top of page

LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE 
2023 COHORT

Meet the outstanding nonprofit professionals that make up YNPN Chicago's 2023 Leadership Institute Cohort.

Kris_Adamik_Headshot_1.jpg

KRIS ADAMIK (SHE/HER/HERS)

Manager, Digital Content and Communications | United Way of Metro Chicago

Kris Adamik is the manager of digital content and communications for United Way of Metro Chicago, which brings together business, government, philanthropic, individual, and community leaders to build a stronger, more equitable Chicago region. In this role, Kris uses integrated storytelling techniques to develop and create content that shares United Way’s impact across a variety of communication channels. She previously worked in communications and fundraising for the youth development and social service nonprofit Chicago Lights, the historic 5,000-member Fourth Presbyterian Church, and the community development organization Bethel New Life. Kris is currently a member of the Communications Peer Advisory Group through the Charmm’d Foundation. She has a bachelor’s degree in new-media journalism from Valparaiso University and is passionate about using storytelling to build community and connection and advance equity. She enjoys yoga, baking, spending time with family and friends, and perfecting her guacamole recipe. 

Headshot.jpg

SHANNON ANDERSON (SHE/HER/HERS)

Illinois Youth Investment Program Director | Alternative Schools Network

Shannon Anderson is the Illinois Youth Investment Program Director for the Alternative Schools Network, a nonprofit that re-engages young adult learners by providing educational, workforce and civic driven programs. As Director, she oversees workforce development programming across 11 alternative schools, providing employment training and job placement to over 200 youth. As a native of Chicago’s southside, Shannon developed a passion for serving underprivileged communities early in her career which began as an AmeriCorps VISTA in East St. Louis, IL. With a decade of dedication to the non-profit sector, Shannon is committed to assisting minority communities in keeping pace with the economic, structural, and educational growth of the country and world. She studied at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in pursuit of a BS in Molecular Biology. Outside of her career, Shannon is a huge sports fan and enjoys playing basketball, flag football, playing the keyboard and spending time with her family and friends. She is very excited to be a part of the YNPN Leadership Institute.

Bahena_Headshot.JPG

SAMANTHA BAHENA (SHE/HER/ELLA)

Career Program Specialist | Posse Foundation

Samantha Bahena (she, her, ella) is an educator, social justice advocate, and community leader. In addition to her work as a Career Program Specialist at the Posse Foundation, Samantha has volunteered at the Wentcher Scholarship Foundation, Tutoring Chicago and has served in the Young Professionals Advisory Council for Mujeres’ Latinas en Accion. Her work is centered around cultivating programming that supports the development of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Through each of her ventures, Samantha works to bring attention to the barriers that affect the retention and achievement of disadvantaged communities in higher education.


Samantha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor of Legal Studies from Northwestern University, where she has remained involved as part of the Alumni Admission Council. She is passionate about education policy and working with youth to change the face of leadership.

1646684120868.jpg

JESSICA BARAJAS (SHE/HER/HERS)

Grant Manager | Foundation of Little Village

Jessica Barajas is the Grant Manager at the Foundation of Little Village.

IMG_0120.jpg

HANA BECKER (SHE/THEY)

Director of Development and Communications | America SCORES Chicago

Hana Becker (she/they) proudly serves as the Director of Development & Communication at America SCORES Chicago. Her career experience focuses on creative marketing, event planning, and communications - previously serving as Creative Director for DDK Marketing, Inc. As someone with experience in unique roles at both small and large companies, Hana enjoys wearing multiple hats. Hana thrives when working to improve processes, cultivate a healthy workplace, and utilize her creativity.

Headshot MB 1.jpg

MARINA BURKA (SHE/HER/HERS)

Program Manager, Immigrant Justice Partnerships | The Resurrection Project

Marina Burka has worked in the immigrant and refugee rights space for over 7 years. Currently, she is a Program Manager with the Immigrant Justice team at The Resurrection Project, where she builds capacity for community-based organizations to grow their immigrant leadership programs and provide legal representation to communities in Illinois most at risk of detention and deportation. Prior to TRP, Marina spent 4 years in direct immigration legal services, working primarily with survivors of labor trafficking, and volunteered as a Child Advocate with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Originally from Pennsylvania, Marina holds a B.S. in Human Geography from Penn State University and received a Fulbright Fellowship to the United Kingdom, where she earned her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow. Marina is currently a yoga teacher-in-training, and in her free time enjoys playing piano and guitar, spending time at Lake Michigan, and searching for her next hiking destination.

Gill, Stacie_Headshot 2023.JPG

STACIE GILL (SHE/HER/HERS)

Senior Program Manager | iMentor

Stacie is a Chicago Native. Stacie’s professional career has been dedicated to serving and uplifting the voices and experiences of inner city Youth. The desire to create and cultivate community is what grounds Stacie in whatever new role or project she takes on. Stacie currently serves as a Senior Program Manager for iMentor Chicago. In this role, Stacie is responsible for cultivating relationships with mentors and mentees while also developing curriculum and programming to better support 12th grade students and their post-secondary goals. In addition, Stacie saw a need and now voluntarily co-leads a student advisory council to ensure students' voices are always at the forefront of major changes and decisions made within the iMentor organization. 

Prior to being a Senior Program Manager, she served as a Special Programs Coordinator at Legal Prep Charter Academy, she brought her love of new ideas and innovation to this role through development and implementation of Mentor, Student Internship Experiential, and flagship Law Programs. Prior, Stacie served and managed career exploration and diversity programming within the higher education sector. It is during this pivotal moment in her career that made Stacie embrace her intersectional identities and natural ability to steward relationships and partnerships. 


Stacie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Augustana College. Free time for Stacie looks like embracing the sun and the outdoors, debating Sci-Fi films, and taking on all things art as a form of expression and storytelling.

AlexGreenwaldHeadshot.JPG

ALEXANDRA GREENWALD (SHE/HER/HERS)

Director of Marketing and Communications | Chicago Scholars

Alexandra Greenwald is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Chicago Scholars, where she leads a team of three to manage the organization’s website, social media, PR and all other external communications. Previously, she held positions at Gamaliel Network, The University of Chicago, and ABC7 Chicago. Originally from Ohio, Alex holds a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.A. from The University of Chicago Divinity School. When she’s not at work, Alex spends time with her cats, Critter and Goose, attempts to craft, and cooks with her husband, Chris.

0017.jpg

LEKISHA R. GUNN (SHE/HER/HERS)

Impact Manager | Girls On the Run Chicago

Lekisha Gunn is the Impact Manager for Girls on the Run Chicago, a national non-profit organization that focuses on social emotional learning and fitness for girls from grades 3 to 8. She previously worked in the Illinois Supreme Court promoting legal access to self-represented litigants after the 2020 racial uprising. She also worked at the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in both Mexico and Austria under the Obama Administration. She is very active in the Chicago community and serves on both the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Chicago and Borderless Magazine. Lekisha holds a Master of Public Policy from Duke University and B.S. in Business Administration at the University of Alabama. In her free time, she likes running, reading and playing with her dog, Pep.

00001_0I8A3453.png

LAUREN HINCE (SHE/HER/HERS)

Volunteer and Outreach Manager | Chicago Debates

Lauren Hince is the Volunteer & Outreach Manager at Chicago Debates, a non-profit that is dedicated to reducing the education opportunity gap for CPS students through the transformative power of academic debate. As a former debater, the mission and work of Chicago Debates is extremely personal to her. Lauren is responsible for the recruitment, training, and retention of all volunteers. She also works closely with the junior-level advisory board. Building and maintaining a strong sense of community amongst Chicago Debates's growing network is integral to her work. Lauren earned her Bachelors of Arts in both Political Science and Communication from Ripon College. Prior to Chicago Debates, Lauren has jumped between the public and private sector but always keeping community at the core of her work.  In her spare time, Lauren volunteers with the Chicago Clean-up Club, works as a Braven mentor, and serves as an alumni representative for her college. She still makes time for fun through weekly trivia competitions with friends.

Leila.jpg

LEILA MAKDISI (SHE/HER/HERS)

Education Coordinator | Museum of Science and Industry

Leila has over a decade of experience in informal museum education and science communication including development, implementation and evaluation of programming, as well as training staff and volunteers, for institutions in Chicago and New York. Her work focuses on making science and scientific thinking exciting and accessible by employing facilitation techniques that encourage learners to build self-confidence. Leila holds a BA in Physics from Bard College and an MA in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Chicago.

MichaelNearpass.jpg

MICHAEL NEARPASSS (HE/HIM/HIS)

Director of Development | Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

Michael is the Development Manager at Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (CJP), a nonprofit that uses music to bridge communities, educate the next generation of musicians, encourage cross-cultural dialogue, and expand creative practice. In this role, he oversees CJP’s individual giving program, as well as their portfolio of corporate, government, and foundational supporters. Michael is passionate that students should have access to a quality, well-rounded public-school education, and their families should be able to experience high quality accessible arts programming in their neighborhoods and communities.


Since moving to Chicago in 2013, Michael has worked in the arts community as an instructor and administrator for numerous Chicago nonprofits, and as a freelance performer and music composer. He received his B.M from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his M.M from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

Gerald Headshot.jpg

GERALD POLANCO (HE/HIM/ÉL)

Directtor of Programs | Chicago Community Bond Fund

Gerald is a queer Latino advocate for and alongside low-income communities of color. He is the Director of Programs at the Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF), where he manages a revolving fund, which supports individuals whose communities cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves and who have been impacted by structural violence. He is also a member of the Advisory Council for the Office of New Americans. After graduating from Loyola University Chicago School of Law with a JD, he worked in various legal nonprofits representing, educating, and advocating for marginalized communities.

Screen Shot 2023-03-01 at 7.50.20 PM.png

ELIZABETH SALGADO (SHE/HER/HERS)

Program Facilitator | Lumity

Elizabeth Salgado is a Chicago native as well as a first-generation immigrant and college graduate. She has 12 years of experience in education and the non-profit sector. In her current role as a Program Facilitator with Lumity she is responsible for facilitating lessons and providing youth from under resourced communities with transformational experiences to prepare them for lifelong STEM Careers. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, going to live music shows, and listening to true crime podcasts. She is looking forward to being part of the 2023 Leadership Institute Cohort.

samoska_headshot.jpg

SYDNEY SAMOSKA (THEY/THEM)

High School Program Manager | Youth and Opportunity United

Sydney is the High School Program Manager at Youth and Opportunity United where they build relationships with students, families, and the community; lead high school program staff; and design curriculum for out-of-school time programming. Before Y.O.U., Sydney taught in various environments working with everyone from littles to grown-ups, including working as the Lab Manager for the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. Sydney studied Biology, Secondary Education, and Neuroscience at Loyola, and they are currently working on an MEd in Instructional Leadership from UIC. Outside of work, Sydney loves reading, playing D&D and video games, and spending time with their two cats, Clementine and Jemison.

IMG_9555.JPG

LAUREN SILVERMAN (SHE/HER/HERS)

Associate Director of Changemakers Engagement and Strategic Partnerships | The Jewish Federations of North America

Lauren Silverman is from Dix Hills, NY. She received her undergraduate degree from Franklin and Marshall College with a major in American Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies. She received her Masters in Jewish Professional Studies from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Lauren worked for Vanderbilt Hillel in Nashville, Tennessee and the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago before joining the Jewish Federations of North America in April 2022. At JFNA, Lauren works as the Associate Director of Changemakers Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for the Jewish Changemakers Fellowship, a virtual leadership development fellowship for Jewish young adults. In her role, she focuses on program recruitment and overseeing its alumni network. When she's not working, she enjoys finding new coffee shops across Chicago, working out at Equinox, and planning her next trip.

Image.jpeg

KIAH WILSON (SHE/HER/HERS)

Director of Student Life | University of Chicago Charter Schools

Trustworthy youth specialist and educator with over five years of experience developing programs and interactions with young adults. Expert at creating fun and welcoming environments to attract and maintain interest among participants in the non-profit space! Accomplished at boosting youth program participation through proven methods and unique ideas as well as engaging activities.

Past Leadership Institute cohort member? Join the LinkedIn alumni group below and stay connected!

bottom of page