Meet Our Team

Eric Eisner

President and Founder

Eric Eisner graduated from Columbia College in 1970 and Columbia Law School in 1973 and practiced entertainment law in Los Angeles until 1980, when he became president of the David Geffen Company. Ten years later the company was sold to Universal and Eric retired. Soon after, inspired by Dorothy Courtney of the Richstone Family Center, Eric began to work with academically gifted kids from impoverished areas of Los Angeles. His fascination with education evolved observing the experience of his own children, Charles and Louis, at the elite schools of Los Angeles. In 1999 Eric began what was destined to become YES.

Rebecca Tucker

Executive Director

Rebecca Tucker joined the YES team in 2016 after spending 15-years working in the entertainment industry. She began her career in the Publications Department of International Creative Management in New York City. After moving to Los Angeles, she held positions at Cruise/Wagner Productions, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at CBS, and in 2011 was named President of Green Mountain West, Ferguson’s film and television production company at CBS Television Studios, where she oversaw all day-to-day aspects of the company’s development, production and business operations. Originally from South Carolina, she attended the all-girls boarding school, Chatham Hall, in Chatham, Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rebecca is excited to transition her professional experience in writing, communications, management and corporate partnerships to benefit and further YES’reach.

Daniel Betancourt

YES Educator

Daniel Betancourt joined YES in the summer of 2016 as an assistant to the Chicago program. Raised in Miami, Daniel graduated from the University of Chicago in 2016 where he studied philosophy and religion. Daniel was immediately attracted to the YES mission and joined the team upon graduation. Daniel supports students at every level, from running YES sessions to providing mentoring and academic tutoring to our YES Scholars in high school.

Harold “Hank” Handelsman

YES Chicago

Harold S. Handelsman has been Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Pritzker Organization, LLC, a private investment firm, since 1998. He was with a predecessor firm since 1978. Hank was a senior executive officer of Hyatt Corporation for 36 years, retiring as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. He is a director of a number of private corporations and is actively engaged as a private investor focusing on real estate and oil and gas. He is a member of the advisory boards of two successful “angel funds”.

Ciji Henderson

YES Chicago Program and Community Development Manager

Ciji Henderson joined YES Chicago in the summer of 2017, with over 10 years of experience in education along with a Masters of Education from Dominican University. She began her professional career as a fifth grade teacher in the Chicago Public School system, working with high poverty and “at-risk” communities. The climate of the neighborhoods forced her to focus daily on creating a classroom environment where students felt empowered, comfortable,and could concentrate on learning. Ciji is currently serving her third term as President of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club, where she dedicates her time to developing and promoting opportunities for women and children to take part in the game she loves. Under her leadership, “The Chicago Women’s Golf Club Community Excellence Scholarship” was developed. Ciji continues to serve on nonprofit boards whose missions align with her passion for impacting and empowering young people. She will be using her experience and enthusiasm in Chicago to develop stronger community ties, support expansion efforts within Chicago, and lead the addition of a community-service component to the Chicago program.

Elizabeth Hernandez

Director of Student Support and Admissions

Elizabeth Hernandez joined YES in summer 2013. She is a native of Los Angeles’ South Bay and attended schools in the Lawndale, Lennox, and Centinela Valley School Districts. Elizabeth currently has a son entering his second year at the University of Maryland-College Park. She graduated from the University of Phoenix in 2006 with a B.A. in Science and Human Services. For the past 26 years, Elizabeth worked passionately for the Lawndale Elementary School District at Jane Addams Middle School where she worked as office manager, counselor, mentor, and cheerleading coach. Elizabeth’s passion is working with children and building life-long relationships with them and their families.

Justin Hicks

YES NYC Educator

Justin Hicks joined YES in August 2013 after a year-of-service internship with the Episcopal Urban Internship Program. Born and raised in North Carolina, Justin graduated from Appalachian State University in 2012 where he participated in various college access programs, including Upward Bound and Gear Up. After living and working with YES in Los Angeles and New York City, he is thrilled to program some of the same experiences for students in Appalachia. To learn more about Justin, visit his site.

Lily McKeage

NYC Program Director

Lily McKeage grew up in New York City and joined YES-NYC as Program Director in summer 2016. After graduating from Rice University in 2009, Lily received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English and Science at a middle school in Madrid, Spain. Lily recently completed her Masters in Higher Education at Harvard, focusing on college access and persistence for historically underrepresented students. With her background in literature, language instruction, and visual art, Lily encourages students to explore their own thinking through a variety of media. Lily is also supporting YES’s first NYC cohort with applying, planning and transitioning to college. After many years away from NYC, Lily was drawn back by YES’s mission and the opportunity to work with incredible students.

April Rosner

College to Career Support & Development Associate

April Rosner joined YES in August 2017. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, and graduated from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 2015 with a BS in Biopsychology, Cognition, Neuroscience, and English. She has been tutoring students in English, math, and standardized test preparation for 11 years, and in college, spent time working with literacy programs serving Detroit public schools. After college, she worked for the Surgery Education Department at UCLA. She is passionate about helping underserved populations, and brings her experience with education, research, writing, and technology to support YES!

Susan Saule

YES Appalachia Program Manager

Susan Saule joined YES in summer 2017. She grew up just outside Washington DC and finished at Mary Washington College with a BS in Psychology and a BA in English. The experiences of teaching in Japan, finishing graduate school and working with a church’s youth ministry shaped Susan’s passion for teaching and learning from middle schoolers. She taught at a public middle school teaching English and math to English Language Learners in Arlington, VA before moving to Pennsylvania for the opportunity to work with adolescents and young adults navigating the transition from pediatric to adult health care at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Susan is excited for the opportunity to be based in Boone, NC to cultivate curiosity and discovery within students.

Greg Smith

Chicago Program Manager

Greg joined YES in 2014 after a twelve-year tenure at Brentwood School, one of Los Angeles’ top independent schools after graduating with a Masters in Music from DePaul University in 1998. He has worked in the arts and education worlds for over twenty years, writing and playing professionally as a composer and jazz pianist in addition to teaching. Greg returned to Chicago in 2014 to join Hank Handelsman in heading the new YES-Chicago program at the University of Chicago Woodlawn Charter School.

Silvana Szpoganicz

Financial Analyst

Silvana Szpoganicz joined YES in July 2014. Prior to joining YES, Silvana worked for a range of publicly traded companies and non-profit organizations. With over ten years of experience in accounting and financial analysis, Silvana’s knowledge has allowed her to help corporations and organizations large and small become financially stable by implementing internal controls for the overall function of the organization.

Rachel Torrey

Director of Programs

Rachel Torrey co-founded HYPE Los Angeles and was responsible for the day to day programming for all of the HYPE students for five years. She is from outside Washington DC and is the product of Montgomery County Public schools. Rachel attended Washington University in St Louis, where she majored in biology and minored in ballet. Upon graduating in 2005, Rachel joined the Los Angeles Teach for America corps. She taught 7th and 8th grade science in LAUSD at Johnnie Cochran Middle School for three years. In addition to teaching, Rachel was the Science Department chair, mentor teacher, technology coordinator, and cheerleading coach. She most recently taught at ICEF View Park Prep Charter Middle School in South Los Angeles, where she was the 2009 ICEF Middle School Teacher of the Year. She has also worked for Teach for America as a Learning Team Facilitator and Institute Curriculum Specialist. Rachel earned her MA in Teaching from Loyola Marymount University and her MA in School Administration from California State University, Northridge.

Alex Warren

NYC Lead Educator

Alex Warren joined YES in August 2016 as Lead Educator. After growing up in the DC Metro Area, she graduated from Lehigh University with a BA in Mathematics and a Masters in Secondary Education. Following several years of traveling and teaching in alternative settings overseas, she decided to return to the US for the opportunity to join YES’s team, develop its creative curriculum, and work with students long-term. She is passionate about building strong relationships with her students and using Math as a literacy development tool.

Emily Werner

YES Educator

Emily Werner, a native Los Angelino, joined the YES team in fall of 2016. As the daughter of two Harvard-Westlake teachers and an alumnus of The John Thomas Dye School and Harvard-Westlake, both schools where YES places Scholars, she brings with her a unique perspective and familiarity (including first hand experience) with the educational landscape of Los Angeles.
Emily attended Carleton College in Minnesota where she majored in International Relations and studied abroad in Denmark. After graduating, she spent six months traveling and working in New Zealand. Emily’s initial career path took her to Washington, D.C., where she worked on international policy with a non-profit organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. Ultimately, her desire to work with youth and positively impact their lives brought her back to L.A. Prior to joining YES, Emily was the Executive Assistant to the Headmaster at The John Thomas Dye School. Emily has been an advocate of YES for over three years and is excited to bring her varied experience and passion for learning to the program.