MEET THE TEAM
leaders and innovators.
The Executive Team
Chief of Staff
Carmen L. Echevarria is the Chief of Staff 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.
Executive Director, Academy Chicago
Gregory Jones is the Executive Director of the 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.
Director of Talent
LaTonia Arnold is the Director of Talent 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.
Executive Director, Amplify Chicago
Ted Christians is the Executive Director 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.
Lead Learning Designer
Lauren Adejumo is a Lead Learning Designer at the Academy Group. She designs and delivers all course plans and provides curriculum support and guidance for high quality business, justice and advising instructional materials. She engages in collaborative discourse around students’ academic needs to ensure strong student attendance and engagement in all programming.
Lauren is committed to helping youth realize the potency in developing social awareness skills, utilizing unique learning endeavors, and demonstrating self advocacy in every situation.
Lauren earned her M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from UNLV and a B.A. in Communication from Denison University.
In addition, Lauren sits on the Board of Directors for the United Nations Association of Chicago as the Education Director.
In her spare time, Lauren enjoys cooking new vegan recipes, reading novels and writing poetry. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
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.
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.
Director of Recruitment and Program Operations
Zabrina Diaz is the Director of Recruitment and Program Operations at the Academy Group. Her role includes overseeing Academy Group data systems, program operations, student recruitment across all grade levels and involvement in the human resource workstream.
Zabrina has spent two decades committed to the children and families of Chicago in various roles. The majority of her work has taken place in the Brighton Park area of Chicago where Zabrina provided mental health and education services both as a clinician and non-profit administrator. Zabrina has also spent time as a mental health clinician in Chicago Public Schools located in the Albany Park, Humboldt Park, and Belmont-Cragin neighborhoods.
Zabrina holds a master’s degree in Art Therapy from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and Development from National Louis University. Zabrina received her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Southwestern University.
Zabrina enjoys spending time with her family and pets, cooking, and baking.
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.
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 Academics
Lindsey Schmitz is the Director of Academics 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.
Internship and Leadership Manager
Chiquira Showers is the Internship and Leadership Manager at the Academy Group. For the past 3 years she has worked on cultivating relationships with organizations and corporations across multiple industries to secure robust internship opportunities for our young people. In the process, Chiquira has also helped companies understand the value in strengthening their talent pipeline with diverse talent. In addition to that work, she has led our Radical Professionalism programming which equips students with the skills and tools needed to develop both professionally and personally.
As a result of her natural ability to build and foster relationships, Chiquira has become passionate about Marketing and Community Relations. She is most excited to work in a role where she is able to build corporate level relationships that result in opportunities and access to the C-suite, dynamic internships, job shadowing and networking opportunities for our young people.
Chiquira has worked with over 45 internship partners in the City of Chicago, managed over 90 internship placements, helped students develop stellar resumes, and more.
Chiquira holds a Bachelors’ of Arts in Movement and Sports Science from Purdue University.
In her spare time, Chiquira enjoys watching sports, particularly basketball, spending time with her family and friends, and traveling. She currently resides in the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago.
Elementary School Advisor
Evelyn Silva is the Elementary School Advisor at the Academy Group. As a new addition to the team, she is currently working on the development of a social-emotional learning focused curriculum in order to teach students social skills and emotion regulation.
Evelyn is passionate about helping support students and families from underserved communities as they strive to break barriers and achieve excellence. She hopes to help empower students and their families through the advising program and through therapy services.
Evelyn earned her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and a B.S. in Psychology from Loyola University. Evelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has 5 years of experience as a therapist specializing in trauma.
In her spare time, Evelyn enjoys spending time with her family, walking her dog Gordon Bombay, and participating in strength training and obstacle courses. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Kenneth Walker is the Senior Accountant at the Academy Group. Kenneth manages and processes payroll for personnel, provides general A/P and A/R support, and assigns coding in alignment with budget and internal policy.
Kenneth is passionate about Finance because his work allows him the opportunity to be on the front lines to solve business problems, to participate in making strategic and financial recommendations, collaborate with different departments and analyze data to guide decision making. He sees himself not just as an accountant, but as a business partner who has an equal stake in whether the business is successful or not.
Kenneth has worked for D’Aprile Properties and Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty. At D’Aprile Properties, he was responsible for managing and disbursing $8 million dollars per year to roughly 400 real estate agents. Between D’Aprile and Jameson, he generated close to 10,000 closing commission statements.
Kenneth holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In his spare time, Kenneth enjoys watching and playing sports, going to the movies, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. He currently resides in Oak Lawn, Illinois.