Staff

Chicago

Natalie Bookey Baker, Managing Director of Program, Chicago

Natalie started her career in the political and government arenas where she worked as a fundraiser for a presidential campaign and then served in the White House for nearly five years. In her most recent role in Washington, Natalie managed and executed large scale events hosted by the President and First Lady.  Natalie is a native of Des Moines, IA, holds a BA from George Washington University, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management. As Managing Director of Program for Spark Chicago, Natalie is excited to help expand Spark programming to more deserving students across Chicagoland.

Kathleen S. Caliento, PhD, Chicago Executive Director

As Executive Director of Spark Chicago, Kathleen is leading program expansion by increasing student enrollment by over 30% each school year and establishing partnerships with companies and organizations across the city to provide hands-on learning opportunities for Spark students through workplace-based apprenticeships. She also focuses on expanding Spark's network of supporters to ensure a path toward financial sustainability. Kathleen earned her master's degree summa cum laude and her Ph.D. in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She graduated with her B.S. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Prior to Spark Kathleen served as Chief Program Officer at Project Exploration and Director of Program Investments at The Chicago Public Education Fund.

Jessica Del Real, Program Coordinator

Jessica graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. She discovered her passion for education while serving as a tutor and mentor in a sixth grade classroom for City Year Miami. After graduating from City Year, she served with Public Allies Chicago where she was introduced to Spark. Now, Jessica joins Spark in hopes to inspire Chicago’s youth to continue to broaden their horizons and learn more about their communities.

Phil Masters, Program Coordinator

Phil began his career in Chicago’s education sector at Kelvyn Park High School as a Math Tutoring Fellow, then as a SAGA Innovations Leadership Fellow. In these roles he tutored math and helped new tutors find success in educating as well as mentoring. His time spent at Kelvyn Park inspired Phil to join Spark to help the youth of Chicago realize their potential, as well as to engage more people in the education of the city’s youth. Phil holds a B.A. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and is a native of Buffalo, New York.

Danielle Moehrke, Program Manager

Danielle graduated from Northwestern University where she studied Social Policy and Civic Engagement.  During her time at Northwestern, she became hooked on hands-on learning models through working with a few organizations including 826CHI, an expeditionary learning school in Humboldt Park, and of course, as a 2012 summer intern at Spark!  She returns to Spark after a year-long fellowship in New York City where she taught high school algebra and geometry with the nonprofit, Blue Engine.  Danielle gets really excited about asset-based community development, running, youth empowerment, big cities, NPR and Wisconsin (her home state).   She couldn’t be more excited to be a back in Chicago as a full-time member of the Spark team.

Ashli Owens, Development Coordinator

Ashli’s eagerness to close the achievement and opportunity gap for students began early as a college student through research and volunteering.  A native of Michigan, Ashli served as a mentor and tutor providing ACT preparation and college access guidance to high school students in the Metro Detroit area.  After completing her undergraduate studies, Ashli served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for a nonprofit organization where she wrote grants for academic enrichment programs and provided program support.  Ashli is excited to join Spark Chicago as Development Coordinator and enthusiastic to continue motivating students through workplace-based mentoring opportunities.  Ashli graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW).

Sahrish Saleem, Program Manager

Sahrish graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Communications and minor in Near Eastern Studies. While in school, Sahrish was a Jumpstart corps member, where she discovered her passion for education. Upon graduating, she joined a two-year teaching fellowship with Citizen Schools Illinois and worked as a second-shift ELA teacher for middle school students on the South Side of Chicago. Sahrish is excited to join the Spark team and help empower students to succeed through skill-building mentorships!

J.D. Van Slyke, Volunteer Manager

J.D. relocated to Chicago after graduating from Western Kentucky University where he studied Political Science and Nonprofit Administration. He then started an Americorps leadership development program called Public Allies where he was placed at Disney II Magnet School and later a nonprofit called Upwardly Global that helps immigrant and refugee professionals reestablish their careers in the U.S. While at Disney II, J.D. started a service club for 2nd and 3rd graders and since then has dedicated himself to helping students connect learning with community engagement. As Volunteer Manager, J.D. is excited to bring his passion and experience to create meaningful apprenticeship experiences for students and mentors alike.

Spark inspires 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to succeed in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors in leading workplaces and supporting their academic journey with skill-building and resources. By engaging working professionals and connecting businesses with local communities, Spark empowers the next generation to perform better in school, graduate on time and lead fulfilling careers and lives.

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