Merlyn Climate Grant Mentors volunteer to support grant recipients throughout the grant year. They can help keep a project on goal, be a sounding board for new ideas, connect a grantee to possible new allies and resources, and generally reaffirm the program’s appreciation for the work being done by New England and New York’s youngest leaders in climate advocacy. To discuss becoming a grant mentor, please contact Jim Stahl, Grant Director, at 401-751-3766 or stahl@MerlynsPen.org.
Elliot Alchek is Senior Vice President of Brickman Associates, a vertically integrated real estate investment management firm that invests mainly in office buildings on behalf of its institutional and HNW investors. Alchek was previously a Partner of Credit Capital Investments and before that a Partner and Managing Director of DKR Capital. He was at Goldman Sachs for nearly two decades, where he held several supervisory and executive positions including Managing Director and department head.
He attended Northfield Mt. Hermon School, received a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School and then earned his MBA (with Honors) from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Raised outside New York and Miami, he has lifelong passions for modern art, architecture, Avant guard music, and sailing. He looks forward to helping Merlyn Climate Grant recipients think strategically about scale, leverage, the tools of finance, and setting goals larger than they thought possible.
Sharon Gold is a retired university educator, career coach, and corporate trainer. Now she creates and delivers interactive workshops that raise awareness about the climate crisis and motivate participants to reduce their carbon footprints. Gold is an active member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, working with Rhode Islanders and with legislators at the local, state and national levels. She also develops awareness campaigns that highlight the contribution of vehicle idling to carbon levels and climate change. She was recently successful in getting an anti-idling law passed in the town of South Kingstown, RI, and a Rhode Island Senate resolution passed in June 2018 with the help of state Senator Sosnowski. Gold holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the City University of New York. She is thrilled to be mentoring a high-school student and Climate Grant recipient who is launching an anti-idling campaign in Massachusetts.
Jo-Ann Langseth is a freelance book editor in the genres of self-help, spirituality, and New Thought. While raising three children with her husband, Dick, Langseth worked as senior editor of Merlyn’s Pen: The National Magazine of Student Writing and as editor and writer for Body, Mind & Spirit, a popular New Age magazine. She says that most of her time today is devoted to enjoying and nurturing friendships, singing, dancing, playing the piano and, in the summertime, to surfing in Newport and windsurfing on Narragansett Bay. She graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and taught at P.S. 123, in Harlem. She volunteered at the Revitalization Corps before becoming a proofreader at the R.R. Bowker Publishing Co., in NYC; a news editor at Aetna Life & Casualty, in Hartford, CT; and copywriter at Mass Mutual, in Springfield, MA.
Diane Postoian is a Rhode Island performing artist and educator who in 2006 was awarded an Honorary PhD from Rhode Island College for her career in theatre and education for young audiences. She was the executive/artistic director of Rhode Island’s Looking Glass Theatre for 16 years, adapting children's novels for the stage, performing, and designing creative language arts workshops for the classroom that celebrated reading and youth empowerment. She also wrote, directed and performed in a one-woman show called Ask Olga! to help middle school students resist and make sense of the advertising hype targeting them. Her current programs include Elder Arts, Preschool Capers, and Teen Soft Skills Training.
Marla Romash created Romash Communications after leaving the White House, where she served
as Communications Director for Vice President Al Gore. Her company offers universities, nonprofit organizations, and political candidates strategic advice and planning, creative communications support, advertising across platforms, and communications coaching and skills development.
As a media consultant and senior advisor in recent elections, Romash has assisted the successful U.S. Senate campaigns of Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (2012, 2018), Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire (2008, 2014), and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut (2010, 2016). She graduated with honors in Pastry Arts from L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland and created Marla’s Magic, an online bakery.
Mary Jane Sorrentino volunteers in several organizations that promote decarbonization. In 2006, she was in the second cohort to be trained as a Climate Project presenter by former Vice President Al Gore. She then began educating audiences about the coming climate crisis using slides from Gore’s groundbreaking production, An Inconvenient Truth. Sorrentino returned to school in 2009 to earn a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies from Antioch New England. She co-launched Rhode Island’s statewide chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby in 2012.
She holds a BA in American Studies and Art History from Fordham University and earned an MA in Museum Studies at George Washington University. She also earned a graduate level Professional Certification in Sustainability from Harvard University Extension (she enjoys being a student!).
Jim Stahl taught English in the US and abroad before founding the classroom literary magazine Merlyn’s Pen. For nearly two decades it published compelling fiction and essays by teenage writers for a readership that peaked at 100,000. Anthologies of teen-written works from Merlyn's Pen have been re-published in ten countries, in English and in translation. Stahl still curates the New Library of Young Adult Writing. After publishing, Stahl continued to create programs serving young adults, including Down to the Sea with Paper & Pen, which takes teen writers each summer to sea on a tall ship. He’s a hopeful writer himself and has performed his own monologues at The National Storytelling Festival, in Jonesborough, TN, in theaters, and on WGBH public television. His play-length monologue, Monocular Man, showcased at the New York International Fringe Festival and was adapted for an award-winning animated film by Jack Feldstein. Stahl graduated from Georgetown, studied education at Stanford, and earned his MAT (English) at the University of Chicago under the mentorship of George Hillocks, Jr.
Jim Tobak is currently of counsel to the Law Office of Paul S. Cantor, in Providence, Rhode Island, where his specialty is personal injury law. A native of Newport, he graduated with honors from Lehigh University with a BA in American Studies and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1972 he was awarded joint degrees in law (JD) and a Masters in American History from Stanford University.
From 1976 to 1984 Tobak taught undergraduate law courses at Lehigh University and published articles on tort and education law. During that period he also received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study environmental law at Columbia. He’s been practicing law in Rhode Island since 1984.