacher for seven years before earning her Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Now she works closely with New Haven Public schools, teaching one of her courses in a local elementary school, supervising bilingual student teachers, and coordinating the Southern/New Haven Academy for Professional Development (SNAP). Laura also partners with Rain of Hope, a non-profit offering low-cost and no-cost after-school care aimed at teaching children to care about the world around them. Laura’s students serve as teachers in the Rain of Hope programs, and her curriculum courses write the curriculum for the programs.

Laura’s research centers on diversity in teacher education. Dr. Bower-Phipps’s most recent research engages those who identify as “other” in teacher preparation programs in collaborative inquiry groups, and she has won competitive research grants to sponsor participating teacher candidates’ travel to present at national conferences. She is also engaged in an action research project that studies a program she founded with Dr. Helen Marx of SCSU, the Urban Education Fellows.


Laura and her wife, Kathleen, live in New Haven, CT with their three rescues: a chocolate lab mix named Henrietta and two cats, Andy and John Dewey-Cat. They enjoy hiking, biking, traveling, and volunteering at their church. Laura is also a racewalker and a weaver in her spare time.