President and Chief Impact Officer
Sandra joined Thrive in October 2015 to lead the development and implementation of Thrive’s vision and strategy. Under her leadership, Thrive is poised to enter the next ambitious phase of its collective impact work.
Prior to joining Thrive, she worked in the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel as the Education Policy Director. Previously, Sandra served as founding Executive Director of Urban Alliance Chicago, a non-profit that provides internships, mentoring and college access support to Chicago Public Schools students. Before returning to Chicago three years ago, Sandra spent nearly a decade in federal government and politics. During the Obama administration, she served as Associate Communications Director at the White House where she oversaw press strategy on weekly domestic policy announcements. In addition, Sandra was the Press Secretary to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Communications Director for New Hampshire for President Obama’s 2008 general election, and Deputy Communications Director and Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin from 2005 to 2008.
Sandra holds a B.A. and a B.F.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law.
Chief Strategy Officer
Christina joined Thrive in October 2016 as the Chief Strategy Officer to help build Thrive’s data platform, ensure that all Change Network strategies align with the latest research and can be measured over time, and create a learning ecosystem for improved youth outcomes.
Prior to joining Thrive, she worked at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago as the Vice President of Learning and Evaluation where she engineered data-driven decision making and elevated program quality and impact across the organization. Previously, Christina was the Director of Performance Management at the Academy for Urban School Leadership where she designed strategic improvements based on program evaluation. As a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group she supported projects including a myriad of best practice implementations and custom resource creations, including data analysis and reporting software, financial modeling and brand strategies.
Christina holds a B.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
Director of Operations
Greg joined Thrive Chicago in November 2016 as the Director of Operations to lead human resources and staffing efforts, oversee budgeting and the financial position of Thrive, lead grant compliance and reporting.
Prior to joining Thrive, he spent more than seven years as an operational leader in the non-profit education sector. Most recently, Greg worked at Distinctive Schools as the Director of Operations where he managed finance, facilities, staffing/human resources, vendor relationships and new school development. He successfully served as the operational leader for the planning and opening of four new schools, and the acquisition/transition of five others. Greg received his B.B.A. in Business Management from The University of Miami, and is an alum of the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management with a Masters in Nonprofit Management.
Manager of High School Graduation Initiatives
Kate Warach comes to Thrive Chicago from Nashville, Tennessee where she earned her Masters in Public Policy from Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt she worked for the Tennessee Department of Education, the Maddox Charitable Fund and spent a summer working with the Orleans Parish School Board in New Orleans through an Education Pioneers Fellowship. Prior to graduate school she worked at the Washington International School in Washington, DC. She is excited to work with the Engaged in Academic and Enrichment Activities and the High School Graduation Change Networks.
Manager of Workforce Initiatives
Amrit Mehra joined Thrive Chicago in March 2016 after serving in the Chicago Mayor’s Office policy team, where he provided a mix of analytical and project management support on youth violence, high school transition, and performance management initiatives. Amrit came to Chicago after working nearly six years in DC in a variety of federal government and policy roles. During the Obama Administration, he served as policy advisor to the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, an independent agency focused on promoting sustainable economic development in the historically distressed region, and as special assistant to the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Before that, he was a legislative aide in the Office of Senator Barack Obama and an Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank focused on federal anti-poverty policy. Amrit received his B.A. and his Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.
Manager of College Completion Initiatives
Project Manager of 100K Opportunities Initiative
Damarr Smith joined Thrive in July 2016 with leadership experience in the nonprofit sector, crafting organizational and marketing strategy, and nine years as a freelance advertising consultant, providing musical marketing concepts for leading brands. After receiving an MBA, from Babson College in 2015, Damarr became an Education Pioneers fellow and the Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships and Engagement at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC). There he cultivated relationships with higher education institutions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations, such as Lehman College, Deloitte, and Everfi, and increased revenue, diversifying the organization’s funding streams by spearheading a crowdfunding campaign and procuring the largest grant of the year for the College Directions Program. His connection with KHCC began in 2011, when he volunteered as an SAT tutor. Soon after, Damarr left his advertising career and began leading KHCC’s youth academic component, providing volunteer procurement, college access support, and program facilitation. Also, as an artist, the Harlem native’s original songs have been featured on hit television shows, “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Affair.”
Mackenzie joined Thrive in February 2017 as the Research Associate in order to support collective action around improving youth outcomes in Chicago, work with community organizations to scale best practices, and provide a network of partners with the latest research.