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Full-Time Team

All
Programs Manager

Karen Cho

Co-Founder & CEO

Dan Gonzalez

Director of Programs

Ben Laptad

Chief Strategy Officer

Ashley Mannka

Partnerships Manager

Danielle Mayber

Programs Manager

Virginia Pitler

Director of Partnerships

Laura Quarin

Programs Manager

Karen Cho

Karen graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chinese. Driven by a passion for science education, she spent 3 years at Research Triangle High School teaching STEM curriculum focused on inquiry-based learning within a flipped classroom model. In addition to teaching science courses at the school, Karen also coached a yearlong District C elective course in which she implemented 6 Teamship cycles.

Co-Founder & CEO

Dan Gonzalez

Dan studied engineering at Dartmouth College before becoming a high school physics teacher. After teaching, Dan joined Manhattan Prep, a global leader in test preparation. He became president of the company in 2011 shortly after it was acquired by Kaplan. Over the next 4+ years, Dan led the company as its 185-member team achieved over 50% revenue growth and market leadership as the world’s largest GMAT test prep provider. After Manhattan Prep, Dan joined Kaplan Test Prep’s leadership team where he oversaw an operations division that worked to deliver education services at scale.

Director of Programs

Ben Laptad

Ben graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Capella University with a Masters in Instructional Design. He taught science for 6 years through Teach For America and a STEM charter school. Ben then managed a professional development program that trained over 2,000 faculty members from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country, helping them create engaging online learning experiences. He currently serves on the TFA Twin Cities Prism board, which aims to cultivate safe, joyful spaces for LGBTQ+ students.

Chief Strategy Officer

Ashley Mannka

Ashley grew up in Florida and holds an undergraduate degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in education from Northeastern University. In 2019, she completed an onsite certificate program for women in leadership at Yale University. Ashley spent almost 5 years at Kaplan Test Prep, where she played a pivotal role in strategic marketing efforts. Her journey led her to ACT, where she assumed the role of product manager for a diverse portfolio that included workforce development, social and emotional learning, and test preparation. Ashley took the opportunity to lead ACT’s strategic marketing team and spearheaded initiatives that not only showcased the value of ACT’s offerings, but also underscored the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Partnerships Manager

Danielle Mayber

Danielle studied Communication & PR at North Carolina State University. For 2 years, she led Business Development for Raleigh Founded, a coworking space and entrepreneurial hub, where she grew the member community while working closely with the NC State Entrepreneurship department to bring job and internship opportunities to students. She also worked with high schoolers across the country to help them hone their strengths through purpose-driven projects and stand out to their dream colleges. Even before joining the team, her passion for supporting students led her to become a District C Coach! On the side, Danielle conducts strengths assessments for talent selection and team development, driven by her belief that everyone has a unique set of gifts and strengths that can be used to make an impact.

Programs Manager

Virginia Pitler

Virginia grew up in a small coastal town in Connecticut and moved to North Carolina for her undergraduate studies at Wake Forest University. After graduating college with a degree in education, Virginia moved to rural Thailand, where she taught elementary English and math. Virginia later returned to the U.S. and worked as a teacher outside of Washington, DC and then moved to Charleston, SC where she held roles as a classroom teacher and instructional coach. After 6 years of teaching, Virginia served as an international program coordinator for Broadreach Adventures. In addition to organizing specialized programs for U.S.-based schools, she was responsible for developing many of Broadreach’s summer experiential learning programs held in international locations. Virginia had the opportunity to lead several of Broadreach’s high school and college-level programs and continues to be passionate about providing all students with the opportunity to engage in authentic learning experiences.

Director of Partnerships

Laura Quarin

Born and raised in Canada, Laura has a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology and History, a post-graduate Diploma in Education, and a Master’s Degree in Athletic Administration. After graduating from Brock University, she spent a year in Australia, which launched a decade-long career abroad in the Republic of Panama and Cairo, Egypt where she worked in international schools as a middle and high school athletic director. When Laura returned to North America, she served as a high school principal for an equity based non-profit organization in British Columbia that connected community involvement with academic success for historically marginalized populations. Before District C, Laura served as an instructional guide and program facilitator at Tahoe Expedition Academy, a progressive PK-12 school in California rooted in experiential learning. During this time, Laura also served as a curriculum designer for Curvd Learning, a non-profit that centers equitable access to impactful learning experiences.

Meet More of Our Team

Experienced coaches who run District C’s Coaching Institute.

Experienced coaches and professionals who work on a part-time basis to support our programs.

District C’s formal governing body.

An advisory board that helps us connect with and recruit business partners that supply real problems for student work.

Lead Coaches & Programs Specialists

Lead Coach

Danielle DiCiaccio

Programs Specialist

Joanna Martinez

Programs Specialist

Kim Nelson

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Kayla Ritter Rickels

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

LaVett Saddler

Lead Coach

Jonathan Schneider

Programs Specialist

Kaite Sollenberger

Programs Specialist

Amy Stevens

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Lauren Wingard

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Scott Miller

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Briana O’Melvany

Programs Specialist

Eugene Kim

Lead Coach

Danielle DiCiaccio

Coming soon!

Programs Specialist

Joanna Martinez

Joanna Martinez has held various professional positions, including being a tutor, a teaching assistant, an SAT prep and professional licensing instructor, and a student mentor. She is currently working as an instructional designer and working on a graduate certificate in instructional design. Joanna originally joined District C in August of 2020 through a unique partnership which focused on professional skills development and career exploration.

Programs Specialist

Kim Nelson

Coming soon!

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Kayla Ritter Rickels

Kayla Ritter Rickels has dedicated her career to the creation of enabling conditions for equity in exploration, access, and attainment of a postsecondary credential. She held several professional positions that have allowed her to drive impact and system change within the education field. She has been a certified District C coach since spring 2023 and holds her doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Kentucky University, an M.S. in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati, and a B.A. in Mathematics from Thomas More College.

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

LaVett Saddler

LaVett Saddler is the founder of True Purpose Family Outreach (TPFO), a faith-based nonprofit organization serving youth and families primarily in the areas of mentoring, coaching, and educational training. She has a diverse teaching, administration, and coaching background, including working in public and private schools, serving as a consultant for local nonprofits and, of course, working with District C! LaVett has Masters degrees in Public Administration and Education and is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Education from Regent University. She has been a certified District C coach since 2022.

Lead Coach

Jonathan Schneider

Jonathan Schneider is the Head of Product at Silverquicken Education, building enrichment programs for students in middle grades. He also serves as a facilitator for McKinsey Academy and has been leading District C coaching institutes since becoming a District C certified coach in early 2021.

Programs Specialist

Kaite Sollenberger

Katie Sollenberger graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. and an M.Ed. in Elementary Education. She taught third grade for three years before transitioning to work focused on content & curriculum development. Katie has been a District C certified coach since 2020.

Programs Specialist

Amy Stevens

Amy Stevens graduated from Warner University with a B.A. in History and Political Science and a minor in Communications. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership at Radford University. Amy has been a Social Studies teacher for 21 years; 19 in high school and 2 in middle school, where she has also held various leadership positions outside of the classroom. She has been a District C certified coach since early 2022.

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Lauren Wingard

Lauren Wingard has worked in leadership development and coaching at a North Carolina-based tech company for over a decade. She is passionate about working with students to help them see the best in themselves and challenge them to dream big for the future. Lauren has been a District C certified coach since September 2022 and was selected to train as a lead coach in 2023.

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Scott Miller

Scott Miller has served as a teacher, trainer, and coach in a wide range of professional roles. He has trained and supervised volunteers at a wildlife sanctuary, helped students earn top scores on the Law School Admission Test, and facilitated workshops for leaders at Fortune 500 companies. Scott holds an Associate Certified Coach credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and runs an executive and leadership coaching business. He has been a District C Certified Coach since Fall of 2023.

Lead Coach & Programs Specialist

Briana O’Melvany

Briana Packen O’Melveny (Bree) Graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelors In Journalism and Communication. She then trained and continues to work as a professional actress and movement coach, teaching alignment and effective physical communication to actors in New York City for over a decade. In addition to giving her own talks on Finding Self Confidence through Presence, Briana is the head trainer and on-camera presence coach at BetterOn.com helping leaders find their voice to be more effective communicators as their most authentic selves. She is thrilled to continue building confidence in others, now as a District-C Programs Specialist! She and her family live and love in New York City.

Programs Specialist

Eugene Kim

Eugene graduated from Duke University after majoring in Biology and minoring in Computer Science. He began his career as an Associate Project Manager at Endpoint Clinical for 1.5 years and eventually joined District C as a Programs Specialist in December 2023 to fulfill his passion for teaching and innovative businesses. Additionally, he is pursuing content creation focused on reviewing consumer products and supporting the homeless community.

Board of Directors

Jess Ekstrom

Founder & Chairwoman

Headbands of Hope

Rey Fernandez

Assistant Head of School

Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School

Dan Gonzalez (ex officio)

Co-Founder & CEO

District C

Anne Jones

Co-Founder

District C

Venus Liles

Founder & Managing Attorney

Liles Law

Jessica Mitsch Homes

Co-Founder & CEO

Momentum

Danya Perry

Director of Equitable Economic Development

Wake County Economic Development

Jessica Shyu

Director, Sales Enablement

Datadog

Partnerships Board

Holly Garner

Vice President, New Channels & Head of Workforce

Junior Achievement USA

Maari Casey

Founder

Uncompany

Cris Charbonneau

Enterprise Leadership Communications

Fidelity Investments

JP Maloney

Program Generalist

Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED)

Leon Chisolm

Co-Founder/CEO

Chisolm Capital/Chisolm Communities

Potoula Chresomales

SVP of Product Management

Skillsoft

Chris Deshazor

Director, Talent & Org Development

Harness

Valencia Hicks-Harris

Founder & Executive Director

Empower All, Inc.

Haley Huie

Director

NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic

Cornelius Kirk

Author & Podcast Host

You Matter LLC / Bro Code

Chris Lassiter

Enterprise Account Manager

insightsoftware

Chi Nwogu

Founder & CEO

GameFlo

Shraddha Rathod

Co-Founder & CEO

Freshspire

Mel Wright

Owner

The Wright Village

Nathan Frank

Director, Machine Learning Operations & Platform

Grainger

Parker Mayes

CEO

Inbound Revenue

TJ Harris

Process Engineering Manager, Lead Product Engineer

Bridgestone Americas

Windy Kohl

Strategic Advisor

Phrasia

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