Meet Arjana Topallaj, originally from Albania, a Staten Island parent and active community member with a passion for understanding early childhood development, and a master's degree in clinical psychology. Arjana became a LINC VIP in 2020, and joined the LINC staff as the Community Engagement Specialist for our Staten Island team in November 2023!
Arjana discovered LINC during a visit to the Stapleton Library in Staten Island with her then five-year-old daughter, Suriana (now 10) who had recently started kindergarten. Arjana has two younger boys who were at home that day, Suar was 2 years old (now 7) and Menar was 6 months old (now 5), and fortunately for LINC, Arjana was looking for a quiet space to do homework with Suriana that afternoon.
When Suriana saw LINC’s program taking place at the library, she asked her mother to participate and was instantly hooked on the playful songs, read-aloud, and craft activities. Suriana enjoyed the program so much that Arjana began registering for more LINC programs and brought her sons, Suar and Menar with her as well.
Arjana appreciated the positive impact that LINC’s programs were having on her children and she wanted to empower other caregivers in her community to experience it as well. It wasn’t long before Arjana decided to partake in LINC’s Very Involved Parent (VIP) Workshop Program, an opportunity to train to be literacy advocates and to build community with other parents. Arjana graduated from LINC’s VIP training program and was active for 3 years before applying for her current position at LINC. In those three years, she escorted Staten Island families to Reading on the Rails at One World Observatory, she led activities at the Staten Island Children’s Museum and with other local community partners, eventually participating in over 100 in-person and virtual LINC programs. That’s over 30 programs a year with her most memorable being a bilingual (Albania & English) read-aloud of My Daddy is a Giant, that she and Suriana led online in September 2021.
Arjana’s journey as a parent is what drew her to LINC, and now she is a role model for LINC’s parent journey.
Since she joined the LINC staff as a Community Engagement Specialist in late November, she has participated in over 15 programs and is thrilled to be planning many more in 2024.
“We never stop learning, and LINC gives us the opportunity to learn ourselves and to teach our kids, for free, in a fun and engaging way.” Arjana Topallaj, Community Engagement Specialist for Staten Island
Arjana Topallaj (left) at the Rosebank Tree Lighting Ceremony with Councilmember Kamilhah Hanks
Arjana Topallaj (left) at the Stapleton Library with her children: Suriana (age 10), Menar (age 5), and Suar (age 7)