Student and Staff Chaperone Bio's:

Nick Tapino 

Bonjour! My name is Nick Tapino. I am a founding teacher at Essex Street Academy and have been the school’s assistant principal since 2016. I was born in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy, and moved to Brooklyn as a toddler to attend New York City public schools. I graduated from Brown University and Roskilde University in Denmark. I speak 5 languages, including French. I have been invested in our Ambassador program for 6 years now and have grown to love witnessing how attached our ESA students become to their host families. I am excited and ready to partake in a new journey with this amazing group of ambassadors.

Eris Johnson Smith
Hi! I'm Eris Johnson-Smith and I'm from Western Massachusetts now living with my family in Brooklyn. I earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Hampshire College and MA in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU.  Before coming to Essex Street Academy in 2016, I worked for Global Kids, a human rights education and youth development non-profit organization. Currently, I am the Director of Community Engagement at ESA and facilitates the Peer Mediation program and Town Meeting elective, while also teaching the Social Justice class and a social studies elective. I am very excited for the trip to France and can't wait to experience this opportunity with all of the ambassadors as well. 

Olivia Valentin

Bonjour! My name is Olivia Valentin and I am a senior at Essex Street Academy. I have been studying French for 3 years and have been part of the ambassadors for 2 years. I plan on studying education in an out of state college to pursue my goal of becoming a 5th grade teacher. I’ve been drawn to the French culture after learning about the places that I can visit and what I can experience there. This will be the first time that I am leaving the country and I’m excited to experience something new and different what I grew up with. I can’t wait to see new landscapes and I especially can’t wait to eat some amazing food.     

Eva Pilay

Hello. My name is Eva. I'm seventeen years old. My birthday is on August twenty-third. I am Ecuadorian American and I live in Brooklyn, New York. I'm a senior in high school. I took French for 3 years. Eventually, I want to become a plastic surgeon, but right now I am a student in high school. I like to travel and I am very excited to travel to Paris and meet French natives. I want to go to France because I enjoy traveling and going to new places. I want to challenge myself and learn something completely different. I especially want to to try escargot and be educated in another country with my friends.

Cerina Shippey

Hello My name is Cerina, I’m 16 and attend Essex Street Academy. I’ve loves French culture since I was a kid. I remember begging my mom to buy me a French music CD when I was 5. After that moment I knew French would be the language for me

Jaliyah Mahoney

Bonjour! My name is Jaliyah Mahoney and I am fifteen year old sophomore student at Essex Street Academy. Although I am timid, people who know me describe me as funny and intelligent. I am honored to have been selected to go abroad with my fellow student ambassadors. This will be my first time traveling out of the country. I am so exited to learn a new culture, meet new people and get a sense as to what the world is like outside of the United States.

Robenia Herbert 

Bonjour, my name is Robenia. I am fifteen years old, but when I go to France I will be sixteen. I am a sophomore in French Two. I enjoy French class because Stacy teaches us things that we can actually say in real life. I also enjoy learning about new cultures, but the only thing better than learning is experiencing something new. Memories​​ aren't something that a person can replace and I am glad that I've been given this great opportunity.

Stacy Blair 

My name is Stacy, and I teach French at ESA. I started studying French in high school and have never been able to stop! I studied abroad while in college, and it was in Aix-en-Provence that I decided to teach French. I've studied and taught in France for three years and return whenever possible to inform my professional practice as well as to partake in French culture... and eat all the French food I can! I look forward to helping provide life-changing experiences abroad for the amazing young people I serve each day. 

Tae Hale 

Hi! My name is Tae, I’m eighteen, and I’m a senior at Essex Street Academy. I’m  currently deep into my college applications in my pursuit of possibly becoming a photographer, anthropologist, or an art teacher. I’ve visited France before, but that was years ago and I knew virtually nothing about the city when I went. Now, since I’ve been studying the language, culture, and history of the country, I am so excited to visit again! Shoutout to Stacy and Nick for making this trip possible.

Allyn Irby
Bonjour!, My name is Allyn I am in 10th grade. I am 15 years old, I love to play a lot of video games and I like learning new things. When I came to ESA, I didn't expect to take French I wanted to learn Spanish instead. But a lot of people were taking Spanish or already know how to speak it so I decided to learn something new like French. When I started to learn French I immediately fell in love with it just because of the way it sounded and speaking it felt amazing. I never traveled outside the country before, when I heard you could go to France I was so happy. I quickly signed up to join The French Ambassadors and hoped go to France. France is a beautiful country to visit. It is so rich in architectural design and amazing. Now that I have the opportunity to go there and learn about a different culture and see new things, I'm really excited

Maria Perez

Bonjour! My name is Maria. I am sixteen years old and I’m a senior at Essex Street Academy. I always had a fascination with the french language since a young age. I was very excited when I first came to ESA and learned about it’s french program. My hope is that we can raise enough funds to go to France. It would be such a wonderful opportunity to go to this beautiful country, to explore a new culture, meet new people, and see places I haven't seen before. This would be a dream come true.

Sky Benton

Bonjour! My name is Sky and I am sixteen years old. I have been taking French for three years now, and what really pushed me to take French was the Ambassador program. Every since I was younger I have been traveling but always to states and only once out of the country. I want to go to France because I believe traveling and experiencing other cultures really has an impact on our education. Also, since I was little I’ve wanted to go to Paris, and I had the opportunity to go for my sixteenth birthday but I chose to go with my school.

Nathalie Burgos 

Hey, I'm Nat. My birthday is on April 13. I was born on a Friday and I am currently sixteen. My favorite color is black. I'm an actress. I mostly listen to rap and old Spanish throw back songs. I'm Dominican but I was born in New York. I also have a tomato plant named Timothy, who I love very much. I believe going to France will be a good opportunity to expand my wisdom by being exposed to such rich culture and lovely people. Learning French has been very easy to me because of the fact I'm already bilingual. Traveling to France will enhance my abilities and bring some clarity of what exactly I want to do in the future like maybe even move to France when I'm older!

Laisha Canales 

Bonjour!! je m'appelle Laisha. I was born in the Bronx but my parents are from Honduras. I'm in love with a lot of different types of music and love attending concerts as well. I have a sister that is 12 and she’s also my best friend. I have volunteered with the elderly and it was a very fun and interesting experience. I’ve never been out of the US sadly but I’d like to experience new things and would like to do that by experiencing a place as beautiful as France first. Thank you and Au Revoir!!!

Carlos Rolon 

Bonjour! My name is Carlos Rolon Jr. and I’m a junior at Essex Street Academy. I love to act and I’ve been in several plays throughout my years in high school. I starred in “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Fences,” “Diary of Anne Frank,” and I’m currently working on my fourth play. This will be the first time that I will be visiting France and getting out of my own country. I’m so excited to go to France and experience a completely different culture!

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