Meet Our Team
Alaina Daniels | they/she
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Alaina Daniels has devoted her career in education to elevating the voices of her transgender sisters and siblings in order to center, celebrate and protect transgender youth. A white, queer, neurodivergent, nonbinary trans woman, Alaina loves being both a mirror and a window for adolescents as they figure out their identities and find their voices in the world. Alaina has taught middle and high school science, activism, sex education, robotics, engineering, algebra, and queer media at New York City schools for over ten years including at Manhattan Country School, Bank Street School for Children, Brooklyn Friends, and the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
Presenting her work on social justice education and research at Tufts University Bank Street College, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Chapin School, Allen-Stevenson School, the Free Minds Free Peoples Conference, Math for America, the National Coalition of Girls Schools, and the Academy for Teachers, among other institutions, Alaina has a long history of helping others learn to strive for liberation in their educational practice. Alaina was one of the co-founders of the NYC Trans Educator Network and has served on several boards. Their work has also contributed to Black Lives Matter at NYC Schools. She passionately believes that science and math can be incredibly powerful tools to educate for liberation.
Growing up, she wanted to be the first person on Mars, a lighthouse operator, or a pirate. Part of her still hopes to do all three. Whenever they are not teaching or organizing with other rad educators, Alaina likes to play roller derby, sail, bike, or make a delicious mess (and clean it up) in her tiny East Village kitchen.
Amherst College, BA, Environmental History & Science
Smith College, MAT, Biological Sciences & Education
Columbia University, Sex Education Initiative Fellowship
Columbia University, Human Ecology Inquire Institute
Ro Peña | they/elle
Co-Founder & Director of Programming
Ro Peña is a non-binary Afro-Caribbean Dominican from Washington Heights, NYC. Over the last ten years, Ro has taught a variety of learners from first through sixth grade in public, charter, and private schools. Most recently, they served as second grade head teacher and team leader at Bank Street School for Children.
An experienced progressive educator and a 2021 Jamrog Group Educator Appreciation Project Honoree, Ro continues to facilitate many summer and afterschool enrichment programs and provides one-on-one academic support to students.
Ro’s life-long passion is building community through identity affirmation, including gender, sexuality, race, ability, and emotional awareness. They are also excited about science, nature, food, creativity, and culture. The author of Platanos en Nuestro Patio, which published in October 2023, and a Cook Prize Juror, they possess a deep love for children’s literature.
Bates College, BA, Theater and Education
Bank Street College of Education, Dual MA, General & Special Education
Laleña Garcia | she/her
Director of Community Liberation
Laleña Garcia has been working with children at both independent and charter schools in New York City since 2000, including at Manhattan Country School, Brooklyn Friends, Bank Street School for Children, Harlem Children’s Zone, and the Rockefeller University Early Childhood Center. Laleña also provides professional development for schools and other institutions seeking to deepen their anti-racist work, presenting at conferences such as Free Minds, Free People; the Bank Street Kindergarten Conference; Defending the Early Years; and the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America. While at MCS, Laleña was a member of the founding union bargaining committee. Currently teaching kindergarten in Brooklyn, she is a neuroexpansive, Black and Puerto Rican, queer, cisgender woman.
Laleña also works as a Gender and Sexuality Trainer for the New York State Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, helping early childhood professionals and families to create expansive and supportive understandings of gender, sexuality, relationships, and family structure. A member of the Black Lives Matter at NYC Schools steering committee since 2018, Laleña also provides professional development for schools and other institutions seeking to deepen their anti-racist work. Her online course for adults, Rooted, offers contextual background and concrete strategies for anti-bias work in early childhood and elementary settings. Laleña’s first children’s book, What We Believe, was published by Lee and Low in 2020. The companion hardcover, How We Can Live, was released to starred reviews in October of 2022.
When she is not helping young children to discover the tools needed to smash the patriarchy and create new systems for liberation, you can find Laleña surfing in warm water, zooming around Brooklyn on her bicycle (always wearing a helmet, of course), or reading the QBIPOC Young Adult novels she wishes her younger self had the opportunity to read.
Yale University, BA, History
Bank Street College of Education, MS, Early Childhood & Elementary Education
Dr. Fer Salinas-Quiroz | they/elle/elu
Director of Research & Board Member
Dr. Fernando Salinas-Quiroz is an Assistant Professor at Tufts University, School of Arts and Sciences, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study & Human Development. Fer heads the Abigail Adams Eliot and Anna Eveleth Holman SOGIE Laboratory which focuses on the role of gender modality, identity, and expression as well as sexual orientation in human development. Their aim is to interrogate dominant theories about Human Development as well as to trans Child Studies and enhance the lives of children, youth, and families.
A dedicated teacher, Fer was a full professor at the National Pedagogic University in Mexico before joining Tufts University. They have worked as a lecturer and thesis director at various undergraduate and graduate programs in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Greece, Portugal, The Netherlands, Uruguay, and the United States. Fer is also a guest speaker at national and international events as well as a practicing child psychologist. They are passionate about studying the development of children who are raised in “modern families” as well as outside the gender binary. Fer’s research has been published in top journals in English, Spanish, and Portuguese as well as in four books and various book chapters.
As a Brown, neurodivergent, nonbinary, flamboyant Mexican immigrant, Fer approaches their research through a lens of reflexivity with an understanding that their personal experiences and position in the world shape the focus of their work. Fer enjoys practicing Ashtanga yoga, dancing, laughing, and trying to spread kindness and compassion.
Ibero-American University, BA, Psychology (Clinical Psychology Specialization)
Mexican Psychoanalytic Association’s Postgraduate Center, MA, Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
COWAP & Université de Paris XIII, Postgraduate Diplomas in Parent-Infant Psychotherapy and in Parentality
National Autonomous University of Mexico, PhD, Psychology
Mimi Shelton | she/her
Mimi Shelton is a fierce advocate, a passionate educator, and an indomitable force for justice. She is a Black, neuroexpansive, straight trans woman from the rural south. She is currently the National HIV Behavior Surveillance Trans Project Coordinator at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene where she leads research projects designed to improve the health of the trans community. Mimi has an extensive background in education and community-based advocacy work. In addition to her experience teaching English at Riverdale Country School, Manhattan Country School, the TEAK Fellowship, and the William Penn Charter School. Mimi's experience also includes serving as the Director of Trans Initiatives and Services at Destination Tomorrow, the Bronx LGBT Center.
In 2022 Mimi received the Monica Roberts Torch Award for her work as an organizer of the National Trans Visibility March. She has also been a panelist and presenter for the Audre Lorde Project, GLSEN, the National Education Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, and the Osborne Association. In 2020, Mimi was a featured talent in the Dove Pride 2020 Campaign, “Nothing More Beautiful,” directed by Tourmaline. She also serves on the board of directors for the New York Transgender Advocacy Group and The Okra Project. She can found on Linked-In or Instagram.
This fall Mimi is beginning her journey to become a lawyer with the City University of New York School of Law's Pipeline to Justice program. She plans to pursue public interest law, particularly relating to labor justice, civil rights, and gender/sexuality issues. When she isn't advocating for collective liberation, Mimi loves to roller skate, watch professional wrestling, and dance.
College of William and Mary, B.A. English and African American Studies
University of Pennsylvania, M.S.Ed., Education, Culture, and Society