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The GJHP Team is critical to our mission of building socially aware, civic-minded and community-oriented individuals. Responsible for coordinating opportunities for volunteerism, community events and activities, as well as time spent in the Oasis, our team also helps students reflect and process these experiences in the community, on the stage or in a social setting, in the context of mentors, counselors and advisors.



Ruth Lesser is excited to join GJHP as the new Book Buddies Director. She is a literacy specialist and has supported the reading intervention teacher in District 35 at South School for 7 years.


As a reading teacher, Ruth loves watching students get excited about listening to and reading books. Ruth wants to instill the love of reading in the students she works with and build their confidence to enjoy the books they read on their own. She wants to bring this same energy to the Book Buddies program.


One part of Ruth's life away from teaching reading is her love for baking and experimenting with new recipes.  The teacher's lounge has seen many of her baked goodies because she loves to share her treats with others!

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Samara Harand has been a performing arts educator for over 20 years and is thrilled to be joining the GJHP team. She has directed and choreographed dozens of full-length musicals and revues at Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts, as well as Edgewood Middle School, Francis W. Parker, Starland Kids, and others.  Recent credits include: Mamma Mia!, Shrek Jr., Rock of Ages, Legally Blonde, Urinetown, All Shook Up, Footloose, Peter Pan, Bring it On, Once Upon A Mattress, Bye Bye Birdie, Sweet Charity, The Wizard of Oz, 13: The Musical, West Side Story, and The Little Mermaid Jr. Samara currently helps manage her family’s musical theater camp – Harand Camp of Theatre Arts – now in its 68th Season!


Samara is also a Publicity Associate at Cathy Taylor Public Relations, which represents many theaters in the area, including Drury Lane, Writers Theatre, and more.  Samara launched her Chicago PR career at The Silverman Group, where she represented The Chicago Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, and others. She then moved to NYC to earn her M.F.A. in Arts Management while also holding positions at Roundabout Theatre Company, The Producing Office (Rent, Avenue Q, In the Heights) and the Tony Awards. She has also done freelance work for local theater companies and Team StarKid of A Very Potter Musical fame.


Contact Samara at

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