Zone 126 Team

The Zone 126 team is composed of a dedicated group of individuals whose individual experiences led them to take on breaking the cycle of poverty, through education, at Zone 126. Zone 126 team’s shared core values of Achievement, Community, Integrity, Leadership, Meaningful Work and Quality Relationships guide our daily work.

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

Alicia_June2016Alicia Galdamez, Community School Coordinator – Long Island City High School,
Alicia is a proud native of Queens. She brings experience in the education field and received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Anthropology at Queens College. Alicia returned to Queens College to receive her Master’s degree in school counseling, where she developed her skills to become an advocate for her students. Prior to joining the Zone 126 team, Alicia served as a guidance counselor intern and volunteer at Francis Lewis High School. Additionally, she worked as a per diem substitute teacher for the Department of Education. Alicia is excited about joining the Zone 126 team and bringing her experiences to help the community of Astoria. In her spare time Alicia enjoys singing, arts & crafts, and watching movies.

AndreAndre Stith, Community School 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.

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. This is her first year as Community School Director at CS111. (Fun Fact: Claudia loves to bake homemade desserts.)

GenesisGenesis Machado, Data & Evaluation Associate,
Genesis is a native New Yorker. As a recent graduate from Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Policy Studies, she has developed a passion to “do good”. After a service trip to the Dominican Republic with the DREAM Project, Genesis realized that her passion was to help children realize their potential and the importance of education. She is excited to kick off her career with Zone 126! Genesis loves doing community service and traveling! (Fun Fact: She has traveled to over 20 countries!)

Ivette Website pictureIvette Torres, Administrative Assistant,
Ivette was born and raised on the Lower East Side, growing up within NYCHA public housing. She is currently studying Accounting. Ivette is a Jane of all trades, and has worked in almost every job you can think of: from cashier, to airport agent, to bartender, and most recently a paraprofessional etc. Ivette loves supporting a good cause such as ALS walk, Hug it Forward Foundation, #HashTagLunchBag. In her spare time, she likes to write poetry, and loves spoken word. Ivette’s family is from the Dominican Republic and she has two special needs brothers who she loves and adores.

jocelynJocelyn Rosa, College Impact Specialist – Long Island City High School,
Born and raised in the urban streets of Brooklyn, Jocelyn, fits the definition of a “City Girl” to a T. She’s a proud orange woman, recently obtaining a B.S. in Child and Family Studies, with a specialization in Youth and Family Development, from Syracuse University. Her passion to guide and advocate for the youth stems from her own personal experiences in the public school system, as well as things she witnessed as a counseling intern in inner city high schools in Syracuse. As an aspiring social worker, her goal is to help others see and work towards their best potential self, overcoming any obstacles and barriers they may face along the way. When she isn’t busy trying to make a change, you can catch her on flights exploring other cities, playing with her Pomeranian Royce, or dancing. (Fun Fact: She has a love for cooking and writing!)

kateyKatey Ray, Community School Coordinator – PS 76Q + PS 112Q,
Katey served as an educator at a public elementary school in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn for 10 years, where she taught 3rd and 4th grade general education classes, 4th grade Integrated Co-Teaching classes, and Academic Intervention Services. Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she graduated with a B.A. in General Communications from Florida State University. She worked in the public relations industry for 3 years before joining the New York City Teaching Fellows and attained a M.S. for Teachers from Pace University in 2006. Katey is also a graduate student at Hunter College, studying for a Masters of Education in School Counseling. She is dedicated to providing support to families to help their young learners overcome the obstacles that prevent them from achieving success in the academic world. Katey loves music and dancing and is an avid NY sports fan. 

Kevon Webb, Attendance & Family Success Coordinator – Long Island City High Skevonchool,
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])

lilaLila Acosta, Community School Coordinator – 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.

MichelleMichelle 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!)

Stephanie_Zone WebsiteStephanie Leichtle, Community School Coordinator, Community School 111Q
Stephanie, a native Texan and current Astorian, brings diverse experience in local and international nonprofits and settings. She received her B.A. in Sociology at Texas A&M University and a Master of Public Service & Administration from the Bush School at Texas A&M, with a focus on nonprofit administration and international development. Previously, she worked with Pro Mujer International in NYC, Victor’s Vision in Peru, and Metro Achievement Center in Chicago. Stephanie dreams of opening up a community-centered bakery to empower women and their families through job and management training and enrichment activities. Stephanie is excited to bring her passion for helping others to the community of Astoria and empower youth and families to positively transform their lives. In her free time, she enjoys baking, doing yoga, dancing, and traveling.

tayebaTayeba Hasan, Community School Coordinator – PS 17Q + PS 234Q,
On track to becoming a school psychologist, Tayeba, a graduate student at Brooklyn College, uses her experience and academia to help Zone 126 in coordinating, implementing, and evaluating various programs. Her previous experiences from Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, the Boys Club of New York, and Kennedy Child Study Center strengthened her passion in becoming an active advocate for children with special needs, universal education, and family programs. Tayeba’s fluency in Spanish and Bangla, as well as her ability to communicate in other languages helps Zone 126 by promoting positive learning environments for children and adults of diverse backgrounds, and to ensure they all have equal access to various educational, social, and psychological services. (Fun Fact: Tayeba enjoys volunteering, seeing Off-Broadway plays, and listening to music.)

Yetunde_updateYetunde Y. Olayinka, Community School Coordinator – PS 171Q + IS 126Q,
Hailing from Prince George’s County, Maryland, minutes away from Washington DC, Yetunde has always been a New Yorker atheart. Spending her summers in New York growing up, Yetunde always dreamed of living and striving in New York City. As a result, after graduating from The Lincoln University; BS in Anthropology and Sociology, she moved to New York to serve with City Year New York as a Corps Member in the South Bronx. Within this role, she found her true passion in life, helping children and families progress despite their environmental factors. Charged with this passion she moved back to Baltimore to be closer to family while working as a psychiatric rehabilitation program counselor and serving with Public Allies Maryland, as the Community Services Program Assistant for The Family Tree; a Maryland agency against child abuse and neglect and with the Sandown Winchester Community. Returning to her native New York by adoption, Yetunde is currently enrolled at Pace University. (Fun Fact: Yetunde loves sewing, watching action flicks and spending time with family during her free time.)

AmeriCorps (School Year 2016 – 2017)

anitaAnita Williams, Community School Success Mentor – 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!)


Ariana Salas, Community School Success Mentor – Community School 111Q,
Ariana has recently completed a year of service with CIty Year New York. During her year of service she both tutored and mentored students in an elementary school in East Harlem. Through her work with her students she has come to value the importance of giving students the necessary tools in order to achieve the impossible. One of her goals is to become an immigration lawyer, as immigration has always been an important part in her life. (Fun Fact: she enjoys reading, writing and creating all sorts of arts and crafts!)