Staff & Board
An Asheville native, Ashley Vandewart Lasher has a deep love for Western North Carolina. She wants Buncombe County residents to have the same fulfilling community experience that she grew up with, so she chose a career in non-profit leadership.
Ashley is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in Women’s Studies. She has worked in nonprofit fundraising and leadership in Buncombe County since 2005. Her first introduction to the Literacy Council was as a guest at the original Authors for Literacy Dinner & Silent Auction. As a lifelong reader and writer, she was immediately drawn to the Literacy Council’s mission and program impact. After nearly three years as the Literacy Council’s Development Director, she became the Executive Director in Nov. 2012.
Outside of the Literacy Council, Ashley volunteers for the Asheville Jewish Community Center. She enjoys reading to her two young daughters, sewing, and spending time outdoors with her husband, children, and dog.
Erin, a lover of languages and cultural exchange, believes she has the perfect job.
“Helping immigrants communicate in the language of their new home is especially rewarding because of the empowerment that comes for them,” Erin says. “I just glow every time I hear that one of our ESOL students has gotten a promotion, found a better job, or been able to help a child with homework.”
Erin lists some pretty impressive credentials for managing the Literacy Council’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. She earned a B.A. in German from San Diego State University, a master’s degree in cross-cultural education from National University in San Diego, and a California teaching certificate. She has five years experience teaching English, German, and Spanish to middle and high school students and ESOL to adults, as well as teaching English and math while living in Tijuana, Mexico for two years. Erin is a ProLiteracy certified trainer, past president of the Asheville Area Director of Volunteers in Agencies (DOVIA), and member of the executive board of Carolina Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
Working at the Literacy Council since 2005, Erin conducts all ESOL tutor trainings and oversees all ESOL tutor volunteer activities. She remarks, “Our volunteer tutors are folks who care enough to give freely of their time, talents, and love. I am continually humbled and inspired by both our students and our volunteers!”
Erin ’s home life revolves around husband, Sam, two children, Elan and Marlise, and their dog, T-Bone. She likes to read and travel whenever possible.
Adult Education and Augustine Project® Director
Rebecca Massey has been an educator in North Carolina for 17 years, including time spent tutoring students with learning differences and teaching community college courses. Rebecca knows the Literacy Council’s Adult Education program and curriculum very well — she has been a volunteer tutor for four years!
Rebecca has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Auburn University and a Master of Arts in English from NC State University. In addition to her work with books, reading, and education, Rebecca has volunteered for Animal Haven of Asheville, caring for abused, abandoned, and injured animals.
“I hope to make the best use of my mind and energy by being of service to people in need, and education is the way I know to do that most effectively.”
Office Manager and ESOL Specialist
Born and raised in Kazan, Russia – a large city 600 miles from Moscow, Irina came to the U.S. in 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. She adopted Asheville as her new home when her husband secured a research position in the area. Irina began studying English with the Literacy Council and soon became an ESOL tutor herself, working with students from the Ukraine. In 2000, she joined the Literacy Council staff.
“Our students and their stories make my job especially meaningful. I know first hand how difficult it is for adults to learn a new language,” Irina remembers. “It is very hard work. At the Literacy Council, we see small but significant victories every day. It’s really rewarding to give people something now that helps them long term.”
Irina earned a masters degree in Physics from Kazan State University and taught math courses at the Kazan State Power Engineering University. She and her husband, Airat, have two grown sons and enjoy reading, hiking, and traveling.
LuAnn Arena has a strong background in literacy tutoring. LuAnn first became a literacy tutor in her hometown of Rochester, NY. After spending several years traveling the U.S. as a musician she returned to school at SUNY New Paltz earning a BFA in Graphic Design. She has run a successful freelance design business since 2006. LuAnn relocated to Asheville in the fall of 2013 and returned to tutoring at the Literacy Council of Buncombe County. LuAnn was ready for a change and the opportunity to become a team member of the Literacy Council’s staff was the perfect fit. LuAnn is looking forward to using her skills in support of the Literacy Council and its mission. In her off time LuAnn enjoys making music and art as well as practicing yoga, biking, blading and reading. She also enjoys spoiling her friends and her two cats.
Recruitment and Awareness Coordinator
A recent graduate in mass communications from UNC Asheville, Emily is dedicating a year of service with the Literacy Council as a member of North Carolina LiteracyCorps and AmeriCorps. Emily has 10 years of professional experience serving diverse populations in the medical field and is shifting her focus to support and serve those same communities in ways that align with her passions. As a champion for social justice, Emily is excited to use her allegiance to equity to encourage education, enrich lives and advocate change.
Board of Directors
- Zurilma Anuel, Carolina Small Business Development Fund
- Anne Bleynat (Chair), Ferikes & Bleynat
- Jo Chandler, Preferred Properties
- Laurie Chess, Carolina Pediatric Therapy
- Marilyn Cortes, Kindred at Home
- Aaron Dahlstrom, UNC-Asheville
- John Hall, ArtSpace Charter School
- Sonya Leonard, Asheville City Schools
- Leah Quintal, The Collider
- Kelly Stokes CPA (Treasurer), Pine Gate Renewables
- Barbara Kolack Veach (Vice Chair), Community Volunteer