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Our Team.

Team Locations

Leadership

Verneé Green

Chief Executive Officer

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Fun Fact: Verneé loves musicals! In fact, when she was a high school junior, she played Sandy in her school’s production of “Grease.”

Verneé joined Mikva Challenge in April 2018. Verneé Green has over 25 years of experience in the education and nonprofit sectors, including three years as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, joining Mikva Challenge three years ago as the Chief Program Officer. She most recently served as Executive Director of Mikva’s Illinois chapter. She’s excited to be in this role to advance Mikva’s mission to help youth develop civic knowledge, leadership skills, and transform their engagement in the political process. Verneé holds a Bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. At the University of Chicago, she was a recipient of the McCormick-Tribune Fellowship in Urban and Community Leadership. Verneé is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and Allstate’s Executive Leadership Program.

Robyn Lingo

Executive Director DC

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Fun Fact: Robyn loves eating at roadside diners, mostly because of the pie!

Robyn brings almost fifteen years of youth empowerment, non-profit management, curriculum development and youth facilitation experience to her role as Executive Director for Mikva Challenge DC. A native of the Washington, DC area, Robyn is passionate about providing authentic spaces for DC youth to investigate, affect and change the world around them. She looks forward to building more opportunities to bring youth voice into local decision making and to highlight young people’s ability to be engaged citizens and community leaders.

Jill Bass

Chief Education Officer

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Fun Fact: Jill can sing a mean karaoke.

Jill taught in Chicago and New York City public schools for 13 years and was a Mikva teacher for much of that time. She has a Masters in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been a professional developer, curriculum writer, educational consultant, and instructional coach. At Mikva, Jill is part of the national team, overseeing partner sites, curriculum development, and teacher professional learning.

Mary Carlson

Chief Development Officer

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Fun Fact: Mary’s parents were jazz musicians.

Mary joined Mikva Challenge in early 2018. As Mikva’s Chief Development Officer, she serves as the key strategist for maintaining, developing, and implementing support for the organization through increased philanthropy and promoting a strong public image. She supports fundraising and communications that align with the organization’s local and national growth, ensuring that Mikva’s story and mission are promoted in ways that maximize resources to support the organization’s mission and goals in the short and long term.  Mary brings to this position over 20 years experience in strategic partnerships; fundraising and sponsorships; marketing, branding, public relations, and communications; and project and people management.

Camille Rampersaud

Director of Finance

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Fun Fact: Camille tried sky diving and loved it!

Camille joined Mikva Challenge as our Operations Director after 15 years of experience in accounting and change management. Prior to Mikva, Camille worked as a senior accountant at a private accounting firm and has also served as the VP of Finance and Administration at Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Camille earned her BS in Finance from Northeastern Illinois University and is passionate about helping young people succeed.

Carla Rubalcava

Managing Director of Illinois Programs

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As Managing Director of Illinois Programs, Carla sets the vision and direction for Mikva Illinois’ youth-facing programs, elevates the work of the youth program facilitators, and oversees Mikva’s school-based classroom initiatives.

Before joining Mikva Challenge, Carla served as the Director of Enrollment Management at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. As an administrator, she led a college-wide committee that designed an overarching framework for student recruitment and established goal-specific strategies for the college’s strategic 3-year enrollment plan.

Carla began her career as resource coordinator in a CPS elementary school on the city’s northwest side. She then joined the Association for Child Development as the Director of Nutrition Services. Afterwards, she spent the next six years working at the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and Holy Trinity High School, focusing on community engagement and student recruitment initiatives.

Carla earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana.  In addition to her work at Mikva Challenge, Carla serves on the associate board of Erie Family Health Centers. She loves spending time exploring the city with her husband and two sons.

National

Verneé Green

Chief Executive Officer

read bio

Fun Fact: Verneé loves musicals! In fact, when she was a high school junior, she played Sandy in her school’s production of “Grease.”

Verneé joined Mikva Challenge in April 2018. Verneé Green has over 25 years of experience in the education and nonprofit sectors, including three years as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, joining Mikva Challenge three years ago as the Chief Program Officer. She most recently served as Executive Director of Mikva’s Illinois chapter. She’s excited to be in this role to advance Mikva’s mission to help youth develop civic knowledge, leadership skills, and transform their engagement in the political process. Verneé holds a Bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. At the University of Chicago, she was a recipient of the McCormick-Tribune Fellowship in Urban and Community Leadership. Verneé is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and Allstate’s Executive Leadership Program.

Jill Bass

Chief Education Officer

read bio

Fun Fact: Jill can sing a mean karaoke.

Jill taught in Chicago and New York City public schools for 13 years and was a Mikva teacher for much of that time. She has a Masters in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been a professional developer, curriculum writer, educational consultant, and instructional coach. At Mikva, Jill is part of the national team, overseeing partner sites, curriculum development, and teacher professional learning.

Crystal Cabada

Operations Assistant

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Fun Fact: Crystal studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain her Junior year in College at Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.

Crystal has been working as a summer intern with the Mikva Challenge Operations and Development teams since she graduated high school in 2014. After graduating from from Saint Xavier University in 2017 with a degree in Business Administration she is now a permanent member of our Operations team. Crystal is passionate about social justice and loves to work for a place that impacts the community and city she loves.

Mary Carlson

Chief Development Officer

read bio

Fun Fact: Mary’s parents were jazz musicians.

Mary joined Mikva Challenge in early 2018. As Mikva’s Chief Development Officer, she serves as the key strategist for maintaining, developing, and implementing support for the organization through increased philanthropy and promoting a strong public image. She supports fundraising and communications that align with the organization’s local and national growth, ensuring that Mikva’s story and mission are promoted in ways that maximize resources to support the organization’s mission and goals in the short and long term.  Mary brings to this position over 20 years experience in strategic partnerships; fundraising and sponsorships; marketing, branding, public relations, and communications; and project and people management.

Karla Morin Castilla

Wilmington, DE Site Director

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Fun Fact: At the age of 7, Karla was already lobbying with her mom for bilingual education.

Karla’s passion for social justice and youth voice began when as a teen she met with her alderman to express the need for affordable housing in her quickly changing neighborhood and was part of a group of young people fighting for passage of the Dream Act. At Mikva National, Karla runs the Wilmington, DE partner site. She hopes to create a space where young people know their voice matters and leave feeling empowered.

Kayla Cruz

National Program Administrative Manager

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Fun Fact: Kayla is a sucker for all things medieval fantasy.

As an inner-city kid and the eldest of seven, Kayla developed a passion for positive youth development at a young age. Prior to Mikva, she spent several years working with youth through various educational programs and was also involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for which she became a trained support group facilitator. Kayla holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her role as National Program Administrative Manager, she provides administrative oversight and project support to the National team.

Justine Hipsky

Research Manager, Argumentative Writing Project

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Fun Fact: Justine caught a ride in a flower delivery van when running late once. It was the second day of grad school.

With a background in political science and education, Justine believes that a more just society will arrive when all people have equal access to the political sphere. For this reason, she is interested in education equality, youth civic engagement, and all other aspects of social justice. Justine is a first-generation college student, and was first inspired by people power during her undergraduate studies when she worked with refugees on issues of border politics in Latin America. In her three years as a US Government teacher in Washington, DC, her efforts revolved around teaching students to use their knowledge of history, civics, and personal life experience as tools for change. She is excited to continue Mikva Challenge DC’s mission by supporting teachers and students in their work to organize and bring youth voice to the forefront of local decision making. Justine is an alumna of the University of Florida, and holds degrees in both Political Science and Secondary Social Studies Education.

Amanda Maguire

New Hampshire ACSMI Site Director

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Fun Fact: Amanda often drives to Cambridge Mass to attend public lectures at Harvard and MIT for fun.

Amanda is a (nearly) lifelong resident of New Hampshire and comes to Mikva with a background in Social Studies Education. After graduating from Plymouth State University, Amanda taught high school social studies in her hometown for four years before moving on to an alternative high school teaching at-risk youth and later becoming Assistant Director. Passionate about providing opportunities to the students in her community, Amanda started a non-profit afterschool program specifically for teenaged youth. As a teacher, her favorite lessons included teaching kids about their rights and tracing root causes of current issues. Amanda is equally passionate about science and combining humanities and science education.

Karrie Miner

Director of Leadership Giving

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Fun Fact: Karrie loves to go scuba diving and check out the amazing underwater world!

Karrie is passionate about building bridges between nonprofit communities. At Mikva Challenge she is building community amongst individual donors, connecting them to the mission and the students in order to help create more opportunities for growth. She joined after working for the past eight years in the international non-profit space in Chicago, most recently as the Assistant Director of Major Gifts at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Karrie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University and is enrolled in the Baumhart Scholars MBA program focused on social impact at Loyola University Chicago, with expected graduation of May 2022. In her free time you can find her running Changemaker Chats, a nonprofit focused on highlighting female leaders, volunteering with Upwardly Global and Chicago Debates and reading lots of international fiction!

Mark Muniz

Stewardship Manager

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Fun Fact: Mark earned his first driver's license driving on the left side of the road, in Japan

Mark joined Mikva Challenge in 2018 as its data and stewardship coordinator, after several years in the nonprofit sector. As an Air Force ‘brat,’ Mark moved between several states and countries for most of his life before moving to the Midwest for college. After graduating from Knox College with a degree in International Relations, Mark spent 2 years of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, at locations in Galesburg, IL and Chicago, IL. During that time he gained experience organizing student interest groups, building and running volunteer service programs, implementing systems change, and leveraging data. Mark is passionate about civic engagement and he is excited to continue learning more about and getting more involved in Chicago and the work at Mikva Challenge.

Cristina Perez

Senior Director of Partner Sites

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Fun Fact: Cristina is a biking enthusiast. She's won a prize in an alleycat bike race, participated in the Chicago Sprint Triathlon, was featured in WBEZ's Curious City radio show regarding her question about bikes, and biked in NYC into her 8th month of pregnancy.

In 2009, Cristina joined Mikva Challenge supporting teachers in the Elections in Action program and facilitating Mikva Summer Fellows program. Now on the National team, she directs Mikva Challenge’s work in NYC and supports our partnership with NYCDOE’s Civics for All Initiative. Cristina holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and a master’s degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Ken Porter

Site Director: Rochester, NY & Jefferson County, KY

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Fun Fact: Ken builds and salvages computers in his spare time.

Ken comes to Mikva Challenge with a convergent media background and has served over seven years in the Navy as a Logistics Specialist. He’s an alumnus of the Democracy in Action curriculum and helped win a grant for an anti-violence campaign at his school. Ken cares most about issues facing low-income communities, and has participated in community campaigns that have targeted education issues, the environment, and housing. He now runs the Rochester, NY partner site.

Camille Rampersaud

Director of Finance

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Fun Fact: Camille tried sky diving and loved it!

Camille joined Mikva Challenge as our Operations Director after 15 years of experience in accounting and change management. Prior to Mikva, Camille worked as a senior accountant at a private accounting firm and has also served as the VP of Finance and Administration at Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Camille earned her BS in Finance from Northeastern Illinois University and is passionate about helping young people succeed.

Barbara Rykaczewski

Evaluations and Data Director

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Fun Fact: Barbara once interviewed one-on-one with Mayor Richard M. Daley for an open Aldermanic position.

Barbara joined the Chicago Mikva team in July 2019. She is deeply inspired by the work of Jane Addams, and joined AmeriCorps after college to carry on Addams’ work in the modern day. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, Barbara was stationed in the immigrant port of entry neighborhood in which she grew up. Her experiences there solidified her passion for striving for social justice, and recognizing the power of all voices in a community. To date, her nearly two-decade nonprofit career includes work with youth, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, job seekers, and mature workers, all of whom have stories and voices integral to the Chicago tapestry.

Mia Salamone

NYC Partner Site Director

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Fun Fact: Mia can cut up a pineapple in less than a minute!

In 2013, Mia began her work at Mikva Challenge facilitating youth counsels and supporting teachers in Chicago. Now on the National Teacher Based Team, she partners with educators in New York City and facilitates Soapbox Nation. Mia holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and loves using her creativity to support young people, teachers and schools in creating opportunities for youth to take authentic, informed action on community issues.

Tyler Stoltenberg

Assistant Director of Finance

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Fun Fact: Tyler is halfway to his goal of visiting every major league baseball stadium.

Tyler joined the operations team at Mikva Challenge in the summer of 2019 and brings ten years of experience in nonprofit management and operations. Previously, he has worked for organizations focused on empowering youth voices through arts education in Washington DC and Chicago. His unique experience in the nonprofit world also includes retail management and theatre production. Tyler is a Northwestern University alum and is excited to continue supporting the voices of young people through his work at Mikva Challenge.

Nikki Williams

Senior Director of Professional Learning and Partnerships

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Nikki is a 17-year teaching veteran with a dual Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Secondary Education. She has spoken at conferences all over the U.S. on culturally responsive pedagogy, classroom management, program development, and engaging classroom practices that increase academic achievement. She is also a wife and mom to two amazing kids.

While the majority of her time has been spent in the classroom, she also founded a nonprofit organization focusing on the social-emotional wellbeing of girls in underserved areas. Her teaching experiences span across every school setting and demographic; from private school to urban school districts. Her expertise aligns with inquiry-based learning and culturally responsive pedagogy that reflects academic achievement, community building, and real-world learning.

IL

Barbara Cruz

Program Coordinator, Neighborhood Leadership Initiative

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Fun Fact: They're a proud pet owner to a gray cat named Roxas, who has a brother named Sora.

Barbara (“Barbs”) is a homegrown Chicagoan from the Southwest side of Chicago. After graduating from Hancock HS in 2015, Barbara went on to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York as a Posse Scholar, studying Government with minors in Asian American Studies; Inequality Studies; Latino/a Studies, and Crime, Prisons, Education, and Justice. They’ve spent the last 10 years working on elevating youth voice and supporting youth leaders across Chicago with organizations like the Harris Fellows, Pilsen Alliance, City Year Chicago, and the Cornell Public Service Center.

veronica bohanan

Youth Support Services Director

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Fun Fact: veronica is an artist, avid reader and bibliophile, a collector and lover of books.

veronica joined Mikva Challenge, June 2018, as the Director of Youth Support Services. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa (BA, Speech and Hearing Sciences; MA, Social Foundations of Education), and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MAATC, Art Therapy and Counseling, and MFAW, Writing).

From the margins to the center . . . veronica’s work exists at the intersection of mental health counseling, expressive therapies, positive youth development, womanism/Black feminism, restorative practices, and pedagogy of the oppressed. At the intersection, she centers healing & restoration, cultural humility, harm reduction, and the breadth of social & transformative justice.

Karla Morin Castilla

Issues to Action Director

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Fun Fact: At the age of 7, Karla was already lobbying with her mom for bilingual education.

Karla’s passion for social justice and youth voice began when as a teen she met with her alderman to express the need for affordable housing in her quickly changing neighborhood and was part of a group of young people fighting for passage of the Dream Act. At Mikva IL, Karla runs the Issues to Action program. She hopes to create a space where young people know their voice matters and leave feeling empowered.

Andrew Coneen

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Juleny Santa Cruz

NLI - North Lawndale Council Manager

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Fun Fact: Juleny speaks three languages and has visited eight countries (and counting).

Juleny joined Mikva Challenge in May 2018 as the Juvenile Justice Council Manager. She is born and raised in the southwest side of Chicago and began engaging in community work during high school. Juleny received her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology from Loyola University Chicago and completed her Master of Education degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As an undergraduate student, she interned for the Cook County Probation Department and the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center. Juleny’s excited to support young people in their growth and development as catalysts for equitable change.

Jamie Dillon

Director of Development

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Fun Fact: Jamie lived in a tukul for a year in South Sudan.

Jamie joined Mikva Challenge as our Director of Institutional Giving after working for the past seven years in East Africa managing programs and donor partnerships for international nonprofits in Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan. Jamie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Claremont McKenna College and a Master’s Degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh. A native of Chicago, Jamie is passionate about social justice. She is excited to continue Mikva Challenge’s mission to empower youth to change the world around them to promote a more just and equitable society.

James Fields

Senior Program Director - Neighborhood Leadership Initiative

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Fun Fact: James has his own back to school event that helps distribute backpacks and school supplies to kids in his neighborhood.

James is a Mikva alumnus and is extremely passionate about sharing his life experiences to empower young men and women. He started working with young people in his high schools years through a basketball coaching program and has since expanded on his youth work portfolio by being a coach and a mentor at Windy City Hoops. At Mikva, he started out with facilitating the Peace and Leadership Council at Fenger and Hope high schools previously served as the Director for the Juvenile Justice Council. James now leads the Neighborhood Leadership Initiative (NLI), a program which he initiated. The NLI program brings Mikva’s youth-centered approach to community-based decision-making.

Meghan Goldenstein

Senior Program Director

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Fun Fact: Meghan loves photographing everything from the national parks to her friends’ and cousins’ kids.

Meghan came to Mikva in 2010 following previous work as a children’s librarian, a teacher, and a field organizer during the 2008 presidential campaign. Having been transformed by her own campaign experiences, she loves encouraging and empowering youth to become active participants in elections (much earlier than she did). As the Elections in Action program director, she works with Chicago area teachers and campaign staff to create opportunities for Mikva youth to gain hands-on experience with electoral politics.

Riyan Jones

Juvenile Justice Council Manager

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Frank Lally

Elections In Action Coordinator

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Fun Fact: Even though Frank grew up in the Chicago area, he is a diehard Packers fan.

Frank joined Mikva Challenge in September 2019 as the coordinator for Elections in Action and Student Judge Programs. Frank developed a passion for youth engagement in the election process while interning in Washington D.C. during the 2016 presidential election. After graduating from Dominican University with a BA in History and Secondary Education, Frank entered the world of politics as a field coordinator for several political candidates. At Mikva, Frank serves as a conduit to connect youth to the world of elections through the Elections in Action and Student Judge programs.

Jazmin Ocampo

Student Advisory Council Manager

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Fun Fact: Jaz's hairstyle was inspired by Rogue from X-Men.

Jazmin is rooted in Chicago, born and raised in Gage Park. She prefers to pronounce her name in Spanish, “yahzmeen,” so she goes by Yaz. As a Neighborhood Leadership Initiative Coordinator, Yaz empowers young people to take pride in their community, vocalize their own narratives, and lead positive change. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pomona College in Southern California where she organized with women of color to hold the institution accountable to its mission of  “diversity and inclusion”. Yaz plans to continue fighting for equity and transparency, particularly by working with young people to help develop their goals. She envisions a Chicago where decision makers take youth concerns seriously.

Carla Rubalcava

Managing Director of Illinois Programs

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As Managing Director of Illinois Programs, Carla sets the vision and direction for Mikva Illinois’ youth-facing programs, elevates the work of the youth program facilitators, and oversees Mikva’s school-based classroom initiatives.

Before joining Mikva Challenge, Carla served as the Director of Enrollment Management at Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. As an administrator, she led a college-wide committee that designed an overarching framework for student recruitment and established goal-specific strategies for the college’s strategic 3-year enrollment plan.

Carla began her career as resource coordinator in a CPS elementary school on the city’s northwest side. She then joined the Association for Child Development as the Director of Nutrition Services. Afterwards, she spent the next six years working at the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and Holy Trinity High School, focusing on community engagement and student recruitment initiatives.

Carla earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana.  In addition to her work at Mikva Challenge, Carla serves on the associate board of Erie Family Health Centers. She loves spending time exploring the city with her husband and two sons.

Stephanie Sauer

Institutional Giving Manager

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Fun Fact: Stephanie grew up in the first "planned" community in America — Riverside, IL

Stephanie joined Mikva as our Institutional Giving Manager in March 2020 at the very start of the COVID quarantine! She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in International Studies, Environmental Science, and East Asian Studies. Her past experiences include working locally and internationally with nonprofits involved in higher education, environmental sustainability, and community outreach. She comes to Mikva with several years’ experience in fundraising, grant writing, and direct-service programs in the college access space. She also previously served as a New Sector Alliance RISE Fellow. Stephanie is especially passionate about equity and social justice and is excited to continue to pursue a career in inclusive democracy through Mikva Challenge’s incredible work.

Kristen Sparks

College and Career Connections (C3) Program Manager

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Fun Fact: Kristen loves to travel and has road tripped to 41 states.

Kristen comes to Mikva with a background in political organizing in her home state of Wisconsin and in supporting Diverse Learners and counseling first generation college students in Chicago. She joined Mikva in February of 2018 as C3 Manager, which is a perfect blend of her interests in supporting young people plan for their future and empowering them to use their voice to advocate for change in their communities. She runs the Mikva Summer Fellows internship program and supports students on CYCs in developing and executing postsecondary plans.

DC

Robyn Lingo

Executive Director DC

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Fun Fact: Robyn loves eating at roadside diners, mostly because of the pie!

Robyn brings almost fifteen years of youth empowerment, non-profit management, curriculum development and youth facilitation experience to her role as Executive Director for Mikva Challenge DC. A native of the Washington, DC area, Robyn is passionate about providing authentic spaces for DC youth to investigate, affect and change the world around them. She looks forward to building more opportunities to bring youth voice into local decision making and to highlight young people’s ability to be engaged citizens and community leaders.

So Yeon Kang

Development Manager

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So Yeon has over 15 years of experience in fundraising, outreach, and program development, particularly in Asian American communities. She was formerly the Special Events and Engagement Manager at Define American, where she led on all external events and helped build a robust individual giving program. So Yeon holds a Master of Public Administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service and a B.A. in International Studies from American University.

Machee Kelly

Communications & Program Coordinator

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Fun Fact: Machee enjoys creating art and event planning in her spare time, especially kids birthday parties.

Machee is a native Washingtonian who both graduated from and worked for DC Public Schools. For five years she worked with students with special needs as well as at risk youth. During that time, she developed a love for helping young people discover their individual passions. While Machee’s professional experience is in education, she pursued Fine Art and Graphic Design in college. Oftentimes she used art as a liaison to keep students motivated. During summer she’s taught art and design classes to children in local summer programs. With her background in youth, art, and education, Machee is enthused to contribute her experience and skills to take the Mikva DC team to new heights.

Voncia Monchais

Youth Engagement Director

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Fun Fact: Voncia loves to bring the fun and joy wherever she goes! Her most joyful moments are having impromptu dance parties in her living room with her two energetic kiddos and hilarious hubby.

Raised by civil rights activists, this Texas native has always been passionate about social justice, equal opportunity, and empowerment of those on the margin. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in Political Science and African American studies, Voncia began her empowerment work as a high school AP Government and African American history teacher for 8 years in Miami. After obtaining her Masters degree in American History, her desire for inspiring young activists in a more impactful and creative way brought her to Washington DC into the nonprofit youth advocacy world in 2013, where she spent 6 years (with The Future Project) as a creative educator outside of the classroom, Dream Director, life coach, master trainer, and designer and facilitator of transformational experiences – all in service of empowering young people to make a difference in their lives and world by living out their purpose, passion, and power. Voncia is excited to bring her passion for politics and social change to her position as Youth Engagement Director in the nation’s capital, where she hopes to ignite the spark of activism in young people across the city to lead the change this country needs!