Category Archives: Betas

Alex Babbitt

Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI

Education: English, Michigan State University

Alex has had a lifelong appreciation for learning and education. In college, he was drawn to learning so many different things, and he eventually landed on English as his major. He found that his passion for education and learning extended beyond that, and into a desire to help give others the gift of education. After spending 4 years teaching sexual and relationship violence prevention to first and second year college students, Alex is excited to learn more about the field of education and being an educator in a K-12 setting in general. Most importantly, though, he is looking forward to seeing young people learn and grow.

Natalya Bennett

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Education: English, CUNY York College

Natalya Bennett grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and currently lives in Jamaica, Queens. She was raised by Caribbean parents, who always stressed the importance of a college education and supported her throughout her entire educational journey. She recently graduated from CUNY York College, where she majored in English and minored in Black Studies. Before attending CUNY York College, she attended a predominantly white institution and found it very difficult to fit in or make friends. This would negatively impact her experience and her motivation to complete college. She would eventually overcome this setback by transferring to a school with a more diverse student body. As a result, she was more comfortable and discovered her love of literature and writing. In spite of the challenges she faced before realizing her passion, one thing was always clear, she wanted to help others. Because of her experience attending schools that were either predominantly black or white, never a mixture of both, she decided to aim to work with disadvantaged schools and students and set out to reform the education system. Natalya chose Blue Engine because the organization’s goal to recognize and liberate the potential of all humans is aligned with her own life’s mission.

Miranda Chapa

Hometown: Hinsdale, IL

Education: History, Yale University

Miranda grew up in Hinsdale, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and recently graduated from Yale University. Throughout her life, books and stories have offered her new ways to see the world, and she is excited to share that experience with students. Miranda majored in history, fascinated by social movements in the US and social justice struggles that continue into the present. In college, she was also part of the Education Studies program, where she learned about education policy and how to think critically about educational inequalities. Miranda had the opportunity to spend two summers teaching writing at Breakthrough in Denver, a nonprofit summer program for middle schoolers. Those summers full of growth, community, and fun inspired her to pursue teaching. Miranda is thrilled to be in New York City supporting Blue Engine’s mission in 10th grade ELA. Besides school, she loves soccer, listening to music, and cats.

Christian Criolo

Hometown: Ossining, NY

Education: History, CUNY Hunter College

Christian is a recent graduate from Hunter College and majored in History. He has always been interested in helping people, especially when it comes to helping them shape their future. He has worked as a tutor for students in the English language learning community. He also served as a tutor for adult students looking to pursue their high school equivalency exam. Recently, Christian traveled back Ecuador, which is where he is from, and saw the need for social and educational assistance—which brought him to the decision to apply to Blue Engine. Since he learned about social systems and their effects, he has always sought to ameliorate circumstances for disenfranchised. Christian hopes that through this program he is able to continue his mission to shape the future.

Maxwell Cromett

Hometown: Portland, OR

Education: Film Studies, Seattle University

Maxwell graduated from Seattle University in 2017 with a degree in film, then decided to turn his focus to education after working with high school students as a basketball coach. He hopes to connect with students and learn just as much from them as they learn from him.

Miriam Ekeson

Hometown: Queens, NY

Education: Psychology, State University of New York at Albany

As a first-generation college student, Miriam was always taught the importance of education. Her parents often reminded her that education is the gateway to success, and no matter where someone is or where they are going, if they have an education, no one can take that away from them. Growing up in an urban city and attending urban schools her entire life opened Miriam’s eyes to the many injustices of the school system. She decided that she wanted to be a part of the change she would like to see in the world, and Blue Engine’s mission immediately caught her attention as a program that would help nurture her into who she wanted to become one day—an educator who is dedicated to seeing that each and every student has an equal opportunity for success. Just as her parents ingrained in her, “prior planning prevents poor performance.” She is looking forward to this new journey!

Coeli Fleming-Kelly

Hometown: Portland, OR

Education: Spanish Studies, Fordham University

Coeli is a recent graduate of Fordham University, where she earned her degree in Spanish Studies. Growing up, she was surrounded by several family members who were passionate about their jobs as teachers, something that has inspired her to find great value in education. Throughout the years, Coeli served as a tutor in various settings and participated in the AmeriCorps Jumpstart program, going into pre-school classrooms to help bridge the gap in kindergarten readiness. In her free time, Coeli loves getting outside and staying active. She is so excited to join Blue Engine this year because of their focus on social justice through education.

Tasnova Harun

Hometown: Long Island, NY

Education: Multidisciplinary Studies, SUNY at Stony Brook

Tasnova learned about Blue Engine at a time in her life when she really wanted to make a shift in her career. She had been working as a test prep instructor out in Long Island high schools for the last few years and, though the work had been rewarding, she was on the search for an opportunity that would allow her to be more of a resource for students beyond the realm of test prep. After learning about Blue Engine’s mission, she knew it was a cause she wanted to be a part of. Tasnova is really looking forward to learning to become the best class instructor she can be.

Rhianna Hopkins

Hometown: Queens, NY

Education: Psychology, CUNY City College

Growing up in Queens and experiencing the NYC public school system herself, Rhianna is honored to be involved in the necessary transformation of the field of education. Shaped, influenced, and inspired by mentors and teachers throughout her life, she is looking forward to implementing what she has learned from them in her own teaching. She has had the opportunity to work with The Center for Cerebral Palsy Research at Columbia Teacher’s College for the past two years, applying intensive therapy techniques to improve the lives of children with Cerebral Palsy. Her passion for working with children has grown exponentially in this role. Knowing how empowering reading and writing can be, she is excited to work with Blue Engine to teach ELA this year.

Joseph Jacob

Hometown: Princeton, NJ

Education: Law & Society, CUNY John Jay College

Joseph is a recent graduate of John Jay College, where he majored in Law & Society. While growing up in NJ, Joseph developed a passion for youth academic development while working at a summer camp. Throughout his undergraduate studies, he volunteered to assist other students in achieving their academic goals, specifically in the area of English Language Arts. Joseph is extremely excited to be part of the Blue Engine team and cannot wait to help his students as an English Language Arts BETA.

Sarah Jacobs

Hometown: Scarsdale, NY

Education: Science in Society, Wesleyan University

Sarah just graduated from Wesleyan University, where she majored in Science in Society with a concentration in Sociology and Biology. At Wesleyan, Sarah participated in multiple tutoring and outreach programs that partnered with local elementary and middle schools to provide support for students in various subjects. Sarah also ran a radio show featuring music by female-identifying and gender-queer artists, which she will miss. Last summer, Sarah served as a social work intern at Lawyers for Children, a law firm providing legal representation and social work services to kids and young adults currently or formerly in foster care. Recognizing the critical and uniquely impactful role of teachers in the supporting the development, trajectory, and sense of confidence and competence in students, Sarah cannot wait to apply her skills (while learning a myriad of new ones) and her prior experience to teaching 8th grade math this school year.

Reilley Jones

Hometown: Hudson, OH

Education: Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan

Reilley is coming to NYC from Ann Arbor, MI. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2016, and she’s been working as a design engineer in the automotive industry for the past several years. She has always been incredibly passionate about education, and participated in many elementary education programs throughout her undergraduate career. She is also a huge gymnastics fan, and has spent the past ten years coaching youth gymnastics. Moving to NYC will be a true adventure, and Reilley can’t wait to get started living out the Blue Engine mission.

Katherine Kachnowski

Hometown: Tarrytown, NY

Education: English and Education, Ohio State University

As a child, Katherine developed a love for education thanks to her passionate and dedicated teachers. She became aware of the achievement gap while working as a tutor in high school. As an undergrad, Katherine majored in Integrated Language Arts Education and English, and completed a thesis on growth mindset and self-efficacy. She also spent a summer at the middle school program of Breakthrough New York, a non-profit dedicated to closing the achievement gap. Katherine is excited to learn from and work with Blue Engine this year.

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