Who We Are

Founders, Board of Directors and Advisers

Daniel RobertsC0-Founder

Playwright, Editor, Educator. B.A. (1992) and M.A. (1994) from theUniversity of Pennsylvania. Edited the literary magazine Press from 1995-2001. Founder of the Audax Theatre Group and publisher of The Hineni Writer’s Workshop Review. Author of 2001 OOBR-award winning play The Beginning of the And, Last Day starring Heather Raffo, Brando starring Kate Roe and  Dante Giammarco, and featuring Nina Wheeler-Chalfin, which Time Out New York called “An impressive piece of writing…recalling Edward Albee or John Guare”, Frankie starring Kristina Klebe, The Gold Standard starring Sabine Singh and Jordan Charney, and Monsterface starring Sarah Grace Wilson and Ted Schneider, and featuring Karen Lynn Gorney. Mr. Roberts wrote a new play entitled Haunted House featuring Anna Wood and Jordan Charney, which was called “Sparklingly original…with characters that stick” by the New York Times. In addition to literary pursuits, Roberts has worked with children since 2004, teaching college-level poetry to 4th graders at PS 375 in Harlem as part of the Music and Poetry Synchronized Project (MAPS) he co-founded.

Tom Willits Co-Founder/Board Member/Executive Director

Tom has been an educator, musician, songwriter, producer, recording artist, performer, business owner, and philanthropist.  From 1977 – 2011 he has been a music and songwriting teacher conducting private, in-school, after school and summer instruction; his primary instruments are vocals, guitar and piano.  He recorded and performed Keep the Faith, One Dime To My Name, Yours Are The Arms, Fool If You Want Me, Everything You Do; Wrote music for films, One Strike You’re Out and Valet Girls and the complete musical score for the dance performance, Spark; He worked with artists such as Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Regina, Denise Lopez, Debbie Gibson, Reimy, Human Radio, Jonathan Edwards, and The Fabulous Heavyweights. He founded and operated Wild Card Entertainment, a full-service performance booking agency and music management company and was a co-owner and operator of the NYC based Broadbeard Productions, a music publishing, recording, production and management company. While teaching songwriting at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, (2004 – 2014) he co-founded Music and Poetry Synchronized (MAPS), a joint arts education program with Urban Assembly School for Green Careers/Innovations Diploma Plus now in its 13th year. Tom also co-founded MRW Connected, Inc., a 14-year-old full service web development company, and served as President until 2018.  Tom also serves as a trustee of the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation.

Jeff Mackler – Board Member/Director of IT

Jeff has served as a board member and IT Director of MAPS since its inception. He is Co-Founder and President of MRW Connected, Inc., a 14-year-old full service web development company, where he is responsible for all company oversight, planning, business development, support, staffing, technology, and budgeting.  MRW is a BCorp and 1% for the Planet member company. He has created and run several web-based companies, including Healthcommunities.com. He also founded an after-school program for at-risk, low income, minority teenagers in Holyoke, MA.  The program has provided academic, emotional, and mentoring support to over 700 youths.  Jeff believes in and supports education and equality as agents of peaceful change at the neighborhood level.  He is actively involved in mentoring youth, coaching girls’ sports, volunteering in his community, teaching leadership to youth and adults, teaching college courses, and enjoying the outdoors.

Jenni French – Board Member

Jenni is a veteran nonprofit administrator with more than 30 years of experience helping organizations, large and small, fulfill their missions. Steeped in the worlds of arts and education, Jenni is driven by the belief that education breaks the cycle of inequity in schools and that the arts make our world a more beautiful, humane place. Having worked in communications and strategic engagement at Watkinson School for nearly 20 years, Jenni has also provided leadership and communications expertise to Hartford Stage, Hartford Ballet, Jacob’s Pillow, Concordia: a chamber orchestra, Yale Repertory Theater, Long Wharf Theater, Oakdale Theater, and myriad regional arts, education and civic organizations. In addition, since 2010, Jenni has led a week-long international service-learning trip, comprised of Hartford-area students, teachers, parents, and medical professionals, to La Romana, Dominican Republic; the team provides medical clinics, constructs hurricane-proof housing and distributes food to the displaced Haitians who live in the region’s sugar cane work camps. French has a master’s degree in dance from Sarah Lawrence College and still teaches several dance classes weekly.

Enid Rey – Board Member

Prior to Enid’s appointment as CEO of Our Piece of the Pie, she served as the executive director for the Hartford Public Schools Office of School Choice leading the choice process for the district’s 21,000 students.  In this role, she was at the forefront of school integration and school choice efforts working in partnership with the State Department of Education, including comprehensive marketing campaigns, integrated recruitment efforts, as well as the application process for all Hartford Public Schools. Her varied sector experience include philanthropy, as program officer for the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving where she worked on the Foundation’s 15 million, 10-year early childhood initiative—Brighter Futures—and was a founding member of the Latino Endowment Fund; non-profit organizations, as the vice president for the Village for Families and Children City where she founded the agency’s first Family Financial Literacy programs;  City Government, as the assistant director of the Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation (DFCYR) and previously, as the founding director for the Hartford Office for Youth Services serving youth and young adults ages 9-24 in the city of Hartford.  Rey is a bilingual/bicultural Puertorriqueña and life-long resident of Hartford.  She lives and works in Hartford community where she grew up, and with her husband, is raising their five children, all who attended Hartford Public Schools.  Rey has a passion for leadership roles that promote equity, quality academic opportunities, access and positive youth development options for vulnerable children and families.  A graduate of Hartford Public High School, she attended Mount Holyoke College where she received her B.A. in International Relations and Latin American Literature and obtained her J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law.  As a distinguished Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Families Fellow, she has significant expertise in various sectors and has served in a variety of high-level leadership roles in the Hartford community.

Jack Silverman – Board Member

Jack is a graduate of Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School and currently resides in Nashville, TN where he works as a musician. He participated in MAPS for all 6 years of his education at PVPA, 4 years as a writer and musician and 2 years as a Teacher’s Assistant. He is classically trained on the drumkit and plays guitar as well. These skills and years of experience enable him to have a well-rounded and nuanced understanding of the MAPS program. He is very excited to be participating as a member of the MAPS board and is thrilled to be able to offer his experience to the board as well as to the upcoming generations of MAPS students.

Rebecca Calahan Klein – Board Member

Rebecca is the CEO of Sustainable Strategies, a consulting practice focused on building and scaling mission driven enterprises.  Rebecca helps organizations create wealth and opportunity for their employees, communities and investors through mission aligned business design, capital acquisition, product development and business development. Rebecca is a lifelong social entrepreneur, focused on developing sustainable business strategies for leading global companies, and building social enterprises. She served as a sustainable business consultant for companies, including Alcan, Clif Bar, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Johnson and Johnson, Levi Strauss and Company, Nike, Nordstrom and Target. She built and scaled sustainability focused non-profits including Businesses for Social Responsibility, Organic Exchange™, and 1% for the Planet and for-profit companies including Greenhealth Exchange.  She has served as a policy advisor to Governors Bruce Babbitt of Arizona and Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.  Rebecca graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Finance and graduated with a Master’s in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Teachers

Matthew King – Teacher

Educator, Musician, Songwriter, Producer, Recording Artist, Performer, Activist, Preacher, Comedian, Instigator, Lover, Friend. 2005-present, Teacher of music and history using Community Building and Social Justice as foundational principals; Primary instruments – drums, percussion, guitar, bass, vocals with a side order of keyboards. Performs and records with The Alchemystics (percussion and vocals), Dave Noonan’s Green Island (percussion and vocals), and his own band, TapRoots (all instruments and vocals). His passion for music, history and activism have united and combined in multiple ways throughout his life, and culminated in his teaching career at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School (PVPA), where he directs the Rock Ensemble, gives percussion lessons and teaches history.  While teaching at PVPA, (2005 – present) co-teaches Music and Poetry Synchronized (MAPS), a joint arts education program with UAGC in NYC now in its 13th year.

Davinna Thrower – Teacher

Educator, Criminologist, Licensed Master Social Worker, Writer, Spoken Word Artist/Performer, Dancer, Painter.  Has held numerous positions in both the private and public sector working with At-Risk/High needs youth through Educational and Arts programming or within schools. Growing up in a tough environment plagued by dysfunction and being born with Sickle cell anemia she learned how to utilize the Arts to help find her voice and flourish. She currently utilizes the Arts in a therapeutic capacity in order to help the youth she services find their own voices.  She is a trained dancer/choreographer, painter and soon to be published author. She is an advocate/activist for sickle cell anemia awareness and social justice issues that are faced today. She has performed her spoken word at numerous Art Gallery openings, Nuyorican Cafe and Street Artist Collective events. Her words have also been read and utilized by pageant contestants, students and doctors around the world. and at panel discussions, graduations, town halls, book signing events, and Street Poets collective events. Davinna currently teaches MAPS, spoken word and performance art at Innovation Diploma Plus HS for an afternoon club/initiative she started four years ago and now runs in conjunction with UAGC MAPS programming.

Rahul Roy – Teacher

Born in London, England to Indian immigrants. He started to realize at an early age that the only world he wished to inhabit was the world of music. In his home, the music that he heard from his parents, and the records that he listened to, formed a basis for what would become a launching pad for his sonic inquiry over the rest of his life. He studied Jazz composition and arranging, and applied those techniques to life elements, rather than to  notes in order to integrate the musical, spiritual , intellectual and emotional threads of his life into a sort of  tapestry.   Since discovering his deep love of children, he has been privileged to work with many wonderful young people over the last 40 years.  He is currently on the faculty at  PVPA Charter Public School, where he has taught since 2003, and continues to teach the MAPS program furthering the skills of young songwriters.

Felix R. Rivera – Teacher

Educator, Published Poet and Writer. 2002-Present Teacher of English Language Arts at Middle School 390. 2002-2011, Accion Academy, Urban Assembly School for the Urban Environment, 2012-Present Urban Assembly for School for Green Careers. 2001, 2004 Attended artist residencies in La Napoule Art Foundation near Cannes and Fundación Valparaiso in Mojacar, España, respectively. Published articles for Urban Latino Magazine and The New York Post. 2-time regional workshop participant at Cave Canem, a non-profit literary service organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of poets of color, with poems published in literary journals Palabra, Poets & Artists, and Acentos Review under the pesudonym Mundo Rivera. 20012-present Instructor and co-organizer of Music and Poetry Synchronized (MAPS), a joint-arts education program with Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School (PVPA) in South Hadley, Massachusetts.