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 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 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 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, 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 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.