Anthony Tassi, Chief Executive Officer

Anthony joined Literacy Partners in 2013 after leading the New York City Mayor’s Office of Adult Education for five years during the Bloomberg Administration. Previously, he served as a health policy advisor in the mayor’s office for four years. During that time, he saw how strengthening adult literacy programs would not only improve education outcomes but would have a profound public health impact as well. Anthony is the co-creator of the Emmy Award-winning We Are New York video series. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, he is a (reasonably) fluent speaker of Italian and Portuguese, an ongoing student of Farsi and Spanish, and would love to master Nepali someday. The most inspiring part of his job, he says, is “seeing what our students are able to do with the resources we provide and how powerful they really are to make huge changes in their lives.”

Sung E Bai, Chief Operating Officer

Initially a student activist, Sung E has been a social justice advocate for most of her life. Along with being executive director of a NYC community organization for over 11 years, she has been part of many national movements, and taught Asian American and Women’s Literature courses in local colleges. As a young child in Queens, NY, she befriended the bookstore staff near where her parents worked, and spent hours reading books each day. Her decision to get a BA and two masters degrees in literature was inspired by her coming to consciousness through the writings of Audre Lorde, Franz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, and many others. Both a mother of a public school student and a martial arts teacher, Sung E comes to Literacy Partners with a guiding mantra from Frederick Douglass: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Lynn Clark, Chief Program Officer

Lynn learned about literacy at the knee of her mother—a children’s librarian from India who dedicated her career to putting authentic multicultural literature into the hands of children. “She was the first one to show me how a book can be both a mirror and a window into our own and another person’s culture.” Lynn brings fresh experience building 2-generation literacy programs in under-resourced communities in the rural South. As Executive Director of a regional non-profit serving children and families, she expanded programming to serve 11,000 children each year. Prior to moving into the non-profit sector, Lynn was education faculty at a state university, where she developed PK-16 pathway programs for underrepresented groups in STEM. She has worked coast to coast as a program evaluator and presented and published internationally, including award-winning print and multi-media textbooks. She continues to teach at the doctoral level in the area of multicultural education. Lynn believes that all children should have access to books in which they can see themselves—and others—in positive ways, and she is excited to be part of an organization that helps parents “hold up a mirror and open a window” for their child through reading.

Sari Barocas, Senior ESOL Teacher and Site Coordinator

Sari is glad to work in a program that acknowledges the critical role of parents in passing new knowledge on to their children. She teaches introductory and intermediate English classes in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Sari earned a BS in psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder and a master’s degree in education from the Bank Street College of Education with a specialization in infant and parent development. She credits her grandparents—Turkish immigrants—with teaching her about other cultures through the dolls they brought home from their travels and The Secret Garden and the Nancy Drew book series with sparking her imagination.

Linny Carrillos, La Fuerza De Familias Latinas Intern

Linny Carrillos was born in Honduras and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently a student at City Technical College. I have an Associate Degree in Human Services, and currently is starting her Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. She loves to play soccer and on her days off, she likes to go out with her friends.

Sandra Céspedes, Project Manager of National Programs

Sandra formerly taught beginning English for parents in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “Information is power, and I became a teacher to help people become empowered through language,” she says. Newly arrived in the United States from Peru at age 17, Sandra learned English while earning her BA in bilingual journalism from Lehman College, and went on to earn her MA in teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages from Hunter College. Sandra always felt a strong connection to her students: “I’m not just a stranger who’s trying to teach them English,” she says. “I know it’s difficult, but it’s definitely possible.”

Elizabeth Chrysafi, Student Resource Support Navigator

Elizabeth was raised in a predominantly Greek immigrant community in Astoria, Queens. Elizabeth is an avid reader and particularly enjoys nonfiction pieces pertaining to culture and psychology. Elizabeth is currently completing her Bachelor of Science in Human Services from the College of Technology, CUNY. She is a Licensed Cosmetologist and has worked in the industry for over four years as a skin specialist and laser technician. In addition to her passion for esthetics, she has always valued education and literacy, and above all, enjoys helping people in different capacities. As a child of non-native English speaking immigrants, Elizabeth understands the importance of developing language skills at an early age, and is eager to support parents with the tools necessary to facilitate a strong academic foundation that begins at home.

Chelsea Colebrooke, Student Resource Support Navigator

Chelsea was born and raised on the beautiful Caribbean island Freeport, Grand Bahamas. While growing up she enjoyed reading the Junie B Jones book collection by Barbara Park. She has always been passionate about reading and creating personal daily story narration. Currently, she attends the CUNY New York College of Technology working towards a major in Human Services, which she decided to pursue after working as a general councilor for the Ramapo for Children summer camp. Upon completing her degree, Chelsea would like to obtain a masters in Social Work. Today, Chelsea loves to read Korean and Japanese manga and would one day like to attend NYC Comic Con. Some things Chelsea likes to do in her spare time is learn how to apply acrylic nails, style hair, and play with her cat “Princess Trouble Thunder Colebrooke.”

Oksana Dudnik, Student Resource Support Navigator

Oksana was born and raised in Ukraine, and her love for books comes from her mother, a teacher. From early childhood, she dreamed of studying foreign languages. Upon graduation, she entered university majoring in French and English language and literature. Knowing how hard it was to comprehend a new language, she started to give students lessons to help them improve their grades and pass exams. At the age of nineteen, Oksana moved to Bay Ridge, NY where she began her career as a pre-K tutor, helping children prepare for the Gifted and Talented test. She has always had a passion for education and has shared her knowledge with others, resulting in Oksana’s decision to return to college. Now she is a student at the NYC College of Technology in the Human Services Department. Her future profession inspired Oksana to join the Red Cross and the Crisis Text Line, which occupies most of her time. Now Oksana reads psychology literature to enhance her knowledge. Oksana is genuinely grateful to be a part of the Literacy Partners during her internship and help people open the door to a new world through books and literature.

Marta Garcia, ESOL Teacher

As she grew up in Guatemala City, Marta loved looking at her fathers’ old books from elementary school. Her favorite book was Barbuchin by Daniel Armas Lopez and Virgina R. de Armas. As the oldest of four children, Marta took care of her three little brothers, providing her with an introduction to early childhood education and care giving. She graduated with a teacher certificate in Guatemala and worked at an elementary school, recognizing the importance of reading on child development. Literacy Partners captured her interest as she experienced learning a language from scratch to navigate life in the United States, and the impact it has on children. Marta is a human services student at City Tech college with a minor in psychology. In her spare time, she volunteers at the Brooklyn Library and an animal rescue center.

Yevgeniya Gershkovich, Senior Bookkeeper

After moving to New York City from Moscow in 1993, Yevgeniya simultaneously learned English and earned a BS in accounting at Touro College, from which she graduated summa cum laude. As a non-native English speaker, Yevgeniya relates to the challenges that Literacy Partners’ students overcome. “As a child, my favorite toy was a book,” says Yevgeniya, whose favorite way to spend time now is reading and discussing books with her grandchildren.

Pingna Huang, Educational Counselor

Pingna was born and raised in Taishan City, Guangdong Province, China. Before moving to New York. She has been a family advocate in her community for years and is passionate about cross-generational and cross-cultural social work. As an amateur YouTuber, she focuses on food culture therapy and how food can act as a bridge across cultures. As a first generation immigrant and mother of two, she appreciates programs like Literacy Partners which empower parents to create successful futures for their families.

Michael Kengmana, ESOL Teacher

Michael grew up in New York City, and struggled with learning how to read as a child. He is thankful that his parents and teachers took the time to make sure he grew up not only learning how to read and write, but enjoying it as well. Today, Michael reads a lot of historical fiction and non-fiction historical texts. Michael earned his bachelor’s degree in history at Kenyon College in Ohio and a master’s degree in special education at Hunter College. Michael taught in New York City public schools as a high school special education teacher for four years. He saw firsthand the literacy gaps that many students had coming into and leaving high school. From this, Michael’s passion for literacy grew and he feels extremely lucky to work for Literacy Partners and be a part of their mission to help others. In his spare time, Michael enjoys playing rugby and playing music. 

Adriane Lee, Program Director

Adriane joined Literacy Partners in 2015 as an ESOL teacher. Recurring highlights from her 10+ years experience in ESOL education are seeing the many ways learning happens on a daily basis and getting to witness the resilience of her students, no matter what challenges they encounter. In 2017, Adriane started managing Literacy Partners’ We Speak NYC program as a way to help a greater number of English language learners achieve their goals. Under her stewardship, and with the invaluable help from a dedicated team of volunteers and interns, the number of people served in the program has more than doubled in size. Although an unapologetic fan of movies and “prestige” TV, she turns to books for inspiration and insights in travel, behavioral economics, and educational theory.

Michelle López, National Director of Parent Education

Motivated by her own struggle with reading, Michelle turned to art and play to craft her own stories. At age 11, she co-created a soap opera with her cousin, a foreshadowing of her work at Literacy Partners. Michelle joined the team to advance media for social impact and leverage partnerships to expand our work nationally by bringing the La Fuerza de Creer initiative into communities. She is an Art Therapist with a Masters degree from Hofstra University and a B.A. in Communication Arts with a focus on film and broadcast from Fordham University. Michelle is also an alumni of the International Exchange Program of the US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She joins us from the museum field, where she served as Director of Education & Community Programs at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo and Manager of ArtAccess Programs & Autism Initiatives at Queens Museum. A leader in the City’s community of early childhood stakeholders, she has expertise and passion for working with families across cultures to make artistic and educational resources accessible. She believes stories are the artifacts of the soul and looks forward to working with colleagues on promoting the power of storytelling.

Rosa Loza, Associate Manager for Development & Communications

As a child, Rosa fell in love with short stories, particularly the stories of Aesop. When she was attending Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP) in Lima, where she grew up, she realized the lack of comprehensive education reform. She says, “in order to create change, it’s necessary to educate parents first – so that they can invest in their child’s education.” Her love of literacy and interest in dual-generation education led her to Literacy Partners, and a “mission that is close to my heart.” Rosa previously worked in development at Citizens Union. She has a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and Latino studies from City College.

Crisol Merlos, Student Resource Support Navigator

Crisol grew up in Queens, NY. As a child, she loved the Captain Underpants and The Rainbow Fish book series. She graduated at BMCC with an associates degree in Liberal Arts and decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services at City Tech College in NYC. After graduation, she will pursue a Master’s in Social Work. Although Crisol does not have a favorite author, she is a fan of William Shakespeare. Pre-COVID, Crisol loved going to the gym in her free time. Currently, she is enjoying cooking meals at home.

Clementine Morel, Digital Media Specialist

Afro-Dominican advertiser Clementine was born in the USA and raised in the Dominican Republic. With a Bachelor in Advertising Communications and a Masters Degree in Digital Marketing and Communications, she has worked in the online and offline creative world for over 7 years in different areas. By dedicating her work and personal life to social justice, Clem has created awareness about social topics, especially in Dominican communities. Her passion is storytelling in any way, shape, or form. Clem’s favorite writer is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and wishes everyone would read her work, as it shows how important it is to raise everyone as equals.

Paige Peterson, Author and Artist in Residence

Paige Peterson was the Executive Vice President of Huntsman Cancer Foundation from 2008-2019. She is now a consultant to Huntsman Cancer Foundation. Ms. Peterson facilitated the partnership of Huntsman Cancer Institute and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, Ms. Peterson shares the Council’s commitment to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world.

Paige brings insight from the literary arts and years of experience as a working author and artist to our work. She worked closely with Christopher Cerf, an award-winning author and television producer. She was a researcher and editor on several of Cerf’s books, including “The Experts Speak” and “Mission Accomplished.” The two were co-directors of a Welcome Books’ imprint, Cerf & Peterson, and co-authored a bestselling book, “Blackie, The Horse Who Stood Still,” which Ms. Peterson also illustrated. She also illustrated Jesse Kornbluth’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens.

Born in Marin County, California, Ms. Peterson is also a painter who is represented by Gerald Peters Gallery in New York City. The prestigious Guild Hall Academy of the Arts in East Hampton has honored her with a lifetime membership. Ms. Peterson lives in New York City. Learn more here.

David Rothenberg, Program Director

David has held many roles in the field of education since earning a master’s degree in humanities, with a focus in international human rights, at Florida State University. After graduation, David stayed on at FSU as an adjunct professor before moving to South Korea, where he worked for more than five years as an ESL instructor, researcher, and course developer. David takes a student-centered approach to education: “Learning and teaching are the primary means to gaining access to the many amazing opportunities available today,” he says. “The more we can help students integrate into their communities, the more they will be able to take advantage of the services and support networks available to them.” When he’s not at work, you can find David at the gym or working to promote human-rights education.

Allison Sciplin, Director of Special Events and Annual Giving

From an early age, Allison has possessed a great love for reading and books. She often travels to small towns and scours used bookstores, looking for unique and little-known books by African American authors.  It is a fitting pastime for Allison, who still owns her first picture book, by Langston Hughes. Allison grew up immersed in a world of the arts and books in her home state of Ohio. A former educator and dancer with an MFA in theater, she transitioned into fundraising after a first career in arts programming. Prior to Literacy Partners, she worked for the Primary Care Development Corporation and Bank Street College of Education. Through her work at Literacy Partners, Allison says, she hopes others will fall in love with reading and books, just as she did.

Susan Straub, Senior Advisor for Reading Promotion

Susan Straub created The READ TO ME Program to encourage young families to read with their babies. Based on her own pleasurable experiences of shared family reading as a child, mother, and grandmother, and her training in social work, Read To Me brings fun interactive practice to families with very young children. She is the co-author of Reading With Babies, Toddlers & Twos [Sourcebooks, reprinted 2013] with KJ Dell’Antonia and the early childhood Brooklyn librarian Rachel Payne. She and her novelist husband live in Brooklyn near her novelist daughter and son-in-law’s independent bookstore Books Are Magic.

Lorna Torres, Executive Assistant

Born in Nicaragua, Lorna grew up near the Grand Concourse in the Bronx in a predominantly immigrant community and attended City College. “I understand firsthand the pressures and obstacles facing young people, especially immigrants, in finishing their educations,” says Lorna, whose mother, like many Literacy Partners parents, relied on her to translate English conversations into Spanish. When Lorna’s son, Jonathan, was a toddler, her favorite books to read to him were The Cat in the Hat and I Love You Forever.