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Christine - Staff

Christine Ward, Interim Executive Director

An avid reader and proponent of early literacy, Christine joined Raising A Reader MA as Operations Manager in January 2010. A few of her favorite children’s books include Wild About Books and The Story of Ferdinand. Her passion for reading is supported by her volunteer work, including co-chairing the library committee for several years at a nursery school- increasing funds raised year over year. Other charitable work includes serving as a Coach for Babson’s Coaching and Leadership for Teamwork Program, on Hill House Council (a community organization), the Nichols House Museum Committee, as a parent-teacher coordinator, and supporting numerous community events and fundraisers. With a background in marketing and working for entrepreneurial companies, she brings for-profit experience and insight to the non-profit world. Most recently, Christine worked as a Vice President for Progress Partners, a boutique investment bank. With an MBA from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, and a concentration in marketing, Christine is excited to share her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial ideas with Raising A Reader MA and thrilled to take on this new leadership role as Interim Executive Director.

Sara - Staff

Sara Pollock DeMedeiros, Vice President of Programming and Evaluations

Sara joined the Raising A Reader MA team in January 2009. Her earliest memories are of story-time with her family, and she has worked her entire career to bring similar positive interactions with reading to urban youth. After graduating from Cornell University with a BA in Anthropology and a concentration in Women’s Studies, Sara worked as a Teach for America corps member, teaching English and Geography to English Language Learners in Washington, DC. Most recently, Sara worked for Tenacity, a youth development organization bringing literacy and tennis out-of-school time opportunities to Boston middle school students. She holds her Masters in Education with a focus on Risk and Prevention from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Program Team

IMG_4048Tasha Espendez, Merrimack Valley Senior Program Manager
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Tasha Espendez studied Communications and Culture at Clark University and over the last 17 years has cultivated experience in customer service, project management, and community organizing. In addition, she has instructional experience in Adult ESL education and youth empowerment programs. Tasha first learned of Raising A Reader MA from her engagement with the community as a NeighborCircles Lead Facilitator and Board member of Lawrence CommunityWorks. She was immediately attracted by the passion and mission of the organization and decided to join forces in April 2013 with the goal of improving kindergarten readiness for all children in the City of Lawrence. Some of her All-Time favorite books are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and the Little Vampire series, from Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.

IMG_4039Tara Haughney, Boston Program Manager
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Sleeping Beauty and Mandy’s Umbrella were two of the books that Tara remembers most fondly from her family’s bedtime reading ritual.  In the many pages that have passed since, her love of reading has only grown.  Her undergraduate studies at Northeastern University led her to working with community organizations and afterschool programs in the Boston area.  After graduating, she worked for the Boys and Girls Club where her school-based position inspired her to become a teacher.  Tara earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University in 2012 and taught for several years in Baltimore City Public Schools.  She is certified in elementary education, special education, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).  Tara is eager to bring her education and community organization skills together to support the wonderful work of Raising A Reader MA in inspiring future generations of bookworms!  Tara’s hobbies, other than reading, are travel, speaking and learning other languages, exploring, and spending time in conversation with others.


Claire Igarteburu, Greater Boston Program Manager
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Claire joined the Raising A Reader MA team in August 2015. As a child, Claire always stood out as a hands-on person. Her favorite book was Mouse in a House by Lizi Boyd – a brightly colored activity book that unfolds into a four-room house displaying a cheerful rhyming text written along the floors. The kit comes with felt to create clothes and accessories for the mouse, presenting many creative possibilities! Claire continued her passion for hands-on activities, especially through community outreach, such as traveling to Haiti and volunteering at an after school program (Amistad). Raising A Reader MA is the perfect complement to her professional goals of direct service and community enrichment. Claire graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Public Health and a minor in Spanish in May 2013. Her internship at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in the Community Health Promotions Department ignited her passion for community outreach. Claire is thrilled to translate her skills and training in Public Health, regarding education and prevention, and apply them to help educate parents and children.

Cate - Staff

Cate Johnston, Associate Director of Program Quality

Cate is thrilled to be part of the Raising A Reader MA family and working to bring books into every child’s life. One of her earliest and most treasured memories is reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess with her father at bedtime every night- over and over again for many months! Cate comes to Raising A Reader MA with a passionate desire to erase the achievement gap and bring equal opportunity to every child. She has worked in a variety of child-focused nonprofit settings in the US, Central America and Spain over the past 5+ years, with experience in both direct service and management capacities. Recently, Cate spent three years working in a home for orphaned and abandoned children in Honduras, where she developed an affinity for working across cultural and social boundaries. Cate holds an MSW from Boston University, with a focus on macro practice social work and a certificate in Human Services Management.

Photo on 3-1-16 at 11.43 AMMia Kortebein, Holyoke Program Manager
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Mia still remembers the moment when, building off a family tradition of book sharing, she picked up a book and was able to puzzle out the story all by herself. After that, she read so much that she had to smuggle books outdoors for reading sessions in the treetops when her parents would make her go outside to play. That desire for exploring new worlds through stories developed into a continual drive to learn and grow. After earning her B.A. in Spanish from Smith College, Mia explored the culinary arts, created a volunteer program for an environmental nonprofit in Mexico, and taught Spanish privately and in the public school system. Mia is honored to help Raising A Reader MA use books to support families in creating possibilities of endless worlds for their children as well.

Maria - StaffMaria Mombeleur, Brockton Regional Program Manager
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Maria joined the Raising A Reader MA team in September of 2012. She immigrated to America in 1996 from the Cape Verde Island and immediately fell in love with books, especially Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. Maria earned her Bachelors of Science in Communications from Regis College in May of 2010. Upon graduation, she worked to decrease underage access to alcohol in Brockton. Most recently, Maria earned her Masters of Science in Organizational and Professional Communications also from Regis College. As a Brockton resident for over 15 years, Maria is delighted to be part of the RAR team and to bring books home to more children in the City of Champions- Brockton.


Guadalupe Panameño, Greater Boston Parent Liaison

Guadalupe was introduced to Raising A Reader MA through a playgroup her two children attended. Later, she became a facilitator at that playgroup. In 2013, Guadalupe joined Raising A Reader MA as a parent ambassador. When she was a child, she had no books at home, but her father read the newspaper together with her every night. This experience has motivated her to reach parents and show them the importance of reading. Some of her favorite children’s books now include Froggy Gets Dress, Snuggle Puppy of Mine, The Very Hungry Bear and The Red Ripe Strawberry. Her childhood dream was to become a teacher. She is still looking forward to start her education in Early Childhood soon. Being a Parent Ambassador has opened a new path for Guadalupe to help her community. She feels grateful to contribute to such a wonderful organization.

IMG_6597-e1424879283788Rebecca Schmaeling, Greater Boston Program Manager
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Rebecca joined Raising A Reader MA in January of 2015. She spent far too many nights up past her bedtime reading “just one more chapter” as a child. When she wasn’t spending time in the real world of Long Island, NY, Rebecca spent a great deal of her childhood exploring the wizarding world of Harry Potter and is still awaiting the day when someone finds her missing Hogwarts letter. Rebecca studied political science, Spanish, and communications at the University of Scranton. While earning her degree, she taught EFL to adult learners, and became passionate about education. This passion deepened when Rebecca received a Fulbright Fellowship to be an English teaching assistant in a secondary school in Madrid and learned how rewarding helping young children could be. Rebecca is also passionate about politics, gender issues, and immigration rights. She believes you should never stop learning, and thinks that books are one of the best ways to do so. She is incredibly excited to work for RAR MA and to be a part of making children love to read as much as she does.

Francia - StaffFrancia Wisnewski, Springfield Regional Program Manager
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Francia has fond memories of reading The Little Prince as a child and enjoys reading the playful words of Shel Silverstein. She has been a devoted supporter of families and an enthusiastic advocate for young children. With a degree in teaching science from Cali-Colombia, she arrived in the United States to pursue a Master’s of Education with a focus in Early Childhood from the University of Massachusetts. “I like to see children growing surrounded by opportunities for discovery and to learn concepts that build life skills. Access to quality, age-appropriate books is key to develop reading competences.” Francia worked for a nonprofit in Franklin County for ten years implementing and developing early literacy programs, parental education opportunities and support services for families with young children. Francia participated from two state wide fellowships in which she supported policy recommendations for the implementation of the Quality Rating and Improvement System QRIS and other advocacy initiatives in the state.