Staff/Board

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Staff

Kendra Curry-Khanna

Kendra Curry-Khanna

Executive Director

Kendra became involved at 826CHI as a volunteer tutor immediately upon her arrival in the Windy City, and has since co-invented Chicago-specific handshakes with students. Kendra has spent more than a decade involved in educational programming at arts organizations and museums, including work in Mexico and Honduras, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and for the Chinati Foundation and Artpace in Texas. A native Mainer and honorary Texan, Kendra is also an artist who rather obsessively draws, paints, and animates clouds. She earned her BFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and her Master’s in Art Education from the University of Texas at Austin.

Stien van der Ploeg

Stien van der Ploeg

Director of Development

Wandering her new neighborhood trying to acclimate herself to Midwestern winters, Stien was drawn to a curious looking store. She stepped right into the warmth of the 826CHI volunteering adventure, which led to her eventually joining the 826CHI staff. After studying Humanities at the University of Amsterdam, Stien chose to focus her career on taking measurable steps to make a positive and meaningful impact on society. She enjoys solving puzzles, values diversity, and appreciates the unexpected. On her way to move to Chicago from the Netherlands, she had the opportunity to literally journey around the world. A recent citizen, Stien is incredibly excited to now be a voter.

Maria Villarreal

Maria Villarreal

Director of Programs

Maria Villarreal is a native of Chicago, but has lived and worked in Boston for a good chunk of time. She graduated from Boston College with a BA in English and Hispanic Studies and a minor in searching out the best burritos in Boston. After college, she entered a two-year Teaching Fellowship with Citizen Schools. She partnered with Boston Public Schools while concurrently earning her Masters in Education from Lesley University. This led her to become a Literacy Advisor with ReadBoston; coaching educators on best literacy practices and recommending awesome books to anyone she came across! Upon returning to Chicago, Maria found a home with Boundless Readers as Program Director for teacher professional development. She loves working alongside teachers, students, schools, and communities, and is thrilled to join 826CHI as the Director of Programs. Maria also loves reading, yoga, music, binge watching anything, and short walks on the beach (she would rather sit and read than walk!).

Tyler Stoltenberg

Tyler Stoltenberg

Operations Manager

Before accepting the mission to lead the Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co., Tyler spent five years in the nation’s capital working at a theatre arts education center for young people and wearing shark hoods to baseball games. Originally from the great state of Wisconsin, Tyler holds a BA in Theatre from Northwestern University and is the co-creator of the “jawsome” blog, Sharkadina. When he’s not scoping out the latest and greatest in spy gear, Tyler likes to listen to podcasts, attend Star Trek conventions, and visit Civil War battlefields.

Sarah Kokernot

Sarah Kokernot

Program Manager

Sarah Kokernot has worked as an educator for nearly a decade. Born and raised in Kentucky, she received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she wrote fiction and learned how to survive in the desert. In addition to Sin City, Sarah has resided in the Live Music Capital of the World, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and the giant wheat field that is Eastern Washington. She likes reading heavy novels that can double as doorstops and frequently uses jogging as an excuse to watch dogs play in the park.

Ola Faleti

Ola Faleti

Development Coordinator

Despite growing up in Chicago, Ola just began volunteering with 826CHI in September 2015 and fell in love with the organization shortly thereafter. Outside of work Ola writes, eats candy, and somehow convinces herself that walking everywhere is as good as a gym membership. Ola graduated from St. Olaf College with B.A.s in English and French. If you speak French and happen to meet her, feel free to strike up a convo! (Seriously...she loves/needs conversation partners)

Gaby FeBland

Gaby FeBland

Creative Coordinator

After his daughter rejected the family toy business in pursuit of a theatre career,  Nigel FeBland was amused to hear that Gaby would be peddling novelties to her local spy ring for a living. Brooklyn born and bred, Gaby was drawn to Chicago to study theatre and Spanish at Northwestern. After graduating, she wrote a play that was produced Off-Broadway and was the first American production to feature solely actors with dwarfism. She plays accordion in the folk-rock band, “Friends of the Bog” and watercolors Maya Angelou quotes onto greeting cards for Gabuelita Card Co. Gaby is thrilled to be supporting 826 in its mission to empower young voices.

Molly Sprayregen

Molly Sprayregen

Program Coordinator

Molly first came to ​826CHI as a wide-eyed programming intern in search of a way to combine her two loves: writing and education. A Chicago native, she has worked as a writer, overnight camp counselor, wilderness trip leader, and writing teacher/tutor in various capacities. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English in 2013 and is now working toward a Masters in Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing at Northwestern. She struggles to function unless she spends an hour reading each morning before starting her day, and she is best known for her ability to talk really really fast. 

Sankhya Amaravadi

Sankhya Amaravadi

Student Impact & Data Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)

Sankhya is a native Illinoisan, and recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. in Psychology and minor in Anthropology. Sankhya has a long-standing love affair with non-profit organizations as well as literary magazines. She hopes to attend medical school in the fall of 2018, but for now is more than happy with petting all the dogs and cats she sees, reading as many novels as she can get her hands on, and eagerly anticipating Halloween year-round.

Melissa Kirk

Melissa Kirk

Volunteer Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)

A lifelong Chicagoan, Melissa was always fascinated by the super-secret Spy Store, but never had an opportunity to go in until attending a Field Trip with her daughter. Melissa recently earned her MBA in Business Administration and has been Volunteer Coordinating with various organizations for more than 10 years, from Catholic schools to Roller Derby. In her spare time can be found reading in a local park, drinking coffee, baking, or volunteering with her Roller Derby team.

Jane Serenska

Jane Serenska

Communications Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)

Jane moved to Chicago in 2013 to attend DePaul University where she recently graduated with a BA in Literary Studies and Women's and Gender Studies. From picking up a chapbook at 826CHI's table at Printer's Row Lit Fest to her involvement in DePaul University's Big Shoulders Books' partnership with the organization, Jane's interest in 826's community work has been years in the making.  When she's not creating content for @826chi, she can be found organizing live lit and music events, making coffee, and calling a friend just to say hi.

David Pintor

David Pintor

Volunteer Manager

David gladly accepts MISSION VM826CHI to recruit wonderful volunteers from all over the city. David is a native of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. He has a passion for social justice, especially, programming that serves those who are marginalized in society. David studied Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton College. Some of his past missions include: educator, community organizer, performer and arts administrator. He's excited to combine his management, education and community building skills to further develop 826CHI's Volunteer Program. In his spare time David likes to take road trips and cuddle with his pups Frijol, Cacahuate and Chucho and enjoy a good plate of chilaquiles.

Waringa Hunja

Waringa Hunja

Publications Coordinator

As a little girl growing up in Maryland, Waringa always had a book in hand. From then, her interest in publishing has only grown and she is thrilled to be making books with 826CHI. Waringa is currently a senior at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she loses sleep studying writing and graphic design. When she’s not reading, Waringa is probably at the movies, trying to find Chicago’s best cheesecake, or making sure people see her doing the crossword (or else, what’s the point?).

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