Team

KEVIN THOMSEN, Founder & President; member Board of Directors, is a storyteller by trade. He has been a producer, writer, director, and performer in TV, film, and theater for 30 years.

After a childhood spent in Dallas, London and Berkeley, Kevin began his career as a director and actor in New York City.

As one of the top spoken-word producer/directors in the industry for the last twenty-five years, Kevin has been fortunate to work with some of the greatest writers and most compelling performers of our time. His work has received two Grammy Awards, a Gold Record and many other industry awards.

The seeds of The Red Trunk Project were planted when Kevin and his wife traveled to the Republic of Georgia and Ethiopia to adopt their two children. His quest to teach his daughters about their birth cultures has grown into a passion to help every child understand and respect the different lives being led by other children around the globe.

JILL VEXLER, Cultural Anthropologist and CuratorJILL VEXLER, Cultural Anthropologist & Curator, is a cultural anthropologist who has specialized since 1979 in curating museum exhibitions and developing children’s curricula about world cultures. She has done extensive fieldwork in Latin America and the Caribbean, Morocco, Israel, Greece, Turkey, the Philippines, urban New York City, Eastern Europe and the Baltics, and most recently in Ethiopia. Dr. Vexler received two Fulbright Fellowships in Mexico and Peru, using part of her year working in urban and rural museum in Ecuador. As a Cultural Affairs Officer for the Organization of American States, she worked in museum education and public programs and handicraft development consultancies in Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados, and Costa Rica.

Above all, Dr. Vexler’s priority was transforming her rich fieldwork experiences into hands-on “anthropology for children” exhibitions about world cultures for children’s museums throughout the United States. Beginning in 1979 with the 7,000 sq. ft. MEXICO! exhibition for the Capital Children’s Museum in Washington, DC, all of these exhibitions are steeped in rigorous field research and collection of authentic cultural artifacts used in daily and ritual lives of the cultures. Dr. Vexler’s abilities to engage with peoples of different cultures enable her to infuse each project with the rapport, integrity and respect essential to all such endeavors.

JON HAMM, member Board of AdvisorsJON HAMM, Educational Consultant, Board of Directors, is an actor and producer, known for Mad Men (2007), The Town (2010) and Minions (2015). After graduating college Jon returned to his high school, John Burroughs School outside St. Louis, to teach 8th-grade acting.

MIKE MOHAMAD, Board of Directors, has been head of marketing and promotion at two U.S. TV networks: NBC, where he is credited with the development of the iconic peacock logo, and A&E Networks, where he helped launch The History Channel in the U.S. and internationally. In 2014, the three-time Emmy Award winner led programming and marketing for the launch EDAN, an ambitious entertainment TV channel distributed by Canal+ to 24 countries in French-speaking Africa. Mike has owned and partnered in two advertising agencies serving TV clients, including MCA Universal Television. He is currently a partner in two entertainment companies, DMSM Marketing and Sygnificant Productions, both based in New York.

JON ROSKIL, member Board of AdvisorsJON ROSKIL, Board of Directions, Mr. Jon Roskill serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Acumatica, Inc., the fastest growing vendor of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions in the Cloud.   Previously Mr. Roskill served as the Corporate Vice President of  the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft Corporation from 2010 to 2013 where he led the teams responsible for Microsoft’s worldwide Channel of 630,000 Partners, as well as associated  programs & incentives.  From 2004 -2010 Roskill served as Corporate Vice President, Business & Marketing Organization of Microsoft North America where he led the teams responsible for all marketing activities for Microsoft’s commercial products (everything except Xbox & MSN), products together producing revenue in excess of $20b.  From 1998 to 2004 he served as General Manager of Developer and .NET Enterprise Server marketing at Microsoft, where he led a team responsible for the marketing and product management of the industry-leading Microsoft SQL Server database software, Microsoft’s Internet server products – Commerce Server, BizTalk Server and Application Center – and the Microsoft family of component-based development tools, lead by Microsoft Visual Studio, together used by 85 percent of professional developers worldwide. He started at Microsoft in 1993 as the product manager of the industry leading development tool, Visual Basic. Prior to Microsoft, he worked at Digital Equipment Corporation, in product management and engineering roles on projects including the Digital AlphaPC and Digital’s Fault Tolerant line of computers.  Mr. Roskill has been a Member of Board of Governors at Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Inc., since 2013, he also serves as a Director of Boys & Girls Clubs Of King County, and he is an active investor and advisor in the Northwest start-up scene.   Mr. Roskill received a BSEE Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an M.B.A. from Boston University.

STEFAN McGRATH, Board of Directors, practices corporate law in NYC. He has traveled extensively, gaining a deep appreciation of other cultures. He’s a graduate of Harvard Law School.

BRIAN KNOSTMAN, Education Consultant, is an experienced classroom teacher with over 20 years in elementary classrooms. Brian has taught in catholic parochial schools, inner city schools and large suburban school districts. He has the pleasure of teaching a broad spectrum of children. He has a BA in History and Political Science from Wright State University in Fairborn Ohio. Brian completed his Education Certificate through WSU and the State of Ohio. He has a Masters in Educational Technology from the University of Dayton and an endorsement in Special Education through Miami University in Oxford. Brian and his wife Melody adopted Sadie An Li and Wren Bea Song from the Guangdong Provence of China. He understands the potential cultural impact of hands on learning of the Red Trunk Project to break down the barriers between children.

DR. L.A. GABAY, Educational ConsultantDR. L.A. GABAY, Educational Consultant, received his Ph.D. from the Urban Education Program at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York and he teaches incarcerated students in Brooklyn. His published works can be found in Teaching City Kids: Understanding and Appreciating Them (2006), The Praeger Handbook of Education and Psychology (2007), KICKS Magazine (2009, 2011, 2013) Sages’ Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies (2010) and Key Works in Critical Pedagogy: Joe L. Kincheloe (2011) and regularly writes for SLAM Magazine regarding education, incarceration, basketball and sneaker culture.

 

Marya Baker, Educational ConsultantMARYA BAKER, Educational Consultant, is the Principal of the Biondi Middle and High School in Yonkers, which serves emotionally disturbed students in a residential and day school setting on the Leake and Watts campus. She was formerly the Principal of a charter school in Harlem, a Literacy Coach and a middle and high school English teacher in New York City. She lives in Upper Washington Heights with her husband and two daughters.

 

Phil Alcabes, Video ProductionPHIL ALCABES, Video Production, is a Producer and Emmy Award winning Director, bringing over 25 years of experience in broadcast and network television to the helm of Roundhead Creative Group, the company he founded in 1991. Roundhead is a full service entertainment programming, promotion and production company providing top-level talent for concept, production and post-production to the television industry, based in New York City.

Phil and Roundhead develop programming for major TV networks.  Phil’s has directed long established live network programs, has been a production Consultant for CBS and a long time producer for Showtime Networks. He has held key producing and technical positions on major network shows, and has produced programming for broadcast for WABC, CBS, PBS, Rodale Press, Meredith Magazines and more.

Recently Phil helped the launch of the new Franco-African Broadcast Network, EDAN, where he was the Creative Director in charge of Marketing and Promotions.

Denisse Benitez, Photography & Design ConsultantDENISSE BENITEZ, Photography & Design Consultant, is an internationally published photographer and lead designer at Denisse Benitez Co. She brings several years of experience and a diverse clientele. You can find her work in publications like Vogue Italia, Latina Magazine, Elle Russia, and many independent print publications. She has worked in collaboration with brands like Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Target, Vera Bradley, and many more. In addition to these trades, she manages a successful online presence at Lady Hustle Magazine, a women’s blog about today’s relevant topics.

Vanessa Koi-Ploski, Graphic design.   As a Creative Director, Vanessa blends her knowledge of design, writing, and marketing with practical, creative solutions and technologies. She has designed branding and communications for startups as well as some of the world’s most successful organizations, including Yale University, Schlumberger, Nabisco and Johnson & Johnson. Vanessa’s work has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA), Print Magazine, and Communication Arts. As time permits she likes to support organizations that promote education that leads our children toward a greater understanding through empathy, rational thought and democracy, so all the other matters will eventually yield to a mighty wave of justice. She believes we need schools that encourage our children to love the world so much that they will save it. Vanessa received her BFA in Communication Arts from Parsons School of Design.

Risa B. HOAG, PRESIDENT: GMG PUBLIC RELATIONS

Risa founded GMG Public Relations in 1991. She has worked on numerous prestigious accounts including The Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, Helmsley Hotels, The Tourism Board of Scotland, AMC and IMAX Theatres, and Morton’s Steakhouse. Locally she has worked with PLI Realty, M1 Capital, Bounce! Trampoline Sports, Keep Rockland Beautiful, Meals on Wheels, The Arts Council of Rockland, The Rockland County Women’s Bar Association, Coupé Dance Studio, The NYS Commission for Social Justice, and The Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board. Her ability to see every business through a creative lens, makes her a valuable business partner.

Risa is the past president of the Westchester Association of Women Business Owners, past board member of the Orange & Rockland Utilities Community Investment Grant Committee, founder and current president of The Greater Nanuet Chamber of Commerce and Executive Vice President of the Rockland Business Women’s Network and received that organization’s Service Woman of the Year Award in 2017. She is a Board Member at Meals on Wheels of, co-founder of the Rockland Chamber Alliance and Chair of the Marketing and Communications Sub Committee for the Clarkstown Business and Economic Development Advisory Committee.

AMY HENRYPlay/Child Development Expert and Partnership Consultant, has spent twenty years as an applied researcher and strategist in the youth space. She has deep expertise in play, which she has used to bring playful and engaging experiences to families with kids through teens.

Amy has worked as a consultant, advisor and research partner to a range of best in class brands in the youth space, including Disney, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Cartoon Network, National Geographic Kids, Netflix, Chick-fil-A, Kellogg, Nickelodeon, MTV, Frito-Lay, CommonSense Media, The American Heart Association, and The Boy Scouts of America.

Amy was selected as last year’s Family Travel Association research partner, in conjunction with members of the Tourism/Travel Dept. at NYU. She has been invited to share her insights on creating kid, teen and family programs to a broad range of companies and brands in the travel and hospitality space. She is also an expert on Gen Z, most recently serving as a keynote speaker at the Gen Z Conference.

Her previous posts included Chief Strategy Officer at Strottman International, chief author and strategist for C+R Research’s YouthBeat service, head of research at The Family Room, and partner at Insight Strategy Group. She started her career at Leo Burnett in Chicago, and made her first-full-time foray into the kid space at The Geppetto Group. Amy earned her Ed.D. in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and is a Ph.D. candidate in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University (where her dissertation focuses on teens and play in the outdoors). Her formative work in the kid space came from studying with professors in the Education Dept. at Dartmouth.

She is the lucky mom of two boys and lives in the Philly suburb of Haddonfield, NJ.

 

Pam Goldfarb Liss, Children’s Marketing and Testing ConsultantPAM GOLDFARB LISS, Children’s Marketing and Testing Consultant, is a 25-plus years marketing veteran who has worked with some of the largest brands in developing targeted and respectful marketing plans to children and teens including Body Glove/Fellowes, Burger King, Coca-Cola, General Mills (Bisquick, Chex Mix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Pillsbury, McDonald’s, Nature Valley, Totino’s, Yoplait, etc.), Pepsi, Nickelodeon, McDonald’s, Verizon Wireless and Wyeth/Pfizer Consumer Brands. Her non-profit work on behalf of children include work with the Children’s Defense Fund, several programs with the Dairy Council to create partnerships with schools in developing healthier school lunch programs with corporate sponsors and a number of teen health initiatives with Hadassah Women’s Organization. Pam will be working with RED Trunk to understand the program’s role inside of today’s cultural literacy and help the program market respectfully within that special place.

 

MELISSA CARROLL, Strategy & Finance, member Board of DirectorsMELISSA CARROLL, Strategy & Finance, member Board of Directors, has been a grants manager and a consultant to the Ford Foundation for over 25 years. She has managed and overseen many of the Foundation’s grants in education, media, arts, and culture, including its $40M “New Directions/New Donors” grant initiative to 28 major national arts institutions. Melissa currently works on special projects and consults on the Foundation’s grants management work in democratic rights and justice. Melissa was also the original grants administrator for the September 11th Fund, which was co-funded by the New York Community Trust and the United Way. Melissa earned her MFA from UNC, Chapel Hill, and she brings her passion for educational enrichment, and cultural exchange and understanding, to the Red Trunk Project.

 

J. Eric Cook, Program Development Specialist, member Board of DirectorsJ. ERIC COOK, Program Development Specialist, member Board of Directors, has over 20 years experience as a Non-profit Program and Development Specialist, having particular expertise in the fields of Youth, Community Development and the Arts. Eric got his start managing regional Theaters in the San Francisco Wine Country. He developed work training, volunteer and employment opportunities for teens in the region for Social Advocates for Youth. At the Sonoma County Office of Education, Eric oversaw and directed the development and integration of technology training between schools, NGO’s and the business community, securing multi-year funding from both the Departments of Commerce and Education. One of his proudest moments is starting “GirlTech,”  a program to interest more young girls in technology by introducing them to successful women working in the field. In New York, Eric has been responsible for creating a comprehensive 5-year development plan for Stages of Learning, bringing integrated arts education to at-risk students across New York City. He has produced hundreds of events and been successfully funded at all levels, from local foundation to corporate sponsorship and federal funding.

 

NONPROFIT WORKS is a New York-based consulting firm that specializes in helping nonprofit organizations and municipalities develop the strategies, skills, and tools they need to help themselves — and the communities they serve. They work with clients to identify areas of strength and potential growth, and help build their capacity to enhance overall effectiveness and create a more sustainable organization.

 

Tara Pietz, Director of Donor and Subscriber CommunicationsTARA PIETZ, Director of Donor and Subscriber Communications has over 17 years experience in enterprise sales, global project management and business analysis for financial technology start ups, brokerages and stock exchanges. As a project manager and business analyst she has managed multi-million dollar technology implementations from initial analysis to implementation. Tara’s tenure working with start-ups and large financial institutions has given her insight and solid experience soliciting funding, promoting new technology concepts and creating new revenue streams. Tara now consults to small business, specifically assisting NGO’s achieve their fundraising goals.

 

Mimi Greco, Social Media ManagerCHEF BOBO (AKA ROBERT SURLES), Food Consultant, is one of the pioneers of the movement to feed kids better in their schools. He has re-educated the palettes of more than 10,000 kids over the past 15 years at the Calhoun School on New York’s Upper West Side, where he’s cooking natural and healthy food that features bold flavors and good nutrition as the cornerstone of his menu plan.  Everything is made daily from scratch, using the freshest ingredients. Chef Bobo’s goal is to develop young palates to understanding real food so that eating well becomes a lifelong skill.

In 2006, Chef Bobo was honored with the prestigious Outstanding Alumni Award by the French Culinary Institute. Kiwi Magazine has presented him with their “Crusader Award” for the model school lunch program for private schools, and Calhoun has been named one of the top five Vegetarian Friendly schools in the United States by PETA.

Chef Bobo is on the Advisory Board for Spoons Across America, the source for children’s culinary education dedicated to educating children, teachers, and families about the benefits of healthy eating. Many of his flavorful and nutritious recipes can be found in his book, Chef Bobo’s Good Food Cookbook. (Meredith Books), which received a medal as a Finalist for the IACP Cookbook Award in the Health and Special Diet Category.

Phil Rabe, Packing & Shipping EngineerPHIL RABE, Packing & Shipping Engineer, has been designing and installing Children’s Museum exhibits in the US and abroad since 1991. Prior to that he studied engineering and later, theatre technology at UNC School of the Arts where he also acted as student body president for the class of ‘85. His first collaboration with Dr. Vexler was technical direction for “In the Heart of the Home” followed by field research and the exhibit design for “Bayanihan, a Window to the Philippines”. Expanding on a love of theatre and film technology, he became technical director for a variety of Chicago and San Francisco bay area theatres including The Body Politic, Eureka!, and Brava! For Women in the Arts. His technical designs have been used for numerous national TV ad campaigns for scenery companies like Paper Moon Productions, Ready Set and Acme Scenery co. His Children’s museum exhibits have been visited by millions of children in four countries. When he is not on a production, he likes to manage multi million dollar property renovations in San Francisco.

 

LOREN TOOLAJIAN, Composer & Music ConsultantLOREN TOOLAJIAN, Composer & Music Consultant, is a composer, music producer, and broadcaster who continues to explore the creative process in myriad ways. As a composer, he has collaborated with the playwrights Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Arthur Miller & Sam Shepard, among others, at New York’s renowned Signature Theatre Company, and written for film, television, and audio books, as well. He has produced music for Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Jesse Lenat, and others, as well as records for a number of indie artists. He began his radio career in San Francisco; became the program director of WQXR, the NY Times classical radio station; programmed and hosted the afternoon drive show at KUSC in Los Angeles; and currently produces the weeknight broadcasts on Sirius/XM of the Metropolitan Opera Company, as well as the Saturday afternoon broadcasts heard by more than 10 million people around the world on the Met’s international radio network.

 

David Robinson, Virtual Reality ConsultantDAVID ROBINSON, Virtual Reality Consultant, has spent over two decades in media, advertising and broadcast services. Starting on the picture desk at the Times in London, David has worked as a tech producer and project manager in increasingly demanding agency and television broadcasting roles in London, Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles and New York. Always looking future forward. Keeping abreast of new technology. Exploring, testing and developing for the love of digital cinema. A true enthusiast with a broad understanding of the digital landscape. Clients past and present include ITV, BBC, Fox Sports, ABC, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Universal, National Geographic, BBC America, NBC, PBS and the Discovery Channel.

 

ANA A. ESCHEVERRIA MS.Ed, Spanish Translation, thirty years experience as a Spanish language, Literature, and Art History teacher. She has been a Spanish language adjunct instructor at Rockland Community College SUNY for 27 years. She has extensive experience in chaperoning students to Europe for over twenty-five years.
She has a BA in Primary Education and 7-12 in Secondary Education with a bilingual education minor, as well as a Masters in Education with a component in Spanish literature from Iona College, New Rochelle. She has 30 graduate credits in Advanced School Psychology from Fordham University at Lincoln Center.

Combine Media, Web Development & Digital Marketing

Combine Media is a Web Development Firm that specializes in the Small-to-Medium Business and Nonprofit sectors.  Based in Dallas, TX & Toronto, ON we offer local and national clients with the following: Web Development & Design, Digital Marketing, Search Engine Optimization. Graphic Design, Branding  & Much More. Big firm quality with small firm attention to detail and customer interaction. We put you and your project ahead of everything else to ensure an excellent final product. We currently employ various talented contractors around the United States and Canada in an attempt to keep costs low, and the work quality very high. https://mbine.co

K&L Gates, Pro Bono Legal CounselK&L GATES, Pro Bono Legal Counsel, comprises more than 2,000 lawyers who practice in fully integrated offices located on five continents, the largest network of any global law firm. Gates represents leading global corporations, growth and middle-market companies, capital markets participants and entrepreneurs in every major industry group as well as public sector entities, educational institutions, philanthropic organizations and individuals. Our practice is a robust full market practice — cutting edge, complex and dynamic, at once regional, national and international in scope. 
http://www.klgates.com/

 

Rhino Trunks, Trunk ManufacturerRHINO TRUNKS, Trunk Manufacturer, blends technology with classic design elements to deliver America’s finest collection of trunks and shipping cases. Known the world over for uncompromising quality, Rhino storage trunks, camp trunks, college trunks, airline trunks, footlockers, ATA cases and shipping will suit any requirement for storage, shipping and travel.

BOARD OF ADVISORS

FABIOLA RIOBE

Fabiola Riobe is an international researcher, expert, and education advocate. Dignitaries and executives across the world applaud her business acumen and management accomplishments. A natural leader, Fabiola is a powerhouse in the boardroom and a woman of action on the ground championing cultural diversity at every level. Raised in the outskirts of New York City, educated in Paris, France; Montreal, Canada, and top-tier estabas firsthand knowledge of the importance of a global perspective in today’s workforce. In her current role as president and executive director of Community Colleges for International Development, she brings together some of the world’s most leading education experts to foster the exchange of proven strategies and cultivate relationships within the education, business, government sectors. Fabiola’s rich multi-cultural heritage and blended family lineage fuels her passion for bringing about change in communities that need it most.

JOHN LAWLER, member Board of AdvisorsJOHN LAWLER

John has had a lengthy career in the arts. He is an award-winning director and writer, with stage, opera, film, and television projects in New York, Los Angeles, London, Munich, and elsewhere. He’s worked at Sundance, the Eugene O’Neill Center, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival alongside the top artists in the field, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and many others. As a writer, he developed scripts for major studios, and won multiple writing awards. He was a co-founder of Annex Theatre in Seattle, now in its 30th year.

In 2011, Mr. Lawler opened ArTES Magnet, an inner city public school offering a first-class academic education to prepare underserved students for college, and rigorous training in the arts to teach them 21st century skills.  ArTES was named a California Gold Ribbon School and recognized by the Arts Schools Network as an Exemplary Arts School. In 2016, Mr. Lawler was honored as the Administrator of the Year for Los Angeles Unified School District, and in 2018, he became principal of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, one of the top conservatory-style schools in the US.  As a leader in arts education, Mr. Lawler has encouraged an atmosphere of innovation, creativity, and visionary thinking, and sees arts schools as the incubator of ideas addressing learning and education reform.

STEVE NELSON, member Board of AdvisorsSTEVE NELSON

Steve Nelson has been Head of School at the Calhoun School, on Manhattan’s Upper Westside, since 1998.   Calhoun is one of America’s most notable progressive schools and serves 750 students, from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.  Calhoun is particularly well regarded for its commitment to diversity and social justice.

Since 1997 Steve has been a columnist for the Valley News, the daily newspaper in the mid-VT/NH area on both sides of the Connecticut River.  He has been a regular contributor to the Huffington Post since 2010, writing about education and politics.   Before assuming his current position, he worked as an administrator at Vermont Law School and Landmark College.  He is an avid violinist and also served for six years as President of a performing arts school in the Midwest.

Steve has competed in many marathons, triathlons, bicycle races and XC ski races, with steadily decreasing success.  He now primarily races the grim reaper.

He is married to Wendy Nelson, has two children, Jennifer and Christopher, and three perfect grandchildren – Quinn, Maddie and Jack.