Brett Cohen, Board Chair
President, Quirk Books

Brett Head Shot 2.jpg

Brett is president of Quirk Books, an independent book publisher based in Philadelphia, best-known for the international best sellers Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and other strikingly unconventional books. Brett graduated from The Pennsylvania State University and has enjoyed a career in developing and driving business strategy for emerging companies. He is an author and active member of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Trade Executive Committee. In addition to Tree House, Brett is also currently serving as President of the SCI Board, a non-profit dedicated to sharing the summer camp experience with children from under-represented backgrounds.

 Kristin Kiser, Vice Chair & Chair, Philadelphia Literacy Day

Publisher, Running Press

Kristin Kiser was appointed Vice President and Publisher of Running Press Publishers in May 2015 to oversee the publishing programs that make up Running Press: Adult Trade, RP Kids, and RP Miniature Editions.  Reporting to Kiser is the staff of the Philadelphia-headquartered publisher ― including editorial, marketing/publicity, design, and the miniature editions program. Running Press publishes books and book product that amaze, delight, inspire and entertain readers with innovative formats and irresistible packages. In 2018 Kiser launched another imprint at Running Press with RP Studio, a line of stationery and gift books with a unique point of view and joyful spirit that serves to amplify and enhance the work of Running Press’s creative partners.

In 2017 Kiser also was appointed Publisher of Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, a New York based company which specializes in beautifully designed and packaged high-end gift and reference books. Her additional responsibilities include overseeing the editorial and marketing/publicity departments for the BDL staff.  Running Press and Black Dog & Leventhal are part of the Hachette Book Group, the New York-based publishing arm of the French company Hachette Livre.

Before joining Running Press, Kiser was Vice President & Deputy Publisher at Rodale. Prior to that, Kiser was Vice President & Associate Publisher at Hyperion/ABC-Disney, and Editorial Director of Crown Publishers, part of Random House.

Jennifer Liharik, Board Secretary


Jennifer Liharik is a strategic marketer with a focus on developing growth opportunities, producing actionable strategic plans, and creating data-driven communications. Over the last six years, Jennifer has run a writing and marketing services business focused on international technology companies while living in Budapest, Hungary and in Warsaw, Poland. She also advised Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Warsaw on annual planning, communications, and mentor recruitment during their first two years of operation in Poland. Jennifer holds a B.A. in Psychology from George Washington University and an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland.

Yuliya Ostapenko, Board Treasurer

Yuliya Ostapenko

Yuliya is a licensed CPA specializing in nonprofit sector at CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA). She has over 12 years of experience in public accounting with Deloitte and has recently joined CLA practice in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Yuliya’s technical experience includes compliance with US GAAP, SOX, SEC regulations, PCAOB, AICPA, and governmental auditing standards. She has been serving nonprofit sector since 2007 with clients including major institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Yuliya holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Odessa Environmental University and a bachelor’s degree in business with the concentration in accounting, finance, and international business from Drexel University. In the past, Yuliya has been involved with Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk as a member of support crew. Yuliya joined Tree House Books board in 2018.     

Melissa Ash, Board Member & Chair, Fund Development Committee

Executive Council of Team First Book Philadelphia

Melissa Ash has been an active member of the community, working with various organizations across the Philadelphia area to help promote literacy and guide students through the college application process.  She has led several college application and essay workshops at Mighty Writers, helping high school students navigate through the college admissions process and prepare their essays.  Finally, Melissa serves as the District Enrollment Director for Dartmouth College, coordinating their Philadelphia alumni interviewing program.  Prior to her work in the community, Melissa was the Director of Strategic Alliances for Destination Maternity where she built and managed highly successful partnerships with leading companies including Huggies, Similac, Fisher Price and Parenting magazine. She graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in English.

Robert Borenstein, Board Member
Owner, Financial Director of Apple Child Care Center and Appletree Childcare & Learning Center, N.E. Philadelphia

Bob Borenstein.png

Bob has been in the preschool space since 2004 and operates two high-quality Keystone Star-3 certified childcare centers in N.E. Philadelphia.  The centers offer exciting structured educational experiences supported by engaged classroom staff, which help children develop social, emotional, language, cognitive, creative arts, and gross motor skills that lead to success.  

For the past three years Bob has worked as a business advisor with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, both for the national program and locally in Philadelphia.  As a business advisor, Bob helps business owners develop growth strategies, gain skills, improve business practices, increase revenues, add new jobs and contribute to the general economy.

Currently, Bob is working for Power Up Your Business, a Philadelphia-based program that helps local business owners learn skills, set goals and implement tactical improvement plans to help grow their businesses.

In addition, Bob is treasurer, board member of Settlement Music School, Kardon N.E. Branch, Philadelphia.  

Lula Defersha, Board Member
New Voices for Reproductive Justice - Associate Director

John Fleming, Board Member


Since 2004, John has been assisting independent, private, and charter K12 schools primarily in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. with their infrastructure and classroom technologies – from the wires in the ceilings, to the SmartBoards on the walls. Beyond Tree House Books, John has been an active volunteer firefighter with Wyndmoor Hose Company for almost two decades and manages finances for the department, serves on the board of Blossom Philadelphia – who provides programs and services for children and adults with severe and complex intellectual and physical disabilities, and is often found volunteering with local animal rescue organizations such as New Leash on Life or the Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computing technology from Drexel University and various certifications in rescue and emergency services.

Kathryn Hastings, Ed.D., Board Member
Assistant Professor and Director of Reading Programs, Loeb School of Education, Eastern University

Kathy is a professor in the education department at Eastern University where she is the director of reading programs and teaches literacy courses in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. Her areas of interest include early literacy, critical literacy, and culturally responsive and socially just teaching practices. In 2014, Kathy and her students became involved at Tree House, and in 2015 she joined the Board, where she is a member of the program committee. In addition, Kathy serves on the instructional strategy committee of the Read by 4th campaign.

Tre Johnson, Board Member
Writer focused on race, class and culture

Aliya Johnson-Roberts, Board Member
Owner, Bustleton Child Care Centers

aliya johnson roberts.jpg

Aliya Johnson-Roberts has been the Executive Director and Co-owner of Pratt Street Learning Center & Bustleton Learning Center for the past ten years. Over this time, she has pursued many quality initiative programs that would help build the quality of her programs, including Success by 6. Ultimately, her program became a STARS 4 site allowing them to receive the Fund for Quality grant, from which came Bustleton Learning Center.

Aliya puts forth great effort to stay actively involved in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and business fields. She serves on the PACCA Board of Directors, is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10KSB program, has spoken on and/or participated in a number of ECE panels and focus groups, and is currently participating in the ECE Fellowship cohort. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Arcadia University and will be pursuing her Ph.D. in the Fall. All of these efforts will help her and her programs reach a part of their vision which is to become a hub in the Philadelphia community and a model program in ECE with strong, successful business and educational practices.

Grace Manning, Board Member & Event Chair, Champions of Literacy
Social Impact and Administration, Saxbys 


Grace Manning is the Manager of Social Impact and Administration at Saxbys, a hospitality company that runs a chain of almost 30 cafes and is focused heavily on transforming education through their Experiential Learning Program at higher ed universities. In her role, she manages all of the company's community outreach, partnerships, scholarship programs, and social impact work throughout the neighborhoods that Saxbys' serves. With a background in education, she believes in the positive effect that teaching cultural and social responsibility early on can have on student outcomes and communities as a whole. Grace was a volunteer with Tree House Books all through her undergraduate time at Temple University, became reacquainted with the program in 2018, and shortly after joined the board. She is also on the Chamber of Commerce's Roadmap for Growth Education Subcommittee and is an active big sister for Big Brother Big Sisters. 

Cassandra Poland, Board Member
Owner, ComForCare Home Care of Montgomery County

171102_ComForcare_Day1_581 2.jpg

Cassandra is currently the business owner of ComForCare Home Care of Montgomery County. Her agency provides private duty home care services for seniors and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The agency serves clients in Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. She has been a Junior Achievement corporate and individual volunteer, inspiring and preparing young people to succeed.

Janine Spruill, Board Member
Founder/Executive Director, Lil Filmmakers


Janine Spruill is the founder and the Executive Director of Lil Filmmakers. A native of the Mantua section of West Philadelphia, Janine received her BA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University in 1999. During her senior year at Temple, Janine began Lil Filmmakers as a grassroot initiative to provide digital media and arts education to underserved youth. She designed the initiative to bridge the digital video technology and arts gap in low income communities and built a platform for youth to use art to share their unique stories. To date Janine has provided opportunity and resources for over 2000 youth and continues to provide arts education for dozens of communities throughout Philadelphia.

Past Board Members - Thank you for your service!

Holly Auer

Cassandra M. Bailey

Gregory Bonaparte

Jason Breinin

Wanda Brooks

Catherine Cavella

Johnathan Davis

Barbara Easley-Cox

Miriam Edelstein

Melody Holmes

Charles Ireland

Yvonne King

Indira Lawson

Star Bocasan Little

Samantha Lyons

Lisa Nwankwo

Bruce Schimmel

Andrew Starfield

Edward Swenson

Max Tuttleman

Jonathan Weiss