Our Team

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The Spark Team

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

Jessica Sloan
Katey Frederking
Amanda Ruud
Jeanette Castellanos

Jessica Sloan
Head of Development and Communications

Jessica joins the Spark team as Head of Development and Communications, helping the organization advance its mission through nationwide revenue generation and brand awareness strategies. With over 15 years of nonprofit experience, Jessica is passionate about creating equitable opportunities for today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders and breaking down community silos that act as barriers to success. Jessica’s early career began as the Clinical Director of programs working with formerly homeless adults addressing mental health issues and most recently as External Relations Director of a youth organization leading fundraising and communications initiatives and implementing organization-wide strategic plans. Jessica has a BA in Psychology and Criminology from the University of Maryland, and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Outside of work, you can find Jessica out and about in New York City and talking about her super cute dog, Zimmie. 

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Katey Frederking
Development and Communication Manager

Katey manages Spark’s fundraising and donor management process and creates branding and marketing initiatives to raise awareness about Spark for the national team. Katey started her career at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France and worked at Chicago Community Loan Fund, as well as at Chapman and Cutler, LLP (a Spark Corporate Partner).  Throughout her career, Katey has managed a number of communications plans, including: redesigning an entire corporate website, planning and managing a social media campaign at a large international forum, and creating and designing high level external collateral pieces for a variety of clients.  From a young age Katey recognized the importance of education and has worked in a variety of roles with children, including after school programs, summer camps and teaching swim lessons.  Katey, a proud Chicago resident, received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Carroll University in Wisconsin and her Master’s in Global Communication and International Development from the American University of Paris, in Paris, France.

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Amanda Ruud
High School Pathways Program Manager

Amanda has broad experience tutoring, teaching and developing curriculum. After graduating from Tufts University with degrees in Spanish and English literature, she taught 7th grade English and social studies at KIPP Bayview Academy in San Francisco. Amanda comes to Spark from Saddleback Community College where she led faculty in the design and implementation of academic programming made to meet the needs of all learners. At Spark, Amanda is thrilled to support the success of middle school students as they transition to high school.

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Jeanette Castellanos
CEO

Jeanette joins Spark with a proven record in fundraising, program development, and advocacy and with a passion for social change.  In her most recent role as Executive Director of Citizen Schools Illinois, Jeanette strengthened programs and expanded partnerships aimed at closing the achievement and opportunity gaps.  Prior to her time with Citizen Schools, Jeanette served in progressive leadership roles at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, overseeing over a grant portfolio of over $20M and serving as the key architect and driver of the United Way Neighborhood Network Initiative, a model for advancing community-level change in some of the most challenged communities in the Chicago region. Prior to joining United Way, Jeanette dedicated over ten years of her career to addressing issues of sexual violence; leading Illinois’ largest rape crisis program, which provided services to over 100,000 individuals each year. She has served as Board Chair of the Illinois Coalition against Sexual Assault and Vice-Chair of the National Board of YWCA USA. She is also a member of the Women United Giving Circle at the Chicago Foundation for Women. Jeanette studied Clinical Psychology at Case Western Reserve University and completed her undergraduate degree at Binghamton University. A native New Yorker, Jeanette currently resides in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park with her son and daughter. 

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Jim Schroder
Michael Kolodner
Amanda Kilibarda Gutierrez

Jim Schroder
Head of Program

Jim leads the design and implementation of Spark’s Career Exploration and Self-Discovery Program. With more than 10 years of experience in the education sector and a passion for creating diverse partnerships that provide excellent educational opportunities for students, Jim drives program quality, innovation, operations and scalability across the organization. Previously Spark's Executive Director in Philadelphia, Jim grew Spark's impact in the region and managed relationships with key stakeholders, from corporate and community organizations to partnering schools. Prior to Spark, Jim worked as the Director of Corps Learning and Development for City Year Philadelphia. A native of Atlanta and graduate of Williams College, Jim worked at Wesleyan University and Hartford City Mission before completing his master's degree in Non-Profit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. 

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Michael Kolodner
Director of Information Systems

Michael Kolodner spent much of his career designing and managing systems for tracking information. Most recently managing a Salesforce database for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and consulting with a sister organization, Michael has previously designed databases for organizing membership for a co-op swim club to tracking global responses to the 9/11 attacks for the US State Department. Michael earned his BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Amherst College and put that degree to work in the Foreign Service, serving in Sana’a, Yemen and Washington, DC. Michael moved back to his home town of Philadelphia, where he supports the local food movement, and enjoys photography. Michael is a member of Spark's Shared Services Team, based out of Spark’s Philadelphia office.

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Amanda Kilibarda Gutierrez
Manager, Special Projects

An Indiana native, Amanda is a graduate of Indiana University with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish with minors in Latino Studies and Western European Studies. A founding member of Spark's Chicago region, Amanda joined the team in 2011 as an Americorps VISTA Outreach Coordinator excited to help bring Spark's unique model of individualized learning to Chicago. Prior to joining Spark Amanda volunteered with several organizations committed to improving educational opportunity. Through her work with these programs, Amanda saw firsthand how critical volunteer involvement is in providing learning opportunities for youth in the community, as well as how one-on-one attention empowered students to achieve. Amanda firmly believes that all students should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and never ceases to be amazed by the incredible work of Spark students as they discover new possibilities for the future. After 3 years on the Chicago program team, Amanda joined the Shared Services team in 2014.

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National Board Members

Board of Directors
Alicia Winckler, President and CEO of A WIN Consulting, LLC; former Chief Talent Officer at Chicago Public Schools and Strategic Talent and Human Capital Executive in Private Sector Alyssa Rapp, Principal, AJR Ventures; Lecturer in Management, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Ben Rowe, Board Treasurer; Managing Partner, KHP Capital Partners Chris Balme, Spark Co-Founder; Head of School, Millennium School Elena Gomez, Chief Financial Officer, Zendesk Holly Depatie, Board Chair Emeritus; Philanthropist, Advocate and Activist, Writer James Ramo, Board Chair; President, Allenwood Ventures Jeff Markowitz, Partner, Greylock Jesus Ramos, Spanish Instructor/Independent Study Coordinator, Sacred Heart Schools Perry Wallack, Co-Founder, Cornerstone OnDemand Rodney Prezeau, Consumer Platform, Managing Director at Aviva Sarah Friar, Board Vice Chair; Chief Financial Officer, Square

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