We are a passionate, innovative and collaborative team focused on celebrating students and promoting possibility.
Robin M. Keefe was the founder and President of BookEnds. Through her passionate and focused leadership, Robin developed a community of people to grow BookEnds as a distinguished Los Angeles leader in introducing children to philanthropy as they worked to fill the barren bookshelves in their neighborhood schools and youth organizations. More than one million children learned the power of community service through the donation of over three million books to create nearly 700 libraries throughout Los Angeles.
BookEnds’ programs were successfully transitioned into three nonprofit organizations in 2015 to drive scale and economy in support of the national initiative for sustainable nonprofit organizations.
Robin then assumed the position of Interim CEO for The Beauty Bus Foundation and then for Karma Rescue, tasked with reorganizing these emerging nonprofit organizations to position them for strength and scale in the delivery of their missions.
Robin’s early career was in the real estate development and finance field, including industrial brokerage, corporate site acquisition for a national bank and a national restaurant chain and commercial real estate development. But she found a growing passion for philanthropy and children as she served on numerous community boards of directors. Robin joined these passions in 1998 with the founding of BookEnds.
Robin continues to focus her passion on the development of our youth in community service. She is an active participant and guest lecturer at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Policy and Pepperdine University’s School of Business and Communication, engaging students in entrepreneurial nonprofit leadership. Robin has served on the boards of directors of 14 diverse nonprofit organizations.
Among her numerous honors is her most cherished: “The Angel Award for Service” presented to Robin by Oprah Winfrey.
Robin graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, Finance and a minor in Art History. Robin joined Spark in the Bay Area as Executive Director in 2018.
Lance brings a unique set of entrepreneurial, educational and non-profit experiences to Spark Chicago. Most recently, Lance served as the board chair and CEO of Chicago Tech Academy, a STEM-focused contract high school. Under his leadership ChiTech created the first school-based internship program in Chicago Public Schools, increased both its freshman-on-track and high school graduation rates by over 25%, and grew freshmen enrollment by over 60%. Before transitioning to the non-profit sector, Lance spent 20+ years in the technology sector, including co-founding and growing PointBridge into one of the leading Microsoft consulting firms in the country. He is a board member at Cara Chicago, a graduate of Indiana University, and the son of two retired middle-school teachers.
Judy’s personal mission to level the playing field for children and youth has made a
tremendous impact on our communities for the past 30 years. Her extensive experience
in capacity building, innovative program development, and training facilitation have been
In over 20 years in leadership roles in the Big Brothers Big Sisters network, Judy was
instrumental in increasing mentoring capacity from 2600 to 4300 children served. One
of her most notable achievements is collaborating with other leadership team members
to develop, introduce, and grow the Beyond School Walls mentoring program. Since its
inception, Beyond School Walls has become a national model for BBBS for fundraising
and serving more children in a career-focused and impactful way.
Judy is a recognized expert on child safety and mentoring children of prisoners. She
has traveled across the country speaking on child safety and is regularly consulted for
her guidance in these areas. Judy believes strongly in the value of mentoring and has a wealth of knowledge to share on this topic. She facilitates engaging training sessions on it, has appeared on television and radio programs to discuss it, and in 2015, she spearheaded the launch of Mentor Independence Region, an affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, and peer support to over 135 community-based youth mentoring
organizations throughout Eastern PA.
A dedicated restorative justice practitioner, before coming to Spark Maya worked as a restorative justice coordinator at an elementary school on Chicago’s South Side. Her work with youth is guided by her commitment to equity and empathy, a belief in the unique power that youth hold and a desire walk alongside them as they figure out how to harness it. She looks forward to bringing her dedication to community and relationships as units of action to Spark and meeting some amazing youth in return. Maya graduated from the University of Chicago in 2019 with a B.A. in Public Policy, specializing in Social Welfare. In her free time Maya is an enthusiastic knitter, a cross-genre reader and a cat-less cat lover.
JJ (he/they) is the newest program fellow to join the Spark team in Chicago. After serving as an education specialist for the Office of Equity at Northwestern University in 2018, JJ was inspired to make the shift into similar independent education consulting. They’ve provided professional development in justice oriented curriculum design and instruction, as well as tailored support for team and organizational culture.
Most recently, they were a program manager for the Woods Fund youth-led racial justice institute. JJ is looking forward to the opportunity to facilitate with middle school students again, after a few years focusing on high school youth and the adults who partner with them.
They have been in the Chicago education landscape for 8 years, and are now pursing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. After Spark, JJ plans to return to instructional coaching with a refreshed perspective on engaging middle school students in virtual learning spaces.
Sheyla joins Spark in the Bay with extensive experience supporting families and students in the education space. Most recently, Sheyla worked as a High School Success Advisor with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula in Redwood City. Prior to that Sheyla served as an AmeriCorps member and Team Leader with City Year Los Angeles. Sheyla was born in Bolivia and raised in the Los Angeles area before moving to the Bay Area in 2017. She has a B.A. in Cognitive Psychology from UC Irvine and an M.A. in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University. When not working, she enjoys exploring the many different cities and microclimates of the Bay Area, landscape photography, and all things Disney!
Melissa is an educational equity advocate, teacher, and youth leader whose passion and commitment have led her to Spark. She is a Bay Area native who graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelors of Science in Sociology-Social Services and minors in Education and Psychology. After college she served for two years as an AmeriCorps member developing social emotional and literacy skills amongst at-promise East Oakland students. She looks forward to tapping into the unbridled curiosity, energy, and possibility of Spark students as a Program Associate.
Originally from Chicago, Lucy moved to the Bay Area in 2013 to study Sociology at UC Berkeley. She's worked with students in various capacities since she was a high school student herself, and in college had the incredible opportunity to coordinate after school mentorship programming for middle schoolers. Upon graduating, she was motivated by a goal to provide opportunities for critical relationship building among geographically proximal, yet culturally disparate, groups of people. She is thrilled to have found a position at Spark that allows for this type of hands-on learning. Outside of work she wanders the city, listens to true crime podcasts, and begins (sometimes even finishes) countless art projects.
Michelle graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2015. Michelle got her start in education while in college by becoming a mentor and coordinator for D.C. Reads, a literacy intervention program that serves underserved youth in Washington, D.C. She then combined her passions for environmental education and community development by creating a youth urban agriculture summer and after school program in Ward 7 of D.C. More recently, Michelle pursued a Fulbright interdisciplinary research scholarship in Chile, where she created a pilot program to help youth understand and design their own renewable energy systems. Michelle is super excited to be returning to her hometown of Chicago to continue inspiring students and working with schools as a Spark Program Lead.
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!
Josh comes to Spark with nearly a decade of experience in the education and youth development space. He began his career serving two years as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Los Angeles at a middle school in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Josh then joined their development team where he spent three years managing foundation relations and corporate partnerships. A native of Chicago's northern suburbs, Josh then returned home to run Camp for All Kids, a camp scholarship program, where under his leadership the organization increased its students served by 40% over two years and partner camps by 20. Josh most recently worked as a Director of Development at KIPP Chicago Schools.
Jazmine Sanders is the new program fellow, she is currently finishing her B.A in Communication from Loyola University Chicago. She has a strong passion to empower young people of color to reach beyond the daily barriers and help them use their communities as support. Before joining Spark she worked at City Year Chicago as a team leader, where she was a support system for students to realize their full potential and plans to continue within Spark.
Isabel Beck-Roe is working for Spark as a Quaker Voluntary Service Fellow, having been drawn to Spark for its dedication to empowerment and exploration. She recently graduated from Macalester College where she studied Geography, Music, and French, and where she also had the opportunity to learn about nonprofit fundraising through her work with the school and other local organizations. Youth programming has also emerged as a priority for Isabel from her work with after-school programs and summer camps.
Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Natalia Bautista graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She began working in the nonprofit sector soon after graduating and moved to the Bay Area in 2012. Throughout her career as a support counselor, bilingual case manager, and academic advisor, she provided high-school students with academic and social-emotional support to promote a growth mindset and emotional wellbeing.
In her leisure time, she explores the historical landmarks and colorful neighborhoods of San Francisco with her partner and friends. She enjoys reading psychological books, especially by her favorite researcher, Dr. Philip Zimbardo. She hopes to attend graduate school to further her education in Marriage and Family Therapy and become a role model for other Latinxs.
Gabriella Baxter, a Bay Area native, graduated from San Francisco State University in 2015 with a degree in Anthropology. Gabriella completed her last year of undergrad in Sweden at Linneaus University studying Global Studies and Peace and Development. Prior to Spark, Gabriella has worked with youth through AmeriCorps as an Education Advocate for foster youth and out of home probation in San Francisco and as a Community Youth and Gender Empowerment Volunteer in Peace Corps, Fiji. Gabriella began as a Program Manager with Spark, managing their San Francisco school and corporate partners and has newly transitioned into the role of Development and Operations Manager for Spark in the Bay Outside of work, Gabriella enjoys traveling nationally and internationally, taking her dog on whatever adventure she can.
McKenzie’s passion for positive youth development and education lead her to Spark. She is a Delaware native and holds a Bachelors of Science in Applied Psychology from New York University. During her time in New York City, McKenzie volunteered with many New York City public schools working with students ranging from Pre-School to High School. McKenzie is excited to bring her past experience into her role as a Spark Fellow and continue to make a positive impact.
Akua Maat recently graduated from Wake Forest University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Latin and Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. After college, she wanted to contribute to the fight for education equity and moved to Philadelphia to complete a year of service with City Year Philadelphia. In her role as a tutor and mentor in a 9th grade English class she developed a greater passion for working with students and supporting youth development beyond the classroom. Akua brings this passion and her experience working within Philadelphia public schools to her role as a Program Fellow with Spark.
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