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

Gohar Chichian, Development and Communications Manager

Born and raised as an Armenian American in Queens, Gohar developed a passion for immigration and education in New York City. She has a BA in political science with a concentration in peace and justice studies from Pace University, and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College. The Harry Potter series, among other fantasy novels, inspired her love for reading and creative writing, and she hopes to publish her own book one day. She is an avid fan of sports, politics, and Armenian food. goharc@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

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

Emily Harting, Director of Development and Communications

Emily has never known a time in which reading wasn’t a constant source of inspiration, escape, and wisdom. Her earliest memories are of sitting with her grandmother who read Heidi to her. Emily’s grandmother had MS and used a wheelchair, but through books, she explored the world—and took Emily with her. Emily comes to Literacy Partners having worked in development and communications since 2000, including a ten year stint at the Center for Constitutional Rights as the Associate Director of Development. She was drawn to Literacy Partners by its social-justice approach to literacy and now connects our work with our donors, supporters, and others enabling them to make a real difference in the lives of our students and their families. emilyh@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

Katie Ly, Special Projects Manager

Growing up in Indiana, Katie made weekly visits to the public library, captivated by “the way books can introduce you to new thoughts and ideas.” As a first-generation American and daughter of refugees, Katie has seen firsthand the world of opportunities available with a strong educational foundation. She received her BA in journalism from Indiana University. Initially a music publicist, Katie’s love for reading sent her into publishing, with positions at the Association of American Publishers and Penguin Random House. In addition to reading, Katie volunteers at Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, is parent to a variety of indoor plants, and loves to travel. katiel@literacypartners.org

Jake Maher, Communications Intern

As a child, Jake was always reading – even as a dare – when he was challenged to read Roots by Alex Haley, which was the longest book in his eighth grade library. Growing up, Jake realized what an obstacle the ability to read English can be, and became interested in literacy. Jake is a student at Georgetown University, double majoring in russian and government, and minoring in spanish, as well as writing for the Georgetown Voice. jamesonm@literacypartners.org

Kate Maloy, High School Equivalency Teacher

Visiting New York City for the first time at the age of 10, from Atlanta, Kate Maloy knew she was a New Yorker. Now she is making the city a better place for people who want to grow as readers and writers. A teacher in Literacy Partners’ high school equivalency program, Kate has been teaching literacy and writing to adults and young adults for 10 years. As an actor and comedian, Kate played Hillary Clinton in The Key of Awesome’s Hamilton parody and in commercials—including one for Kit Kat candy bars. On school vacations, Kate can be found writing, reading books by Patrick O’Brian, working with Artistic New Directions, and caring for her son’s four-foot-long classroom snake, Hank. She lives with her family in the Bronx. katem@literacypartners.org

Laura Mucha, Communications Intern

As a child in Birmingham, Michigan, Laura loved to read her favorite picture book, Ms. Rumphius, to her stuffed animals before bed. Now a student at Colgate University, Laura’s love of books has translated into volunteering with Liberty Kids, a literacy program in Hamilton, New York. Liberty Kids helped Laura realize the vital role adult literacy plays in a child’s development, leading her to Literacy Partners. She is majoring in english and double minoring in classics and religion. lauram@literacypartners.org 

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

David Rothenberg, Analytics Manager

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. davidr@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

Allison Sciplin, Deputy Director of Development

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. allisons@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