Community Scholars: Cohort VI

Cohort VI

Pictured Left to Right: Melanie Edwards, Chris Pellettieri, Debra Ann Byrd, Debbie Meyer, Karioki Crosby.

Project: Developing and producing “Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey,” a exploration of her journey while taking on the role of Othello, which will include a memoir, a published script, and a one-woman touring show.

Debra Ann Byrd is a fifth generation Harlem resident with a background in the performing arts as an actor, producer, arts manager, and business leader. Since beginning her career in the arts in 1990, she has appeared in productions across the county and founded Take Wing And Soar Productions, Inc., and the Harlem Shakespeare Festival. She has also received many awards, including the NAACP Shirley Farmer Woman of Excellence Award and the 2013 Take Wing And Soar Founder’s Award. Ms. Byrd has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College, as well as further training at Shakespeare & Company, the Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, and the Arts Leadership Institute at Columbia University and Teachers College.

Project: Developing a “Harlem Maker Expo,” consisting of an annual exhibition of creative coding and physical computing projects from after school and weekend workshops.

Karioki Crosby is an educator with a STEAM focus who works in New York City museums and public schools, as well as being a practicing artist, a robotics coach, and a coding mentor. He currently works at Figure Skating in Harlem creating the STEAM curriculum and instructing young girls in that area. Mr. Crosby also volunteers at Citizen Schools and holds semi-monthly hackathon workshops at Spotify, HIP HOP HACKS, and the NYU Creative Code Festival. Last year, he partnered with the Department of Education to create a robotics curriculum that he teaches in NYC public schools.

Project: Writing a biography of her grandfather J. Rosamond Johnson, who was an actor, composer, musicologist, and author.

Melanie Edwards worked in education for forty years, primarily at The Modern School, where she was a teacher as well as the Director of Curriculum Development, among other roles. Following the closing of The Modern School, she has worked at Fordham University, the Schomburg Library, and the East Harlem Council for Community Improvement. Throughout her career in education, she has maintained an interest in photography. Ms. Edwards has a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Emerson College.

Project: Creating an organization to address the systemic issues and the policies that allow dyslexic students and struggling readers to fail, including pressuring universities to address these issues in their teaching programs.

Debbie Meyer is a non-profit fundraising and strategic planning professional and an active volunteer. Ms. Meyer served on the Women's City Club Physical Education Task Force (2011 to 2014) and is currently a member of the Board of Directors, and the Education Policy Committee. She also serves on the Citizens’ Committee for Children’s Advocacy Council, and on the Advocates for Children Arise Coalition. In spring 2013, she led the advocacy efforts of the public, progressive, and small Central Park East schools to expand with a combined middle school. Previously, she served on the boards of directors of College and Community Fellowship and Phys Ed Plus.

Project: Developing skills and knowledge in support of his nonprofit Pellettieri Stone Carvers’ Academy, with the goal of being able to expand the training offerings.

Chris Pellettieri, professional stone carver and native of Morningside Heights, is the founder and executive director of Pellettieri Stone Carvers’ Academy, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting stone carving and which offers training in the traditional methods. After attending the Cathedral School and Stuyvesant High School, Mr. Pellettieri found his way to the Cathedral stoneyard where he trained in stone carving. In addition to his training in stonework at Cathedral Stoneworks and Artida Atelier, he has a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from New York University.