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. 

Operations Team

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.

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. 

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-annual 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.

Program Team

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.

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.

JESUS AYALA JR. 

Program Coordinator, Richard J. Daley College

Jesus Ayala Jr. is the Program Coordinator at Richard J. Daley College. He is an advocate for public education and a champion for college access. He completed his Bachelor of Arts from Lake Forest College and received his Master of Public Administration degree from Illinois Institute of Technology. Most recently, he completed a Summer Fellowship at the City of Chicago Mayor's Office where he worked on various policy projects. He stays involved by serving on a Local School Council and volunteering with a variety of organizations like buildOn, Mikva Challenge, and Chicago Scholars.

KRISHAE BEAMON

Senior 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.

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.

LUIS GONZALES

Senior 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.

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.

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. 

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.

TERRENCE PRYOR

Recruitment Coordinator 

Terrence is a decorated Marine who now serves as a Recruitment Coordinator through Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program. He is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Sales and Marketing and Computer Technology as well as mentoring CPS middle school children. During his time in the US Marine Corp he developed a passion to help others in any capacity. Terrence has a deep rooted sense of education being the foundation for successes and financial freedom.

LAILA SADAT

Senior 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. 

NEAL SPANN

Program Manager

Neal is passionate about partnering with OMD Scholars to empower them in achieving success academically and to obtain their college degree by providing support and resources necessary goals in life. Neal previously served as a District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America, providing operational management and volunteer support. He graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public & Non-Profit Administration with an Emphasis in Finance and Budgeting. With over 10 years of Non-Profit experience, Neal feels very strongly about community development and feels One Million Degrees is one of the best organizations created to positively impact scholar success.

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. 

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.

Development & External Relations

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.

ANDREA MARTIN

Senior 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 the for-profit sector. Andrea earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Hampton University and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University.

IDALIA GONZALEZ

Communications & Development Coordinator 

Idalia drives OMD's external communications and design initiatives.  Prior to joining OMD, Idalia was based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, working for an NGO empowering women's education, the Harpswell Foundation. Previously, she did communications work with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and received her Bachelor of Arts in 2016 from the University of Chicago. 

Workforce & Volunteer Coordination

MICHAELA MCGILL

Director, Workforce and Corporate Partnerships

Michaela leads the design and implementation of OMD’s career advancement strategy, working to build and develop partnerships with companies and organizations to create employment opportunities for OMD Scholars and Alumni. Michaela also oversees OMD’s volunteer and alumni programs, working with volunteers, corporate partners, program partners and scholar alumni. Prior to OMD, she worked with Internews, an international development organization in Washington, D.C. Michaela has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Communications from American University, and is currently a part-time MBA student at University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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.

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.

ERIKA EHMANN

Apprenticeship Coordinator

Prior to joining One Million Degrees, Erika worked with youth and families in the Florida school system, as well as medical social work, primarily focused on case management, therapy, and crisis intervention. In those roles, she developed a passion for advocacy in local government programs. Erika graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree from Elmhurst College in Political Science and Urban Studies, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Florida Gulf Coast University.

KATE SCHEUCH

Volunteer & Alumni Programs Coordinator

Kate comes to OMD with a passion for education research and service, spending her time in undergrad working on language development research, serving as a team leader for Jumpstart for Young Children, and volunteering with the service organization Alpha Phi Omega. Kate started as a Volunteer Management intern with OMD and is thrilled to be rejoining this amazing team. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Comparative Human Development with a minor in Human Rights from the University of Chicago.