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.

Alina Beruff

Executive Director

Alina Beruff joined YES in the fall of 2011 as Director of Development and became YES’ Executive Director in 2014. She was born in Mexico and moved to Washington, DC as a young girl where she became passionate about helping underserved communities in the United States. Alina graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park in 2010, where she managed an advocacy program that improved outcomes for the local disadvantaged Latino community. Her love of education and children instantly drew her to YES. Alina oversees national programming and operations, ensuring YES’ mission is consistently executed. She is committed to building local and national partnerships with like-minded nonprofits to create an advocacy network. In collaboration, this network of organizations will be able to leverage shared resources and maximize students’ success across America.

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.

Chris Bonilla

YES Advisor

Chris Bonilla became involved with YES as a seventh grade student at Lennox Middle School in 1999. He was a student in the first class that Eric Eisner mentored. Along with three other students from Lennox, Chris attended the Summerbridge program at Brentwood School in the summer of 2000. The following year, Chris became the first of Eric’s students to be admitted to a private school when Brentwood School invited him to attend the ninth grade. Chris went on to attend Columbia University and graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in History. After graduation Chris came home to Lennox and worked for YES for two years as a Program Specialist. Chris is entering his third year at Columbia University Law School and currently leads the humanities and writing workshops at YES-NYC’s Saturday sessions.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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 Appalachia Program Manager

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.

Zuhair Khan

YES NYC Advisor

Zuhair Khan joined YES-NYC after graduating from Union College in the summer of 2014. He was raised in New York City and brings his experience as a beneficiary of structured mentorship support to YES scholars in Harlem, galvanizing their confidence by providing them a sense of individual responsibility for their success. He incorporates biology and physics into the standard YES curriculum and works with other YES-NYC staff to construct a curriculum and organize program events.

Laura Nichols

Appalachia Program Assistant

Laura Nichols joined YES in August 2016 as a graduate assistant with the Appalachia Program. She attends Appalachian State University where she is completing her MBA. She was born in North Carolina but moved to central Florida at a young age. She studied elementary education in college, but after moving back to North Carolina to attend Appalachian State, changed her major to psychology, then ultimately ended up with a marketing degree. She is looking forward to building new relationships and working with the students.

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.

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. He graduated from DePaul University in 1996 and has worked between the arts and education worlds for over twenty years, writing and playing professionally as a composer and jazz pianist in addition to his teaching. An alumnus of DePaul University, 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.

Zachary Susskind

YES NYC Advisor

Zachary Susskind joined YES in 2013 to develop and direct the New York branch of YES in Harlem. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and has been living in New York City since 2005. He graduated from New York University in 2009 and has been working in New York as an artist and educator ever since.

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.