Faculty and Staff

David Bencivenga, M.Ed.

Director of Teaching & Learning and Lead STEM Instructor

David Bencivenga is a passionate, social justice driven and equity-focused educator.  David comes to Ryan Banks Academy with over 12 years of experience in Chicago as a classroom teacher, diverse learners teacher, International Baccalaureate teacher, and mentor teacher. David has a passion for meeting the needs of the whole child and has extensive experience implementing socio-emotional learning and trauma informed education in high pressure, high needs and historically disenfranchised areas of Chicago. David is also a strong advocate for science education and has served as lead STEM Fair Coordinator for over 5 years.
David was a member of the esteemed MSI Ecosystem 2019/2020 Cohort, Golden Apple’s 2014 professional development and inquiry science institute class and currently in the second year of the University of Illinois – Champaign Urbana – Education, Policy, Organization and Leadership Master’s Program.

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Wanda Dean, MA MS


Wanda Dean is the Math Teacher at Ryan Banks Academy.  She holds a Master’s degree in both Mathematics and Secondary Education with a concentration in Mathematics, and recently worked at Chicago State University designing individualized programs to guide students preparing for standardized testing, with an emphasis on long-term and critical thinking skills. Wanda was born and raised in Chicago, spending most of her life residing on the Southeast side of Chicago. Wanda chose to teach Mathematics to fulfill a passion and finds it both challenging and rewarding. Outside of teaching, Wanda's favorite hobbies are baking cakes and pastries, and cooking ethnic cuisine.


Dr. Raheem Young


Dr. Raheem Young teaches Science, Social Studies, and Entrepreneurship at RBA. Additionally, he is an Adjunct Professor in the colleges of Health Administration and Community and Public Health at Governors State University. He co-founded the nonprofit organization Welcome to Fatherhood to help men cope with the pressures and stresses of fatherhood, relationships, and everyday life. He has a doctorate in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and an MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Administration. Dr. Young is an
Albert Schweitzer Fellow for Life and has worked with many community-based organizations to help improve the quality of life for men, women, and children.


Karen Swaback, MBA

Director of Operations

Karen has 30 years of experience in operations, with experience in safety, quality, document control, and continuous improvement. Throughout her career, she has streamlined processes to eliminate non-value added steps and loves the challenge of trying to do more with less.  She graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, with a BS in Engineering, and followed up with an MBA from University of Chicago in Economics and International Management.  As a former foster parent and homeless shelter volunteer, she believes in how small actions and constant support can add up over the years to a big impact for a person.  When not running, Karen enjoys spending time in Chicago, attending cultural, sporting, or musical events with her husband Ray.


Michael Wren

Director of Development

Passionate about social justice, education, and creativity, Michael has experience in every aspect of institutional fundraising at organizations large and small. Michael received his B.A. in Sociology from Colorado College and began his career in the non-profit sector as a social worker in Chicago. He began his career as a development professional in 2009. in 2012, he completed Loyola University’s Non-Profit Management and Philanthropy Graduate Certificate Program, and a fellowship with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Before coming to RBA, Michael managed development operations for the next ten years for various arts education organizations and cultural institutions. Additionally, Michael is the co-owner/founder of 51st Ward Books, a book retailer focusing on a curated collection of books for children and youth, prioritizing multicultural community-building, anti-racist action, social justice, as well as prioritizing access to Spanish and bilingual books.


Adrienne Leonard

Marketing and Advocacy Leader

Adrienne brings extensive knowledge of Chicago’s diverse communities and a deep, long-standing commitment to strengthening urban community life to her role as Community Relations Coordinator for the Renaissance School Funds (RSF) and founding member and Coordinator of Parents for School Choice (PFSC).


Ms Leonard brings her special touch to partnership building with policymakers, elected officials, educators, faith- based organizations, the private sector stakeholders, community-based actors, and parents through the following: recruitment and training activities; innovation and execution of community awareness events; forums and fundraising programs.  


Board of Directors


Ann Zeiler

Board Chair

Senior Vice President of Global Fund Services, Northern Trust


David Anderson, JD, MA


Founder and CEO at Great Lakes Regional Center, LLC


Anthony R. McCree, CPA


Managing Partner and CEO at GJC (George Johnson & Company)


Virginia Devlin


CEO at Current Global


Anuradha Chandwani, MBA

Board Member

Product Management at Grainger


Gemara Williams

Board Member

Client Engagement Manager at RL Canning


Dr. Clarence Nixon

Board Member

Founder and CEO at Technology Laboratory and Professional Development Center (t.Lab) 


Stephanie Donovan, JD

Board Member, General Counsel

General Counsel at American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)


Leon Mckenzie Jr., MBA

Board Member

Vice President, Institutional Trust and Investment Management Sales at Comerica Bank

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Megan Wessels

Board Member

Founder and CEO at Powerful Partners Inc.


Ryan Lazarus

Board member

Co-Founder at Windo Global Partners, Co-Founder at Valqari


Richie Marrero

Board Member

Expert, Employer Sponsored Healthcare Strategist at 360 Benefits LLC


Erik Anderson

Board Member

Founder and CEO of Premiere Digital Services


Tiffany Sanders Sostrin, JD

Board Member

Director of Legislative and Community Affairs at Chicago Park District

Associate Board


Drew Williamson

Associate Board President

Director at Publicis Groupe


Jack McNamara

Head of Strategy Committee

Manager, Strategy & Corporate Development at Adtalem Global Education


Aidan Veseling

Head of Fundraising Committee

Founder at HowzBout Inc.


Juyeon Ha

Associate Board Member

Sr. Financial/BI Analyst, Technology Finance at Northern Trust Corporation


Miguel Aguilar

Associate Board Member

Associate at Kaltroco

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Erin Pallotta

Associate Board Member

Senior Manager at Current Global


Tayler Jennings

Associate Board Member

Recruiter at Morgan Stanley

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Sofia Sarmiento

Associate Board Member

Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG)


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Valerie Groth 

Founder, Executive Advisor

Head of Partnerships at Stella


Jeff Garlin

Executive Advisor



Zeb McLaurin

Executive Advisor

Chief Executive Officer at McLaurin Development Partners


Lynne Sorkin, AIA, LEED AP

Executive Advisor

Principal at FGM Architects


Tobi Goldfeder, LCSW

Clinical Advisor

Founder and Director of Good Moorow LLC


Jon Schickedanz

Technical Advisor

Principal and Executive Producer at The Alliance Labs


Tim McCormick, MBA, M.Div

Executive Advisor

Chief Executive Officer of SOS Children's Villages Illinois


Bryan Samuels, MPP

Executive Advisor

Executive Director of Chapin Hill