Commit! Backbone Staff

Marie Appel
Marie AppelSenior Analytics Associate
When I attended university as a first generation college student and public school graduate, I became all too familiar with the education disparity in this country. I know how barriers like poverty, location, race, etc. can impact education attainment and, ultimately, a person’s life. To me, it is an absolutely injustice to let this inequality continue in our nation.
Sagar Desai
Sagar DesaiChief Operating Officer
For me, a quality education has opened a world of opportunities. It is the singular leverage point that guarantees citizens an equal opportunity to succeed. Only when all children have access to a quality education will the community move forward.
Jonathan Feinstein
Jonathan FeinsteinDirector of Community Engagement
I am the son of first-generation college graduates, both children of immigrants. My teachers and, later, my students made me who I am. Seeing is believing: quality education can transform the life of a child, a family, a neighborhood and even a nation.
Carissa Grisham
Carissa GrishamStrategy & Analytics Senior Associate
A high school counselor in rural Missouri all but forced my father to fill out a college application. Because of this, I know that quality education and passionate educators have the power to lift families out of poverty for generations. I work so that this opportunity will be available to all of our students.
Ron Hadley
Ron HadleyChief External Officer
After 20 years in youth development non-profits, I have seen not only the great needs within our communities, but have also seen our greatest opportunities and hopes. It is education more than anything else that empowers young lives, and therefore our communities, to reach their utmost potential. It is our collective role to provide the resources and to direct our support where needed most to give all of our kids the tools to succeed at life.
Charlie Hatcher
Charlie HatcherManager of Strategic Philanthropy
Every child should have access to a high quality education that will allow for them to reach their American Dream. Sadly for many students, their zip code has more of a factor on their academic achievement than their work ethic, determination, and character. I work so that every student can reach their goals.
Eileen Hoedebeck
Eileen HoedebeckStrategy and Analytics
An excellent education unlocks opportunities across a lifetime. All members of our community deserve to build their life on the foundation of a strong education. I continually see how my educational pathway defines my future, and it is my goal that our city, state, and nation have equitable educational systems that empower every child to build this foundation.
Chris Hudgens
Chris HudgensRegional Analytics Manager
We have a responsibility to provide all our children with a high quality education, but we too often fall short by letting the circumstances of a child’s birth determine his or her life outcomes. I’m encouraged to see the work our community is doing to transform how we educate our children and I’m grateful to be able to help them in these efforts.
Chelsea Jeffery
Chelsea JefferySenior Associate of Early Childhood
Opportunity in our society begins with a quality education. We are not simply ends in ourselves, so we all have an obligation to ensure that every child has a chance to receive that education. We are parts of a larger whole that we cannot ignore.
Sarah Jensen
Sarah JensenDirector of College Access and Success
Education empowers. I’m dedicated to supporting education systems that allow college to be an option for all students. As an admissions counselor, I met students with extraordinary potential that didn’t see themselves as college material. I’m now proud to play a small part in a larger journey by supporting the advisors, mentors, and parents who support our students.
Ashwina Kirpalani
Ashwina KirpalaniDirector of Analytics
I am an ardent believer of the role of equity and high expectations in education. My hope is that our community continues to work together to provide every child exposure to positive experiences and people that stretch them academically, help them grow as individuals, and provide support when needed.
Kelly Kovacic
Kelly KovacicDirector of Regional Educator Initiatives
It is important to understand how teachers and school systems can best guide their students, especially those from underrepresented communities, to reach the ambitious goals of being college, career, and life ready. By empowering students, parents, teachers, and community stakeholders, we can move away from “silver bullet” solutions toward a vital reimagining of complex systems. Only then can we create truly equitable and sustainable learning environments to achieve educational excellence.
Kimberly Manns
Kimberly MannsDirector of Early Childhood
Education is critical to successfully navigate the world around us and to discover one’s own voice. For me, the ability to read provided an avenue to learn about my passions and ultimately the confidence to pursue them. I believe every child deserves this same opportunity to dream big and to discover her own unique path.
Libby McCabe
Libby McCabeDirector of Advocacy and Governance
Every child deserves the opportunity to dream and achieve a meaningful and purposeful life. A solid education is critical to realizing one’s potential. Far too many are deprived of this opportunity. By aligning as a community and using data, we can support our schools and communities to give every child the opportunity to achieve their dreams.
Kathryn Mikeska
Kathryn MikeskaMarketing & Communications Associate
The neighborhood in which you are born shouldn’t determine the future of your educational opportunities. Every single child deserves an equal chance of receiving an exceptional education regardless of the zip code he or she lives in. I am dedicated to using my passion for education to raise awareness around educational inequities and improve access for students in our community.
Erik Moss
Erik MossStrategic Philanthropy Associate
A quality education forms part of the larger social contract between the government and its people. It is our moral obligation as citizens to demand that it be fulfilled for the sake of our city, state, and nation and to advocate on behalf of those whose voices cannot yet be heard.
Robert Mundinger
Robert MundingerAnalytics & Data Strategy Manager
Every child is born without a past to be held responsible for, so why shouldn’t each be given an equal chance for a great future? We may lay blame for failure of outcomes only when the opportunity to succeed has been given. I work to make sure each child has that chance.
Meredith Reid
Meredith ReidEarly Childhood Associate
All children deserve a safe and healthy home, a high-quality education, and a community that engages them. Educational experiences should positively shape children’s lives, yet there are factors adversely influencing so many of our children’s outcomes today. I believe by working together we can alleviate obstacles and create better systems to ensure every child has the tools to succeed in school and life.
Jennifer Richardson
Jennifer RichardsonAdministrative Assistant
My passion for learning comes from my mother, who served as a Head Start teacher and later as a high school computer technology teacher. I have volunteered with local non-profits mentoring teenage children and created a community advocacy program called S.A.F.E. Haven to help communities assist sexual assault victims. I attempt daily to find ways to give back to others and to improve as a person.
Rob Shearer
Rob ShearerDirector of Communications & Marketing
Mrs. Sasse, Mr. Caulk, Mrs. MacDaniel, Mr. Gorlick, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Bain. These are just a few of the excellent teachers who instilled in me a lifelong love of learning and shaped me in ways that still impact my life today. Every child deserves excellent teachers, and yet far too many children rarely get that opportunity. I believe we have a moral obligation to solve the achievement gap that exists in our schools that disproportionately impacts kids based on their race and their household income.
Taylor Toynes
Taylor ToynesCommunity Impact Associate
I am a proud native of Oak Cliff and have dedicated myself to liberating the minds of the children of my community. As the son of two educators that instilled the importance of education on me at an early age, I feel it is my duty to teach our future. A wise man once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Wendy Uptain
Wendy UptainAdvocacy Manager
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.” As the first college graduate of my family, I know that education has the power to unlock human potential. With that knowledge, I work everyday to pay it forward.
Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt
Jeanne Whitman BobbittCommunity Support
It is important that Dallas be a city that is lively, livable, and a major force in the nation and the world. We must also have an educated citizenry that participates intelligently and effectively in a nationally fraught democracy; because children look to us with hope, anticipation, and even, still, some cautious joy – so to fail them is morally wrong.
Todd Williams
Todd WilliamsExecutive Director
A quality public education and 100% college financial aid completely changed my path in life. I passionately believe that every child is our child, and that each can similarly use education to do anything they want in life if we collectively commit to working differently than we have in the past to ensure that goal.

Fellows and Interns

Skylar Evans
Skylar EvansPostsecondary Fellow
University of Southern California
Undergraduate class of 2014
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Azhalia Leal
Azhalia LealIntern
Southern Methodist University
Undergraduate class of 2020
Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico
Zak Ostertag
Zak OstertagStrategy & Analytics Fellow
Harvard Kennedy School
Master’s class of 2016
Pepperdine University
Undergraduate class of 2011
Hometown: Meadow Vista, CA
Andree Reid
Andree ReidIntern
Paul Quinn College
Undergraduate class of 2018
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Michael Wood
Michael WoodPolicy Fellow
University of Texas at Dallas
Master’s class of 2018
Texas Christian University
Undergraduate class of 2016
Hometown: Arlington, TX