Asaf Bar-Tura, Chief Executive Officer

With a rich background in educational leadership and nonprofit management, Dr. Bar-Tura brings over 20 years of experience in transformative nonprofit leadership to the role. He most recently served as Executive Director at SMART, based in San Francisco, CA, where he successfully expanded educational programs, increased funding, and fostered community partnerships. Throughout his career, Dr. Bar-Tura has held several leadership positions with organizations including The Posse Foundation, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, and the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center.

Dr. Bar-Tura holds a PhD in Political Theory and a Master’s in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and Political Science from Ben-Gurion University. He is currently participating in Stanford University’s Executive Leadership Program at the Graduate School of Business. 

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. 

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.

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.

Kaveh Sarfehjooy, Executive Director of Liz Smith Center for Adult & Family Literacy

Kaveh grew up in a household where union and community organizing were foundational – whether it be grilling hot dogs with his mom on the protest line for the MN Nurses Association, or sitting on a neighbor’s lawn with others to prevent an eviction, organizing has always been the best way to bring communities together. Kaveh graduated with a BA in Film from Columbia College and a Masters in TESOL from The New School. Before moving to New York, he was a producer at The Developing Arts and Music Foundation (D.A.M.F.) at First-Avenue, where he produced concerts and events to meet community needs. After he switched careers from the music industry into teaching adults to read as a literacy and ESL instructor, he grew into the role of Director of Education & Partnerships at Goodwill NYNJ, with a decade of experience overseeing the strategic planning, curriculum and program design for immigrants on public assistance, serving over 2,000 adults per year in Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx. At Literacy Partners, Kaveh strives to innovate and continue the legacy of programming that empowers adults to become life-long learners and leaders in their respective communities.

Putri Agustinos, ESOL Teacher, English for Parents

Born and raised in Indonesia, Putri’s journey as an ESOL teacher was ignited by a passion for linguistics, literacy, and education. Constantly engaged in diverse communities, she embraced multilingualism and local cultures, mastering four Indonesian ethnic languages alongside Bahasa Indonesia and English. Supported by her mother, a dedicated kindergarten teacher, she pursued English Education at the University of Bengkulu, Indonesia. Putri received a master’s degree in TESOL from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was engaged with vibrant communities of immigrant and refugee families in Philadelphia. She witnessed how language barriers hinder the family’s access to opportunities, and connects deeply with Literacy Partners’ dual-generational approach and its ability to empower students, parents, and their children to bridge their community’s socioeconomic and educational disparities.

Crystal Brown, Director of Institutional Advancement

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.

Amanda Carr, Senior Director of Development

Amanda spent her early years reading late into the night, much to the chagrin (and pride) of her mother, who brought her to the library every week, rain or shine. She received a B.A. from Union College and, later, a Master’s degree at UMass Amherst where she studied childhood and postcolonial fiction before changing trajectory to working at educational nonprofits to better serve the communities where she lives. She has twelve years of experience in fundraising, partnership development, staff management, and program administration in nonprofits in Los Angeles and New York City. Most recently, Amanda served as the Director of Development at Behind the Book, Inc., where she honed her skills in cultivating philanthropic support and fostering strategic relationships. Now, she brings her wealth of expertise and enthusiasm to Literacy Partners, eager to make a meaningful difference in a cause close to her heart. Beyond her professional endeavors, Amanda finds fulfillment in spending time with her family and nurturing her young daughter’s own love for reading. Together, they continue the tradition of exploring the boundless worlds found within the pages of books.

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.

Cesar Del Aguila, Senior Program Manager of State-wide Implementation

As a first-generation Guatemalan American, Cesar’s parents instilled the importance of being a lifelong learner and how education is essential to moving forward. His career in education of over 10 years has allowed him to share those values with students and families both at a campus level, at a district level, and with education nonprofits. Born and raised in Houston, TX, Cesar knew that his community was important to him even so that he returned home after college to begin working with his community and is currently raising his children in the same community he grew up in. It is his passion for making sure families have agency and access to education resources.

Amber Doniere, Manager of Volunteers & Home Libraries

A former New York City elementary school educator, Amber brings a deep understanding of the everyday challenges facing families with children, and a mindset of abundance, recognizing that each family possesses a unique set of qualities to meet the needs of those challenges. She is honored to work at an organization that supports our community and students in doing so. Amber’s family instilled in her a lifelong love of education and learning, and she feels invigorated in her pursuit of those passions by her community. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in fine arts. When she is not working, she studies studio art and reads about history.

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.

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. 

Marilyn Gonzalez, Program Manager of Parent Engagement & Special Projects, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas

Marilyn, a first-generation Guatemalan American from Hunts Point, NYC, is a passionate storyteller and Program Manager of Parent Engagement & Special Projects for La Fuerza de Familias Latinas. Her theater and drama therapy background at Marymount Manhattan College underpins her talent for connecting with parents served by Literacy Partners. Previously, as Family and Children Coordinator at Labor & Industry for Education, Inc., she empowered parents to support their children’s early education. In her roles at The Public Theater and The Hunts Point Alliance for Children, she focused on community coordination to uplift families in the South Bronx. Marilyn now oversees workshop recruitment and parent engagement, ensuring families receive bilingual books to promote early literacy. She plays a vital role in tracking trends as our parent community expands nationally and supports cross-department projects in operations and outreach.

Arlen Gomez, Intern

Arlen Gomez was born and raised in Queens, New York. She is an undergraduate student at New York City College of Technology pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Human Services. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she wants to continue her education and obtain a master’s degree in social work. She is driven by the goal of contributing to the enhancement of overall well-being and addressing the diverse needs of communities and individuals. In her free time; Arlen enjoys baking, spending time with her family and friends, reading, and exploring new places in the city.

Giovanna Gouvea, Senior Program Manager and Teacher, English For Parents

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.

Malory Hom, Reading for Adults Teacher

Malory is a lifelong reader and New Yorker. She is a former NYC elementary school teacher and current learning specialist with over 13 years of experience in the field of education. The important connection between education and social justice led her to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education and pursue dual master’s degrees focusing on literacy and developmental disabilities.

As an advocate for every learner, Malory’s passion centers around ensuring equitable access to high quality literacy instruction for all students. Her belief in this principle has been a driving force throughout her career. With a knowledge base in cultivating strong foundational reading and writing skills, she is thrilled to contribute to the Reading for Adults program. When she is not teaching, you can find Malory listening to audiobooks while walking through Prospect Park.

Alvin Irby, Senior Advisor for Reading Promotion

Alvin is a former kindergarten teacher-turned-award-winning social entrepreneur, international speaker, comedian, and author. He is Founder and Chief Reading Inspirer at Barbershop Books, a literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops and provides early literacy training to barbers. His work connecting reading to male-centered spaces and involving men in boys’ early reading experiences earned him the National Book Foundation’s 2017 Innovations in Reading Prize. Irby’s popular TED Talk “How to inspire every child to be a lifelong reader,” has been viewed over 1 million times. Irby’s nationally-recognized cultural competency workshops help school districts, library systems, and education organizations create relevant and engaging learning experiences for all students. Alvin Irby holds an MS in Childhood Education from Bank Street Graduate School of Education, an MPA from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, and a BA in Sociology from Grinnell College.

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.

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.

Rosa Loza, Senior Program Manager, LEAP and Science of Reading

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.

Hannie Lyles, Senior Manager of Marketing

Hannie Lyles (she/they) has over ten years of experience in email marketing, social media, copywriting, digital strategy, and website management. When she was just 11 years old, she built her first website, a homage to Greek mythology.

Hannie was born in Puerto Rico and has also lived in the UK, Singapore, Texas, Spain, Australia, Florida, and New York City, and is currently based in New Mexico. They have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and History, and a Bachelor of Economics in International Business Economics from the University of Western Australia in Perth.

Hannie is a writer, musician, mental health advocate, and poet who is interested in reading books that promote greater self-awareness. She is also a huge fan of speculative fiction and fantasy books that depict alternative ways of living in the future. They are particularly committed to destigmatizing grief and depression through storytelling and their songwriting. They have a dog called Snoopy, who is an angel in disguise.

Melissa McKillip, Director of Institutional Partnerships

Growing up, Melissa could usually be found reading a book from the library. As an adult, in addition to reading books and on a device, she listens to audiobooks while walking or riding the bus. In July 2024, Melissa joined the Literacy Partners team as Director of Institutional Advancement because of her love of reading and her 20+ years of experience in fundraising and with nonprofits related to social and economic justice.

Melissa has been responsible for institutional revenue streams from foundations, corporations, and government entities and major gifts for educational institutions such as Rutgers University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and nonprofits like Special Olympics Colorado. After the pandemic, for almost 18 months Melissa traveled in Central America teaching adults English so that their economic situations could improve. She also remotely tutored children in the USA the reading-based foundational skills they needed to read independently with Ignite Reading. Melissa has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois. She enjoys knitting and watching horror movies, too.

Katherine Mora, Associate Director of Program Development

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.

Heather Moreau, Executive Assistant to the COO and CEAO

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Heather has had a promising career as an administrative professional for over 20 years working in many industries, including construction, where she last worked for 18 of those years.  Most recently, Heather decided to shift her focus to working within the Education field so that she can pursue her passion of helping children within her community.

She was an avid reader as a child and still is! She used to be part of her local library’s book club, RIF (Reading is Fundamental).  Because she collected so many books as a child through this book club, her own bookcase was overflowing with books. Growing up, her favorite book was the Nancy Drew series.  Heather enjoyed trying to solve the mysteries before Nancy Drew and her team did.  Most of the time, the outcome was pretty surprising.

In addition to spending time with her daughter, Heather enjoys going to the museum, doing fun activities with her sister and nephews, and watching a good action-packed movie or spy series on Netflix.

Amy Pastrana-Flores, Manager of Marketing

Amy Pastrana-Flores is a curious data-driven Latina creative passionate about originality, digital marketing, arts administration, and project management for education and nonprofits. With a background in performing arts, she has led and supported the planning of all marketing strategies, communications, and public relations activities for numerous organizations ranging from theatre, to dance, and music. Amy has worked in marketing and communication roles with Maestra Music, RISE Theatre, Ballet Hispánico, Gibney Dance, The Center for English Language Studies at The New School, and more. Amy strives to develop initiatives by empowering all forms of artistry and brand identity in every active role while bringing awareness, accessibility, and intentional content to the stories being told.

Paige Peterson, Author and Artist in Residence

As a journalist, Paige has reported extensively about the Middle East and contributed to Marin Magazine, New York Social Diary and the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations. She is the author of Growing Up Belvedere-Tiburon. With Christoper Cerf, she is the co-author and illustrator of Blackie: The Horse Who Stood Still, and the illustrator of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Jesse Kornbluth. As a painter, she is represented by Gerald Peters Gallery in New York and has been honored by The Guild Hall Academy of the Arts in East Hampton. She is Author and Artist in Residence at Literacy Partners and a board member of Catmosphere, National Council on U.S. Arab Relations, and Safari West Wildlife Foundation.

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, Senior Program Manager of Strategic Partnerships

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, 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.

Leslie Rivas, Senior Manager of Training & Development, La Fuerza de Familias Latinas

Leslie, a Salvadorian American, has dedicated her career to working with children and their families. Leslie is the Senior Manager of Training & Development for La Fuerza de Familias Latinas. She was part of the CPSE evaluation team at the New York Center for Child Development. She served as an infant and toddler specialist at a childcare center in the Bronx, where she collaborated with the Hunts Point Alliance for Children. Leslie brings valuable insights in project and case management for home-based childcare providers to help La Fuerza facilitators enhance their knowledge of early development and early childhood education. She developed curricula and assessments as a coach and facilitator at the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute. Leslie is pursuing a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Mercy College, NY, specializing in students with disabilities and early childhood education up to sixth grade. She also holds a double Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from CUNY Lehman College. Leslie is crucial in achieving our goals related to provider training and managing the exceptional Parent Leader Facilitator program. Leslie works closely with our esteemed implementation partners to fulfill grant objectives and expand our impact by reaching more families while maintaining the integrity of our program.

Erika Rojas, Health Equity Manager

Erika was born in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrant parents who raised her to be self-confident, independent, and have strong family morals. She has worked in the mental health and substance abuse fields for several years, with four of them as a case manager, assisting patients to overcome systemic barriers and navigate social service networks. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Brooklyn College and a Masters of Healthcare Administration from Hofstra University. When she is not working, she enjoys playing volleyball with her local community, cooking, baking and volunteering at food drives during the holidays. Erika lives by the quote, “There are no secrets to success; it is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”


Susan Straub, Senior Advisor for Reading Promotion

Susan 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 lives in Brooklyn near her novelist daughter and son-in-law’s independent bookstore, Books Are Magic.

Brunilda Torras, English For Parents Teacher

Bruni comes to Literacy Partners with more than 20 years in education. She started out as a dual-language (Spanish-English), public, elementary school teacher, where she experienced firsthand the power of teaching through stories. She is excited to teach English to adults at an organization that is dedicated to literacy, especially with the multigenerational approach. “It’s like giving students a key to transforming their own, and their children’s lives.” Born and raised in Queens, Bruni grew up with parents who had just arrived from Argentina, and did not speak English at first. However, they instilled in her a love of reading, languages, and education. Bruni earned her BA at Hunter College, and her MEd at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Bruni loves to spend her free time reading, and occasionally dabbles in some writing. She is fluent in Spanish and French, and hopes to start learning a new language soon.

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.