At Raising A Reader MA (RAR-MA), we work hard to support the partners, communities, and families who depend on the support and materials that we provide. That’s been our goal for the past 14 years. To do that, we’ve continued to make sure we have the right team in place with the energy, ideas and passion to support our ambitious goal to end the literacy opportunity gap.
We’re excited to welcome three new team members, including two we are fortunate to recruit back to our team and one new ambitious intern who has made a long term commitment to our organization. They are a passionate and talented group of individuals who are laser focused on the work of RAR-MA:
Tara Ruby – Grants Manager
Tara was previously the organization’s Founding Program Manager in Boston, where she worked with partners, parents, implementers, and other community agencies to deliver RAR-MA’s dual interventions. An unquenchable love of books, learning, and words was fostered through the home reading routines of her own childhood, providing Tara with an initial passion for, and personal understanding of, the role that literacy and family engagement play in a child’s development. Adding that to her own unique program team experiences and former work as a teacher, allows Tara to bring new depth to grant narratives as RAR-MA continues to confront education inequities in Massachusetts.
Tara graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in International Affairs, having leveraged a scholarship into opportunities to study in the Dominican Republic, Egypt, and Cuba, as well as participate in an Arab-Western student conference on women’s issues in Abu Dhabi. She later earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from University of Notre Dame of Maryland in 2012, teaching general and special education in Baltimore City for several years. Tara’s work experiences have centered around youth programming and education, including roles at Hyde Square Task Force, Sociedad Latina, Massachusetts State House, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Lancaster. She joins the team again in a new capacity, remotely from Pennsylvania, where Tara also continues to invest time in local community organizing efforts, empowering youth civic engagement, thinking about how the structures of our society contribute to oppression, and advocating for the role of education as a transformative power for individuals, communities, and the entire world.
Ilka Walkley – Parent Liaison
Ilka is working to support and grow our team of amazing Community Ambassadors across Massachusetts. She is excited to be part of Raising A Reader MA as a Parent Liaison – a role which brings together her love of reading, passion for equity and strong belief in the power of parents as our children’s first teachers.
Ilka joined us from her native Australia where she was responsible for recruiting and supporting parent leaders in communities to drive improvements in early literacy and development for 2000+ children in a major ‘collective impact’ effort in low income neighborhoods.
Along with her experience in working locally with parents in communities to drive change, Ilka has worked at a national level as a lead consultant providing technical assistance to the Federal Campaign for Grade Level Reading supporting 30+ diverse communities across the US to identify results and indicators to drive improvements in grade-level reading for children.
In this role she was inspired by so many parents – busy, hard-working, sometimes stressed – who still found the time and energy to talk, read and play with their kids and help them learn and grow.
Ilka loved reading with her babies – now 14 and 12. Her favorite books were We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and the Hairy Maclary series by New Zealand author Lynley Dodd. She can still recite most of the words!
Nicolas Howayeck – Intern
Nicolas currently studies at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst as a Philosophy and Comparative Literature double-major. Within his coursework he has studied children’s literature and takes part in a Service-Learning program that engages with social activist work, with an emphasis on education.
Nicolas works as a Peer Advisor for the Bloom Honors Advising Center at his school, has served as a volunteer at the People Inc. Children’s Center in Fall River, has taught Philosophy to elementary students as part of his studies, and also volunteers as a foster-care case reviewer for the Department of Children and Families.
Nicolas was always fond of literature and remembers Percy Jackson and Harry Potter being his first introductions to fantasy worlds. He wants to bring his love of books to others and help children achieve literacy through exposure to new stories. Nicolas is excited to work with a team who shares a passion for activism and education, and looks forward to working with RAR-MA communities.