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      Operations and Program Leadership Team

Mark Rodriguez
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

Maria Miranda
Manager of Individual Giving and Communications

Jessica Mueller
Program Associate

Patti Pangborn
Manager of Office and Program Operations

Karen Shifflett
Manager of Program Evaluation and Documentation

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   Karen Jaros-Doria
 Tim Branson  Cynthium Johnson-Woodfolk
 Retricia Bryd-Townsell  Gale Liebman
 Luis Crespo  Barbara Mazur
 Anya Davidson  Jennifer Moran
 William Eller    Molly Moynahan
 Dena Giacometti  Lisa Redmond
 Ruth Guerra
 Nick Jackson
 Tonika Johnson 
 Cynthium Johnson-Woodfolk
 Jasemine Kronbeck
 Lungelo Kuzwayo 
 Yuri Lane
 Karen Light
 Susanna Main
 Amber Marsh
 SaLesha Mason
 Kinga McCraven
 Sadira Muhammad
 Jenkin Ng    
 Jean Parisi
 Wynton Shannon
 Elgin Smith
 Nikki Smith
 Diana Solis
 Billy Stevens
 Tone Stockenstrom
 D'nick Stockman
 Jenae Taylor
 Kamaya Thompson
 Nancy Vachon
 Dionne Walker
 Kinsello Warren
 Kawana Williams
 Kelsey Wright
 Avery R. Young

Mark Rodriguez, Executive Director  

As the organization’s first Executive Director, Mark Rodriguez has led Changing Worlds’ development from a small project at one school to a multi-faceted state-wide resource serving over 10,000 residents annually. Rodriguez has worked for over a decade to strengthen Chicago's nonprofits and communities in various roles such as program director, community organizer, education director, community relations manager and consultant through New Leaders for New Schools, National-Louis University, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), the University of Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago among others. 

In 2007, Rodriguez was selected as one of Chicago's "35 under 35" from the Community Renewal Society. In 2010, he was awarded an Emerging Arts Leaders of Color Fellowship through the Joyce Foundation.  Rodriguez currently serves on the board of the Crossroads Fund and is a co-founder of the Telpochcalli Community Education Project.

Mark Rodriguez graduated cum laude from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Arts in communications and holds advanced certifications in Philanthropy Management from Loyola University, Nonprofit Management and Human Resources from Roosevelt University and Adult Education and Literacy Best Practices from National-Louis University.

Michael DriscollManager of After-School and Community Outreach Programs 

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

Maria Miranda, Manager of Individual Giving and Communications
Jessica Mueller, Program Associate

Prior to coming on board at Changing Worlds Jessica was a Program Associate at Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). She managed the multiple layers of a million dollar, research based, federal grant. She developed and organized professional developments and supported partnerships for over 40 artists, arts teachers, and academic teachers, while working with principals and district officials.

Jessica was a teaching artist at Gallery 37 Center for the Arts and various Chicago Public Schools through After School Matters (ASM) and Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). Currently, Jessica is exploring the possibilities of an art based entrepreneurship through ThINKers Press where she specializes in screen printing and block printing original and custom work.

Jessica has exhibited locally and nationally, her work is a part of the permanent collection at the Library of Congress. Jessica holds a B.F.A. from the American Academy of Art and is a former member of the Blue Island Arts and Culture Committee. She also partners with Jahn Elementary School as a member of the Local School Council and Parent Advisory Council to foster community involvement and support arts in education.

Patti PangbornManager 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. 

Joanne VenaProgram Director

Joanne leads the in-school program development and supports the team of staff who coordinate the after-school and community programs.

Prior to joining Changing Worlds, Joanne Vena was the Director of School Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Community Arts Partnerships and served as a consultant for several arts and education organizations to support their artists and staff in their strategic planning for curriculum and instruction.

Joanne and her husband are experiencing the life of empty nesters while their son Daniel attends the University of Southern California. She is a gardener and a practicing artist that works at Spudnik Press of Chicago. 

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