When it comes to literacy issues, Davi Tserpelis is a passionate advocate whose interest is one that is shared by her employer, City National Bank. In addition to being a regional business banking manager and senior vice president of business banking, the Jericho resident is also a board member of the Book Fairies, a Long Island based nonprofit organization that accepts donations of new and gently used books and connects them with libraries, schools and organizations throughout metropolitan New York that do not have the funds to foster the love of reading for children in those communities. So when the veteran banker was looking to leave her prior position and saw that her prospective new employer dedicated its philanthropic arm to literacy via its Reading Is The Way Up program, Tserpelis knew she’d found a good fit.
“One of the things that gave me a chill when I was looking into City National Bank was when I went to see what philanthropy that they do, because usually, all banks are involved with these kinds of charitable activities. And I found that they have an ongoing and longstanding view to support literacy. I was so excited about that because I’m so passionate about literacy and I’m so involved with the Book Fairies. It was just very clear to me that this was the right place for me. This took it to another level.”
Founded by City National in April 2002, the Reading Is The Way Up program is an initiative initially set up to help improve the education of California’s future leaders by restocking the state’s school library system with books. It has since been expanded to include all areas where the bank has a presence, making major inroads towards supporting literacy according to Senior Vice President Deborah Vrana.
“We’ve given over $1.4 million to teachers for literacy projects and given away more than 600,000 books,” Vrana explained. “I’m going to be going to a school where we’re surprising a library with a $10,000 donation of books. It’s just a great program. It’s very important to our CEO and the culture of this bank. Not only financial literacy but basic literacy.”
For someone like Tserpelis, who grew up in Bayside and knew from childhood that she wanted to have a career in banking, education was and continues to be a paramount cornerstone of her personal and professional life. While she worked two jobs after graduating from Bayside High School, Tserpelis wound up getting her associates degree at Queensborough Community College and bachelors degree at Baruch College before earning a Masters of Science in International Banking at Mercy College. Along the way, she started a family and, along with her husband, has called Jericho home for the past 17 years. With her son a junior at Jericho High School and her daughter attending Jericho Middle School, it’s not surprising how paramount having their kids attend an exemplary school district was paramount in the decision to move to the area.
“We just had a child and we knew we wanted to have more than one. We wanted to afford our children one of the top school districts on Long Island. We also wanted to give them space, a backyard and a safe place to play—all the things we didn’t quite have in Queens. We wanted a very good, healthy, family-like environment,” she said. “We thought Jericho was one of the top school districts in the country and probably has been for about 60 years.”
In the meantime, the work/life balance Tserpelis has been striving for is being accented by her work with Book Fairies, which involves book drives through corporations, individuals and communities that ensures books get to those most in need. It’s been a big enough success that on March 7, the organization will be donating its millionth book during a ceremony within the Brentwood School District on March 7. It’s all made quite a mark on this high-ranking bank official.
“In five years, we’ve donated 1 million books. I love the fact that we get them out to the teachers in the school districts who fund these book events so those kids can get them and own them,” she said. “I’ve seen kids cry when you give them a book; it becomes very overwhelming when you can give a less-privileged child a book.”
Visit www.thebookfairies.org and www.readingisthewayup.org to find out more about these literacy programs.