What is Zone 126?

We are an organization focused on creating positive impact in the communities within area codes 11101, 11102, and 11106 in Astoria and Long Island City. While this area of Queens is enjoying an economic boom, our children are continuing to grow up in generational poverty. We’re utilizing Collective Impact to ensure our children are supported from cradle to career.

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The Challenge

More than 20,000 families are living in concentrated pockets of poverty in Astoria and Long Island City. Over 8,000 are children. A child living in poverty faces multiple environmental, social, and physical barriers to academic success.

The Solution

Build strong educational pipelines that close achievement gaps for Black, Latinx, and low-income students. Promote a culture of shared responsibility to change the learning ecosystem and direct resources toward student success.

Our History

Zone 126 was created in 2011 by The Thomas and Jeanne Elmezzi Foundation after a two-year extensive study done in public housing. A needs assessment analysis (referred to as Project 126) concentrated on three zip codes, 11101 (NYCHA Queensbridge Houses), 11102 (NYCHA Astoria Houses), 11106 (NYCHA Ravenswood Houses). This area of focus is a concentration of poverty inclusive of 20,000 low-income citizens within these three public housing developments that have the greatest social and economic need in Western Queens, New York. The prime focus of residents in public housing was clear: high quality education for their children. With this in mind, the Elmezzi Foundation created Zone 126. Using Collective Impact as a framework, Zone 126’s role has been to attract resources to build local community-based organizations’ capacity and connect schools and families to the resources that will improve conditions for success.

Our Team

Anju J. Rupchandani

Anju J. Rupchandani

Executive Director

Fun Fact:

You can always catch Anju armed with three things a bagel, a book, and a cup of tea.

Anju J. Rupchandani

Executive Director

Anju J. Rupchandani is a native of Astoria, Queens and a graduate from William C. Bryant High School, one of Zone126’s targeted schools. She first began her career in youth development close to 20 years ago with the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation 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 trainings, as well as having knowledge in fundraising and oversight of multiple endangered out-of-school time programs. Anju has held positions as Program 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, Executive Certification from Columbia Business School and a Master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education in Leadership in Community Based Learning.
Andre T. Stith

Andre T. Stith

Student & Family Support Manager

Long Island City High School

Fun Fact:

Andre T. Stith

Student & Family Support Manager

Long Island City High School

Andre Stith is an alumnus of the Long Island City public school system having attended PS 171Q, IS 126Q and Bryant High School. A community resident and advocate, he is a father of 4 and a grandfather of 6. He is dedicated to helping bring positive change for the community he serves and the families that live there.
Lisseth Castillo

Lisseth Castillo

PT Data Aide to Long Island City High School

Long Island City High School

Fun Fact:

Lisseth Castillo

PT Data Aide to Long Island City High School

Long Island City High School

Lisseth was born and raised in Mexico but moved to NY at the age of 12. She is a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College studying graphic design. She graduated from Long Island City High School and was a Zone 126 intern her senior year.

Shardae Bonaparte

Data & Evaluation Manager

Fun Fact:

Shardae Bonaparte

Data & Evaluation Manager

Stephen LoGuidice

Administrative Assistant

Fun Fact:

"Hard work doesn't bother me. I actually like it.”

Stephen LoGuidice

Administrative Assistant

Steve is a Queens native who is now raising his family in Astoria. He holds a bachelor of science degree from the College of Aeronautics and has a diverse professional background, which includes: airport management, restaurant management, and being a small business owner. He has formed connections with communities by supporting local organizations through fundraising, advocacy and entrepreneurship. Steve is inspired by Zone 126’s mission to provide continuous support to Long Island City youth and their families.
Valentina Di Loreto

Valentina Di Loreto

Community School Director

Intermediate School 126

Fun Fact:

Valentina is a cross country All American athlete.

Valentina Di Loreto

Community School Director

Intermediate School 126

Valentina is a proud Latinx excited about working in the diverse community of Astoria. Before joining the IS 126 community, she graduated from Columbia University with an M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict resolution; her studies led her to practice in the field of diversity, inclusion and restorative justice. She has extensive experience working with children and families in multicultural communities impacted by socio-economic disparities. Her travels have enriched her perspective on the responsibility each citizen holds in engaging locally to impact issues globally. Valentina promotes parental engagement, social and emotional development, and community building.
Michelle Makabali

Michelle Makabali

Community School Director

Long Island City High School

Fun Fact:

Besides her love of music and education, Michelle enjoys cooking, trying new recipes, is a fan of football, and traveling.

Michelle Makabali

Community School Director

Long Island City High School

Michelle Makabali brings 12 years of experience in the education field to Zone 126. She received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Molloy College in Long Island, NY. Michelle most taught music education at a high needs urban school in Denver, CO for K-12 students. In addition, she outreached to local businesses, creating 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. Michelle is excited to utilize her skills and experiences as Community School Coordinator at Long Island City High School.
Catherine Vozikis

Catherine Vozikis

Attendance Coordinator

IS 126Q

Fun Fact:

Catherine loves to read, travel, and practice yoga!

Catherine Vozikis

Attendance Coordinator

IS 126Q

Catherine Vozikis is a proud Queens native and product of public schools. She graduated from New York University with a Bachelor's degree in Social Work. Throughout college she served as a mentor and guide in dynamic capacities, working with populations such as first-year students, homeless youth, and adults with co-occurring disorders. Serving as an educator and mentor with City Year Philadelphia in a K-8 public school after college, she saw lateness and poor attendance as an overarching issue that affected academic performance. Her experience is what led her to Zone 126, where she became an Attendance Success Mentor Coordinator at IS 126Q. Catherine is determined in supporting students and their families in getting their needs met and breaking down barriers to success, while also making school fun and engaging for all.
Edward O’Blenis

Edward O’Blenis

Theatrical Social Emotional Learning Specialist

Long Island City High School

Fun Fact:

Edward O’Blenis

Theatrical Social Emotional Learning Specialist

Long Island City High School

Edward O’Blenis has been a professional Actor and Teacher for over 20 years. He has been involved with over one hundred productions and his involvement with Arts in Education programs stretches back to Seattle Washington where he worked with Intiman’s Living History, the New Options Theater, and the Open Door Theater. In 1996 he moved to New York where he helped to found New Options East. Since then he has been proud to have taught alongside all ages in wonderful organizations such as Create, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Enact, Sparks, Theater Development Fund, The 52nd Street Project (where he acted alongside Tony Winner Cythia Nixon from Sex in the City fame and Edie Falco of the Sopranos) and The Dwight Edgewood Project in New Haven. He was also the head of acting at Sunset Parks Smart Arts After School Program and a teacher at the New York Film Academy instructing students in Monologues, Scene Study, Stage Combat, Acting for Film, The Business of Acting, Mask Work, Improvisation and Company Building.

He is a Fox Fellow and was awarded a Fox Foundation Grant to research New digital technology in Acting.

He resides in Manhattan and is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA and The Actors Center.
Nico Rodriguez

Nico Rodriguez

College Transition Program Associate

Long Island City High School

Fun Fact:

Nico Rodriguez

College Transition Program Associate

Long Island City High School

Nico Rodriguez is a Hunter College student who is working toward teaching in NYC public schools. Nico first began his work with public schools when he worked with Let's Get Ready, a non-profit organization that assists low-income communities with the SATs and college applications. He initially began as a volunteer, but overtime became the Site Director for Long Island City High School's LGR program. After building connections with the school and the community, I was hired as the College Transition Program Associate at LICHS, which allows me to work directly at the school and with all college readiness programs offered. My goal is to bring equitable education to NYC public schools and their communities however I can!
Carrie Watt, LCAT, RDT

Carrie Watt, LCAT, RDT

Creative Arts Therapy Program Manager

Long Island City High School

Fun Fact:

Carrie Watt, LCAT, RDT

Creative Arts Therapy Program Manager

Long Island City High School

Carrie is a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist and Registered Drama Therapist. Originally from Chicago, Carrie came to NYC to pursue her love of acting. Carrie received her Bachelors in Fine Arts from Rutgers University: Mason Gross School of the Arts and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. Upon graduation, Carrie worked off-Broadway and in television but found herself longing for more and began to consider how her love of acting might lead her to an alternative path. Carrie returned to school and received her Masters of Arts in Drama Therapy from New York University. Carrie has worked with many diverse populations from acute psychiatric units, residential treatment facilities, shelters, and more but found a particular love for working with young people in schools. Carrie has the great privilege of sharing the creative arts with students, helping them strengthen their voice, and discover their most expansive sense of self. Carrie has published several articles on her work in public schools and as well as a chapter in the newest edition of “Current Approaches in Drama Therapy”. Carrie is thrilled to have the opportunity to build the creative arts therapy program with Zone 126.

Our Evaluation Reports

Take a look at our yearly compilation of Zone 126’s results, findings, and next steps.

See this year's report

Previous Reports

Get in touch!

Questions or comments? Want to get involved? We’d love to hear from you. Fill out the contact form with your name and message, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

31-10 23rd Street
Ground Floor
Astoria, NY 11106