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DC School Reform Now is educating, organizing and advocating to build support for public education strategies that prepare kids to become college and career ready.

Young Professionals Committee

The Young Professionals Committee (YPC) supports DCSRN by serving as ambassadors to the community and thought-partners to the organization, enabling DCSRN to meet its goal of helping families navigate the school application process through the High Quality Schools Campaign (HQSC). 

Dakarai Aarons

Dakarai Aarons is the director of strategic communications for the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a national nonprofit organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, parents and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students achieve their best. He leads DQC’s efforts to advance the organization’s goals through evidence-based internal and external communications strategies that increase the organization’s impact on the field. Before joining DQC in 2013, Dakarai was director of education outreach and policy for CommunicationWorks, a leading national education public affairs firm, where he led award-winning messaging, media outreach and interactive projects for national and regional education organizations. An award-winning former journalist, Dakarai worked as a staff writer for Education Week and The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee. His work has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Des Moines Register and The Dallas Morning News, among other publications. Dakarai is a board member of the Education Writers Association, a member of the National Press Club and a former committee chairman of the National Association of Black Journalists. He also serves on the City of Hyattsville’s Education Advisory Committee. A native of Washington, DC, Dakarai earned a degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he serves on the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ professional advisory board.

Kaisha Baker

Kaisha is the recruitment associate at KIPP DC, a network of open-enrollment, college preparatory public charter schools in Washington, DC. Prior to this position, Kaisha was a community organizing fellow at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) where she worked to organize parents, students, teachers and community members around issues such as ending the school to prison pipeline in Washington, DC. Kaisha started her career in education as a Teach For America corps member in Houston, Texas. She taught sixth and eighth grade reading, created the reading intervention curriculum for her school, was name Teacher of the Year, and held the roles of Data Analysis Specialist and Grade Level Chair. Kaisha’s passion for what she calls the "tough customers" led her to found a program at her school called the Boy’s Collaborative. This program focused on providing character building, community service and mentorship opportunities to students who were struggling to meet the behavioral and/or academic expectations at school. Kaisha was recognized by the Department of Education for her commitment to closing the achievement gap and serving under-resourced communities as part of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Kaisha joins DCSRN's Young Professionals Committee excited about the opportunity to work alongside passionate individuals to support students and families in Washington, DC. 

Catharine Bellinger

Catharine serves as founding Director of the Washington, DC, branch of Democrats for Education Reform. Prior to joining DFER, Catharine co-founded and led Students for Education Reform (SFER), a grassroots movement of college students fighting for educational justice in their communities. As co-founder of SFER, she was named a Draper Richards Kaplan Fellow, one of TIME Magazine's “12 Education Leaders for 2012" and one of the "Forbes 30 Under 30" in the education sector in 2013 and 2014. She has volunteered with KIPP DC: AIM Academy as a teaching assistant, and in 2008 she taught ninth grade algebra in Fort Worth, Texas, with Breakthrough Collaborative. Catharine graduated from high school in Washington, DC, and attended Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Her commitment to pursuing a career in public service was shaped by her parents and grandparents, who have a long history of government and military service.

Kellie Burns

Kellie Burns, originally from New Jersey, has made the Mid-Atlantic her home now for over ten years. After graduating from Loyola University Maryland, where she studied biochemistry and fell deeply in love with all things social justice, she decided to pursue a career in public health. After several years supporting a behavioral research group at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, she became an early Program Manager for Health Leads, a rapidly growing social enterprise that aims to address all patients’ basic resource needs as a standard part of quality healthcare. During her time with Health Leads Kellie recruited, trained and managed hundreds of undergraduate volunteers and supported the organization in program model development, curriculum writing and grant compliance. Kellie currently serves as a Senior Associate at The Advisory Board Company, where she helps hospitals and health systems to make better use of their data for performance improvement. A resident of the vibrant Station North Arts and Entertainment District in Baltimore City, Kellie also serves on the board of her community association and is leading a project to revitalize vacant lots. Above all else, Kellie is passionate about innovation and she hopes to support DCSRN as they continue to innovate on behalf of students everywhere.

Sarah Hillware

Sarah Hillware is a social entrepreneur, marketing and communications strategist. She has spent her career helping organizations execute both short-term and long-term growth and engagement strategies. She has an academic background in international development, global health and entrepreneurship and has held positions in media, technology and philanthropy. She currently works as a consultant, crafting marketing and communications campaigns, as well as consumer and stakeholder engagement strategies.In 2012, Sarah founded Girls Health Ed, a nonprofit health education program for girls and young women ages 8-17. The organization has since hired employees to manage day-to-day operations, but Sarah continues to advise the organization on strategic initiatives. Sarah has appeared on NBC Washington, in the Washington Examiner, the Washington Post, as well as multiple blogs and magazines and has presented at TEDxBerkeley as well as at the United Nations through TEDxUNPlaza. In her spare time, she is a contributor for the Huffington Post

Taryn Hochleitner

Taryn Hochleitner is a senior associate for policy and advocacy at Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a national nonprofit organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, parents and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students achieve their best. Taryn supports DQC’s work to help state policymakers understand their ongoing role in creating conditions that ensure student data is safeguarded and used in service of student learning, especially as schools and teachers are using data in new ways to personalize instruction. She also focuses on understanding the landscape and role of policy in empowering teachers to use data in the classroom and empowering families with information they need to be partners in their children’s education. Before joining DQC in 2014, Taryn was a research associate for Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank. There she helped write and disseminate policy analysis and recommendations on a number of issues such as digital learning, empowering parents, and teacher quality. Originally from Pennsylvania, Taryn has been a proud DC resident for nearly 10 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from American University and is an alumna of the Washington, DC chapter of the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship Program. 

Katherine Solomon

Katherine is a management consultant analyst for Accenture who specializes in communication and change management. She serves on Accenture’s K-12 Education Core Team, which provides comprehensive technology and consulting solutions that support schools and districts in improving student achievement. The team’s mission is to ensure that every student has the choice of moving on to secondary education opportunities and/or sustainable employment options after graduation. After graduating from Virginia Tech, Katherine was selected as a corps member for Teach for America in Memphis, Tennessee, where she taught high school English. There, she developed and implemented a system overhaul for her school network that elevated school performance to the top five percent in Tennessee. She was named Teacher of the Year after her first year in the classroom, and in her second year was nominated for Teach for America’s national Sue Lehmann award. Katherine is a dedicated advocate for education reform in DC, volunteering with both KIPP DC College Preparatory and McKinley Technology Education Campus, and serving on Teach for America DC’s Young Alumni Board. She is thrilled to join the DCSRN YPC and support the life-changing work DCSRN does to ensure that the children and families of DC can make an informed decisions about their education.

Paul Staats

Paul Staats is an education communications consultant who specializes in strategic planning, market research and analysis, message development and project management for Reingold, a social marketing firm in Alexandria, Virginia. At Reingold, Paul serves as the primary project manager and strategist for the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century Consortium, where he oversees the implementation of its communications plan, materials development and outreach. Paul also serves as a project coordinator and strategist for the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in School Program. Prior to his work at Reingold, Paul served as a communications, development and data manager at Two Rivers Public Charter School, a project-based learning school in Washington, DC. Paul is a dedicated advocate for education reform and equity for children in DC, having spent time as an afterschool tutor and guitar instructor for urban youth, and a grassroots organizer for Friends of Choice in Urban Schools to raise awareness about high quality charter schools in the city. Paul is currently a member of the Young Education Professionals DC Chapter and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Originally from New Jersey, he earned his degree from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he studied English and Marketing. Paul is a proud DC resident, active musician, bike enthusiast and is excited to support DCSRN by serving on its first Young Professionals Committee.


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