Our People

Leslie Beller, Founder and CEO

Leslie BellerLeslie Beller is a long-time advocate for youth and collective impact operating as both entrepreneur and public sector administrator to create sustainable college, career and life pathways. Over the last five years, Leslie steadfastly stewarded the MHA Labs initiative from its start as a one-page rubric, through a rapid development W.K. Kellogg innovation venture, into a successful independent cradle to career skills organization with 1000’s of users. Practicing what she preaches, Leslie often uses the MHA Labs skills framework to guide her through the complexity of managing a national skills reform movement.

Prior to launching MHA Labs, Leslie was the Program Director for Youth Initiatives at the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (formerly Chicago Workforce Investment Council) where she championed citywide college and career readiness initiatives.  Before coming to The Partnership, Leslie spent two years working on diversity and equity issues at the University of Virginia to broaden her knowledge base to include college readiness and access. She is co-founder and former President of i.c.stars, a technology leadership development program that uses simulation-based education to address over 300 technical, business and leadership standards necessary to succeed in a rapidly shifting economic environment.  Before pursuing the i.c.stars entrepreneurial approach, she served as a Director at Jobs for Youth, a large-scale youth workforce development agency targeting disconnected young adults. In her spare time you will often find Leslie spending even more time with youth working on topics that inspire her including civic education, social justice, and user-centered design.

Board Members

The MHA Labs board was founded in November 2013 and will expand to represent all nine stakeholder groups in 2014-15 including youth.

Adrienne Scherenzel-Curry
Senior Director of Community Relations, Chicago Bulls


Adrienne Scherenzel-Curry oversees community relations and philanthropic outreach for the Chicago Bulls organization. She ensures the Bulls’ community partnerships focused on youth health and wellness, youth development and violence prevention are creating a sustainable impact in the Chicagoland area. Prior to joining the Bulls, Adrienne worked as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Program Officer for After School Matters (ASM), the largest after-school provider for teens in the country. Prior to ASM, Adrienne held multiple leadership positions in support of public education reform and innovation including positions at Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the nation. She graduated from Syracuse University and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Adrienne is happy to call Chicago home for more than 12 years with her husband, Roy and daughter River.

Cate Swinburn
President, YouthForce NOLA

SwinburnCate Swinburn is President of YouthForce NOLA, an education, business, and civic collaborative that prepares New Orleans public school students for successful pursuit of high-wage, high-demand career pathways, and ultimately, economic success. Cate has led YouthForce NOLA since its inception in 2015. Prior to YouthForce, Cate served as President of Educate Now!, a non-profit that played an integral role in the continued reimagining of the traditional school district. Cate has also worked as an independent consultant – supporting non-profit organizations in developing strategic initiatives. Prior to moving to New Orleans in 2012, Cate served as the Chief of Data and Accountability with DC Public Schools, President and Executive Director of the DC Public Education Fund, and Portfolio Director for The Fund for Public Schools in New York City, as well as teaching for five years in rural and urban Texas. Cate holds a Master of Public Administration from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where she was a Dean’s Scholar, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish.

Founding Contributors

MHA Labs is grateful for the passion, intelligence and commitment of our founding contributors. Without you MHA Labs would not exist. We sincerely apologize if your name is mistakenly absent. Please let us know and we will add it immediately.

Trinanein Almo, After School Matters
Jennifer Axelrod, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services
George Aye, Greater Good Studio
Sara Aye, Greater Good Studio
Natalie Bianchi, Bark Design
John Bistolfo, Bark Design
Gene Block, Chicago Public Schools
Jason Brown, Project Success
Ebony Campbell, Chicago Housing Authority
Ted Christians, Umoja Student Development Corporation
Adar Cohen, Civic Leadership Foundation
Lisa Davis, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services
Joyce Deborah-Sheppard, Umoja Student Development Corporation
Aarti Dhupelia, Chicago Public Schools
Camille Farrington, University of Chicago
Marsha Figaro, Chicago Public Schools
Wendy Fine, Youth Guidance
Nikki Hale, Coaching Leaders
Deonna Hart, Youth Development Expert
Lucas Havens, Genesys Works Twin Cities
Thomas Hobart, Chicago Public Schools
Marianna Jennings, Chicago Public Schools
Gwyn Joliff-Blake, Chicago Public Schools
Edwin Lee, Greater Good Studio
Nathan Magel, Columbia Graduate School
Amy Mart, Chicago Public Schools
Miriam Martinez, Mikva Challenge
Melinda “Bob” Maureen, Coaching Leaders
Gina McGovern, David. P Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
Tara Myers, American Institutes for Research
Jenny Nagoaka, University of Chicago
Catherine Penkert, Saint Paul Parks and Recreation
Anna Peterson, AchieveMPLS
Tania Rempert, University of Illinois
Lindsey Richland, University of Chicago
Jonathan Rosa, University of Massachusetts
Jamie Roth, SGA Youth and Family Services
Shaun Rowe, Bark Design
Eugene Robinson Jr., Chicago Public Schools
Vikki Rompala, Metropolitan Family Services
Lindrea Ross, Project Osmosis
Sarah Rudofsky, Chicago Public Schools
Michelle Russell, Montclair Public Schools
Parv Santhosh-Kumar, Office of the Mayor, City of Chicago
Ken Simon, Formerly Minneapolis Public Schools
Jon Skaggs, Bark Design
Caycee Sledge, Chicago Public Schools
Leslie Stein, Youth Guidance
Aubrie Tossman, Umoja Student Development Corporation
Bernie Trilling, Author
Karen Van Ausdal, Chicago Public Schools
Carlos Vera, Chicago Public Schools
Erin Walach, Chicago Public Schools
Steve Weaver, After School Matters
Jill Young, After School Matters

Youth Founders

MHA Labs inspiration comes from the research insights, strategies and design innovation created by our high school human achievers.

Mikva Challenge Research & Design Team

Kyle Anderson
Jazmin Bandera
Alison Bradley
Lou Engleman
Jordan Henderson
Alexandria Janopolous
Raven Lawton
Justin LeBranche
Kahil Marshall
Samantha Martinez
Alexus Murdix
Jacqueline Molina
Susie Ojeda
Isaac Spillers
Xavier Tate
Christopher Tso
Stephanie Valle

Learn more about the Mikva Challenge Design Program » Click to download Mikva Challenge Presentation

Project Osmosis Integrated Marketing Team

Michael Buggs
Deara Dickerson
Stacie Gill
Tasha Scott
Isis Villagomez
Kelli Walker

View the Team’s Be Six – Be Radical Campaign »  Click to download Project Osmosis Presentation

Founding Collective Impact City Partners

Chicago Lead Partners


Twin Cities Lead Partners

Twin City Lead Partners Logos