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Celeste Donovan, Director
Celeste comes to the TRIO SSSP with a broad range of professional experiences in education. Before moving to Western Massachusetts, she lived in New York City where she tutored and mentored adult GED learners and high school students. She has extensive training in Writing Across the Curriculum pedagogy and practice and she also teaches undergraduate courses in Art History. Celeste aims to help students identify their strengths, chart a path to their goals, and feel active and engaged in their own education and learning process.
Shakira Alvarez-Ferrer, Academic Counselor
Shakira is a bilingual and bicultural educator with 13 years experience working with youth and families. Most recently, she worked as a Case Manager with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County and coordinated their “Kids to Campus” youth mentoring program at the University of Massachusetts--Amherst. In addition, she has developed curricula and taught college courses, including writing, Spanish, and service learning. Shakira earned her B.A. in Educational Studies and French Language and Literature from Brown University and her M.Ed in Bilingual, ESL, and Multicultural Education from the University of Massachusetts.
Charlotte Capogna-Amias, Senior Program Coordinator
Charlotte has over ten years experience working in various aspects of higher education. A first-generation college student herself, Charlotte aims to support students’ individual learning needs and empower students to draw upon & hone their strengths, while developing new skills to help them be successful. Prior to working with the TRIO SSSP, Charlotte worked with various social justice and health non-profits and in higher education. Charlotte holds a Masters in Social Justice Education where she focused on racial justice in education, supporting LGBTQ students, and the intersection of social justice issues and spiritual practices and principles. Charlotte is delighted to bring her skills and knowledge to the student populations TRIO programs serve. Charlotte is a certified mediator and Massachusetts certified Rape Crisis Intervention Counselor. Other interests and areas of expertise include mindfulness and self-care practices for sustainability (something she is passionate about sharing with students!) and communication skills. Charlotte is also a lead trainer with the university’s LGBTQ Safe Zone Committee.
Marjorie Rodriquez, Program Coordinator
Marjorie is the newest member of the TRIO SSSP Team. She recently completed her Masters of Social Work with Advanced Standing and her Bachelors of Social Work at Westfield State University. As a BSW student she completed an internship with the WSU Counseling Center and Rick’s Place, a grieving support program for children and families. Her Master’s level practicum included a graduate assistantship in Academic Achievement and a placement with the Springfield Public Schools. Marjorie, born in Puerto Rico, is bilingual and bicultural, with a passion for supporting first-generation students and those in or transitioning from the foster care system. Marjorie, a former foster youth herself, was instrumental in forming F.A.C.E.S, our new student organization for foster youth and allies. She is also very involved in our Fostering Student Success Initiative, grassroots efforts to support students transitioning to the University from foster care. Marjorie also provided assistance in developing Common Goods at Westfield State, a food pantry for those experiencing hunger and food insecurity. During the summer of 2016, Marjorie taught a First Year Seminar for the Urban Education Program. Marjorie’s main goal is to empower students and to provide them with the opportunities, tools and skills needed to succeed in academia and beyond. Marjorie is excited to join the TRIO family and the opportunity to work closely with students. She will oversee the TRIO Peer Mentor Program.
Kathy Pitoniak, Project Assistant
Kathy has over 25 years of professional experience in office management. She brings her considerable skills to Westfield State University where she enjoys helping a diverse student population find personal success and achievement. She is responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of the TRIO office. Her incredible organizational skills keep the TRIO Program running smoothly and efficiently. She is that smiling face that greets you when you come through the door and that happy voice on the other end of the phone. She takes great pleasure in making sure each student is taken care of. In her spare time, Kathy enjoys travelling with her family to U.S. and Canadian destinations and National Parks. Her other interests include gardening, reading and scrapbooking.