We at Sangha Education Center are extremely honored to have an amazing team with diverse educational backgrounds and experiences who are champions for our youth.
Christine Keller, Executive Director, founded The Children’s Sangha in 2005 on behalf of young people with a range of abilities and needs understanding the need for “whole-child” teaching and learning which would address systemic issues impacting our youth. Now in 2019, she has established Sangha Education Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization located at historic Malcolm House on the Jericho Preserve in order to expand our programming and reach greater numbers of young people, parents and professionals in our Long Island Community. Her life-long involvement in organic farming and outdoor education is at the center of our program offering.
Christine 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). She has completed CPS Advanced Level I & II Training with Dr. Ross W. Greene, originator of the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach upon which our Community Support Group is based. Additionally, Christine has been trained as a Certified Presenter for NAMI programs including 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 young people face.
As an Adjunct Professor at SUNY College at Old Westbury since 2001, Christine teaches courses within the History & Philosophy and First Year Experience Departments and has taught in Exceptional Education & Learning. She has served as a First Year Experience freshman advisor and is a Community Action, Learning and Leadership (CALL) program community partner. Campus collaboration extends to various departments in order to provide avenues for student opportunity, success and well-being.
Donna Knepple is a Teacher’s Aide and Vocational Job Coach for Rockville Centre UFSD and a Community Habitation staff member through NYS, in both capacities working with young people on the Autism Spectrum and those with other disabilities. She comes to Sangha Education Center with an array of experience related to education and advocacy, understanding the different abilities and needs of all individuals and strives to raise awareness related to the educational void impacting our youth. Her administrative expertise have lent themselves to working with us in various functions over the years including outreach at conferences and transition fairs as well as assisting with programs and special event coordination. Currently, Donna handles office management for Sangha Education Center, working with our executive director, volunteer staff, mentors and interns related to program operations.
Steeve Sproul graduated with a B.S. from SUNY Old Westbury, double majoring in Biology and Religion & Philosophy. Steeve is pursuing advanced science courses towards a medical degree. She has many interests including but not limited to living environment, psychology, holistic wellness, and computer science. Steeve has developed her own website, Sorting Spaces, with an ecommerce platform to inspire other young people and help them to organize their lives. She manages a range of functions at Sangha Education Center. She is an Operations Liaison with Education, Guidance and Media & Development and serves as a mentor in our Civic Mentoring program. Steeve inspired the idea for our Medicine Wheel Garden that will be implemented in our Meadow Farm and workshops that will be developed through our Nature & Wellness Connections programs.
Samantha Benitez is a senior at SUNY Old Westbury majoring in Psychology, minoring in Social Work. Samantha has always valued being of service to others and did so previously as a 2nd Lieutenant in the AFJROTC, helping peers in and outside of her community develop education and career paths. She also managed fundraisers to support this program. While in college, Samantha has been working in the retail field and has excellent organizational and technology skills which have contributed to the formalizing some of Sangha Education’s policies and procedures. Samantha serves as a peer mentor in our Project Stewardship and Civic Mentoring programs. She has guided the implementation of our Sangha Shop and works with our office manager on program operations tasks.
Regina Dlugokencky holds a M.S. in Library and Information Science from Long Island University, C.W. Post, and has participated in the Horticulture program at Farmingdale State College. An avid gardener since age eight, Regina has farmed organically for over 12 years for local organic CSAs. She founded Seedsower Farm. LLC, an organic market garden operation, selling organic seedlings, and being committed to the education and promotion of local, sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. She started the first Seed Library in Nassau County and has developed a range of programs that enable gardeners of all abilities to grow from “seed to seed”. In spring 2021, she will establish the Seed Saving Garden and Library which will now be housed at Sangha Education Center. Regina has taken on collaborative management of the Sangha Education Meadow Farm and offers Plant & Learn sessions as part of our Nature & Wellness Connections programs. Regina offers gardening programs at public libraries across Long Island.
Diane Kideris holds an M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education from Adelphi University. Diane has over 13 years of experience in the field, teaching young people of various ages and abilities. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and the world around them and believes in the saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Her students could be found outside in all weather including rain and snow. Diane loves all animals and at one time her classroom was home to a rabbit, hermit crab and walking stick insects! She has taught both children and adults not to kill any insects that may visit: “After all, they just want to live their lives like me and you!” Diane is a steward of the Earth, loves local farms, Earthing and doing yoga and meditation outdoors so she can take in nature using all her senses. In November 2016, Diane was a facilitator at the Lutheran Schools Association Conference where she presented “Children & Nature: Connecting to Our Natural World Both Inside & Outside the Classroom”. She has joined Sangha Education Center as a lead teacher in our Nature & Wellness Connections programs and will be assisting with coordination of NEW and expanded Sangha School programs.
Stephanie Gaglione is a Doctor of Pharmacy, receiving her Pharm.D. from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and is a NYS Licensed Pharmacist. In addition to pharmacy consulting work, Stephanie established Biophilia Wellness focusing her experience in integrative medicine to include healing modalities such as reiki, meditation and forest bathing. She is a Certified Nature Therapy Guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. She works with Nature to co-create a safe space to explore and experience what it is to be human. In these guided immersion experiences lies the opportunity to develop a deeper connection to the natural world and all beings that it encompasses. Healing is not a sought-after goal but rather a common bi-product of the relationship established from these consistent and intentional interactions with Nature. Stephanie offers Forest Bathing experiences as part of Sangha Education Center’s Nature & Wellness Connections programs throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons.
Kate Landsdorf received her M.S. in Urban Affairs from CUNY Queens College and completed her undergraduate work in Media & Communications from SUNY Old Westbury. She has been an advocate in the areas of education, health and social justice throughout her life. Kate has been teaching as an adjunct professor at SUNY Old Westbury within the Public Health Department. Her involvement with organic food and farming has included an aquaponic farm in Brooklyn. Her focus on community wellness has included offering workshops at Healing Hands Holistic Wellness. Kate has been working with us for several years in all aspects of our educational offering as program organizer, teacher and mentor to our youth. Her creativity has inspired all those with whom she works. She has been incorporating holistic wellness activities into our Nature & Wellness Connections programs and instrumental in Start Your Own School Garden as a lead teacher.
Chava Blitzer holds a B.S. in Political Science and Accounting from Brooklyn College with primary experience in business technology. She is a skilled Educational and Assistive Technology Specialist who established the Chai Center Middle and High School for Students with Special Learning Needs, implementing a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) environment to enable all students to have access to the curriculum. Chava is experienced in the instruction of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) approach for writing established by Harris & Graham and the Don Johnston’s Co-Writer Universal and Snap & Read assistive technology solutions with SRSD templates. She guides students with learning differences and disabilities to engage in the writing process considering twice-exceptionality, atypical learning needs and comorbidity, meeting each individual where they are and understanding that one-size-does-not-fit-all. Chava offers Educational Consulting & Training for students, parents and professionals at Sangha Education Center.
Justin Ellis is a graduate student at SUNY College at Old Westbury in Adolescent Education/Social Studies. As an undergraduate majoring in History, he was a member of the Honors College and graduated top of his class. Justin also provided instructional services in the SUNY OW Tutoring Center. He currently provides test preparation and instructional services at C2 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 initially joined us through SUNY Old Westbury’s Community Action, Learning and Leadership (CALL) program and has worked with us in a range of capacities over the years while educating and supporting our young people. In spear-heading aspects of our Long Island History in Your Own Backyard program, Justin has collaborated with local historic societies, written historical narratives, presented on local history and offered historic walking tours including one of our new location at historic Malcolm House on the Jericho Preserve. He will guide the implementation process of a community walking tour of the Jericho Preserve in the coming year.
Dr. Lisa LoPinto is a NYS Licensed Psychologist with a Ph.D. in combined Clinical and School Psychology which she earned from Hofstra University. Dr. LoPinto has over 20 years of experience working with children and adolescents and maintains a private practice in Suffolk County for young people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and behavioral difficulties. She is a Certified Provider and Consultant/Trainer for the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach developed by Dr. Ross Greene, for understanding and helping children with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Dr. LoPinto uses CPS as a primary approach in her practice and trains parents, individual professionals, and school districts on implementing the CPS model. She also provides specific skills training and cognitive-behavioral therapy to her patients as needed. Dr. LoPinto assists in facilitating our Community Support Group at Sangha Education Center in order to introduce and guide parents and professionals in the use of CPS as a community service.
Sabrina Galeotafiore, holds a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and is in the process of completing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Adelphi University. She has worked for various organizations such as Youth and Family Counseling Center of Oyster Bay where she taught and mentored youth with a range of abilities and needs coming from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Sabrina has also worked for YES Community Counseling Center in an elementary school setting, as well as Nassau BOCES in a non-traditional high school where she provided individual and group counseling, and facilitated various programs focused on social skills, emotions, and healthy relationships. She is also an experienced volleyball coach who strives to build self-esteem, self-efficacy, and positive peer relationships in young athletes. Sabrina is skilled in meeting each child where they are and has impacted many through her meticulous ability to tap into our youth’s strengths and guide their progress. She began her work with Sangha Education Center as a mentor in our Civic Mentoring program and is now assisting supervision of the program alongside our Executive Director.
Trevor Marks received his B.A. in Psychology from Hofstra University. He is presently working with Sangha Education Center as a mentor and supervisor in the Civic Mentoring program. Passionate about helping teens and young adults reach their greatest potential, he works in partnership with mentees to identify interests and build strengths and skills associated with those interests. Years prior, Trevor worked as Teacher’s Assistant at Eye Level Learning Center offering instructional services and coaching. He believes deeply in thoughtful care, compassion, and collaboration when working with children and young adults. Trevor has been working on the Sangha Strategies Guide to train other mentors in strategies useful in assisting our program participants who have a range of abilities and needs. He has been a role model to all those with whom he has worked!
James Russo is in the process of completing his B.A. in Recreational Therapy from St. Joseph’s College. He has volunteered for Christ Lutheran Church in East Northport to travel and help rebuild houses for people in need. James would like to pursue music in relation to his future career, using his passion to help guide youth towards a more positive view of the world. He has been working with Sangha Education Center as a peer-mentor in our Project Stewardship program and as a mentoring-in-training and now a mentor in our Civic Mentoring program. His skill in carpentry and handy-crafts helped us to expand our program in creative ways in alignment with our mission. James encourages our program participants with the friendly, heart-felt connection he establishes with everyone!
Media & Development
April Zubko is the owner of Zubko Media, where she helps non-profits just like Sangha Education Center communicate their vital message and complete their mission though education-based content, dynamic web designs, email marketing, social media and non-profit donation and event campaigns. In her spare time, she shares her adventure travels with her husband on her YouTube channel Magellan & Greyhound, and gives gardening tutorials and tips on her YouTube channel ReSprout.
John Roslund is a senior at SUNY Old Westbury, in the process of completing his B.A. in Psychology, interested in continuing with more community-based work upon graduation. John began with Sangha as an intern then staying with us as a peer-mentor in our Project Stewardship program and mentor in Civic Mentoring. Due to his amazing technology skills, John has joined the Media & Development team creating new media outlets to communicate our philosophy and to streamline behind-the-scene’s scheduling systems. John has strong passion for helping others while learning himself. He looks to each event as a chance to help, teach and guide our young people and create a friendly environment for everyone to have fun and learn. He continues to be of assistance in helping our organization to grow while impacting our young people’s lives in positive ways.
Christine Keller, President/Executive Director
Suzanne Schoenfeld, Secretary
Beth Ramme, Treasurer
Craig Saperstein, Director
Kim Keller, Director
Development & Grant Funding
Fateema Villani, Jill Schweitzer, Kate Landsdorf and Regina Dlugokencky
Community Outreach & Fundraising Events
Donna Knepple, Arlene Wishnew and Susan Salem