Who We Are

Our Board of Directors

David Lovitt,  President, Current Voting Member

Assured Partners of Arizona

Stephanie Engs, Vice President, Current Voting Member

Director of Education and Community Engagement at KXCI Community Radio

Patricia Clay Treasurer, Current Voting Member


Genny Matteucci, Secretary, Current Voting Member

Retired, Executive Director, Brophy Community Foundation

Anne McLain, M.B.A., Current Voting Member

Senior Director, Ambulatory Access, Banner University Medical Group – Tucson

Dan Puglisi, Current Voting Member

Sr. Director of Marketing & Strategic Initiatives, First Things First

Felicia Durden, Ed.D, Current Voting Member

Associate Superintendent, High Academic Standards for Students, Arizona Department of Education

Hannah Miller, Current Voting Member

Editorial Assistant, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

Jennifer J. Stewart, M.B.A., Current Voting Member

Emeritus, award-winning children's author

Karyn Prechtel-Altman, Current Voting Member

Deputy Director, Pima County Public Library

Lucy McCain, Current Voting Member

Retired, Educator

Mary Jan Bancroft, Ph.D., Current Voting Member

Emeritus, founder of Make Way for Books

Nick Hilton, Current Voting Member

Assistant Director, Local and Government & Community Relations, University of Arizona

Paul D. Bancroft, Esq., Current Voting Member

Emeritus, Retired Lawyer

Stephanie Pearmain, Current Voting Member

Professor of English, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Arizona

Sunni Lopez, Current Voting Member

Educator, Sunnyside School District

Scott Ingram, Current Voting Member

Retired Independent Nonprofit Consultant and VP of Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona

Our Staff

Yissel Salafsky
Chief Executive Officer

Email: yissel@makewayforbooks.org

Natalia Hoffman
Program Officer

Natalia Hoffman holds a master’s in Information Resources and Library Science and is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River program, which focuses on providing culturally meaningful library services. Natalia has extensive experience in the development, implementation, and continuous improvement of community-based learning models. Natalia is a native Tucsonan who is committed to sharing her love of books with families in our community. She enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Email: natalia@makewayforbooks.org

Monica Farmer
Data & Impact Officer

Monica Farmer has worked at Make Way for Books for more than eight years in a variety of different roles. As the Data & Impact Officer, Monica is passionate about sharing the effectiveness of the program with others. Monica has a master’s degree in Information Resources and Library Science with an emphasis in cultural competency and coursework in digital collection management. Monica is a third-generation library professional and is passionate about making a difference in our community’s preschools and childcare centers. She enjoys exploring our city by bike, spending time with her nephews, and sipping tea.

Email: monica@makewayforbooks.org

Melinda Englert
Creative & Communications Officer

Melinda believes education empowers, breaks down barriers, and creates new possibilities. She is passionate about education as a means for change and enjoys listening, writing, creating, and designing to share that passion with others. Melinda has a bachelor’s in Anthropology from the University of Arizona and has extensive experience in grant writing, communications, and design. She loves learning, biking, hiking, traveling, and reading, of course.

Email: melinda@makewayforbooks.org

Dianette Plácido
Culture, Learning, and Connection Officer

Dianette attributes her love of books and learning to childhood experiences rich with culture, love, and stories. With a master’s in Educational Psychology, Dianette has extensive experience in family engagement, curriculum development, cultural responsivity, and emergent literacy and language development. Her free time is occupied with sporting events, family-get-togethers, and chasing her toddler Lucero.

Email: dianette@makewayforbooks.org

Fernando González
Chief Technology Officer

Born in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Davis with degrees in Psychology and Native American Studies, Fernando has lived in Tucson and worked in education for the past 14 years, gaining experience in Montessori education, early literacy, and educational technology. Fernando is passionate about teaching and providing equitable access to books and educational opportunities – especially by leveraging mobile technology. For the last 7 years at Make Way for Books, he has had the privilege to work directly with families and lead a skilled team to develop and improve the Make Way for Books App, a free bilingual early literacy resource that impacts families worldwide, as well as to develop digital platforms to increase the reach of Make Way for Books’ family education, professional development, and microcredential programs.

Email: fernando@makewayforbooks.org

Cynnamon Woodberry
Program Director - The Story Project

Cynnamon loves working with our youngest children. Cynnamon has extensive experience working in early education settings with expertise in infant and toddler development. Cynnamon is a passionate advocate for early literacy and education. When she is outside of the classroom, Cynnamon enjoys reading, crafting, doodling, swimming and bullet journaling.

Email: cynnamon@makewayforbooks.org

Julie Fischer
Program Director - Family Education and Literacy - Phoenix

Julie is thrilled to be part of the Make Way for Books team. She has been an educator for the past 35 years with the majority of her teaching experience in preschool and kindergarten. She is passionate about sharing the power, joy, and adventures that books and reading bring to children. Julie also loves spending time with her family, traveling to new places and exploring her neighborhood, downtown Phoenix.

Email: julie@makewayforbooks.org

Monique Perez
Program Director - Family Education and Literacy - Tucson

Email: monique@makewayforbooks.org

Keshia Cortez
Operations Manager

Keshia has worked in education administration for over seven years and is a veteran of the United States Army. She has a deep passion for supporting the education of all children. She comes to Make Way for Books from Philadelphia where she oversaw the operations of a non-profit early childhood school. Upon arriving in Tucson, she worked for Tucson Unified School District supporting the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Department. Keshia believes that all children deserve to have access to equitable, high-quality education and is thrilled to support Make Way for Books as they change lives, one book at a time.

Email: keshia@makewayforbooks.org

Amy Collinsworth
Communications Specialist

Amy is a native Arizonan, born and raised in Glendale and has been happy to call Tucson home for the last 15 years. Amy has a bachelors in Theatre and Art History from Northern Arizona University and has worked in the nonprofit and education fields for well over a decade. Amy is a proud aunt, sister, friend, and wife. She enjoys watching scary movies, crafting, gardening, and cooking. Amy and her husband share many pets including two dogs, four cats, two guinea pigs, and five chickens.

Email: amy@makewayforbooks.org

Rosa Lira
Community of Practice Coordinator

Rosa has been working in the education field for more than 10 years. She has a passion for empowering teachers and giving them the tools they need to make a difference in the life of the children in their classrooms and instilling in them a love for literacy. She has a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership. As a former Quality First Coach, Rosa has experience facilitating workshops and coaching. Rosa loves to spend time with her family, travel and learn about different cultures and everything desert.

Email: rosa@makewayforbooks.org

Jessica Tapia
Early Literacy Specialist

Jessica has been in the field of Early Childhood for the last 12 years. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology and has extensive experience in the early childhood field. She has worked as a Quality First Coach, a developmental evaluator, and preschool assistant director. Jessica believes in the joy, power, and impact of books in children’s development. She enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter as they watch her learn and grow.

Email: jessicat@makewayforbooks.org

Denia Uriarte
Family Literacy Specialist

Denia started at Make Way For Books as a parent participant where she fell in love with the Story School program. She has been involved in the nonprofit and Early Child Development field for more than 9 years. Denia has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has extensive experience working with families and children ages birth to 5. Denia believes every child deserves the opportunity to access a quality education and is an advocate of early literacy. She loves spending time reading, playing, cooking, and traveling with her husband and her two children.


Email: denia@makewayforbooks.org

Anita Cano
Early Literacy Specialist

Anita has dedicated over twenty years working in the field of Early Childhood Education. Anita has extensive experience working directly with young children and families in formal and informal learning environments. She is passionate about early childhood education/literacy and believes in empowering and supporting families to learn, grow, and thrive. Anita’s philosophy is that children have a pure light within their hearts and it is up to their adults to nurture that light through kindness, compassion, and love. In her free time Anita enjoys practicing Yoga and Pilates. She also loves spending time with her husband and two fur babies Lucky and Kali.

Email: anita@makewayforbooks.org

Shannon Hanchett
Early Literacy Specialist

Shannon has been involved in the early education field for over twenty years. She is a determined professional who enjoys inspiring and motivating others, and is passionate about the success of helping children and families surpass their goals. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and desires to further her education even more in the near future. Shannon loves how books can warm the heart and spark ones imagination. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, as well as home decorating and organization.

Email: shannon@makewayforbooks.org

Maria Jones
Early Literacy Specialist

Maria received a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University. She has a wide-range of experience in the early childhood field. Before becoming a bilingual Early Literacy Specialist, Maria worked as a bilingual Quality First Coach, supporting educators of early childhood in promoting high-quality care. Maria has also been an early childhood educator with both the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation, as well as with the Head starts within the Tucson area. Maria is a certificated observer in the three early childhood stages of Infant, Toddler and Pre-K Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) and has vast experience with the Environmental Rating Scales for Toddler, Pre-K and Family Child Care Centers.


Email: maria@makewayforbooks.org

Joe Swartz
Early Literacy Specialist

Joe worked as a Lead Teacher for a tribal Head Start program, designing and implementing developmentally appropriate lesson plans both in-person and virtual. He has extensive experience implementing teaching strategies in accordance with Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale through the Quality First redesign, social/emotional learning and behavioral strategies through Conscious Discipline, and remote learning strategies. Joe has multicultural experience teaching children as an ESL instructor abroad in both China and Japan.

Email: joe@makewayforbooks.org

Jamie Antrim
Early Literacy Specialist

Jamie is a certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and over 18 years of experience working with children. Jamie is passionate about education and believes early literacy is essential. Having been born and raised in Tucson, Jamie is a proud graduate of the University of Arizona and is very excited to serve her community as a member of the Make Way for Books team. In her free time, Jamie enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends, playing with her dog, reading, and practicing the piano.

Email: jamie@makewayforbooks.org

Angie Bennett
Family Literacy Specialist

Angie is a native of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. She lived in Shreveport, Louisiana for ten years, where she got her Master’s in Elementary Education and worked as a teacher for three years. Angie believes literacy and education are key contributors to social development. As such, she is passionate about sharing her love for books with children. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and husband.

Email: angie@makewayforbooks.org

Thania Mayorga-Shull
Family Literacy Specialist

Thania is dedicated to creating joyful literacy experiences and has implemented family engagement programs and early literacy workshops since joining Make Way for Books in 2014. Thania embraces the power of stories to create connections that foster compassion and inspire children to express their own feelings and unique ideas. Having worked in public libraries for over 20 years, Thania believes that equitable access to books and literacy programs enriches lives and strengthens communities. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, gardening, and learning to play the ukulele.

Email: thania@makewayforbooks.org

Alecy Molina
Family Literacy Specialist

Alecy holds a bachelor’s in Leadership, Learning, and Literacy. She worked as a home visitor for more than four years and is well versed in early childhood and adult learning principles.

Email: alecy@makewayforbooks.org

Stephanie Carl
Family Literacy Specialist

Stephanie is passionate and dedicated to the mission of Make Way for Books and its ability to positively influence the lives of the Tucson community. With a bachelor’s from Northern Arizona University, Stephanie has experience in Montessori education and kindergarten readiness programming. Being a mother of three beautiful children she fully understands and sees firsthand how wonderfully sharing books impacts the lives of families. When she’s not reading she enjoys running, playing guitar, and rummaging through thrift stores and yard sales.

Email: stephanie@makewayforbooks.org

Marisol Orozco
Family Literacy Specialist

Email: marisol@makewayforbooks.org

Danielle Wilson
Family Literacy Specialist

Danielle has worked in public education for over 20 years. Using mindfulness and movement as a pathway to learning and literacy is what motivates her to work with families. Focusing on self-care and increasing family support will ultimately transform our communities into the change we want to see in our world. She also works as a literacy associate in Outreach and Engagement for Chandler Public Library. Danielle has a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University.

Email: danielle@makewayforbooks.org

Jill Bratton
Family Literacy Specialist

Email: jill@makewayforbooks.org

Jose Ledesma
Book Acquisitions and Digital Specialist

Jose became acquainted with Make Way for Books as a content contributor while studying at the University of Arizona. He completed his bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and aspires to continue his education in a Creative Writing MFA program. Jose’s fondest memories as a child were drawing, reading, and being read to, and it is those memories that drive him now toward making literature available to children everywhere. Jose loves writing fiction, hitting the gym, playing with his rambunctious nephew, and having adventures with his partner.

Email: joseph@makewayforbooks.org

Mandy Becker
Distribution Coordinator

Mandy is a native Tucsonan with a passion for reading and literacy. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Arizona in 2019 and has been involved in children storytimes through the Pima County Public Library for 5 years. She believes books are a wonderful way to motivate young kids to learn more about their world and grow up to be great leaders. When not working, Mandy enjoys reading, writing, making music, volunteering, and exploring the outdoors.

Email: mandy@makewayforbooks.org

Gloria González
Family Education and Literacy Program Assistant

Gloria, originally from California and Texas, is new to Tucson excited to have the privilege to help families and their children grow to love books and reading as she does. As our Family Education and Literacy Program Assistant, Gloria uses her organizational, processing, and problem-solving skills to help create a streamlined process for families in our programming – from recruitment, enrollment, and throughout programming to their successful “graduation.” In her free time , Gloria loves to read, watch movies, hike, make pottery, and spend time with her family, dog, and cats!

Email: gloriag@makewayforbooks.org

Lana Bruno
Program Assistant

Lana is a retired Peace Corps Training Director who has experienced the power of literacy in various countries during 25 years of international life and work. She welcomes the opportunity to support the Make Way for Books team to empower children and families in our community. Personal passions include family, a collection of international arts & traditional crafts and Lana never tires of cooking recipes gathered in travels or new ones learned through cookbooks and friends. Her dog, Luna, figures prominently in this chapter of her life.

Email: lana@makewayforbooks.org

Mia Ruiz
Community Outreach Specialist

Mia started at Make Way for Books as a parent participant. After three years of attending programs with her daughter, she joined the team as an AmeriCorps member. She now serves as our Parent Advisory Group Specialist. Mia is dedicated to supporting parents in recognizing their power to create opportunities for their children. Her other passions include spending time with her partner Adrien, daughter Brissa, and their dog Vader.

Email: mia@makewayforbooks.org

Mimi Binns
Administrative Coordinator

Mimi has been involved in social services and business administration for twenty years. She is passionate about making a difference in peoples’ lives and within the community where she lives. Mimi, a native of Washington, DC, recently returned to Tucson from Australia where she lived and worked since 2000. She has a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a certificate in business administration. Mimi enjoys dancing, hiking and spending time with friends, and has a daughter who is now living in Australia.

Email: mimi@makewayforbooks.org