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LINC Welcomes Four New Staff Members in 2024

Updated: Jan 23

It’s a new year and LINC is thrilled to announce four new staff members! Each of them brings a unique background, skills, and set of experiences that will take our mission to new heights in 2024, and we could not be happier. They are excited to get to know the LINC community and for you to get to know them. 

It is our pleasure to introduce the following four all-stars to our team: 

Kiera Jerez-Alston, Family Engagement Specialist, East Harlem: Kiera is an East Harlem native with years of experience in the Arts and a lifelong love for literature, nature, and history. She understands the power of self-education by way of literacy and is dedicated to doing her part in instilling a passion for both within her community. She hopes to leverage her experience in the Arts and her own experience as a mother into her work with LINC. She is truly driven by the prospect of instilling a desire for self-liberation through knowledge and a new standard of excellence within El Barrio. 

Ari Mitchell, Neighborhood Manager, East New York. Ari is a dedicated community advocate and a proud resident of East New York, Brooklyn. With over 13 years of experience, Ari has been actively involved in various roles, working to assist individuals without homes and supporting families in need. Their commitment extends to collaborating with government agencies to provide essential services to communities. Inspired by their upbringing and their mother's stories of community solidarity, Ari is passionate about empowering others to make a positive difference in their neighborhoods. Ari enjoys spending quality time with their four children, exploring the local area, and fostering a strong sense of family togetherness.

Melanie Sanchez, Program Assistant. Melanie is an Inwood native with a passion for early literacy and giving back to her community. She started attending LINC programs at the Inwood Public Library with her mother at age 13 and became one LINC’s first VIKs (Very Involved Kids). During middle school she volunteered with LINC and hosted weekly bilingual read-aloud programs. Over the last ten years, Melanie has attended countless LINC programs and two LINC galas as a VIK and a guest speaker. Melanie graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in May 2023 and plans to continue studying Early Childhood Education in graduate school. She is excited to join the staff as a Program Assistant and continue learning about the subject firsthand. In her free time, Melanie enjoys spending time with her family, being in nature, traveling, and Mexican culture.

Arjana Topallaj, Community Engagement Specialist, Staten Island: Arjana, originally from Albania, has always been passionate about understanding early childhood development. This led her to pursue Psychology and earn a master's degree in Clinical Psychology. As a mother of three, she believes that motherhood rewards you with pure love and life lessons. We are dedicated to helping our little ones grow and they, in turn, help us grow alongside them.

Her journey as a parent is what drew her to LINC, where she currently serves as a Community Engagement Specialist. Before this role, Arjana was a Very Involved Parent in Staten Island, leading bilingual read-alouds and empowering parents to introduce literacy early, in enjoyable and effective ways. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her family and enjoy nature walks.  

Welcome to the LINC team: Kiera, Ari, Melanie, and Arjana! Thank you for sharing your diverse work experiences, skills, and passion for educational justice to serve the next generation of little readers. We look forward to partnering with you to advocate for the work that parents and their communities are doing to ensure that their children grow up in literacy-rich environments.

For more information about LINC’s current literacy activities or to register for our upcoming programs, visit:

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