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      Operations and Program Leadership Team

Dr. Keisha Farmer-Smith
Interim Executive Director

Kay Berkson
Founder/Outreach Programs Support

Nicole Cotto
Coordinator of Foundation Relations and Grants

Michael Driscoll
Manager of After-School and Community Outreach Programs

Indira Freitas Johnson
Peace and Arts Consultant

Myra Harden
Coordinator of Office Operations

Karen Shifflett
Manager of Program Evaluation and Documentation

Umeki Ramsey
Manager of Office and Program Operations

Arif Smith
Manager of Program Implementation

Joanne Vena
Program Director

Program Team

With an average of over 28 years of experience, program team members are veteran educators, artist and literacy leaders with a successful track record of working in public school or community-based settings. This diverse team has worked in various capacities to mobilize the arts as a social change strategy and improve student learning through teacher and student development programs and curricula that places students at the center of the educational experience. 

 Teaching Artists

 Literacy Specialists

 Yaasha Abraham   Quraysh Ali-Lansana
 Kiana Cook  Edie McLoud Armstrong
 Luis Crespo  Bria Dolnick 
 Anya Davidson  Karen Doria
 Luis DeLaTorre  Cynthium Johnson-Woodfolk
 William Eller    Gale Liebman
 Risha Hill  Susanna (Sooz) Main
 Daniel Hoinacki  Jennifer Moran
 Susanna Hostetter  Molly Moynahan
 Nick Jackson  Avery R. Young
 Cynthium Johnson-Woodfolk
 Susanna (Sooz) Main
 SaLesha Mason
 Kinga McCraven
 Sadira Muhammad 
 Jenkin Ng
 Maya Odim
 Jean Parisi
 Amaniyea Payne
 Michelle Penn
 Patricia Peixoto
 Arif Smith
 Diana Solis
 Billy Stevens
 Tone Stockenstrom
 D'nick Stockman
 Jamie Thome
 Kamaya Thompson
 Dionne (DW) Walker
 Kawana Williams
 John Wilson
 Kelsey Wright
 Avery R. Young
Nicole CottoCoordinator of Foundation Relations and Grants
Nicole began her work with the Changing Worlds family as volunteer for a year. During that time, she volunteered in various aspects of the organization, including programming, evaluation, and development. As the grant writer for the organization, she leverages her storytelling to gather support for the educational arts tied to oral history and peacemaking. Nicole is a Chicago native with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Loyola University Chicago.

Michael DriscollManager of After-School and Community Outreach Programs
 Michael is an arts administrator, teaching artist and director. Prior to joining Changing Worlds, he served as the Director of Education at Bailiwick Chicago, founding the company’s education department. Michael spent five years as the Education Associate at American Theater Company, managing ATC’s in-school and after-school residency programs. Michael has taught with The Stage School, StageCoach Theatre Arts School, Northlight Theatre, American Theater Company, Bailiwick Chicago, The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, and the Center for Community Arts Partnership.  He is also a freelance director and has worked with Strawdog Theatre, Bailiwick Chicago, Step Up Productions, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, About Face Theatre, Writers' Theatre, American Theater Company, Porchlight Music Theatre, Prologue Theatre, Mode Ensemble, and Three Cat Productions.  Michael is a graduate of Illinois State University where he studied theatre education and directing. He is also a graduate of the Teaching Artist Development Studio at Columbia College Chicago, a professional development program designed to refine the skills of the teaching artist.

Indira Freitas Johnson, Integration and Arts and Peace Consultant
Ms. Johnson is an award winning artist and the founder of the Shanti Foundation for Peace, which she established in 1993 in response to the rise of ethnic violence the world over. Johnson based Shanti's vision on her own artistic experience, namely that the skills necessary to, and gained through, art-making are inseparable from the skills needed for problem-solving and peace-making. Since the merger of Shanti with Changing Worlds, Johnson has served as an arts and peace consultant to Changing Worlds. Johnson's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented in numerous private and public collections including the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. She has been the recipient of many grants and awards, including the prestigious Governor's Award for the Arts. In recent years, Johnson has been involved in many innovative community art projects and exhibits which have provided an opportunity for various marginalized groups to become civically engaged. In addition, Johnson is a founding board member of Marketplace; Handwork of India and serves as an advisory board member of Women Made Gallery.

Myra Harden, Coordinator of Office Operations and Program Support

Umeki RamseyManager of Office and Program Operations

Karen ShifflettManager of Program Evaluation and Documentation 
Karen brings over a decade of experiences in education. Her professional experience includes serving as a principal, curriculum specialist, dean of students, and classroom teacher. She has also served as an Adjunct Professional at Harold Washington College and VanderCook College of Music. Karen holds a bachelors degree in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign and a masters' degree in International Relations from American University in Washington, D.C. Karen holds a Type 75 Illinois Administrative Certificate and is currently completing a doctorate degree in Urban Education Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Arif SmithManager of Program Implementation

Joanne VenaProgram Director
Joanne Vena has been active in the Chicago not-for-profit community and the Chicago Public Schools for over twenty years. Prior to joining Changing Worlds in 2013, she was the Director of School Partnerships at the Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) at Columbia College Chicago and expanded the reach of the center to over 25 Chicago Public Schools. In her current position, she facilitates in-school partnerships in Chicago and Evanston to deliver arts-integrated programming in classrooms to support students’ learning in arts and writing, strengthening their cultural awareness and supporting their social/emotional development. Joanne specializes in supporting organizations to improve their program delivery through staff and teaching artist training, strategic planning for new program development and personal coaching. Joanne currently serves on the Ingenuity Partnership and Professional Learning Advisory Committee.

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