Our Team

The Connecticut RISE Network team includes former school administrators, former teachers and counselors, data specialists, and nonprofit leaders who work hand in hand with educators. As the conveners and facilitators of the RISE Network, RISE staff provide a range of resources and services to our RISE Network partners. We hold ourselves equally accountable for student outcomes, and we learn as much from our partners as we hope they do from our staff.


  • Why Rise?High school is such a critical time in a student’s life. It truly requires an entourage of champions to help them be the best that they can be!

    Christina Ellington

    Chief of Programs and Network Success
  • Why Rise?To collaborate with & learn from passionate educators, working together to beat the odds & change the odds for talented, deserving students across CT.

    Emily Pallin

    Executive Director
  • Why Rise?Because I’m part of an inspiring and collaborative community that is committed to helping all students achieve their goals.

    Liza Van Gundy

    Chief of Talent and Operations

Applied Data & Research

  • Why Rise?I am committed to utilizing data to empower educators to strategically improve educational opportunities for students.

    Phaedrel Bowman

    Senior Applied Data Strategist
  • Why Rise?Access to timely, purposeful, and user-friendly data empowers educators to seek more equitable outcomes for students.

    Stephanie Fakharzadeh

    Applied Data and Research Manager
  • Why Rise?Because we must commit to critically reflecting and acting on data in order to create opportunities and support students' need to grow and thrive.

    Melanie Gonzalez

    Program Evaluation and Analytics Specialist

Data Systems

  • Why Rise?Because it provides the kind of support I wanted for my students when I was a teacher.

    Fred Benton

    Deputy Director, Data Systems
  • Why Rise?It's great to be part of a collaborative community with a shared mission to improve education for all students.

    William Minter

    Web Developer
  • Why Rise?I believe in the importance of using data and the stories that it tells to inform and empower our network educators.

    Edie Reimink

    Senior Data Engineer
  • Why Rise?At RISE, we empower student success through data and I want to be in the room where that happens.

    Nantawat Samermit

    Junior Data Engineer
  • Why Rise?Because I think education is vital to future success. RISE enables me to use my skills to help others be successful.

    Kevin Williams

    Junior Data Engineer


  • Why Rise?I love collaborating and brainstorming to uncover the best practices, strategies, and solutions for our incredible students!

    Valerie Hennessy

    Engagement Specialist
  • Why Rise?Because I have the opportunity to create the professional space for educators to develop innovative solutions!

    Peter Lorinser

    Engagement Manager
  • Why Rise?Promoting collaboration among educators across our state is exciting and endlessly thought-provoking—and it benefits kids.

    Sam Purdy

    Deputy Director, Engagement
  • Why Rise?We are dedicated to partnering with our network to promote student opportunities and success in our communities and beyond.

    Johana Rendon Ledesma

    Engagement Specialist

Freshman Success

  • Why Rise?Why RISE?... to collaborate with educators who are data-driven, student-centered, and committed to systems that focus on student success.

    Kaitlyn Kennedy

    Freshman Success Coach
  • Why Rise?Because I want to be a part of an equity-minded team committed to supporting and accelerating student success.

    Gretchen Philbrick

    Freshman Success Coach
  • Why Rise?We commit to a collective responsibility of ensuring ALL students reach their full potential.

    Nichelle Woodson

    Deputy Director, Freshman Success


  • Why Rise?Through our partnerships we empower educators and support student growth. That is an important story to tell!

    Lindsey Christiani

    Communications Specialist
  • Why Rise?Being part of a team that supports success for all students is inspiring and rewarding.

    Sandra Fryer

    Executive Assistant
  • Why Rise?I find it incredibly rewarding to collaborate with individuals that are focused and driven to improve student outcomes.

    Josie Putnam

    Talent Specialist
  • Why Rise?RISE is dedicated to improving the educational experience within my community and I take pride in knowing I’m a part of that.

    Portia Whitted

    Finance & Operations Specialist

Postsecondary Success

  • Why Rise?Because I believe in sustainable growth in schools that promotes equity in practices for all students.

    Rebecca Kruge

    Postsecondary Success Coach
  • Why Rise?Partnership collaboration leads to amazing outcomes for students!

    Abby Marcantonio

    Postsecondary Success Coach
  • Why Rise?To connect students with programs and resources that will allow them to make the best decisions for their future.

    Sherry McLaughlin

    Deputy Director, Postsecondary Success
  • Why Rise?Actions speak louder than words! RISE actively works on improving student outcomes and bridging opportunity gaps!

    Sojin Park

    Postsecondary Success Coach

Student Success

  • Why Rise?Some students will not see “ME” in their classes but if they see me in the hallways, it might make a difference.

    Daemond Benjamin

    Senior On-Track Coach, Hartford Public High School
  • Why Rise?RISE brings new perspectives and support to help close equity gaps and advocate for students’ On-Track success.

    Laura Ehlinger

    On-Track Coach, Westhill High School
  • Why Rise?I do this work through RISE to empower the youth of my community to have a prosperous future.

    Sharina Jimenez

    Senior On-Track Coach, Brien McMahon High School
  • Why Rise?I love that RISE provides an innovative and collaborative approach to student success, something I wish I had coming up in high school.

    Evan Kelley

    On-Track Coach, Brien McMahon High School
  • Why Rise?Working for RISE, I am surrounded by people who care as much about student success as I do.

    Jamie Meurer

    Senior On-Track Coach, Hartford Public High School
  • Why Rise?Education is the right of EVERY person. So why not RISE to the occasion and make a difference?

    Khanisha Moore

    On-Track Coach, Westhill High School
  • Why Rise?RISE is truly a collaborative approach to help improve student outcomes for students that need it most.

    Karleka Norman

    Deputy Director, Student Success