Christine Keller, M.A., M.S.Ed., Executive Director

Christine founded The Children’s Sangha in 2003. She holds an M.S.Ed., dual certification in Childhood Education and Special Education from LIU (Autism Case Program), an M.A. in Religious Studies from NYU (concentration in Eastern and Western Mysticism), and a B.A. in English Literature from PACE University (with a focus in Women’s Studies and Film Studies). She has completed Advanced Level I & II Training with Dr. Ross W. Greene, originator of the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach for working with ALL children and young adults with particular emphasis on those who exhibit challenging behavior. Our Community Support Group is based on the CPS approach. Additionally, Christine has been trained as a Certified Presenter for NAMI Parents & Teachers as Allies and Ending The Silence, mental health education in-service programs for school personnel and students respectively, to help establish a better understanding of the social-emotional challenges which many students face.

By way of The Children’s Sangha, Christine has developed and implemented a variety of programs and consulting services for children, young adults, families and schools and continues her role as a Clinical Educational Consultant through The Children’s Sangha’s current program and service offering. Christine’s involvement in education has included work as a SEIT (Special Ed Itinerant Teacher) for preschool children with special needs as well as developing/teaching a series of multi-sensory character education and skills development workshops with interrelated themes for preschool and elementary school children. All programs, past and present, develop and accommodate different abilities and learning styles and provide opportunities for outdoor, experiential learning on the premises of organic farms and within schools and community settings. Christine serves as a guest lecturer and conference presenter for Long Island colleges, schools and organizations while advocating on behalf of our youth.

As an adjunct professor at SUNY College at Old Westbury since 2001, Christine teaches courses in World Religions within the History & Philosophy Department and has taught Foundations of Special Education in Exceptional Education & Learning. She is a First Year Experience Faculty Participant teaching First Year seminar courses: Ethics of Engagement and Community Learning while serving as a First Year Student Adviser and Community Partner with the CALL Program – Community Action, Learning & Leadership. Christine’s First Year seminar and linked courses guide freshman during this critical time in their college career, providing mentoring, academic and social-emotional support. Through student advising, she assists with course selection and life direction. She works with academic departments and support services on campus to help students access resources and build skills. As a CALL Partner, she connects college students with volunteer and  internship opportunities with The Children’s Sangha and/or our community partners enabling focus in areas related to students’ field of study, existing talent or to explore potential interests while giving back to the community through our Project Stewardship program.

Arlene Wishnew, M.S., Education Services

Arlene comes to The Children’s Sangha after retiring as Head of School of the Vincent Smith School in Port Washington. She holds an M.S. in Education with a specialty in Reading and a B.A. in History with a minor in Education, both from LIU. Arlene’s impact on the education of children is unprecedented. Whether it be as Head of School, Principal, Educator or Reading Specialist, Arlene served as a mentor to all of the children who had the opportunity to have her in their lives! Under Arlene’s guidance, the Vincent Smith School was well-known for their supportive and nurturing environment. She also spear-headed the successful special-education fair which provided parents with community resources to assist their families. Arlene is a member of our Long Island Progressive Education Alliance, collaborating on the IMAGINE Campaign as well as being our lead education intern advisor. She is involved with our Free to Be You & Me – Education Series for families and professionals and serves as an educational consultant handling a range of functions. The Children’s Sangha and all who partake in our programs and services benefit from Arlene’s expertise and we are so pleased to have Arlene’s calm energy in our midst!

Erika Rappaport, Psy.D., Guidance Services

Erika holds a doctorate in School and Community Psychology at Hofstra University from Hofstra and a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY College at Old Westbury. Erika is currently a school psychologist in a public elementary school setting working on behalf of at-risk youth and partaking in assessment evaluations.  She has provided supervised services, including evaluation/diagnosis and group and individual therapeutic services through the Diagnostic and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Erika is known for her flexible, creative, and individualized approach to working with clients. In her current position as a school psychologist and as a school psychology intern in Long Island’s schools, she has worked with children with a variety of talents and needs, including children in gifted programs and children in self-contained classrooms. A special project dear to her heart was to volunteer with Infinite Family, working through video-conferencing to provide guidance and support to a student in South Africa. Erika joined The Children’s Sangha, Guidance Services, with involvement in Project Stewardship, helping participants in building skills and expanding their abilities. Additionally, she offers guidance services in the home setting to assist young people with Executive Function and other lagging skills impacting academic success and general life functioning. Erika has a passion for advocating for children and helping them reach their full potential.

Justin Ellis, Education Services

Justin is a junior at SUNY College at Old Westbury majoring in Adolescent Education / Social Studies and member of the Honors College. He plans to attend graduate school for Special Education. Justin has a passion for history and enjoys sharing his appreciation and knowledge of history with others. He is a member of the Sullivan County Historical Society and Friends of Rock Hall in Lawrence. Justin joined The Children’s Sangha through SUNY Old Westbury’s Community Action, Learning and Leadership (CALL) program during Spring 2017. He has been serving as a peer mentor and group leader for participants in our Project Stewardship program for young adults and has assisted with conferences and special events. Justin has contributed to The Children’s Sangha with an article he has written: “Timeline and Local Education History Reflection” and presented for the Bellmore Memorial Library recounting the history of education with background related to schools of the Bellmores. Justin will continue his work in the development of Long Island History in Your Own Backyard which includes a monthly project with the Wantagh Preservation Society, one of our community partners. We are grateful for the inspiration and passion Justin has brought to The Children’s Sangha. His high spirits, interpersonal skills and knowledge are valued by many!

Rachel Kessler, Guidance Services

Rachel graduated from SUNY College at Old Westbury in May 2018! She majored in Psychology and has been interning with The Children’s Sangha since the Fall 2017. She is currently involved with both our Project Stewardship program and NEW Civic Mentoring Initiative. She comes to us with experience in the childcare field and a natural understanding of human development and anxiety disorders. Rachel plays a key role in working one on one with our Project Stewardship participants as a peer-mentor. Her caring nature and ability to connect with our young people has had such positive impact! She will soon serve as a liaison with our community partners organizing volunteer placements. Rachel has handled back-end administrative functions and will assist with both administrative tracking and quarterly assessments as Project Administrator for our Civic Mentoring Initiative. We are in awe of Rachel’s amazing skills and thrilled to have her help us move forward in the work we do on behalf of our young adult community!

Valentina Naula, Guidance Services

Valentina is a junior at SUNY College at Old Westbury majoring in Psychology, minoring in Art. She has been working with us since the Spring 2017 via the Community Action, Learning and Leadership (CALL) program. Valentina has been handling an array of back-end administrative duties and will serve as Project Assistant, creating and maintaining database profiles to track mentor and membership information for Project Stewardship and our NEW Civic Mentoring Initiative. She has used her creativity in art to create flyers to promote programs, workshops and special events. And we look forward to her work with families going forward. Additionally, Valentina has assisted with Start Your Own School Garden, assisting children during workshops and planting activities. We are truly grateful for Valentina’s level of responsibility, personal flair and kindheartedness!

Donna Knepple, Community Outreach

Donna comes to The Children’s Sangha with an array of experiences related to childhood education and advocacy. She understands the different abilities and needs of our youth and strives to raise awareness as it pertains to the holes in our systems impacting our children’s education and well-being. Her administrative expertise lend themselves to coordinate outreach and publicity in alignment with our development and media efforts. She has worked with a number of organizations within the Autism community and with groups working on behalf of at-risk youth. Her areas of focus have included but are not limited to outreach, publicity, advocacy, event planning, and graphic design. Donna has already assisted us with conferences and transition fairs as well as outreach for our IMAGINE Campaign. We are very happy to have her working with us!

 Jasmine Hall, Education Services

Jasmine is a special educator and master program candidate at PACE University. She graduated from SUNY College at Old Westbury in May 2016 with B.A. in Philosophy (minor in Psychology). Her other areas of interest extend to fine art, music, dance, astrology and blogging. Jasmine completed her first training experience in Collaborative & Proactive Solutions through our Free To Be You and Me – Education Series. She participates in our Community Support Group and volunteers with the Long Island Progressive Education Alliance to assist with social justice issues related to education within our communities. She also serves as a Project Assistant and Peer-Mentor with Project Stewardship. The joy she finds in working with our young adults has been an inspiration to all. Jasmine has transformed the lives of many of the students with whom she has worked by way of her kindness, compassion, sense of humor and insight! Her talent in art shines through in activities that she has developed and taught.

Portia Ingram, M.A., Development

Portia has joined The Children’s Sangha to manage development efforts and oversight of our 2016 young adult initiatives. Portia holds a B.A in Communication Sciences & Disorders from Temple University and an M.A. in Disability Studies from CUNY. After seven years in the field as a clinician, she was driven to embark on an advanced degree that would lay the foundation for furthering her advocacy work. Portia brings her experiences which range from knowledge of creating speech goals and communication modalities to insights in working with children and young adult who are on the Autism Spectrum and cultivate skills in all of our young people. Through her involvement and expertise with start-up organizations, she is a welcome member of our team! Portia will be using her public speaking capabilities while facilitating our Find Your Voice in Social Action training for adults and young adults participating with The Children’s Sangha and has offered workshops in other topics for our Project Stewardship young adult group. Portia strongly believes in the power of spreading knowledge and its ability to raise up our communities!

Honour Odigie, Development

Honour is embarking on a masters is Social Work, graduated SUNY College at Old Westbury in May 2016 (majored in Psychology and was a member of the Honors College). She has been actively involved on her college campus with World Changers Club. One of her goals has been to work for a for-profit or not-for-profit entrepreneurship effecting positive change on behalf of children. The Children’s Sangha is her first experience in this arena. Honour assisted with our Spring 2015 event, Family Wellness Day and our IMAGINE Campaign’s Fall 2015 event, the 2e: Twice Exceptional Movie (in collaboration with Twice Exceptional Children’s Advocacy (TECA)). Funding and community outreach will be her primary responsibilities while paving the way for new endeavors! We are grateful to have Honour on board!

Jamie Loren, Community Events

Jamie is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton who majored in Human Development and History and will begin graduate studies in Social Work at Hofstra University in the Spring 2017. She is currently employed as a schedule coordinator on the business team of Lalor where she handles a variety of customer service functions. She has been volunteering with The Children’s Sangha in various capacities for the past several years based on her interests in community services that are of benefit to young people in today’s society, her love of the natural world, and appreciation for our local history. Jamie maintains The Children’s Sangha Facebook page and provides updates on events offered by our community partners.

Michelle Jones, Media Services

Michelle is a graduate of Ithaca College’s prestigious Television and Radio program. Her expertise in the media industry are diverse, having experience in everything from documentary film making to the now rapidly emerging digital media forum. Her areas of focus in media and dramatic arts is extensive. For our humble purposes, she initiated The Children’s Sangha’s social media presence (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) to help bring awareness to The Children’s Sangha’s mission and message. Michelle created video footage for Farm Aid to highlight our educational programs and consulting services including work with local organic farms and schools. She has offered a video creation class for Project Stewardship participants and works as a mentor in this area. Michelle’s visual and technical expertise are cherished gifts! We look forward to her ability to promote our vision on behalf of children and young adults!

“Some people were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people dance.” —The Curious Life of Benjamin Button