About Us

Mission

ABOUT US

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.

 

Click on which portion of the page you would like to visit:  Board of Directors   |   Historical Timeline  |   Associates Board   |   Staff

 

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

                      CO-FOUNDERS

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

                      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.  

  • CAROLYN GOLDHABER
    Vice President
    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
    President, JFM OPS Consulting LLC

     

    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
    Director, Business Development

    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.

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  • 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 of Baird & Warner Real Estate
    JENNIFER ALTER WARDEN
    Chief Operating Officer

    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.

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

    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.

  • SAM BOTTUM
    Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Snap-on Incorporated
    SAM BOTTUM
    Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Snap-on Incorporated

    Sam's experience cuts across start-up and established entities in the nonprofit, government, and for-profit sectors where he has served in general management, brand marketing, and innovation roles. He currently works at Snap-on Incorporated (NYSE: SNA). He holds a B.A. from Connecticut College and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. He is also a graduate of Leadership Tomorrow, the cross-sector community leadership program in the Seattle region. In addition to WITS, he serves on a variety of other boards. Sam came to WITS via the Rochelle Lee Teacher Awards/Boundless Readers where he was involved since 2003.

  • 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.

  • BRIAN CHMIEL
    Senior Manager, Forensics and Litigation Support
    Crowe Horwath LLP
    BRIAN CHMIEL
    Senior Manager, Forensics and Litigation Support

    Brian Chmiel is a senior manager in the Forensic Services practice of the Chicago office of Crowe Horwath 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
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  • 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.

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

    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.

  • Jesus Gonzalez
    Vice President, Aon Financial Services Group, Professional Risk Solutions
    Jesus Gonzalez
    Vice President, Aon Financial Services Group, Professional Risk Solutions

    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.

  • JILL JACOBS-BAAR
    Director of Education, Invesco Powershares
    JILL JACOBS-BAAR
    Director of Education, Invesco Powershares
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  • 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.

  • Cher Keck
    Vice President and Managing Director, BMO Private Bank
    Cher Keck
    Vice President and Managing Director, BMO Private Bank

    Cher oversees a team of professionals dedicated to providing high net worth individuals, families and organizations, including closely-held and family-owned businesses, endowments and foundations, with a full range of wealth services as part of an overall personal wealth management strategy. She joined BMO in 2009 and has nearly 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Cher earned her BBA with honors in finance from University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. 

    Cher makes her home in Chicago, IL with her husband and two daughters. 

  • SCOTT LEHMAN
    Investment Banking Associate, Citi
    SCOTT LEHMAN
    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.

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

    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.

  • JENNIFER MIKULINA
    Partner, McDermott, Will & Emery
    JENNIFER MIKULINA
    Partner, McDermott, Will & Emery

    Jennifer M. Mikulina is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Chicago office.  As head of the Firm's global trademark prosecution practice, Jennifer focuses her practice on trademark and copyright counseling, prosecution, licensing and litigation. Jennifer is listed in the 2012-2015 editions of World Trademark Review 1000, was ranked as a top woman lawyer by Illinois SuperLawyers in 2013, and was recognized by Illinois SuperLawyers in 2014 and 2015 as a “Rising Star.” In October 2014, Jennifer was one of six attorneys recognized by the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois as the Top Women Lawyers in Leadership.

    Jennifer received her B.S., with honors, in international relations, economics and political science. She is admitted to practice in Illinois and before the Federal District Courts for the Northern District of Illinois.  While in law school, Jennifer was an intern for the Honorable Barbara B. Crabb, Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin.

  • KRISH MOHIP
    Principal, Mahalia Jackson Elementary School
    KRISH MOHIP
    Principal, Mahalia Jackson Elementary School
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  • STEPHEN O'NEIL
    Partner, K&L Gates
    STEPHEN O'NEIL
    Partner, K&L Gates

    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.

  • NANCY PLASKETT
    Educator
    NANCY PLASKETT
    Educator

    Nancy comes to Chicago Cares with eight years of experience at Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) as Vice President of Partnerships and Audience Development, where she oversaw the development of school and community-based partnerships, as well as museum operations for partners, visitors, and members. Prior to CCM, Nancy was Program Director with Boundless Readers and a marketing professional in the corporate sector. Nancy is a former Chicago Public Schools teacher with a wealth of experience working with children and educators.

  • ALICE ROOKS
    Principal, ASR Group
    ALICE ROOKS
    Principal, ASR Group

    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, Kinship Capital

    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.

  • 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. 

  • MAUREEN SULLIVAN
    Manager, Bain & Company
    MAUREEN SULLIVAN
    Manager, Bain & Company
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  • CARL TANNENBAUM
    Past President
    Senior Vice President, Chief Economist, Northern Trust
    CARL TANNENBAUM
    Past President

    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
    Chief Executive Officer
    Chicago Board Options Exchange
    EDWARD T TILLY
    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.

  • KESHIA WARNER
    Principal, Whittier Elementary School
    Oak Park Elementary District 97
    KESHIA WARNER
    Principal, Whittier Elementary School

    Keshia B. Warner earned her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Warner returned to Chicago to teach third grade and became a National Board Certified teacher. In 2006, she was accepted to New Leaders for New Schools and completed her Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from National-Louis University in 2007. Warner was an assistant principal for three school years and recently completed her third year as principal of Drake Elementary School. She was a recipient of a 2013 Principal Achievement Award for her students’ 99%ile national growth on the NWEA reading and math assessments. Keshia B. Warner is currently an elementary school principal in Oak Park District 97.

     

     

                                                                          *BRENDA PALM 

                                                                              Ex-offico


DOWNLOAD HISTORICAL TIMELINE HERE

 

WITS STAFF

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

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  • BRENDA PALM
    Chief Executive Officer
    BRENDA PALM
    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 Development Officer
    TENA KUNIK
    Chief Development 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

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  • Amy Berger
    Development Manager
    Amy Berger
    Development Manager

    As development manager, Amy will be working alongside the development and executive team to advance the organization's philanthropic goals.  Specifically, she will be working on marketing and communications projects, event production, grant writing, and individual donor fundraising.  Amy brings with her over four years of fundraising and community organizing experience at the Jewish United Fund where she most recently worked as the development manager at the University of Chicago Hillel.  She began her professional career in public relations and sales.  Amy is a graduate of the University of Michigan and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Spertus Institute in a combined Jewish studies and non-profit management program.  Amy lives with her husband and dog in Logan Square. 

  • ERIC COLEMAN
    Development Coordinator
    ERIC COLEMAN
    Development Coordinator

    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.

  • Alex Michel
    Development Coordinator
    Alex Michel
    Development Coordinator

    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

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  • FIONA HAYS
    Program Coordinator
    FIONA HAYS
    Program Coordinator

    Fiona graduated from Calvin College with a BA in History. She served two years in AmeriCorps as an ESL instructor with the Schools of Hope Family Literacy Program.

  • Kevin Hujar
    Program Coordinator
    Kevin Hujar
    Program Coordinator

    Kevin graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Roosevelt University. He served one year as a WITS volunteer where he mentored students from Morrill Elementary School in Chicago Lawn. He’s also worked as a musical theatre director for youth students in DuPage County.

  • ELIZABETH KRISTOFF
    Program Coordinator
    ELIZABETH KRISTOFF
    Program Coordinator

    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.

  • ANNIE KENNEDY
    Program Coordinator
    ANNIE KENNEDY
    Program Coordinator

    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.

  • LAURA TILSNER
    Program Coordinator
    LAURA TILSNER
    Program Coordinator

    Laura received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, with a minor in Applied Behavioral Sciences, with an emphasis on early childhood, from the University of Kansas. She’s also had experience teaching preschool in Lincoln Park.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

OUR OFFICES

 

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

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

 
 
 

GET IN TOUCH

WITS welcomes your questions, inquiries, and feedback. For questions about volunteering, please email Annie Kennedy at anniek@witschicago.org. To learn more about ways to give, call Tena Kunik at (312) 422-6215 or email tenak@witschicago.org

Please visit the link to our offices at: literacenter.org