Staff Bios

Meena-AlagappanMeena Alagappan is the Executive Director of Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART), a non-profit public charity that is a full-service humane education provider in the NYC, Chicago, Indianapolis and Portland (OR) areas. Prior to joining HEART, Meena was a humane education consultant for Animal Welfare Trust, a private operating foundation. She was also a senior faculty member of Advantage Testing, an academic test preparation company, and an associate at the Manhattan law firm Shea & Gould. Meena is former Chair of the Animal Law Committees of the American Bar Association and the New York City Bar. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals and PAWS (Pioneers for Animal Welfare Society). Meena is the author of “The United States’ Enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species” published in Northwestern University’s Journal of International Law and Business and co-author of “A Note on Pedagogy: Humane Education Making a Difference” published in the Journal of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies. She received her B.A. from Cornell University, J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, and M.S. in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

site-photo-jazmyn-blackburnJazmyn Blackburn, a partner and collaborator of HEART, is an undergraduate student in the Class of 2019 at Princeton University. She is concentrating in Sociology with certificates in French Language and Culture, Cognitive Science, Urban Studies, and the Program in Teacher Preparation. Awarded the Bogle ‘51 Fellowship in Spring 2016, Jazmyn has endeavored to create and develop a service-based approach to teaching, known as “Animal Welfare and Empathy Education” (AWEed.). The “AWEed.” philosophy sets a foundation for humane education; it provides preschool children with opportunities to realize the talents and skills they possess to be active learners and empathetic servants in their communities. Through the HEART/“AWEed.” partnership, Jazmyn is currently generating an early childhood curriculum that will expand the virtues of HEART to reach preschool children of suburban New Jersey.

leighLeigh Gage, Development Manager, does grant research and manages the grant process at HEART where she has worked since 2009. She has a Masters in Management (with marketing focus) from Boston University’s Paris, France office. She lived in France for 19 years, working at an international newspaper in various marketing positions. She is on the board of the Westport Historical Society, helping with the database, membership and annual appeal campaign.

claireClaire Howe,  Portland Program Manager, earned a B.A. in English Literature from Arizona State University in Tempe. She went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Florida Coastal School of Law before joining the inaugural class of LL.M. Animal Law candidates and completing her Master’s at Lewis and Clark Law School.  During her legal education, Claire served as Mercy for Animals’ first legal intern and spent time in Washington DC working with the Federal Affairs department at the Humane Society of the United States. She also began volunteering for HEART, completing statutory research and conducting legislator outreach. In addition, Claire co-wrote a criminal law curriculum for high school students and has been active with the Classroom Law Project in Portland. Prior to law school, Claire taught English as a second language in Europe, Asia, and Central America. Following her time abroad, she went on to work in social and government services as the head of the adult education department at Phoenix’s largest homeless shelter for families and later as an instructor at the Phoenix Job Corps Center. She has been involved in social justice and particularly animal protection for more than a decade.

Kristina Hulvershorn, Indianapolis Program Manager, taught in the public school system for six years, specializing in the emotional and behavioral lives of students. She maintains certification as a K-12 learning specialist. Kristina is also Youth Program Director at the Peace Learning Center of Indianapolis, with which HEART has an affiliate relationship.  She earned a B.A. in both General and Special Education, did extensive coursework in nonprofit management and earned a Master’s degree in Humane Education from the Institute for Humane Education. In 2009 Kristina founded The Ethic Project in order to offer holistic and empowering educational services to students in Chicago. She has worked as a leader in Chicago Public Schools, managing groups of fifty educators at a time, problem solving, and creating strategic plans to best provide meaningful educational opportunities in schools.

kimKimberly Korona, Senior Program Director, helps plan, manage and lead various program offerings for HEART. She teaches humane education programs for youth of all ages in various venues in school and out of school, assists with curriculum development, conducts teacher training workshops for traditional and non-traditional educators, and manages new volunteers. She also co-designed and taught HEART’s first ever summer camp program. Kim received her B.A. from Goddard College/Green Mountain College and M.Ed. from Cambridge College, in association with the Institute for Humane Education. Prior to joining HEART, Kim worked as a humane educator for the Michigan Humane Society where she taught over 9,000 students in three years. Kim has also been a facilitator for the Institute for Humane Education’s Sowing Seeds and MOGO Workshops.

KyleLiao_Headshot2Kyle Liao, Strategic Educational Technology Consultant, holds an M.A. in Instructional Technology from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. in Secondary Education from SUNY Geneseo. Kyle was previously a middle school English teacher in NYC and is now a technology coach in New York City who works with HEART part-time to support initiatives in using educational technology to reach more teachers. His work with HEART includes exploring new technologies such as Virtual Reality, and adapting HEART lessons to new platforms including educational games.

mickey kudiaMickey Kudia, Chicago Program Manager, holds a Master of Education in Humane Education from Valparaiso University and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Communication and Education from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As a humane educator for HEART, Mickey travels to schools throughout Chicago educating young people about animal protection, human rights, and environmental ethics.  He has presented workshops on humane education and service learning at conferences across the United States.

Gail MayerGail Mayer, Humane Education Instructor, teaches in school and after school humane education programs throughout NYC public schools and other venues, encouraging students to think critically about issues currently facing people, animals, and the planet. She received a B.S. and B.A. from the University of Florida and a M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State, where she also worked as a researcher studying parent and child development, and facilitated an evidence-based adolescent substance abuse prevention program. Before joining HEART staff, Gail was a HEART volunteer, worked for The Humane League and volunteered with many animal protection organizations.

jeannieJeannie Russell, Service Learning Director, has had over 25 years experience working with children and their families in a wide variety of educational and social service settings. She has a Masters in Education from Bank Street College and a B.A. from Barnard College. She began teaching in special needs pre-school programs, and then helped to pioneer some of the earliest projects in New York City to reach out to homeless children in welfare hotels and in shelters, many of whom were not receiving any educational support at all. She went on to work as Director of Children’s Services for Sanctuary for Families’ domestic violence family shelter, creating and supervising educational, recreational and therapeutic programs for children at all age levels. Before joining HEART, Jeannie served as Director of the Early Impact Family Program, which provides advocacy, family therapy and supportive services to families who have a child in residential care within the foster care system, and young children still in the home. She also worked as Director of Children and Family Programs with the Bronx Ethical Culture Society where she created a comprehensive, multi-age “Ethics For Kids” curriculum.

bob-headshot-site Bob Schwalb offers humane education programs in Madison, WI area schools. He worked for HEART from 2005-2013 initially serving as their first humane education instructor and later as Chicago Program Director. In addition to teaching students, he developed curriculum, offered teacher training, managed staff and volunteers, and established local advisory and junior boards. Bob also offers mindfulness programs for prison inmates through the Wisconsin Mindfulness Program Initiative, volunteers for Agrace Hospice, and volunteers for Mercy for Animals. He received his B.S. from DeVry University and his M.Ed. from Cambridge College.

SonnySonny Singh, Humane Education Instructor, developed and teaches HEART’s anti-bullying programs. He was featured in the documentary Article of Faith, which tells the story of his efforts to combat bias-based school bullying, and won the Change Maker Award with the Media that Matters Film Festival in 2011. Sonny has been involved in movements for social and economic justice since he was in high school. Since moving to NYC in 2003, he has worked in the labor movement for the union UNITE HERE, was a Community Organizer at CHAMP the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, and Community Organizer at the Sikh Coalition. Sonny received his M.Ed. in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2003, where he was the Community Development and Programs Coordinator at the Office of ALANA (African, Latino/a, Asian, Native American) Affairs on campus. Sonny received his B.A. in Sociology and Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona. He is also a trumpet player, dhol player, and singer and a member of the New York-based bhangra funk band, Red Baraat.

Liz Walch Humane EducatorLiz Walch, Humane Education Instructor, works in multiple Chicago Public Schools educating elementary-aged children about animal protection, human rights, and environmental ethics. She has been a volunteer at a local animal shelter in Chicago, and also has been a summer camp counselor at a farm animal sanctuary, working with young people to encourage respect and reverence for farm animals and appreciation for the outdoors. Liz received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and certificate in animal studies from Humane Society University. She received her M.A. in humane education from Valparaiso University.


Brad Goldberg, Chairman, Treasurer
President, Animal Welfare Trust
Serves on the boards of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Cultural Institutions Retirement System

Steve Whitman, Secretary
President, Whitman Partners LLC, Nonprofit Consulting

Lena Townsend, Board Member
Former Executive Director, Robert Bowne Foundation

Richard Gold, Board Member
President, R.N. Gold & Co., Marketing and Management Consulting

Candy Udell, Board Member
President, Rescue Paw Foundation
President, London Jewelers

Hon. Suzi Oppenheimer, Board Member
Retired New York State Senator

Helen Rafferty, Board Member
Executive Director, Project Rebirth