Our Story

WNY Education Alliance is a non-profit organization committed to improving educational outcomes for students in Western New York through research and advocacy, community engagement, and strategic partnerships.



Our mission is to improve the lives of children in communities throughout Western New York by expanding and enhancing educational and extracurricular growth opportunities.



WNY Education Alliance was founded in 2021 by Tarja Parssinen in response to the growing need to support students and families during the pandemic.

School closures exacerbated existing inequities in the educational system and highlighted the need for a new breed of independent educational organizations to introduce innovative partnerships across political lines and improve student outcomes.

Initially focused on safely reopening schools and addressing the learning loss and mental health issues caused by disruptions to in-person education, the organization has expanded its priorities to include improving literacy rates, identifying educational gaps, and supporting educational and enrichment programs, especially in underserved communities.




We are 100% focused on the singular goal of improving educational outcomes for children in communities throughout Western New York.

With commitments from existing partners to cover administrative costs, we ensure that 100% of all donations are allocated to projects that directly support children.

We work hard to align the interests of all partners, including our most important partner – students.



The challenges associated with improving educational outcomes are incredibly complex. We don’t pretend to have all the answers. The solutions need to be as unique as the communities that they intend to serve.

To improve educational outcomes and support growth opportunities for local students, WNY Education Alliance relies on partnerships with teachers, schools, community groups, education consultants, child development experts, and other non-profit organizations.

Partnerships are key to our success.



The growing political divide has had a profoundly negative impact on many of our public institutions, including education. In addition, many educational non-profits have affiliations which can limit what they say and do, as we witnessed during the pandemic.

WNY Education Alliance is committed to bringing a non-partisan, unbiased approach to addressing educational issues, with input from a wide range of experts and members of the community with diverse backgrounds.

Our independence and more inclusive approach allow us to seek creative solutions to educational challenges that have existed for far too long.




Tarja Parssinen

Tarja is a writer, education advocate, and research analyst. Prior to founding WNY Education Alliance, Tarja had a career in publishing at Random House and later founded Moxie Road Productions, a literary consulting company. Before settling in Western New York, Tarja lived in the Middle East, Texas, New York City, and California. Tarja graduated from Cornell University.


Ken Settles

Ken works as a research analyst in the financial services industry supporting charitable foundations, universities, and family offices. A native of Western New York, Ken and his family have been dedicated to supporting youth educational and athletic programs over the last several decades. Ken is a graduate of Williams College.


John Parssinen

John has worked for non-profit organizations for nearly 15 years. John started his career as a grant writer and program developer at Westhab, an organization committed to developing affordable housing, operating homeless shelters, and providing youth programs and employment services. More recently, John has worked for LaGuardia Community College, specializing in teaching/training and fundraising. John has served as a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America since 2010. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and has a Masters in Social Work from Hunter College.