Board of Directors

Founder & CEO/Board Chair: Maria I. Melendez

Maria I. Melendez, the visionary behind Embrace Her Legacy, is more than just a founder and CEO; she’s a catalyst for change. With a multifaceted role as a women and girls leadership advocate, speaker, author, mentor, podcast host, and brand strategist, Maria is on a mission to empower individuals to craft lives that leave an indelible mark on the world.

Maria’s influence extends far beyond her organization, with features in prestigious publications such as FORBES, ESSENCE magazine, and, coupled with recognition through various accolades. Her transformative impact is not only evident in her extensive speaking engagements, surpassing 100 talks, but also in her acclaimed TEDx talk titled “A Time to Heal.”

Stepping away from a high-profile career in the music business, Maria redirected her trajectory to fulfill her purpose of educating and transforming the lives of women and girls. Referred to affectionately by clients and peers as the “Inspirational Homegirl,” Maria embodies the essence of leading a purpose-driven life, inspiring others to do the same.

Hailing proudly from Brooklyn, NY, and of Afro-Latin descent, Maria holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Hofstra University and earned her Executive Master’s of Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Her contemporary approach blends faith, transparency, authenticity, wit, humor, and positivity, creating a powerful message of transformation that resonates globally. Maria I. Melendez is not just a leader; she’s a force, shaping the narrative of personal and leadership development for women and girls around the world.



Vice President: Sean Hutchinson 

Prior to joining iCrossing in 2019, Sean spent one year at a construction project management firm where he worked with BMW, Ted Baker and LEGO. This experience helped Sean build a deeper understanding of full project lifecycles as well as gain a deep understanding of managing multi-million dollar accounts. Sean also spent two years working as a Marketing Project Manager in the E-commerce space managing multiple product launches per year.  Sean received his B.A. in Marketing from Hofstra University and is PMP certified. A native of Jamaica, Sean enjoys traveling and exploring all the activities that NYC has to offer.

Treasurer: Lindsey Kendrick 

Lindsey has over 14 years of professional experience in Deloitte’s audit practice, primarily serving clients in the insurance, investment management, and broker-dealer sectors. Lindsey also has extensive experience in US GAAP, SEC and US statutory accounting and reporting requirements and has led cross-functional engagement teams in various audits of public, private and emerging growth companies. Lindsey has a breadth of experience with the valuation of various financial instruments, including alternative investments and complex, hard to value securities. She also has significant experience with internal controls over financial reporting and the regulatory reporting requirements of insurers and broker-dealers. 

Lindsey received her Master’s Degree from the University of Connecticut and is a certified public accountant. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Lindsey champions Deloitte’s diversity and inclusion efforts in the Stamford office where she leads numerous efforts of the local office inclusion council.


Sonia Rodrigues – Board Member 

Sonia Rodrigues-Marto is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT), a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LCADC), a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS). She is the Director of School and Community Based Programs at Rutgers Health -University Behavioral Health Care which provides professional development and intensive mental health programs to youth and families in public, private and out of district school settings. She is the owner of Transition to Wellness, a small private practice in NJ and has served as an Adjunct Faculty member at Monmouth University and at Middlesex County College. She has presented on a variety of workshops on topics related to stress and anxiety among teens, integrating mindfulness practices in schools, completing suicide risk assessments, non-suicidal self-injury, supporting youth in schools and the community in a post-Covid world and on treating survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Her clinical and research interests are within the areas of acculturation among Latino populations, multicultural factors in counseling, working with teens and young adults on life transitions and career exploration, self-injurious behavior and risk assessments, sexual and domestic abuse, trauma and factors related to resilience. She serves on several boards and aims to support agencies and schools in an effort to promote overall wellness and health for women, children and families.

Dr. Venee Cunningham – Board Member 

Dr. Venee Cunningham is a standout in the healthcare field. With a Doctorate in Medical Science from Rocky Mountain University and dual Bachelor’s degrees from City College University of New York and Hampton University, she brings a unique blend of academic excellence and clinical expertise to her role as a Physician Assistant.

At NYU Langone, Venee’s leadership in the Emergency Department & Comprehensive Care Transitions Center has led to significant improvements in clinical workflows and patient outcomes. She also founded Millennial Healthcare Professional, redefining urgent care and occupational medicine services. Beyond her clinical work, Venee is deeply involved in her community, serving as a Nassau County Medical Reserve Corp Officer and passionately volunteering and mentoring with a host of other organizations. 

Venee Cunningham is more than a healthcare professional; she’s a source of inspiration, embodying professional excellence, innovative thinking, and an unwavering dedication to community well-being. Her story is not just about achieving personal success but about uplifting and empowering those around her, making her a true luminary in the healthcare landscape.


Autumn Hargett – Junior Board Member 

Autumn Hargett, CFLE – P is a graduate from the State University of New York, College at Oneonta where she received her bachelor’s of science in Human Development and Family Studies and dual minor in Educational Psychology and Women and Gender Studies. Currently, Autumn works for Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy enriching the youth in their academic, social, and personal endeavors.  She is a proud sister of Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and serves on the sorority’s National Council of Officers as the Regional Administrative Coordinator for Region 3: Western New York where she oversees 9 collegiate chapters and 2 graduate chapters. She also serves as the executive assistant secretary on the Board of Directors for the Castle Hill Resource Center, a non-profit whose mission is to support, advocate, and provide resources to address the diverse needs of their community. Through her emerging post-graduate career, Autumn has received certifications as a Family Life Educator and facilitator for Prepare/Enrich, the #1 premarital and marriage assessment tool, using evidence-based skills and insights to foster healthy relationships. 

Autumn is a young  woman on the borderline of facing the challenges of both millennial women and Generation Z girls’ experiences which makes her passion for Embrace Her Legacy’s mission even stronger. She is always looking for ways to better serve and educate her hometown community in the Boogie Down Bronx.  Her heart, compassion, and soul is what drives her to advocate and speak out for the women and youth around her today. 


Interested in joining our board of directors or other volunteer opportunities?Learn more here.