2017 Leadership Institute Cohort



ynpn-chicago-aileen-aragonesAileen Aragones

Aileen serves as the Program Manager for College Possible, a national organization that helps low-income high school students earn admission to college, as well as providing support until students earn their bachelor’s degrees. She first got involved with College Possible right after college, as an AmeriCorps member. Through her two terms of service, Aileen found a new level of passion for making a difference and having an impact, and she has been so proud to bring College Possible to her hometown of Chicago, a dream fulfilled.

Aileen also looks for other ways to contribute to the community via collaborative means: she is part of the AmeriCorps Alums leadership team in Chicago, volunteers for a number of youth enrichment programs, and is passionate about food access and sustainability in urban environments. She knows that there’s only so much that she can do to have an impact and understands how crucial it is to create strong collaborative partnerships to improve the communities she serves. Aileen earned a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master’s Degree in Educational Policy from Marquette University.


Quenna Barrett 

Quenna is Education Programs Manager at UChicago’s Arts + Public Life, where she founded two community-based theater programs for teens and adults on Chicago’s South Side. Quenna received her BFA from NYU Tisch Drama and her MA in Applied Theatre from the University of Southern California. She’s a teaching artist, organizer with BYP100 and #LetUsBreathe Collective, ICAH For Youth Inquiry company member, actress, and Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner blending TO techniques with acting skills to amplify teens’ voice and hold space to rehearse, tell, and change the stories of their lives.




Josh Blair

Josh is currently a Program Capacity Associate at Feeding America, where he supports a ~200 food bank network by increasing organizational capacity through training, peer learning, strategic planning, and knowledge sharing through grant opportunities. He focuses his work on areas of children, seniors, and folks eligible to receive SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. He previously worked as an Associate at the Bonner Foundation, managing endowments focused on providing service-based scholarships across the nation to low-income and first generation college students. He was a recipient of the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship through the Congressional Hunger Center, where he worked on grassroots advocacy issues around hunger and managed state campaigns for the most recent farm bill.  Josh is a native of Berea, Kentucky and graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He enjoys running, giving people affirmation and gratitude, dancing, intramural sports, and painting.


Ilana Bruton

Ilana is the public programs manager at the Chicago History Museum and is responsible for the design and implementation of programs to expand and diversify CHM’s audiences through interpretive experiences. She has served on many committees during her tenure at CHM, which includes serving as program director for the exhibition “Shalom Chicago,” supported by The Covenant Foundation, and as a founding member of GeoConvos, a Chicago Community Trust-funded Hive grant that focuses on digital learning practices for teens. In 2014, Ilana coauthored the article “The Goal of the Emancipated Spectator: A Dramaturg and Museum Educator’s Facilitation of a Theater and Museum Collaboration” with Kristin Leahey, currently at the Seattle Repertory Theater, published in the academic journal, Theater Topics. She also graduated from The Second City’s Improvisational Training Center in 2012, which included five eight-week sessions.

Ilana has a Master of Arts in Museum Education from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities with a specialization in Museum Studies from Michigan State University. She was previously the curator of Education, Youth, Family, Adult Programs at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Ilana has received awards in community service and creative achievement including Youth Mentor Recognition for Youth Mentorship Program at The Henry Ford Museum (2010) and the Chicago History Museum’s Peer Recognition Award for Innovation (2012). You can follow her on Twitter at @iBmuseum.


Cassaundra Dolan 

Cassaundra is currently the Aquatics Director at the Bernard Horwich and Mayer Kaplan Jewish Community Centers in Chicago.  She is responsible for providing strategic planning, development and oversight for all Aquatics programming at the Bernard Horwich and Mayer Kaplan JCCs and the Bernard Horwich JCC Day Camp.   In this role Cassaundra successfully launched the agency’s first aquatic inclusion program, called All-In Swim, for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.  All-In Swim received grant funding from the Jewish United Fund Breakthrough Grant and Autism Speaks.  The success of this program has lead to JCC Chicago receiving additional funding from the Elizabeth Morse Trust to implement an All-In Swim summer camp program as well.  Cassaundra has over 10-year experience teaching water safety and swim lessons to individuals with disabilities; specifically children with ASD.  All-In Swim has gained city-wide recognition and is the first swim program of this kind.  This program has gained national interest amongst other swimming facilities across the country and will be presented at this year’s JCCA Professional Conference.  In addition to building All-In Swim Cassaundra is working on building a more inclusive environment at the JCC by running buddy programs pairing typically developed teens and teens with special abilities in fitness and sports.Cassaundra is a recent graduate of the Jewish Leadership Institute for Inclusion and Disabilities.

Prior to her time at JCC, Cassaundra was the Aquatics Director at the YMCA of Metroplitan Chicago on Irving Park where she was responsible for planning, promoting, and coordinating aquatic programs for youth, teens, and families. Also responsible for recruiting, training, and supervising staff, managing departments, creating new programs, expanding existing programs, as well as, other outreach efforts. In this position Cassaundraplaced a particular emphasis on developing a more inclusive aquatics environment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.  Cassaundra helped organize an Autism Speaks event for over 300 participants including State Representatives with media coverage.Cassaundra holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy with a minor in Women’s Studies from DePaul University.


Elizabeth Dunn

Liz received her B.A. with distinction in Sociology from Yale University in 2010 and her M.A. in Social Work with a concentration in Administration from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago in 2015. Liz is currently Corporate & Foundation Relations Director for Mercy Housing Lakefront, where she manages relationships with institutional funders and leads the grant proposal writing and reporting process in order to develop affordable housing and provide supportive services for low-income families, seniors, and people who have been homeless.

Prior to joining Mercy Housing Lakefront, Liz served as Development Manager at Sarah’s Circle, where she secured new and increased individual, foundation, and government funding to expand the annual operating budget, pilot innovative supportive services programming, and develop permanent supportive housing. Liz volunteers with the Yale Alumni Fund and at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple on the Finance Committee and as co-chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee. Liz also enjoys biking and has completed RAGBRAI, a seven-day bike ride across her home state of Iowa.


Camille Ehlers

Camille Ehlers is a Recruitment Manager for SAGA Innovations, a non-profit organization that implements a largely successful academic intervention of supplemental high dosage tutoring in some of Chicago and New York City’s most troubled public schools. SAGA’s unique model embeds tutorials into each students’ school day as a regularly scheduled course. Students work in pairs with the same tutor all year long. The personalized nature of SAGA tutorials (“MathLab”) allows students to form a relationship with a caring adult who can focus on their individual learning needs, build their confidence, and in turn, transform their learning experience.

Camille is a proud product of Omaha, Nebraska — a city that has significantly shaped who she is, what she values, and how she defines her life’s work. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing with a minor in Spanish.  At the close of her undergraduate degree program she committed two years of service abroad with the Spanish Ministry of Education as a Cultural Ambassador.  What evolved from an initial year of service, in turn, changed the course of her life and professional pursuits forever. Camille has a strong desire to lead high impact initiatives that benefit urban youth, transform urban communities, and influence youth to take advantage of their education, embrace obstacles, and travel the world.
Camille extended her professional journey to the city of Chicago; initially becoming a tutoring fellow with the 2013-2014 Match Education Export implemented in Chicago Public Schools. The following year, she accepted the position of Assistant Site Director at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. SAGA Innovations was founded in 2015, and Camille transitioned as the Site Director at Harlan High School. Camille has dedicated the last year with SAGA as a member of the National Recruitment Team. She currently seeks and sources talented and relentless leaders, educators, and recent college graduates interested in education, non-profit management, service, and gap year programs to serve the 1,200+ students in the program across Chicago and New York as SAGA Fellows.


David Klein

In his current role at Umoja Student Development Corporation, Dave is an SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Specialist supporting the implementation of Umoja’s Seminar Curriculum at neighborhood high schools in Chicago. He is passionate about supporting students in developing their SEL skills and planning for life after high school. Dave has worked in youth development, community building, and youth leadership for over 8 years, and he has worked with adults and students from across the City of Chicago to examine how to build accepting, empowering spaces for young people. Prior to joining Umoja, he worked for Center on Halsted to create and implement youth leadership programming with LGBTQ youth. He also worked on a city-funded project to explore community-building initiatives among youth-service professionals across a variety of communities across Chicago’s north side. He graduated from the University of Chicago, where he studied English, Gender Studies, and Human Rights. He loves big ideas, video games, and exploring Chicago by CTA!


Sarah Nemecek

Sarah is operations director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC), a public-interest organization working to foster collaboration in shared mobility and help connect the growing industry with transit agencies, cities and communities across the nation. As operations director, Sarah oversees the organization’s administrative and operational functions, including fundraising, event-planning, and project management. She is also project manager of the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Carsharing Pilot Project, an initiative of the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) with management assistance from SUMC. Prior to joining CNT, Sarah was the project manager of the State of Illinois Interoperability and Integration Project, a research associate at the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and the project manager of the ULI Urban Investment Network in Europe.

Sarah has an MSc in Regional and Urban Planning Studies from the London School of Economics and a BA in History and Philosophy from Pepperdine University.

Blair Root

Blair’s interests focus on youth advocacy and programming. Prior to receiving her MA from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, she worked for a non-profit organization outside of Atlanta, Georgia, serving victims of abuse and working with families on reunification. Throughout graduate school, Blair interned as a victim-witness specialist in the Cook County State Attorney’s Office. For the past five years, Ms. Root has served as the Out-of-School Time Program Director at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, where she oversees all programs for youth ages 15-18 and manages a staff of 12 employees. Programs under her direction include after-school care, summer camps, athletic and enrichment programs, teen mentoring, and youth employment programs. Ms. Root is passionate about increasing accessibility of high quality programming to underserved youth populations; she started HPNC’s Mentoring Match UP! Program and worked to bring One Summer Chicago and MAPSCorps, a summer work opportunity for teens, to HPNC.



Jason Schultz

Jason connects corporate employees to volunteer projects that build a stronger Chicago. As Associate Director of Corporate Relations at Chicago Cares, Jason oversees the strategy for corporate fundraising and manages a large portfolio of accounts. Prior to working at Chicago Cares, Jason spent two years teaching – one in China and one at an alternative high school. In his spare time, Jason enjoys being active, running, playing with his dog Alice (a vizsla) and watching Green Bay Packers’ football. Jason attended Augustana College and has degrees in Political Science and Asian Studies.




Megan Singh Sidhu

Megan has been an activist since the age of 8 years old, starting with her first fundraiser performing door-to-door holiday concerts to benefit endangered whales. From that young age, she has been a fierce advocate for women and children’s rights through her work in advocacy and fundraising efforts. Megan holds a Bachelors degree from Pitzer College in Anthropology and her self-designed major of Ethics and Engagement in Developing Countries.  She is on the Board of Directors of TUF Cookies and Women for Women International. Megan is currently the Director of Philanthropic Initiatives at Heshima Kenya.





Sarah Spunt

Sarah is the senior program manager for LIFT-Chicago. LIFT is a national nonprofit that empowers families to break the cycle of poverty. Sarah is responsible for researching, designing and implementing LIFT-Chicago’s two-generation program model on the South Side. Sarah trains and managers LIFT-Chicago’s program staff, interns and volunteers, cultivates relationships with community and university partners and evaluates data to analyze and improve service delivery and increase impact. Sarah is a licensed clinical social worker, holds a professional educator license – school social worker endorsement  and a certification in yoga-informed psychotherapy. Sarah has over 10 years of experience working in nonprofits, schools and local governments.

Prior to LIFT, Sarah worked for Hanover Township Youth and Family Services in Bartlett, Illinois as the clinical interventionist. While there Sarah created and implemented a school-based substance abuse education and prevention program and conducted family therapy. Additionally, Sarah was an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the International Book Project, a Lexington, Kentucky nonprofit that promotes literacy, education and global friendships by sending books throughout the developing world. Sarah holds a masters degree in social work from Loyola University Chicago and a bachelors of arts in secondary social studies education from the University of Kentucky. In her free time, Sarah is most likely at a Chicago dog park with her mini goldendoodle, training for a triathlon or planning her next travel adventure.



Marissa Trevisan

Marissa is the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Chicago-based national nonprofit Innovations for Learning (IFL). In this role, Marissa’s responsibilities include strengthening, broadening and diversifying funding support in 23 major cities through foundation, corporate and individual giving. After receiving a B.A. in Psychology from Wesleyan University, Marissa served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador as a Youth Development Volunteer. A native Bostonian, Marissa then returned to Boston, where she worked as a Therapeutic Caseworker at a local social services agency. She then transitioned to a small nonprofit with a focus on corporate social responsibility and community engagement, where she served as Director of Partner Engagement. A strong advocate for social justice and inclusivity, Marissa is always looking for new ways to get involved, learn more and bring awareness to social causes in both the local and global communities. A Chicago resident since 2015, Marissa is a member of the Chicago Literacy Alliance and a Child Advocate at The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.



Stanley Wilkerson

Stanley is a native of Los Angeles, CA and moved to Chicago during the summer of 2010. Stan (as he is more casually called) attended and graduated from DePaul University with his Masters in School Counseling in 2013. During his tenor in Chicago, Stanley began to develop his brand as an educator, mentor and advocate for inner city youth in Chicago; seeing himself in the youth,  with the ability to relate to and draw connections between South Central Los Angeles and the Southside of Chicago. Stanley currently serves as the Program Manager for Family Focus Inc. in the Lawndale community of Chicago. In his spare time, Stanley enjoys working as the Director of a Chicago male mentoring group through his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma. Additionally, he enjoys being active in the gym, mingling with friends, enjoying a good game, listening to good music, and an occasional casual read.