Meet Our Team

Dana Schwimmer

Lead Teacher

Dana Schwimmer

Lead Teacher
Dana is a Lead teacher at the STEM center at Cornell Tech. She is a maker, digital designer and fabricator with a versatile experience as an educator who enjoys working on projects at the intersection of design & technology. As an educator, she created programs at fabrication labs, teaching children and adults digital fabrication and physical programming as part of the learning process.

Francesca Rodriguez Sawaya

Senior Program Manager, Education and Technology

Francesca Rodriguez Sawaya

Senior Program Manager, Education and Technology
Francesca is a Peruvian multimedia designer and educator. Her work sits at the intersection of storytelling and technology, crafting compelling narratives about socio-cultural realities and creating projects that could turn into tools for empowerment. She has been exploring the linkages between weaving and computational thinking, creating pieces that translate oral stories into physical weavings. In line with her filmmaking background, she is passionate about finding a more human approach to the way we share stories in today’s digital world. 

Gabriel Fulcar

FIRST LEGO League Program Manager

Gabriel Fulcar

FIRST LEGO League Program Manager
Gabe is an educator that focuses on self-expression and having fun through STEM. He believes everyone has the ability to create and is a maker. For six years Gabe served as the Program Manager for The Clubhouse Network, learning a variety of STEM skills, including: Scratch, Makey Makey, Micro:Bit, and much more! As a native New Yorker, his hope is to see youth thrive with technology that will prepare them to be future leaders. In his free time, Gabe enjoys video games, comic books, pro-wrestling, and hanging out with his dogs (Jake and Oliver).

Gabriella Guimaraes

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA

Gabriella Guimaraes

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA
Gabriella has joined NYC FIRST as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She was born and raised in New York but also spent a portion of her childhood in Brazil, where she was first introduced to robotics. She brings a background in Advertising to NYC FIRST as she explores a new path in STEM Education and nonprofits. In her spare time, Gabriella enjoys playing board games and running a small soap-making business.

Katiuska Hernandez

District Implementation Manager

Katiuska Hernandez

District Implementation Manager
Katiuska is a native New Yorker and educator who has dedicated her career to increasing the exposure of STEM and creative arts in underserved communities. She finds great gratification in using a hands-on approach to help youth foster healthy relationships and sharpen STEM skills. Ultimately, her goal is to increase the representation of women and people of color in STEM fields.

Laura Abraham

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA

Laura Abraham

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA
Laura joined the NYC FIRST team as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She graduated from Westminster College in New Willmington, Pennsylvania with a degree in education and a minor in biology. After graduation, she went to flight school and became a certified flight instructor. She taught high school kids how to fly in Northern, Virginia for 15 years and is now supporting youth to promote STEM to young people. 

Lianza Yap

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA

Lianza Yap

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA
Lianza has joined NYC FIRST as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Lianza has worked in organizations that focus on solving real-world problems through a creative interdisciplinary approach with an emphasis on sustainability. She enjoys being outdoors, film photography, and creating art through different media.

Lisa Cai

Director of FIRST Programs

Lisa Cai

Director of FIRST Programs
Lisa joined NYC FIRST in 2017 and serves as the Director for FIRST Programs. She started her nonprofit career in the after-school space and moved on to manage partnerships at a CTE high school. As a lifelong New Yorker, Lisa is passionate about making robotics accessible to all students in the city. In her free time, she enjoys roads trips, trying new foods, and getting involved in her community.

Makayla Brown

Instructor, Washington Heights STEM Center

Makayla Brown

Instructor, Washington Heights STEM Center
Makayla Brown joined NYC FIRST as an Instructor at the Washington Heights STEM Center. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. Her insatiable desire to learn has taken her from participating in her high school’s robotics, gaming, dance, and step clubs to painting, cooking and short story writing in her spare time. She had been crowned by her peers to be a programming master.

Marlahna Miller

Instructor

Marlahna Miller

Instructor
Marlahna Miller joined NYC FIRST as a STEM Instructor for the Washington Heights STEM Center. She is currently pursuing a degree in Economics with a concentration in mathematics. Marlahna has been participating in FIRST and NYC FIRST family since freshman year of high school as one of the programmer leads and co-driver during competitions. As a young adult, Marlahna has been passionate about bringing educational equity and opportunities to underserved communities in NYC and hopes to help spread the love of STEM to different school districts.

Michael Zigman

Chief Executive Officer

Michael Zigman

Chief Executive Officer
Michael Zigman has spent over 25 years operating, scaling, advising and financing education and technology companies. As CEO of NYC FIRST, Michael has set and executed on the organization’s strategic vision; ensured the quality of its programs; expanded its traditional core programs while launching new ones, including the STEM Centers and the Corporate Challenge; and grown the NYC FIRST team and board.

Michelle Sharkey

Director of Development

Michelle Sharkey

Director of Development
As Director of Development, Michelle channels her passions for meeting new people and immersing herself in stories to help our donors find meaningful ways to support young people becoming STEM leaders. Originally from the Midwest, Michelle has called NYC home for over 15 years. Her love of public parks first led her to a career at the High Line, where she gained more than a decade of fundraising experience.

Mick Arnold

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA

Mick Arnold

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA
Mick is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member after obtaining their degree in technical communication and UX this year. As a FIRST alumni, Mick is passionate about increasing the accessibility of robotics programs and empowering others to pursue STEM. After this service year, they hope to use the skills they've gained to provide mentorship to others in the community.

Priyanka Jaisinghani

Marketing and Communications Manager

Priyanka Jaisinghani

Marketing and Communications Manager
Priyanka serves as the Marketing and Communications Manager at NYC FIRST. Growing up across different cultures and countries, India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, and the United States, equipped Priyanka with a global perspective and motivated her to build a career focused on building social impact.

Rudiana Bunbury

FRC & FTC Program Manager

Rudiana Bunbury

FRC & FTC Program Manager
Rudiana recently joined NYC FIRST this year and oversees the FIRST Robotics Competition and the FIRST Tech Challenge programs. She has a strong commitment to youth development and has served in school based organizations for a number of years managing internship programs. Originally from Guyana, Rudiana has a desire to provide youths with the tools necessary to enrich their lives and become leaders and innovators of the future. Outside of her career, she enjoys spending time with her family, event planning and traveling.

Sanaya Kaufman

Vice President of Advancement

Sanaya Kaufman

Vice President of Advancement
Sanaya B. Kaufman is the Vice President of Advancement at NYC FIRST and oversees all aspects of fundraising and communications. Previously, Sanaya was a member of the leadership team of Friends of the High Line, where she spent over a decade working to transform, build, operate, and maintain the High Line park in Manhattan, most recently in the role of Vice President of Development and Principal Gifts Officer. Sanaya was born and raised in New York City and is a proud alumna and parent of the New York City public school community.

Sean Sallee

Operations Manager

Sean Sallee

Operations Manager
Sean joined NYC FIRST in 2018 and serves as NYC FIRST's Operations Manager. Sean began his career in legal services but has remained in the nonprofit industry for over a decade. He is responsible for much of the back end operations at NYC FIRST as helps to get all of our events and competitions set up for success. Sean grew up in Staten Island, NY and is an avid traveler and soccer fan. He's passionate about NYC culture and history and is a constant advocate for growth in the outer boroughs.

Shalini Khan

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA

Shalini Khan

FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA
Shalini Khan has joined NYC FIRST as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She previously served with AmeriCorps in Florida. She has a background working for business technology in the financial, healthcare, and media verticals. She enjoys volunteering and working with children. In her spare time, Shalini is learning to play the piano and guitar.

Talya Stein

Program Manager, Education and Technology

Talya Stein

Program Manager, Education and Technology
Talya is the Co Program Manager for NYC FIRST STEM Center at CT. She is coaching 5 teams this season. She is an Educator, Designer, Fabricator, and Artist. She believes good design should be simple, clear, intuitive and as much as possible - interactive. Her strong background in graphic design, and her experience in the physical computing world allow Talya to cross the border between the screen and the physical. She is a proud member of the maker movement and has been inspired by everything from Maker Faire, to ITP, to Vidcode, Hack it Back, TedX.

Yoav Friedlander

Program Manager, STEM Programs

Yoav Friedlander

Program Manager, STEM Programs
Yoav is an Program Manager (Special STEM Projects) for NYC FIRST STEM Center at CT. He is a lead mentor for 5 teams this season. Yoav received his MFA from the department of Photography Video and Related Media at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Yoav is a photographer and a scale model artist, an editor, curator designer and educator.
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