Staff 2012

School Stories is a publication produced by students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. The site is overseen by  LynNell Hancock and Barbara Kantrowitz, who teach a semester-long seminar on education reporting.

Carla Bleiker is a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Born and raised in Bremen, Germany, she graduated from the International Jacobs University with a degree in Integrated Social Sciences. During college, Carla interned at Germany’s largest subscription-based newspaper, and was a staff writer at Pulse of the World, her college’s English-language newspaper. In Jacobs’ charter of the Rotaract Club, Carla was the head organizer of the English for Kids program. One of her interests is arts education, and she is currently embedded at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens. You can contact Carla at @cbleiker or


Rose D’souza is a student at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She previously attended the University of Toronto, and earned an Honors B.A. in Political Science and History. Rose interned at the Ministry of Education in Ontario for three years, where she learned about the bureaucratic process of an education system. Born in Mumbai and raised in Toronto, Rose now calls Harlem home. She is embedded in Democracy Prep Charter School and is also covering education issues in Harlem. You can contact Rose at @thewaywardrose and


Kimberly Drelich is originally from New York City. She is a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She studied English at the University of Chicago, where she wrote for the college newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. She interned at The Norwich Bulletin and worked at Karen Gantz Literary Management. Kimberly is embedded in Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. You can contact Kimberly at @KimberlyDrelich or
Elizabeth Harball grew up in Montana. In 2009, she graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a degree in Liberal Arts. She then worked in rural Japan as an assistant language teacher through the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. She has interned at THE magazine, a contemporary arts periodical, and with a literary agent, both in Santa Fe. She is currently embedded in Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn, which has reminded her that if she wasn’t in journalism school, she would probably be pursuing a career in education. You can contact Elizabeth at @ElizHarballor


Jackie Kostek is originally from Minneapolis, MN, and graduated from the University of Kansas in 2009 with degrees in journalism and American studies. During undergrad, she directed and produced the campus sports show, Jayhawk Sport’s Talk, and interned for a nightly news magazine in Sydney, Australia. After graduation, she taught Head Start in Washington, D.C., as a Teach For America corps member. Jackie holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from George Mason University. She is currently embedded in P.S. 61, a middle school with more than 2,200 students in Corona, Queens. You can contact Jackie at @JackieKostek or


Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a freelance writer and M.S. candidate in digital media at Columbia Journalism School. She currently reports from Aspirations Diploma High School in East New York, and has previously covered the South Bronx for Before coming to Columbia, Celia worked as a journalist in Taiwan and for the writers’ association International PEN in Sweden. She has a master’s degree in linguistics from Stockholm University. You can contact Celia at @Celia_LJ or
Jackie Mader is from Woodinville, WA, and studied Screenwriting and Elementary Education at Loyola Marymount University. After graduating in 2009, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and taught 7th and 8th grade special education as a Teach For America corps member for two years. Jackie is currently in the broadcast concentration at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is embedded in P.S. 24, a dual language school in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. You can contact Jackie at @jackiemader or


Rebecca Moss is a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, she moved to New York in 2006 to attend Wells College, where she studied English and wrote for the Wells College Onyx and the Cornell Daily Sun. After graduation, she moved to New York City and spent a year working in publishing at Cambridge University Press. She is reporting on education at a bilingual elementary school, P.S. 24, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and is currently interning at W magazine. You can contact Rebecca at @becca_moss or


Andrew Parsons is an independent radio producer, freelance writer and student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Andrew came to New York City through Teach For America where he taught kindergarten and first grade in East New York and Bedstuy, Brooklyn before entering the world of journalism. His stories have been broadcasted on NPR’s Snap Judgment, WGBH Boston, KUT Austin, Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio and WYNC, among others. He is embedded in the Academy for Careers in Television and Film. You can contact Andrew at @andrewjparsons or


Ankita Rao is a freelance writer and student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in several publications including Slate, Huffington Post, India Currents and Washington City Paper. Originally from Florida, Ankita completed a one-year Indicorps fellowship in northern India where she designed and implemented an education project at a youth center for a marginalized community, one of the motivations behind her interest in covering international education, alternative learning and immigration issues. She currently interns at Slate magazine. Ankita is embedded in World Journalism Prep School in Flushing, Queens. You can contact Ankita at @anrao or


Eddie Small is originally from Connecticut. He graduated from Dickinson College in 2010, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Dickinsonian, his college newspaper. Eddie further immersed himself in the news industry in 2008, when he completed a summer-long internship at the prominent fake newspaper, The Onion. After graduating from Dickinson, he spent a year tutoring at MATCH Charter Public Middle School in Boston, which motivated him to report on education issues as a journalist. He is embedded at the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science in the Bronx. You can contact Eddie at


Laurenmaria Smith, whom everyone calls Nell, grew up in Rhode Island and recently received a B.A. in English literature from Wheaton College, in Norton, Massachusetts, where she wrote press releases and team biographies for Wheaton’s athletic website. As a former collegiate track and field athlete, her passion for sports drives her interest in sports writing. She is an M.S. student with a print concentration in newspapers at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Nell is embedded at Aspirations Diploma Plus High School in Brooklyn. You can reach Nell at @nellsmith626 or


Sarah Tan grew up in New York but has spent the last four years in Baltimore where she attended John Hopkins University and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, The John Hopkins News-Letter. She is currently embedded at The Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics in Morrisania. Sarah is focusing her education reporting on poverty issues and juvenile justice. You can contact Sarah at @sarahjtan or
Cristabelle Tumola is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she studied English and Italian. she has worked as an editor and writer for an Italian food and culture magazine. More recently, she worked as a freelance editor, writer and translator, and taught ESL in New York City. She is interested in a range of education issues including testing, speciality schools, and ESL and bilingual education. She is embedded at the Academy for Careers in Television and Film. You can contact Cristabelle at @CristabelleT or


Larry Tung is a native of Taiwan and a part-time student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A graduate of Ming Chuan University in Taiwan, he received a Master of Fine Arts in television production from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Since moving to New York in 2000, Larry has contributed stories to Newsday, Gotham Gazette, Feet in Two Worlds,, and Columbia’s Neighborhood Beat Box and Uptown Radio. His interests in covering education focus on immigrant students and bilingual education programs. Larry is embedded at the Leonardo da Vinci Intermediate School 61 in Corona, Queens. You can contact Larry at @larrytung or


Nikhita Venugopal moved to New York in July 2011 and is now a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She grew up in Bangalore, India where she studied Media and Communications, Psychology and Literature. Nikhita has interned at Ogilvy as a copywriter and Macmillan Publishers as an editor. Her passion for covering education stems from her interest in the relationship between technology and students. In her reporting, she found that the child’s voice is ignored and often remains unheard. She is embedded in the Equity Project School in Washington Heights, a charter school with an experimental, yet innovative method of teacher compensation. She is also interested in writing about class, science, psychology, music and the general eccentricities of the city. Nikhita hopes to write long-form journalism and pursue a career in magazine writing. You can contact Nikhita at @niks_90 or


Raisa Zaidi is originally from California, the Bay Area to be exact! She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied political science, public affairs, and Middle East North Africa studies. After graduating, Raisa worked as the community outreach organizer for a non-profit that rebuilds in war-torn communities in the Middle East. She has written for the Daily Star Lebanon, Language Magazine, and Columbia’s Uptown Chronicle. Raisa is interested in writing about education inequality, immigration, and foster care issues. She is embedded at the World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, Queens. You can contact Raisa at @raisazaidi or

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