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?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

    Director of Talent and Operations

Applied Data

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

    Phaedrel Bowman

    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 Research Strategist
  • Why Rise?I love supporting educators to access and make meaning of data that can inform decisions furthering Grade 9 success.

    Ellen Fugate

    Applied Data Manager
  • Why Rise?I resonate deeply with RISE's efforts to empower educators, improve student outcomes, and reduce inequality! #RISEby5 #EHPS

    Salman Khan

    Applied Data Strategist
  • Why Rise?It's very rewarding to collaboratively work to improve systems and data so educators can help students who need it the most.

    Nick Stellitano

    Applied Data Strategist

Network Success

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

    Valerie Hennessy

    Network Facilitator, College and Career Readiness
  • Why Rise?As a former teacher, I love impacting students by empowering educators with resources that promote student success.

    Rickeena Holloway

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

    Rebecca Kruge

    Network Facilitator, College and Career Readiness
  • Why Rise?Because I have the opportunity to create the professional space for educators to develop innovative solutions!

    Peter Lorinser

    Senior Network Engagement Specialist
  • 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, College and Career Readiness
  • Why Rise?Promoting collaboration among educators across our state is exciting and endlessly thought-provoking—and it benefits kids.

    Sam Purdy

    Network Learning Manager
  • Why Rise?We are dedicated to partnering with our network to promote student opportunities and success in our communities and beyond.

    Johana Rendon Ledesma

    Family & Community Engagement Specialist
  • Why Rise?We commit to a collective responsibility of ensuring ALL students reach their full potential.

    Nichelle Woodson

    Deputy Director, Freshman Success

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

    On-Track Coordinator, 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 Coordinator, Westhill High School
  • Why Rise?My focus is to help our students, staff, administration and stakeholders to find that spark, drive or motivation to be successful.

    Tyree Hughey

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

    Sharina Jimenez

    On-Track Coordinator, 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

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

    Karleka Norman

    Student Success Manager
  • Why Rise?I work for RISE to work with students that can benefit from having a person in their school that can relate to them.

    Avery Washington

    On-Track Coordinator, Brien McMahon High School

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 of Data Systems
  • Why Rise?The passion to improve student outcomes is embedded in everything RISE does.

    Blake Garfinkle

    Data Systems Manager
  • Why Rise?I spend a lot of time writing code and working with data. It's rewarding to see that work in action helping students succeed.

    Aaron Garris

    Data Specialist
  • 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

    Data Specialist

Organizational Effectiveness

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

    Liza Van Gundy

    Director of Talent and Operations
  • 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 and Operations Specialist