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

As a young child in Queens, NY, Sung E befriended the bookstore staff near where her parents worked, and spent hours reading books each day. Her decision to get a BA (Cornell University) and two masters degrees (Columbia University) in literature was inspired by her coming to consciousness as a student activist through the writings of Audre Lorde, Franz Fanon, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and many others. After teaching Asian American and Women’s Literature college courses for several years, Sung E became the executive director of a NYC Asian immigrant community organization and held leadership roles in several local and national movements. Parent of a public school student and a martial arts teacher, Sung E is a certified mindfulness instructor and has received transmission of The Five Mindfulness Trainings by two students of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. 

Crystal Brown, Director of Institutional Giving

As a teenager, Crystal grew up watching her uncle lead her small Mississippi Delta town as mayor, resulting in a strong desire to continue the family legacy as a public servant. With more than 15 years of experience in non-profits and higher education, she comes to Literacy Partners with a broad background in fund development. During her tenure with the American Red Cross, she managed a six-figure portfolio and helped to reinstate the local region’s annual donor recognition program.

She is a two-time graduate of Jackson State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication and a Master of Public Policy and Administration. When she is not working, she enjoys volunteering through her sorority, cheering on her Jackson State Tigers, and exploring new adventures with her daughter and husband. Crystal resides in Brandon, Mississippi.

Sandra Céspedes, Senior Manager of Training & Development

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.”

Mark Conard, Senior Director of Finance and Administration

With a grandfather who immigrated from Spain and a grandmother who emigrated from Italy, Mark understood the challenges of not being proficient in speaking and reading English. His grandfather, at times, would ask him to read newspaper articles or mail to him. His mother was a teacher and spent a great deal of time reading to Mark and his brother, which had a big impact on their educational development. Mark has spent his career working in Finance with a passion for increasing financial literacy across the organization and has years of experience in supporting central finance functions, operations, and information technology. Mark works with leaders to develop and implement strategies to deliver organizational transformation and growth. Mark graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Marshall University and an MBA from The Ohio State University. Mark feels extremely lucky to work for Literacy Partners and be a part of its mission to help others. In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis and working out.

Kristine N. Cooper, Chief External Affairs Officer

Kristine joins Literacy Partners with over 20 years experience in development and communications. Leading the Development, Marketing & Communications team, Kristine is excited to merge her professional experience with her personal passion for education, which creates opportunities for a brighter future. Kristine has had a love of reading for as long as she can remember. She loves to get lost in a book and let her imagination envision the characters and settings, so much so that she finds it hard to watch movies based on books because the characters are already formed in her mind! She is a proud graduate of Hampton University, a historically black college, in Hampton, VA.  She is also a 2019 fellow of the New York Women’s Foundation.

Eva C, Communications Specialist

Born and raised in New York City, Eva has worked in various communication and development capacities for several cultural and educational non-profit organizations over the past seven years. She has worked as a writing tutor for Queensborough Community College, and started her communications career as the public relations and social media coordinator for Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College. She then worked as the development and membership coordinator for Queens Botanical Garden and then later as the digital marketing associate for Flushing Town Hall. She sought out to work for Literacy Partners because she wants to make a difference on a larger scale. When she’s out of the office, she creates non-fiction comics, ranging from autobiographical to family history. To relax, she likes to cook, eat what she cooks, take walks with friends, and travel as much as she can.

Victoria Eng, Director of Communications

Victoria’s favorite book as a child was What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry. She loved reading about the residents of “Busytown” and the work they did to lift up their community. It was this curiosity and her own experience growing up in Manhattan’s Chinatown that led her to join Literacy Partners as Director of Communications in August 2022. Drawing on a wide breadth of experience as a writer, educator, and marketer in both the nonprofit and private sectors, Victoria is excited to share stories of the students and families who have come to Literacy Partners to transform their lives, and the wonderful people who help make it happen. Victoria holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a BA in English and Asian American Studies from Hunter College, and is an alumna of Hedgebrook, a global community of women writers. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Jacqueline Espinosa, Executive Assistant to the COO & CEAO

Jackie was born in the little village of San Miguel, El Salvador. Immigrating to the United States when she was three months old, she has spent her entire life in Queens, New York City. She attended LaGuardia Community College for an associate degree in “Business Administration and Management.” She enjoys reading inspirational books; “Clarity & Connection” is her favorite. Music is one of her greatest pleasures; she enjoys listening and dancing to it. Jackie worked as an Administrative Assistant for an environmental consulting firm that worked on contracts with the NYCSCA, DOE, NYCHA, and other government agencies. Her duties included issuing project numbers to all new projects, assisting office employees, and maintaining weekly reports that included pending invoiced projects. She joined Literacy Partners because she was not only responsible for her own English language development as a child, but she was also tasked with translating and facilitating for her grandmother, who was raising her and did not speak English. She took this responsibility very seriously and wants to help immigrant families learn to read so that they can better support their children’s education.

Cecilia Fernandez, Director of Operations for La Fuerza de Familias Latinas

As a daughter of a single mother, Cecilia helped navigate responsibilities for her family in Guatemala City. As a way of showing appreciation, her mother repaid her in comic books of the series, “The Adventures of Tintin.” This beloved series sparked a passion for reading exposing her to different cultures, traditions, cuisines and landscapes. Cecilia worked as an Early Education Teacher for 2 years. Her experience in teaching along with the stories and illustrations about diverse ecosystems motivated her to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering from Universidad Rural de Guatemala in 2003. Then in 2010, Cecilia earned an Associates Degree in Digital Photography from EFTI Centro Internacional de Fotografía y Cine in Madrid, Spain in order to capture images of diverse human environments like those from her childhood books. In 2012 Cecilia moved to the United States to apply her interest in systems, communication skills, and her post-graduate management degree to the field of Advertising and Business. Her expertise as a Business Performance Lead for a transnational agency will help power up the La Fuerza Team with organizational business systems to boost capacity for impacting Spanish-speaking caregivers on a greater scale. Cecilia’s lived experience as an immigrant parent, her passion for reading and her collaborative spirit make this Miami resident, a great addition to Literacy Partners’ family and national program, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas.

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.

Dinara Yeung Gilmanova, ESOL Teacher

Inspired by her mother who was her first, though unofficial, teacher of English language literacy, Dinara became determined to pursue a career in education. Her genuine love of teaching coupled with her fascination with the English language motivated her to choose the Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages, the leading school in teacher education in Kazakhstan—her home country— from which she graduated cum laude with a B.A. in two foreign languages: English and Korean. Dinara also holds an M.A. from CUNY Hunter in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). She has presented nationally in the area of English Language Learning. 

Dinara does not discriminate when it comes to reading and reads “absolutely everything.” Her favorites range from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Becoming by Michelle Obama, and This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends about Racism by Don Lemon. In her free time, Dinara likes to write poetry and experiment with different recipes in the kitchen. 

Dinara considers herself a proud ambassador of Literacy Partners’ dual-generational approach and is committed to eliminating the disparities in academic achievement of low-income immigrant children compared to their higher-income counterparts. 

Giovanna Gouvea, Workforce Case Manager

My mother had one piece of career advice for me –  “Don’t become a teacher.” It was sound guidance since teachers, in my native Brazil, are severely underpaid. After moving to the United States at the age of 16 to learn English and finish high school, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and went on to work as a family therapist with at-risk youth. My native language is Portuguese, but I also learned Spanish and took French and Greek courses.

The turning point came in 2016 when I taught English in Japan for one year. “Despite the difficulties, I felt at home in the classroom. I had never planned on becoming an English teacher–I actually did not want to learn English as a child.”  Despite my mother’s advice, I pursued a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at The New School and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

I immediately began teaching English to an amazingly diverse adult immigrant population in New York City and quickly realized how the language barrier negatively affected the students’ progress and access opportunities for their families. At Literacy Partners, I believe that through language teaching and other services, students will be able to close the socio-economic and educational gap, not only for themselves but for their children as well.

Terrie Gyles, English For Parents Teacher

Raised in Southern California, Terrie was an avid reader as a child and quickly understood the importance of literacy. Inspired by books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Jane Eyre, Terrie developed a passion for writing and became interested in books that dealt with social issues. She earned a BA in Communications with a concentration in Print Journalism from Penn State University, worked as a newspaper reporter for two years, then as a licensed public school teacher at several schools in Queens. With more than 19 years of teaching experience in K-12 education and higher education, Terrie pursued two MAs and is currently enrolled in a PhD program in administrative and instructional leadership in high education. Her experience and passion for working with adult learners is what prompted her to join Literacy Partners. In her free time, she does social advocacy and volunteer work with the United Nations Association, as president of the UNA-USA Queens Borough Chapter.

Jasmine Jeffers, Senior Director of Institutional Advancement

Jasmine’s decade-long career in fundraising stems from a deep belief that a well-told story can change the world. She comes to Literacy Partners from Achievement First (AF), a network of public charter schools that provides a college-preparatory K-12 education to 16,000 students in three states. At AF, Jasmine managed a seven-figure portfolio of major institutional donors and worked closely with the organization’s Brooklyn Board of Directors. Prior to her time at AF, Jasmine managed alumni outreach for Princeton AlumniCorps, an organization that provides civic engagement opportunities for passionate individuals of all ages. Jasmine graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and is currently completing an MPA at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. When she’s not at work, she’s fond of baking and exploring New York City’s many museums.

Jessica Jimenez, Associate Manager of Data and Program Support

Born and Raised in The Bronx, Jessica has always been obsessed with mathematics and numerology, even as a child. Through her studies she realized numbers are important! The interpretation of data can be a key contributor to decisions related to organizational effectiveness and performance (and for better and for worse). She joins Literacy Partners after spending over 17 years with Harlem Children’s Zone where she enjoyed applying and growing her skillset within a fast moving, ever evolving non-profit, as a Salesforce Associate.

Jessica wants to help close the achievement gap by supporting programs designed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. She believes that access to education and literacy are pivotal ingredients in the recipe that can level the playing field for families while creating opportunities to prepare them for success.

Michael Kengmana, Program Manager for English For Parents & 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. 

Temis Laguna, Program Manager of Digital Media

Born and raised in Mexico City, Temis discovered her passion for books, nature, spirituality, and technology thanks to her father. His eclectic personality helped her to become curious, find answers in different places, and write her own stories. Temis’s passion for learning and sharing led her to pursue a BA in Communications at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and soon after to work in Public TV creating quality content for children and promoting reading. Since her move to California in 2015, Temis has focused on collaborating with non-profit organizations to develop educational, culturally appropriate content and accessible programs for children and families of color. Temis will apply her social justice lens to our developing educational media and digital campaigns to promote our initiatives to partner organizations and caregivers in Latinx communities. Her strong communication skills and passion for reading make her a great addition to Literacy Partners’ national program, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas.

Leticia López, Program Manager of Implementation

Born and raised in Mexico, Leticia grew up reading the remarkable stories of hundreds of immigrants that decided to rebuild their lives and pack up their memories to pursue their dreams. Inspired by their journey, Leticia pursued a BA in International Affairs at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and then moved to the United States in 2015. Finding opportunities and challenges in the city of dreams, New York City became another home. Since then, Leticia has been directly involved in implementing transformative educational programs at schools, government, community-based and cultural institutions for immigrants. Leticia strongly believes in the power of education and storytelling to transform our society. Leticia is excited to help our partners successfully implement our family engagement program into the lives of their organizations to power up Spanish-speaking caregivers in their communities. Her lived experience as a change agent makes her a great addition to Literacy Partners’ national program, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas.

Michelle López, Executive Director, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas

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, Community Engagement Manager

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.

Audrey Dahyung Oh, Multimedia Specialist

Audrey was born and bred in Seoul, Republic of Korea, where she was surrounded by a fresh set of library books that her mother picked out every week. She grew up fascinated by old Korean tales of magpies, tigers, and wise, powerful women, as well as U.S. classics like The Secrets of Droon and George’s Marvellous Medicine. Reading has been an inseparable part of learning English as a child in Korea, so she is excited to take part in the mission of Literacy Partners. Audrey graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Race and Ethnic Studies (CSER) and Visual Arts. She has previously worked for non-profits like CITYarts and OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates helping youth to find their voices through art. When she is not working, she often finds herself propped on a bean bag next to her ever-growing houseplant collection and finishing a book.

Kimiko Petsche, Program Manager of Adult Literacy

Kimiko found the passion for literacy and reading as a child from her parents, who despite working long hours and enduring stressful commutes, always managed to fight off exhaustion in the evenings to read her a bedtime story. “Reading provides a way to build understanding and empathy across generations,” she says. She has a passion for direct service, especially literacy intervention and high school equivalency completion and program intake with transitional-aged youth. Direct service is important to Kimiko because it is a way she is able to create student-centered programs and advocate for the needs of those she works with.

After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Children and Family Sciences with a minor in Education, Kimiko pursued an MA in adult education to contribute and fight for educational equity.  Kimiko works with a transformational learning lens and the belief that knowledge is power. Kimiko’s favorite childhood stories are a Series of Unfortunate Events, Miss Nelson Is Missing and the Arthur book series. Currently Kimiko loves to read a variety of non-fiction books as she believes we learn most from hearing the stories of our fellow humans.

Stephanie Portillo, Program Manager of Outreach

Stephanie Portillo is a lifelong resident of the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, NY. She has been community organizing since the age of 14, after attending a rally at Union Square which sparked her interest in learning about social justice issues. While pursuing her Global Studies degree at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, Stephanie worked as a project manager for a not-for-profit organization in the Bronx, where she helped launch a community-based initiative called Hunts Point Speaks. For the past 6 years, Stephanie has served in the public and not-for-profit sectors as a liaison to city and state agencies to bring resources to New Yorkers, organize underserved communities of color to advocate for quality services, strive for equal representation, and motivate women of color to become civically involved. Recently, Stephanie used her skills in designing community outreach plans and power-mapping to help the New York State Assembly reach over 80,000 Bronx residents. In 2021, Stephanie was a recipient of the Latin Impact Award for her outreach work during the Global Pandemic. As Project Manager for Outreach, Stephanie brings her strengths in scaling through collective impact with strategic partners to support Spanish-speaking families.


Emily Rifkin, Associate Manager of Development

As a child, Emily fell in love with reading when she read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a book whose protagonist also experiences the transformative power of literacy. She has since spent over a decade working in the education world. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, she has worked for nonprofits and public schools in Minneapolis, New York, and Alès, France. She is particularly committed to working to address racial and economic inequities in education. In her spare time, Emily enjoys cooking, designing clothing, running, and seeing live music.

Katherine Rivera, Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships

Katherine Rivera grew up in Queens, New York. As a young student, she felt overwhelmed by subjects such as Math and Science, then later realized she wasn’t provided a supportive pathway. This experience fuels her commitment to equitable access to education for all. Hardship impacts access to resources that lead children and their families feeling less confident about their abilities to learn. She is committed to the dreams of those she serves and supporting their developing skills to get there.

Katherine brings 8 years of experience as a community advocate, elevating the voices of the next generation of leaders. Her expertise lies in engaging communities of color and strengthening literacy through informal STEM education. While serving as the Community Engagement Manager at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, she witnessed the spark of wonder in the eyes of first-time museum-goers who never before saw themselves in STEM. Observing children and adults transform, as their literacy for science and math is strengthened, has been her greatest joy.

Katherine also brings coaching experience to our work with parents, early childcare, and education providers who are seeking to engage immigrant parents in their child’s early education. She is a graduate of Psychology from Queens College, NY, and served as a fellow with AmeriCorps- Vista.

Bertha Robles-Giron, Program Manager of Parent Engagement & Special Projects

Bertha credits her parents for instilling her passion for reading and learning. Growing up as a second-generation American in New Jersey, Bertha saw that immigrant parents and their children struggled to obtain important support services within the school system. This motivated Bertha to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey and dedicate her career to advocating for vulnerable families. As a family engagement advocate, Bertha is an expert in parent leadership and social capital. She understands how to partner with education and care staff to involve immigrant families in their child’s education. Her love of learning will help the team tackle new projects, manage our home library program and monitor data. Her deep understanding of how to support parents’ health and social goals makes this change agent a great addition to  Literacy Partners’ national program, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas.

Jeffrey Stauch, Senior Director of Individual Giving

Jeff (he/him) comes to Literacy Partners as a career fundraiser for education and racial justice causes in both the Northeast and the Deep South, and an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion.  Jeff fell in love with reading when his high school English teacher lent him a copy of Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges.  Jeff received a Certificate of Political Studies from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Middlebury College, and a Master’s degree in Political Sociology from the University of Chicago. He is the author of Effective Frontline Fundraising (Apress, 2011), and his creative work has appeared online in The Prague Revue.  Outside of work, Jeff makes bread, reads poetry, history, and fiction, writes creatively, runs slowly in the woods, enjoys Star Wars, and is a student and teacher of the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

Sayyid Tirmizi, English For Parents Teacher

Born and raised in India, Sayyid has his Master’s and Ph.D. in History and an International M.B.A from Europe. He is both a certified career coach and an ESOL instructor. He also has a certification in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity from the University of Florida and in Social Media from Columbia University. He has taught at the University of Tulane, The City College and currently teaches South Asian Art history at Rutgers OLLI-RU Program. He was also the Program Coordinator of the New York chapter of the National Language Service Corps and has served twice as an AmeriCorps Member, volunteering over 1000 hours helping marginalized minority and immigrant communities in several non-profits in New York. He is passionate about empowering immigrant communities and helping them achieve their American Dream. When he’s not working, Sayyid volunteers at CUNY Immigration Services and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lorna Torres, Executive Assistant to the CEO and Special Projects Manager

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.

Ebru Yenal, Director of Adult Education

Born in Germany, raised in Turkey, and now living in the U.S., Ebru has a profound interest in different cultures, especially when it comes to languages and food. She is fairly fluent in American Sign Language as well as English and Turkish, and is now learning German and French. Ebru holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and was working in the financial sector when she fell into the Adult Education field by chance. She loved it so much that she completed her Master’s degree in Adult Education at Buffalo University and then her Doctor of Education at Northcentral University. As an immigrant advocate with a sincere love for travel, movies, animals, and nature, Ebru considers Literacy Partners a fairyland for immigrant students where they can follow their hearts, thrive, and feel at home.