Our Scholars


Edmund Adjapong (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Edmund Adjapong, a native of the Bronx, NY, is a student at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree of Science in Science Education and received a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Biochemistry with a minor in Africana Studies from SUNY Plattsburgh. Edmund enjoys working with and mentoring young men of color as they are our future. He is currently a program instructor for the Beyond the Bricks Project in Harlem, NY. Following the completion of his Master’s Degree Edmund plans on teaching science in a New York City public school and pursuing his Doctorate of Philosophy in Science Education. His ultimate goal is to become a science educator and researcher. His research will focus on improving education and science experiences of for youth in urban areas.


Hendry Blanco (City College of New York)

Hendry Blanco grew up in the Dominican Republic and came over to the United States at the age of 9 years old. Despite facing many challenges, he went on to excel in school and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in United States History and a minor in Secondary Social Studies Education from The City College of New York. Currently he is working as a Social Studies teacher in the High School for Health Careers and Sciences in Washington Heights. He is currently enrolled in the graduate program at City College in order to pursue his Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. His ultimate goal is to become a principal in a New York City school where he can help develop young people into educated adults.


Tahisha Chery
(Queens College)

Tahisha Chery is from Elmont, NY. She graduated Cum Laude at Queens College with her degree in English Education (7-12). Tahisha, in her social worker capacity, has experience working with at-risk youth living in low-income neighborhoods.

Tahisha’s academic goal is to complete her Master’s Degree in English Education (7-12). She intends to use her knowledge and experience to educate youth in high-needs areas. Tahisha is interested in African-American literature and creative writing, and plans to one day publish a memoir.

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Melissa Collado
(Queens College)

Melissa Collado was born and raised in Queens, NY. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Elementary Education (1-6) and Bilingual certification from Queens College, and is pursing her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Melissa is currently teaching Preschool in a low income, community based school where the majority of students are English Language Learners. Most of her students come from immigrant parents who struggle with the English language. She hopes to help students as well as parents reach their full potential regardless of any obstacles they may face. (B-2).


Michelle Coronel (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Michelle was born in Elmhurst, Queens. Both of her parents were born in Ecuador and arrived in New York in the mid-eighties. Spanish was her first language. She lives in Astoria, Queens. Michelle graduated Cum Laude from Queens College with a major in Applied Linguistics and a minor in French. She interned for Bilingual Pupil Services, a program that places teaching assistants in high-need, low-income schools. Starting in September, Michelle will be working as a second-grade Spanish teacher in a dual language program in her old elementary school in Queens. Michelle loves to bicycle, and also enjoys swimming and yoga.


Faith Crawford (Brooklyn College)

Faith Crawford was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a 19-year-old graduate student, she has been enrolled in school for most of her life. She considers this a blessing because she values the importance of education. Even from a young age, Faith has been drawn to teaching. She believes that teaching is the one career that all children are constantly exposed to; therefore teachers have the power to shape the future. Faith completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences in 2016 and recently began the Master’s Degree program at Brooklyn College for Secondary Education. After completing this degree Faith plans to teach adolescents in her community and show them how much fun science can be.

Sarah Elkady (Brooklyn College)

Sarah Elkady was born and raised in Queens. She is the first American-born child in her household. Sarah graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brooklyn College and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Sarah frequently volunteers in the urban environment to help preschool children with their literacy-readiness skills. She hopes to bring her knowledge and experience to her classroom to help students with learning disabilities. During her student teaching, Sarah noticed that parents, teachers, and students in the urban community often do not have access to the resources that are necessary to help students with special needs. Sarah hopes to educate these special needs students, their parents and teachers on resources and strategies that are available to help them acquire Kindergarten-readiness literacy skills.


Hurley Lee Freeman (City College of New York)

Hurley Lee Freeman is a native New Yorker with a Bachelor’s Degree in English from The City College of New York and a Master’s Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As a student in the School of Education at The City College of New York, Lee is presently pursuing an Advanced Certificate in English Education. For the past year, Lee has worked at an Alternate Learning Center for at risk youth, and looks forward to teaching English in the New York Public School System. With an abiding interest in young adult literature, African American literary/cultural history, Lee eventually plans on pursuing a Doctorate in Urban Education. He is particularly interested in studying how class mobility is imagined, negotiated, and contested in African American culture.


Bianca Frias (Bank Street College)

Bianca Frias is from Harlem, New York. Bianca is of Dominican heritage and grew up speaking Spanish at home and learning English in school. Bianca attended New York City public schools throughout her elementary, middle, and high school years. She then went on to attend Bard College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance. Upon graduating from Bard College, Bianca joined a nonprofit organization geared towards using dance and movement in public schools to help students resolve conflicts among peers and develop respect for cultural diversity. During this time Bianca had the opportunity to teach elementary and high school students and began combining her love for dance with education. Because she herself is bilingual, Bianca became interested in the process of learning dual languages and wanted to expand her knowledge of dual language programs and curriculum. She decided to pursue her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Dual Language/Bilingual General and Special Education at Bank Street College. There, she had the opportunity to student teach at a dual language public school and Head Start program in Washington Heights. Currently, Bianca is teaching kindergarten at a dual language elementary school in Washington Heights.

Jamel Holmes (Lehman College)

Jamel Holmes, a native of the Bronx, New York, is a student at Lehman College. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree of Science in the Dual Childhood and Childhood Special Education program, with a bilingual extension. Jamel received his Bachelor’s Degree from The City College of New York, where he graduated with Cum Laude honors. While attending City College, he studied abroad in Costa Rica and taught advanced English to adults at Veritas University. Jamel is an active member of NYC Men Teach Program at Lehman College. Currently he teaches in the Bronx as a Lead Teacher Associate and works for Harlem Children’s Zone as a Program Coordinator. He is truly connected to the community and enjoys serving in high needs schools. After obtaining his Master’s Degree, he intends to pursue another degree in Educational Leadership while teaching. His background, life experience, commitment and desire for helping underrepresented minorities have led him to work towards his ultimate goal, to become a principal in the NYC public school system.

Meldryck Parraga
(Queens College)

Meldryck Parraga was born in Elmhurst, Queens to immigrant parents (his mother is Dominican and his father is Ecuadorian). Meldryck has lived his whole life in Queens and currently resides in South Richmond Hill. He recently graduated from Queens College with a degree in Secondary Education (Social Studies 7-12). Through NYC Men Teach Meldryck is working in summer school at the Facing History High School. In the Fall, Meldryck will be working in a High School in Queens.

Meldryck’s academic goal is to obtain a Master’s Degree in Special Education and a Bilingual Extension. He intends to use his knowledge and experience to educate students in high need areas. In his free time, Meldryck loves to play soccer and read philosophy.


Ben Patker
(Teachers College, Columbia University)

After teaching for four years in a rural, impoverished town in Southern Illinois, Ben moved to New York to work at Bronx Lighthouse Charter School (now called Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy.) He has taught a variety of classes from 6th and 7th Grade Writing to 12th Grade Government and Politics, and ran extracurricular programs from Chess Club to a Literary Magazine. Ben’s 8th graders passed the 11th grade US History Regents with a 60% pass rate.

Now Ben, his colleagues, and his students maintain a 14-bed garden with chickens, a fig tree, vegetables and herbs on a deck of his school in the Bronx that they built collaboratively. He received $7,000 in grant money to build the garden. Last year one student passed the AP U.S. Government test in his first year of teaching the course but this year he expects much higher results. This is significant because less than 1% of students in the South Bronx graduate with any AP credit. Currently, Ben has been doing administrative work to help the rising 9th graders transition into high school as BLCPA sees its second graduating class – some of whom Ben taught in 7th, 8th, and 12th grade.

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Maria Rodriguez
(Brooklyn College)

Maria Rodriguez is from Brooklyn, NY and has an Associate’s degree in Science, a BA in Art, and a BA in Childhood Education. She is currently attending Brooklyn College where she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Childhood Education for grades 1-6. Maria is the first in her family to be a college graduate. Maria has raised three daughters of her own; while raising her children she taught Pre-K through 12th Grade and worked as a permanent Kindergarten substitute teacher. She has an extensive amount of personal and professional teaching experience with all age groups. She is currently working as a substitute teacher in several charter schools. Maria hopes one day to give back to her community by becoming a teacher who can help students achieve their dreams and goals.

Thalia Rodriguez
(Teachers College, Columbia University)

Thalia Rodriguez was born and raised in the South Bronx. She holds a B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Education & Society from SUNY Purchase and recently began the M.A. program in Elementary Inclusive Education at Teachers College. While studying Sociology, Thalia learned how race, gender, and class shape our education system. This sparked her interest in social activism and inspired her to teach in the same kinds of urban schools she attended as a child.
Her ultimate goal is to pursue a Doctorate in Education after teaching within the New York Public School system and eventually become a superintendent.

Priya Elizabeth Shajan (City College of New York)

Priya Elizabeth Shajan is from Elmont, New York. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education from City College of New York. While at The City College of New York, Priya worked as a writing tutor for low-income college students and participated in organizations to increase awareness of social justice issues and expand resources for marginalized people in the Harlem community. She is currently continuing her education by pursuing her Special Education Master’s Degree from her alma mater. As a student at City College of New York, Priya aspires to become an Elementary School teacher in the Harlem community. Fueled by her interest in interdisciplinary studies, Priya eventually intends to pursue a Doctorate in Urban Education.


Lauren Smithson (Bank Street College)

Lauren is from Long Island. She attended Parochial School for grades 1-12, and was a volunteer Sunday School teacher in her local church. In May 2011, she graduated from NYU with honors, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Childhood General and Special Education with a minor in English. She holds a Professional License in Early Childhood and Childhood General and Special Education. Upon graduating from NYU, Lauren was offered a position to teach kindergarten. During her second year of teaching, Lauren decided to pursue a master’s degree.  She enrolled in a Master’s of Science, Literacy Specialist program at The Bank Street School of Education. In December 2014 Lauren completed her master’s coursework and subsequently celebrated her graduation in May 2015. She is currently a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at a progressive school in midtown Manhattan and is honored to have received tenure after her fourth year in the classroom. She currently lives in Queens, NY with her husband.

Devin Thomas (City College of New York)

Devin Thomas grew up in Queens, New York and eventually moved to Garden City Park, New York in Long Island. He graduated Cum Laude from City College of New York with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Secondary Science Education. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Secondary Science Education at his alma mater. Currently he is working as a science teacher at Madiba Prep Middle School for Social Justice and Innovation in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Devin anticipates to further his education beyond his Masters and intends to pursue a Doctorate in Urban Education. Devin loves going to museums and traveling. He loves meeting new people and starting up conversations about anything. He enjoys spending time with friends, reading the newspaper, watching the latest movies and trying new foods.


Lizmary Valdez (City College of New York)

Lizmary grew up in a low-income urban community and attended “high need” schools. Despite many challenges, she graduated high school and today has a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies and a minor in Childhood Education from Lehman College. Currently she is working at a Montessori School where she has the opportunity to get hands-on experience and put into practice what she learned in school. Thanks to the Peter Greeman Scholarship she is now able to pursue a Master’s Degree in Secondary Spanish Education.