An avid reader and proponent of early literacy, Christine was appointed Executive Director in October 2017, having originally 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, an investment bank and corporate advisory firm. 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 honored to take on this new leadership role as Executive Director.
Cate joined the Raising A Reader MA family in 2012. 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 10+ years, with experience in both direct service and management capacities. Before coming to RAR MA, 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.
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. Through her efforts with the Raising A Reader MA initiatives, Tasha was recently awarded by local congress, the 2017 Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts Award. Some of her All-Time favorite books are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and the Little Vampire series, from Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.
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.
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.
Catalina joined Raising A Reader MA in February 2019, thrilled to be using her passion for education and love of books to support the children and families of Boston. She brings years of experience working as a Program Administrator and Instructor in a variety of nonprofit, education and service organizations--focusing on bridging gaps, providing support and having a positive impact on others’ learning. Working with people of diverse cultures and from underserved communities has always been a priority and pleasure of hers. As a lifelong learner, she loves to travel and has great memories of living in Costa Rica and studying abroad in Puerto Rico and France. She holds an MA in Teaching for Elementary Education and a BA in Psychology, and is certified to Teach English as a Second Language. Catalina is grateful to her father for always reading to her and her sisters as children, especially The Five Chinese Brothers (by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese), and enjoyed reading books by Sandra Boynton and Barefoot Books to her own daughters.
Bridget joined Raising A Reader MA in February 2018, eager to help make an impact on the lives of underprivileged children in the surrounding community. Her favorite books to read with her parents were The Little Engine That Could and Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Late in 2017, after working at a digital advertising agency and a tech startup, Bridget decided to shift from the for-profit world and apply her talents to the Development team at Raising A Reader MA. She graduated from Williams College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
Katharine joined the Raising A Reader MA team at the beginning of 2019, excited about strengthening efforts to understand the program impact on family and child literacy. Among her favorite books as a young child were The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes and anything about insects. Before coming to Raising a Reader MA, Katharine spent several years working in the education and economic development sectors in Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States. She hopes to apply her skills, as well as her commitment to data-driven decision making, towards creating a strong foundation for early learners and their families in Massachusetts. Katharine recently completed an MA in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University, where she focused on program management and evaluation, and holds a BS in Economics from American University.
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 opened a new path for Guadalupe to help her community, and she eventually became a staff member as Parent Liaison, helping to coordinate all of the Parent Ambassadors. In the fall of 2018, Guadalupe was promoted once again to a full-time position as Program Coordinator. She feels grateful to contribute to such a wonderful organization.
Somaya was first introduced to Raising A Reader MA by a playgroup facilitator in 2015 she attended with her 2 kids. After seeing the impact of the dialogic reading techniques that she learned, Somaya decided to become more involved, eventually becoming a Parent Ambassador in 2016. Somaya has a B.A. in English literature from Morocco and just earned her Medical Interpreter Certificate from Found in Translation. She also works as a Pre-K Arabic teacher. Her love of literature and reading, and her incredible experience with RAR-MA as a parent, make her the perfect fit for this role. Somaya is proud to work for the organization that supported her, educated her, and helped her achieve her goals.
A curious and lifelong reader, Afsar joined Raising a Reader MAin January of 2019 as a Bilingual Parent Liaison. Having previously worked as an after-school teacher and private tutor, Afsar understands the importance of early literacy and availability of resources to help children succeed academically. Her favorite books to read as a child included The Rainbow Fish, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Before moving to Boston, Afsar graduated from the University of California San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Systems. Her hobbies include upholstery, illustrating, and playing guitar.
Board of Directors
Mr. Dooling is Managing Director, Chief Financial Officer, Americas for Amundi Pioneer Asset Management and a member of Amundi Pioneer’s Executive, Management, and Operating Committees. Prior to taking the role of CFO in 2008, Mr. Dooling was Vice President and Corporate Controller for Pioneer Investment Management USA Inc. since 2006.
Mr. Dooling has over 30 years of experience in the Asset Management industry. Before joining Amundi Pioneer, Mr. Dooling served in several roles at Putnam Investments, first as Vice President and Corporate Accounting Manager, and subsequently as Financial Planning and Analysis Manager, providing support for Putnam’s Institutional Management Business. In addition, Mr. Dooling served as Assistant Controller for five years at John Hancock Funds and also has held management positions at Ernst & Young and Chase Manhattan Bank.
Mr. Dooling graduated from Bentley College with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and earned his Masters of Business Administration from Bentley University. He is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Series 27 license from FINRA.
Francine practiced with the law firms Smith Lyons, LLP (Toronto, Canada) and WilmerHale, LLP (Boston) concentrating on complex business litigation, including white-collar criminal matters. She has experience representing companies and individuals in government investigations and litigations alleging fraud, bribery, conspiracy and violations of federal statutes. She subsequently worked as Corporate Counsel, Vice President at Shark, Ninja (Boston, MA) providing counsel and negotiating agreements in the areas of commercial practice, compliance, intellectual property, and employment law. Francine received her law degree from University of Toronto and her undergraduate degree from McGill University. Francine currently serves on the Board of Youth Villages, the Board of the Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, and has worked and volunteered with numerous other non-profit organizations, including Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Big Brother Big Sister Foundation of Boston, and the Shady Hill School. Francine lives in Brookline with her husband, three children, two guinea pigs, numerous fish and a corn snake.
Heather Dickinson is a Managing Director at Deloitte & Touche LLP. Heather has over 20 years of experience serving and leading audit engagements and relationships for a diverse mix of clients within the technology, manufacturing and service industries. Such clients have included public registrants, large private companies, and serving emerging growth companies. She has extensive experience advising companies on technical and industry related matters. Heather also holds a National Office role for Deloitte, she supports the Audit practice Chief Operating Officer. In this role, Heather works with the leadership team to execute on the priorities and strategy of Deloitte’s Audit practice. Heather is on the New England leadership team for Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative. She is a graduate of Villanova University, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts and Massachusetts and New York Society of Certified Public Accountant.
Daryl Andrews is a founding partner of Andrews DeValerio LLP. Her law practice includes a wide range of clients in complex business litigation and class actions. After graduating from Smith College and Boston University School of Law, Ms. Andrews clerked for Judge Michael A. Ponsor of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts. Ms. Andrews and her husband are raising two daughters and a Golden Retriever. Her favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Melissa Alexander is an IT Director for Vertex Pharmaceuticals and heads the Global IT Project Management Office. Throughout her career, she has supported healthcare, biotechnology, transportation and energy companies by delivering business value through technology projects and programs.
Melissa received a BBA in Finance and Management Information Systems from the University of Oklahoma and holds an MBA from Tulane University. Melissa also co-owns a family winery in her hometown in Oklahoma where she serves as marketing manager.
She enjoys city life and lives in Bay Village with her two daughters. Melissa loves photography, yoga, gardening and travel. She's been known to pack a bag at the drop of a hat and has been to nearly 70 countries and hopes to pass her travel bug along to her young daughters.
In addition to being a passionate advocate for Raising a Reader MA, Melissa is very active in the community and has served as President of the Boston Chapter of OU Alumni and on the Board of Directors for Tulane University Alumni. She has been an active volunteer of the Junior League since 2006 and recently served as Director of Communications. She is also the founding President of the New England Chapter of the Children’s Heart Foundation, a cause near to her own heart as her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect.
Justin Hayward is a partner at Cross Coastal Advisors and works with rising young professionals, educating them on how to manage their cash flow and maximize their financial potential while making the appropriate plans to protect their families and preserve accumulated wealth. Justin’s understanding of family business dynamics comes from his own family of entrepreneurs, who have run a school photography business for over 30 years. Justin earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Hofstra University, and his early career centered on successfully starting, managing and exiting several businesses in the health and wellness industry. Justin’s financial services career began in 2011 when he joined Commonwealth Financial Group. In 2015, Justin received the 4 under 40 Award for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA MA) – recognized for his growth and success in the industry. Outside of the office, Justin volunteers his time with Raising a Reader MA – A non-profit focused on helping childhood literacy in urban neighborhoods – and is involved in real estate development in the Greater Boston Area. Justin resides in Wellesley, MA with his wife Lydia.
Jonathan currently oversees compliance and risk management for a division of State Street Corporation that develops software, analytics, research, and advisory products for other multi-national financial institutions. He has experience building and overseeing global teams to manage regulatory and operational risks. Jonathan previously served as a consultant with experience in retail and financial services industries. He holds a B.A. in English from Rollins College and an M.B.A from Babson College.
Jonathan is owner and COO of Madison Food Corp. and related companies. In addition to running the day to day operations of his family’s three Boston area supermarkets, Jonathan is also in charge of the company’s expansion. Jonathan is a member of the board of the Massachusetts Food Association and former board member of the Food Marketing institute and One Village at a Time. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Occidental college in Los Angeles, Jonathan earned his law degree at Suffolk Law and his MBA from ESADE in Barcelona. Jonathan lives in Medfield with his wife.
John joined Sigma Prime in November of 2012 to help build the firm and help invest in great entrepreneurs. Prior to joining Sigma Prime, John was a Co-Founder and Managing Director of General Catalyst Partners. John has been a recipient of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council “Investor of the Year” Award. John is a member of the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO). He is also a co-founder and current trustee of the Steppingstone Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities to deserving inner-city students. In addition, he has continued his involvement with the non-profit sector by founding the GreenLight Fund (www.greenlightfund.org), which spurs the replication and growth of innovative non-profits. John is a graduate of Harvard University, earning a B.A. in History and Science and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and received his M.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Alumni Advisory Board Members