Celebrating our tenth anniversary, join us to be equipped and inspired
to advance equitable postsecondary attainment across Illinois.

The 2023 conference of the Illinois Education and Career Success Network, themed Accelerating Equitable Success, will deliver an array of high-quality content and interactive, hands-on opportunities centered on advancing equitable postsecondary attainment. Join us in person as we celebrate our tenth anniversary as a Network, honoring the work our Leadership Communities have accomplished this past decade and looking toward a shared vision for the future.

  • Date: Wednesday, March 8, 2023
  • Location: Moraine Valley Community College, Building M
    9000 W College Parkway, Palos Hills, Illinois
  • Cost: $35 per attendee, includes conference materials, breakfast, and lunch
  • Professional development hours available

View the agenda and speaker bios below.

10th Anniversary Cocktail Celebration

Conference attendees are invited to join us for a special cocktail reception in honor of our tenth anniversary on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 5 p.m. at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn. Hors d’oeuvres will be served. Reservations are required; there is no additional cost for conference attendees.

Hotel Room Block

Limited hotel rooms are available at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn. The group code is ESCNIU. We encourage you to reserve your room today to secure the discounted rate.

Conference Agenda

8:00 — 9:00

Check in to the conference, enjoy breakfast, and network.

9:00 — 10:15

Join our opening plenary to hear from Dr. Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Loyd will share the OCTAE’s vision for college and career success and information on new federal supports and resources available to support states as they implement and enhance these efforts. Following her remarks, she will have a conversation with Jonathan Furr, Executive Director at Education Systems Center at NIU, to discuss equity-centered practices to support college and career success and how the work of the Success Network aligns with federal priorities.


  • Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Jonathan Furr, Executive Director, Education Systems Center at NIU
  • Edith Njuguna, Director, Illinois Education and Career Success Network
10:25 — 11:20

Equitable dual credit outcomes require the awareness, energy, and support of multiple different stakeholders. To better understand stakeholders’ perspectives and support of dual credit in Illinois, several organizations collaborated to conduct a survey of students, parents, policymakers, and high school and postsecondary faculty and staff. Hear what we learned from the nearly 1,000 survey responses and how we are using the data to increase equitable access to high-quality dual credit programs for Illinois students.


  • Aimee Galvin, Director, Stand for Children Illinois
  • Sarah Stashkiw, Director of P-20 Educational Partnerships, College of Lake County
  • Meagan Mitchell, Pathways Manager, Education Systems Center

Two communities will share their learnings, innovations, and best practices on how they are intentionally designing and implementing work-based learning experiences with access and equity at the center. Attendees will spend time in small groups to reflect on the community models and consider how we might move forward in our own spaces to enhance and expand work-based learning in a manner that addresses inequities in who is and isn’t accessing these experiences, builds social capital, and prepares young people for their futures.


  • Frank Holthouse, Director of Careers, Leyden High School
  • Michael Kuhn, Director, DesPlaines Valley Region EFE
  • Jazlyn Stanciel, Career Pathways Supervisor, East St. Louis Senior High School

This session will provide an overview of state policies and practices aimed at increasing the transition from high school to higher education in Illinois while increasing the likelihood of student persistence and completion to credential. Policy discussions will include minimizing remediation through transition courses in English and math, diversifying access to early college opportunities, and career pathways influence on early employment with a discussion of current statewide data on community college persistence and completion.


  • Laz Lopez, Associate Superintendent, High School District 214 and Chair, Illinois Community College Board
  • Marcus Brown, Deputy Director for Academic Affairs & Student Success, Illinois Community College Board

With an increase in dual credit and college and career pathways in Illinois, regional administrators need to understand what are the most strategic courses for students to pursue in order to maximize their success at the university level. This includes seeking transferable courses in both general education and their intended major. Learn from the Illinois Articulation Initiative about the transferability of major courses in Illinois and how those courses can be applied to secondary-to-postsecondary pathways and emphases. Also, hear an update on recent efforts to increase the transferability of education major courses in Illinois.


  • Malinda Aiello, State Director, Illinois Articulation Initiative
  • Juan Jose Gonzalez, Pathways Director, Education Systems Center

The Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) was created to address a shortage of skilled early educators and a need for equitable access to seamless higher education pathways designed to support adults working in the field of early childhood education. Key to the success of this highly collaborative statewide initiative are intentional partnerships among stakeholders, including two- and four-year institutions, state agencies, employers (child care centers and schools), and local organizations. Hear from state and local leaders on how the cross-sector work of ECACE is accelerating access, persistence, and completion of degrees and credentials for working adults.


  • Marcy Mendenhall, President & CEO, SAL Community Services
  • Rolando Gonzalez, Higher Education Navigator, Child Care Resource and Referral of Midwestern Illinois, SAL Community Services
  • Lindsay Meeker, Director of the Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood Education, Western Illinois University
  • Eduardo Perez, Spanish Bilingual Learning and Support Specialist, Western Illinois University
  • Jodi Becker, Associate Professor & Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator, Black Hawk College
  • Audrie Aden, Early Childhood Education Support Specialist, Black Hawk College
  • Christi Chadwick, Project Director, Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity, Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Jennifer Hernandez, Assistant Project Director, Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity, Illinois Board of Higher Education
11:30 — 12:25

Community colleges will discuss their participation in a funding program managed by EdSystems, that supports early implementers of college and career pathways within their regions. Both community colleges will discuss their Pathway Equity plans, which incorporate secondary and postsecondary data, including quantitative and qualitative resources, to identify inequities in pathway metrics around race, gender, etc., and strategies to address those inequities. In this session, learn about the institutions’ specific equity challenges, and the steps leaders are taking to address them.


  • Nancy Sutton, Vice President for Academic Services, Parkland College
  • Richard Bush, Associate Vice President Economic and Workforce Development, Black Hawk College

The last year has brought new and exciting changes and opportunities in the world of PaCE, which includes Public Act 102-0917, the first annual PaCE Symposium, new implementation supports, and the continuation of virtual PaCE Framework Development workshops. As schools prepare to adopt a college and career framework as part of Public Act 102-0917, join us to help you be prepared for the adoption and implementation of a framework.


  • Jill Hlavacek, Director of Innovation and Learning, Naperville Community Unit School District 203
  • Sue J. Striedl, Project Manager for Learning Services, Naperville District 203
  • Ana Moya, Professional Development Specialist, Illinois Student Assistance Commission

Recognizing the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators, state agencies, practitioners, and stakeholders are working to address near-term challenges and find ways to build to a better future for students, families, educators, and communities. This session will highlight learning renewal efforts and other student-centric initiatives taking place across the state and the resources available to help engage and support students.


  • Mackenzie Eisen, Director of Learning Renewal, Office of Governor JP Pritzker
  • Deana Schenk, Senior Director for Learning Renewal, Illinois Community College Board
  • Jacqueline Moreno, Chief Service Officer, Illinois Student Assistance Commission
  • Stephanie Bernoteit, Executive Deputy Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Nehemiah Ankoor, Learning Renewal Lead, Illinois State Board of Education

Key to Accelerating Equitable Success is effective policy that can drive improved access to quality college and career preparation opportunities throughout the P-20 and workforce spectrum. This session will highlight recent policy changes and emerging priorities that shape how partners across Illinois can work to serve their communities to achieve more equitable outcomes in secondary, postsecondary, and beyond.


  • Emily Rusca, Director of State Policy & Practice, Education Systems Center 
  • Laura Monteagudo, Policy & Program Manager, Education Systems Center 

Illinois is experiencing a teacher shortage and it is especially impacting our students of color and of low-income backgrounds. Research shows that while all students benefit, having teachers of color improves test scores, attendance, and reduce suspension rates for students of color. Join us to learn background on the Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship, a scholarship aiming to expand college affordability for aspiring teachers of color. Learn about the history of advocacy and opportunities to join our current efforts to advocate for increased funding and access to the scholarship.


  • Jessica Ramos, Project Director, Advance Illinois
  • Mercedes Wentworth-Nice, Senior Policy Associate, Advance Illinois
  • Dr. Miguel Saucedo, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Populations, Chicago Public Schools, and MTI Recipient
12:35 — 2:00
Four Leadership Communities will discuss their accomplishments, lessons learned, and shared vision for the future as they have worked with diverse stakeholders to advance equitable postsecondary attainment. In addition, we will honor the work that all Leadership Communities have accomplished this past decade.

  • Nancy Awdziejczyk, Executive Director, Northwest Educational Council for Student Success (NECSS)
  • Kari Rauh, Director of Workforce Solutions, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council
  • Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, Executive Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, East St Louis School District 189
  • Darryl Hogue, Ed. D., Superintendent, River Bend CUSD #2
  • Edith Njuguna, Director, Illinois Education and Career Success Network
2:15 — 3:10

Choose from five interactive workshops for peer learning:

College and Career Pathway Endorsements
  • Rachel Schaal, Curriculum Coach, Vandalia CUSD #203
  • Jessica Torbeck, Curriculum Coach, Vandalia CUSD #203
Dual Credit
  • Nagieh Omer, Assistant Dean of Early College, Malcom X College
  • Latisha Williams, Assistant Dean of Early College & Matriculation, Harold Washington College
Learning Renewal
  • Nehemia Ankoor, Learning Renewal Lead, ISBE
  • Denise Dalton, Student Services Chair, Lemont High School
  • Julia Strehlow, Social Emotional Learning Lead, Illinois State Board of Education
Work-Based Learning
  • Tana Francellno, Career Partnership and Work-Based Learning Coordinator, Evanston Township High School
Postsecondary and Career Expectations Framework
  • David A. Williams, Program Manager, The Fellowship Initiative
3:20 — 4:30

A conversation with state education and workforce leaders.


  • Andy Manar, Deputy Governor for Budget and Economy
  • Martin Torres, Deputy Governor for Education
  • Robin Steans, President, Advance Illinois

Meet the Speakers

Audrie Aden serves as an Early Childhood Education support specialist at Black Hawk College. As a support specialist, she supports students who pursue early childhood degrees/credentials, navigates institution processes and resources, provides academic direction, and builds relationships with inside and outside institutions to help guide students into the direction of success. She is a part of the Birth to Five Action Council, which focuses on the early childhood community in the Henry, Bureau, and Stark counties. Audrie began her education career as a paraeducator in both private and public K-8 schools. She then transitioned into her early childhood career as a VPK Pre-K teacher.  At Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, Audrie earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and an early childhood education endorsement.

Malinda has over twenty years of management and higher education experience. She currently serves as the Director of the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), which is a statewide transfer agreement implemented 25 years ago among more than 100 participating public and private Illinois colleges and universities. Previously, Malinda worked for the Illinois Board of Higher Education and Illinois Community College Board managing a wide portfolio of statewide initiatives and policies related to transfer credit, secondary-to-postsecondary college readiness, developmental education reform, placement policies, etc. She also developed and ran adult accelerated degree programs for a private institution. Malinda is currently a doctoral student at Illinois State University in the College of Education’s Higher Education Administration program and intends to focus her dissertation on how students define transfer success. She holds both a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Business Administration, Management, and Organizational Behavior from Benedictine University, and an Associate of Arts from Lincoln Land Community College.

Nehemiah Ankoor is the Learning Renewal Lead at the Illinois State Board of Education, where he helps oversee ISBE’s $7 billion portfolio of pandemic relief programs. Previously, Nehemiah was a Research Analyst and Program and Community Engagement Manager for the Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. He is passionate about using his ten years of experience in education research, project management, and community engagement to support innovative programs that advance educational equity and help students, families, and educators across Illinois recover from the pandemic. He is also a proud husband to his high school sweetheart, Tyra, and father to their rambunctious toddler, Nia.

The Northwest Educational Council for Student Success (NECSS) is an emerging national leader in the movement to develop equitable systems of high-quality pathways that prepare students for success in post-secondary endeavors and beyond. As Executive Director and EFE Director for Region 070, Nancy Awdziejczyk is strategic in her drive to create a culture of innovation, accountability, and transparency while serving as fiscal manager for state and federal CTE grants. Ms. Awdziejczyk draws upon her over twenty-five years of experience to passionately lead the development and implementation of collaborative initiatives to increase opportunities for all students to complete early college credit. Her work as a champion for CTE began as Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instructional Technology, transitioning from an early childhood education instructor of high school students. Prior to that, Nancy worked in early childhood as a child care center director/owner. Ms. Awdziejczyk earned a Master of Educational Leadership from Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois, and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Elmhurst College, Illinois.

Jodi Becker is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Early Childhood and Education at Black Hawk College. She began her career as a preschool teacher and director and used those experiences working with children and families in other human service positions. After earning her master’s degree in early childhood education, she moved to higher education full-time. She has presented at several local early childhood conferences and provides continuing education for local child care providers.

Jodi draws upon her career experiences in early care and education and human services to develop courses and programs that meet the needs of today’s teachers and administrators. She is passionate about the importance of the early childhood years and the need for high-quality early childhood education for all children.

Dr. Stephanie Bernoteit serves as Executive Deputy Director at the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). She oversees the agency’s regulatory and consumer protection work with approximately 450 postsecondary institutions and is responsible for the agency’s initiatives to promote postsecondary student success, including coordination of state efforts to advance developmental education reform and implementation of a statewide transfer infrastructure. Together with state agency partners and six institutions of higher education, Stephanie leads the Illinois Tutoring Initiative, which is a state initiative to provide high-impact tutoring for Illinois students in priority school districts. Stephanie is also a member of the Illinois Early Learning Council and serves on the board of directors of the Competency-Based Education Network. She began her professional career as a Kindergarten teacher and was subsequently involved in national work to board certify educators through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Stephanie holds a doctorate in education from Illinois State University, a graduate certificate in non-profit leadership from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in fundraising management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in education from Drake University, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood from Northwest Missouri State University.

Marcus Brown is the Deputy Director for Academic Affairs and Student Success at the Illinois Community College Board. He oversees the overall administration of the Academic Affairs and Student Success Division, including the approval of new units of instruction, new courses, and reasonable and moderate extensions for both occupation and transfer disciplines, Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), and other articulation issues, teacher preparation, early childhood education, student services and supports, the Student Advisory Committee, and special studies related to instruction programs and/or accountability. Dr. Brown holds a Ph.D. in business psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, an MBA from Millikin University, and an MA in counseling psychology from the University of Connecticut.

Richard Grant Bush is the Associate Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development at Black Hawk College, located in Moline, Illinois. His 44+ years of experience in business, technology, and education have provided him with the professional expertise needed to understand the complex relationship between higher education and business engagement. Throughout his professional higher education career, Dr. Bush has been an active technology professional, educator and administrator mentoring students and colleagues over his 20+ years in higher education. He is a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission has been on over 15 institutional reviews. Dr. Bush continues to conduct research targeted at finding best practices, innovative technologies, methods of deployment, consulting, and management and leadership. Dr. Bush’s research interests are focused on the “human side of technology” specifically the implications of technology on businesses, systems, processes, and people. For the past 3+ years, Richard has provided leadership, management, planning, and advocacy for CTE faculty, programs, and services that support the needs of students aligned with employer interests. His responsibilities included several CTE academic departments and non-credit departments. Dr. Bush works collaboratively with members of the college community, external stakeholders, community members, and organizations to ensure the college provides relevant and timely programming for students and the community. Dr. Bush earned a Ph.D. in Applied Management and Decision Sciences from Walden University, specializing in Information Systems Management with an additional cognate in Leadership and Organizational Change. He holds a MA in Organizational Development and a BA in Management and Organization Development from Spring Arbor University. Dr. Bush continues to be a resource and international adjudicator of doctoral dissertation from European, Asian, and Middle Eastern universities. Richard serves his community through several economic, workforce, and talent development committees in and around the district.

Christi Chadwick has spent over 25 years focused on advancing high-quality early learning opportunities for young children, particularly those from under-resourced communities. She currently serves as Project Director for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity at the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The Consortium is an initiative to support seamless higher education pathways, opportunities, and supports for the early childhood workforce to access and complete credentials and degrees. Previously, Christi has worked to develop, strengthen, and better compensate the early childhood workforce in positions such as Workforce Development Policy Director in the Illinois Governor’s Office for Early Childhood Development and Early Learning Policy Director in the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office. For the City of Chicago, her portfolio included directing the launch of the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship, designed to provide funding and wrap-around supports for increased higher education access and completion.

Denise Dalton is the Student Services Chair at Lemont High School. In this capacity, she leads the team of specialists who ensure that obstacles outside the classroom minimally impact activities in the classroom. In 2022, the faculty of Lemont High School identified the need for an advisory period to address a need for belonging, mental health support, and social and emotional learning among students and staff. With a steering committee of stakeholders, Denise helped develop the framework and content that will be delivered in the fall of 2023. All faculty members are certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid, a related initiative in addressing mental health crises that are on the rise among students. In a time where the public is curious and often suspicious of activities in the school, this initiative has had its own hurdles to overcome, but the school is prepared to implement a full program in the 2023–24 school year.

Mackenzie Eisen currently serves as Senior Assistant to Deputy Governor Martin Torres in the Office of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. As a staffer in the Governor’s Office since 2017, she has held four different positions on two different governors’ education teams, having served most recently as Director of Learning Renewal before transitioning to her current role. She has worked on a wide range of education issues during her tenure in the Governor’s office including expanding access to financial aid, aiding in the state’s pandemic recovery and learning renewal, and strengthening the state’s P-20 Council. She holds degrees in philosophy and political science from Northwestern University.

Tana Francellno is the Career Partnership and Work-Based Learning Coordinator at Evanston Township High School (ETHS). Tana is responsible for cultivating closer relationships between Evanston employers and ETHS with the support of the Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council and promoting postsecondary career pathways. Over the past 3 + years Tana has been instrumental in adopting a new work-based learning system at ETHS, including monthly career presentations, employer classroom visits, job shadowing week/experiences, and a unique summer internship program specially designed for graduating seniors. A primary focus of Tana’s work is to match young adults who are not currently on a 4-year college track with career opportunities in the local community. Tana was born and raised in Evanston. She has more than 25 years experience in the retail and hospitality industries, managing all aspects of the business from recruiting, onboarding, training, developing teams, sales, and brand marketing. She previously worked for Books and Breakfast, a non-profit in Evanston focused on advancing educational equity and social justice for elementary school-aged kids. Tana is the co-chair of the Evanston Cradle to Career PAL (Prepared for Adult Life) Committee and a member of the National Career Pathway Network.

Jonathan “Jon” Furr is the Founder and Executive Director of Education Systems Center at NIU, a mission-driven policy development and program implementation center based within Northern Illinois University’s Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development. Jon’s leadership in policy development and system implementation has made him a national authority in career pathways, college and career readiness policy, and longitudinal data systems. Jon led a multi-year process to develop and enact the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act, which applies a student-centered and competency-based approach to support Illinois students in preparing for postsecondary education and careers. Since the PWR Act’s 2016 passage, Jon and his EdSystems colleagues have spearheaded its implementation, including scaling robust college and career pathway models, building a new statewide system for transitional instruction courses that reduce college remediation needs, delivering deep support for leading regions to align education and workforce delivery systems, and driving innovation through competency-based education and other innovative practices. Additionally, Jon has developed the critical legal and governance structures for the Illinois Longitudinal Data System, including the authorizing legislation, the governance and data sharing agreements, and federal grant proposals that have funded its build-out. With Jon’s leadership, EdSystems and NIU have also led the development of multiple regional data collaboratives, including a secondary-postsecondary collaborative in the Rockford region, and an emerging early childhood data collaborative in Chicago. Over the course of his career, Jon has authored multiple comprehensive laws that have shaped the Illinois public education system. He has also authored and managed an array of successful grant proposals that have resulted in more than $100 million in federal funding for state system development. As a compliment to his work in the United States, Jon is engaged in education and workforce initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. He is Chairman of the board of a nonprofit supporting career pathways in Liberia and has led the planning for a comprehensive education dashboard for Rwanda. Prior to founding EdSystems, Jon was a partner in the public policy and education practice of an international law firm. Earlier in his career, he served as the General Counsel for the Illinois State Board of Education. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture and history from Washington University in St. Louis, and his Juris Doctorate and Master of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.

As Stand for Children Illinois’ Government Affairs Director, Aimee builds bridges between policymakers and those furthest from justice to advance education equity and racial justice. A typical day for Aimee involves meeting legislators, poring over spreadsheets, representing Stand in coalitions, and drafting bills. Her work primarily focuses on dual credit and advanced coursework strategies to put Illinois students on high-demand, high-growth career pathways. Aimee earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois and master’s degree in political science with a focus on advocacy from American University.

Juan Jose Gonzalez is the Pathways Director at Education Systems Center at NIU. He began his career as an immigration rights organizer for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, where he mobilized immigrant citizens to vote and lobby at the state and federal level for better immigration policy. He then served as the Chicago Director for Stand for Children Illinois, leading their advocacy and policy efforts in the region. Following, he was the Director of Youth and Education Policy for the City of Chicago Mayor’s office under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, managing a portfolio that included elementary and secondary education policy, college access, summer employment, and out-of-school time opportunities.

These work experiences led Juan Jose to his current role as the Pathways Director for the Education Systems Center. He is heavily involved in the implementation of the Illinois Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act, State Perkins V Plan, College and Career Pathways Endorsements framework, and the development of industry-specific pathways in school districts and communities throughout the state.

Juan Jose received his B.A. at Princeton University and a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School.

Rolando Gonzalez, an alumnus of Northeastern Illinois University, has worked in the education field for the past ten years. He previously served high school students as an academic advisor and postsecondary counselor in his native city of Chicago. Currently, he is the Higher Education Navigator for Child Care Resource & Referral of Midwestern Illinois, a division of SAL Community Services. His work supports the incumbent workforce in seven counties in northwest Illinois and helps create pathways for individuals in partnership with the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE), a collaborative effort bridging students with 62 institutions across Illinois.

Jennifer Hernandez currently serves as Assistant Project Director for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity at the Illinois Board of Higher Education. She previously served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor for Education in the Office of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, where she worked on education issues across P-20 education systems and supported the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding. Jennifer has served in a number of roles in the field of education, specializing in equitable higher education access, student navigation, and transfer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois Chicago and an associate degree from Harper College.

Jill Hlavacek is the Director of Innovation and Learning for Naperville District 203. Jill has been instrumental in leading practice and learning transformations in several areas across the district. Jill works to shift programming and practice related to college and career readiness preparation for students and had been leading the counseling curriculum team for over four years. Jill’s responsibilities include leading the transformation of learning spaces, redesign of purpose and function of the district libraries, developing innovative Career and Technical Education courses, increasing online and blended learning options for students, implementing a 6-12 counseling curriculum with embedded individual learning plan tool, and developing diploma endorsement & work-based learning options for students in specific career pathway areas.

Dr. Darryl Hogue started his career as a special education teacher in Libertyville, then moved to a middle school principal in Morrison, Illinois. He has spent the last nine years in Fulton, Illinois as superintendent. School and community connections have always driven Dr. Hogue’s educational philosophy. He has worked to expand opportunities for students to apply educational skills to workforce learning. Fulton High School has been providing work-based learning opportunities for over 20 years. Dr. Hogue’s dissertation demonstrated that students who are involved in work-study programming have higher GPAs, miss fewer days of school, and are twice as likely to go on to earn a certificate, degree, or credential after graduation.

Frank Holthouse has been an educator with Leyden High Schools since the 2006–2007 school year. He currently serves as the Director of Careers with Leyden District 212. Prior to this role, he served as an Industrial Technology teacher and department chair. Before coming to Leyden, he studied Technology Education at Illinois State University in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois. He also received a Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned certifications from Google Educator, Autodesk Inventor, and National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). He is passionate about all things Career and Technical Education (CTE). He loves creating opportunities for students to engage with the Leyden community.

Dr. Michael Kuhn has extensive experience in both career development and Career & Technical Education. Dr. Kuhn is an educator with proven success in assisting students within diverse educational settings. He specializes in data collection, retention, and ongoing development of career programs and activities. Prior to working in education, Dr. Kuhn worked in business management. He is currently the Director of DesPlaines Valley Region (DVR), an EFE, where he provides support to area high schools. Before joining DVR, he was Director of Career and Technical Education for Peoria Public Schools, District 150.

Dr. Lazaro Lopez speaks nationally as an advocate for relevancy in schools, business partnerships, and career pathways. He has been featured in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Profiles of Change, the Achieving Tomorrow Series and recognized as the Illinois High School Principal of the Year for his efforts to ensure economic mobility in his school community. Appointed to Chair the Illinois Community College Board by the Governor of Illinois, Youth Apprenticeship Chair for the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board, and currently serving as the Associate Superintendent for High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Ilinois, serving 12,000 students across six comprehensive high schools.

Dr. Amy Loyd is the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, she oversees national programs related to career and technical education, community colleges, adult education and literacy, and correctional education. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Dr. Loyd was a Vice President at Jobs for the Future (JFF), where she designed and led programs across the United States that improve education and workforce outcomes. Her work at JFF focused on state and regional policies, practices, and cross-sector partnerships that engaged K-12 education, community colleges, adult education, workforce development, economic development, and employers to build systems of college and career pathways, leveraging career and technical education. She also oversaw JFF’s work in workforce development with a lens on economic advancement, state and federal policy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She previously was the Director of Education at Cook Inlet Tribal Council, leading a network of schools providing culturally responsive education, training, and wraparound services to the Alaska Native and Native American communities. Dr. Loyd attended Santa Fe Community College and Northern New Mexico Community College, and holds a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College and a doctorate in education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she was an adjunct lecturer on building career pathways to increase opportunity and equity.

Andy Manar joined the Governor’s Office in January 2021 and took over the role of Deputy Governor for Budget and Economy in the summer of that year. He has over 20 years of experience in municipal, county and state government in Illinois, having served as Mayor of Bunker Hill, Chairman of Macoupin County Board, and State Senator for the 48th District where he chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee. As Deputy Governor, Mr. Manar has prioritized improving the state’s fiscal health and proposing and implementing a balanced budget. He received a Bachelor of History and teaching license from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Marcy Mendenhall is the CEO of SAL Community Services, the parent company of five Skip-a-Long Centers, 2 Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, Home Child Care Network, Welcoming Center, and Open Door. Located in northwest Illinois, Marcy seeks to collaborate, partner, and elevate all things related to early care and education. She is a staunch advocate for children and their families.

Meagan Mitchell, Ph.D. has focused much of her career working in higher education as a student affairs practitioner. She has created university-wide student retention initiatives, decreased students’ time to college completion, and enhanced various program curricula. As Pathways Manager at Education Systems Center at NIU, Meagan manages projects in both the College and Career Pathways and Bridges to Postsecondary portfolios. Meagan holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies from DePaul University and a Master’s in Higher Education Student Affairs from Indiana University.

Laura Monteagudo is the Policy and Program Manager at Education Systems Center at NIU. With a background in college admissions, Laura has worked with many first-generation and low-income college students as they navigate the transition from high school to college. Through this work, Laura developed a passion for racial equity and helping students overcome barriers. She is excited to make an impact through state policy work.

Laura holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and a Master’s in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Ana is a first-generation college student and currently holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminology from Dominican University. She joined the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) as an ISACorps member for the Triton Community College District, where she found her passion for working with first-generation college students and Spanish-speaking parents. Before joining the Professional Development staff at ISAC, Ana served as an ISACorps Regional Coordinator for the South and West suburbs. She currently resides in the western suburbs of Chicago and enjoys the short commute to coffee shops on the weekend, and dog parks for morning walks with Dakota.

Edith Njuguna is the Director of the Illinois Education and Career Success Network. She has extensive experience in designing and implementing programs to improve education outcomes for children and youth in Chicago and internationally. She oversees the Illinois Education and Career Success Network, a collaborative of communities across the State that is driving improved outcomes for young people, and manages resource development and deployment to help communities deepen their impact. She also leads EdSystems’ Career Pathways work in Tanzania. Since joining EdSystems Edith has led the organization’s fund development and grants management efforts, coordinated stakeholder engagement in policy development and implementation, and worked on collaborative networks including the Illinois 60 by 25 Network and the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership. Prior to joining EdSystems, Edith was a Senior Program Officer at Grand Victoria Foundation where she stewarded investments of up to $4 million a year in grants related to policy and practice in education and workforce development to support Illinois nonprofits. She has also worked in fund development in the nonprofit sector. Edith holds a Master’s in Public Service Management from DePaul University, a certificate in Spanish from Universidad Complutense in Madrid, and a BA from the University of Nairobi.

Nagieh Omer currently works at Malcolm X College as the Assistant Dean of Early College & Matriculation in the Office of Instruction. She has extensive experience and knowledge in higher education, including admissions, recruiting, advising, alumni engagement, and curriculum. Nagieh has been an English Language and Composition adjunct professor for over five years within the Chicagoland area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Dominican University and a Master of Arts in English Literature from DePaul University.

Jessica is the Project Director at Advance Illinois responsible for developing and executing advocacy strategy specifically focused on advancing affordability for aspiring teachers of color and higher education equity. As a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and with roots stemming from the Southwest side of Chicago, Jessica is committed to elevating communities historically marginalized by the policy making process including Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.

During her time at Advance Illinois, Jessica has served in several capacities on the community engagement team, ensuring communities directly impacted inform policy priorities and mobilize to drive systemic change. Prior to joining Advance Illinois, Jessica taught 6th and 8th grade language arts, as well as 9th grade multicultural studies. She is currently a master’s student at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Kari Rauh is the Director of Workforce Solutions at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. Since she began in November 2020, Kari has partnered with other pathway builders in the region to implement the Talent Pipeline Management process for the manufacturing sector, reinstate the CareerSpark program for 8th graders since COVID and pilot and grown CareerSpark You’re Hired for high schoolers, taking the number of students served to nearly 27,000 since the inception of the program. Previously, Kari served in a consulting capacity for Illinois Central College’s Workforce Development division and as the consulting HR director for the Peoria tech startup CooperRidge Companies, investing years of service working in healthcare and social services in Seattle before that. Kari holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Wheaton College, a diploma in clinical massage therapy, and is a US Chamber of Commerce certified Talent Pipeline Management practitioner. Kari is a 5th generation central Illinois native who graduated from Metamora Township High School in 2007. She believes that a healthy workforce leads to a prosperous community and is honored to work alongside passionate people serving the region she calls home.

Emily Rusca brings her interest in education, workforce development, and social policy to the team as the Director of State Policy & Strategy at Education Systems Center at NIU. She spent four years managing the U.S. State Department-sponsored Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study grant program for a high school exchange nonprofit in San Francisco prior to pursuing a transition to domestic social policy.

Since joining the EdSystems team initially as an Education Pioneers fellow, Emily’s portfolio has spanned career pathways, workforce development, and data work. Her work has included projects such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Youth Employment initiative, the Progressive Pathways Initiative, the Illinois Education and Career Success Network, and the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership. She leads many of EdSystems’ state policy efforts through a variety of interagency and statewide structures, including the College & Career Readiness Committee of the Illinois P-20 Council and the Workforce Readiness through Apprenticeships & Pathways Committee of the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth.

Emily holds a Master of Public Policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and also has a background in international development, city planning, and gender equity work.

Dr. Miguel A. Saucedo is a native of Chicago’s Little Village community. He earned his doctorate from the Departments of Educational Policy Studies and Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation focused on the academic achievement, suspension and expulsion, and criminalization of young Mexican American male students in Chicago Public Schools. He currently serves as the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Populations at Chicago Public Schools.

Rachel Schaal is a curriculum and instructional coach at Vandalia CUSD #203. During her 20 years in education she has taught in the elementary school setting both in the classroom and as a Title reading and math teacher. She now services the Vandalia district where she oversees the creation of Career Pathways. Rachel is also responsible for providing professional development opportunities for the district and serves as an instructional coach for faculty.

Deana Schenk, M.A., serves as the Senior Director for Learning Renewal with the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). She works closely with the 39 community college districts in Illinois on implementing state-level initiatives adopted through the P-20 Council Learning Renewal Resource Guide, works with the Illinois Tutoring Initiative, and supports the HOUSE Act project surrounding supports for students experiencing homelessness and those who previously experienced foster care. Prior to joining ICCB, Deana was the Trainer and Technical Assistance Specialist with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, where she provided professional development and training to rape crisis staff and allied professionals across Illinois. She also previously taught English, literature, and humanities as an adjunct instructor at several central Illinois community colleges. Deana is a lifelong educator passionate about ensuring individuals receive the academic and social-emotional supports they need to achieve their goals and committed to creating equitable opportunities for all people.

Jazlyn Stanciel, M.S.Ed, was born and raised in St. Louis, MO., in the heart of the south city area. Jazlyn attended and graduated from Webster Groves High School, a bachelor’s degree in theology and sociology from Hanover College, and Master of Science and Education in Counselor Education, specializing in Professional School Counseling from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She returned to the Greater St. Louis area, where she began her professional career working as a Jobs for America’s Graduates Specialist at Wyvetter Younge Alternative School in East St. Louis. There, Jazlyn recognized her passion for youth workforce development and preparing students for life after high school. Jazlyn is enthusiastic about teaching essential skills such as professional presence, communication skills, employability skills, and financial literacy. Following her work in this role, she transitioned into a Career Pathways Supervisor position for Districts 188 and 189 in East St. Louis. Jazlyn coordinates college and career readiness engagement activities for the school district. She works eagerly, cultivating employer partnerships and aligning each partnership with the Career and Technical Education pathway programs. She assists students with job opportunities, internships, and entry-level employment placement to provide alternatives to pursuing higher education. Jazlyn sits on several community boards, including the R3 Construction and Illinois Coalition for Community Service Board. Jazlyn remains passionate about serving students, creating opportunities for students to succeed, and connecting with community partners to offer students options for career, success, and growth.

Dr. Sarah Stashkiw’s role as the Director for P-20 Educational Partnerships at the College of Lake County allows her to follow her passion of increasing students’ access to higher education and closing opportunity gaps to ensure equitable outcomes for all students. Her main responsibilities include supporting the college’s dual credit, transitional, and college readiness programming. She also currently serves as President for the Illinois Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (ILACEP). Before transitioning to higher education, Sarah worked as a middle school Spanish teacher. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell College, her Master of Education in Teaching and Learning from DePaul University, and her Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership through the University of Southern California.

Robin Steans is President of Advance Illinois, an independent policy and advocacy organization working toward a healthy public education system that enables all students to achieve success in college, career, and civic life. She is also the Board Chair of the Steans Family Foundation, where she helps guide education and community development grantmaking in the North Lawndale community. A former public school teacher who taught at public high schools in Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago before going on to earn her law degree. Robin is also a longtime public school parent who served on Local School Councils as both a community and parent representative. She helped found and currently serves as a Director of North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School and has volunteered in schools in the North Lawndale community and North Chicago for nearly 30 years. Robin graduated from Brown University, received her master’s degree in education from Stanford University, and attended law school at the University of Chicago.

As the Executive Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, Sydney Stigge-Kaufman coordinates public relations, policy, grant writing, and partnerships for East St. Louis School District 189. She has more than 17 years of experience advancing efforts in community non-profits, higher education and K-12 public education environments and has been engaged with the Illinois Education and Career Success Network for 10 years. Sydney works as part of the school district and East Side Aligned community teams building systems of college and career pathways while advancing youth voice. Sydney holds bachelor’s degrees in both English and religion from Bethel College, Kansas, and a master’s degree in social work from Florida State University.

Julia Strehlow, a licensed clinical social worker, is the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Lead at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). As part of ISBE’s Safe and Healthy Climate and Learning Renewal teams, Julia supports schools and districts with social-emotional learning and trauma-responsive practices. She has worked with many Illinois and Chicago communities since 2005, advocating for systems change, enhanced child sexual abuse prevention programming, greater access to trauma-informed care, and promotion of restorative justice. A lifelong Illinoisan, Julia is an Urbana native, has deep roots in Macoupin County, is a graduate of Knox College, and earned her MSW from the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work in 2012.

Sue J. Striedl is a Project Manager for Learning Services for Naperville District 203. Sue has facilitated the curriculum development process in a number of areas, including literacy curriculum, social-emotional learning, academically talented/gifted services, and the school counseling curriculum. She works closely with building and district administrators, school counselors, teachers, and the Naperville community to expand opportunities for students to explore different career pathways and earn diploma endorsements and was integral in executing a career exploration event for all 8th grade students within the district. Her passion is to provide all students with opportunities to reach their potential and achieve postsecondary success.

Nancy Sutton holds a Doctor of Education in Community College Leadership from Ferris State University, Michigan. She joined Parkland College 16 years ago as an associate professor of fine and applied arts and has subsequently held the positions of department chair followed by dean of the Arts and Sciences division. Sutton is now the Vice President for Academic Services.

Jessica Torbeck has worked in the field of education for the past 18 years. A majority of this time was spent serving students as a school psychologist. Currently, she is a curriculum coach for Vandalia CUSD #203. In this role, Jessica has enjoyed assisting with implementing career pathways at the high school level along with curriculum support for K-12.

David A. Williams is the Program Manager for The Fellowship Initiative-Chicago with Youth Guidance. He is a native of Freeport, Illinois, and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hampton University and master’s degree in public administration from National Louis University. He is an alum of Public Allies and the Young Non-Profit Professionals Network of Chicago. David is also a former youth pastor and BAM counselor. David is passionate about uplifting youth and supporting young men of color in achieving greater economic mobility through education and the expansion of their worldview. David and his wife, India, are the proud parents of five amazing and enterprising children.

Latisha Williams is the Assistant Dean of Early College & Matriculation at Harold Washington College. She is a self-starter and innovative Higher Educational professional with extensive experience working with diverse populations including first generation college students, students of color and students with disabilities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and a Master of Science in Higher Education from Purdue University Global.