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January 18, 2024

Local children’s literacy nonprofit welcomes three new advisory board members

Reading Partners Baltimore expands regional advisory board to 10; includes community leaders from Annie E. Casey Foundation, T. Rowe Price, Bozzuto, M&T Bank, Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD (January 17, 2024) — Reading Partners Baltimore, a local children’s literacy nonprofit, recently welcomed three new board members to its regional advisory board: Steve Plank, Ashlyn Sowell, and Ismanuela Denis. 

The three new community leaders join Reading Partners as the organization strengthens its commitment to educational equity by helping students develop lifelong literacy skills and confidence to actualize their limitless potential. 

“I am proud to welcome these three new members, all of whom are 100% committed to Reading Partners’ mission, to our regional advisory board,” said Zenobia Judd-Williams, Executive Director of Reading Partners Baltimore. “We know that deep inequities and barriers exist within our educational landscape, and I’m thrilled that Steve, Ashlyn, and Ismanuela will be supporting our work as we serve students and set future generations up for success.” 

Reading Partners recognizes that learning to read is a civil right, and exists to uproot deeply ingrained obstacles and predictable outcomes within the educational system that overwhelmingly affect students of color. The organization collaborates with under-resourced public schools in Baltimore and 11 other regions across the US, mobilizing community volunteers to provide students with the proven, individualized reading support they deserve in order to read at grade level by fourth grade. Post-pandemic, Reading Partners is increasing literacy access by investing in research-driven transformations and expanded partnerships to provide more students, regardless of race or economic situation, with access to quality literacy support. 

Among the new advisory board members is Ismanuela Denis, Program Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. 

”Every individual, regardless of age, deserves the opportunity to cultivate literacy skills and unlock their fullest potential,” said Denis. “Proficiency in reading fosters a solid foundation for future academic success, and by prioritizing early-age literacy initiatives, we bridge a more positive and supportive trajectory for students.” 

To learn about Reading Partners Baltimore, including opportunities to contribute to the advisory board, visit

New Reading Partners Baltimore advisory board members:

Steve Plank — Vice President, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Steve Plank is the Vice President of Research, Evaluation, Evidence and Data at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Prior to his work at the Foundation, he held research and teaching positions at the American Institutes for Research, the Corporation for National and Community Service (which administers AmeriCorps), and Johns Hopkins University. Steve knows that strong reading skills are needed in order for children to thrive, and looks forward to supporting Reading Partners and an approach to strengthening reading skills and literacy that has strong evidence backing it.

Ashlyn Sowell Associate Vice President, Johns Hopkins University and Medicine

Ashlyn Sowell is the Associate Vice President for Campaign Strategy and Engagement at Johns Hopkins University and Medicine. Ashlyn originally discovered Reading Partners Baltimore through her involvement with Duke University’s Baltimore alumni chapter. She believes that literacy is incredibly important to one’s success, and looks forward to supporting the students Reading Partners serves and the organization’s volunteer community.

Ismanuela Denis Program Associate, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Ismanuela Denis currently serves as a Program Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, focusing on diversion and prevention strategies for youth affected by the juvenile justice system. Ismanuela’s motivation to join the regional advisory board came from her own volunteer experience with formerly incarcerated emerging adults in New York City. She believes proficiency in reading equips children with essential cognitive and communication skills, and appreciates Reading Partners’ distinctive approach of pairing volunteers with students to not only address educational disparities but also to build meaningful connections that can profoundly impact a child’s life. 


About Reading Partners

For nearly 25 years, Reading Partners has helped empower students to succeed in school and beyond by engaging community volunteers to provide proven, one-on-one literacy tutoring. Since its founding, the national nonprofit organization has mobilized over 80,000 community volunteers to provide more than 2.7 million individualized literacy tutoring sessions to more than 75,000 elementary school students in over 500 under-resourced schools across ten states and the District of Columbia.

In Baltimore, Reading Partners has served students since the 2011-2012 school year. It aims to serve 500 students throughout the city during the 2023-24 school year. To learn more and get involved, visit

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