Zone 126 Team

Executive Team

anthonyAnthony Lopez, Executive Director
Tony is a seasoned community advocate, accomplished non-profit leader and youth development professional. As the first Executive Director for NYC’s I Have Dream Foundation, he played a key role in growing the organization nationally. He led Aspira of New York, the nation’s first Puerto Rican-led youth development and educational advocacy organization in developing 1,000 high school students into leaders at three Beacon community schools and in 30 high schools. There, he advocated for English Language Learners by monitoring NYC Department of Education’s compliance to the Aspira Consent Decree. He has served as a collaborator, thought partner and facilitator to numerous policy makers and elected officials on school reform related to Career and Technical Education, Charter Schools and K-12 educational pipelines. In 2007, he founded the Aprendes Foundation to support community-based solutions in education and youth development. (Fun Fact: Tony believes that training & running a marathon is a metaphor for life.)


AnjuAnju J. Rupchandani, VP of Collective Impact Partnerships,
Anju is a native of Astoria, Queens and a graduate of William C. Bryant High School, one of Zone 126’s target schools. She first began her career in youth development in 2000 with the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF) at her local elementary school in District #30. While attending college she continued to work in the field of youth development in a variety of leadership roles. Anju’s experience varies a great deal from program design and administration, to facilitating school-age child care workshops, as well having knowledge in fundraising and oversight in supporting multiple endangered out-of-school time programs. Anju has held positions as Program Director and Community School Director at SASF, Sunnyside Community Services, and The Educational Alliance/Boys & Girls Club of America. Anju holds a dual bachelor’s degree in Adolescent Education and History from Pace University’s School of Education, an Executive Management Certificate from Fordham University, and a Master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education in Leadership in Community Based Learning. Outside of work, Anju likes to plan a good party from start to finish by cooking, baking, and making gift baskets. (Fun Fact: Anju loves a good chocolate chip cookie.)


Key Staff

Andre Stith, Organizing Director,
A native of Queens, Andre became a NYCHA Astoria Houses resident when he was 7 years old & is a graduate of PS 171Q, IS 126Q, and William Cullen Bryant High School (all Zone 126 Schools). Andre spent 15 years of his career working in the audio, visual, & lighting industry for companies such as Ace Audio Visual and Frost Lighting while holding positions such as Foreman Dispatcher and Senior Tech Foreman. Having always gravitated towards lending a helping hand to his community, Andre responded the Zone 126 Community Breakfast Club flyer in 2011 and quickly became a voice for the community, assuming a seat at the Zone 126 Advisory Council, and came on board as a Zone Builder. Andre, a devoted husband, father & grandfather, is compelled to this work by his love of children and the desire to have all children be given opportunities that will better themselves and their futures.

Anita Williams, Success Mentoring Coordinator – Long Island City High School,

As a recent college graduate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, Anita has a desire to work with students of all ages. From reciting the alphabet with preschoolers to advising High School students on the financial aid process and academic progress, Anita continues to encourage students to work hard. (Fun Fact: Anita enjoys DIY projects!

claudiaClaudia Esteva, Community School Director – Community School 111Q,
Made in the Dominican Republic, grown in the Bronx, Claudia has always had a knack for connecting with the community. Her career in education started when she initially went away to a summer program at the age of 12. Ever since then, she has been volunteering and working for organizations that continue to bring youth the opportunity to better their education. Beginning at Marble Hill High School, she has been part of Minds Matter and Futures and Options, two non profit organizations for high-achieving, low-income students that prepare their participants for higher education and career opportunities. Those experiences has since led her to be a Community Liaison for Phipps Neighborhoods where she arranged family engagement activities and hosted an array of community resources for a Bronx middle school campus. (Fun Fact: Claudia loves to bake homemade desserts.)

Kevon Webb, Attendance & Family Success Coordinator – Long Island City High School,

Kevon loves to learn and considers learning a life-long process. He holds a B.A. in Psychology, A.A.S. in Paralegal Studies and a minor in Sociology. Growing up, he had a difficult time settling on a particular career path, whether doctor, lawyer, oral surgeon, dentist, teacher, etc. However, at the core of it all, he always knew that whatever career path he ended up taking, it must involve helping others. He also served as an AmeriCorps member giving back to the community of Long Island City, Queens, where he discovered his passion for working with students and their families to provide support and growth to those in need. In his spare time, he enjoys indulging his adventurous side with activities like rock climbing, zip-lining and visiting various attractions and theme parks. (Fun Fact: He migrated from Jamaica [Caribbean Country] and now lives in Jamaica [Queens, NY])


Lila Acosta, College & Career Success Coordinator- Long Island City High School,
Lila Acosta is a Queens native, raised in Astoria, where she attended P.S.17Q, I.S.126Q & Long Island City High School, all Zone 126 schools. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from New York University and a Master’s degree in School Counseling from Fordham University which she obtained with a motivation to positively impact students in their academics. She has always been most interested in the college advising side of school counseling so she is genuinely excited to be joining the Zone 126 team as the College and Career Success Coordinator. On her spare time, Lila enjoys traveling, shopping, and eating at new restaurants. (Fun fact: She is the leader of a worship dance team at her local church.

Michelle Makabali,  Community School Director – Long Island City High School,
Michelle joins the Zone 126 team bringing 12 years of experience in the education field. She received a M.S. in Music Education from Molloy College in Long Island, NY. Michelle most recently taught music education at a high needs urban school in Denver, CO for K-12 students.  In addition, she outreached to local businesses and created fundraisers that helped build stronger relationships between the school and the community. Her passion for education through music has led her to many opportunities to help students and families achieve personal goals and success. Besides her love of music and education, Michelle enjoys cooking, trying new recipes, is a fan of football, and traveling. (Fun Fact: Michelle is a classical pianist!)