About Us


WITS sets students on a trajectory for success by building critical literacy skills and developing positive self-identity through teacher led literacy professional development and volunteer powered mentorship programs.


WITS creates opportunities for every student in Chicago to be literate.



Community

WITS is a movement of educators, volunteers and investors coming together to support a better public education for every student.

WITS believes that pipelines of mentors, across all of its communities, set the right tone and culture in our schools for all students to become literate.

WITS communities of teachers and volunteers model for students the life-enhancing benefits of literacy and a passion for learning.

 

Empowerment

WITS advocates for every CPS student to have access to the literacy resources necessary for academic and professional achievement.

WITS teachers and volunteer mentors empower students to trust in education opportunities and the value it brings to their future.

WITS builds teachers into literacy leaders and broadens the civic mindedness of volunteers.

WITS believes in the power of mentors to build and strengthen communities. Volunteers mentor students. Teachers mentor teachers. Volunteers mentor volunteers. Students mentor students.

 

Consistency

WITS is 100% privately funded, and program delivery is not reliant on school or city budgets.

WITS students out perform their peers in reading level growth year over year, driving students to grade-level proficiency.

WITS fosters relationships between students and mentors to develop mindsets critical for positive youth development.


CO-FOUNDERS

  • JOANNE ALTER
    (1927-2008)
    Civic Leader
  • MARION STONE
    (1921-2018)
    Civic Leader
  • Rochelle Lee
    (1922-2009)
    Founder - Rochelle Lee Teacher Award

Twenty five years ago, three Chicago change agents created two programs, now combined into one organization to empower students as readers.

In 1991, Joanne Alter and Marion Stone befriended a teacher at Byrd Academy who expressed her students need for 1:1 reading time with caring adults to help get them up to grade level reading. Joanne and Marion got to work. They cleaned up the school library and read with students. As students were transformed into empowered readers, Joanne and Marion were inspired to found Working in the Schools (WITS) with the vision of activating volunteers as literacy mentors for students throughout Chicago.

Simultaneously, just a few blocks north at Oscar Mayer Elementary, librarian Rochelle Lee was inspiring generations of students and parents through her love of reading. In honor of her impact, the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) was created to provide teachers with the training and resources needed to inspire a love of reading in students. In turn, RLTA teachers emerged as literacy leaders in their schools.

In 2015, these programs merged under the WITS umbrella to create a holistic approach to literacy support in classrooms and schools. WITS stands on the shoulders of these visionaries and their belief that empowering students as readers will build communities of lifelong learners.


WITS Board of Directors donate their expertise and valuable time to grow the mission of WITS through strategic oversight and impassioned leadership.


EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

  • PHILIP HILDEBRANDT
    Chairman
    Chief Executive Officer, Segall Bryant & Hamill

    Phil is Chief Executive Officer for Segall Bryant & Hamill, a leading investment management firm located in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to joining SBH, Mr. Hildebrandt was Director of Marketing for CSI Asset Management, an investment subsidiary of The Prudential Investment Corporation. He also served with Prudential in their merchant banking area, arranging private debt and equity placements for the General Account of Prudential. Mr. Hildebrandt has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from the University of Minnesota and an MBA in finance from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. He is a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, an organization that is committed to the strengthening of the economic and social welfare of the City of Chicago.

  • JEREMY COLE
    President
    Partner, Jones Day

    Jeremy is a litigation partner in the Chicago office of Jones Day, a global law firm with over 40 offices worldwide.  He received his undergraduate degree from Kalamazoo College and his law degree from the University of Notre Dame.  Jeremy has been a WITS volunteer and board member since 2008.  He served as WITS board secretary from 2012 to 2014, and became board President in 2014.  He and his Jones Day colleagues read to 3rd grade students at Manierre elementary school.  Jeremy lives in the city with his wife and three children.  

  • SCOTT LEHMAN
    Vice President
    Investment Banking Associate, Citi

    Scott Lehman is an Investment Banking Associate in the Financial Institutions Group of Citigroup based in Chicago. 

    Scott joined the firm in November 2014 from Credit Suisse’s Chicago Financials practice.  Prior to Credit Suisse, Scott worked in various capacities at the boutique investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods which also specializes in the financial institutions sector.

    As a volunteer, Scott has worked with WITS, Chicago Cares, Chicago Scholars, and Veterans Upward Bound (Philadelphia).  Scott joined WITS as a volunteer in 2009 and served as the Associate Board’s VP in 2011-2012. 

    Prior to his career in banking, Scott served for four years as a special operations U.S. Marine (Marine Recon) conducting multiple deployments abroad including a tour in Iraq in 2003.

    Scott earned his M.B.A. from the The Wharton School in 2014 with a concentration in Finance.  He graduated with a B.S. in Real Estate Finance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

    Scott resides in Chicago with his wife Jenny.

  • CAROLYN GOLDHABER
    Vice President - Finance
    Chief Financial Officer, Segall Bryant & Hamill

    Carolyn Goldhaber is the Chief Financial Officer for Segall Bryant & Hamill. Prior to joining SBH, Carolyn served as CFO for Vienna Beef Ltd, where she was responsible for overseeing all the functions of the accounting/finance organization. Carolyn’s previous experience includes serving as a Vice President of Commercial Banking Finance at LaSalle Bank as well as various positions at Kraft Foods. Carolyn began her career at KPMG as an auditor within the Audit practice Carolyn earned a BS in Accounting and Finance from Indiana University.

  • LAURA SHROYER LISS
    Second Vice President - Legal
    Partner, Patzik, Frank & Samotny

    Laura is Chair of PFS’ Employment Practice Group. She provides both legal and practical business advice on all phases of employment-related decisions. She regularly serves as a sounding board for business owners, executives and human resources professionals and assists them in successfully and efficiently navigating the various employment laws that affect their businesses.

  • JOHN MARTIN
    Treasurer
    Chief Operating Officer, CouponCabin

     

    John is the President of JFM OPS Consulting LLC, focusing on providing operational consulting services to early stage companies as an interim Chief Operation Officer (COO).  In this capacity, he has worked with over 15 start-ups/early stage companies.  John has also run three technology-based companies as a full-time Chief Operating Officer.  Earlier in his career, he worked as a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte Consulting.  He received his B.S. in Management Information Systems from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  Prior to joining the board of WITS, he was the chairperson for Boundless Readers.

  • LAUREN ROCKLIN
    Secretary
    Senior Director of Sales Strategy and Operations, Groupon

    Lauren Rocklin is currently a Senior Director of Business Development at Orbitz Worldwide. She is responsible for managing Orbitz’s partnerships with technology providers and select airlines and well as supporting the agency’s connectivity strategy. Lauren has over 10 years in the travel industry, including over 6 at United Airlines in a variety of roles including sales, loyalty, and media. She is a graduate of Cornell University, has her MBA and Masters of Engineering Management from the Kellogg School, and is originally from the Philadelphia area. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys travel, running, volunteering and chasing after her toddler.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

  • MATTHEW R A'HEARN
    Managing Director
    IPI Data Center Partners Management
    MATTHEW R A'HEARN
    Managing Director

    Matt A’Hearn is a Managing Director at Moelis & Company, a Global Investment Bank. Mr. A’Hearn has 15 years of investment banking experience in the telecom, media and technology sectors. Prior to Moelis & Company, Mr. A’Hearn was a Principal at Bank of America Merrill Lynch where he executed a wide variety of corporate finance transactions including numerous mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financings, restructurings and leveraged buyouts. Prior to this, Mr. A’Hearn worked at UBS Investment Bank and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Mr. A’Hearn holds a B.S. in Finance and International Business with Distinction from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

  • JENNIFER ALTER WARDEN
    Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President
    Baird & Warner Real Estate
    JENNIFER ALTER WARDEN
    Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President

    Jennifer Alter Warden is the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Baird & Warner, a major independent real estate services company based in Chicago. Much of her focus during her 20-year tenure has been to bring marketing and technology innovation to the 160-year-old fifth generation company, while perpetuating the cultural values that have driven its sustainability. Jennifer created the Baird & Warner Good Will Network, the company's charitable initiative, which has donated nearly $2 million to local organizations that provide shelter, primarily to women and children. In addition to WITS, which was co-founded by her mother Joanne Alter, she serves on the board of Chicago Cares. She is a member of the President's Advisory Council at Oberlin College, Northwestern University's Council of 100, the Internal Women’s Forum and the Economic Club of Chicago. In 2011, Jennifer worked closely with her husband, Rob Warden, founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, to abolish the Illinois death penalty. A lifelong resident of Chicago, Jennifer is an avid bicyclist who takes full advantage of the city's lakefront, park system, and other public treasures.

  • DR. OLIMPIA BAHENA
    Principal
    Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy
    DR. OLIMPIA BAHENA
    Principal

    Before moving to the United States 25 years ago, Olimpia Bahena taught French in Mexico. Her first position in the United States was a bilingual educator in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.  As a well-educated immigrant, her work in this low-income immigrant community opened her eyes to the importance of high quality instruction for historically underserved students.  It became a calling.

    Olimpia also developed a passion for adult learning, and this became the cornerstone of her professional growth.  Her learning experiences exposed exciting opportunities to challenge herself.  She is one of the first Latino educators in Chicago to be Nationally Board Certified. She served as a mentor and instructor for teachers with provisional teaching certification in the Project 29 at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and taught bilingual courses at the Illinois Resources Center. Olimpia has also presented nationally and international conferences on topics such as dual language education and professional learning communities.  

    As a participant in a Fulbright Exchange Program with the Board of Education of Argentina, she hosted Argentinian administrators.  Also, she visited Argentina to extend her knowledge of international education and Argentinean education, in particular.  In many ways, she attributes her development as a leader to caring and disciplined mentors.  They have helped her understand the significance of self-reflection, ongoing learning, and the humility to accept, learn from, and move forward after mistakes.  Recently, Olimpia earned a doctoral degree in Education in Urban School Leadership at the University of Illinois.

    Olimpia is a strong proponent of dual language education for English Learners students.  For seven years she has served as Principal of Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy, one the few Chicago Public Schools with a Dual Language Program. It has a high percentage of English Learners and most of the students are Latino.  Over 80% of Talcott’s students qualify for free and reduced lunch.   Talcott is known for its innovative, well-rounded, and high-quality curriculum, dedicated and hard-working families, and learning-focused staff.

    As an immigrant and Latina, Olimpia is a proud role model for students, staff, and the broader school community.  She deeply values opportunities to collaborate with others to improve her professional practice and strengthen student learning at Talcott.  Her passion, persistence and determination as an adult learner continues to inspire and enrich her commitment world-class learning for each and every child.

  • AMY BEST
    Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer
    Exelon Corporation
    AMY BEST
    Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

    Profile

    Best became the CHRO upon close of the Exelon-Constellation merger in March 2012. She is responsible for developing, organizing, implementing, directing and evaluating Exelon’s HR function and performance to support 28,000 Exelon employees. She participates in the development and implementation of Exelon’s plans and programs as a strategic member of the executive team. Best led post-merger integration work, including staffing and selection of 25 percent of Exelon positions, development of the employee benefit platform, total compensation program alignment, and integration of diversity, talent management and succession processes.

    Civic & Board Involvement

    Best is on the board of trustees of The Field Museum and the boards of directors for the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana; Skills for Chicagoland Future; HRMAC (Human Resources Association of Chicago); and WITS (Working in the Schools), partnership between companies and Chicago Public Schools.

    Education

    She received her B.A. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her M.S.I.R from Loyola University Chicago. Best attended the Strategic Human Resource Management Executive Education Program at Harvard University, and Leading Women Executives leadership program. Best is a fellow of the CEO Perspectives leadership program in partnership with the Kellogg School of Management and Chicago Booth School of Business.

  • STEPHANIE BRAMING
    Global Head of Investment Management, William Blair & Company
    STEPHANIE BRAMING
    Global Head of Investment Management, William Blair & Company

    Portfolio Manager for the International Small Cap Growth and International Growth strategies. Stephanie joined William Blair in 2004 as an International and Global Equity Product Specialist, Stephanie has been instrumental in portfolio construction, portfolio design and has had a leadership role in the enhancement of the firm’s systematic research tools. She has also led the design and launch of several strategies including China A-Share and Japan.  Stephanie also served as portfolio manager for the Japan strategy from inception in 2013 to close in 2015.  Prior to joining the firm, Stephanie was a Principal at Mercer Investment Consulting, where she was responsible for the strategic investment direction of her institutional clients.  Prior to her role at Mercer, Stephanie worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. She is a member of the CFA Institute and the CFA Society of Chicago where she served on the Society’s Board of Directors.

    Education: B.A. DePauw University; M.B.A., University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

    Tenure with William Blair: Since 2004

  • Doug Buchler
    Managing Director
    CIBC U.S.
    Doug Buchler
    Managing Director

    Doug joined CIBC US (then The PrivateBank) in 2008.  Currently, he is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager for CIBC US, Illinois Commercial and Specialty Banking (ICB).  In this role, he oversees performance of a $7 billion+ loan portfolio, and manages various activities related to credit risk, operations, finance, and compliance for the business unit.  Before taking the COO role in 2015, Doug was a Relationship Manager in ICB’s Middle Market Banking Group, managing the loan and deposit accounts for a large portfolio of mostly privately held Chicago-based companies across a diverse range of industries.  He started his career as a Credit Analyst for LaSalle Bank, N.A. in 2005.  Doug has a BBA in Finance and Management from The University of Iowa (2005) and an MBA in Business Strategy from DePaul University (2011). 

  • GINNY CARLSON
    Past President, Educator, Civic Leader
    GINNY CARLSON
    Past President, Educator, Civic Leader


    Ginny and Roger  have been tireless advocates of WITS over the past two decades, both volunteering with students and on the Board of Directors. Programmatically, Ginny and Roger were instrumental to the start-up of WITS’ Early Childhood Program, a weekly literacy program geared toward our youngest learners. Roger also introduced WITS to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, a company that has since participated in both Mid-day Mentoring and Workplace Mentoring. Their consistent motivation and leadership has helped propel the mission of WITS and increase the impact of our programs on underserved Chicago youth.

  • ROGER CARLSON
    Past President
    Senior Vice President, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
    ROGER CARLSON
    Past President


    Ginny and Roger  have been tireless advocates of WITS over the past two decades, both volunteering with students and on the Board of Directors. Programmatically, Ginny and Roger were instrumental to the start-up of WITS’ Early Childhood Program, a weekly literacy program geared toward our youngest learners. Roger also introduced WITS to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, a company that has since participated in both Mid-day Mentoring and Workplace Mentoring. Their consistent motivation and leadership has helped propel the mission of WITS and increase the impact of our programs on underserved Chicago youth.

  • Kanika Chakravorti
    Senior Relationship Manager, Global Commercial Banking VP
    Bank of America
    Kanika Chakravorti
    Senior Relationship Manager, Global Commercial Banking VP

    Kanika Chakravorti is a Senior Relationship Manager in Chicago for Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Commercial Bank. In this role, Chakravorti manages a large portfolio of clients by delivering comprehensive financial solutions for companies with revenues between $200 million and $2 billion. She has specialized in professional services firms including: law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, executive search and private equity.

    Chakravorti joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch San Francisco in July, 2010 through the MBA program. She was appointed to her current role in May, 2011 and moved to Chicago in April 2017. Before joining Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Chakravorti spent 6 years in various roles with Northern Trust Corporation; including Client Mangment, Credit and Private Banking. She also worked for a start-up, InContext Solutions, as a Marketing VP.

    Chakravorti graduated from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance. She is also obtained a MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business where she concentrated in finance, entrepreneurship and marketing. She carries both her Series 7 and Series 63.

    Kanika has served on the bank’s Global Commercial Bank Executive Council as well as the San Francisco Talent Council. Chakravorti played an active role in LEAD, the women’s leadership organization at the bank, as Philanthropy-Chair. Currently, she is a member of the Power of 10 and Women’s Executive Council in Chicago.

  • BRIAN CHMIEL
    Managing Director, Forensics and Litigation Support
    Crowe LLP
    BRIAN CHMIEL
    Managing Director, Forensics and Litigation Support

    Brian Chmiel is a Managing Director in the Forensic Services practice of the Chicago office of Crowe  LLP. He has over 18 years of experience providing forensic accounting, litigation support, restructuring, due diligence, and assurance services to clients in a variety of industries. Brian is a CPA, CIRA (Certified Insolvency and Restructuring Advisor), CFF (Certified in Financial Forensics) and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner). In addition to their involvement with WITS, Brian and his wife Kristin volunteer their time with several Chicagoland non-profits. Brian and Kristin live with their two boys in Wheaton. He enjoys family trips, hiking, cooking and golfing.

  • DORNE EASTWOOD
    Educator, Civic Leader
    DORNE EASTWOOD
    Educator, Civic Leader
    Try to add some panel text for this employee 😉
  • FRED FLORES
    Civic Leader
    FRED FLORES
    Civic Leader

    Fred Flores is a recently retired principal from Chicago Public Schools and has   incorporated all WITS programs into his school. He is married to an educator and has two adult sons. He enjoys reading, traveling, and the Chicago Cubs.

  • SYDNEY GOLLIDAY
    Principal
    John B. Drake Elementary School
    SYDNEY GOLLIDAY
    Principal

    As a young child, growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Sydney was exposed to poverty and crime as well as love, high expectations and a loving family.   Due to the strong work ethic of her parents and her grandmother, Sydney learned to embrace her ability to influence and lead others.  Her grandmother often would tell her, “Leave things BETTER than the way you found them”.  This became Sydney’s mantra and she has lived out these words in her daily interactions and in her career.

    Ms. Sydney J. Golliday is a passionate educator and has been employed by Chicago Public Schools for the past 16 years.  Sydney whole-heartedly believes in inspiring, exposing and educating students, staff, families and communities.  As the Assistant Principal at Richard T. Crane Tech Prep High School, Ms. Golliday was the Administrator responsible for Curriculum and Instruction where she created and implemented several school-wide initiatives to improve the school culture and student achievement.  Sydney believes in collaborating with all stakeholders in order to achieve optimum support and results.  While assigned as a Resident Principal at Robert Healy Elementary School and starting her Doctoral Program at Loyola University, Sydney was able to improve student attendance, teacher collaboration and developed a partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago to provided English Language Learner Classes to the parents in order to support their students’ academic goals. 

    Currently, Ms. Golliday is the newly elected Four Year Contract Principal of John B. Drake Elementary School.  During her 22 months at Drake as the Principal, she transformed her entire school community by supporting and inspiring her staff, the students and the parents.   Sydney has developed partnerships with various organizations to provide opportunities and experiences for her school family.  Ms. Golliday believes that servant leadership is the foundation of transformational leadership, which motivates her to provide a high quality educational experience for the Drake Community.  Ms. Sydney Golliday’s goal is to continue to be a beacon of light in the lives of others. 

    Also, Sydney has been a loyal member of Mars Hill Baptist Church Since 2004 where she presently serves on the Welcome Team.  In addition, she is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. where she is instrumental in mentoring your ladies and providing college scholarships for inner city youth.  Sydney resides on the west side of Chicago and has 3 children.  Her Shero is her mother and Soror, Dr. Patricia A. Stewart.

  • JESUS GONZALEZ
    Chief of Staff
    Aon Risk Solutions
    JESUS GONZALEZ
    Chief of Staff

    Jesus is a core member of Aon’s Professional Risk Solutions team and specializes in Commercial E&O (including Technology), Media, and Network Security & Privacy insurance coverages.

    In this capacity, Jesus represents global clients across all industry sectors with a particular emphasis on technology.  Jesus’s responsibilities include vetting third party cyber vendors in addition to Regional Cyber Champion for the Latin America Region.

    Jesus holds an MBA degree from The University of Chicago Booth School of Management.  Prior to joining Aon, he spent over ten years in leadership roles as a systems engineer on worldwide engagements with Motorola and Nokia Siemens Networks.

    Jesus is a U.S. Patent Holder in Network Security.

  • DIANE GRAHAM-HENRY
    Owner
    Diane Graham-Henry Photography
    DIANE GRAHAM-HENRY
    Owner

    Diane received her BFA from University of Illinois Chicago and her MFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has made her career as a photographer, videographer, writer graphic designer and editor; starting DGH Photo in 1979. She has been the recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts for Printmaking, Kodak Professional Division Grant for photography research. Along with WITS, he sits on the board NARI, North America Racewalk Institute. Diane enjoys an active lifestyle involving kayaking, biking, rowing, and race walking. She has been a Race Walk Coach for 18 years, and currently Vice Chair of Race Walking in USA Track and Field.

  • PATRICK HATTON
    General Manager
    The Chicago Athletic Association
    PATRICK HATTON
    General Manager

    As the General Manager of Chicago Athletic Association hotel, Patrick Hatton oversaw the pre-opening period and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the 241-room luxury lifestyle hotel. Hatton’s management expertise and commitment to delivering high-level guest experiences has quickly positioned the hotel as a top destination in Chicago.  Hatton’s visionary leadership style has led to his successful hospitality career. In 2013, Hatton oversaw the closure, renovation and repositioning of the historic James Royal Palm in Miami as the Regional Vice President of Operations. As a result of Hatton’s efforts, The James Royal Palm was named one of the “Top 10 Most Anticipated Hotel Openings” by Forbes, and made Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot List” in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Prior to taking his talents to Miami, Hatton devoted much of his career to the city of Chicago. Starting as the opening General Manager of The James Chicago, Hatton earned a promotion to Regional Managing Director. In this role, Hatton positively impacted the quality of life for his employees by developing programs such as The James Development Academy, a training program, and The James Team Member Assistance Fund, a program to support team members in need. As a result of his leadership, The James Chicago was awarded several accolades, including Travel + Leisure’s “It List,” Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot List,” and Chicago’s Top Workplaces by the Chicago Tribune (#5 in midsize companies).

  • BROOK JAY
    Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer
    All Terrain
    BROOK JAY
    Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer

    As Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of All Terrain, one of the nation’s premiere experiential marketing agencies, Brook has designed countless engaging consumer experiences for iconic brands like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, United Airlines, General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and Airbnb. She is a respected expert in the Experiential Marketing field and has been featured as a guest speaker at industry events across the U.S., including the 2014 Advertising Week event in New York City. Empowering young people is a pillar philanthropic goal for Brook. Along with her seat on the WITS Board of Directors, she’s also partnered with Dr. Amelia Case to launch Princesses with a Twist—a 17-part books series which aims to inspire young girls by showing their favorite fairytale princesses in entrepreneurial roles.

  • LISA KASTIGAR
    Director of Business Development
    GCM Grosvenor
    LISA KASTIGAR
    Director of Business Development

    Ms. Kastigar shares responsibility for business development, client service and consultant relations. Prior to joining GCM Grosvenor, she was the Director of Research at Marco Consulting Group.  She also worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and at the Financial Services Authority in London as a financial markets regulatory policy economist. She began her financial industry career working on the derivatives exchanges of the CME Group. Ms. Kastigar received her Bachelor of Science in Business Economics from Marquette University and her Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

  • CATHERINE LEVITT
    Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
    Astellas
    CATHERINE LEVITT
    Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

    Catherine is vice president, general counsel and secretary of Astellas for the Americas region.  In this role, Ms. Levitt oversees the Legal Department, including Risk Management, and serves as a member of the Astellas US Management Committee.  Ms. Levitt joined Fujisawa - merged with Yamanouchi in 2005 to create Astellas - in 2004 as assistant general counsel, specializing in litigation.  She was subsequently promoted to associate general counsel, followed by deputy general counsel.  In 2013, Ms. Levitt was promoted to vice president of Risk Management and chief litigation counsel for Astellas US, followed by vice president of Legal in April 2016.   Prior to Astellas, she served as corporate counsel at Baxter Healthcare and People’s Energy, and began her career at the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.  Ms. Levitt earned her JD from the University of Illinois College of Law.   

  • CAREY MENDES
    Regional Business Leader, IST
    BP
    CAREY MENDES
    Regional Business Leader, IST

    Carey has been with BP and IST for 10 years with leadership roles in various IST segments. These include roles in North America Gas and Power (NAGP) from 2003 to 2008 in both Calgary and Houston. Mr. Mendes moved to London in 2008 and served in multiple senior roles in the commercial and risk management segments including IST Head of Credit, Head of Origination and Marketing for IST Global Oil Europe, and Chief Risk Officer for IST before moving to his current role as Chief Executive of Integrated Supply & Trading for the Americas. Based in Chicago, he is responsible for BP’s oil trading and supply activity in the Americas, and both crude oil and environmental products globally.

    Prior to BP, Carey worked for major Canadian banks in underwriting and originating corporate credit transactions as well as working for a large Canadian E&P producer.

    Mr. Mendes holds an MBA from the University of Calgary as well as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

  • STEPHEN O'NEIL
    Owner
    O'Neil Dispute Resolution LLC
    STEPHEN O'NEIL
    Owner

    Stephen O’Neil is a partner in the law firm of K&L Gates.  He is a commercial litigator and trial lawyer with more than 35 years’ experience in federal and state courts, as well as in major arbitration matters.  Steve also frequently serves as an arbitrator in commercial cases.

  • ALICE ROOKS
    Principal
    ASR Group
    ALICE ROOKS
    Principal

    Alice Rooks is the founding principal at ASR Consulting Group. A product of the Chicago Public School (CPS) system, Alice is an award-winning marketer and sales executive who has advised and counseled various corporate, governmental, nonprofit, entertainment and sports entities. She has a B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a M.S. in Marketing/E-commerce from the Illinois Institute of Technology's Stuart School of Business. Alice is a long standing mentor and supporter of Chicago Lights Tutoring, BuildOn and other diverse nonprofit organizations.

  • KRISTINE SCHAFFNER
    Portfolio Manager
    Kinship Capital
    KRISTINE SCHAFFNER
    Portfolio Manager

    Kristine Schaffner is the Portfolio Manager for Kinship Capital, a private real estate investment firm founded on 125 years of family business success.  She is responsible for overseeing the company’s real estate portfolio and executing property-level business plans.  Before Kinship Capital, Kristine served as Vice President for The John Buck Company within its JBC’s Investments Group.  In this role, she worked on asset management, valuation, and disposition of assets already held in the JBC Funds.  Prior to joining JBC in 2006, Kristine worked in the portfolio strategy group for Equity Office Properties – the largest publicly traded REIT at the time with more than 600 properties. In this capacity, she was responsible for evaluating lease economics, operating efficiencies and hold versus- sell strategies for 113 properties totaling more than 20 million square feet in the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. office markets. Prior to joining Equity Office Properties Kristine was an analyst at Golub and Company, a Chicago based real estate investment and development firm.

  • THRU SHIVAKUMAR
    Vice President, Civic Engagement and Strategy
    GCM Grosvenor
    THRU SHIVAKUMAR
    Vice President, Civic Engagement and Strategy

    Thrupti (Thru) Shivakumar is currently at GCM Grosvenor as a Vice President in Civic Engagement and Strategy and works directly with the CEO in a chief of staff capacity. Prior to that she worked at World Business Chicago where she led Infrastructure Strategy and Finance. In 2015, she founded Current, Chicago’s water technology accelerator where she is now a Director on the Board. Earlier in her career, Thru worked at Green Courte partners and Newport Capital where she was in business development and corporate strategy. She started her career in corporate finance. One of Thru's most notable career accomplishments was her key role in the leveraged sale of Interpark (a GE company) to Alinda Capital Partners in 2011. 

    Throughout her career, Thru has worked in corporate finance, private equity, business development, economic development, strategy, and operations. She has worn many hats in small, medium, and large for-profit companies as well as the not-for profit and public-private space. Through her various roles, Thru has been a manager, an analyst, a leader, a researcher, a strategist and an innovator so she knows how to see the big picture but also delve into the details. She has managed stakeholders at all levels of the corporate, civic, community, and government structures.

    Thru graduated from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in December 2013 with an MBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Finance. She received her Bachelors of Science in Finance from the University of Illinois in 2004.

  • RONALD SONENTHAL
    Past President
    Chief Operating Officer, Deloitte Tax, LLP
    RONALD SONENTHAL
    Past President

    Ron Sonenthal is the Chief Operating Officer for Deloitte Tax LLP.  He served as the Deputy Regional Managing Partner for the Midwest Region of Deloitte Tax LLP and as the Chicago Office Tax Managing Partner from 2005-2011.  He has more than 32 years of experience. He received his B.S. in Accountancy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his graduate degree in Taxation from DePaul University in Chicago. He is a certified public accountant and a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Illinois CPA Society. Ron is the Advisory University Partner (AUP) for the University of Illinois. Ron has served as the Chairman and President and is currently on the Board of Directors of Working in the Schools (WITS) and is a member of the Board of Directors for Beber Camp.  In May of 2011, he received the Outstanding Leadership in Advancing Diversity Award from the Illinois CPA Society.  In October of 2014, he received the Alter and Stone Volunteer Award from WITS.  He also serves as director-for-life of the Jewish Council for Youth Services. 

  • CARL TANNENBAUM
    Past President
    Senior Vice President, Chief Economist, Northern Trust
    CARL TANNENBAUM
    Past President

    Alter & Stone Volunteer Awardee 2015

    Carl Tannenbaum is the Chief Economist for The Northern Trust. In this role, Mr. Tannenbaum briefs clients and colleagues on the economy and business conditions, prepares the bank’s official economic outlook and participates in forecast surveys. He is a member of the bank’s investment policy committee, its capital committee, and its asset/liability management committee. He publishes weekly commentaries and is frequently interviewed by media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Reuters.

    Prior to joining Northern Trust, he spent four years at the Federal Reserve, where he led the risk section. He was deeply involved in the central bank’s response to the 2008 financial crisis, helped to create and conduct its stress testing program, and advised senior Federal Reserve leaders on developments in banking and the financial markets.

    He began his career in banking at LaSalle Bank/ABN AMRO, a global banking organization with $1 trillion in total assets. He served for more than 20 years there as the organization’s Chief Economist and Head of Balance Sheet Management.

    He is a past Chairman of the National Association for Business Economics, the Conference of Business Economists, the American Bankers Association’s Economic Advisory Committee, and the North American Asset/Liability Management Association.

    Mr. Tannenbaum holds an M.B.A. and a B.A. in finance and economics from the University of Chicago.

  • CRAIG THESSIN
    Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking
    Associated Bank
    CRAIG THESSIN
    Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking

    Craig Thessin is a Senior Vice President on Associated Bank’s Corporate Banking team in Chicago, Illinois.  With over thirteen years of experience in the financial services industry, Craig joined the Bank in 2010 as a Vice President.

    Prior to coming to Associated, Craig was a Managing Director at The PrivateBank for over three years and began his career at LaSalle Bank.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Investments and Banking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business.

    Craig has participated in the WITS Midday Mentoring Program at Jose De Diego for the last three years, serves as a mentor for Imerman Angels 1-on-1 Cancer Support, volunteers at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and participates in various Thresholds events.  Craig currently resides in Chicago.

  • EDWARD T TILLY
    Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
    Chicago Board Options Exchange
    EDWARD T TILLY
    Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

    Edward T. Tilly is the Chief Executive Officer of CBOE Holdings, Inc., Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and C2 Options Exchange (C2). He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of the CBOE Futures Exchange. Tilly has been an integral part of the CBOE community, as both a trader and exchange executive, for more than 25 years. Tilly worked on the trading floor from 1987 until 2006, when he joined CBOE’s executive management team. Prior to being named CEO, Tilly served as CBOE President and Chief Operating Officer, CBOE's Executive Vice Chairman and CBOE’s Member Vice Chairman. Tilly currently serves on the board of directors for CBOE Holdings, Inc., CBOE, C2, Northwestern Medical Group, the OCC and Working in the Schools. He received a B.A. degree in Economics from Northwestern University.


*BRENDA LANGSTRAAT

Ex-offico


EMERITUS DIRECTORS

  • Timothy Bixler
  • Jamie Garard III
  • Jill Jacobs-Baar
  • Donna LaPietra
  • Elaine Levinson
  • Robert "Bud" Lifton
  • Terri Lind
  • Jennifer Mikulina
  • Tom Murphy
  • Roz Supera
  • Eileen Sweeney
  • Lili Ann Zisook


The Associates Board is a group of young professionals who are dedicated to both volunteering and leadership within WITS. Associate Board members support the strategic direction and mission of WITS through various fundraising activities and engagement with corporate and community sponsors.


Contact Amy Berger to learn more about joining the Associates Board.


EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

  • Jeremy Netzel
    President
    @Properties
  • Kevin Yao
    Vice President
    GTCR
  • Kira Moscowitz
    Membership & Development Chair
    Baird & Warner
  • Ryan Ruggaard
    Marketing & Events Chair
    Credit Suisse


ASSOCIATES BOARD

  • Alex Acker
    Lazard
  • Michael Barnett
    Protiviti
  • Thomas Besio
    PriceWaterhouseCoopers
  • Kelly Borneman
    BBVA Compass
  • Brett Bulthuis
    Brett Bulthuis Photography
  • Kirsty Collins
    The John Buck Company
  • Christopher Corbett
    1229 Place, Inc.
  • Brian Corcoran
    Anaplan
  • Brienne Einstein
    GCM Grosvenor
  • Lauren Fredricks
    Federal Reserve Bank
  • Jaime Freeman
    BMO Harris Bank
  • Sunil Gowda
    Edgewater Ranzal
  • Meg Hiestand
    Chicago White Sox
  • Carolyn Jaw
    Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago
  • Bret Hildebrandt
    Green Thumb Industries
  • Andrew Jones
    Young Innovations, Inc.
  • Griffin Kinzie
    Guggenheim Investments
  • Rob Kirk
    Cornerstone Research
  • Victor Kostecki
    Lazard
  • Blake Lantero
    University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Alex Lieberman
    RoundTable Healthcare Partners
  • Mallory McShane
    Educator
  • John Merriman
    Messina Group Consulting
  • Karthik Munugala
    Lazard
  • Natalie Neyman
    Vibes Media
  • Laura Norris
    Jenner & Block, LLC
  • Sreeram Paidmarry
    J.P. Morgan Chase
  • Ashley Pierce
    University of Chicago, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights
  • Janet Post
    FactSet Research Systems
  • Will Press
    The John Buck Company
  • Alex Randall
    Wynnchurch
  • Aishwarya Ravindran
    J.P. Morgan Chase
  • Nate Roberts
    United Airlines
  • Courtney Roldan
    King & Spaulding LLP
  • Kaitlin Rosinski
    Wilson Sporting Goods
  • Fraser Simpson
    BDT & Company
  • Patrick Sinicropi
    Clinic, Inc.
  • Austin Smit
    BMO Harris Bank
  • Elise Spadavecchio
    Chicago Metal Rolled Products
  • Emmet Sullivan
    Northwestern University
  • Jenna Williams
    Educator
  • Andrew Youngling
    Kinship Capital


WITS strives to engage our community of volunteers and partners every day in serving our students and teachers. We are motivated by the people and communities we work with to empower our youth to be lifelong readers.


EXECUTIVE TEAM


  • BRENDA LANGSTRAAT
    Chief Executive Officer
    BRENDA LANGSTRAAT
    Chief Executive Officer

    Brenda is responsible for staff, program and Board development and management. Representing the needs of WITS as an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors, Brenda oversees all personnel and programmatic facets of WITS. Brenda formerly served as Executive Director of Parkways Foundation for more than seven years. She’s also been a consultant to Chicago Allies for Youth Success and the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. Brenda launched her career as a nonprofit executive with the Chicago Humanities Festival. Brenda serves on the Illinois Mentoring Partnership’s Leadership Council and serves on the Chicago Literacy Alliance’s Executive Committee. Brenda has a BA from Wheaton College and an MA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

  • TENA KUNIK
    Chief Strategy Officer
    TENA KUNIK
    Chief Strategy Officer

    As Chief Development Officer, Tena develops strategies for individual, foundation, and corporate giving, event sponsorship, and board relations. Tena has served as Development Officer at Wayne State University, Assistant Director of Corporate Development at the University of Chicago – Booth School of Business, Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program, and Development Director at Up2Us. She received both her BA in Public Relations and MBA in Marketing and Management at Wayne State University.

  • KRISTEN STROBBE
    Chief Program Officer
    KRISTEN STROBBE
    Chief Program Officer

    Kristen is responsible for creating and implementing evaluation processes for WITS programs that track impact on all key stakeholders. Kristen formerly worked for the Academy of Urban School Leadership as a math tutor in Humboldt Park. She graduated from Roosevelt University with a BA in Journalism. She served two years with City Year at an elementary school in Englewood.


DEVELOPMENT TEAM


  • ERIC COLEMAN
    Development & Communications Manager
    ERIC COLEMAN
    Development & Communications Manager

    Eric provides design, e-communication, grant writing, and web management support to WITS’ Development Team. Eric joined WITS in 2014 as a Program Coordinator, leading a portfolio of literacy mentorship programs. He is responsible for piloting the WITS Workplace Mentoring + STEM program in partnership with BP and the Museum of Science and Industry. Eric played an integral role redesigning the WITS on the Weekend program to include a greater emphasis on experiential learning. Eric received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Columbia College Chicago, and served two years of Americorps service with City Year Chicago prior to WITS.

  • ELIZABETH KRISTOFF
    Grants & Foundation Relations Manager
    ELIZABETH KRISTOFF
    Grants & Foundation Relations Manager

    Elizabeth graduated in 2009 with a BFA in Dramaturgy and Theatre Criticism from the Theatre School at DePaul University. Focusing on theatre for youth, Beth wrote study guides and led post-show discussions for CPS classrooms attending performances. After graduating, Beth served as an Education Fellow and teaching artist at Seattle Children's Theatre.

  • ALEX MICHEL
    Corporate Partnerships & Events Manager
    ALEX MICHEL
    Corporate Partnerships & Events Manager

    Alex is responsible for managing development initiatives, specifically: events, social media, marketing, and donor database management. Alex received her BA in Art History from Denison University, and recently moved to Chicago, IL from New York City where she worked in development at art museums and non-profits. 


PROGRAM TEAM

  • SHAWN BUSH
    Program Manager
    SHAWN BUSH
    Program Manager

    Shawn coordinates WITS student literacy programs, acts as a liaison between our partner-schools and our community and corporate volunteers, and provides support to the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award program. Before joining WITS, Shawn worked as a high school Learning Behavior Specialist and Special Education Reading Teacher in the southside of Chicago. He received a Master’s degree in Special Education through Dominican University and received his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Law, and Society at American University. Shawn has also volunteered or interned for other literacy and education organizations such as the DC Public Schools office, Jumpstart, and Reading Partners.

  • NICHOLAS COLBERT
    Program Coordinator
    NICHOLAS COLBERT
    Program Coordinator
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  • ELEANOR DOLLEAR
    Program Coordinator
    ELEANOR DOLLEAR
    Program Coordinator
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  • TRA'LISHA RENTERIA
    Program Coordinator
    TRA'LISHA RENTERIA
    Program Coordinator
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  • KEVIN HUJAR
    Program Specialist
    KEVIN HUJAR
    Program Specialist

    Kevin is responsible for developing and executing science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematical (STEAM) curriculum for the WITS on the Weekend program. During the summer, he is the lead coordinator for the WITS Early Childhood Summer Program. Kevin graduated from Roosevelt University with his bachelor’s degree in Psychology where he primarily focused on childhood and adolescent development. Prior to coordinating programs, he served as a WITS volunteer at Roosevelt where he mentored a fourth grade student from Morrill Elementary Math & Science School.   

  • ANNIE KENNEDY
    Community Manager
    ANNIE KENNEDY
    Community Manager

    Annie graduated from the University of Michigan with her Masters in Social Work, concentrating in Nonprofit Management and Executive Leadership. She additionally holds a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College. Annie has worked at the University of Michigan - School of Social Work, where she oversaw a group of MSW candidates as they completed their community-based internships.

  • Sara Martinez
    Program Coordinator
    Sara Martinez
    Program Coordinator
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  • Ana Porta
    Program Coordinator
    Ana Porta
    Program Coordinator
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  • DAPHNE ROBINSON
    Program and Development Administrative Manager
    DAPHNE ROBINSON
    Program and Development Administrative Manager

    Daphne provides support of the WITS development process and Rochelle Lee Teacher Award program initiatives. She works directly with the Strategy and Development teams to implement the integration of systems and data. She received a BA in Theology and Italian from Loyola University Chicago, a Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University, a Master of Arts in Teaching – Elementary Education from Roosevelt University, and a Middle School Endorsement – Language Arts and Italian from Roosevelt University.

  • MIA VALDEZ QUELLHORST
    Director of Teacher Programs
    MIA VALDEZ QUELLHORST
    Director of Teacher Programs

    As the Curriculum Manager, Mia is responsible for what is taught to students during a WITS sessions. She works with volunteers and program coordinators to ensure that students grow their reading skills.  As the manager of the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award program, Mia coordinates over 300 hours of professional development for Chicago Public School teachers, coaches groups of teachers around best literacy practices, and develops workshops for the WITS Summer Institute. Before coming to WITS, Mia taught theater in Hyde Park for 4 years, taught kindergarten and first grade in Auburn-Gresham with CPS and in Belmont-Craigen with Concept Charter Schools.  She received both her BA in philosophy and her MAT from the Urban Teachers Education Program (UChicago UTEP) at the University of Chicago.

  • ELLEN WERNER
    Program Director
    ELLEN WERNER
    Program Director

    Ellen is responsible for coordinating programs, managing program coordinators, and coordinating family engagement efforts. Her family engagement responsibilities include sending home information about WITS programs and parent surveys, and coordinating WITS attendance at open houses and family literacy nights. In an effort to build students’ at-home libraries and encourage recreational reading, students are sent home with a bag of new books and information about city-wide learning initiatives twice a year. Ellen formerly served with Christopher House, focusing on adult literacy programs. She earned her BA in English from DePaul University.

OUR OFFICES

 

The Literacenter
641 W. Lake Street, Suite 200
Chicago, IL 60661

Office Hours:
M-F : 8:30am-4:30pm

Phone: 312.269.4514
Fax: 312.269.4525
Email: Info@witschicago.org

 

Building Communities. Empowering Readers.