Simone Sobers is the founder and President of Winsome Wishes for KIDS, Inc. (WWKIDS), a not-for-profit organization based in New York City. The organization’s primary goal is to obtain and grant academic resources, professional development for teachers, and financial assistance to schools in need. Simone’s passion for her island homeland coupled with her determination to provide an exceptional education for the children of Jamaica who struggle with learning challenges is reflected in WWKIDS’ mission.
Simone is the mother of two children who graduated from NYC independent schools. Her understanding of the value of a strong educational foundation is always present in her personal and professional life. As a Management Accountant at St. Bernard’s School in New York City since 2003, Simone enjoys her role as an active member of the school community, having served on many committees. Currently, she is the co-chair of the Community Service Committee after having served on both the Multicultural and Conduct Committees. Simone has a unique ability to organize student-led drives and collect tangible donations like reading books, computers, and school equipment. She also serves as a director on the board of Empower Youth Corp(EYC) - empowering Ugandan children through sports and VPS Alumni Ja. Chapter.
She has always been quick to recognize a need and immediately collected coats and rain-boots after the floods damaged parts of Jamaica in 2008. Giving back holds great importance to Simone and she had a moment of great pride when she was able to provide used books to her alma mater, Vaz Preparatory School, in Kingston, Jamaica. Simone’s successful ability to raise the funds necessary to provide assistance to students is apparent to all the donors who support her vision. Simone's energy and never-ending commitment to the needs of children in Jamaica make her a genuine asset to this cause. Her personal motto today and for the future is, “I’m not on earth for myself. I am here to help whomever, whenever and wherever possible”.
"My late sister was an inspiration to many, but especially to me. She showed me what compassion coupled with action can accomplish, and her legacy would remain incomplete if I were not to follow her example."
It is this spirit of giving back and sharing access to quality education upon which Winsome’s Wishes for KIDS was founded. Everyone deserves a great education, and not every child learns the same way: We are working to change the paradigm of education in Jamaica, one child at a time. I invite you to join me on this adventure!"
Stephen Aiken is the product of a spiritual and educational household. His father was a pastor and mother an educator, whose influences within the community helped to lay a strong foundation for many. Stephen credits them for his philanthropic and leadership DNA to this day and believes it was inevitable that he’d follow in their footsteps.
He is proud of his journey as he has traveled the world: He has served as a boys’ club President and 1st schoolboy coach at high school, and has taught, mentored, and coached in New York, Connecticut, and Georgia. For over 6 years, he served as president of his High school Alumni Association. He is admired as a man of GOD, a coach, counselor, coordinator, by many within the diaspora and in Jamaica. In particular, Stephen is proud to have continued his parents’ commitment to the Gideon Education Center in Jamaica, a preparatory school which his parents co-founded in 1970. He has been consistently involved with mentoring, advising, supporting and giving back to that community. He is involved in WWKIDS because he humbly recognizes the mission and vision of the non profit organization, and he believes a good education is the key and foundation to every child's success in life.
Neda Navab is from Tehran, Iran and has lived in the US since 1980. She had a career as a senior executive advertising and branding for national and international agencies in San Francisco and New York. She serves on several non-profit boards including New York Common Pantry and the Women's Committee of Central Park Conservancy.
She is the former President of the Brick Church Women’s Association and an Elder of the Brick Church serving on their Day School Committee for 6 years. Neda and her husband support educational non-profits including an ongoing relationship with the African Dream Academy in Liberia since its inception in 2012. They're the proud parents of 2 boys, ages 16 and 14 and reside in NYC. She's involved with WWKIDS because she believes all children and their teachers deserve access to training and support services so there is equity in the classroom.
Charmane Wong Esq. has been practicing law for decades, having attained her JD at West Virginia College of law in 1988, and she's licensed to practice in the state of New York. She is well-qualified for her role as Board Director of WWKIDS, based on her professional experience working in the child and services industries since the late 1990s.
Charmane has been consistently involved in community volunteer work even while raising two kids (one biological, one adopted) and pursuing her professional goals. Most recently these include Birch Family Services, Edwin Gould Services for Children & Families (as Director of Human Services at both) and Graham Windham (as Vice President), all in New York. She has served as a Board Member and Vice President of Programs at the Pelham Children’s Center and has supported numerous causes and organizations in Jamaica and in the Greater New York area. Her engagement with WWKids as a Board Director is just another step in her commitment to making a difference in as many lives as she’s able to. Charmane is presently the president of the Board of Directors of New York City Early Learning Company, an organization serving at-risk children in New York City.
Karlene Crossdale, BSN, RN
Karlene Crossdale is a Registered Professional Nurse specializing in Adult Gastroenterology at The Northwell Health Systems in Long Island, NY and a recipient of the 2014 Northwell Health System Hospitality Agent Award. She's a member of the Health and Wellness Ministry of the St. John's United Methodist Church, Elmont, NY.
Karlene has actively served on numerous non-profit boards in the Jamaican Diaspora and in New York as she is committed to the enhancement of children's education. Her love of early childhood education was instilled early as the daughter of an early childhood educator in Kingston, Jamaica. Karlene is the Benefactor of two orphaned children in De La Vega City, Spanish Town and one orphaned child in Ginger Hill, St. Elizabeth. She is the biological mother of two teenagers.
Annie Zheng is a Director and Treasurer of WWKIDS. The organization’s mission is close to Annie’s heart after witnessing a close family member dealing with a severe learning disability. Her first exposure in the education field was soon after the birth of her son. For three years, Annie was the owner and Program Director of The Mandarin Treehouse, a language program for young children based in New York City.
Previously, Annie had over ten years of experience in real estate financing and debt capital markets; she worked for GE Real Estate, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette. Annie received her Master of Business Administration degree in Finance from New York University, Stern School of Business and her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University. She and her husband have a teenage son and reside on the West Coast.
Rochelle Cohen-Levine has a Masters Degree from Columbia University Teachers College in Learning Disabilities. Rochelle worked at St. Bernard's School as the Director of Special Learning for 23 years. In this role, she advised teachers and parents; acted as a liaison with therapists and medical professional in the field of learning disabilities to help identify children at risk for learning disabilities.
Rochelle has also presented at ATIS conferences as well as the International Boys School Coalition Global Conference on Identifying Boys at Risk for Learning Disabilities. Rochelle is pleased to be part of Winsome Wishes for KIDS (WWKIDS) and to offer her expertise in the field of Learning Disabilities and Dyslexia. She believes that providing teachers and schools with tools for early identification and remediation is key to academic success.
Sandra Bramwell-Rose is the Founder and Executive Director of Versan Educational Services, the premier Caribbean educational consulting and test prep firm, headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica. Versan is dedicated to helping hard-working Jamaican students achieve admission to highly selective colleges, universities and boarding schools in the United States and Canada.
Since 1995, Sandra and her team have guided thousands of students though the application process, receiving 12,000 acceptances at a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs, including all Ivy League Schools. The firm has also had significant success placing Jamaican students in boarding schools abroad. Versan offers students tutorials in preparation for the SAT, SSAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT admissions tests, and one-on-one consulting for each individual educational plan. Sandra has extensive involvement in curriculum development and in managing teachers affiliated with Versan’s programs. Prior to launching Versan, Sandra received a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the American University of Paris, and a Masters’ in Public Administration from Columbia University. She is a polyglot, fluent in eight languages – English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Her experiences at Versan have helped Sandra realize that every student can learn if given the right resources and support. She is delighted to be involved in Winsome Wishes for KIDS’ effort to empower children with learning challenges and disabilities; with the resources to enhance their learning experiences. Sandra believes WWKIDS commitment and vested individuals to see their mission come to fruition, will set off that light bulb in the minds of the young so they want to continue learning, continue reading, continue creating. WWKIDS will be a new paradigm for Jamaica’s continued evolvement into the future!
Ronique Holgate Is an educator and author who has a passion for adventure, reading, and improving literacy in children. It is her firm belief that the ability to read combined with critical thinking acquired through the use of puzzles and science; forms the platform that children need in order to succeed in life.
As a Jamaican native, she has travelled into various nooks and crannies of the island whether for scuba diving or family road trips. This has fuelled her desire to share these experiences through children's books and other fun, yet educational material. Her role as a wife and mother to two beautiful girls, has enriched her life and cemented her desire to produce material for children that showcases diversity and adventure using her travel experiences at home. A life-long learner, she voraciously devours new courses on different subject areas in order to broaden her thinking and creative skills. Her first book Kingston Zooventure is one of many to come as she seeks to take children both local and international on the various adventures which can be enjoyed in Jamaica - Land we love.
You can contact her at email@example.com or you can connect with her @author.roniqueholgate on Instagram.
Pam Loree has dedicated her life to teaching young children. She earned an undergraduate degree from The University of North Texas in 1971 and a MS degree in Family and Child Development from Kansas State University in 1974, where she taught in the Early Childhood Lab School. In 1976, Pam became the head kindergarten teacher for a dozen years at The Episcopal School in New York City.
Pam moved to St. Bernard's School to teach first grade for nine years, where she helped to create a kindergarten for the school, and happily taught there for 23 years. She retired in June of 2019, having spent 43 years loving her rewarding experience in teaching 5 and 6 year olds in New York City without regrets.
"Building academic skills and learning about how to be part of a community are essentials for educating young children. The foundation of skills and citizenship is to understand and support the social and emotional development of children, with a commitment to the growth of their character. This is the aspect of teaching that I always found to be the most absorbing. Simone Sobers and I were colleagues and friends at St. Bernard's School. Then in 2005, I was lucky enough to teach her son when he was a kindergarten student. Working with Simone in her capacity as a parent enhanced my admiration for her; I respected her understanding and advocacy for her son as a little boy, and in the ensuing years as she guided him, and her daughter, into young adulthood. I, Pam Loree, am happy for the opportunity to be an Advisor for Winsome Wishes for KIDS (WWKIDS), and to work with Simone on such a worthy educational project. She has professionally and passionately identified a group of underserved students in her home country of Jamaica. Simone has outlined the needs of students and teachers with the READY program. In addition, building the link with the Windward School will have far reaching consequences for both students and teachers in Jamaica." - Pam Loree
Heather Smith is an Assoc. Director at a liberal arts college in the Hudson Valley, NY where she has been employed in the Advancement Office since 2012. She brings to WWKids her vast experience in higher education development and corporate America - where she worked in the architecture, television journalism, and tech start-up industries.
She attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY for a BA in Behavioral Science; and SUNY Empire State, Saratoga Springs, NY, for an MA in Social and Public Policy with a certificate in NonProfit Management. Heather serves as a consultant to non-profits, and is also a Board Member-at-large of the New York regional chapter of an international industry group. She hails from St. Vincent & the Grenadines and is the biological mother of an adult son and the adopted mother of an adult daughter. She is honored to hold the title of Volunteer Executive Director of WWKids, and is committed to working to achieve educational equity in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Tajae Bailey serves as volunteer Social Media Manager.
I have always had a passion for reading and collecting books. As a child, I was always reading and going to the bookstore to get more books. I even did courses at university that would foster this guilty pleasure of mine. When I met Ms Sobers and she told me about Winsome Wishes for Kids, I had no choice but to be a part of an organisation with such incredible values. It brings me joy to know that I am a part of something impactful and in some way fostering the development of my country -Jamaica. Reading is indeed fundamental, and every child should be given a chance to learn how to read regardless of their aptitude.
Geraldine Reid Education Advisor and Liaison
She is a mom, wife, an advocate for literacy and an avid Volunteer. A graduate of Shortwood Teachers College and University of the West Indies Jamaica with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. Her motto is “Working together for the greater good of children” which affirms her beliefs that although Learning is a lifelong process, with best practices, each child can reach their full potential and be of great value to society. She was very elated to join Winsome Wishes for KIDS as she knows that this team is totally dedicated to the mission of promoting literacy in children across Jamaica and is very proud to be a part of such a movement for her country.