WHO WE ARE 2021-09-29T16:15:31+00:00

Who We Are

The Learning Agenda Team

Our national team of consultants are experts in summer and expanded learning and innovative school and program design. We collectively hold extensive experience in: nonprofit leadership and philanthropy, youth program and system development, research and evaluation, and adult learning and group facilitation.

All of our results-focused team members are thoughtful and organized, collaborative, and genuinely interested in expanding the impact of the field. In addition to team members listed here, we regularly partner with other leading minds in education, youth development, and research on our projects. We carefully assess the requirements of each project and provide you with the ideal team to achieve your goals.

Monica Armendariz helps youth serving non-profit organizations and schools build their capacity to reach their full potential and amplify their impact in the world. She has over 15 years of experience working in and with youth development programs and initiatives, with specialties in program design, facilitation and training, strategy development, and quality improvement. During the span of her career, she worked inside of and alongside organizations in out of school time, workforce, youth health, and dual generation learning. Most recently, Monica has been helping organizations and professionals intentionally develop, center and practice diversity, equity and inclusion values and approaches in their work.

Monica has been extensively involved in the out of school time ecosystem at the local, statewide and national level. She served as the Program Director and Director of Education for a community based afterschool program in Austin, TX called Heart House, developing nationally-recognized program models and curricula and training systems for the organization that were influential in partner organizations’ program design. She was a Technical Assistance Consultant for Texas 21st CCLC programs in both rural and urban areas across the state, where she supported programs in enhancing program quality and pollinating best practices across grantees. She also served as a leader in the development of the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST)’s  Texas Standards of High-Quality Afterschool, Summer, and Expanded Learning Programs and for the Central Texas Afterschool Network (now Learn All of the Time), coordinating major professional development and advocacy events to support OST professionals and advance the field in Central Texas. Later in her career, she joined EngenderHealth U.S. office where she helped manage and formalize Re:MIX, an innovative sex positive and inclusive sexual health program funded through the Office of Adolescent Health, implemented in partnership with Austin charter schools, several local health organizations, and a national evaluation team. Over the course of her career, she has trained or coached hundreds of youth development professionals and co-authored numerous curriculum and implementation materials on various topics in youth programs and non-profit leadership.

During her personal time, Monica enjoys playing with her dog, road trips, at home karaoke with her partner (until in-person karaoke is safe again!), and listening to comedy and true crime podcasts. One of her most favorite things is riding rollercoasters at theme parks across America.

Great things happen when people come together, face-to-face, to solve a problem and learn from one another. As a consultant for The Learning Agenda, Ryan brings a passion for making connections rooted in the belief that together, we can make a difference in the lives of youth and their families. Ryan brings more than 10 years of experience in the nonprofit field convening networks for peer learning, professional development, and advocacy.  Her background in marketing and event management brings an attention to detail and participant experience to her project management work. Ryan leverages her experience to promote adult learning and engagement and youth voice within communities of practice.

Prior to working with The Learning Agenda, Ryan worked with the National Summer Learning Association, most recently serving as the Director of Events where she convened youth advocates from across the country for formal and informal learning opportunities.

Ryan resides in Baltimore, MD with her husband and two daughters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from George Mason University.

Amanda Lin Boyd is resolute in her pursuit for being a lifelong learner. The broad scope of her career includes, but is certainly not limited to, being an early childhood educator, theatre artist, social justice advocate, being a community leader and served in roles in executive leadership. For the past decade, Amanda has given her talents to the corporate world, spearheading projects that facilitated growth, equity and agency to individuals and the company at large.

Amanda is currently enrolled in Kent State University working towards a Masters of Public Administration. She resides in Parma, Ohio where she serves on the Board of Building Appeals as well as the Executive Cuyahoga County Central Committee for her ward. During her personal time Amanda enjoys macrame, pressed flower art, travel, hiking, kayaking and spending time with her husband and her min pin named Crouton.

Since 1995, BiNi Coleman has achieved extraordinary results in helping non-profits, for-profits, and systems agencies reach their goals. She is an expert in collaborative program and systems design to meet identified need and produce positive measurable outcomes at the individual, program, and systems levels. For their contributions to campus improvement, BiNi’s educational projects have been recognized and documented in research studies by reputable educational agencies such as SEDL, Stanford University, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). BiNi co-founded the St. Johns Community School Alliance in Austin, Texas, which won the “100 Best Communities” award (2007-12) by Colin and Alma Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance, and assisted with interventions that helped save three public schools from closure and move six schools from Academically Unacceptable to Acceptable state ratings.

BiNi developed systems and processes for coordination of partnerships bringing over $50 million in added value to Austin ISD, and she provided technical assistance for over $80 million in federal grant projects for the Texas Education Agency. She facilitated the Central Texas Ready By 21 Coalition, which brought together various youth-development-focused agencies and coalitions in the Austin/Travis County area, and hosted the Forum for Youth Investment’s 2017 Ready by 21 National Meeting in Austin, which highlighted Central Texas achievements to over 500 city, county, state and school district leaders from across the U.S.

Coleman is an alumnus of the University of Texas (UT) Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics program and has held trusted positions on several boards of directors. She earned a B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Texas at Austin, MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a Certification in Non-Profit Development from the Rice University Glasscock School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. She serves as a mentor to groups such as the UT RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, UT McComb’s School of Business, Leadership Austin, and local youth-serving non-profits, and is now a happy wife and mother living in amazement of her beautiful 5-year-old daughter.

Recent recognitions of Coleman’s work in the community include the 2019 Achievements in Black Austin Award, 2018 Distinguished Changemaker Award, and the 2017 Legacy Award for out-of-school time champions in Central Texas.

Dr. Barbara Crock serves as the lead facilitator for the Barr Foundation’s School Leaders and Wider Learning Ecosystem communities, as well as technical assistance provider and coach to the Portrait of a Graduate community. As a Senior Advisor to The Learning Agenda, Barbara brings deep experience in public education, urban school reform, and high school redesign. She builds sustainable leadership development systems with large urban school districts through the development and delivery of coaching and professional development training programs and actively coaches principal supervisors and executive leadership coaches.

Barbara previously worked within Chicago Public Schools, Boston Public Schools, San Francisco Unified and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as a secondary mathematics teacher, instructional coach, school administrator for PK-12, founding principal of a 6-12 public charter school, and central office administrator. Through her experience in high school redesign, she has led the transformation of technical curriculum to college preparatory pathways and programs; brokered central office services in providing incubation efforts for new high school start-ups; and led the community development, engagement and partnership work for the founding and redesign of secondary schools.  She partners with districts nation-wide to develop leaders, lead learning, and deepen school transformation.

Barbara is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Urban Superintendents Program. She lives with her partner in Kalamazoo, MI, but is most often found working, biking, watching livestock shows and scuba diving in places around the nation and world.

Xochitl Garcia is an experienced educator committed to working with schools and nonprofits to create more equitable learning environments for young people. She brings over 14 years of experience as an educator, curriculum developer, professional development leader, and program manager. Xochitl is the K-12 education program manager at Science Friday, where she focuses on supporting educators (of all types) as they engage students in science, engineering, math, and the arts. She collaborates with educators to develop new science experiments based on current research, leads STEM professional development, and designs programming to increase justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work in STEM. Xochitl is also an advisory board member for the Center for Antiracist Education, a project of STAND for Children and an education consultant working with districts nationally on educator and leader professional development.

Xochitl was the Manager of Instruction and School Design at Springpoint: Partners in School Design, where she worked nationally to both design and redesign high school models with a focus on equitable design grounded in student and community voices. She was a teacher for seven years in the South Bronx in New York City, where she led work in both Special Education and STEM. Xochitl began her career working with GEAR-UP Project Higher Learning in LAUSD to develop peer mentoring programs to increase support and access to post-secondary opportunities.

Xochitl holds a BA in politics from Occidental College, an MA in leadership and special education from City College of New York, and was a Lehman College Teacher Education for Advanced Science Preparation in Biology Fellow.

Allison has over 20 years of experience in public policy analysis and research administration.  Her 23-year career with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) begin in 1998 as a graduate intern in the Office of Policy and Research.  After receiving her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Baltimore, she was hired by MDOT SHA to work as a project manager in the Research Division.  From 2005 – 2021 she managed a federally funded research program, facilitated relationships with several universities including establishing research agreements and internship programs, and managed MDOT SHA’s participation in national research activities.  Allison has served on several national committees and technical advisory panels including four for the Transportation Research Board, part of the National Academy of Sciences.   From 2013 – 2021 Allison also served as the Deputy Director of Policy and Research, where she was exposed to policy analysis and development at the state and federal level.

Allison completed her undergraduate studies at West Virginia University and received a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Baltimore.  A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in Millersville, Maryland, with her husband and son.

It is said that our lives can be measured by what we have done to touch the lives of others. Marina Hopkins has been dedicated to education and outreach for 16+ years and brings her dynamic expertise as a strategic collaborator alongside her strengths of compassion and discipline. Her most recent experience as a Director of Operations at StrivePartnership/KnowledgeWorks Foundation utilized her gifts in thoughtful intervention to focus the company’s impact, better define company-wide goals and aid in budget management. This initiative has given her outstanding skills and experience to identify critical community needs, secure resources and implement programs and partnerships to address the community challenges. Marina’s many strengths stem from a purposeful approach to strategic thinking combined with strong relationship building and compassion. She inspires others with responsible, motivated and informed leadership. She excels at program development and effective direction due to her relational focus alongside an outward-facing love of community. As a strong collaborative executive, her capabilities span from project management to executive functions, a strong commitment to excellence and a lifelong dedication to strengthening communities through education. As a collaborative leader, she is effective in facilitating and aligning groups to achieve maximum impact and implementation for educational proficiency and equity. She is able to bring out the best in others who strive to emulate her values, fairness, problem-solving skills, and impact. She stands as a strong connector and team builder among her peers in community outreach and beyond. Marina enjoys being a mother of two adult daughters and getting to know her new sons-in-law. She loves traveling and beautiful beaches. She resides in Cincinnati, OH and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from San Diego State University.

Dawn provides accounting and bookkeeping services to The Learning Agenda, and supports organizational operations. Dawn founded Accurate Accounting & Bookkeeping Services in 2002, and currently works with several clients in support of their business success.  Prior to founding AABS, Dawn worked for several years in a mid-sized accounting firm in Manchester, NH.

Dawn now resides in Las Vegas, NV, working virtually with the team from The Learning Agenda.  Dawn earned her BS in Accounting from Southern New Hampshire University.

Sarah Lohnes is a former nonprofit CEO who is passionate about telling memorable stories that generate support for important causes. As a freelance writer, editor, and consultant for nonprofits and foundations, Sarah takes a journalistic approach to help her clients get to the root of why their work matters and how to communicate that purpose effectively. Whether for fundraising, stakeholder engagement or field building, she translates research and data into impactful tools and content across multiple media. Previously, Sarah held progressive leadership roles in a 10-year career at the National Summer Learning Association, culminating as its chief executive officer from 2013 to 2016.

Sarah is a leading national expert on summer learning, authoring numerous white papers and practitioner guides, making regular presentations to state policymaking bodies, and overseeing implementation of multiple state and federal initiatives. She has served as an expert source for NPR, Education Week, Essence Magazine, and the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets. Sarah is co-editor and co-author of the research anthology, The Summer Slide: What We Know and Can Do About Summer Learning Loss (Teachers College Press, 2016).

Desiree Morales is committed to building equity in access to opportunity for young people. She brings 14 years of experience as an educator, professional development leader, and district- and community level systems builder. At Austin ISD’s ACE Austin Desiree supervised multiple 21st Century Community Learning Center grants across twenty Title I schools, where she worked with district leadership to develop new ways of using data to tell a holistic story of student success. Desiree successfully built a multi-year plan to shift the regional approach to summer learning, which included working with area funders, creating demonstration sites, and putting on a conference on summer learning strategies for Out-of-School Time (OST) educators in Central Texas. Currently, she oversees Student INC, a K-12 entrepreneurial pathway piloted by Austin ISD in a community of South Austin schools. Desiree recently participated in a year-long Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness initiative, where she developed new skills and deepened her commitment to transforming education spaces into culturally-responsive learning environments that help all young people thrive and grow.

While working at ACE Austin Desiree also led the Central Texas Afterschool Network (CTAN) through a convening of Central Texas youth service providers, funders, and public and private agencies to coordinate services to maximize resources and effectively serve at-risk young people and their families. This led to CTAN becoming Learn All The Time, the regional intermediary guiding a research-based approach to OST programs in Central Texas. Desiree also worked with the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) to gather input on best practices from Central Texas providers, which helped create the Texas Standards of High-Quality Afterschool, Summer, and Expanded Learning Programs.

Desiree earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and linguistics from Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She is the cofounder of the Cherrywood Poetry Workshop, now in its fifth year as a reading and writing meet up for established poets in Austin, Texas. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals in print and online.

As The Learning Agenda’s Managing Partner, Hillary Oravec brings over 15 years experience leading projects for foundation, school district, independent school, and nonprofit partners in the areas of program strategy and development, strategic and sustainability planning, professional learning and network management, and research and evaluation. Hillary leads the Barr Foundation’s communities of practice focused on developing new and equitable high school models and technical assistance for The Wallace Foundation’s social emotional learning and summer initiatives. She managed the development of The Wallace Foundation’s Summer Planning Toolkit website, which features a comprehensive set of evidence-based resources to plan and implement a large-scale summer program. She previously led strategic planning projects for the Birmingham Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) and Central Texas Summer STEM Investment Hub funding collaboratives, setting the vision and goals for their governance, program and assessment strategy, and strategic growth.

Hillary previously directed the National Summer Learning Association’s strategic initiatives, research and evaluation, and community system-building initiative portfolios. During her tenure, she led high school program design-focused projects for the MacArthur Foundation, and with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the transition between middle school and high school to improve graduation rates. Earlier in her career, Hillary managed school accreditation and institutional research projects for Johns Hopkins University, and school, community, and university partnerships and initiatives for the P-12 Project at The Ohio State University.

Hillary received a master’s degree in educational policy and leadership from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and sociology from Kent State University and participated in international study programs in Yunnan Province, China, and the University of Leicester in England.

Jason D. Perry serves as a senior consultant and facilitator for The Learning Agenda’s projects with the Barr Foundation high school redesign communities of practice and State of Texas’ Additional Days of School Year summer learning community. Jason’s background is in social and administrative communications. He uses communication in all its forms as a springboard for organizational change management. With thirteen years of experience in non-profit marketing and communications, student and family stability, and program planning and development, Jason designs unique approaches to help organizations and individuals achieve more optimal outcomes.

As a Certified DISC and Values Communications Coach, Jason leverages his subject expertise in strategic planning, executive coaching, team development, workshop design and facilitation, and language design to aid multi-sector leaders in developing high-performing teams and maintaining positive work cultures. Before consulting, he served as a youth services program planner, non-profit communications coordinator, family support coordinator for ten interconnected out-of-school-time programs and served as the director of operations and strategic partnerships for an education advocacy organization. Jason has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s degree in leadership and organizational change from Pfeiffer University.

Jason’s everyday mission is to positively impact individuals and organizations who simply want to do well.

Michele Phillips serves as a senior advisor for the Learning Agenda’s Portrait of a Graduate learning community with the Barr Foundation bringing over 17 years of experience in public, urban education. Michele has partnered with the Barr Foundation and Springpoint: Partners in School Design to provide guidance for school leaders in improving student outcomes by using data to create strategic plans for student programming and innovative school design.   Through her collaboration with Springpoint, the Barr Foundation and the Urban Assembly network of schools in New York City, Michele has collaborated with dozens of schools nationally to incorporate creative programming solutions, operationalize strategic feedback, and provide ongoing technical support for schools enacting school design and re-design efforts.  Her ongoing mission is to support schools in providing all students with equitable access to a relevant and rigorous curriculum through engaging and rich learning experiences anchored in strong, sustainable school design.

Michele also serves as the current Data Specialist & Program Design consultant for the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice and the Urban Assembly (UA) Bronx Academy of Letters.  Prior to consulting, she was an Assistant Principal and full-time Data Specialist overseeing accountability and compliance at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice where she began her career as a Spanish teacher in 2002. An alumna of Middlebury College in Vermont, Michele graduated with her B.A. in Spanish and Sociology and her M.A. in Spanish Language & Literature and later, received her licensure in School Administration and Supervision at Massachusetts College for Liberal Arts.  Michele currently resides in her hometown of Sturbridge, MA with her three sons and her husband, Kadion.

Matthew Pilarski is an experienced educator most recently working with Connecticut RISE as the Director of Network Success, where he oversaw the school-facing teams responsible for providing high quality professional development, raising student outcomes in all network schools, and using data to drive decision making. Prior to RISE, Matthew was a Senior Director at Springpoint: Partners in School Design, where he worked nationally to both design and redesign high schools models with a focus on equity-based principles, student-centered design, and instructional leadership. Matthew also worked at TNTP as a Partner on TNTP’s Client Team heading up the SanFranciscoPLUS program which focused on helping school leaders develop and retain irreplaceable teachers, strengthen a school’s instructional culture, and understand how to use data to improve student outcomes. Matthew began his career working for two of the largest urban districts in the country as an Instructional Support Leader with Chicago Public Schools on Chicago’s South Side and as both a teacher and a school leader for eleven years in the South Bronx in New York City, overseeing a high school where over 90 percent of students qualified for free and reduced-price lunch.

Matthew holds a BA in English from the University of Michigan, an MA in Secondary English Education from NYU, and an ME Save d in School Leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Emily Samose is dedicated to building programs and partnerships that cultivate a community’s education ecosystem. With 20+ years of experience advancing community-driven education initiatives to achieve real impact, Emily works to connect the key constituents needed to drive ideas into action. In her recent consulting practice, her projects have included leading a strategic planning process for a parent engagement organization, facilitating community input gathering to establish common agendas achieving collective impact for children, youth and families, and developing content for national convenings of educators, practitioners and philanthropists.

Previously, Emily was the director of education and learning initiatives for the Urban Libraries Council, (ULC) a membership association of North America’s leading public library systems. In this role, she led a partnership with the National Summer Learning Association that identified the critical roles that public libraries play in addressing summer learning loss by increasing access to critical programming and resources. This initiative resulted in several field publications that supported more libraries in their transition from traditional summer reading to more intentional summer learning. These resources led to one public library securing a $1 million donation when they were able to illustrate that they were aligned with national trends. Prior to joining ULC, Emily served as a consultant for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, spent seven years with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and over ten years at the intersection of national service and education in California, developing and executing service-learning programs for universities and afterschool programs. Emily holds a master’s degree in education from San Francisco State University and is a graduate of the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship Program.

With the addition of Liz Scott, The Learning Agenda has broadened our offerings into a deeper visual world. Liz’s diverse background gives her an innate focus on consumer-driven work and passion for design that radiates through every project. Her 20+ year career has spanned everything from positions as a Marketing Director for a top gallery in the US to the Creative Director at a renowned design studio, to owning her own award-winning retail storefront. While entrepreneurship has kept her occupied for many years, Liz has never failed to give generously of her time and talents to area and national nonprofits and is excited to build on those missions here at TLA. Liz knows the value of community and can instantly visualize how good design can impact every person. She is committed to making this world a better and kinder place – in any and every way possible.

While Liz started out studying photojournalism at Ohio University, she honed her eye through a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University’s highly-competitive Visual Communication Design program. From this strong foundation, she has been able to travel the world and work with clients from Cleveland to Los Angeles, throughout Europe, India, and Singapore. A resident of Bath, Ohio she and her husband are often found cooking elaborate meals, planning post-pandemic adventures, and remodeling their mid-century cottage in the woods.

Chris Sweeney is a business and community leader with over thirty years’ experience with firms ranging from IBM and Oracle to smaller, entrepreneurial companies and a nonprofit agency called 3 Rivers Connect. He’s an evangelist for regional collaboration and creative uses of information and technology to drive innovation. His consulting practice is focused on advancing educational innovation in K-12 as well as nonprofit/civic sector transformation initiatives through work with leadership teams in articulating their vision and translating it into an actionable plan that can be successfully implemented.

Chris currently leads the Pittsburgh Personalized Learning Network (PLPGH), a network of 25+ school districts in SWPA to build awareness and accelerate the implementation of personalized learning strategies in the region. He formerly served as the President and COO of OnHand Schools, a mission-driven education services company that developed EdInsight, a student performance suite used by over 150 districts in Pennsylvania. Prior to his role at OHS, Chris was CEO of 3 Rivers Connect (3RC). 3RC was a civic sector agency that helped non-profit organizations use innovative technology and better information to optimize the delivery of their services and improve the lives of underserved communities in southwestern PA.

A passionate youth and community advocate, Katie’s work is rooted in her personal goals to build strong communities that provide positive opportunities for all youth and families.  As a Senior Consultant for The Learning Agenda, Katie brings over 15 years experience in the nonprofit field.  Her background in out-of-school time and youth development runs a full spectrum from working in a direct service capacity to developing and managing community programs and leading organizational development. Katie leverages her experience to support clients with program development and management, meeting planning and execution, and professional development design and facilitation.

Prior to joining The Learning Agenda, Katie Willse worked with the National Summer Learning Association, most recently serving as the Chief Program Officer where she steered the organization’s core work and strategic development. In her time with NSLA, Katie also led the development of community and national system-building initiatives that supported program capacity building and scaling summer learning opportunities across communities.  In addition to summer learning, her expertise in youth programs includes mentoring, youth development and youth employment.

A resident of Austin, TX, Katie has lived in and worked with organizations in cities across the country including Baltimore, Boston, Madison (WI), Miami, New York City, and Sacramento.  Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and communications with an emphasis in rhetorical studies and interpersonal communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Learning Agenda Difference

We are true partners, taking the time to understand your organization’s unique needs.

Your mission is our mission.

We’re passionate about educating and supporting the development of under-served youth and closing the opportunity gap, and we understand the field.

It’s where we came from and what we continue to do.

We get you.

We’re up to speed quickly because we’ve worked in organizations and environments like yours. We’ve navigated the field, tackled issues like yours and we’re well-connected.

We work to help you do what you do better – with greater knowledge, capabilities and efficiency.

We’re with you all the way.

We won’t hand off strategies that you don’t have the capacity to implement.

We’re part of your team from vision through implementation –managing the initiative and collaborating with you, and building your team’s capacity and confidence throughout the process.

If you are interested in partnering with The Learning Agenda, contact Hillary Oravec at 570-847-8473 or hillary@agenda4learning.com.  We welcome opportunities to diversify our team and expand our network!

“When we started the project, I expected The Learning Agenda to bring knowledge of programs and facilitation expertise, but the full and thoughtful commitment of the team to help our client, our team, project participants and the OST field itself was outstanding. The project benefited from the deep knowledge of The Learning Agenda team about OST programming, current challenges and trends, and the network of experts/trainers brought to bear on the project.”
- Ursula Helminski, Vice President External Affairs at Afterschool Alliance