Our Staff

John Begeny, Ph.D.

Founder and Executive Director

Why I started Helps Education Fund:

Educational inequities are far too prevalent around the world. Such inequities hinder individual and community empowerment and opportunities, and they foster systems of oppression and poverty.

Read more about John Begeny, Ph.D.

Finley Baldwin

Scheduling Assistant

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because I have a passion for literacy and helping students reach their utmost potential. I am excited to work with an organization that tackles educational inequities and makes a strong impact in communities. 

 

Read more about Finley Baldwin

Alexandra Carver

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

An equitable education should be a right for every child, not a privilege. The evidence-based, high-quality programs that Helps Education Fund provides not only promote educational equity, but also foster a positive environment in which children can reach their literacy goals. I am grateful to work for an organization that tackles educational inequality in a way that makes it easy for communities to be authentically involved.

Read more about Alexandra Carver

Joy Alcantara Chuquiruna

HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because I am passionate about educational equity and social justice work. I believe education should be a right and not a privilege and I want to be part of an organization that gets us closer to that reality.

Read more about Joy Alcantara Chuquiruna

Jennie Copeland, MSW

Advancement Manager

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I am inspired by the impact Helps Education Fund makes in connecting parents and educators with high-quality, evidence-based resources. Building foundational learning skills is an essential piece in creating equity in schools and our communities.  I am grateful to join Helps Education Fund’s team and look forward to creating meaningful change together.

Read more about Jennie Copeland, MSW

Dale Cusumano, Ph.D.

Director of K-12 Programs

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Helps Education Fund is committed to advancing equitable educational outcomes for each student by prioritizing equity in education, seeking evidence of effectiveness, keeping accessibility at the forefront, collaborating with stakeholders, and connecting research with meaningful practice. It is these values and efforts that ignite a fire in my heart and mind as I take part in this journey to advance educational outcomes for all students. I am honored and humbled to be part of the Helps Education Fund team.

Read more about Dale Cusumano, Ph.D.

Felicia Davidson

Program Trainer and Coach
Business Operations Manager

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because the organization strives to diminish educational inequity by providing evidence-based practices. I am excited to continue to watch this organization grow and positively impact our community.

Read more about Felicia Davidson

Maria Dominguez

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

As a future educator, I believe that every child should have access to quality and equal education. Literacy and math fluency are important skills for students to have and Helps Education Fund  serves to address these issues. I am honored to work with dedicated and passionate individuals who care about the educational growth of each student.

 

Read more about Maria Dominguez

Jasmine Fuentes

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I joined Helps Education Fund because of their sole purpose of bridging the educational equity gaps that are seen in most schools.

Read more about Jasmine Fuentes

Gwen Hinton

Lead Trainer
Adult, Family, and Community Empowerment programs

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because it gives me the opportunity to promote and pair literacy and parenting skills to adults. I believe when adults receive an equitable education, they gain confidence to promote the importance of education to their children.

Read more about Gwen Hinton

Olivia Huckel

MSW Intern and HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I joined Helps Education Fund because I recognize the intersectionality our identities have with educational attainment and how that can determine future success. I am inspired to work at the intersection of social justice and educational equity to provide a solid foundation for traditionally marginalized student populations and move toward closing achievement gaps.

Read more about Olivia Huckel

Ben Iuliano

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

After studying abroad in Spain and volunteering to help elementary students with their literacy skills, I realized the necessity for bridging both the language and equity gaps around the world, particularly for children. Through the promotion of educational equity and societal equality, Helps Education Fund works to ensure that children are given true opportunity, means, and encouragement necessary to harness their skills and grow in a supportive community.

Read more about Ben Iuliano

Lauren Joyce, Ph.D.

Project Manager, Guilford County
Quality Assurance Manager for HELPS Programming

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I joined Helps Education Fund to support the organization’s mission of providing free/low-cost research-based literacy resources to students and educators. I want to be a part of an organization that creates positive, meaningful change and work collaboratively with educators and other organizations to create opportunities for students to become successful readers.

Read more about Lauren Joyce, Ph.D.

Jenny Kim

HELPS Implementation Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I believe that an equitable education is one of the most important foundations that build and shape a person’s life and is needed for students to reach their full potential, especially those who come from marginalized groups. Therefore, I strongly advocate for Helps Education Fund’s mission and commitment to enhance educational equity and to improve the educational outcomes for students. As someone coming from a Korean immigrant and ESL background, I wish I knew about or had a program like HELPS when I was in grade school.

Read more about Jenny Kim

Amy Lau, M.Ed, MSA

Program Trainer and Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I began working at Helps Education Fund because of their commitment to social justice and educational equity. Much of the work I have done in education focuses on student empowerment and community engagement. Helps Education Fund allows all families, teachers, and children access to high quality instruction. I believe that all children are innately curious, that every person has the ability to learn, and that we all have the right to a quality education.

Read more about Amy Lau, M.Ed, MSA

Tom Lacey

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Last year, I saw firsthand the strong impact Helps Education Fund’s programs make for students of all ages. My son had been receiving tutoring from HELPS through the pandemic.  As I helped him get online, I saw how engaged he was and how much he enjoyed his interactions with the tutors. With an interest in promoting educational equity and further supporting the development of other students, I am thrilled to join the team.

 

Read more about Tom Lacey

Kate Llewellyn, M.A. Ed.

Tutor Operations Manager

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because of the opportunity to support students as they make meaningful advancements in their foundational academic skills. I believe literacy is one of the greatest tools we have for connecting with others, expressing ourselves, and making community-based change. I am inspired by Helps Education Fund’s commitment to using evidence-based educational programs to purposefully and systematically address the educational inequities that persist today.

Read more about Kate Llewellyn, M.A. Ed.

Amy Mattingly, Ph.D.

Assistant Director of K-12 Programs

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because I am an educator and child advocate with a passion for ensuring access to high-quality, evidence-based instruction and interventions.

Read more about Amy Mattingly, Ph.D.

Natasha Newson

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I care deeply about addressing systemic barriers to quality education and supporting the kids who need it most.  As such, I firmly support Helps Education Fund’s mission of working toward educational equity through identifying evidence-based practices and interventions that are low-cost and feasible for teachers and/or parents to use.

Read more about Natasha Newson

Shannon O’Neal

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work with Helps Education Fund because educational equity is a priority we share. By striving to provide programs and services to communities that are too often underfunded and overlooked, my work aligns with my belief systems and I’m able to make a difference for the kids who need it most.

Read more about Shannon O’Neal

Gia Paige

Sr. Project Director for HELPS Programming, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because of its dedication to promote educational equity for a more just society. Working at Helps Education Fund affords me the unique opportunity to align my personal and professional desires to advocate for educational equity; particularly for students who look like my sons and daughters, and others, who are marginalized because of their skin tone or ethnicity. 

Read more about Gia Paige

Kim Perkins

Program Director, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

My time spent helping women who were survivors of human trafficking, and learning about the circumstances that led them to their current situations, reinforced my belief that education is the key to escaping the cycle of poverty that many disadvantaged communities fall victim to. At that point I realized I wanted to be proactive, rather than reactive, in fighting the problems Charlotte faces. I am so proud to be part of a team that not only works towards educational equity but also shows results in improving childhood literacy and is helping to break the cycle of poverty.

Read more about Kim Perkins

Sheri Petrequin

Program Trainer and Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I am honored to work at Helps Education Fund because, as a former elementary educator, I saw everyday how educational inequity is a systemic problem in our society.  As a result of my work experiences, I became passionate about social justice and how educational equity can help move us further to become more equal and just. Helps Education Fund’s mission aligns with my professional and personal goals by providing evidence-based practices and interventions for free or at the lowest possible cost, and in a feasible way for students, parents and educators.

Read more about Sheri Petrequin

Janice Pidgeon, M.S.

Training Coordinator

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work for Helps Education Fund because I have experienced, through teaching and coaching, the HELPS programs’ success with helping young readers. I believe in its mission of educational equity. I have spent my career helping students from rural impoverished areas succeed, and Helps Education Fund provides a means to do so that’s researched based, effective, and free/low cost.

Read more about Janice Pidgeon, M.S.

Yanitzmarie (Marie) Polanco

Program Trainer and Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I work at Helps Education Fund because I am passionate about understanding the lived experiences of marginalized communities and how we can use this knowledge to promote educational equity and social justice. As a first-generation college student, I experienced firsthand the positive impact that early interventions have on underserved communities. I strongly believe in providing feasible, evidence-based interventions to improve educational equity while also creating safe spaces for communities to work and grow together. I am proud to be part of a team that prioritizes student learning, accessibility, and authentic collaboration.

Read more about Yanitzmarie (Marie) Polanco

Reem Salah

HELPS Implementation Coach and Business Operations Assistant

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Growing up, I always found education important. I spent many years volunteering at a weekend school and taught biology for a couple of years. I respect Helps Education Fund’s aim to address educational inequity and am honored to work with them.

Read more about Reem Salah

CeCe Sellers

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I am thrilled to join Helps Education Fund, because fostering a true love for literacy while addressing educational inequity is something I’m passionate about. Providing effective, evidence-based educational programs, is crucial in supporting teachers and empowering every student to succeed.

Read more about CeCe Sellers

Jesslyn Smith

Project Manager and Level 1 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

Coming from a low-income family, I’ve experienced the power that a quality education can bring to individuals and their families. Having witnessed the immense educational inequities that exist in our systems, I am proud to work with an organization that strives to bridge those barriers by bringing free/ low-cost evidence-based interventions to students, their caregivers, and their communities.

Read more about Jesslyn Smith

Susan Soques, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Why I joined Helps Education Fund:

I am very fortunate to join a team that is genuinely dedicated to improving lives by promoting educational equity. It is an honor to work for an organization that utilizes their financial resources exceptionally well; and leverages resources through volunteer opportunities to help expand outreach in our communities.

Read more about Susan Soques, CPA

Amy Van Oostrum-Engler

Program Trainer and Coach

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

As both a K-12 and adult educator, I have seen the challenges faced by historically marginalized students and families. Through its advancement of foundational academic skills, Helps Education Fund works at the most basic level to address academic inequities. I feel blessed to work within this dynamic team to support teachers, caregivers, and students with evidence-based educational strategies. I truly believe that education is the key to ensuring equality in our society and the advancement of all peoples.

Read more about Amy Van Oostrum-Engler

Haruna Suzuki, Ph.D.

Director of Adult, Family, and Community Empowerment programs
Assistant Director of Development

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I wanted to work for an organization that cares deeply about educational equity, community, and justice.

Read more about Haruna Suzuki, Ph.D.

Laura Tucker, M.Ed.

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I choose to work at Helps Education Fund because I want all students to gain confidence and success as a reader. This organization creates a positive environment for children to thrive, grow, and close gaps in reading; which allows them to become successful life-long learners. I love that a community is built around celebrating reading success by tutors, students, teachers, and parents.

Read more about Laura Tucker, M.Ed.

Melissa Walker

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I am a former elementary teacher and literacy facilitator. I have seen first-hand that when students come into the classroom behind in reading, they struggle and are frustrated with learning. I was very excited to begin working with Helps Education Fund because it brings a research-validated and evidence-based approach to reading fluency, which is a critical life skill. I am also proud and honored to work with an organization that puts equity in education at the forefront of decision making. Helps Ed Fund advances educational equity by providing high-quality programs that advance children’s academic skills at low or no cost.

Read more about Melissa Walker

Jiayi Wang, M.S.

Project Manager and Level 2 Research Associate

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

I would like to be part of a team that strives to address educational inequity and to empower students and families who are marginalized in society.

Read more about Jiayi Wang, M.S.

Bryanna Washington

HELPS Implementation Coach and Site Coordinator, Charlotte

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:
I joined HELPS because I love children. Working with children has been a joy of mine, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I love watching first-hand the difference Helps Education Fund’s programs make for the students and families we support. Reading is such an important skill to have, and I want to do my part to continue helping students improve their reading fluency.

Read more about Bryanna Washington

Dalia Wimberly, M.Ed., MPP

Director of Operations

Why I work at Helps Education Fund:

My passion lies at the intersection of educational equity and social justice. I am proud of the work that Helps Education Fund is doing to move the needle forward in these areas for traditionally marginalized and underserved populations. I am also motivated by the organization’s commitment to leveraging research-supported and evidence-based strategies in order to make a difference for students, educators, parents, and the community. 

Read more about Dalia Wimberly, M.Ed., MPP