Our Team

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The Spark Team

We are a passionate, innovative and collaborative team focused on celebrating students and promoting possibility.

Ashley Richardson
Joseph Balog
Sahrish Saleem
Ashli Owens

Ashley Richardson
Executive Director

Ashley began her career in the private sector when she was selected as one of 15 individuals to participate in a two-year management development program at Kraft Foods. After four years gaining expertise in sales, customer service, consumer analytics and category management, Ashley acted on her long-standing passion for educational access and equity and pursued a full-time career in education. Prior to joining Spark, Ashley was with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) where she led the successful launch of Mentoring the Next Generation, a district-wide initiative that paired more than 500 kindergarten and eighth grade students with caring adult mentors.  Most recently, she served as Special Projects Manager at The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund) where she was responsible for collaborating with CPS leadership to support principal talent management and developing the strategy to support fundraising efforts for the next phase of The Fund’s work.  Ashley holds a Masters of Education in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Vassar College. She is also a Surge Fellow and was part of the inaugural Education Pioneers Yearlong Fellowship.

 

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Joseph Balog
Senior Program Coordinator

Joe believes that the future is built by young dreamers expanding our idea of what is possible. He has partnered with youth to rehabilitate forests in Michigan, experience summer camp in Kentucky, improve literacy in Kenya and teach English in Mexico. Joe joined Spark through the New Sector Alliance Residency in Social Enterprise Fellowship and holds a B.S. in Sustainable Business from Aquinas College, located in his native state of Michigan. 

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Sahrish Saleem
Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships

Sahrish graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Communications and minor in Near Eastern Studies. While in school, Sahrish was a Jumpstart corps member, where she discovered her passion for education. Upon graduating, she joined a two-year teaching fellowship with Citizen Schools Illinois and worked as a second-shift ELA teacher for middle school students on the South Side of Chicago. Sahrish is excited to join the Spark team and help empower students to succeed through skill-building mentorships!

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Ashli Owens
Development Manager

Ashli’s eagerness to close the achievement and opportunity gap for students began early as a college student through research and volunteering.  A native of Michigan, Ashli served as a mentor and tutor providing ACT preparation and college access guidance to high school students in the Metro Detroit area.  After completing her undergraduate studies, Ashli served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for a nonprofit organization where she wrote grants for academic enrichment programs and provided program support.  Ashli is excited to join Spark Chicago as Development Coordinator and enthusiastic to continue motivating students through workplace-based mentoring opportunities.  Ashli graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW).

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Danielle Moehrke
Phil Masters
Jessica Del Real

Chicago Board Members

Executive Board
Benjamin Daverman, GTCR David Furlin, U.S. Trust David Leiter, KPMG James Evans, Entertainment Cruises, Inc.; Executive Board Chair Marta Stein, McGuireWoods LLP Maureen Lang, CEB Nayan Shah, Deloitte Principal Cleophas (CJ) Rodgers, Dewey School of Excellence Rick Eddington, Northern Trust Robin Lavin, The Osa Foundation; Executive Board Chair Emeritus
Advisory Board
Anna-Claire Whitehead, Noah’s Arc Foundation Casey Hatch, BMO Charles Calloway, Chapman & Cutler LLP; Advisory Board Chair Collin Starkweather, Charles River Associates Elizabeth Farr, PepsiCo Gordana Radmilovic, West Monroe Partners Kristina Oderinde, KPMG; Advisory Board Vice Chair Kyla Kelly, Google Matthew DeGrand, CEB Matthew Kamhi, Deloitte Matthew Lew, Artist Paul Warkins, EY Rich Hurh, LinkedIn Tina Lambert, Tyson Foods

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