November 2012 conf speakers

Speakers for the November 19, 2012 Conference. Thank you for volunteering your time!


All speakers and panel members are volunteers who share their time and knowledge to help volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs grow. While most of these speakers and the conferences focus on Chicago, we encourage people from other cities to attend and share their ideas while borrowing ideas to apply in their own communities.

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Workshop and Panel Participants:


Lauren Allen, New Horizons Program Coordinator, Gads Hill Center
Lauren Allen is the Program Coordinator for New Horizons.  She has been at Gads Hill Center for 2 years, previously working overseas with children in developing countries. Gads Hill Center, a family resource center established in 1898, partners with our community to develop the assets of children, youth, adults and families.  New Horizons is a mentoring program for middle school students who are struggling socially, academically or at home.

Raja Baptiste
, RNB Consulting Services /ReachOne-ReachAll.

Ms. Baptiste is the founder of Reach One Reach All that provides therapeutic and Psychological services to middle and high school students that are facing behavioral and educational challenges. She is also President of RNB Consulting Services. She has significant expertise in implementing nonprofit and educational programs, and creating policies and procedures.


Ms. Baptiste is a highly energetic individual who is committed to providing creative and enthusiastic coaching, outstanding performance, and the ability to strengthen nonprofit leaders and their organizations so that they can better serve their clients and communities.  Since beginning her career in non profit consulting, Ms. Baptiste has helped develop various nonprofit organizations such as Angeles By MYside NFP and Aries and Shine Outreach.  Her background includes marketing, organizational development, start-up, project management, training and board development.

Daniel F. Bassill, President, Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC
Dan Bassill has spent more than 30 years, mostly as a volunteer, leading organizations that connect workplace volunteers with youth living in  inner-city neighborhoods like Chicago's Cabrini-Green. He and six other volunteers formed Cabrini Connections in 1992 and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993. Through the TMC, and the Internet, Bassill leads a global learning strategy  intended to draw needed resources to all volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, including Cabrini Connections, in Chicago and other major cities. Bassill was a Commissioner on the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteering and Community Service from 2001 - 2009. In July 2011 Bassill created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC as a new strategy to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and similar strategies in other cities.  Visit ;

Van Bensett, Project Director, Life Directions
Founded in 1973, in Detroit, Michigan, Life Directions  (LD) was born out of the necessity to "get to the root cause of violence". The dynamic of "peers inspiring peers through forgiving" was forged in a series of neighborhood  discussions who were experiencing the effects of violence. LD's inter-generational programs seek to motivate elders, adults and young adults, especially the economically poor and "at risk" to mature into responsible, productive adults through self-direction. We focus on the "values" that drive action/behaviors".  LD has three interdependent core programs(1) the Peer Motivation Program brings achieving high school students together with their at-risk peers (2) the Peer Mentor Program facilitates meetings between successful high school students and at-risk 8th graders to prepare them for a positive transition into high school and (3) the Neighborhood Enrichment Program connects successful adults with peers and teens in an effort to "break the cycle of violence in communities."

Mr. Bensett is the Project Director for Life Directions - Chicago and has over 20 years of experience in working with young adults and community organizing.

Brandon Bodor, Executive Director, ServeIllinois Commission on Volunteering and Community Service
Brandon T. Bodor was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn as Executive Director of the Serve Illinois Commission on May 17, 2012. He is coming off of a distinguished military career in the United States Army, which included combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2012. Bodor is the recipient of two Bronze Star Medals, the Combat Action Badge, and is a graduate of both U.S. Army Ranger and Parachute schools.  Bodor graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2005, finishing in the top 3% of his class. At West Point, he served as Class Treasurer, was the Director of both the Special Olympics and Big Brothers Big Sisters programs, and spent a summer working on HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives in a village in the southern African country of Lesotho.  He continues to serve as an Army Reservist out of Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and is currently completing his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He resides with his wife and two sons in Chicago.

Steve Braxton
, Bishop, Light of Illinois Diocese
Rev. Braxton is a faith leader, mentor, coach, youth counselor and crisis intervention professional.  He is also an advisor, Restorative Criminal Justice Facilitator, moderator and presenter.

Whitney Capps, Teen Program Manager at Step Up Women's Network in Chicago.
Whitney Capps joined the Step Up team in the summer of 2010. Acting as the bridge between our amazing Step Up teens and our dynamic members, she is responsible for the execution of Step Up's full trajectory of programming at each of Step Up's four partner schools as well as the execution of Saturday mentoring workshops and special events. She is also responsible for hiring and the continued training of the teen programs staff of professional youth development professionals. After two years of success, Whitney was promoted to senior manager of teen programs in the summer of 2012. She has stepped up to lead our national teen cohort in reshaping Step Up's evaluation measures in a long-term project partnered with Deloitte and taking the lead in our college and career readiness curriculum development.

Willie Cole, The Community Development Collaborative
Willie Cole brings experience from the media, philanthropic and education arenas. Her specialties include education and youth leadership, organizational development and journalism.

Mark Duhon, Executive Director, Highsight
Mark has spent almost two decades coaching students to colleges across the country.  In just the past four years, his organization has coached 100 students to be awarded more than $12,000,000 in scholarship and grants they are using at their respective schools.

Kelly Fair, Polished Pebbles
Kelly Fair is a graduate of Howard University and holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa. As an active member of the Chicago community, Kelly serves on the Bronzeville Community Action Council, the Advocacy Council of Women Employed, Inc., and previously the Christ Universal Temple Board of Directors.

As a manager at McGraw-Hill, Kelly implemented launch campaigns for two innovative literacy programs as well as implemented training for Chicago Public School research studies. At Christ Universal Temple, she served as a program manager and curriculum designer for the Project Achieve College Prep Program.

In the Summer of 2009, she founded the Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program.  Polished Pebbles focuses on making sure girls understand the importance of being good communicators in all areas of life.  Kelly is passionate about communication for several reasons, including her training as a speech language pathologist, but also because she was an extremely shy girl when she was in both elementary and high school.  Therefore, her mission is making sure that girls are involved in activities and experiences that clearly demonstrate to them how important effective communication skills are to their personal lives, academic, and future professional success.  Polished Pebbles has served over 300 girls ages 7-17 years old, through 7 sites at University of Chicago Charter Schools, Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority.  Over 100 volunteer mentors throughout the Chicagoland community, Bloomingdale's Department Stores, the Microsoft Store, ThoughtWorks, IIT, and 107.5 WGCI have supported the program.  Their latest efforts include launching a South African Virtual Exchange Program this Spring.  You can find more information at

Mary Gerace, Marketing Consultant,
Mary Gerace Enterprises
Mary Gerace is the sole proprietor of Mary Gerace Enterprises, a 10-year-old consulting company that specializes in marketing, publicity and special events for small nonprofit organizations, self-employed persons and local small businesses. A native Chicagoan, she effectively utilizes a lifelong network of contacts to benefit her clients. She works on a very wide range of projects, and regards "giving back" to the community essential to her success. Mary has earned a  reputation for bridge-building, partnership collaborations and connecting people to each other with productive, meaningful results. Visit her at

Antoinette Golden, Statewide Manager, Hire the Future, Illinois Department of Employment Security
Antoinette Golden has been with IDES for over eleven years and is currently the Statewide Manager for the department's Hire the Future program. This program targets youth ages 16-24. It strives to promote job readiness to increase youth employability, career development, and employment assistance.

Antoinette has an extensive background in training/communication with experience largely focused on career development, youth, and volunteerism.  Raised in Chicago with a Bachelors from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Antoinette is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy from National Louis University. Experiences that contribute to her expertise include Human Resource Manager, Outreach and Training Specialist, Training Coordinator, non-profit Project Manager, Community Organizer, and radio/TV personality.

Carrie Harris, Tutor-Mentor Indy Summit
Carrie Harris is native Indiana Hoosier, born and raised in Indianapolis, attending the IPS schools, and graduating from Crispus Attucks. She was a part of the desegregation ordered by Judge H. Hue Dillon for the IPS school system in 1973.   Mrs. Harris was a member of the Crispus Attucks final four volleyball team.   The team made some volleyball history in Indianapolis.  She is an alumni member of the first students selected to be a part of the Center for Leadership Development.  She enjoyed attending programs, as a young person, at the Fall Creek YMCA where she was given the opportunities to learn to swim, learn about Kwanza, learned to African Dance and other life skills that make her the person she is today.

Carrie Harris is married to Nathan Harris, an Indianapolis Hoosier, born and raised in Indianapolis, attending the IPS schools and an Arsenal Tech graduate.  They have four children and four grandchildren. Mrs. Harris attended Purdue University, majoring in Biology but finishing at IUPUI in the school of Continuing Studies- majoring in Supervision.  She then went back to school, after raising and education her own children – to complete her Masters Degree in Education.

Currently, Mrs. Harris works at the Indiana University School of Medicine in the Division of Diversity Affairs as the Coordinator of Diversity Outreach Comprehensive Science (DOCS) Initiative and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Pre-College Programs.

Mrs. Harris has works in various other areas:  She has been the Cub Scout Master for Pack 25, at Barnes United Methodist Church, organizer of the Youth Groups for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. , Iota Zeta Chapter and their Youth Scholarship Step Show, a Girl Scout Leader, and youth leader/teacher at 25th Street Baptist Church.

Currently, she is the President of Fox Hill Estate Homeowners Association, organizer of the Tutor Mentor Summit Indy with her husband, working with the 100 Black Men on their new 4th Grade Mentoring Program, Crispus Attucks National Alumni Association Chair of the Brick Campaign and an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., a charter member of the chapter at Purdue, for 31 years.   She has sit on a number of community committees and enjoys all the opportunities given her by God to share the experiences and gifts he has been given.  “To whom much is given much is required”. She is currently a member of 25th Street Baptist Church – where the Rev. Charles Ellis, Jr. is the Pastor.

Mrs. Harris believes that we must give back so that everyone has an opportunity to LIVE. “There were so many people who gave to me I must do all I can to give to others.”

Nathan Harris, Tutor-Mentor Indy Summit
Lifelong native of Indianapolis. Married to his, love, better half, and supporter: Carrie L Harris. They have 4 kids, and 3 grandkids.

Nate was raised with 9 brothers and sisters and lived in poor neighborhoods throughout his youth. He attended public schools 37, 45, 29, and 56 before attending Arsenal Tech High school. I did not become serious about college until I participated in the Upward Bound Program while in high school. Following high school I attended Purdue where I earned an Associates in Applied Science and a Bachelor’s of Science degree. Following Purdue I worked for the Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) Company for 20 years. While at IPL I earned my MBA at Anderson University. Following IPL I worked at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis IUPUI in my dream job as Director of Upward Bound for about 9 years. These 9 years of intense teenaged residential programming was rewarding but it limited my ability to continue to pursue my passion of serving a greater number of low-income youth.  While at IUPUI I completed the majority of my PhD program which I hope to finalize in June of 2013. My doctoral topic is based on educating educators and policymakers about the needs of low income students. Within the education arena I have observed that there exist many individuals that possess the ability to clearly articulate the theoretic solutions along with the problems of low-income students. Yet, few commit to providing real services to low-income families that help them to eliminate their problems. For example: It is known that low income parents need to participate more in their child’s education, but few enter their homes and mentor the parents and offer to represent them needed.

“I began baby-sitting siblings when I was seven years old. If baby-sitting can be defined as a form of supervision/mentoring, then I’ve been doing this on and off for almost 50 years”

Yolanda Harris-Robinson, Youth Development Manager, UCAN
Yolanda Harris-Robinson is currently the Youth Development Manager at UCAN, which strives to build strong youth and families through compassionate healing, education and empowerment. She has a personal mission to positively impact youth by empowering community service providers through education and training on administering quality services geared at healing trauma and rejuvenating the mind, body and soul of youth.

Dale Hestermann,  Director at Kempo Jujutsu Martial Arts Academy.
Dale Hestermann has been running this small business for 19 years. He teaches martial arts but focuses on family togetherness and helping people improve their lives instead of just the physical movements. Before teaching martial arts full-time, he worked as a pipefitter and ran a semi-professional baseball team.

Jordan Hestermann, Founder/Executive Director, Becoming We The People
Jordan Hestermann is the Founder and Executive Director of Becoming We The People, a non-profit organization working toward ending poverty as a means of realizing equality through several initiatives. She received her bachelor's degree in management and marketing from DePaul University and will receive her MBA from California State University in December. She leads workshops and seminars regularly on leadership, networking, business-related topics, communication, poverty, racism, and more.

Pat Kroll, The Community Development Collaborative
Pat Kroll's areas of expertise include project management, technology and youth program development. In addition to managing programs for both youth and adults, she conducts faith development workshops.

Isaac Lewis, The Community Development Collaborative
Isaac Lewis is founder and publisher of the North Lawndale Community News, a weekly community newspaper serving Chicago's West Side. Lewis' nonprofit provides after school programming for youth, jobs training and technology skills development.

Devon Lovell, Family Matters
Devon Lovell has worked with Family Matters for over 12 years. She studied Speech Education at Northwestern University and went on to teach high school English, theatre and speech for 10 years in suburban DC and rural central Illinois. After returning to Chicago, she took a position at Family Matters believing she would return to high school teaching. Instead she found her true passion, working beyond the classroom with students, families, schools and mentors. In 2004, she established the IREAD program that provides specialized reading tutoring for struggling readers.

Keri Lucas, Family Matters
Keri Lucas has been the Director of Evening Tutoring at Family Matters since August 2011.  She holds a B.A. in Linguistics and a M.A. in Intercultural Studies and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Prior to arriving at Family Matters, Keri spent 10 years teaching English to refugee and immigrant families in St. Louis and Chicago. She is passionate about working with children, youth, volunteers, parents, and teachers in the context of community education, tutoring, and mentoring.

Scott McFarland, Deputy Director, Serve Illinois
Scott hails from the Quad Cities area of Illinois and now lives with his wife, Amber, and daughter, Anastasia, in Springfield.  Scott earned his Bachelor of Arts in History with a Teacher’s Certification from Western Illinois University in 2006 and his Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2008.

Scott has been a member of the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service staff for the past six years, and he currently serves as the Acting Executive Director.  In this position, he promotes volunteerism and National Service throughout the State.

An Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster, Scott takes great joy from camping, community service, and teaching.  He also serves as an elected Member of the Springfield School District 186 Board of Education.  In his personal and professional life, he continues to live by his motto, “better yourself by serving others”.

Bart Phillips, President of the Board, Community Building Tutors
Mr. Phillips has a MS in applied statistics and has spent the last seven years working with other professionals to build a tutoring organization that places a special emphasis on community strengthening. He also has a full time position with a healthcare consulting company and looks for opportunities to bridge the gap between industry and the not-for-profit community.

Lee Roe, Co-Director of the Counseling & Youth Development Services Department,  UCAN
Lee Roe is the Co-Director of the Counseling and Youth Development Services Department at UCAN, which strives to build strong youth and families through compassionate healing, education and empowerment. Lee has a mission of enabling youth and families to develop into leaders and have health, non-violent relationships in the community through healing, advocacy, education and leadership.

Rev. Mitchell Sholar, Executive Director, City Harvest Headstart Outreach Ministry
Mr. Mitchell Sholar, founder and CEO of City Harvest Headstart Outreach Ministry provides the North Lawndale Community with workshops that are both beneficial to ex-felons and their children as well as youth in the community.  Lessons are taught understanding that everyone represents the social capital of their community and that change comes from residents. While outside influence can only help the community by scratching the surface, those who live within a community are the true vessels of change. As the director of CHHOM, Mr. Sholar's first involvement in N. Lawndale was the result of being a mentor to youth within the community through the mentorship program provide by Dr. Betty Allen-Green Executive Director of Chicago-Lawndale AMACHI Mentoring Program. His devotion and dedication to the youth in the community lead him to become appointed by Dr. Allen-Green as a lead coordinator for the Chicago-Lawndale Amachi Agency chosen to help resolve the problem of violence within the community by implementing a program called the NRI (Neighborhood Recovery Initiative) employing youth from within the community to provide positive messages through their outreach activities funded and approved to reduce the negative impact of violence through educating the community with literature of positive messages, and conversations by youth involved from agency.

Mr. Sholar and CHHOM has also worked closely with schools in the neighborhood, and during the summer presented The Penguin Project at Chalmers Elementary School. Principal Dr. Nolan opened up the gym and allowed CHHOM's volunteers access to several students who were on the 'cusp' and needed an outlet, and place where they could be safe in a non-threatening, entertaining environment. The Penguin Project recognizes the lack of intensive nurturing experiences some children face, and the constant violence they are bombarded with outside, and provided - through games, projects and positive reinforcement exercises - an environment that challenged the youth to work cooperatively, ask questions, and feel the pride that comes from completing fun projects in a lovingly controlled environment, at the school where they were already comfortable.

Alyssa VandeLeest, ProsperPR
Alyssa started Prosper PR because she couldn't sit still until she found a way to put her marketing skills to use for good. Her track record includes stints at a nonprofit, several small ad agencies, and one of the largest PR firms in the world. Along the way, she has worked with companies like got milk?, Kraft and World Hunger Relief, and nonprofits like The Overture Center and Turning Point. Her work has been recognized by PRWeek Magazine, which named her as a recipient of one of its industry awards in 2011. When she’s not busy helping her clients make a difference, Alyssa can be found working her way through Chicago's restaurants, thrift shopping and attempting headstands at yoga class.

Sheila Wesonga, Community Organizer/Education Activist
As a grassroots Community Organizer/Education Activist, Sheila Wesonga has passionately lead opportunities to increase parent engagement in public education, by assisting with the creation of public policy, developing/presenting workshops on Title I and participating in the creation of The Local School Council for CPS.

Sheila has a BA from Purdue University and recently finished graduate work at Illinois Institute of Technology for Project Management.  She is a wife, mother of three young adult children, and lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. She is a member of Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood where she was raised.

Walt Whitman, Jr., Founder & Creator of The Legendary "Soul Children Choir" of Chicago, Soul Children of Chicago (SCC) Choir
Mr. Whitman is a Professional Singer, musician, choral conductor, vocal technician, artist, music consultant, international choral conductor. Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago (SCC) have not “re-invented” themselves beyond recognition but more so refined themselves. After 30 years, their performances are still precise and energetic. Their sound is powerful, magnetic, inspirational, and their reach remains international. As they continue to mature with perfection, they expand their platform to accept the challenge of meeting the spiritual needs of this generation by addressing honest, everyday issues that children, teens, and adults encounter.

Rev. T.W. (Rev. Terry Weston)  from TW’s Ministry
Rev. T.W has more than a decade of ministry and engineering experience.That allows TW’s Ministry to integrate engineering and ministry principles to develop programs that address real community problems from a Faith Based Initiatives perspective.  TW’s Ministry, faith based initiative principal, is to commit to God’s Church, Congregation, Constituent and Community, as well as to all who are served by them.

Reverend Terry Weston, a native of the Chicago Suburban Village of Maywood, Illinois was raised by a single mother with Mississippi values and Spiritual beliefs. TW’s overcame many of the obstacles that face the children, youth and young adults of today, including growing up poor, in poverty and in a polluted gang and drug infested area.

TW’s Ministry assisted local agencies in community-based gang prevention and community-based children, youth and young adult self development programs from 1994 to 1997.  TW’s Ministry is partnering {1997 to present} with agencies (churches, congressional, counties, educational, foundations, and organizations) on Faith Based Initiative community programs.


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