TEAK staff are talented individuals who bring diverse perspectives, breadth and depth of knowledge, and a shared passion for helping bright, motivated students access high quality education and thrive in their educational and professional pursuits. With an open door policy, staff also welcome opportunities to share our experience, expertise, and best practices. Feel free to contact us if you wish to visit the office, discuss particular aspects of our programming, or partner on projects related to our college access and success work.
- Dr. Denise Brown-AllenExecutive Director
Dr. Denise Brown-Allen brings 25 years of experience to TEAK as she becomes its fourth Executive Director, beginning her tenure in July 2021. Before joining TEAK, Denise served as the Associate Head of School/Head of Upper School at the National Cathedral School. Denise was responsible for the academic and school life programs for students in grades 9 through 12 and academic departments for grades 4-12. She worked closely with her counterpart at St. Alban’s, the adjoining boys’ school, to coordinate programs between the two schools. She was charged with coordinating multiple task forces to implement the school’s strategic plan, overseeing the academic technology programs, and promoting methods of supporting students’ academic, social, and emotional well-being. While she embraced her responsibilities as a school leader from 2016 through the end of the academic year in 2021, Denise cherished the opportunity to work closely with students as a teacher and faculty advisor.
Denise is the proud product of Catholic schools ranging from the Blessed Sacrament School in Newark to Marylawn of the Oranges Academy and Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. Denise has served her Alma Mater, Marylawn, as a member of the Board of Trustees and Co-President of the Marylawn Alumnae Association. While at Seton Hall, Denise pledged Delta Sigma Theta and is a Golden Life Member of the sorority. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, Denise began her corporate career as an entry-level programmer with New Jersey Bell. She rose through the management ranks to become Director of Software Development. While employed with Bell, she earned her Master’s in Business Administration in Marketing at Farleigh Dickinson University.
Denise transitioned into her second career, teaching, when she joined the Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA) faculty in Montclair, NJ. She began as a math and computer science teacher and ultimately served as Mathematics Department Chair. During her tenure at MKA, she held several administrative positions such as Dean of Student Life, Dean of Students, Associate Director of Admissions, Associate Director of College Counseling, and Assistant Head of the Upper School. However, her most satisfying roles were that of teacher, advisor, and faculty adviser to the Peer Leader Program, Habitat for Humanity, and Shades of Color clubs. Ever seeking excellence in her professional pursuits and new opportunities for learning, Denise returned to Seton Hall to work toward her doctorate in educational leadership and administration, which she completed in five years while working full-time. Her dissertation, “A Quantitative Descriptive Study of the Academic Achievement of Black Students in Nonpublic Secondary Schools,” examined the achievement gap between black and white students in nonpublic schools.
Denise was named an Edward E. Ford Fellow in the National Association of Independent School’s Aspiring Heads Program in 2006. As a Fellow, Denise continued her efforts to develop a comprehensive Service Learning Program at The Montclair Kimberley Academy. Denise spearheaded the creation of the school’s unique partnership with the TEAM Academy charter school in Newark. Through this program, students served as math tutors and provided art classes and music lessons for TEAM Academy students, while faculty served as mentors to eighth-graders who wished to pursue admission to independent schools. During her tenure as the Montclair Kimberley Academy’s Upper School Community Service Project Coordinator, students shared her commitment to community service through volunteer efforts benefiting numerous charities. Denise has led work teams of students and faculty to participate in Habitat for Humanity building projects in Newark, Paterson, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Mexico. In her honor, Montclair Kimberley established the Dr. Denise Brown-Allen Community Service Award to recognize graduating seniors with exemplary records of service during their high school years.
After nearly 15 years of service to Montclair Kimberley Academy, Denise was ready to seek new administrative challenges. She accepted the position of Upper School Director at the Pingry School in Martinsville, New Jersey, in July 2009. She introduced the Pingry community to service opportunities with nursery and elementary schools in Newark, including the 100 Legacy Academy Charter School. She served as Vice President of the Board of Trustees. She continued her commitment to global service through her leadership of a contingent of faculty to work with African teachers in Cairo, Egypt, during the summer of 2010. Denise and her husband, Douglas, are empty-nesters who reside in Maplewood, NJ. They are proud of their two grown sons, Daniel, a graduate of the University of Virginia, and Dorian, a Dartmouth College graduate who has successfully embarked on their respective careers. Denise enjoys spending time with family, discovering new hiking trails, a good book, and long days on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard.
- Alyssa AlexanderDirector of Counseling
Alyssa is TEAK's first Director of Counseling and oversees the incorporation of social-emotional learning into TEAK’s programming model. Alyssa previously served as School Psychologist at Success Academy Charter Schools, where she provided group and individual counseling, collaborated with teachers and school leaders to implement curriculum, and more. Prior to Success Academy, Alyssa worked as an Applied Behavior Analysis Behavioral Therapist at Proud Moments, the nation’s premier ABA organization, and a preschool teacher in Brooklyn. Alyssa is a New York State certified School Psychologist and completed her B.S. in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University and Master of Education in School Psychology from Long Island University.
- Daniel BlednickSenior Director of College Guidance
Dan earned his Bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and his Master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He served as the Assistant Baseball Coach at Amherst College for two seasons, played four years of professional baseball in the German Bundesliga, and also was an assistant coach for the Great Britain national baseball team. Since joining the TEAK staff in 2006, Dan has guided over 350 TEAK Fellows through the college admission process while helping their families secure more than $75 million in need-based financial aid. In addition, Dan has completed the Developing Leaders Program at Columbia University School of Business, the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions and has presented at many national and regional conferences. Currently, Dan sits on Policy Boards at both Amherst College and Brown University and has been a frequent contributor to national articles on college access and financial aid. Dan thinks the Yankees are awesome, is an avid stoop gardener, and can recreate his Italian grandmother’s meatball recipe perfectly.
- Oyé Carr, PhDSenior Director of Middle School Academy
Oyé comes to TEAK with experience in the public and private sectors. A graduate of St. Paul’s School and Wesleyan University, Oyé was a founding director of one of the early Summerbridge (now Breakthrough) programs in Portland Oregon before leaving to become a founding teacher at City On A Hill Public Charter School in Boston. Oyé stepped away from education to earn a M.A. in History and a PhD in Comparative Modern African Politics from Boston University. He used this expertise while working for the US Department of Defense as a Senior Research Advisor to US African Command in Djibouti and Germany. At the same time, he and his wife opened MODSquad Cycles, at that point the only bicycle shop available to Harlem residents. Before coming to TEAK, Oyé taught US History at Brookline High School in Brookline Massachusetts and served as Lead Teacher in the African American Latino Scholars Program. Oyé was a Fulbright Scholar, a Boston University MLK Fellow, and is a Fellow of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Sciences at Boston University. He is an avid cyclist and lives with his family in Harlem NY.
- Scarlett FermanAssociate Director of Student Growth and College Guidance
Born and raised in New Jersey, Scarlett has always been interested in the intersection of youth development, empowerment, and justice. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Education from Sarah Lawrence College in 2017. While at SLC, she began interning for youth development organizations including Free Arts NYC and Groundwork Hudson Valley, which solidified her conviction that youth development was the right path for her. After graduating, Scarlett moved to the Bay Area and began working as a Program Manager with Spark, a career exploration and self discovery program. She coordinated mentorships between students at East Palo Alto middle schools and professionals at Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and Sony. After returning to the East Coast, Scarlett began serving as an NYU College Advising Corps College Advisor at W.H. Maxwell CTE High School in Brooklyn. For three years, Scarlett helped guide more than 400 students through the college and future planning process with joy and success. She is very excited to continue this trajectory with TEAK. When she is not working, Scarlett can be found cooking, caring for her houseplants, reading on the train, watching TV, or spending time with her partner and their dog.
- Lauren GirshonDeputy Director of External Relations
Lauren Girshon is a strategic thinker with diverse experience who fuses creativity with strong business acumen to achieve results. She was born in the Bronx, raised in the suburbs of New York City, and currently lives with her family in Manhattan. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in Art History. After graduation, she started her career at Goldman Sachs in London and has subsequently worked in various industries, including non-profit. She loves being part of an organization that believes in the potential of every child and which aims to provide equal educational and college access.
- Eon GoldsonAssociate Director of Student Growth
Eon Goldson was born and raised in Brooklyn. As a member of Class 6 of TEAK, he was able to attend a private boarding school in Connecticut but came back to NYC for college. Eon graduated from Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter in 2013 and has pursued a career in education. He has committed the last nine years to teaching and serving at schools in low-income communities, elementary through high school grades, in NYC, Florida, and Philadelphia. He knows the profound impact that TEAK has had on his life and is excited to help create and elevate the experiences for the current and future Fellows.
- Kelli GoodmanDirector of Career Programs
Kelli is a Philadelphia native who earned her Bachelor's degree at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC where she was also a student-athlete (Field Hockey and Track and Field), and was very involved in Habitat for Humanity and Campus Ministry. Upon graduation, she spent a year serving as a Jesuit Volunteer at Verbum Dei Cristo Rey High School in Los Angeles, CA where she became passionate about leveling the career playing field and supporting young adults gaining access to opportunities that would allow them to accomplish their professional goals. She earned her masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC.
Prior to joining TEAK, she has worked in various roles in the higher education and the non-profit sector and is passionate about providing networking and career exposure opportunities to Fellows and supporting them in discovering who and what they want to be, and providing the experiences and resources for them to truly follow their dreams.
Kelli lives in the Bronx with her husband, AJ, and two boys, and in her free time, enjoys hiking, baking with her son (cookies and brownies are their favorites), exploring new playgrounds, running, and chasing sunsets at the beach.
- Rochelle GreenidgeAssociate Director of Student Growth | Site Manager
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Rochelle has a passion for arts and education. With the help of Prep for Prep 9, Rochelle attended the Middlesex School, an independent boarding school in Concord, MA, and here deepened her interests in History, Literature, and pottery making. Rochelle went on to attend Lafayette College in Easton, PA where she double majored in History and English Literature, co-founded the college’s first Pottery Club, served as a Fellow at the Williams Center for the Arts, gained experience as a Digital Scholarship Services assistant at the Skillman Library, and became an America Reads tutor at March Elementary School. Rochelle has taught History and English Literature at the Robert Louis Stevenson high school and was a summer teaching fellow in the Uncommon School network in Brooklyn. She earned her MA in Gifted Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Before beginning her role as an Associate Director of Student Growth and Middle School Site Director at TEAK, Rochelle enjoyed her time as a TEAK humanities instructor for 7th and 8th grade, teaching Writing Mechanics, Writing Explorations, Personal Essay Writing, and Civics. Aside from work and academic interests, Rochelle enjoys traveling to new countries, tasting new cultural cuisines, and attending performing arts events.
- Daisia GloverAssociate Director of Student Growth
Daisia, a proud Harlem native, brings her teaching and administrative experience, as well as her passion for educational equity and student development to TEAK. Daisia began her journey as a middle school special education teacher in NYC. She taught ELA, history, and literacy skills to 6th and 7th graders, while also working on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within the schools. Eventually, Daisia shifted to an administrative role as a Special Education coordinator in which she focused on ensuring students with disabilities and at-risk students were adequately supported in the classroom. Daisia is excited to continue her work with NYC youth and support the amazing Fellows here at TEAK. Daisia prides herself on being a lifelong learner. She holds a BA in Sociology and Spanish from Syracuse University, an MAT in Middle School Education from Relay Graduate School of Education, and an MA in Sociology of Education from NYU. In her free time, Daisia enjoys crafting, watching suspenseful TV shows, and trying out new restaurants around NYC.
- Christine HardingDirector of College Success
Christine's interest in education access, equity and advocacy began at home in Newark, NJ. She earned her BA in Politics and History from Mount Holyoke College in 2016. Following graduation, she returned home to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC). At the NCLC, Christine co-launched the Pathways to Achievement and Success Program during her VISTA year and led the program for the next year and half as the Program Associate. During this time, she also earned her MA in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Outside of work, Christine enjoys cooking meals for her family and friends, performing improv around the city and spending way too much time on Twitter.
- Kimberly JohnsonDirector of Admissions
Kimberly earned her Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice and her Masters in Education in School Counseling from Long Island University, Hudson Campus. When life took an unexpected turn and Kimberly began to take care of an ill family member, she began to work as a part time employee in Higher Education with her first assignment at Columbia University. This temporary assignment changed the trajectory of Kimberly’s career and she ultimately decided to pursue a career in Higher Education, Admissions and Enrollment Management. Over the course of her career, Kimberly has worked at NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business, SUNY Purchase College, Pace University and prior to TEAK, she served as the inaugural Assistant Director of Admissions at Metropolitan College of New York - Bronx Campus. A native of the Bronx, NY, Kimberly and her family recently purchased their first home and moved to Rockland County, NY. In her free time, Kimberly loves to play pool, spend quality time with her family and sing with her gospel choir, Pastor Terrance L. Kennedy and the Reach Music Ministry, who have recorded two albums and are currently working on their third album. Kimberly is looking forward to bringing her unique enrollment management skills to help enroll an amazing group of TEAK Fellows for this year and beyond!
- Lina KoDirector of Finance and Administration
Lina has over ten years of experience in strategic planning, finance, operations, and project management in both the private and philanthropic organizations. Lina spent six years at Blackrock in the beginning of her career, before pursuing a nonprofit opportunity as Marine Program Manager at the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx. Prior to joining TEAK in 2022, Lina served as Director of Operations at StreetWise Partners, and held posts as Strategy and Management Consultant at the Whelan Group, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Phillips-Van Heusen Corp, and more. Lina earned a B.S. in Finance and Information Systems at NYU Stern School of Business and M.P.A. in International Economic Policy and Management at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.
- Ridie MarkensonSenior Director of Student Growth & High School Transition
Prior to joining TEAK in 2021, Ridie spent 27 years working in independent schools. A graduate of St. Andrew’s School and Syracuse University, she began her career in the admission office at a boarding school, where she also lived in a dorm, coached three seasons, and advised the school paper. Ridie moved to NYC in 1998 and completed her MA at Teachers College while working in the admission office at a day school. Her desire to work closely with students and families led her to become an English teacher, a dean of students, and most recently, a high school principal. She is excited to bring her experience developing student leaders and her passion for educational equity to the TEAK team. In her free time, Ridie enjoys biking, baking, and curling up with a good book.
- Roberto MartinezAdmissions Counselor
Roberto is a member of TEAK Class 16 and joined the team in 2023 as an Admissions Counselor. Roberto was born in the Dominican Republic, where he lived for 9 years before moving to the United States in order to attain better educational opportunities. Roberto attended St. George’s High School and Franklin & Marshall College. Having just graduated college and grateful for TEAK’s help, Roberto now seeks to promote the mission of providing equitable education by serving as an Admissions Counselor. Roberto brings four years of experience working in his college’s admissions office to the role and is excited to help provide educational opportunities to students from underrepresented backgrounds with financial need.
- Meredith MulinosAssistant Director of Student GrowthMeredith brings years of experience in education to TEAK, having previously served as a language arts and english teacher at the Winston School of Short Hills and Cicely Tyson Middle and High School, both in New Jersey. Meredith supported students with learning differences at the Winston School, and worked with at-risk populations while teaching at Oasis, A Haven for Women and Children in Paterson, New Jersey. Meredith earned a B.A. at Montclair State University, has volunteered with JumpStart, and tutored residents at Northern State Prison.
- Shane PottsAssociate Director of Student Growth
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Shane is excited to join the TEAK Fellowship as an Associate Director of Student Growth. A member of TEAK’s Class 10, Shane graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. After earning his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Brown University in 2017, Shane worked as a College Adviser with the National College Advising Corps. , helping underrepresented Students in Lower South Providence apply and matriculate to college. After working in Providence, Shane returned to New York City and spent the last four years working at a Charter School in the Bronx as a High School Placement Manager. Shane is excited to bring all of his experience to the forefront of his job here at TEAK. When outside of the office, Shane enjoys long runs in Prospect Park, detective thrillers, and checking out new restaurants in Brooklyn!
- Maggie RiehlDirector of Communications and Development
Maggie joined The TEAK Fellowship in 2022, after spending four years at the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA), a network of sports-based youth development programs across the U.S. and abroad. At SEA, Maggie managed individual and institutional giving and external communications, and supported donor events and board administration. Previously, Maggie worked in the office of institutional advancement at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore city’s 22-location public library system. Maggie earned a Bachelor's degree in psychology at Colgate University and spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Cape Town. A Baltimore native and Brooklyn resident, Maggie is enthusiastic about providing young people with educational and leadership opportunities and is proud to be a member of the TEAK team.
- Erin RodriguezAssociate Director of Admissions
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Erin realized her passion for the nonprofit field, specifically youth-related programs, through intense volunteering positions. She began her pursuit of a career in nonprofit by attending and graduating from Seton Hall University with her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2019. A 5-year dual degree program allowed her to receive her master's degree in public administration, with a concentration in nonprofit management, the following year. Throughout undergraduate and graduate schools, she was heavily involved in volunteer projects such as tutoring inmates at the state prison, attending medical brigades, and teaching art courses to students. Since, she has worked for several youth service organizations and in the advancement office at St. Benedict’s Prep, a high school in Newark. Before working for TEAK, she served as the Program Director for Student/Partner Alliance, which provides tuition assistance and mentor support for low-income high school students.
- Mark SantiagoDirector of Operations
Before TEAK, Mark served as Director of After School at two NYC schools, where he built and designed middle school after-school programs focusing on academic support and extracurricular activities under a DYCD city contract. Prior to working in the after-school sector, Mark oversaw school operations for various charter schools in NYC, in addition to other roles in school enrollment, admissions, and teacher preparation certification pathway programs. He is thrilled to re-engage with NYC students in an operations-focused and service-oriented capacity. His goal is to establish and develop opportunities for NYC youth that allow them to become future leaders and impactful agents of change.
- Bernadette Sarlo GaroneDirector of High School Placement
Bernadette is a proud NJ native who began her career in educational access at New Jersey SEEDS in 2008. While at NJ SEEDS, she completed her College Counseling certification from the University of California - San Diego. In 2015, she went on to work at George Jackson Academy, an independent middle school for talented low-income boys. When she is not working with students to find educational opportunities, she loves to travel with family and friends. She is excited to reunite with John Green, who was her Head of School many, many years ago at the Peddie School. After graduating from Peddie, Bernadette went on to attend Colgate University.
- Jasmine SeidleAssociate Director of Student Growth|High School Programs
Jasmine Seidle is an educator who strives constantly to provide safe, inclusive, rigorous, joyful and equitable environments for all students to succeed.She was born in Chicago, Illinois, but was raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at Howard University in Washington, D.C.! Once Jasmine graduated from Howard, she taught in Madrid, Spain for two years to help bilingual students with their English proficiency. During her time in Spain, she was able to travel to various countries in Europe which helped broaden her world perspective. After teaching for two years in Spain, she became a Teach for America Corp member in New York City. She was placed at C.I.S. 303 Leadership and Community Service Academy in the Bronx where she served as a Special Education Teacher with a focus in English Language Arts for four years. Jasmine also earned a Masters of Art in Teaching at Relay Graduate School of Education while simultaneously serving as a Special Education Teacher at C.I.S. 303.
- Ava ThomasAssociate Director of College Success
Ava is an NYC native, born and raised in the Bronx. She began her career working in sports-based youth development organizations and programs, where she combined her love of basketball, experience as a collegiate student-athlete, and commitment to positive youth development. For the past ten years, Ava has provided college access and success advising to first-generation and low-income students to help broaden her impact and make attending college more accessible for students from communities like hers. Before joining TEAK, Ava worked at Barnard College, where she supported a cohort of students in the Opportunity Programs, Higher Education Opportunity Program, and Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program. In addition, Ava contributed to the programming efforts of Access Barnard, an office at the college that supports students who identify as international, first-generation, or low-income. Ava earned a BS in Psychology from Utica University and a MA in Youth Studies from the CUNY School of Professional Studies.
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