YNPN CHICAGO EXECUTIVE BOARD

The YNPN Chicago Executive Board is an all-volunteer working and governing board, consisting of 20 young nonprofit professionals.

 

EXECUTIVE CHAIRS

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JULISSA CRUZ (SHE/HERS)
CHAIR

Manager of Strategic Initiatives | Feeding America

As Feeding America’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Julissa has the pleasure of providing cross-functional support to teams to better position the organization to fulfill its mission-critical strategies. Prior to that she worked as a consultant with BDO FMA, supporting nonprofits by helping them strengthen their financial management and infrastructure. She began her career at the City Colleges of Chicago - blending her curiosity, data expertise, and diligent drive for continuous improvement to improve processes, inform strategy, and achieve organizational goals.

Julissa holds a Master’s degree in Sociology with a specialization in applied demography from Bowling Green State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with minors in Latin American Studies and Anthropology from Loyola University. She was born and raised on the far southeast side of Chicago. She travels as often as she can, enjoys chatting with others about what makes them smile, and daydreams about writing for fun.

AMENA WALLACE (SHE/HERS)
VICE CHAIR

Program Manager, College Success | iMentor

Amena serves as an 11th-grade Program Manager, College Success with iMentor, an organization that empowers students to succeed in high school and their post-secondary plans by building long-term, personal relationships through mentoring. In her role, she manages more than 100 relationships between 11th-grade mentees and their mentors by facilitating weekly classroom sessions for mentees, providing guidance and support for mentors, and hosting pair events to deepen the mentor-mentee relationship.  As an organization that serves mostly BIPOC and future first-generation college graduates, she is working to ensure that every student has the opportunity to accomplish their professional and personal goals beyond high school.


Before this role, Amena attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she studied Education Policy & Management and completed research focusing on curriculum implementation and restorative justice practices in public schools. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and exploring her native city of Chicago. She received her B.A. in Sociology & Latin American Studies from Hope College.

 

EXTERNAL RELATIONS/SECRETARY

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JENA` THOMAS (SHE/HER)

Regional Operations Manager | UIC Aamco Transmission

Jena` is an Associate Regional Operations Manager with Aamco Transmission. In this role she consults for profit franchise owners’ business concerns and is responsible for managing and overseeing multiple Aamco locations nationwide.


Prior to her work with Aamco, Jena` has participated in the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps and worked for the District Chief of the Chicago Public Library managing 23 South Side Chicago Public Libraries. While working for Chicago Public Library she developed a passion for community program planning and implantation and working with non-profit organizations. She also owns a consulting company that focuses on building business and cliental for minority small business owners. Outside of work Jena` enjoys spending time with her poodle Apollo, playing tennis, and binge-watching Netflix shows.

 

FINANCE CO-CHAIRS

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RACHEL SAX (SHE/HERS)

Director of Impact and Compliance | YWCA Evanston/North Shore

Rachel is the Director of Impact and Compliance at YWCA Evanston/North Shore, a social justice organization that works to eliminate racism and empower women and girls. In her role, she leads the agency's program evaluation, data management, and continuous quality improvement efforts, and oversees the implementation of public grants. Prior to working at YWCA Evanston/North Shore, Rachel worked as a research project coordinator at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, a behavioral therapist for children with autism spectrum disorders, and a special education teacher in Chicago Public Schools.

Rachel received her B.A. in psychology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and her M.A. in teaching from National-Louis University in Chicago. She also holds a certificate in nonprofit management from Northwestern University. In her spare time, Rachel loves to hang out with her rescue pups, Winnie and Gertie.

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JOCELYN VELAZQUEZ (SHE/HERS)

Lender | IFF

Jocelyn Velazquez is a lender at IFF, a community development financial institution (CDFI). IFF is a Midwest-based lender, real estate consultant, and developer that supports nonprofits undergoing community facility projects. In her role, she is responsible for deal origination and underwriting activities across Northwest Indiana and Illinois. Prior to IFF, Jocelyn worked as an investment banking analyst for Aon Corporation’s investment solutions team.


Jocelyn received her B.A. in Economics and Business from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Jocelyn is deeply passionate about supporting individuals and organizations investing in communities of color to advance racial equity. She currently serves as Board Treasurer for Star Farm Chicago, an urban nonprofit farm and landscaping service organization located in Back of the Yards. In her spare time, Jocelyn enjoys spending time with her little brothers, exercising, listening to podcasts, and reading self help books.

 

DEVELOPMENT CO-CHAIRS

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MARISSA BARNES (SHE/HERS)

Assistant Director of Development | Christopher House

Marissa Barnes is the Associate Director of Development at Christopher House, a family of schools that helps children and their families succeed in the classroom, workplace and in life. In her role, she is responsible for creating fundraising plans, managing volunteer groups and planning cultivation events to help children and their families in Chicago’s Logan Square, Uptown and Belmont-Cragin neighborhoods. Prior to her role at Christopher House, Marissa started working in the nonprofit industry in 2015 working for the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois and the Alzheimer’s Association specializing in fundraising and event planning. 


Marissa received her MS in Recreation, Sport and Tourism at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her BS in Recreation and Park Administration. Outside of work, Marissa enjoys reading, traveling across the country to see her favorite musicians, and watching reality tv.

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HILLARY DALE (SHE/HERS)

Manager | BDO FMA

As a Manager with BDO FMA, Hillary supports nonprofits across the country by helping organizations strengthen their financial management operations and infrastructure. She leads technical assistance projects, delivers financial management trainings, and provides leadership coaching with nonprofits of all sizes across programmatic sectors. Prior to BDO FMA, Hillary spent most of her career in program management and operations working with international development and aid organizations, including Action Against Hunger, United Nations Development Programme, and FilmAid International. Hillary started her career in the social sector as a Peace Corps Volunteer where she worked in a high school in the Philippines for two years.

Originally from Cincinnati, Hillary received a BA in Cultural Studies from McGill University in Montreal and a Masters of Public Administration and Policy from New York University. She relocated to Chicago in November 2019. In her free time, Hillary loves biking on the lake shore path, long walks with good podcasts, and doing lots of improv. She also loves traveling, reading, and, above all, her cat Lola.

 

COMMUNICATIONS CO-CHAIRS

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BECCA ALLPOW (SHE/HERS)

Philanthropy Program Manager | Kemper

Becca works as the Philanthropy Program Manager at Kemper, where she coordinates the Kemper Scholars Program, works with nonprofit partners to facilitate corporate sponsorships and employee volunteer opportunities, and supports the employee donation match and volunteer programs. Prior to joining Kemper, she worked as the Education and Scholarships Manager at the Arizona Community Foundation, where she oversaw the scholarship application process and awarding of over $4.8 million dollars annually. 


Becca holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Illinois State University and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Saint Xavier University. Outside of work, she enjoys hanging out with her dogs (Buster and Toby), going to lots of concerts, and spending time with family and friends. 

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AIDA KAJS (SHE/HERS)

Program Associate | Schuler Education Foundation

As the Program Associate for the Schuler Education Foundation, Aida administers the Foundation's grantmaking initiatives with liberal arts colleges across the country. She holds a BS in Biology with a concentration in Ecology and Evolution from Trinity University. She also holds a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.


Outside of work, she loves to read (you can follow her book Instagram @sharedlibrary) and travel as much as she can. Most Sundays, you can find her singing in the worship band at Urban Village Church in Edgewater.

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GRACE LIPSCOMB (SHE/HERS)

Development Manager | Search, Inc.

Grace is the Development Manager at Search Inc., a non-profit empowering adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Chicagoland. She manages all areas of fundraising, communications, grant writing, and donor engagement in this role.  


Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she graduated from Drake University with a degree in Marketing and French. 


Outside of work, you can find Grace reading a good book, trying a new restaurant in town, and traveling as often as she can. She loves meeting new people and talking about their passions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to grab a cup of tea/coffee! 

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EMILY RAMSTETTER (SHE/HERS)

Senior Communications Manager | GirlForward

Emily is the Senior Communications Manager for GirlForward, a nonprofit organization providing mentorship, education, and safe spaces for girls in high school who are refugees and immigrants. In her role, Emily works to advance GirlForward’s mission by managing the organization’s marketing, communications channels, and creative projects.

Emily is originally from Kentucky and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.A. in Advocacy and Social Change. In her free time she is usually spending time outside, baking, watching a movie, and/or listening to podcasts!

 

LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE CHAIR

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JULIANN KRUPA (SHE/HERS)

Engagement Manager | Alliance for the Great Lakes

Juliann Krupa is the Engagement Manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. In this role Juliann utilizes her passion for aquatic science and conservation to oversee over 15,000 Adopt-a-Beach program participants throughout the Great Lakes region and to inspire appreciation, conservation, and restoration of the world's largest freshwater resource. Prior to her role at the Alliance, Juliann worked at Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago Children's Museum, honing her expertise in project and program management, experiential learning, youth outdoor recreation, and digital learning.


Juliann holds a Master’s degree in Science Education from DePaul University and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science from the College of William and Mary. Her love of the water comes from time spent studying sustainable fisheries in the Caribbean, kayaking with whales in the Sea of Cortez, mucking for clams in the Chesapeake Bay, diving shipwrecks in Lake Michigan, and exploring creeks and ponds in her hometown in Northeastern Ohio. When she's not in the water, she loves reading cookbooks and playing board games.

 

PROGRAMMING CO-CHAIRS

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CLAIRE DORN (SHE/HERS)

Senior Employment Services Advisor | Upwardly Global

Claire is a Senior Employment Services Advisor at Upwardly Global, a national nonprofit that helps immigrant and refugee professionals to restart their careers in the United States. In her role, Claire provides comprehensive career coaching for hundreds of internationally trained professionals from diverse industry backgrounds. She is a strong advocate for inclusive hiring practices and also manages corporate partnerships to help companies diversify their talent pipelines and plan employee engagement volunteer events. 


Claire has a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Spanish and a Master's degree in International Development. She is passionate about creating pathways for upward economic mobility and helping others fulfill their professional potential. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, studying languages and finding ways to live more sustainably.

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BECCA IMMANUEL (SHE/HERS)

Institutional Giving Coordinator | Connections for the Homeless

Becca is the Institutional Giving Coordinator at Connections for the Homeless. In her role, Becca helps manage private grants and the institutional relationships that allow Connections to do the work that they do for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in north suburban Cook County. Prior to joining Connections, Becca worked at the Allstate Foundation as a Grant Support Specialist. She has a passion for equity focused solutions, serving the community, and advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. 


Becca has a bachelor’s degree in both History and Religious Studies from Westminster College, and recently received an MA Grant writing, Management and Evaluation Master’s program from Concordia University Chicago.

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RACHEL RAY (SHE/HERS)

Program Manager, Coaching | LIFT-Chicago

Rachel is a community social worker specializing in people and program management. In her current role as Program Manager, she oversees program operations of LIFT-Chicago's site and supervises MSW students throughout their field education. With a commitment to authentic relationship-building, she has honed skills in volunteer engagement, training and resource development, and fundraising throughout her career..

Rachel is also an active volunteer with Chicago Volunteer Doulas. She serves as a birth and postpartum doula providing birthing people in the Chicagoland area with free access to prenatal, labor, and postpartum physical and emotional support. Birth justice and racial equity are her passion points, so she is energized by being involved with nonprofits like CVD who are committed to eliminating healthcare disparities through advocacy, empowerment and support.

She was drawn to the Midwest from her home state of Florida when she pursued her Masters in Social Work at the University of Michigan, after which she moved to join the thriving nonprofit community in Chicago. In her free time, she loves cooking up new recipes, cuddling with her sweet kitties, and eating her way around the world. 

 

MEMBERSHIP CO-CHAIRS

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MARISA CASTILLO (SHE/HERS)

Development Officer | Women's Link Worldwide

Marisa is the Development Officer at Women's Link Worldwide. As part of the development team, Marisa's focus areas include the annual appeal, individual donor engagement, and growing revenue from individual giving. 


Marisa received her bachelor's degree from DePaul University in both Women's and Gender Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies. When she's not working or volunteering, you can find her browsing for her next read at the library, or playing with her dog Nala.

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CHIDIMA OKORIE (SHE/HERS)

Program Manager | Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Chidima Okorie is a Program Manager with Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the government entity responsible for child protective services in Illinois. She oversees DCFS' programming for older adolescents in DCFS care and has launched several initiatives including the piloting of an evidence-based program model, LifeSet, to improve DCFS' processes, programming and the experiences and outcomes for older adolescents in the Illinois' foster care system.


Chidima is a native of Nigeria and attained a M.A in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University and a B.A. in Psychology and Criminology from The Ohio State University. Chidima believes in the potential of every individual, family, community and business which is reflected in her work with Illinois DCFS and her work as a Project Management Consultant who provides oversight and leadership in executing projects from planning to completion. She has always been passionate about helping others discover their true potential and live more meaningful lives and has done so through her work and continues to find other ways to help. Chidima hosts the Chronicles of Black Parenting podcast, where issues that plague black and brown families are discussed and stories are shared. She loves spending time with family, friends, and herself. She also enjoys traveling and dancing. 

 

CREATING SPACE INITIATIVE CO-CHAIRS

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JEROME' HOLSTON (HE/HIS)

Director | LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois

Jerome’ Holston is the Director of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois which serves as the premiere voice for nearly 50,000 LGBTQ+ business owners. Jerome’ is responsible for leveraging corporate, nonprofit, and government partnerships to advocate on behalf of nearly 300 member businesses. While at the LGBTCC, Jerome’ has been chiefly responsible for developing new programs and activities, including the LGBTQ+ Biz Boot Camp, Chicago’s sole business cohort program for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. Jerome’ has a B.A. in Communications from Alabama State University, an MPA from the University of Illinois at Springfield, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource.  Jerome’ is a graduate of the 2021 Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago, and has been recognized by Crain’s Chicago as a 2020 Notable LGBTQ+ Executive, and as a 2020 40 Game Changer by WVON and Ariel Investments.

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SAMMY SUH (SHE/HERS)

Special Projects Director | Urban Initiatives

Sammy is a Special Projects Director at Urban Initiatives where she is a part of both the Development and Partnerships department. In her role she oversees the Advisory Board, supports planning, and manages relationships with partner networks. Prior to Urban Initiatives, Sammy was a 2nd grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools, a dream of hers growing up a student in CPS since Kindergarten. 
Sammy received her BA in Elementary Education at the University of Michigan. During her time off, she enjoys spending too many hours at cafes, hiking (which can be difficult to do in a place as flat as Chicago), and listening to podcasts about pop culture and race.