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 minor in Film Studies and additional focus in Women’s 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 programs including Ending The Silence for Schools, 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 an 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. Christine 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.
Kate Landsdorf, M.S., Development & Communications
Kate Landsdorf holds a Masters in Urban Affairs from CUNY Queens College and completed her undergraduate work in Media & Communications from SUNY College at Old Westbury. Kate has been an advocate in the areas of education, health, wellness, and social justice throughout her career. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at SUNY College at Old Westbury teaching Food Justice within the Public Health Department and has taught related workshops at the QM International Arts Center in Flushing. Kate apprenticed at Oko Farms on an educational aquaponics farm that served community members, children, and educators, and as well as volunteered at Riker’s Island in a horticulture therapy program for incarcerated teens and adults. She is a managing consultant in development and marketing for Healing Hearts Massage Therapy & Wellness. Kate is excited to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for the support and expression of our youth as well as utilizing her media expertise in development and communications with The Children’s Sangha. Her broad background aligned with The Children’s Sangha mission at this important juncture is appreciated as we expand and embark on establishing a center for community education and wellness. Kate is currently involved with our young people as a peer-mentor in our Civic Mentoring program while she guides program development. We are very excited to have Kate with us as she “follows her bliss” along with the rest of our staff and program participants!
Portia Ingram, M.A., Guidance Services
Portia Ingram has been working with The Children’s Sangha since 2016. 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. She 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 to assist in cultivating skills in all of our young people as a peer-mentor with The Children’s Sangha’s Civic Mentoring program. Portia has utilized her public speaking abilities to facilitate workshop programs for our Project Stewardship young adult group and will be facilitating “Find Your Voice in Social Action” training for our interns, mentors and young adult program participants. She strongly believes in the power of spreading knowledge and its ability to raise up our communities!
Justin Ellis, Education Services
Justin is a senior at SUNY College at Old Westbury majoring in Adolescent Education / Social Studies and member of the Honors College. He will be attending the masters program Special Education at Queens College. 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 in our Civic Mentoring program, a 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 and Civic Mentoring programs. 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 program participants as a peer-mentor. Her caring nature and ability to connect with our young people has had such positive impact! Rachel has handled back-end administrative functions and will assist with both administrative tracking and quarterly assessments as Project Administrator for our Civic Mentoring program. 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 our Project Stewardship and Civic Mentoring programs. She has used her creativity in art to create flyers to promote programs, workshops and special events. 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 came 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 have lent 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 were not limited to outreach, publicity, advocacy, event planning, and graphic design. Donna has assisted us with conferences and transition fairs as well as outreach for our IMAGINE Campaign. We have been very happy to have her working with us! Donna is currently on an extended stay in another state. Our collaboration will continue in the near future.