Executive Director / Founder. Shana first became involved with Chicago's refugee community in 1991 as a volunteer tutor in preparation for her work with displaced young people in war-torn Africa. After several years developing accelerated academic curricula and vocational training for Angola’s war orphans and researching the demobilization and reintegration of former child soldiers in places like Mozambique and Eritrea, Shana returned to her work with refugees here in the U.S. As director of Heartland Alliance’s refugee & immigrant community services and later as director of Chicago Public School’s international newcomer center, she focused on improving systems and empowering refugee youth and families in ways that could benefit all. Recognizing a systemic disconnect between American public school culture and refugee families, and a growing need to engage newcomer adolescents in a meaningful way, Shana launched REACH. As an avid hiker, cyclist, paddler, and lifelong learner, Shana aspires to share her love for the human and non-human elements of the life-world with REACH participants.
Board Vice President. Kristen has been a licensed social worker for 20+ years. She is also a Professor at UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, specializing in the integration of refugee youth in high schools. Kristen is the former Director of Horizons Clinic-World Relief-Chicago, which provided mental health services to refugee families in Albany Park. She currently serves as the Executive Director of PACTT Learning Center.
Board Secretary. Steve, a professional actor and former Artistic Director of Shattered Globe-Chicago, is currently an American Blues Theater-Chicago ensemble member. Steve recently worked on Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning SWEAT, on both Broadway and its National Tour. He also works on TV and film. In addition to serving on the Board, Steve is an active REACH volunteer.
Board Treasurer. Stephanie is a mom who, with Shana, founded and coordinated a Refugee Welcome Project at Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park, raising money and awareness among the school community to address issues facing new refugee families in Chicago. She and her son first joined REACH as volunteers. She is now thrilled to be serving as a board member.
Board Member. Curt has a background in education, having taught at the secondary level for 19 years and having served as principal for five of those years. More recently he has worked in refugee resettlement, teaching ESL and conducting various vocational training courses. In retirement, Curt remains engaged in refugee issues.