Getting students to and through college.

About Us


Our Mission

Higher Edge guides low-income and first-generation students through enrollment, retention, and graduation from college by providing the support and resources needed for success.

Meet The Team

Meet The Team

Gilbert Bonafé Jr. : Director of Programming

Gilbert Bonafé Jr.

Director of Programming

Before joining Higher Edge, Gilbert was part of a team making an app to assist community college students. Realizing his passion for Higher Education, Gilbert received his Master's from Harvard in the subject. He believes that education is the only way for students to break the cycle of poverty, a belief that he himself is living proof of.

Luisanna Cabrera : Success Program Director

Luisanna Cabrera

Success Program Director

Luisanna joined Higher Edge after recently graduating from the University of Connecticut where she earned a bachelor's degree in Business Management. For four years she worked in Corporate Banking but realized her growing interest for higher education. Luisanna moved to New London over 10 years ago and is passionate about making change in her community. She strongly believes that higher education provides the skills that will help students both professionally and personally.

Katie Hallisey : College Access Program Advisor

Katie Hallisey

College Access Program Advisor

Katie has worked with New London youth since 2001. She was the College and Career Counselor at New London HS and then worked closely with homeless youth at The Covenant Shelter, helping them get to and stay in college. She's been an active volunteer with Higher Edge since its inception and has fond memories of helping recruit the 2nd year cohort. Katie is proud of the relationships she builds with students and believes her honesty (and at times silly personality) is key to her students’ success. She lives in New London with her husband and 3 children.

Mauro Diaz-Hernandez : College Access Program Manager

Mauro Diaz-Hernandez

College Access Program Manager

Originally from Dallas, TX, Mauro worked his way to the New London area after attending Amherst College and working for Williams College. He joined the Higher Edge team because he knows firsthand the positive impacts that a college education has on first generation students and underserved communities.

Jennifer Portella : Success Program Advisor

Jennifer Portella

Success Program Advisor

Jennifer is a recent graduate from Eastern Connecticut State University and earned her bachelor's degree in Sociology with a minor in Criminology. Jennifer worked as a Program Assistant at New London Youth Affairs for many years and enjoyed everything about it. Her passion is to guide and assist youth in our community and see them reach their fullest potential. Jennifer lives to witness youth succeed because they are "our future". She strongly believes that college serves as a gateway to opportunities.

Chris Soto : Founding Director

Chris Soto

Founding Director

Prior to launching Higher Edge, Chris finished his Master’s degree at Brown University. It was in Providence where he interned at College Visions and credits much of Higher Edge’s success to the valuable experience he had working with their team. Having earned his bachelor’s degree at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Chris returned to New London to continue his service to the community. He believes that a college degree is the fastest way to positively change the trajectory of a young person’s life as it did for him.

Board of Directors

Board of Directors

  • Susan Jones (President) – Hoyt, Filippetti, Malaghan, LLC
  • Pam Luketich (Treasurer) – Chelsea Groton Bank
  • Christina Hodge (Secretary) – Mitchell College
  • Ruud Salym Erie – Evariant, Inc.
  • Jonathan Heller – U.S. Coast Guard Academy Institute for Leadership
  • Kristi Kelly – Susiman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law
  • Gladys Rivera-Griffin – New London Public Schools (Retired)
  • John Scott – Bailey Insurance Agencies
  • Adam Sprecace – Electric Boat