Our Team

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The Spark Team

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

Michelle Stearn
Jazmine Sanders
Jasmine Jones
Hannah Wheeler

Michelle Stearn
Program Lead

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.

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Jazmine Sanders
Program Fellow

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.

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Jasmine Jones
Program Fellow

Jasmine graduated from the University of Richmond in 2014 with Bachelor's degree in American Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Public Administration at DePaul University. Jasmine started off as an elementary school teacher and transitioned into a behavior interventionist role.   Jasmine's love for youth carries on in an outside of the school as she has serves as youth service leader at church and youth program committee chair with her sorority. She believes all students can reach their full potential with the proper resources and a spirit of resilience and grit.

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Hannah Wheeler
Corporate Partnerships Coordinator

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!

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Lea Henry
Ashley N. Leonard
Phil Masters

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.

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Ashley N. Leonard
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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Phil Masters
Program Director

Phil began his career in Chicago’s education sector at Kelvyn Park High School as a Math Tutoring Fellow. His time spent at KP inspired Phil to join Spark as a Program Coordinator in 2015 to support the youth of Chicago in realizing their potential, and to engage more people in the education of the city’s youth. He now leads as Program Director. Phil holds a B.A. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and is a native of Buffalo, New York.

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Chicago Board Members

Executive Board
Antonio Jackson, Cincinnati Insurance Company Britton Picciolini, Google for Education Charles Calloway, Chapman & Cutler LLP 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 Sam Pambah, KPMG LLP Timothy Jones, Motorola Solutions
Advisory Board
Anna-Claire Whitehead, Noah’s Arc Foundation Casey Hatch, BMO Collin Starkweather, Charles River Associates Gordana Radmilovic, West Monroe Partners Kristina Choo, IBM Kristina Oderinde, KPMG; Advisory Board Vice Chair Luis Narvaez, Chicago Public Schools Matthew DeGrand, Gartner Paul Warkins, EY Rich Hurh, LinkedIn Stephen Harris, Boeing Tiffany Bristol, Google Tina Lambert, Tyson Foods

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