One Million Degrees is staffed by a group of talented and passionate professionals, steadfast in their commitment to our mission and relentless in their dedication to the success of our scholars. They are the very heart of our program and the engine of our success.

PAIGE PONDER

Chief Executive Officer

Paige works closely with all stakeholders – Board members, staff, partners, funders, volunteer coaches, and scholars – to ensure One Million Degrees achieves its mission and makes a lasting impact in the lives of the students we support. She joined One Million Degrees after leading Project Exploration, a dynamic youth STEM organization. Prior to Project Exploration, Paige was Officer of Student Support and Engagement at Chicago Public Schools. 

Paige’s private sector experience in education includes work at the Grow Network and McGraw-Hill in product development, professional development, and client services capacities. She began her career as a Princeton Project 55 Fellow at Holy Cross School in the South Bronx, NY. Paige holds a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Consortium for Chicago School Research and on the Urban Education Institute’s To & Through Project Advisory Council. 

AMANDA ABRAHAM

Recruitment & Program Coordinator, Harold Washington College

Amanda is serving as the Scholar Recruitment Coordinator at One Million Degrees through the New Alliance Fellowship program. She assists with recruitment and outreach efforts amongst schools, community organizations and students across Chicago. She recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a undergraduate degree in Psychology and a minor in Communication.

KRISHAE BEAMON

Program Coordinator, Olive-Harvey College

Krishae serves as Program Coordinator for OMD’s Kennedy-King College Scholars. Her passion in life is to strengthen communities and be a support system for those who are trying to succeed. She worked closely with high school youth as a City Year Chicago Corps Member and most recently served as a family support specialist with Head Start. Krishae received her Bachelor of Science in Family & Child Studies from Northern Illinois University with a minor in Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and is currently pursuing her Master in Public Administration.  

SARA BIRCHLER

Program Operations Coordinator

Sara serves as Program Operations Coordinator and is responsible for managing OMD’s academic supports. A graduate of DePaul University, Sara received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy with minors in Women’s & Gender Studies and Data Analysis & Data Mining. She brings over three years of tutoring and management experience to her role at OMD, as well as a passion for social justice and progressive policy. She also has extensive experience in the non-profit sector, having worked with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, National Organization for Women, and Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

ANDREA BUSSEY

Development Manager

Andrea supports One Million Degrees’ fundraising initiatives, driving grants management, event planning and external communications. Prior to joining OMD, Andrea served at a local nonprofit as an Education Pioneers Fellow and previously implemented marketing and communications solutions in various industries. Andrea earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Hampton University and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University.

XOCHITL CRUZ

Manager of College Partnerships

Xochitl dedicates her time to her OMD Scholars by supporting them emotionally, academically, and professionally. She also aids the staff in recruitment, event planning, managing the tutoring program. Prior to being a Program Coordinator, she worked as a tutor with OMD Scholars at Kennedy-King College, Harold Washington College, and Truman College. Xochitl was also a corps member with City Year Chicago where she mentored and tutored high school students. She received her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Cornell University.

KATIE DORPINGHAUS

Manager, Finance and Data Analytics

Katie manages OMD’s accounting, finance, and database activities, and strives to enhance effectiveness and drive operational efficiency in all facets of OMD’s work. Prior to her current role, Katie served as OMD’s Program Operations Manager, managing academic supports, scholar financial assistance, and providing technical support to the program team. Katie received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Creighton University with a major in Accounting and a minor in History. 

LUIS GONZALES

Program Coordinator, Truman College

Luis serves as Program Coordinator at Truman College. He passionately believes that every scholar has unique gifts and talents, as well as unlimited potential that can be leveraged to achieve their academic and professional goals. Most recently he has dedicated his time to boost college readiness initiatives and engaged in youth advocacy as a Graduate Support Advisor with UNO Charter School Network.  Before that he worked as a Financial Coach specializing in wealth building and development in Belmont Cragin at the Northwest Side Housing Center. Luis has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Furman University. 

MARIA GONZALEZ

Program Coordinator, Harold Washington College

María R. González is a Program Coordinator with OMD. She is an experienced leader and mentor passionate about youth education and career advancement, with a vast history of advocating for undocumented students. While a student at IIT, she co-founded the first undocumented student led organization and while at Harold Washington College she co-founded the US Leadership Scholarship which was open to undocumented students. She's currently involved with Organized Communities Against Deportations supporting individuals to fight against their own deportations. She graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a degree in Sociology.

PURACARINA GONZALEZ

Director of College Partnerships

Leading OMD's campus-based team, PuraCarina works to ensure the OMD Program is successfully executed and supported at 8 of OMD's 10 campus partner sites. PuraCarina maintains strong communication and sustainable relationships with OMD's valued partners at all seven City College of Chicago and Prairie State College. In her previous role, PuraCarina served as Manager of Scholar Recruitment and maintains responsibility of overseeing scholar recruitment and the onboarding process for newly admitted scholars in her new role. Prior to OMD, PuraCarina worked for City Year Chicago, Peer Health Exchange-Chicago and the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. PuraCarina graduated from The University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a proud Posse Chicago alum. PuraCarina is currently a 2018 Surge Fellow.

Mike Hernandez

Program Coordinator, Malcolm X College

Michael Hernandez is a teacher, mentor, and ardent supporter of literacy and education in Chicago. He recently completed a year of service with AmeriCorps as the Communications Coordinator at the nonprofit writing and tutoring center 826CHI, where he previously volunteered as a mentor and tutor for three years. He's also taught first-year writing and business writing at DePaul University since 2013. As an undergraduate, Michael studied English and Secondary Education at Dominican University, and he graduated from DePaul University with a Master of Arts in English.

VERONICA HERRERO

Chief Program Officer

Veronica leads OMD’s scholar development program and external partnership strategy. Her focus is on strengthening and evolving OMD’s program model and building partnerships with companies and organizations that will enable OMD to expand its reach and impact. Veronica has held leadership roles in the non-profit, private and public education sectors, including Director of 6to16 with the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute and Deputy Officer of Student Support and Engagement at Chicago Public Schools.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Veronica currently sits on the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

LIZ JONES

Senior Career Advancement Coordinator

Liz supports all OMDWorks initiatives, connecting Scholars to opportunities that will help them excel in upwardly mobile careers. She also manages OMD's partnership with the Aon Apprenticeship Program, which provides full-time employment at Aon for current community college students. Before joining OMD, Liz participated in the New Sector Alliance RISE Fellowship, an intensive yearlong program that cultivates emerging leaders in the social sector. She has also served in the Avodah Justice Fellowship focused on addressing economic and social disparities in Chicago. Liz received a Bachelor of Arts in Cognitive Science from Yale University.

LAILA KHALIL

Program Coordinator, Richard Daley College

Laila serves as a Program Coordinator for OMD. Laila has a deep passion for helping others, including empowering young girls, women, and a love for the youth. Laila has devoted her life to working and volunteering with nonprofit organizations who directly work with largely disenfranchised communities. Laila has been a part of organizations such as SMILE and Wafa House who serve domestic violence victims, refugees, and struggling families within the local communities of New Jersey. For years, Laila was a Youth Leader at her local mosque which guided at- risk youth through spiritual, academic, and emotional struggles. Laila is currently a mentor for GirlForward providing support to teenage girls who are refugees. Laila graduated from Capella University with a B.S. in Psychology and looks forward to pursuing a Masters in Social Work in the near future.

ALLISON LIPSMAN

Chief Development Officer

Allison leads One Million Degrees’ fundraising initiatives, working with foundation, corporate and individual partners to support the organization's expanding reach and impact. Prior to joining the OMD team in July 2015, Allison was the Director of Development at Namaste Charter School and previously served as a Chicago Public Schools elementary school teacher through Teach for America. Allison holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

XAVIER MANN

Volunteer & Alumni Programs Coordinator

Xavier serves as Volunteer & Alumni Programs Coordinator. Prior to joining One Million Degrees, Xavier was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with a local nonprofit where he helped to develop mentoring and summer programs for children who are experiencing homelessness.  Before that he worked as a case manager providing support to individuals with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries. Xavier has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University. His passion is eliminating academic achievement gaps across race, class, and gender lines.

DANIELLE MCCONNELL

Senior Manager of College Partnerships

Danielle has been with One Million Degrees for 3 years, first starting as a Program Coordinator working directly with students at Harold Washington, Malcolm X, Daley and Truman College before serving as Program Manager for our newly embedded partnership at Malcolm X College.  In her most recent role, she will be supporting three campus Program Coordinators teams as they progress toward success, and ultimately ensuring we are upholding strong partnership relationships throughout the year.  She is also lead over Program Coordinator on-boarding and training.  Prior to One Million Degrees, Danielle worked with City Year Chicago, a non profit organization, supporting freshmen on track efforts and providing socio-emotional coaching for high school students in Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan with a separate concentration in Gender & Health.

MICHAELA MCGILL

Senior Manager, Volunteer & Alumni Programs

Michaela leads OMD’s volunteer and alumni strategy, working with volunteers, corporate partners, program partners, and scholar alumni. She manages the recruitment, training, and support of volunteers, and develops OMD’s alumni programming. Michaela also volunteered as an OMD Coach at Kennedy-King College in 2014-2015. Prior to OMD, Michaela worked in marketing and communications for a variety of nonprofit organizations and associations. Michaela has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Communications from American University.

NOUFO NABINE

Program Coordinator, Malcolm X College

Noufo serves a  Program Coordinator at Malcolm X College. Previously, she served as the Academic Support Coordinator Public Allies AmeriCorps member at OMD where she worked closely with the Operations and Program Teams. She is community-oriented and passionate about improving education access channels for all.  Noufo received a Bachelor in Arts in Gender Studies and French from Colgate University. 

AMY ONAN

Program Manager, College of Lake County

Amy Onan is the Program Manager for the College of Lake County. Her previous work experience covers a broad range of areas, including youth advocacy, adult higher education, local government and social services, and youth-oriented community outreach. She is a native of Lake County and earned her Associates from CLC, continuing her education and receiving her Bachelors from Columbia College of Missouri.

Lee Owen

Program Coordinator, Wilbur Wright College & Harry S. Truman College

Lee serves as a program coordinator with OMD. Before joining OMD, he worked with the American Job Center to support college students on the path to graduation and employment. Previously, Lee completed a year of service with AmeriCorps coordinating a career readiness program for young adults. He believes supporting education is one of the best investments a community can make. Lee is also passionate about educating and mobilizing faith communities for a more just world. Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy from the University of Tennessee.

JESSICA PAPA

OMD at Harper Program Director

Jessica works with OMD Scholars at William Rainey Harper College. Before joining OMD, she was an instructor at Harper College. She has a tremendous amount of experience building trusting relationships with her students. Her ability to foster these strong connections with students is what has led her to working with OMD Scholars. Jessica received her Master of Arts in Integrated Studies with an emphasis in Gender and Cultural Studies from the University of Oklahoma. 

Caroline Poole

Program Support Coordinator

Caroline serves as the Program Support Coordinator through Public Allies Americorps. She is passionate about community development and providing young professionals with the tools and knowledge to create change. During a study abroad trip to Madagascar, she experienced the power of education and believes that one’s background should not determine their academic fate; all are capable of growth and empowerment. Additionally, she is a continuous learner and enjoys hearing different perspectives and stories. Prior to her current role, Caroline was a campus leader at Michigan State University and graduated with a degree in Professional Writing. 

LAILA SADAT

Program Coordinator, Wilbur Wright College

Laila serves as Program Coordinator for OMD’s Wilbur Wright College Scholars. As a human rights advocate, civil rights activist, and columnist for the Chicago Monitor, she strives to be a channel of hope and an agent of change for those silenced. In addition to her B.A. in Communications from Columbia College Chicago and her involvement with local politics, she has a deep appreciation for education and a genuine love for serving others. Thus she has dedicated herself to various nonprofit organizations including Erie Neighborhood House, Pan-African Association (PAA), and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where she is able to support, mentor, and tutor immigrants, refugees, and minorities. Like many here at OMD, she works to make small differences in a world that needs major reform. 

Hannah Simpson

Office & Development Coordinator

Hannah supports both the operations and development teams as Office & Development Coordinator at OMD. She engages in the day-to-day operational tasks as well as donor processing and event planning. Outside of OMD, Hannah volunteers with several organizations focusing on underserved communities in the Chicagoland area and founded a bi-yearly service day at her preceding company. Hannah's previous experience as a Forecast Analyst at a large retail manufacturer allowed her to bring an analytical skillset to OMD in addition to her passion for the non-profit industry. She earned a B.S. in Business Management at Arizona State University.

MARCUS SINGLETON

Program Manager, Prairie State College

Marcus is committed to partnering, empowering, and journeying with OMD Scholars to assist them in achieving success academically and to obtain their college degree by providing them with encouraging support and resources necessary to accomplish their goals in life. Marcus joins OMD from Metropolitan Family Services where he served as a Case Manager in the Altgeld Gardens Community on the far South Side of Chicago where he provided employment, clinical, youth and senior services for the residents living within the community. Marcus is also very active in the community on the South Side of Chicago conducting various leadership development workshops with urban youth. Marcus received his Bachelors of Science in English Teaching at Metropolitan State University in the Urban Teacher Program.

KATE SOMERFIELD

Program Operations Manager

Kate brings both a passion for academia and holistic support to her work at OMD. She most recently comes to OMD from an educational curriculum development and management position, but has also worked as a school social worker with Chicago Public Schools among other service roles. Kate holds her Bachelor of Science from Dominican University in both mathematics and criminology, received her Master of Social Work from University of Illinois at Chicago, and served as a full-time volunteer with Catholic Volunteer Network partner Dominican Volunteers in San Francisco, CA. 

MERIDEL TRIMBLE

Director of Operations

Meridel oversees OMD's program evaluation and research, financial management, and human capital development. Prior to OMD, she was a Project Team Leader in City Colleges of Chicago's strategy department. Meridel previously served as a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as a Fellow in the City of Chicago's Mayor's Office. She began her career with development roles at the University of Chicago and Northwestern. Meridel received her Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and International Relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Master of Public Administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Melanie Wagner

Program Coordinator, Kennedy-King College

Melanie Wagner, a Program Coordinator at OMD, believes that education is key to disrupting systems of inequality. This belief has driven her work in education and non-profits. The bulk of her work has been in adult education, including teaching and tutoring adult job seekers, English language learners, and formerly incarcerated individuals, in addition to training volunteer tutors to work with adult learners. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in English Education from Bowling Green State University.