Brian Brady, President
Fun Fact: Brian is a lifelong White Sox fan.
Brian leads the Mikva Challenge with the vision of bringing civic empowerment and political participation to all young people, especially low-income youth of color who are often left out of the democratic process. Coming from a family that was very civically engaged, Brian understood early in life the transformative impacts of learning civics by doing it. His experience as a youth worker on the West Side of Chicago reinforced for him the critical need for authentic youth voice and youth activism in low income communities and under resourced schools
In 17 years of leadership, Brian has helped grow from a handful of schools to one that now engages over 15,000 youth annually in action civics programs in over 400 schools around the country. Brian coined the term "Action Civics" in 2007 to describe the Mikva Challenge process of teaching civics via authentic experiences in the democratic process. He actively partners with numerous civic engagement organizations and leaders to build a movement around energizing youth civic engagement and bringing Action Civics to youth around the country. Currently, Brian is spearheading the expansion of Mikva’s unique model of action civics in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, and helping build action civics strategies and programs in cities around the country.
Michelle Morales, Chief Executive Officer
Fun Fact: While Michelle's musical tastes are eccentric to say the least, there will always be a special place in her heart for 80's hair metal music - especially Def Leppard.
Coming in as the new Executive Officer for Mikva's Chicago office, Michelle brings with her over 18 years of experience in youth development. Having worked as a teacher at an alternative high school in Chicago's Humboldt Park community, Michelle saw first hand how disempowerment and marginalization affects many youth of color - often leading youth to engage in risky choices that can impact their lives. The alternative high school taught Michelle the power of engagement and self-actualization and how respecting youth, their ideas and their voices is not only transformational for the youth involved, but also for all those around them. She brings this passion for youth voice and empowerment to Mikva Challenge. Michelle firmly believes that youth - once empowered and civically engaged can change the landscape of Chicago and the nation.
Michelle has extensive experience specifically working with non-profit, community-based organizations that impact communities of color in the Chicago area and is still involved in community organizing in the Humbodlt Park neighborhood. She is also a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago.
Jill Bass, Chief Education Officer
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 directs the Center for Action Civics, overseeing curriculum development, teacher training, and the marketing of Action Civics philosophy in Chicago and beyond.
Karla Morin Castilla, Issues to Action Program Director
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, Karla runs the Issues to Action program. She hopes to create a space where young people know their voice matters and leave feeling empowered.
Crystal Cabada, Operations Assistant
Fun Fact: I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain my 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.
Quabeeny Daniels, Neighborhood Council Coordinator
Fun Fact: Quabeeny was the student representative on his high school LSC, representing over 500 students.
Quabeeny was born and raised on the Southwest side of Chicago. He first learned about community organizing in 7th grade through the Southwest Youth Collaborative (SWYC), where he participated in their juvenile justice and education rights campaigns. As a youth organizer, he delivered speeches, facilitated meetings, fundraised, and collaborated with fellow youth leaders. Quabeeny is also a Mikva alumnus: he served as a Mikva-trained student election judge and worked on action civics projects as a student at Gage Park HS. He is proud to continue his work with Mikva as the facilitator of our newest young men's leadership initiative for the youth of New City neighborhood in Chicago.
James Fields, Citywide Youth Council Director
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 and is now the Director for the Juvenile Justice Council.
Meghan Goldenstein, Senior Program Director
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.
Monica Gutierrez, Citywide Youth Council Director
Fun Fact: Monica has a collection of over 4,000 Lisa Frank stickers
Monica brings 10 years of youth leadership development and facilitation experience as the Director of the Student Advisory and Aldermanic Youth Councils. Prior to working at Mikva Challenge, she organized service learning initiatives and student activism events at Chicago Public Schools, while supporting the Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement. Monica is passionate about empowering youth to use their voice to create real change in the city of Chicago.
Siaira Harris, Program Fellow at Action Civics LA
Fun Fact: Siaira is a big book worm!
Siaira Harris was formed by the artistry and activism of San Francisco, Ca. She began working with youth advocacy organization Youth Making A Change at 15 years old through her work there she served on the Juvenile Justice Committee and was a student leader with Youth Vote; an action civics program in San Francisco. From the Bay Area to New York and now Los Angeles, she has continued working in youth development, while also pursuing a music career.
She is now the new Program Fellow at Action Civics-LA and a sexual and reproductive health educator for middle and high school students. Her ultimate goal is to shift paradigms through art and education.
Justine Hipsky, Program Director, Mikva Challenge DC
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.
Ayeshia Johnson-Garrett, Senior Program Director
Fun Fact: Ayeshia lived in San Francisco when a major earthquake interrupted the 1989 World Series.
Ayeshia brings to Mikva seven years of professional outreach and community organizing experience. She is committed to the education and empowerment of low-income Chicago youth, and has done extensive work in the field of youth development. Ayeshia's special areas of expertise include generating and implementing strategies that enhance school and community engagement.
Machee Kelly, Communications & Program Coordinator, Mikva Challenge DC
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.
Lisa Kim, Citywide Youth Council Director
Fun Fact: Lisa is more into tarot cards than she should be.
With a background in art, design, and education, Lisa is interested in how multi-media tools can be used to empower communities to make change. As Mikva's Youth Commission Director, Lisa works with diverse young Chicagoans to involve youth voice to the City's decision-making process. Previous to coming to Mikva, Lisa has done scientific communications with dinosaurs, taught comics
Tatiana Lakshmanan, Systems Integration Specialist
Fun Fact: Tatiana used to teach English in Korea and loves Korean food!
Tatiana joined Mikva Challenge full time in 2016 after serving as a New Sector Alliance Americorps fellow. Tatiana previously completed an Americorps term as a program coordinator for Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters, touring grocery stores and cooking healthy meals across Chicago. Tatiana's professional social sector experience includes data, technology, informal education, and volunteer management. As a systems integration specialist, Tatiana applies passions for strategy and liaising towards refining organizational operations at Mikva.
Robyn Lingo, Washington DC, Executive Director
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.
Sara Martinez, Citywide Youth Council Director
Fun Fact: Sara can play more than 5 musical instruments and played Rugby her Junior and Senior year of College.
Sara is a Mikva alumna. During her high school years, she participated in Mikva’s Youth Safety Council and after graduating, she interned with Senator Dick Durbin through Mikva’s SGLI program. Sara has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from DePauw University where she became president of the Committee for Latino Concerns to bring awareness to Latino issues on her campus. As a first generation student, she grew passionate for advocating for first generation high school students and dedicates her extra time to talk to youth about the importance of education. Here at Mikva, she runs the Youth Safety Advisory Council that advises Chicago Police Department on ways to improve police-youth relations.
Sheila McMullin, LA Program Director
Fun Fact: Sheila’s first book of poetry titled daughterrarium was recently published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center in the spring of 2017!
Sheila joined Action Civics LA in 2016. An enthusiastic supporter of the Mikva mission, she brings to the organization over a decade’s worth of experience in youth work and educational storytelling ranging from after-school creative writing and enrichment programs, to public school and classroom partnership projects, to Teaching English as a Foreign Language in China and Prague. She is a strong believer in and supporter of youth empowerment, literacy advocacy, and community involvement.
Ruthie Moore, Citywide Youth Council Director
Fun Fact: Ruthie has never been to a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant.
With a passion for youth development and empowerment, Ruthie brings over a decade of experience to Mikva. Prior to joining Mikva as the Director of the Chicago Housing Authority’s youth council, she worked extensively with juvenile offenders in a multitude of capacities. Ruthie’s areas of interest include: public health interventions, restorative justice practices and civic engagement techniques.
Liz Munoz, Development Database Assistant
Fun Fact: Liz enjoys dancing and painting in her free time
Liz was born and raised in Chicago, and loves the energy of the city. She is a recent graduate of Saint Xavier University with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Hospitality. On the Development team, Liz manages Mikva's donor software. Prior to joining Mikva Challenge, Liz proudly served as a programs intern at The Executives' Club of Chicago. Liz's background in hospitality has made her passionate about always making others feel welcome.
Josh Prudowsky, Chief Program Officer
Fun Fact: Josh loves airplane food.
Josh Prudowsky was born and raised in Chicago. He received his Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. For nearly 15 years, Josh has blended his extensive community and youth development programmatic fluency with his public health academic background to improve the well-being of young people.
Josh is the Chief Program Officer and oversees all of Mikva's school based and direct service youth programs. In addition, Josh is a lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health. Having learned from personal experience, the power of active self-directed learning, Josh has a great deal of passion for creating the same learning opportunities for young people and looks forward to cultivating the next generation of activists, educators and political leaders.
Jorge Pule, Citywide Youth Council Director
Fun Fact: Jorge loves writing poetry.
Jorge comes to Mikva Challenge with a Political Science background and a strong passion for education equality. Jorge helped managed the Peace And Leadership Council program to help students become more engaged in their schools, communities, and government. Jorge is currently the director of the Teen Health Council. He has previosly worked with non-profits such as Enlace Chicago and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization; this prior work with community organizations has helped him bring a community organizing perspective to his work at Mikva. He's also a Mikva alumnus and brings back many of his own experiences to the students in his Council.
Ken Porter, Elections Program Coordinator
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 five years in the Navy as a Logistics Specialist. He's an alumnus of the Democracy in Action curriculum, completed two civics fair projects and helped win a grant for an anti-violence campaign at his school. Ken cares most about issues that low-income communities are faced with, and has participated in community campaigns that have targeted housing, the environment, and education issues. He now works with Mikva's Elections in Action program to provide opportunities for students to experience the exciting demands of political campaigns and electoral politics
Camille Rampersaud, Operations Director
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.
Kelly Rolf, Director of Major Gifts
Fun Fact: Kelly is a movie buff
Kelly was Chief Development Officer before launching Mikva's major gifts program in 2017. She enjoys working with Board members, stakeholders, and staff to raise support for Mikva’s high-impact civic leadership and youth voice programs. Beyond her fundraising work she enjoys door-knocking with students on the campaign trail and watching youth leaders in action at the annual Action Civics Fair and Project Soapbox Public Speaking Competition. Kelly earned a degree in English from Columbia University and worked in the publishing and the nonprofit sectors in New York before joining Mikva in 2008.
Valonda Roberts, College Connections Initiative Program Manager
Fun Fact: Valonda works with young ladies around performing arts and discipleships at her church.
Valonda was born and raised on the Westside of Chicago. She is a proud Mikva alumnus who has participated in countless Mikva programs and events. She is passionate about youth development and empowering youth to take ownership of their dreams. Valonda holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and Sociology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois Springfield in Public Administration. She leads Mikva's College and Career Connections Program to support first generation and underserved youth in applying to and staying in college.
Steven Rosado, Senior Program Director, Citywide Youth Councils
Fun Fact: When he was a teenager, Steven was in a commercial with Michael Jordan.
Catalina Salley, Chief Operations Officer
Fun Fact: Catalina volunteers rescuing, adopting and training retired racing greyhounds and Spanish galgos.
Catalina joined the staff at Mikva in April of 2011. She oversees operations at Mikva with extensive background and focus on finance, accounting, human resources, information technology, and administration. She has over fifteen years of executive leadership experience in not for profit organizations including healthcare and education. Additionally, she worked in the private sector for eleven years in General Management and Business Operations.