Movers & Makers asked organizations who provide mentoring and educational support to children and youth to introduce their notables to our readers, part of a regular feature highlighting people making a difference in Greater Cincinnati’s nonprofit community.
Bill Bresser began as a tutor; now he’s Boys & Girls Clubs’ CEO
Bill Bresser is the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati. Twenty years ago, he started as a part-time volunteer tutor and has since served BGCGC in nearly every role. Bresser led BGCGC through the creation of the Graduate, Fit for Life, and Ready to Serve program, which has become a national model. In his five years as CEO, he led a campaign to found the Jeff Wyler Club and has increased the BGCGC operating budget by $1 million annually. During COVID, Bill completely restructured BGCGC services into fully operational virtual schools and spearheaded the implementation of a mental health program. Currently, Bresser is leading BGCGC’s strategic growth plan for the next decade, focusing on youth workforce development, ensuring even more teens across the region have opportunities and skills for success after high school. In his off time, Bresser enjoys baseball, writing, collecting vinyl records and spending time with his family. Bresser says his wife is his hero and they are the proud parents of a special needs son.
Kathy Burkhardt’s wide experience feeds her educational leadership
Dr. Kathy Burkhardt has worked for 27 years in public education in Northern Kentucky as a teacher, principal, curriculum specialist and school superintendent. She is an innovative thinker and an advocate for student success, cradle to career. She has extensive knowledge in developing and implementing programs that address the needs of the whole child, adolescent or adult learner. Burkhardt has provided leadership with numerous local, regional and state educational initiatives. She has collaborated with diverse partners to empower learners of all ages. Her expertise includes communication, family and community engagement, curriculum, instruction, strategic planning, leadership, technology integration, school governance policy and operations, data analysis, and professional learning. She serves as executive director of NaviGo College and Career Prep, a division of Learning Grove. While not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family. She is a proud graduate of Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.
Kathy Wade’s Learning Through Art has helped students and families
Kathy Wade, 2023 Governor’s Award recipient in Arts Administration, CEO and co-founder of Learning Through Art Inc. is celebrating 31 years of her organization. Since 2020, Wade has expanded the programming – which has impacted over 1.1 million through working with schools and partners in Greater Cincinnati and beyond – to offer the immersive literacy model that mitigates impacts of adverse childhood experiences and supports entire families. Wade led LTA through the pandemic by broadening the program’s curriculum and pivoting to Books Alive! For Kids Virtual Adventures. Episodes were immediately made available to all pre-K to third grade CPS students and classrooms via streaming and have now served over 100,000 children. Wade executive produces and sometimes appears as a featured performer in the productions, which earned LTA three regional Emmys in 2021 and 2022. She is now organizing the return of Kids Cultures, Critters, and Crafts Festival at the Cincinnati Zoo this summer. When Wade is not working she loves to read while listening to jazz, and finds peace through
Alison Kaufman teaches young people the joys and methods of giving
Alison Kaufman is passionate about connecting young people with the social and emotional benefits of service learning. This drives her as Magnified Giving’s director of programs. Her tenacity in establishing strong partnerships with schools and nonprofits will result in 5,000 youths in 130 Youth Philanthropy Programs developing as leaders and philanthropists throughout the area. Kaufman trains educators and staff who facilitate Magnified Giving programs in fifth to 12th grades, after-school clubs and youth programs. They integrate philanthropy education into everything from math or English to Key Club and National Honor Society. Young people learn the foundations of philanthropy, research and advocacy for social causes, and select a local nonprofit to receive a $1,000 Magnified Giving grant. When she’s not working, Kaufman loves cooking for family and friends. She says, “Sharing a good meal with good conversation, music and lots of laughter brings me great joy.” She has four children, including a set of triplets.
Jennifer Blatz runs StriveTogether and runs in marathons
Jennifer Blatz is the president and CEO of StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working in 70 communities across the United States to enable more than 14 million young people to succeed in school and life. Blatz is a nationally recognized leader and expert in building place-based partnerships. For two decades, she has designed, developed and implemented strategies that drive large-scale community improvement through partnership with local leaders and organizations. Blatz serves as a PolicyLink Ambassador for Health Equity, a LEAP Ambassador, a board member at Raising A Reader and a member of the Cincinnati Business Courier Leadership Trust. She was also invited to help launch the Weave Movement at the Aspen Institute. Blatz has been named a YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Rising Star and a Cincinnati Business Courier Forty Under 40. She is an avid runner and often enjoys participating in local marathons.
Melissa Hall Sommer works to strengthen families
Melissa Hall Sommer has been a champion for education throughout her over 25-year tenure at Brighton Center. She has led in home visitation and early childhood education, ensuring our youngest learners enter kindergarten ready. After-school programming for youth ensures middle and high school youth have the support and skills to be successful. Sommer has worked diligently to ensure families have support, including housing and case management, so students can maintain school stability and parents have what they need to thrive. Brighton Center offers work-based learning opportunities for students and support to in-school and out-of-school youth through workforce development programs. Sommer and Brighton Center provide community-wide leadership to support children and their families. Sommer believes that for children to be strong, families need to be strong, and when families are strong, communities thrive.
Carrie Bunger’s asks the questions that improve help for children
Dr. Carrie Bunger’s passion for helping children and families achieve more success is clear from the moment you meet her. Bunger oversees school-based programming for Beech Acres Parenting Center, which includes providing mental health and prevention services focused on leveraging strengths and delivering social emotional learning through Effective School Solutions. Her curiosity and bravery lead her to ask questions to deepen her understanding of a situation, in a tone that is non-threatening and non-judgmental. Bunger’s experience as a teacher, assistant principal and school psychologist makes her an excellent leader and change maker for K-12 students. Dr. Bunger leans on experience, research and data to create systems and solutions for the greatest impact on families in Greater Cincinnati. Bunger also enjoys spending time with her young family, including her two daughters ages 6 and 1. They just welcomed a new puppy into their home.
Sonya Fultz raises students’ access to adults who widen their world
Sonya Fultz, a lifelong educator, joined Adopt A Class Foundation as CEO in 2020 and emerged from the pandemic keenly focused on the vision of a Greater Cincinnati where all students have access to caring adults who expose them to a breadth of life and career experiences so they can unleash their full potential. Since her arrival, Adopt A Class has grown corporate civic partnerships by 35% to now support 3,000 volunteers in mentoring 7,500 students through project-based explorations of career and life skills. The program partners with 37 schools serving students from underserved communities. Fultz looks forward to continuing to expand programming and partnerships to ensure today’s students are tomorrow’s Greater Cincinnati leaders. Outside of work, Fultz enjoys time with her husband, Walt, and visiting their three grown children. Fultz travels to Guatemala regularly, volunteering with sustainable community-led development projects in the rural Highlands.
Latisha Owens learned young the importance of a mentor
Latisha Owens has been working with young people, from being a teacher’s assistant, to mental health specialist, to case manager, and now to owner of Guiding Light Mentoring, an organization providing mentoring, tutoring and leadership development skills. Being mentored herself through elementary school and part of high school, she recognized the benefits of a mentor. She understood approaches to take to help youth overcome their struggles; parent and school engagement, but also addressing their mental, physical and social health. In the early stage of Guiding Light Mentoring, Owens would mentor several students at a time. When not working, Owens’ favorite thing is to binge on an episode of “A Million Little Things.”
Vir Seth uses game of squash to motivate student excellence
Vir Seth helped launch Cincinnati Squash Academy in 2014 to provide consistent opportunities and long-term support to underserved youth (ages 9-25) through life-skills mentoring, academic tutoring, squash training and postsecondary services. An immigrant from India and an elite squash player, Seth is energized by making a difference and empowering CSA’s highly motivated students. Seth was part of the team that helped guide CSA’s first four high school graduates into their post-secondary pathways, and there are now 36 more students from around Cincinnati following the same path. In 2019, Seth was selected to participate in the Squash & Education Alliance Leadership Fellows program, a year-long development opportunity for ten aspiring executive directors. Seth is also a certified US Squash Level 2 Coach. When not at CSA, he loves spending time with family, reading, playing chess, and being active.
Jordan Mitchell brings a big heart to work for children without homes
Jordan Mitchell, UpSpring’s newest program director, is an emerging young professional with a big heart for helping K-12 children experiencing homelessness, by providing both traditional and non-traditional educational enrichment. Mitchell joined UpSpring a year and a half ago as a program manager. He facilitated UpSpring After School programs at several sites. He was also site director for UpSpring’s Cincinnati Summer 360 program, where he led staff, interns, and junior camp counselors in a six-week program to help students retain academic skills and build social and emotional skills. As program director, Jordan oversees two program managers and four programs. He brings such a positive, caring and enthusiastic energy to all his work that he is celebrated by the children served, their parents and the staff. In his free time, Jordan enjoys traveling and watching sports and air crash investigation shows.
Erica Ninneman boosts adults’ ability to return to education
Erica Ninneman, chief education officer at Community Matters, has been working for more than a decade to strengthen the opportunities available for adults in our region to re-engage with education. Under her leadership, enrollment across the organization’s adult education programming — English language instruction, high school equivalency preparation, and college and career readiness support — has grown to include nearly 600 students this year. Ninneman has also been committed to ensuring that enrolled students reflect the diversity of our community, which includes adult learners from 49 countries of origin and 57 unique communities throughout Greater Cincinnati. Ninneman truly believes that education is an essential part of building a thriving and more just community. Ninneman enjoys spending quality time with her family (especially her niece and nephew), completing puzzles, exploring local breweries and playing volleyball.
Kevin Corey helps others overcome problems he faced growing up
Kevin Corey was appointed executive director of the Wesley Chapel Mission Center in 2020 and has worked to inspire greatness in the next generation. His religious faith and compassion to help and mentor is a calling. He has served in the nonprofit arena for over 10 years after retiring from law enforcement. He served for over 22 years with the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Police Department. Corey founded and led the Indiana School Resource Officers Association and served as its first president in 2011. In Cincinnati, he has served at his church and on the City of Fairfield Income Tax Review Committee. He was recently appointed to the city’s Civil Service Commission. Corey grew up in Fort Wayne, where he overcame the poverty and violence that plagued his neighborhood. That influenced his decision to inspire youths who experienced the same social deprivation. In his free time, Corey can be found on movie dates with his wife, Nicole.