Our Team

Results 11
Sort By:

The Spark Team

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

Hannah Wheeler
Lea Henry
Katherine Castillo Valentin
Stephen Bruce

Hannah Wheeler
Program Fellow

Hannah graduated from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College with a B.S. in Human and Organizational Development. She moved to Chicago with one goal in mind: tackling inequality in education. Serving as a Math Tutoring Fellow with SAGA Innovations, Hannah saw the impact one-on-one relationships can have on students' lives. After working with high schoolers at Wendell Phillips Academy and seeing their lack of opportunities, she is excited to be able to show Middle Schoolers their potential through Spark and watch them succeed in high school and beyond!

close

Lea Henry
Program Fellow

Lea graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she studied Business Marketing. She found her passion for working with middle school students while serving for City Year Chicago as a tutor and mentor in a seventh and eighth math classroom in Englewood. Her time spent with students at Stagg Elementary helped her realize the lack of knowledge about opportunities available to black and brown communities in Chicago. She joined Spark to help bridge the gap and help students see their possibilities.

close

Katherine Castillo Valentin
Program Fellow

Katherine graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. in Human Communication Sciences and Minors in Latinx Studies & Psychology. She is very passionate about how social justice issues intersect with the educational experiences of Chicago Public School students. While at Northwestern, she worked with Borders and Identities NU, a collaborative that focused on Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and how to center youth to build stronger community relationships. She is excited to bring her knowledge on YPAR to make sure our Spark Students are at the center of our program each day. Since Katherine has lived in Chicago her whole life, she is very excited to work at Spark and have the opportunity to give back to young people in the city.

close

Stephen Bruce
Program Fellow

Stephen Bruce born and raised in Peoria, IL has always had a passion for connecting with youth and helping them reach their goals. In early 2016, shortly after graduating High School; Stephen moved to Chicago, IL to pursue a career in Youth Development and Communication where he later started at Harold Washington College and has been working as on Youth Director on the Southside.  Stephen comes to Spark as a Public Ally AmeriCorps Member and hopes to continue to use the life experiences of his past, unique ability to connect with youth and adults, and also his experience in youth programming to help build Spark and encourage youth to reach new possibilities.

close
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.

 

close

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. 

close

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!

close

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).

close
Danielle Moehrke
Phil Masters
Jessica Del Real

Danielle Moehrke
Program Director

Danielle first joined Spark as an intern in the summer of 2012 and returned as a full-time team member during the summer of 2014.  She is passionate about providing hands-on learning opportunities to young people and empowering students to be agents in their own learning.  During and after college, she became hooked on experiential learning models through working with a few organizations including 826CHI, an Expeditionary Learning school in Humboldt Park, and as a team teacher with the non-profit Blue Engine.  Danielle gets really excited about asset-based community development, running, youth empowerment, big cities, NPR and Wisconsin (her home state).  Danielle graduated from Northwestern University where she studied Social Policy and Civic Engagement.

close

Phil Masters
Program Manager

Phil began his career in Chicago’s education sector at Kelvyn Park High School as a Math Tutoring Fellow, then as a SAGA Innovations Leadership Fellow. In these roles he tutored math and helped new tutors find success in educating as well as mentoring. His time spent at Kelvyn Park inspired Phil to join Spark to help the youth of Chicago realize their potential, as well as to engage more people in the education of the city’s youth. Phil holds a B.A. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and is a native of Buffalo, New York.

close

Jessica Del Real
Program Manager

Jessica graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. She discovered her passion for education while serving as a tutor and mentor in a sixth grade classroom for City Year Miami. After graduating from City Year, she served with Public Allies Chicago where she was introduced to Spark. Now, Jessica is excited to work with Spark to inspire Chicago’s youth to continue to broaden their horizons and learn more about their communities.

close

Chicago Board Members

Executive Board
Antonio Jackson, Cincinnati Insurance Company Britton Picciolini, Google for Education David Furlin, U.S. Trust David Leiter, KPMG LLP James Evans, Entertainment Cruises, Inc.; Executive Board Chair Maureen Lang, Gartner Nayan Shah, Deloitte Principal Cleophas (CJ) Rodgers, Dewey School of Excellence Robin Lavin, The Osa Foundation; Executive Board Chair Emeritus Sam Pambah, KPMG LLP Timothy Jones, Motorola Solutions
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 Gordana Radmilovic, West Monroe Partners Kristina Oderinde, KPMG; Advisory Board Vice Chair Matthew DeGrand, Gartner Matthew Lew, Artist Paul Warkins, EY Rich Hurh, LinkedIn Stephen Harris, Boeing Tiffany Bristol, Google Tina Lambert, Tyson Foods

Start a Career with Spark

Join a culture of possibility! Learn about career, fellowship and internship opportunities.

Careers