Congrats to our 2022 Leadership Institute cohort members. We're excited to watch their growth over the coming year and hope to share some of their insights here on our blog. Stay tuned!
Aaron Akers is a Senior Asset Manager at the Chicago Community Loan Fund, a local nonprofit focused on financing affordable housing, community facilities, and social enterprises throughout Chicagoland. As a member of the Portfolio Management Team, he administers CCLF’s predevelopment, construction and rehab loans, assisting borrowers through the development process and providing technical assistance where needed. Originally hailing from Virginia, he joined CCLF in 2014 and fell in love with the city. Aaron holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Bridgewater College, and is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP). His interests include sustainable design, live music, attempting handyman tasks, and cooking.
Alexandra Ritson has worked in the education and education non-profit sector since 2009. Her current role is Senior Director of Curriculum and Support at OneGoal Chicago. She leads on curriculum design and implementation as well as professional development for teachers and staff with a particular focus on culturally responsive pedagogy. Prior to OneGoal, Alexandra worked for Teach For America in Chicago and started her career as a high school English and ELL teacher in Phoenix, Arizona.
Bridget is the Manager of Scholar Supports at Chicago Scholars, a non-profit that provides support to first generation college students as they transition into college, persist through college, and begin their careers. She oversees wellness and transfer engagement for the College Success team, and also manages the organization’s student emergency fund. Bridget earned her Bachelor of Arts from Governors State University in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and her Master of Leadership Studies from North Central College. Outside of work, Bridget serves on the North Central College alumni board. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, reading, and spending time with her two dogs.
Caitleen Kahn is the Executive Director and co-founder of LYNX Project, a nonprofit amplifying diverse voices and connecting communities through song. Since 2015, she has spearheaded LYNX’s groundbreaking initiatives including the Amplify Series, a collaboration between the autism community and classical composers, and Composition of a City, a songwriting curriculum bridging hip hop and art song. In addition to building inclusive arts programming with LYNX, Caitleen is a passionate advocate for equity in musical education. She spent several years working for UpBeat NYC, a free after-school orchestra program in the South Bronx, and received the Catherine Filene Shouse Fellowship for her work with Musicambia, an organization creating music conservatories in the United States prison system. Caitleen is an accomplished soprano, and outside of performance and arts administration, finds joy teaching her private piano and violin students. In her free time, you’ll probably find her running, eating ice cream, or chasing her husband, daughter, and dog around Chicago!
Cynthia Saucedo is a Chicago native and a proud first-generation immigrant. As a product of Chicago Public Schools, she has made it her goal and mission to give back to the school system and communities that helped mold her into the person she is today. She has worked in education within Chicago and Chicagoland area schools as an educator and program manager for over five years. She understands the challenges that many schools face and is truly invested in being a valuable resource to educators and students. In her current role, she serves as the Director over the STEM Career Prep team at Lumity which supports Chicagoland’s most under-resourced schools with a four-year program that prepares students for STEM careers and essential life skills. She believes that young people can all own their success, we just need to empower them on their journey and show them the way. Outside of her day to day at Lumity, Cynthia likes to indulge her creative soul by painting, dabbling in graphic design and traveling to unique cities with her husband. She is looking forward to being part of the 2022 Leadership Institute Cohort.
Jackie has worked in the non-profit sector for over five years and is currently at Revolution Workshop, a workforce development organization that provides free construction job training. She has been at Revolution Workshop since the organization started in September 2018 and has filled various roles as the start-up has evolved. She currently manages the organizational relationships with the employer partners and program alumni to help graduates obtain and sustain successful construction careers. Jackie attended Northwestern University, where she received a B.A. in Environmental Science with minors in Global Health and Human-Centered Design.
My name is Jade Ivy and I am the Senior Communications and Operations Associate for Girls Inc. of Chicago. I have worked in the non-profit sector since 2013. I began my journey as Production Coordinator for the Southside Film Youth Initiative mentoring high school students on the process of filmmaking. I am currently taking the lead on Girls Inc. of Chicago’s Corporate Volunteer Program where we will bridge the gap between the corporate and nonprofit sector. I have been fortunate to work in various fields providing support, resources, and access to Chicago communities. These communities raised me and molded me, so it’s my honor to work with and for the people in the city that I love, Chicago. I am a graduate of Columbia College Chicago holding a B.A. in Cinema Arts and Sciences. I am on the Board of A Hand 2 Give, a non-profit organization serving the Chatham community. I am a proud dog mom who enjoys traveling, trying new recipes, and creating memories with those I love most.
Jillian Abbinanti has recently accepted the role of Community Engagement Manager at 826CHI. 826CHI is dedicated to amplifying the voices of Chicago youth. They encourage the exploration of endless possibility through the power of writing for students, for teachers, and for communities. Jillian is excited to join the 2020 YNPN Leadership institute during this transition to a new organization. She is a passionate arts in education advocate and Chicago native. Recently, she worked at Urban Gateways as their Instructional Programs Manager. She would handle all things related to multi-disciplinary arts residency programs, artist management, and school relationship building. Jillian is a graduate of North Park University with a dual degrees in Communication: Theatre and Performance Studies and Early Childhood Education (ESL Endorsement). Jillian's previous teaching and management experience includes Emerald City Theatre School, Porchlight Music Theatre, and the Chicago Fringe Festival. She is also a Board Member with Playmakers Laboratory.
Jillian is passionate about helping young people find meaning and purpose through experiential education. As an educator with a background in service-learning and design thinking, she began her career teaching in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Currently, she manages youth empowerment and invention programs at Project Invent. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Development Sociology and a minor in Education from Cornell University.
Katrina has 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, working for an array of organizations in Colorado Springs, Washington D.C., and Chicago. She is currently the Database Associate at the Alliance for the Great Lakes where she oversees the database and helps the organization meet its strategic goals by leveraging its data. She is passionate about making nonprofits more effective through the collection, evaluation and use of data. Katrina earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Colorado College, and a Masters in international development from American University. Katrina is a native Chicagoan who enjoys having her heart broken by the Chicago Bears, snuggling with her dachshund, and kayaking the Great Lakes.
Kirstie Mason is the Manager of Foundation and Government Philanthropy at Ignite. Kirstie has been in the nonprofit field for over 6 years and specializes in development, community engagement, and relationship building. She has worked in nonprofit communities in both Michigan and North Carolina and relocated to Chicago in 2021. After having supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence for the majority of her time in the nonprofit, Kirstie recently transitioned to serving youth experiencing homelessness. Kirstie’s involvement with leadership programs began in college and has continued throughout her time as a professional in varying capacities—she now looks forward to joining a team of bright individuals as they grow, learn, and make a positive impact in the Chicago community.
La Mar Brown
La Mar Brown is an arts manager, producer, dancer, and singer. After relocating to Chicago from Dallas, TX, he completed his Master of Arts Management at Columbia College Chicago in 2016. La Mar is now the Operations Manager for Chicago Dancemakers Forum, where he manages functions to support administrative, fundraising, and programming activities. La Mar’s other administrative credits include Company Manager, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Box Office Supervisor, Writers Theatre; Project Coordinator, The Ruth Page Center for the Arts; and Associate Patron Services Manager, the AT&T Performing Arts Center (Dallas, TX). His performance credits include Dallas Black Dance Theatre, The Ruth Page Civic Ballet, Porchlight Music Theatre, Dallas Metropolitan Ballet, Uptown Players, Garland Summer Musicals, and The Dallas Opera. La Mar is thrilled to be a part of the 2022 Leadership Institute cohort with YNPN Chicago and hopes to develop networks further in support of artmaking in Chicago.
With more than 11 years in nonprofit community development, Lincoln is passionate about building a more equitable Chicago. Currently, he works as Building Development Associate with Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA), a place-based housing service provider with roots in the Puerto Rican community of Humboldt Park. At LUCHA, Lincoln manages real estate projects that deliver community benefit, from affordable rental housing to a new office and community center. Recently, he supported the successful completion of Tierra Linda Apartments, an award-winning development along the 606 Trail that included Chicago’s first multifamily, energy efficient Passive House building. Prior to LUCHA, Lincoln spent 7 years in portfolio management at Chicago Community Loan Fund, supporting mission-driven projects throughout Chicagoland. Outside work, he can be found enjoying Chicago’s music scene, planning elaborate bike rides and contributing to local mutual aid efforts.
Molly is the Operations Manager for the Road Home Program at Rush University Medical Center. She leads an administrative team that supports mental health professionals in treating veterans with PTSD and MST and their families at no out-of-pocket cost. Working for a program that offers all services at no cost to the veteran has been one of the most rewarding experiences for her. Additionally, knowing the deep and life-changing impact the program has had on veterans who come to the program from all over the country is what keeps Molly motivated daily. After graduating with her MSW from Dominican University, Molly has been working in the Chicago nonprofit sector for 8 years mainly around veteran mental health issues. Molly is also a Licensed Social Worker in IL and has decided to use it at the macro level staying in nonprofit administration. In her “downtime,” her three-year-old son keeps her very busy; she enjoys traveling, audiobooks, and working in the garden.
Victor Ribadeneyra serves as Director of Community Engagement for the Music Institute of Chicago, a nonprofit music school with locations in Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, and Downers Grove. Victor focuses on community relationship building, diverse community arts programs that reflect the communities they serve, and empowering students and faculty to create change through their music. Prior to the Music Institute of Chicago, Victor served as the Orchestra & Chamber Music Program Coordinator with Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, Production Assistant with the Ravinia Festival, and K-12 Band Director & General Music Teacher with the School Town of Munster. As a musician, Victor has received multiple honors for his music as a Jazz Fellow at the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, finalist in the United States Air Force Golden Band of the West trombone audition, and finalist in the Indiana University Concerto Competition. In his free time, Victor volunteers as a Cat Care Shift Leader with Community Animal Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.), a volunteer led animal shelter in Skokie. He also teaches freelance private music lessons and substitute teaches group music theory classes. Victor originally hails from Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education (B.M.E.) degree with a Minor in Jazz Studies from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.