MEET THE TEAM
leaders and innovators.
The Executive Team
Chief of Staff and Accountability Officer
Carmen L. Echevarria is the Chief of Staff and Accountability Officer at the Academy Group. For the past 5 years, she has worked on the design and implementation of operational, programmatic and engagement strategies that serve to increase organizational efficiency. Through these strategies, Carmen ensures the provision of high quality student and parent programming, and improves student, parent and employee engagement.
Carmen is passionate about ensuring young people from underserved communities receive an excellent education and exposure to the resources necessary to reach their full potential.
Carmen has extensive administration experience in both the public and private sector. Prior to working at the Academy Group, she worked at The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute and Urban Labs. She also has immense corporate experience as a result of her work at Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
Carmen earned her M.A. from Northeastern Illinois University and a B.A. from DePaul University.
In her spare time, Carmen mentor’s youth in several city programs and loves spending time with her close-knit family and dog Maximus. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Chief Executive Officer, Academy Chicago
Gregory Jones is the Chief Executive Officer, Academy Chicago, at the Academy Group. For the past 4 years he has led the Academy Chicago team in the consistent provision of dynamic and impactful student programming. Through his leadership, expertise, and example, Gregory has developed a strong team of professionals and a program that consistently cultivates high performing young people across our elementary, high school, and college programs.
Previously, Gregory Jones served as the principal of Kenwood Academy High School. He led the school in improvements across all performance metrics. The school earned the highest quality rating awarded by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Jones also was the founding assistant principal at George Westinghouse College Prep, and teacher of business courses at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy.
His work has been featured in the New York Times, Fox News Chicago, the National Journal and the Gates Foundation. Jones was the recipient of the Leadership Greater Chicago fellowship, and the inaugural Chicago Principal’s Fellowship at the Center for Nonprofit Management at Kellogg and the School for Education and School Policy, at Northwestern University.
In 2017, Jones was selected to launch the CPS Master Principal Program, in collaboration with the Chicago Public Education Fund. He also was selected to participate in the Obama Foundation Summit of 500 civic leaders from around the world. In 2018, Jones received the prestigious Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award.
Greg holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Grambling State University, and a Masters’ degree in Education and Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Organizational Change from Roosevelt University.
In his spare time Greg enjoys reading, watching movies and exercising.
Chief of Organizational Effectiveness and Culture
LaTonia Arnold is the Chief of Organizational Effectiveness and Culture at the Academy Group. For the past three years, she has provided comprehensive expertise across all HR disciplines to ensure compliance with all internal and external policies, procedures and best practices in order to strategically support business goals. She has the opportunity to improve the organization as a whole and also the individual people she works alongside.
LaTonia is passionate about Human Resources because she has a unique perspective into the business due to the nature of her work. She has a strong understanding of an organization’s priorities and challenges, but also the ability to influence the future of the company based on employment decisions. In her role she can have a positive impact on people whose work is making a difference in the world. An employee’s welfare and happiness is a matter of professional responsibility for LaTonia.
LaTonia is passionate about social justice, education and incorporating her skill set with organizations that possess similar ideals. She has worked at The Barack Obama Foundation, The Ounce of Prevention Fund, Chicago Urban League, and The Quaker Oats Company. She has consistently been in a position to advocate for policies that changed lives.
LaTonia holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resources & Industrial Relations from Loyola University.
In her spare time, LaTonia enjoys reading and watching movies. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Chief Executive Officer, Amplify Chicago
Ted Christians is the Chief Executive Officer of Amplify Chicago at the Academy Group. Ted joined the Academy Group in 2018 to launch Amplify, including its first social enterprise – Amplify Property Solutions. Amplify is a wealth-building model integrating career pathways and entrepreneurship for young men and women ages 20 to 26 whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system.
Ted is passionate about working with young people because he believes our city is full of talent who deserve the opportunity to reach their personal and professional goals and build generational wealth.
Ted earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Calvin College and received a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. He also earned a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Nonprofit Management as a Kellogg Executive Scholar at the Kellogg School of Management and a Certificate of Completion from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago as a 2017 Civic Leadership Academy Fellow.
He was a recipient of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Alumni Club of Chicago fellowship to the HBS Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program and a recipient of the Harry L. Davis Executive Education scholarship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Ted is a fellow of the Leadership Greater Chicago Class of 2008.
In his spare time, Ted enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, and traveling. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife and two sons.
College Access and Persistence Advisor
Estrella Aráuz is a College Access and Persistence Advisor at the Academy Group. As a Chicago native, Estrella has dedicated the past decade supporting underrepresented youth in her own neighborhood and across the city of Chicago.
As a College Seminar teacher at The Noble Academy, Estrella provided 1-on-1 intrusive counseling and created lessons for high school seniors to ensure they had strong and affordable postsecondary options. As a Program Manager at iMentor Chicago, Estrella taught and advised high school juniors and seniors on the college application process and trained volunteer mentors on how to build a strong mentor-mentee relationship with a young adult. As a College Advisor at Bottom Line Chicago, Estrella provided 1-on-1 support to college freshmen and sophomores as they transitioned into higher education and the professional workforce.
Estrella was born and raised in the southwest side of Chicago in the Gage Park community to Ecuadorian immigrant parents. She is a proud graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where she was challenged to dive deep into the history of education in the city of Chicago and self-reflect on her own educational journey in Chicago Public Schools. Estrella holds a BA in Psychology and Sociology.
In her spare time, Estrella enjoys dancing to Chicago house music, connecting with others through deep conversations, traveling, and spending quality time with loved ones. She currently resides in the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago, IL.
Director of Development
Dr. Rodney Bly is Director of Development at the Academy Group. Dr. Bly comes to the Academy Group after serving 22 years in K-12 education. He has made a life commitment to advancing young people from historically disenfranchised communities. Dr. Bly most recently served as a Regional Vice President and Superintendent with a large Midwest charter school management company. Over the years, he has overseen leadership development, instructional programming, operations, partnerships, board relations, and strategic planning for schools in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota.
Rodney holds an Ed.D. in Urban Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois, a Master’s degree in Science Education from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Rodney enjoys fishing, biking, watching movies, and spending time with his wife and four children. He resides in the Kenwood neighborhood.
Student Engagement Manager
Joel Bullock serves as the Student Engagement Manager at the Academy Group. Joel is responsible for building an agency in students that enables them to access campus resources and helps them successfully navigate college and transition to careers through a focus on academic success, leadership development, financial wellness, and career readiness. He is a proud Chicago Public Schools graduate and has worked in education for over 15 years, most recently as the Assistant Principal at James Bowen High School.
Joel’s educational career began at the University of Chicago, Woodson Charter School, where he taught Middle School for 5 years before being named the Director of Sports for Chicago Public Schools. In his role as the Director of Sports, he provided supervision for 750 coaches, 200 sports officials, and 150 athletic directors. Before his role as an Assistant Principal, Joel was the Dean of Culture and Climate at Crane Medical Prep High School and the Assistant Principal at Spencer Technology Academy and Joseph Lovett Elementary.
Joel grew up on the south side of Chicago and a proud graduate of South Shore High School. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Kinesiology and a minor in African American Studies and his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University. Joel’s passion for education is in ensuring that students have access and equity, both academically and in terms of extracurricular activities.
Joel views a collaborative team environment as the key to creating successful relationships with the students we serve. He also believes partnerships with parents and community partners are essential to enriching the experience for all students at the Academy Group.
During his free time, Joel enjoys basketball, riding his bike, and spending time with his family.
Program Director, Amplify Chicago
Quiana Chapple is a Program Director at the Academy Group under the Amplify Chicago program. Over the last 5 months, Quiana has worked to help launch Amplify’s first all female cohort and is working to prepare our talent for career pathways in the real estate and construction industries.
Quiana is passionate about working in the community to provide access to programs and supportive services that will lead to self reliance and financial independence. This includes mentoring and coaching young people as they transition into adulthood and prepare for post-secondary education or the workforce. Quiana’s goal is to equip them with the skills and necessary support to eventually reach back and become the next mentor/champion for their community and generations to come.
Quiana was previously employed with Centers for New Horizons as their Director of Adult and Family Services. She was responsible for overseeing contracts that serviced some of the most vulnerable populations throughout the City of Chicago. This work included programs like the CHA Family Works Program and the Department of Family and Supportive Services- Senior services division.
Quiana is trained in Family Centered Coaching and Workforce Education and Development and has over 10 years of program management in the nonprofit sector. She holds a B.S. in Post-Secondary Education and a M.S. Ed from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
In her spare time, Quiana enjoys traveling with her family and friends and cooking and hosting holiday and summer gatherings. Quiana currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Lead Learning Designer
Brittany is the Lead Learning Designer for Middle School at the Academy Group. As a new team member, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from her time as a Teacher Leader with Chicago Public Schools. While with CPS, Brittany taught middle school Literacy and Social Studies, coached and supported professional development as an instructional leader, and was a member of the 2020-2021 Teacher Advisory Council.
Brittany has fostered an unyielding drive and dedication to supporting youth in the most resilient communities. She is passionate about contributing to the education and career outcomes, as well as the development of young people through the foundation of building genuine relationships with them and their families.
Brittany holds a B.A. from Oakland University and an M.A. in Teaching from National Louis University. She is currently an Associate Board member of BUILD, Inc.
In her spare time, Brittany is an avid baker and amateur chef for her friends and family. She also enjoys watching documentaries and listening to 90s music. She is from Detroit, Michigan, and currently resides in Chicago.
Experiential Learning and External Programs Manager
Quentin Harris is the Experiential Learning and External Programs Manager at the Academy Group. For the past 3 years, he has worked on developing business curriculum around entrepreneurship, financial literacy, marketing, and investing. Currently, he is building experiences aligned with the Academy Group’s scope and sequence that allow young people, 4th-12th, to see course outcomes in real time. In addition, he leads enrichment and intervention efforts ensuring students have access to fitness, the arts, STEM, and tutoring.
Quentin is passionate about social emotional learning and humanitarianism because of his natural ability to connect with people. He is most excited to work in a role where he has the ability to create opportunities and lend support for young people that are often inaccessible.
Quentin supports annual charity efforts to the Cape Coast School of Deaf and Blind in Cape Coast, Ghana. He also is the founder and COO of JQLR, LLC , a Turo based rental car company tracking over 350 bookings per year.
Quentin holds a Bachelors’ of Arts in Kinesiology and a Masters’ of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Concordia University Chicago.
In his spare time, Quentin enjoys playing basketball, international travel, family time, and gaming. He currently resides in the west suburbs of Chicago.
Director of College Access & Persistence
Zulmarie Hatch is the Director of College Access & Persistence at the Academy Group. As a first-generation college graduate, Zulmarie is passionate about creating equitable access into post-secondary pathways and championing student success. She has supported and mentored high school students around the college process for the last decade across the U.S.
As a college counselor with Urban Prep Academies, Zulmarie ensured 100% college acceptance for its inaugural class at the Bronzeville Campus and 95% college enrollment. As a college advisor with the Cristo Rey Network, she supported counselors across CRN campuses to build a strong college going culture. Most recently, as the Program Director with iMentor, she oversaw 12thgrade advising, high school curriculum modifications, managed high school partnerships and integration, and guided the high school to post-secondary pathways transition.
Zulmarie earned her M.A. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and her B.A. from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
She currently resides in Oak Park, Illinois with her daughter Sofia and husband Marshall Hatch Jr.
Partnership Engagement Manager
Doretha Hill is the Partnership Engagement Manager at the Academy Group. She will lead our work to create new strategic partnerships and deepen existing relationships with our corporate partners. While new to the Academy Group, she has extensive experience in operations, marketing, and communications.
Doretha has been passionate about serving students from underserved communities for the past fifteen years.
Doretha earned her B.A. from Columbia College Chicago.
In her spare time, Doretha loves painting and interior design. She loves spending time with her family and friends. She currently resides in Hickory Hills, Illinois.
Program Advising Manager
Shannon Keys joined the Academy Group in 2018 and currently serves as our Program Advising Manager. Prior to serving as Program Advising Manager, Shannon served as a Learning Designer and Lead Advisor for the Academy Group. During her tenure, she has been instrumental in creating and implementing dynamic and supportive advising lessons for elementary and high school students.
Shannon is a career educator with over 15 years’ experience. Shannon is passionate about advising and thrives on building relationships with students and families; it is essential for student success.
Prior to joining the Academy Group, Shannon served as lead mentor teacher at the University of Chicago Charter – North Kenwood Oakland Campus. She was featured in the book titled “Restoring Opportunity – The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education.” The book highlights Shannon’s incredible instruction and classroom management style.
Shannon holds a B.A. from Barat College and a M. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction.
In her spare time, Shannon enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She currently resides on the Southside of Chicago with her husband and two beautiful children.
High School Advisor
Laurence Steven Minter is a High School Advisor at the Academy Group. As a new team member, Laurence is working to assist students’ in crafting a life posture and profile which will enable them to navigate their education with endurance and excellence.
Laurence is passionate about cultivating artistic avenues towards education & advising because he believes that the realization of our creative capacity drives the most authentic and productive work.
Laurence has challenged inequalities in higher education through his roles as summer college Residential Advisor and Research Assistant on The Niela Project: an investigation of the advising experiences of Black women in computer science and engineering doctoral programs.
Laurence has earned the Posse Foundation Scholarship and was selected as Cornell University’s 2021 Convocation Poet delivering the self-authored piece, History is Ours.
Laurence holds a B.A. in Sociology, with Cum Laude honors, from Cornell University and an Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his spare time, Laurence enjoys film and spoken word poetry. Laurence currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Ana Beliz Olmeda
Program Manager, Amplify Chicago
Ana Beliz Olmeda is a Program Manager of Amplify Chicago at the Academy Group. As a new team member, she has worked on supporting Cohort 7 in becoming professionally ready with pre-employment workshops, tracking Cohort 6 employment outcomes, and building out the first-ever Alumni program.
Ana Beliz Olmeda is intrinsically motivated to build a successful community with the Alumni at Amplify Chicago because it is an opportunity to tap into a population of The Academy Group’s fiercest supporters. She believes that when the Talent are given a place of belonging, they will develop the right confidence to become the best version of themselves. She aims to create a future for alumni that inspires achievement, wealth building, pertinacity, empowerment, and engagement through every stage of life.
Before working at The Academy Group, Ana worked as a Career Specialist at CUNY LaGuardia Community College, supporting adult learners in the Career and Technical Education Assistance Center with pre and post-employment workshops and resume support.
Ana holds a Masters Degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from SUNY College at Buffalo State. In her spare time, Ana enjoys being a tourist in her new city of Chicago, Illinois. She currently resides in Pilsen, Chicago.
Program Director, Amplify Chicago
Sean Phillips is a Program Director of Amplify Chicago at the Academy Group. For the past year, he has worked in cohort recruitment, program implementation and post – graduation support that remains on the cutting edge of wealth-building innovations and opportunities.
Sean is passionate about the art and science of Adult learning. He loves being a part of the transformative journey where learners experience a life change via their commitment to personal growth and their connectedness to fellow learners.
Sean was previously employed at OAI under the awardeeship of The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. There, he founded the Innovation and Learning Department. This department was instrumental in uncovering new pathways of learning for learners from the most resilient communities in Chicago.
Sean earned his training certification from the University of Chicago’s training institute, he is a certified True Colors facilitator, is fluent in English and Spanish and holds nine learning and development certificates from the Association for Talent Development. One of his most memorable highlights was being invited to speak on the topic of Cultural Brokering at the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research conference in Granada Spain.
Sean holds a B.S in Psychology from Oakwood University.
In his spare time, Sean enjoys international travel and cross training. Sean currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Director of Program Analytics
Lindsey Schmitz is the Director of Program Analytics at the Academy Group. For the past four years, she has worked on directing our elementary/middle school student program, overseeing the development of our elementary and high school business and justice curriculum, and managing a team of Learning Designers who work directly with Academy Group students.
Lindsey is passionate about supporting students from resilient communities because, over her 13 years working in education, she’s seen that young people have the brilliance to solve challenges in our communities and in our world.
Lindsey has helped to develop the curriculum frameworks, academic support models, and team training and development that help our program grow.
Lindsey is a certified teacher with endorsements in early childhood education, bilingual education, and special education. She is also a Teach For America/Booth School of Business Elevate Leadership Fellow.
Lindsey holds a Master’s Degree of Education in Instructional Leadership from UIC, as well as degrees in Spanish and Organizational Communication, Learning and Design from Ithaca College in New York.
In their spare time, Lindsey enjoys spending time with her two daughters and husband, and exploring every corner of Chicago! She currently resides in the Bridgeport area.