Chicago 2015 Fellows

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Philadelphia  | Pittsburgh Rhode Island Sacramento | San Francisco  | Silicon Valley  | St. Louis | Tallahassee  
Tampa Bay  | Washington DC

Greg Aguilar, Regional Manager Office of Regional Economic Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

	Greg	Aguilar	 

Nationally recognized for his achievements in Credit Unions, Higher Education, and Non-Profits Greg Aguilar has made lasting impacts in his respected professions and civic activities. Born to immigrant parents, Mr. Aguilar has held positions in both State and Federal Government Administrations and has run for high office. Annually, Greg prepares students for service learning projects that take pre-medical profession students to Central America where they work alongside doctors in medical clinics throughout Nicaragua.

In his current role as the Northwest Region Manager for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, he is tasked with business retention, expansion, and outreach, Aguilar serves as the direct supervisor for regional economic development covering 10 counties.


Jack Bentley, Assistant State's Attorney, Cook County State's Attorney's Office

	Jack	Bentley	 

Jack Bentley was born in Downers Grove, Illinois, where he attended St. Mary of Gostyn School through 8th grade. Even at a young age, Jack sought out leadership opportunities, having served on the Student Council at St. Mary’s and as President his 8th grade year. From there, Jack attended high school at Benet Academy in Lisle where he enjoyed singing in the choir and performing on stage. He followed that passion to Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, where he began his college career as a voice major. After the reelection of President George W. Bush in 2004, Jack developed in interest in progressive politics, and he volunteered and interned for several campaigns and political offices throughout the remainder of his college career, including the offices of Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin, and Hillary Clinton for President.

After his graduation from college, Jack joined Americorps VISTA for the Access Housing Project in San Antonio, Texas. There, he assembled a team of key local stakeholders to launch a rent-sharing program for Texans with disabilities. Jack enrolled in Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2009, and became a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois in 2012. His first job out of law school was with the Reinsurance department at CNA. There, Jack was tasked with the goal of closing 25% of the group pension block of business. He designed a new campaign strategy of targeting the largest pension groups individually to encourage them to transfer their funds. It was a tremendous success and almost 75% of the targeted business was off the books by the time he left the company. Since, December of 2013, Jack has been serving as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, where he has written three appellate briefs, and litigated nearly 1,000 cases in the Child Support Enforcement Division. After the Illinois Supreme Court changed a law that would potentially allow parents who have rarely or never paid their child support to dismiss their cases, Jack framed a new legal argument and discovery process that enabled the State’s Attorney’s Office to litigate these cases more effectively. Jack is thrilled to be a part of the 2015 NLC class and looks forward to learning alongside the other remarkable fellows this year.


Miguel Blancarte, Jr., Founder, Blancarte Consulting

	Miguel	Blancarte, Jr.	 

Miguel A. Blancarte, Jr. is a native and resident of the Little Village Neighborhood of the great City of Chicago. Born to Mexican immigrants (Miguel and Alma), Miguel has always sought to help others and to give back. His drive stems from being a first generation American, where Miguel was exposed to extreme inequalities such as discrimination and injustices. From a young age, Miguel focused on his studies and on developing himself professionally. Graduating salutatorian from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was not only an academic achievement, but also an achievement of professional growth. He had interned at institutions such as UBS Global Asset Management, Katten Muchin Rosenman, and The Northern Trust Company. His passions for law and politics were acquired at a young age, and solidified summer before starting his undergraduate education. Miguel interned at both Office of Illinois Representative Cynthia Soto and Law Offices of Rosalba Pi–a, where he later served as Co-Director of the Litigation Department. In his late teens and as Co-Director of the Litigation Department, Miguel learned how, then sued the Federal Government multiple times Ð after fighting for immigrants, immigrant families, and immigrant rights before the U.S. Departments of Justice and State.

Upon graduating from Brown University with a degree in Political Science, Miguel returned to Chicago (having lived abroad in Italy, Portugal and Spain) in order to continue his fight for others. With that in mind, Miguel established Blancarte Consulting, where he consults and assists individuals facing immigration and domestic relations plight. In January 2012, Miguel realized he was making himself a disservice, as a month prior his doctor informed him that due to his obese condition, he may not live past his mid-forties. At 344lbs, Miguel adopted and trekked on a health journey where in simply eight months he was able to lose 180lbs (on his own) - dropping to 164lbs. Never having known “normal” weight, Miguel turned himself into an athlete (he is currently a member of Team USA), and he is recognized as a runner and triathlete by Competitor Magazine, Chicago Athlete Magazine, and the Chicago Area Runners Association. Currently at 139lbs, and in continuing his vision of helping others, Miguel established, where he gives tips and tricks on weight loss. Further, Miguel is currently writing, and hopes to have his personal weight loss journey published as he and his story have been deemed “inspiring and motivating.”


Marlon Cummings, Senior Outreach Associate, Advance Illinois

	Marlon	Cummings	 

Marlon I. Cummings is an education professional with a variety of experiences and is an advocate for improving equity in education. Over his career he has consistently taken roles to work with educators, schools, and school districts on improving school environments and education achievement for students. Marlon currently works as a Senior Outreach Associate for Advance Illinois, a bipartisan, independent, objective voice to promote equity in public education in Illinois. As the Senior Outreach Associate, his role is focused on listening to community members and working with them on implementing education initiatives that support the progress they envision for their schools. Additionally at Advance, Marlon works in partnership with other leading state organizations on expanding teacher leadership and increasing the role of educators in advocating for education policy.

Marlon also continues to work as an adjunct professor at Concordia University Chicago and Governors State University instructing educators earning graduate degrees. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri and has BS in Biological Engineering from Florida A&M University, a MPA with an emphasis on education policy from American University, and a Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to joining Advance Illinois, Marlon worked for eight years as a Principal Consultant with the Illinois State Board of Education providing technical assistance to school districts and other agencies across Illinois. Marlon also spent time working in Washington D.C. as a Director of Programs for a violence prevention non-profit and worked in the area as a middle school math and science teacher. Marlon is a member of his Local School Council and a member of Bronzeville Community Action Council where he works tirelessly to support education initiatives in his community. Over the past five years he has served as the principal of Greater Bethesda MB Church’s free Saturday tutoring program. This program is designed to develop the foundational skills of struggle students in the Washington Park community. During this time, through strategic partnerships with community organizations and local schools, Marlon was able to increase student participation by 150%. Marlon is currently married to Ms. Alexandria M. Cummings, a financial coach and native Chicagoan. In his free time he enjoys working with youth, providing support for small businesses and non-profits, and remaining physically active.



 Eloise Diaz Bahrmasel, Senior Specialist, External Affairs - Comcast
& Co-Founder, PowerPump Salon


Eloise (Ellie) Bahrmasel recently joined the External Affairs team for the Comcast Greater Chicago Region as a Senior Specialist.  Ellie’s role is to advance the community investment strategy, strengthen diversity commitments, assist with government affairs, and leverage opportunity programs for the region.  

Prior to Comcast, Ellie spent over three years working for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both on his campaign and in the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office where she most recently worked in Operations as a Project Manager for the Chief Operating Officer.  She found her time in Emanuel Administration particularly rewarding, as she had the opportunity to face the difficult issues the City must tackle to thrive. She was able to be a part of important, impactful work that will continue to shape the region for years to come.

Ellie is a fierce advocate for women’s right and a champion for education. She frequently creates collaborative community around these issues in both formal and informal ways to create action. Together with Anna Valencia, she founded the PowerPump Salon, a group whose mission is to empower and advance women from all industries. The group was recently recognized for their efforts and invited to share their successes during an intimate meeting with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. 

Ellie was recently elected to the local school council for John C. Coonley Elementary School and is a founding Executive Board Member for the Chicago Scholars Associate Board.  She is also involved with the Mikva Challenge Emerging Leaders Board, Working in the Schools (WITS), Forward Chicago, YWCA Future Leaders Council, New Leaders Council and is a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow.

As someone who believes in public service and accountability in elected office, Ellie is involved in the region’s political landscape. She can frequently be found facilitating connections between like-minded individuals, serving on host committees for candidates, or volunteering on campaigns to engage with constituents.

A lifelong Chicago resident, she currently lives in the North Center neighborhood with her husband, Matt Altstiel and rescue dog George.


Gisella Faggi, Manager of Citizenship and Adult Education, Chinese Mutual Aid Association

	Gisella	Faggi	 

Gisella Faggi is currently the Manager of Citizenship and Adult Education at Chinese Mutual Aid Association where she is responsible for developing and implementing strategic programming for low-income immigrants and refugees across the city of Chicago. She serves as the lead administrator for a consortium of 19 adult education programs throughout various neighborhoods and is dedicated to creating inclusive programming for communities that are often marginalized. After graduating from Columbia College Chicago, her passion for exploring narratives across cultures led her to work as an English Instructor at various community-based organizations throughout the city as well as to develop and teach creative writing courses for Passaparola Italia, a cultural exchange organization in Rome.

After returning to Chicago, she worked at Pan-African Association, where she managed a Literacy Program in addition to a Sewing Vocational Program for low-literate refugee women. During her time there, she became involved with the Somali Women Association of Illinois, where she currently serves as a board member and advises on all educational programming. Outside of her work in nonprofits, Gisella is an accomplished writer. Her short fiction has been featured in Emerge Literary Journal, The Sand Hill Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal, among others. She has twice been the recipient of the Written Image Award for her short scripts and her work has been performed at Columbia College's Story Week.


Andrea Friedman, President, AF Advocacy

	Andrea	Friedman	 

Andrea D. Friedman, JD, is President of AF Advocacy, a Chicago-based firm that helps progressive organizations advance their policy, advocacy, research and organizing agendas, with particular expertise in reproductive health and women’s rights. She also serves as Senior Policy Advisor for Reproductive Health at the National Partnership for Women & Families, where she leads the organization's state and proactive work to advance access to comprehensive reproductive health care. She was formerly the Director of Reproductive Health at the National Partnership, a role in which she developed and led the reproductive health and rights advocacy program.

Andrea previously served as foreign policy and military advisor to Senator Frank R. Lautenberg covering foreign aid and development; was Vice President and Co-Founder of the Global Justice Center in New York conducting trainings on international law and women’s rights around the globe; and Program Director at the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, focusing on research on policy impacts on women and women in leadership. She is a regular speaker and the author of numerous publications. Andrea has a BA summa cum laude in political science from Tufts University and has a JD from Harvard Law School.


	Christina	Granfield

Christina Granfield, Senior Account Executive, Cambridge Global Advisors

Christina Granfield is a Senior Account Executive at Cambridge Global Advisors in Arlington, Virginia and oversees Chicago clients and projects. Christina has worked in public affairs, government relations and for political and issue-based campaigns for several years as a Field Director, Campaign Manager, and as a GOTV specialist for the MPAA, and President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Madison, Wisconsin. Her interest in politics took off while living in Aix-e8n Provence, France. Christina returned to Chicago for her first campaign staff position and has been working in the politics ever since.




Jesse Kibbey, Public Policy Researcher, SEIU Local 1

	Jesse	Kibbey	 

Jesse “JC” Kibbey is a Public Policy Researcher with Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 1), where his work includes political strategy, advocacy, and policy analysis on behalf of nearly 50,000 workers across six states. Previously, he worked as a digital strategist in the private sector, for the online advocacy group, on the 2008 Obama campaign, and for a multi-client lobbying firm. He currently sits on the board of the Illinois Sierra Club where he has organized and advocated for state and federal carbon rules, renewable portfolio standards, and the People’s Climate March.

Jesse holds a Master’s in Public Policy and administration from Northwestern University, where his thesis on climate change policy and politics received the 2014 Distinguished Thesis Award. He has trained with the New Organizing Institute and Wellstone Action and been quoted by The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, WBEZ, and CNN. He likes dry humor, public speaking, and black coffee.


Anne Klingeberger, Senior Associate, ASGK Public Strategies

	Anne	Klingeberger	 

Anne Klingeberger is a senior associate at ASGK Public Strategies, where she assists a broad range of clients with strategic communications, media relations and stakeholder advocacy campaigns. Prior to joining ASGK, Anne served as communications and outreach manager for the First Five Years Fund, the nation’s leading early childhood advocacy organization. Working in DC and Chicago, she coordinated national campaigns to increase funding and improve the quality of early childhood education programs.

A former Fulbright Scholar, Anne taught English and American studies in a Berlin suburb while studying the transition from communism to democracy in the former East Germany. Before that, she worked as a legislative aide to the Lake County (IN) Council, where she provided policy and communications support to seven elected officials. Anne graduated magna cum laude from New York University with degrees in European studies and art history. A northwest Indiana native, Anne lives in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood with her boyfriend and two cats.


Travis Kluska, Program Officer, Community Investment Corporation

	Travis	Kluska	 Travis Kluska is a Program Officer at Community Investment Corporation (CIC). He is committed to preserving affordable housing in communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis through innovative efforts including the Troubled Buildings Initiative and the Micro Market Recovery Program (MMRP). In his role as Housing Specialist at the Chicago Housing Authority, Travis administered the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which aims to increase housing choice for low-income households. Prior to working in the field of housing, Travis served as a Labor Organizer at Service Employers International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois Indiana. He received his Masters in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Travis serves on the Southside Community Investment Association and the Chatham MMRP Advisory Council.





Jeffrey Koh, Associate, Ropes & Gray LLP

	Jeffrey	Koh	 

I graduated from Dartmouth College in Government and Economics in 2009, and with a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 2012. During law school, I was an editor on the Michigan Law Review and a national finalist in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. I worked as a full-time extern at the public defender in Washtenaw County, Michigan, and spent a summer working on European human rights law at the Centre for Advice on Individual Rights in Europe.

After law school, I clerked at the Delaware Court of Chancery for Vice Chancellor John W. Noble, and worked on issues involving the justice system at the Hong Kong Legislative Council. I moved to Chicago in October 2013, and started at the law firm of Ropes & Gray, LLP. At the firm, I represent clients in capital markets, private equity, and M&A transactions, and counsel clients on corporate governance and compliance issues. I also have an active pro bono practice involving asylum, indigent defense, and family law matters. In the city, I serve on the boards of various bar organizations, and volunteer regularly at the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic. I also am on the Executive Committee of the Young Professionals Board of the Steppenwolf Theatre. I am looking to become more involved with non-profit work, civic advocacy, and volunteer organizations in the city of Chicago.


Catherine Lynch, Teacher, Piven Theatre Workshop

	Catherine	Lynch	 

Upon graduating from Columbia College in Chicago in 2008 with a Film & Television Directing degree, I began my involvement with the not-for-profit organization, It Can Be Done Africa, a fund set up to bring clean water wells to Uhuru Village in Moshi, Tanzania, by a Chicagoland native who had previously travelled to the area and wanted to make a difference. In 2009, I, as principal cameraman, along with a production crew, the organization’s board members and a crew of local guides, documented our group’s journey to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, as part of a pledge climb to promote the organization’s efforts. Despite the challenges of summiting Kilimanjaro while capturing the experience on camera, it was this experience that allowed me to realize my passion for sharing people's stories. Living in a small village on the side of the mountain helped me gain perspective of how many stories are left untold. The need for clean water is a story that needs to be shared to help expose the reality that so many people live.

Since then, I have been involved in innumerable productions for non-profits raising awareness through story telling. It is my dream to participate in, and capture on film, that intersection of cultures, in the hope that my art will make the world both a larger and smaller place.


Dominica McBride, CEO, Become: Center for Community Engagement and Social Change

	Dominica	McBride	 

Dr. Dominica McBride is an award-winning evaluator and Founder/CEO of Become: Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. She has conducted domestic and international program development and evaluation projects with diverse communities, including in Tanzania, East Africa, African American communities, Hispanic communities, urban Native American communities, and women. Dr. McBride has led various multicultural projects, infusing cultural responsiveness into her work, with a focus on community involvement and participatory approaches. She has designed and implemented workshops nationally, including trainings on team building, wellness, social and emotional intelligence in addition to the aforementioned topics, for audiences including Goodwill Industries International, Inc., prevention specialists, lawyers, mental health professionals, government employees, teachers, and community members. She has published articles and chapters on culturally responsive evaluation, substance abuse in the African American community, cultural competence, prevention of risky behaviors in youth, prevention and human rights, HIV prevention in youth, cultural considerations in homicide-suicide, and cultural representations of Africa.

Dr. McBride has also worked on the ground providing substance abuse counseling and clinical therapy to individuals, youth, and families. She has facilitated groups on recovery, life skills, and parenting skills to prevent risky behavior. She also is an adjunct professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and teaches diversity and program evaluation. She has her PhD in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Consultation from Arizona State University.


	Tejas	Shah

Tejas Shah, Associate, Kriezelman Burton and Associates

I am a progressive and socially-conscious lawyer focusing on immigration. I graduated f

rom the George Washington Law School in 2006 and have spent the last 6.5 years in Chicago. In addition to Chicago, I have also lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands, South Africa, and India. I was an undergrad at Duke University (go Blue Devils!) and love my Chicago Bulls. Highlights of my activism over the past 6 years including chairing a pro bono legal clinic in Chicago and volunteering for the Obama campaign during the 2008 caucuses in Iowa.


Nellie Sires, Political Organizer

	Nellie	Sires	Nellie Sires is a professional political organizer with expertise in grassroots team building, personnel management, coalition building, and messaging. Nellie is dedicated to empowering individuals through grassroots organizing to more effectively engage in electoral campaigns and political direct action. Nellie began her organizing career on the 2012 Obama campaign, where she started as a volunteer fellow, was hired on and then promoted to a Regional Field Director position, where she supervised a team that produced 52% of Illinois' average weekly volunteer output. She designed and executed a statewide training curriculum that trained 300+ volunteer team members in crucial organizing skills and systems. Nellie also organized the Obama for America marching group at the 2012 Chicago Pride Parade, garnering New York Times photo coverage and local press attention as the largest entry in the paradeÕs history. Following the 2012 campaign, Nellie worked as a Press Consultant for TheAction.Org and then joined Organizing for Action as its inaugural Illinois State Director. In this position, she built a statewide organization and communication structure to activate over 1,200 volunteers, produce 80K+ calls to legislators and constituents, and garner media attention on a variety of progressive issues. Nellie also chaired the field committee for Illinois Unites for Marriage and led OFA volunteers to produce 35% of the field output for the winning Illinois Marriage Equality campaign.

Prior to her work on the Obama campaign, Nellie worked for the chicago tech start-up Zenya (formerly doing search engine optimization, advanced data management and taxonomy building. She also worked at the Public Interest Research Group, first doing data management for their New Voters project, and then as National Student News Service Director. Most recently, Nellie served as Field Director for Pat QuinnÕs gubernatorial re-election and managed the democratic coordinated field effort for the state of Illinois. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Nellie holds her Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Political Science, and Film, as well as a minor in International studies, from Loyola University Chicago. Nellie is an active advocate of the LGBTQ community, a proud resident of Roger's Park, and a strong supporter of the independent arts scene in Chicago.


Justin Slaughter, District Director - Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th District), Cook County Government

	Justin	Slaughter	Justin Slaughter has developed a successful career as a public servant that includes invaluable experience in government, community development, and youth initiatives. Through his work in the public sector, Mr. Slaughter has demonstrated a strong commitment towards community service and helping those in need. His dedication and passion towards addressing issues that disproportionately affect minorities has made him a strong inspiring leader. As his interest in government, politics, and public policy grew, Justin Slaughter became the District Director for Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (13 District). In this capacity, Mr. Slaughter demonstrated a strong commitment towards helping at risk populations by identifying resources and addressing constituent concerns for seniors, youth, and individuals receiving public aid. He also assisted State Senator Raoul in developing public policy initiatives that addressed statewide criminal justice disparities. His dedication to serving disadvantaged families then led him to become a policy advisor for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. This position allowed Mr. Slaughter to develop statewide policies, programs, and initiatives in the areas of juvenile justice, child and family welfare, and human services. In addition, he led a legislative review team for legislation concerning criminal justice, social services, and minority employment. It was through this experience that Mr. SlaughterÕs passion for youth advocacy culminated in him becoming the Deputy Director of Programs for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ). In this role, he oversaw all services and programs for incarcerated youth and also assisted IDJJ in its new endeavor to provide enhance community based services for youth on parole. His efforts led to IDJJ implementing effective strategies to provide enhanced individualized services and evidence based practices.

Justin Slaughter is currently the District Director for Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th District). In this position, Mr. Slaughter continues to develop strategies to reform the juvenile justice system. In addition, Mr. Slaughter has also effectively advocated for fair and equal access to Cook County programs, services, and resources for minority communities. Mr. Slaughter has a Bachelor's in Political Science from the University of Chicago and a Masters of Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. Mr. Slaughter is also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., where he is an executive board member for his local chapterÕs foundation. A native Chicagoan, Justin Slaughter grew up on the Southside of Chicago in the Washington Heights community where he currently still resides.


Jourdan Sorrell, Project and Executive Assistant, The Chicago Community Trust

	Jourdan	Sorrell	Jourdan Sorrell is project and executive assistant for The Chicago Community Trust, joining the Trust staff in September 2014. Sorrell is responsible for collaborating across the organization to develop plans and manage projects under the direction of the Chief Officer of Programs and Strategic Integration that advance the Trust's mission to lead and inspire philanthropic efforts that measurably improve the quality of life and the prosperity of the Chicago region. Prior to joining the Trust, Sorrell spent seven years as a talented leader and corporate professional with a range of experience across the private and nonprofit sectors. Most recently he served as President & CEO of the 100 Black Men of Chicago, Inc., a membership organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life and enhance educational opportunities for at-risk youth throughout the Greater Chicago area. Sorrell was responsible for the organization's strategic direction and largest revenue category- corporate sponsorship- and led double-digit growth during his tenure. He was a key voice in shaping strategic partnerships with institutions such as and Chicago Public Schools and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sorrell's professional career has been focused on developing strategic partnerships and collaborations to advance social causes. He is a member of the board of directors of the 100 Black Men of America and serve as chair for the national scholarship program. He has also served on advisory committees with AARP, Illinois Mentoring Partnership and Link Unlimited Scholars. Jourdan is currently pursuing a A.M. from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, and earned a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Notre Dame.


Chelsea Sprayregen, Director of Public Policy and Product Development, BeneStream

Chelsea serves as the Director of Public Policy and Product Development for BeneStream, a 

	Chelsea	Sprayregen

for profit social venture that connects low-income workers to public benefits. At BeneStream, Chelsea is responsible for improving the service delivery model for existing products and for operationalizing new services. Prior to working at BeneStream, Chelsea worked as a field organizer in Cleveland for President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. Chelsea is a graduate of Wesleyan University with a degree in the College of Social Studies. Her passions include anti-poverty programs, feminism, bikes, Chicago, and outdoor adventures.




Traci Thibodeaux, Strategic Manager, Chicago Public Schools

	Traci	Thibodeaux	Traci Thibodeaux currently serves as Manager of Strategic Projects at Chicago Public Schools and is in her second year as a resident in The Broad Residency. During her time at CPS, she has helped lead efforts such as the expansion of the district's STEM education strategy and the implementation of the State Seal of Biliteracy. Prior to joining CPS, Thibodeaux was a Sales Finance Manager at PepsiCo in the Frito Lay division. In this capacity, she was responsible for driving productivity efforts, as well as overall expense management for a major business unit. Previously, she also provided full profit and loss financial support for a major supermarket customer. Prior to PepsiCo, Thibodeaux was an accomplished Personal Financial Advisor at Mass Mutual Financial Group focusing her practice on the importance of both the accumulation of financial wealth and the improvement of the personal health of her clients.

Thibodeaux holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's degree in business administration from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In addition to serving as a mentor to pre-MBA women through the FortŽ Foundation, she also remains very active as an alumni ambassador for the Ross School of Business. In her free time, she is focused on healthy living practices and ran her first half marathon in October 2014.


Jessica Torres, Adult Care Coordinator, Erie Family Health Center

	Jessica	Torres	Jessica Torres is an Adult Care Coordinator at a non-profit health center, Erie Family Health Center. As Adult Care Coordinator she manages and supports a panel of complex patients at two Erie clinics. In this role she collaborates with an interdisciplinary team of providers and quality improvement specialists to identify and coordinate resources for her patients including health education, community resources, transportation, medication adherence, and completion of lab tests and referrals. Prior to her current role, Jessica was a health educator where she facilitated wellness programs designed to help Latinas overcome barriers they face in on their path to achieving health wellness such as economic resources, access to healthy foods, and time. Her focus was on 1:1 education to diabetic adults and pregnant woman. Her interests in the public health field began at a young age when she became aware of the lack of quality health services available in her community on the Southwest side of Chicago. She is passionate about allocating culturally relevant resources for underserved populations in order to improve health outcomes in communities as well as understanding the intersection between how policy affects access and utilization of health services.

Jessica received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Kinesiology where her interest and understanding of the public health field deepened through volunteer medical service with migrant farm workers in the outskirts of Champaign and through volunteer service abroad. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Jessica serves on the fundraising committee for the Minority Health Midwest Conference at UIC as well as a Leadership Ambassador for UIC's School of Public Health. In her spare time Jessica enjoys bike rides through the city, morning runs, and gardening.


Elena Valentine, CEO, Skill Scout

	Elena	Valentine	Elena is passionate about young people, workforce development, and human centered hiring. Her journey to support at-risk youth has made it clear that current hiring processes have to change. That's why, as co-founder of Skill Scout, she highlights local job seekers in new and innovative ways. Prior to Skill Scout, Elena was a design researcher at gravitytank. Her project work includes teacher collaboration with The Gates Foundation, patient centered care with the California Healthcare Foundation, and entry level employment with the WK Kellogg Foundation. She is also a former labor organizer with AFSCME Council 31.

Elena's passion to disrupt hiring takes up much of her personal and professional time. But during those in between moments, she enjoys event videography, singing latin jazz and home remodel projects with her husband. Elena holds a BA in Spanish and Anthropology from Grinnell College, and an AAS in Recording Arts from Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.


Jai Winston, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Office of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ariel Investments

	Jai	Winston	Jai Winston is the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Office of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Ariel Investments, a minority-owned money management firm. He received his bachelor's degree from Howard University, located in Washington, DC. After graduating from college, he immediately pursued a career in politics working on the President's 2012 re-election campaign doing high-dollar fundraising in the state of Illinois. After a little over a year passed, he took a promotion to fundraise for the Democratic National Convention, and work closely with former Mayor Anthony Foxx, the current Secretary of Transportation under the 44th President's Administration. After the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, Jai did more work with the President's 2012 re-election campaign overseeing the trips of all elected officials that visited the state of Florida serving as campaign surrogates. With much success in the political realm, he was offered a job with the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Amassing tons of experience in the political realm in such a short tenure, Jai decided to explore the private sector and take an offer at Ariel Investments, the investment firm where he currently works. Along with research and meeting preparation for the CEO, his primary responsibility at Ariel Investments is the management and execution of their annual Black Corporate Directors Conference. This conference is an invite only conference that brings together African American CEO's currently serving on the board of Fortune 500 companies. Charles Tribbett of Russell Reynolds Associates and John W. Rogers, Jr., founded the Black Corporate Directors Conference in 2002 to facilitate structured dialogue about the experiences, opportunities and challenges facing black directors of Fortune 500 companies. Since its inception, the conference has been an enormous success. It has grown from just 38 directors in our inaugural year to more than 170 directors this past fall. A few companies whose boards are represented at this conference are: American Express, Boeing, Conoco Phillips, CVS Caremark, Dell, IBM, Kraft Foods, McDonaldÕs Corporation, Pfizer, Starbucks Coffee Company, Verizon and Xerox. In addition to being well-versed in the corporate and political realm, he currently serves on two junior boards in Chicago, the Lookingglass Theatre and buildOn, becoming very involved with the local community. Jai resides downtown in Chicago, and spends his spare time still getting acclimated to the city of Chicago, and exploring all the wonderful features the city has to offer.


Evan Wright, Supervisor of Parcel Assembly, McMaster-Carr Industrial Supply Company

	Evan	Wright	Evan Wright was born and raised in Washington, DC. He attended Brown University and graduated with a degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2010. After graduation, Evan took a teaching fellowship position with Princeton in Asia. He was stationed in Singapore for a year and a half and taught high school Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. During this time, Evan also got involved with the International School of Asia, Karuizawa (ISAK) as a camp counselor and diversity workshop coordinator. Evan has been involved in the development of ISAK for the past five years and it has since become the first international boarding school in Japan.

Evan enjoys traveling and has worked and studied in Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. He also has a deep passion for martial arts and has studied and competed in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the past 4 years. Evan has competed in four countries and fought in national and world competitions. For the past two years, Evan has worked in operations management for McMaster-Carr Supply Co. in Chicago, IL. 


Hicham Zerhouni , Managing Principal , TransCultures LLC

	Hicham	Zerhouni	Hicham Zerhouni is the Managing Principal of TransCultures, he born in Fez, Morocco. He moved to Chicago when he was 19, after completing a Dipl™me d'Etudes Universitaire Generales (DEUG) in English Language. In 2006 he graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Board of Governors BA in Political Science and a MasterÕs Degree in Political Science with focus on International Relations in 2009. While he worked in banking as an International Analyst, and taught foreign languages to executives and government officials seeking to understand global markets and political diversity. In 2006, he launched Argan Oils, a socially conscious cosmetics company that markets an organic oil from Morocco while supporting women cooperatives and preserving an endangered indigenous tree. He went on to work as a Global Media Analyst during the Arab Spring, where he provided subject matter expertise, cultural knowledge, drafted reports, and briefed high officials about the turmoil in the Middle East. After that he worked as a market researcher providing expertise to global companies on how to attract global consumers using digital technologies. He left that job to start TransCultures, a globalization services company that Helps organizations in the private, public, and non-for-profit sectors overcome cultural barriers and achieve their global potential by customizing language and cultural services to help them grow in today's global economy.

Since 2004, Hicham has been the founder and organizer of Chicago Arabic Language Culture and Civilization Club; a platform for Arab Americans and new Arab immigrants to start a dialogue about their future in the Chicago. Hicham serves on the Advisory Council on Equity, a Chicago Commission on Human Relation council that advises the Mayor and City Council on policy matters regarding civil rights with a focus on equal access to employment, housing, and public accommodations. The council helps identify means to educate the public about Chicago's Human Rights and Fair Housing Ordinances, which offer protections against discrimination and hate crimes. Beginning in 2012, Hicham has been a member of the National Language Service Corps where he volunteers his time and skills to provide language access and cultural expertise to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) communities. He also provides pro bono language and cultural services to many organizations around the country. He speaks at conferences regarding diversity, cultural and language access issues. Hicham is fluent in 4 dialects of Arabic, French, with a working proficiency in Spanish. Hicham lives in Chicago with his wife and son.