Meet the BGP Team
Greetings from the BGP Executive Board!
Sonya Harris, Founder
Born and raised in Southern New Jersey, Sonya Harris is first and foremost, a proud Mom, Auntie, and Teacher of Special Education at the Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School, in Glassboro, NJ. She received her BSEd in Special Education at West Chester University of Pennsylvania & is currently pursuing her MAEd in Teacher Leadership at Rider University, in Lawrenceville, NJ. She is a veteran educator who has been teaching for over 20 years, with residence at Bullock for 13 years, where she is now known as the “Garden Teacher” for her role in bringing an organic edible garden to the school.
In the fall of 2013, Sonya gathered a group of teachers together to plan a garden at the Bullock School, which could be used as a space to teach students across the curriculum through gardening. She contacted Celebrity Landscaper Ahmed Hassan via social media for advice. Not only did he respond to her message a few hours later, he also advised her and her Bullock Garden Team on what was needed to establish a sustainable school garden. Ahmed connected Sonya with a local South Jersey landscape designer, Mike Pasquarello of Elite Landscaping in Berlin, NJ. Together, after almost a year of planning, partnerships with landscape and horticultural experts from across the country sponsored donations and fundraising efforts, the Bullock Elementary Children’s Garden became a reality the weekend of May 2-3, 2015.
In October 2016, Sonya & Bullock Garden was awarded the very first “Best in New Jersey” Jersey Fresh Farm-to-School Award by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for her drive in ensuring that the Bullock Children’s Garden serves as a tool for assisting teachers in teaching children across the curriculum through garden education, provides free, fresh, organic produce to the local community (helping to eliminate a food desert) and for partnering with several organizations and green industry leaders to ensure successful learning opportunities for the Bullock Elementary students. She speaks to audiences of educators and Green Industry professionals, promoting the benefits of gardening with children and creating school gardens.
She loves spending time gardening at home and with the children in the school garden. Sonya is also currently leading the expansion of the garden education initiative throughout the Glassboro School District and with the Borough of Glassboro to increase sustainability awareness and Green initiatives. She is currently mentoring several New Jersey schools to assist them in creating school gardens and incorporate garden education throughout their curriculum. Gardening is her new-found passion, which she blogs about at shoestoseeds.com.
In 2017 Sonya established the nonprofit The Bullock Garden Project, Inc. The role of this nonprofit is to assist schools serving large populations of students who are at-risk, receiving special education services, and/or low-income and food insecurity with establishing and implementing school gardens. She has won several awards, including the most recent awards: New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Learning Through Gardening 2018 Teacher of the Year, and Project Green Schools 2018 Outstanding Green Education Program Director.
Chief Operating Officer
New Jersey native Onna Payne received a B.A. in Law and her B.S. in Child Psychology from Rowan University. With her experiences in law and child studies, Onna dedicates her time to mentoring inner-city youth on the importance of education and self-advocacy. Upon graduating college, Onna learned early on she had a passion for non-profit organizations. She works as a college and career readiness counselor in Camden, New Jersey and she hopes to one day start her own non-profit to impact the lives of young adults who are released from correctional facilities. Outside of work, school, and building her future, Onna enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Director of Social Media & Communications
Meridith Daniel is first and foremost, a mother. She is a nurturer by nature and loves to do anything that will assist children. Therefore, she was thrilled when her younger son was placed in Sonya Harris’ first-grade class in the Dorothy L. Bullock School and had a chance to be immersed in the Bullock Children’s Garden culture. She continues to learn through gardening and also enjoys eating the fruits and vegetables! She holds her BA in English and MA in Public Relations from Rowan University. Meridith is heavily involved in the running, health, and wellness which she blogs about at scootadoot.org. When she’s not mothering, running, or doing laundry, she does freelance social media consulting.
Director of the Board
Donna Romalino was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania before planting her roots in New Jersey. She holds BAs in both Art Education and Special Education from Kutztown University, as well as a Masters in Learning Disabilities Teacher from Rowan University. Donna’s employed within the Glassboro Public School District since 1990. Prior to that, she designed and implemented the art program at Wiley House, currently known as Kids Peace, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Dionn Tunis, MSW
Director of School Outreach
Dionn is a proud graduate of Widener University’s Social Work program. She graduated in 1999 with her Bachelor’s degree and 2003 with her Master’s degree both in Social Work. Dionn has implemented skills learned for the past 18 years in different fields of social work. Presently she is the Adult/Pediatric Social Worker at ChesPenn Health Services in Chester, PA. Dionn has an exciting enthusiastic approach to working with people and truly lives by the phrase, “social work is not only my profession but who I am as a person.” Dionn currently resides in Sicklerville, NJ with her family.
Lover of the Earth and the Arts, Teresa believes the sky is the limit when incorporating these concepts into curricula. Her kiddos are often her biggest inspirations and also her favorite guinea pigs. She is a Biology major at Rowan U, focusing on Environmental Science, with a minor in Education. Seasonally, she works as an instructor for the Wetlands Institute Summer Nature Program. She’s also worked as a Naturalist, guiding hands-on beach, dune, and marsh explorations. Her internship with New Jersey Geographic Alliance, a Nat Geo endeavor, allows her to dive deep into Geography Education for ages K-12 and above, as well as co-coordinate the annual NJ State Geography Bee. She has almost 20 years of experience teaching dance in South Jersey and also enjoys freelance photography. Her recent projects include establishing plants at New Street Park Pollinator Meadow with help from Brie Arthur and Sonya Harris, as well as, breaking ground for a Pollinator Garden at her son’s school in Spring. Find her hiking, kayaking, gardening, writing, or geeking out over plants and any documentary Dave Attenborough narrates.
Educational Programming Chairperson
Missy Tees was born and raised in The Garden State. She has taught at Dorothy Bullock Elementary School in Glassboro, NJ for the past 14 years. She holds a B.A. in early childhood and elementary education, as well as, her M.A. in reading. She is a proud mom of 2 beautiful children, who she loves spending time with more than anything. She has a passion for putting together programs and events that appeal to children and promote their love of learning.
Brianna Rivera was raised in a small town Pittsgrove, New Jersey. Currently attending Neumann University pursuing her B.A in Educational Studies. Beginning January 2019 Brianna will be perusing her Master’s in Education. Brianna is at her highest self when she is surrounded by her loving family and friends. One of Brianna’s biggest goals is to educate youth on the importance of having educational values. When Brianna is not attending meetings, college and her internship she likes to be outdoors and take walks along Pravin’s Sate Park’s trail. Brianna has always had a love for teaching and aspiring children to shoot for the stars.
Lacy B. Lupi
Wellness & Sensory Integration Specialist
Lacy earned her B. A. In history From Rowan University in 2007 and her masters in elementary special education from Wilmington University in 2009. She has been in the education field for nearly ten years, spending the last five as a special education teacher in the Glassboro public school district. She is an active yogi and hiker. As a lover of the outdoors, she was naturally drawn to gardening and the concept of prompting others to get outside and off the couch, most notably her students. As a result, she started a school garden focused on teaching mindfulness and green living principles to the adolescent population with which she works. Lacy hopes to expand her passion from the classroom and help others. She currently resides in Hammonton, NJ with her fiancé Matt and their two dogs, Sadie and Locatelli.