Anthony Tassi, Executive Director

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.” anthonyt@literacypartners.org

Sari Barocas, 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 the Highbridge section of the Bronx. 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. sarib@literacypartners.org

Phil Cameron, Adult Basic Education and High School Equivalency Teacher

When he’s not teaching Literacy Partners classes at the Kingsley Early Learning Center on Staten Island, Phil—who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English—finds himself immersed in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books with his two sons. It was becoming a parent that drew him to the Literacy Partners’ dual-generation approach. “It’s my goal, as a teacher and a parent, to empower not just one generation but the next, and that means passing down my love for learning and literacy,” Phil says. The Brooklyn native spent six years in Seattle—where he gardened, hiked, and drank a lot of coffee—before moving to Staten Island, a locale whose green space reminded him of the Pacific Northwest. philc@literacypartners.org

Sandra Cespedes, ESOL Teacher and Site Coordinator

Formerly a local television news journalist, Sandra teaches beginning English for parents in Corona, Queens. “Information is power, and I became a teacher to help people become empowered through language,” she says. Newly arrived in the Unites 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. Now, she even prefers to read her favorite Latin American authors in English. Sandra feels 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.” sandrac@literacypartners.org

Flor de Maria Eilets, Social Worker

Flor de Maria Eilets, LMSW, brings a passion to her work that was shaped by her childhood in Callao, Peru, where girls and low-income people had little access to education. Although her own home had no books, her aunt brought Flor de Maria to her secret meetings with a boyfriend, at the library, leaving her to read anything she liked, from murder mysteries to Don Quixote—still her favorite book. Flor de Maria’s strong sense of curiosity led her to seek out an education, first in Peru and then in the United States, where she earned a BA from Mercy College and master’s degree from Lehman College. She has spent her career in social work advocating for and developing adult literacy programs. flore@literacypartners.org

Chaz Frazer, Data Manager

After serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1999 to 2005 (as a flight surgeon’s assistant), Chaz earned a BA in East Asian studies, minoring in Japanese and Chinese, from Queens College. A year spent in Japan, combined with his Literacy Partners experience, has deepened his interest in languages, and he wants to study and help preserve the indigenous, marginalized languages of Okinawa and Hokaiwa, Japan. He is on a sci-fi binge and recently read A Song of Ice and Firechazf@literacypartners.org

Kevin Furman

Kevin Furman, Outreach Coordinator

Literacy Partners’ two-generation learning model has personal resonance for Kevin, who received his bachelor’s degree in human services and public administration from City College, just days before his daughter’s graduation from Spelman College. “We studied together on the phone!” he says. Like many of the students he now recruits, Kevin received his high school equivalency degree while raising a family. “I know how frustrating it can be when you don’t fit into the traditional education system,” he says. A devotee of biographies—whose lifelong favorite book is the Bible—Kevin, formerly a mental health advocate, sees his work as a golden opportunity to give people in his community the tools they need to succeed. kevinf@literacypartners.org

Yevgeniya Gershkovich, Senior Bookkeeper

After moving 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. yevgeniyag@literacypartners.org

Adriane Lee, ESOL Teacher and Site Coordinator

For Adriane, one of the most rewarding moments in teaching her English for Parents I and II classes in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, is when students report that they understand the announcements on the subway. “It opens up a whole new world for them, and that success makes them even more motivated to learn,” she says. At Literacy Partners, she embraces the challenge of helping students improve their English skills and become more comfortable with their day-to-day obligations as parents and community members. A choreographer with a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, Adriane’s most recent favorite book is The Correctionsadrianel@literacypartners.org

Vulcanus Levi, Program Coordinator

Vulcanus teaches the Literacy Partners Study Hall—a time for high school equivalency class students to receive one-on-one help. He also helps coordinate other aspects of the evening classes and recruits new students and volunteers. A lover of word meanings and mysticism, he is the only member of the staff to have created his own name: Vulcanus, after the Roman god of fire, and Levi, after Eliphas Levi, an author of books on magic and the occult. vlevi@literacypartners.org

Hannah Lyles, Communications Manager

Hannah has lived in Puerto Rico, the UK, Singapore, Texas, Australia, and now New York City. Throughout the moving about, reading and writing were two constants. At six years old, she wrote out Winnie the Pooh stories verbatim and found much joy in pretending it was her own work. Hannah—who holds bachelor’s degrees in English literature and history and in international business economics—joined Literacy Partners because she believes in the incredible power that words have in healing and inspiring people. “I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading and to find their way, both literally and figuratively,” she says. Previously, Hannah was an operations and tech expert at Dress for Success. When Hannah isn’t tweeting, she’s making collages at home, hiking upstate, or writing poems on the subway. hannahl@literacypartners.org

Lionel Ouellette

Lionel Ouellette, Director of Programs

Lionel joined Literacy Partners after concluding four years of education-management experience, based abroad. His professional work includes leadership in publishing and adult literacy across cultures. With his MA from Columbia University Teachers College and a BA in literature from the University of Michigan, Lionel’s steadfast commitment to education as “a tool that enables us to live more empowered lives” continues to grow out of his personal love for reading. He started with comic books and eventually discovered the artistry of acclaimed writers such as Toni Morrison and poet Ko Un. When he’s not at work, you can find him outside somewhere, with his Kindle. lionelo@literacypartners.org

Gabriela Philo, Development Manager

It was a book—From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler—that launched Gabriela on the path to a career in the nonprofit sector. She didn’t manage to run away and live in a museum like the children in the Mixed-up Files, but she did intern at the American Museum of Natural History for three years, which inspired her undergraduate anthropology studies at Bard College. Prior to Literacy Partners, Gabriela interned at Human Rights Watch, conducting fundraising research for LGBT rights. gabrielap@literacypartners.org

Fernando Romero, Director of Finance & Administration

As a college student at the National University of Santa Domingo, Fernando spent three summers volunteering in the countryside, teaching people how to read and write. He became aware that people who were illiterate were frequently taken advantage of, and he dedicated himself to helping them. Fernando earned a BS in accounting with a concentration in computer science and came to Literacy Partners in December 2013 from the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans. His favorite childhood book was Siddhartha, and his favorite adult book is Angela’s Ashesfernandor@literacypartners.org

Timothy Ruffin

Timothy Ruffin, HSE Curriculum Developer and Lead Teacher

Tim’s favorite books are about adult learning, but he credits his childhood favorites, the Babar series, with teaching him how to get into trouble—and strategies for getting out of it. An adult-education instructor for nine years, Tim teaches high school equivalency and college prep classes at Literacy Partners. With a BA from Rutgers University in history and African American studies, an MA in history from Montclair State University, and an MsEd from Capella University, this New Jersey native likes teaching adults because they are especially motivated to learn. “When each new person passes the exam, it’s a huge weight off their shoulders,” says Tim, who is thrilled that some of his first Literacy Partners students are now applying to college. timothyr@literacypartners.org

Manzar Samii, Manager of Special Projects

Manzar’s favorite place to read is on a sunny park bench in a hidden corner of Prospect Park—a long way from her childhood home in Tehran, Iran, where she lived until she was five. She spent the balance of her childhood in Santa Fe, New Mexico, graduated from American University in London, and earned a master’s degree in gender, media, and cultural studies from the London School of Economics. Fluent in Farsi, Manzar lives in New York City because it’s the “most international place in the United States and represents the American dream of so many immigrants.” manzars@literacypartners.org

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. lornat@literacypartners.org