Imani Ali grew up in Las Vegas and California. She came to New Orleans in 2014 to study Public Health Sciences at Xavier University, and a culinary internship with ESYNOLA led to a Serve Louisiana position in the Green kitchen. Imani cares deeply about public health, community needs and overall health. She loves how culinary classes expose kids to new foods, and give children fun experiences with food from the garden. Though she spends much of her time studying, she also strengthens her artistic abilities through photography, drawing, tattoos, and food. She can often be found next to a body of water, just because.
Associate Garden Educator, Ashe
Raised by nature-loving parents, Harry Alper grew up in Boston, MA. His “edible” revelation came in college, when he learned to garden and forage for food in the wild. As a garden educator at Ashe, Harry enjoys teaching children to try new foods, build community through garden projects, and appreciate honey bees. He believes that having a relationship with the natural world is part of living a full human experience, and a place where you can find joy, peacefulness, and a sense of belonging. Harry can frequently be found organizing to advance justice, equity, and freedom for all people. He also believes in the simple power of relaxing on his porch, and waving to his neighbors.
Greenhouse Manager & Site Gardener, Green
Marsha Bard grew up in Winslow, Maine, and has lived in New Orleans since 2008. The seeds of Marsha’s gardening career were first planted when a friend sent her roma tomato seeds in the mail. She went on to study horticulture at Delgado and began her time with ESYNOLA as a garden intern five years ago. She is passionate about ethical and safe food production methods, and food waste awareness. She enjoys working with volunteers in the garden almost as much as she loves volunteering herself. In her spare time, Marsha loves hanging with her cats, crocheting, singing, baking, and making messes.
A native New Orleanian, Claudia Barker comes from an Italian family with a love of good cooking and enjoying food in community. A strong proponent of teaching children where food comes from and how to prepare it in healthy ways, she also believes that we can change the world by attending to children’s social and emotional needs and teaching them respect for life. When Claudia’s not leading the charge for development and communications at FirstLine and ESYNOLA, she can be found reading and writing, hanging out on her screened porch with family and friends, or walking in City Park with her dog, Red Bean.
Amelia Bird, originally from north central Florida, comes with a background in environmental studies, nonfiction writing, and book arts. She wants all children to be able to forge an imaginative relationship with the natural world, and have access to good food in a joyful setting. She is passionate about visual aesthetics and operations, and wants ESYNOLA’s inner workings and communications to have the hand-crafted, joyful, and deeply considered nature that our classes and spaces do. When she’s not working behind the scenes at ESYNOLA, she might be creating something with her hands or swimming with her daughter Indigo, but most likely she’s making some kind of list.
Lead Garden Educator, Ashe
Born in Nashville but raised in St. Louis, MO, Rahn Broady has always been a child of nature, always in the woods. With experience teaching biology in the Bronx and cooking in California before coming to New Orleans, the root of Rahn’s edible career is a desire to to help students shake off the effects of the human nature deficit. Rahn encourages youth of color to have ownership of the natural world by modelling and inspiring boundless curiosity. He considers himself a guide and fellow lifelong learner about nature and science, and believes that our students are the best ambassadors to their families and immediate communities. Rahn is also an obsessive home gardener, ice cream ingenu, and dancer in the street.
Lead Chef Educator, Green
Megan Brummer grew up in Colorado, has lived in Iowa and Washington D.C., but New Orleans is her heart and forever home. She earned her Masters in Social Work and Public Health at Tulane University. Megan worked in the HIV social work field before finding her calling in culinary education. As a chef educator, she is passionate about cooking and trying new foods, exploring other cultures and cuisines, eating for joy and nourishment, the trouble with sugar, and the necessity of salt. She believes our work promotes equity, and has the power to decrease violence, increase educational success, and foster happiness in students’ lives. When she’s not in the teaching kitchen, Megan might be lifting heavy things, running as fast as she can, listening to live music, or eating and laughing with her family.
Lead Garden Educator, LHA
Matt Durham grew up gardening and exploring forests near the border of Rhode Island and Connecticut. His interest in edible education began in college when he was working with kids on urban farms and school gardens. Matt knows children can be leaders in stewardship of the natural world, and believes it begins when students see life in the garden. As a garden teacher, he strives to show children interconnectedness, and believes that that through experiencing these connections students will share a deep knowledge of where food comes from and the work and love it takes to produce it. An outdoorsman all around, Matt loves to explore nature, and can often be found running, fishing, birding, or hiking.
Greenhouse Manager & Site Gardener, Ashe
Raised in San Francisco, Loren Farese studied sustainable agriculture at The Evergreen State College and came to New Orleans for an internship with Edible Schoolyard New Orleans in 2013. Having also worked as a garden teacher, Loren now splits her time between gardening and yoga therapy. She believes in the creation of safe spaces, and her favorite moments are those when she can use the natural world to ground and heal a child who’s having a rough day. Her hope is that children will walk away from our classes knowing that they are whole and enough. Loren is into self-care in many forms, including dancing, ice cream and daily rest.
Associate Garden Educator, Green
Jahmal Hurst is from Uptown New Orleans. He was once a student at Green, where he now teaches, and his children now attend. Jahmal cares strongly about affecting change in youth that can propel them to greatness. As a teacher, he strives to open students’ eyes to the world around them and teach them how it works. He believes his students will make smarter choices in life because they have been exposed to life in ways many others haven’t had the chance to. When he’s not teaching garden classes or coaching, Jahmal can be found on Lake Pontchartrain eating seafood with his family.
Serve Louisiana Kitchen Educator, Ashe
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ben Jacobi was “raised” in a number of professional kitchens in New Orleans. He is passionate about the culinary arts. He believes his work as a chef educator will help create a more diverse group of young leaders involved in both the restaurant business and the food justice movement. When he’s not in the teaching kitchen at Ashe, he might be cooking in his home kitchen, walking around City Park or Bayou St. John, or playing music.
Site Gardener, FirstLine Live Oak
Sienna Kuykendall has held many positions at ESYNOLA, from a fellow at Green, garden educator at Wheatley, to site gardener at Live Oak. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Sienna has training in horticultural therapy and trauma-informed practices. She has a holistic approach to learning and healing, and believes in the power of edible education to support children’s growth emotionally, physically, interpersonally, academically, and spiritually. Sienna, also known as “Ms. Sienna Sweet Potato,” is an impassioned dancer, reader, and yoga teacher and practitioner.
Associate Garden Educator, LHA
Zoe Krulak-Palmer, originally from Towson, MD, came to New Orleans to attend Tulane University for Public Health and Africana studies. Her love of outdoor learning was nurtured through many summers in the Appalachian mountains at Quaker summer camps. Zoe is passionate about education equity, and individual and community health. To her, garden class is a regenerative place where children are self-actualized by growing their own food, making connections, and working together. Zoe takes care of herself by jogging in the park, cooking at home, connecting with family on the phone, and camping. She also loves to knit and picnic.
Associate Garden Educator, LHA
The seeds of Jane Madden’s work with ESYNOLA were planted in Baltimore, MD, where she was first employed as a garden educator for the Living Classrooms Foundation in 2004. She has been working in garden classrooms ever since. With a background in visual art, Jane knows we all learn best by doing. She believes that what children find in our classes can lead them to comfort, joy, wonder, camaraderie, and even bravery. As a garden teacher, Jane seeks to teach children responsibility for the care of tools, plants, animals, themselves, and each other. She loves biking, drawing, daydreaming, taking pictures, and spending time with people she loves.
Associate Chef Educator, Ashe
With a background in radio broadcasting and experiential education in Maryland, Jay has been teaching since 2008. He is most passionate about fostering good relationships with students, and the health of the families we serve. As a chef educator, he believes social emotional learning is a crucial part of youth development, and strives to thoughtfully include social emotional learning aspects in as many hands-on kitchen lessons as he can. When he’s not teaching, Jay can be found navigating his bike around pothole-strewn streets of New Orleans, at a local music venue or festival, or spending time with his wife and rambunctious cat Dee Dee.
Lead Chef Educator, Ashe
Joanna McCarver, known by students and staff as “Chef Jojo,” has a background in education and holistic culinary arts, and credits eating a stuffed squash blossom at age 11 as the beginning of her culinary passion. Chef Jojo knows that food is medicine, so she educates children about how food affects health on a cellular level. She also loves how food brings people together, food culture and history, and all the food memories her students are inspired to share. She looks forward to seeing how exposure to culinary education impacts her students years from now. Jojo has been known to drive up to two hours to check out a farmers market.
Serve Louisiana Garden Educator, Green
Cadence Miskimin first came to Green to serve in the middle school as a member of Americorps, and fell in love with the school, students, and garden. Cadence seeks to create and support justice in education and healthcare. She believes that when students learn about the natural world around them, they also learn that they deserve a space within that world, and are better able to broaden that space for themselves and create it for others. When she’s not caring for students and garden critters in the garden, she’s hanging out with her five pets: Parsnip and Rutabaga (bunnies), Dan (western hognose), Peach (boa), and Clementine (milk snake).
Site Gardener, LHA
Born and raised in south Louisiana, Mallory Naquin is a Community Dietitian and master gardener. Studying nutrition showed Mallory how little health literacy was covered in our educational system. It is her mission to offer evidence-based nutrition lessons that give individuals autonomy over their own wellness and healthcare. Mallory believes that food is personal, and it is the strongest tool she uses to care for herself and her family. When she’s not working in the garden at LHA, she can be found with her daughter exploring every green space they can find, endlessly cooking and taste testing, and of course gardening.
Associate Chef Educator, Green
Alana Neuman, originally from Washington, D.C., came to New Orleans to study Latin American Studies and Public Health at Tulane University. In her role as a chef educator, Alana enjoys seeing children spark curiosity about different foods, find joy in cooking and sharing a meal, and build confidence and pride in what they’ve made. She believes in the transformative power of knowing what’s in your food. In her classes, she works to ensure that children cook food that will nourish their bodies and minds. Alana loves baking, learning languages, exercising, and going to the beach.
Network Garden Manager
Emily Neustrom, born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, found her love of plants when working at the Acadiana Park Nature Station. She has a certification in horticultural therapy, and loves sensory plants, compost, beekeeping, and growing food. Emily believes that while health outcomes can be persuasive, the personal connections made between teachers, students, and each other in peaceful garden spaces are the most powerful outcomes of our program. She works to create gardens where youth can see, hear, smell, and exist in the world as equal and active participants. When she doesn’t have her hands in the dirt, she’s playing music, dancing, and laughing with family.
Associate Garden Educator, Wheatley
The daughter of a garden teacher, Marlena Nip grew up in Alameda, CA. With a love of teaching gardening and cooking instilled in her at an early age, she became a FoodCorps service member in Hawaii, and then oversaw the FoodCorps program in Mississippi before joining the ESYNOLA team. Marlena loves the ownership children take over the school garden. After seeing students who struggle in the classroom work hard so they can have extra garden time, she believes the garden has the power to heal. When she’s not teaching, cooking, making kombucha, and doing yoga in New Orleans, Marlena can be found backpacking in the mountains.
Lead Garden Educator, Green
Zach O’Donnell, the son of science teachers in Chicago, has been an educator since 2006. He has a science teaching certificate from San Francisco State University, a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, and a B.S. in Biology from Saint Louis University. Before joining ESYNOLA, Zach lived in Mozambique where he worked as a field agronomist. Using gardens as educational spaces combines Zach’s passions for science, growing food, education, and playing in the dirt. When he’s not teaching garden classes or laying under trees and looking up, he is probably going for a very long run.
Originally from Mobile, AL, Kerrie Partridge grew up in a family of gardeners and fishermen. After exploring teaching children in sculptural welding, dance, and Montessori pre-school, Kerrie earned her B.A. in Education and Human Development from the University of New Orleans. After years as a school teacher, Kerrie became interested in the ways social determinants of health impacted children’s learning and development. This led her to a Masters in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from Tulane University. After serving children for more than 15 years, Kerrie holds the conviction that we build a strong community when we nourish children as whole and precious beings, and support them in their path to self discovery. When she is out in the world, Kerrie is a creator, dog lover, dinosaur-glitterer, dancer, star seeker, and yoga teacher.
Lead Garden Educator, Wheatley
Charlotte Steele hails from New Jersey, but it was in Michigan where she discovered the magic that is local food and farmers markets that inspired her lifelong love for food and the people who grow it. As an educator, she places importance on the therapeutic aspects of nature and community. Charlotte uses Emotional Freedom Techniques and other brain-based strategies to help children learn how to identify their needs and meet them self-sufficiently. She has been garden education staff at Wheatley since our program began there, and she believes that food is life. Don’t be surprised if you see the garden teacher students lovingly know as “Ms. Charlotte Cantaloupe” fiercely skating with the Big Easy Rollergirls.
City Year Garden Educator, Wheatley
Marleina Walters is from Scarsdale, New York. She has experience working in greenhouses, citrus groves, and rose gardens, and with children and special needs populations. Marleina found a way to connect her interest in working with children, plants, and animals in the Wheatley garden. She loves her role as a garden teacher because every lesson she teaches directly involves the outdoors and fresh food. She believes that students will lead a more wholesome and fruitful life because of the ESYNOLA curriculum. When she’s not teaching, Marleina can be found roaming the French Quarter in the rain, hiking a distant mountain, or perhaps, having a conversation with a whimsical turtle.