Meet The Team

Our Board of Directors

Dennis Mihalsky

President & Executive Director

Born and raised outside of Los Angeles, Dennis has the relaxed and calm nature of a Californian. Living in New York City for over 12 years, he has the grit and determination of a New Yorker.

Dennis serves as a NYC public school teacher, Urban Debate League coach, United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader and Co-Chair of its Political Action Committee, United Nations Representative, and Manhattan Community Board 1 Member. Within Dennis’ first few years in New York City, he quickly became immersed and engaged with local campaigns, national organizations, and international institutions alike. These include, DoSomething.org, Warner Records, United Nations, New York Cares, Donate Life New York State.

His outspoken advocacy and peer representation was highlighted by his nomination to be the student speaker at his undergraduate graduation from Pace University in 2011 and again for his graduate program graduation from City College of New York in 2018. He has since spoken at various events and panels about education equity, including the United Nations, the Langston Hughes House, and City College of New York.

In 2016, he was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellowship as a TESOL Fellow, began his Master’s Degree at City College of New York, and became an ESL Teacher and Coordinator at a public high school in Washington Heights.

In his first three years as a teacher, Dennis started the school’s first debate team, became an AmeriCorps member,  managed the school’s ESL program,  was elected UFT Chapter Leader, was recruited as Co-Chair of the UFT Political Action Committee, began the school’s first newspaper, AND started the school’s first student council.

Outside the realm of teaching, Dennis served on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Young Democrats in 2017, worked as an organizer with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried for a local NYC ballot measure “Vote No” campaign in 2018, mentored young people to help find internships and jobs, and was appointed to be a member of Manhattan Community Board 1.

Dennis currently resides in Lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport and is a member of various local organizations, advocating for the community’s growth, integrity, and resiliency.

Lara Bergen began her career in literacy advocacy as a children’s book editor with the (then) Penguin Putnam Group, and later as a children’s book writer, authoring dozens of picture books, chapter books, and middle-grade novels for publishers such as Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Disney.

 

A graduate of Princeton University, Lara went on, twenty-five years later, to earn a Masters in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia, and to teach high school English for two years with the NYCDOE, where she saw her own classes transformed through the incorporation of a school newspaper into her curriculum.

 

Lara currently works with young adults preparing for the TASC high school equivalency test at the Children’s Aid Society’s Next Generation Center and teaches English as a second language to Moroccan-American women. 

 

She lives in New York City with her husband (and her two college-age children, when they are home). 

Lara Bergen

Board Vice Chair & Secretary

Aimee has a passion for the "underdog".  She is a secondary English teacher by trade, but put her writing and reading lessons on hold while raising her 3 daughters.  Aimee's experience as a teacher and mother have taught her that inequities in education not only exist, but impact the very path a child will follow to adulthood.  Aimee's passion for the "underdog" has encouraged her to take action to ensure the students without a voice will be given a platform and the resources to thrive.

 

Aimee currently sits on the board of the Street Child Project and is the lead fundraiser for the organization.  This all volunteer, non-profit organization takes children off the streets of Uganda and gives them a safe home, health care, an education and future.  The Street Child Project fights for the international "underdog". Aimee is also involved with her local community in Thousand Oaks, California.  She works with local charities to raise funds and resources for homeless families, single mothers and homeless teens who are without an education.  It brings her joy to help the local "underdog".  Aimee is excited to join the Students Disrupting coalition, because they fight for the "underdog".  All children, despite background or neighborhood, deserve the opportunity to express their opinions on current events.  All students should have the opportunity to learn about journalism and the importance of a free press.  Aimee is thrilled to help Students Disrupting fight for the NYC "underdog".

 

Aimee is focusing on fundraising efforts for Students Disrupting in order to implement journalism classes and school newspapers for all students in the NYC public school system.  She feels this is a great start to giving all NYC underdogs a voice and a platform to thrive!

Aimee Palosi

Board Member

Born in England, raised in New York, and having lived most of her life in Southern California, Eileen brings a diverse perspective to Students Disrupting, unmatched yet unassuming. She’s an educator and advocate, leader and cheerleader, but most of all she’s a mother. 

 

For most of Eileen’s adult life, she raised a family of five alongside her loving husband of 45 years, John. In those years as mother and wife, she coached, taught, led, and volunteered for organizations and charities that helped bring a better, more equitable community for all.  

 

Eileen is thrilled to be part of the Students Disrupting Board of Directors. Not only does she bring a diverse and experienced perspective, she always reminds her son and President/Executive Director Dennis, “mother knows best.”

 

And Dennis can’t disagree. 

Eileen Mihalsky

Board Member

Coming soon! Having writer's block. 

Dawn Hunter

Board Treasurer

Coming soon! Having writer's block. 

Jenna Young

Board Member

Stephanie was born in Hong Kong, China. At the age of 1, Stephanie moved to Brooklyn, New York. Hence being raised in Brooklyn as a New Yorker. She strongly believes any experience is better than none, especially in a highly competitive city like the Big Apple. 

 

Throughout her time in school, Stephanie has worked in numerous jobs to gain basic real world experience. From being a part of an Anti-Discrimination Organization, Project Reach NYC, to an Intern in various Fashion Showrooms, Stephanie finally landed into her field of study and career choice Marketing, for a start-up Daycare. 

 

Graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Marketing Communications, Stephanie hopes to use her skills to improve business needs. Stephanie currently serves as a Marketing and Business Development Intern for Students Disrupting. 

Coming soon! Having writer's block. 

Jelani Williams

Vanessa Keys

Vice President, Operations & Finance

Stephanie Chu

Executive Vice President

Our Leadership Team

Vice President, Development

Jelani was born in Brooklyn, New York and lived in Grenada before coming back to New York to start grade school. 
 

He is currently a rising senior at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. majoring in Political Science. Throughout his tenure at GW, Jelani has worked for multiple humanitarian causes, beginning with Jumpstart, the AmeriCorps program to close the achievement gap in childhood education. Jelani then worked as a Business Development Manager for the nonprofit AIESEC for the past year, creating relationships with companies in and around the downtown Washington area.

Jelani hopes to pursue a career in law and politics. In his free time Jelani enjoys reading, journaling, and cycling. He believes growing up a New Yorker is a unique experience that gave him the savvy to live and thrive in any other major city; and all NYC students should be able to share this pride. He hopes to use his professional and personal experiences to contribute to the success of Students Disrupting as the Partnerships and Business Development Intern.

Caileigh Scott

Vice President, Community Affairs

Caileigh Scott is an actor, writer, philanthropist, and political organizer. After college, while simultaneously pursuing her acting career, Caileigh co-founded the 501(c)3 non-profit IBG Inc., an organization that connected high profile entertainers with underfunded causes and micro-charities on the local, national, and global level.

She is a Hillary for America alum, Stacey Abrams for Governor alum, and was part of the strategic planning and organizing team for Families Belong Together. Currently she serves as the Deputy Executive Director for Eleanor’s Legacy, and is a fundraising and event consultant for non-profits. She is also a teaching artist and equine therapy instructor.  

In her free time, Caileigh serves as Co-Chair of the Ms. Foundation for Women's Young Professionals Advisory Committee, is a member of Planned Parenthood of New York City's Activist Council, Habitat for Humanity's Women Build Council, Eleanor's Legacy Innovation Council, DNC Young Professionals Leadership Council, Clinton Foundation 20|30 Council, and she serves as a District Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association.

Caileigh is thrilled to bring her diverse experience to Students Disrupting, to help every New York City public school student experience the numerous benefits of contributing to or learning from a student-led school newspaper.

Kyra Littlejohn is a strategic communications professional and millennial advocate. Currently, she is an Account Executive at Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW Global), formerly Burson-Marsteller – which is now the world’s third largest global public relations and communications firm. At BCW, Kyra works in the Public Affairs and Crisis Practice, where she researches client-related issues, handles routine media relations activities and helps build crisis preparedness plans.

Kyra is a co-lead for BCW’s African-American Employee Resource Group (AAER) in New York. From moderating panel discussions to hosting events with multicultural media and influencers, Kyra is a key player in helping to improve and sustain diversity across the office.

Prior to joining BCW, Kyra worked as an Assistant Account Executive with FleishmanHillard – a global public relations and digital marketing agency – where she provided support to the agency’s Technology Practice on clients such as Samsung, SAP and Bose. Before joining FleishmanHillard, Kyra held positions with the Young Democrats of Michigan, the Century Foundation and St. Mary’s Center for Terrorism Law.

Outside of her 9-to-5, Kyra formerly served as Secretary for the Manhattan Young Democrats (MYD) – the largest and the oldest young democratic chapter in the country. In that role, she organized and executed events, developed content to build social media buzz and served as a moderator for panel discussions to highlight issues such as diversity in politics. In addition to appearing on MSNBC, where she spoke about the future of the Democratic Party.

As a millennial woman of color, Kyra’s goal is to provide a fresh perspective to politics and media, while creating opportunities for other underrepresented groups to do the same. In 2018, she was a panelist at the Black Millennial Political Convention where she spoke about ways to increase millennial voter engagement. Her ambition, grit and passion for civic engagement fuels her to raise her voice and help the unseen become seen.

Kyra is a Michigan native and proud graduate of St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, where she earned a B.A. in English-Communication Arts and a minor in Political Science.

Kyra Littlejohn

Vice President, Communications

Our Consultancy Team

Michael Oliva

Lead Media Consultant

Ronnie Oliva

Lead Media Consultant

John Michaels

Marketing Consultant

© 2019 STUDENTS DISRUPTING, INC | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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