President and CEO
Edgar Ramirez, Chief Executive Officer (he/him) joined Chicago Commons in 2010 as Associate Executive Director before being named CEO in 2013. As a community organizer in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood prior to joining Chicago Commons, Edgar led significant campaigns at Enlace Chicago and Erie Neighborhood House. He worked on issues such as leadership development, green space improvement, anti-violence campaigns, childcare income eligibility, immigration reform, and youth job development. Edgar currently serves on the boards of the Illinois Association of Community Care Homecare Providers (IACCPHP), Elevate Energy and board chair for the Latino Policy Forum. Edgar is an Employer Trustee of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois Home Care & Child Care Fund, and serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Advisory Council on Small Business, Community and Economic Development, Agriculture and Labor; Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Every Child Ready to Learn City of Chicago working group; and previously served on Mayor Lightfoot’s ad-hoc committee for reopening early education centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Edgar is a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow (2016) and a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. In 2023, Edgar was appointed to the Illinois Council on Aging by Governor Pritzker and was selected as a Titan 100 CEO. He earned a master’s degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago in Policy Analysis and Community Organizing, a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University, and in 2021 completed the Harvard Business School’s certificate in Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management.
Vice President of Finance
Angela Allen (she/her) has over 25 years of experience, focused on accounting, auditing, and financial services in the Not-For-Profit and Governmental sectors. Angela has worked with not-for-profit entities involved in education, social services, affordable housing development, new market tax credits, cultural enrichment, and religious activities. Her experience includes employment with local and national accounting firms and a global corporate financial leader. Additionally, she has performed compliance examinations and Single Audits of various Federal programs. She has extensive knowledge of accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, generally accepted government accounting standards, generally accepted auditing standards, generally accepted government auditing standards, and Single Audits in compliance with the Uniform Guidance. Angela holds a BS in Accountancy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is a licensed CPA in Illinois and a member of the AICPA and the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS).
Chief People, Culture, and Equity Officer
Dr. Erica M. Collins (she/her) joined Chicago Commons in 2021 as our Chief Human Resources Officer. In this role, she serves as a strategist, thought leader, change agent, and cultural leader to help move our strategic vision forward. Erica brings over 15 years of experience in Human Resources to our organization. Over the last 5 years, Erica has been a leader in the community health sector where she served as a member of the Senior Leadership Team responsible for leading all aspects of human resources including alignment of best practices and organizational strategy. In the past, she has also served in various human resources roles for Cook County Government and the private sector. She is certified in Change Management as well as Diversity and Inclusion. Erica earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana in Educational Policy & Organization Leadership and master's degree in Human Resources Education. Erica also holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Dillard University in New Orleans.
Chief of Staff
Nyla Diab (she/her) joined Chicago Commons in 2020 with 15 years of experience in project management, nonprofit community development, and supporting and leading transformational projects. In her current role, Nyla leads the organization’s growth efforts to deepen impact, increase program and operational span, and form strategic partnerships to increase Chicago Commons’ visibility throughout Chicago. Prior to joining Chicago Commons, Nyla worked for the nonprofit Concordia Place as Director of Strategic Initiatives, where she led the launch and scale of the organization’s early childhood social enterprise, doubling the organization’s operational span. She earned her BA in political science from Loyola University and currently serves on the boards of Esperanza Health Centers and Greater Southwest Development Corporation. Nyla is a 2022 Fellow of the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago.
Vice President of Head Start
Christina Navarro (she/her/ella) joined Chicago Commons as an Administrative Assistant in 1998 and has since advanced her career in Early Education. In 2006, she served as Parent Coordinator and was promoted to Vice President of Head Start in 2022. With over 20 years of experience at Chicago Commons, Christina partnered with family and community organizations and was a key partner in implementing what is now the Family Hub. In her current role, she devises and implements program management systems in accordance with Head Start Performance Standards, as well as City, State, Federal licensing regulations, and child development policies. Christina received her B.S. in Spanish from University of Illinois, Chicago. In 2022 she received the Data Literacy Credential from the National Head Start Association.
Julio Paz, MBA
Chief External Affairs Officer
Julio Paz (he/him) joined Chicago Commons in 2018 as Chief Development Officer and works closely with the executive team in driving the organization’s strategies for fundraising, communications and marketing, and government relations. Prior to joining Chicago Commons, Julio served in leadership positions at The Resurrection Project, Mercy Housing, and Project Exploration. Julio and his teams have generated more than $41 million in philanthropic and public support to expand the missions of innovative and entrepreneurial 501(c) (3) organizations. Julio is passionate about community development, philanthropy, and partnerships as tools to achieve social justice. He is a co-founder and member of the St. Ignatius College Prep San Ignacio Society, board member of the Chicago Mariachi Project, and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He holds a BA in English from the University of Chicago and an MBA from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. Julio also is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2022) and University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy Fellow (2016).
Vice President of Family Hub
Vikki Rompala, LCSW, PhD (ABD) (she/her) joined Chicago Commons in 2020 with over 20 years of experience with community organizations providing culturally and linguistically relevant social services, health education, assessment, treatment services, and program development. Prior to joining Commons, Vikki was a researcher at Rush University Medical Center, led workforce development programming at Metropolitan Family Services including professional development of staff, the implementation of logic models, and program evaluation, and was a program evaluator for La Rabida Children’s Hospital. Vikki’s accomplishments include her work as co-chair of the Partnering with Youth and Families Committee for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, where she partnered with families and youth to elevate their voice for change at the organizational, local, state, and federal levels. She is also a Peer Reviewer for the Council of Accreditation and provides training on family systems, continuous quality improvement, and trauma-informed education and interventions. Vikki earned a master's in social work with a focus on Clinical and Community Organizing from University of Maryland. Her PhD training from University of Illinois at Chicago focused on program evaluation and public policy. Vikki’s dissertation research is on building workforce opportunities that grow skills and social capital among youth.
Vice President of Human Resources
Melinda Sabido (she/her) joined Chicago Commons in 2014 as the Senior Human Resource Manager and in 2020 was promoted to Vice President of Human Resources. Prior to joining Chicago Commons, Melinda partnered and worked in hospitality with hotel chain brands including Holiday Inn, Hilton, and Doubletree. In 2005 she had the opportunity to join a human resources team, working as an HR Generalist and later moving into the role of HR Manager. Her areas of expertise include recruiting, employee relations, staff training and development, payroll, compliance, employee benefits, and human resource information systems. Melinda received the Star of the Industry Award, Manager of the Month, and Employee of the Month awards. In 2010 she began working at LEARN Charter Schools an HR Manager and was promoted to Senior Human Resources Manager in 2013. Melinda currently holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Tourism. She completed the De Paul University Human Resources Certification Course in 2018.
Chief Early Learning Officer
Karina Slaughter (she/her) joined Chicago Commons in 2019 as the Senior Director of Programs. She was promoted to Vice President of Early Education in 2020 and then to Senior Vice President of Early Education in 2021. She now serves as Chief Early Learning Officer, acting as the principal advisor for our Early Education programs, leading strategic initiatives, and instructional strategies to ensure program growth and expansion.
Karina provides leadership and oversight across Chicago Commons’ directly operated sites and external partnerships programs, serving nearly 1,750 children and families in 18 Chicagoland neighborhoods. She works collaboratively with program leaders to develop systems for effective monitoring and support and ensures programs maintain NAEYC accreditation, ExceleRate Illinois'’ Gold Circle of Quality, and adhere to Early Head Start, Head Start, Prevention Initiative, Preschool of All, and other funder requirements. Karina began her work in early learning in 2008 as an infant teacher, after working for five years as a marketing and business management professional and has been in program administration since 2009. Karina’s experience in early childhood education traverses for-profit corporate, privately-owned community based, family childcare, and non-profit programming. Karina earned her B.S in Marketing in 2004 from Hampton University. In 2007, she earned an entrepreneurial program certificate of completion from the Joseph School of Business in Forest Park, Illinois and in 2010, she earned a Master of Science in Child Development with a specialization in Administration from Erikson Institute. Karina returned to Erikson to complete the Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows Program in 2019. Karina is a lifelong learner with a passion for leading quality educational programming in support of children, families, and staff. She is currently an active member of the Birth to Five Illinois: Region 1-B-C Action Council, the National Black Child Development Institute (NBDI) and Chief.
Dana Thomas, CPA
Chief Financial Officer
Dana Thomas, CPA, (she/her) joined Chicago Commons in 2021 as the Chief Financial Officer. In this role, she drives our financial strategy to support our growth and development opportunities. She brings a decade of executive leadership as well as over 20 years of experience in planning, budgeting, analyses, reporting, and extensive managerial experience within public accounting for profit and nonprofit industries. During her career, she guided senior management and Boards of Directors on key business decisions, policymaking, and long-term strategic development. She has also provided strategic direction on financial and technological decisions at various organizations. In addition, she has developed, recommended, and implemented innovative solutions to ensure the success of operational and financial goals. Dana holds a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Vice President of Development
Cheryl Wisniewski (she/her) has worked as a fundraising professional for nearly 20 years, with broad experience in grant writing, corporate and foundation relations, individual giving, and event planning. Prior to joining Chicago Commons in 2018, Cheryl served as Director of Development at Mujeres Latinas en Acción and started her development career at National Latino Education Institute. With her teams, Cheryl has raised over $22 million for critical community services addressing domestic violence and sexual assault, parent support, entrepreneurship, adult basic education, and workforce development. Cheryl started her nonprofit career as a scholarship counselor for the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA). She is a graduate of the Allstate Foundation's inaugural Greater Good nonprofit leaders program and the OPRF Community Foundation’s Leadership Lab. Cheryl received her BS in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a Master’s degree in Public Service Management/Nonprofit Administration from DePaul University.
Vice President of Facilities and Procurement
Eric Woods (he/him) joined Chicago Commons in 2011 and was promoted to Vice President in 2019. Eric is an accomplished executive with more than 30 years of experience in Facilities Management, Fleet Operations, and Strategic Planning. In his role, he focuses on facilities management, contracts, integrity and compliance, budget management, safety and risk management, and personnel development. He oversees the execution of maintenance policy, procedures, plans, programs, and the contracting of major construction projects while also interacting with volunteer leaders and building relationships with other like-minded industry associations. Prior to joining Chicago Commons, Woods served as procurement, facilities, and operations leader in the corporate and nonprofit sectors to include grounds maintenance, disaster preparedness, construction management, facilities maintenance engineering, safety and risk management, and energy conservation. Eric seeks to increase the connection between the facilities management profession and policy makers through education and influence. Building bridges between all stakeholders and sharing experiences are his tools; leveraging the facilities management profession is his driver.