Staff Supporting the Partnership

Commit Members Supporting The Partnership

Todd Williams
Andy Canales
Sagar Desai
Jonathan Feinstein
Kyle Gardner
Chelsea Jeffery
Sarah Jensen
Ashwina Kirpalani
Robert Mundinger
Gabriela Perez
Andres Ramos
Sameen Wajid
Tarik Ward
Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt


The Commit Partnership Interns

Kevin Melendez – Summer 2014
Niyat Mulugheta – Summer 2014


Todd WilliamsExecutive Director

Highly committed to public education, Todd currently serves as both the founding Executive Director of Commit!, a non-profit serving as a backbone organization supporting improving college and career readiness levels across Dallas County, as well as the Education Policy Advisor to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. He is the board chair for Austin College, one of the region’s leading liberal arts institutions located in Sherman, Texas. With his wife Abby, Todd also chairs the regional advisory board for Teach for America in Dallas/Ft. Worth and helped establish the Williams Preparatory School, a K-12 free tuition public charter school operated by Uplift Education that educates over 1,100 primarily low-income children in northwest Dallas. Todd is the former Chair of the Dallas ISD’s Citizen Budget Review Commission and the former Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees for Uplift Education, a college-prep focused public charter school management organization with almost 8,000 students. He is also a founding board member and former chairman of the Real Estate Finance and Investment Center at the University of Texas and a former chairman of the Real Estate Council of Dallas, the city’s largest real estate organization. Prior to dedicating his efforts full time on public education in Dallas, Todd served as both a partner and as global co-head of Goldman Sachs’ real estate private equity investment area, retiring in 2009 following a 20 year career with the firm in their New York, Los Angeles and Dallas offices. Total assets under management purchased by GS-managed real estate funds exceeded $100 billion in cost.

A Dallas ISD graduate from Bryan Adams High School, Todd earned an M.B.A. with distinction from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1989 and graduated with a B.A. in Economics from Austin College in Sherman, Texas in 1982.


Andy CanalesAndy CanalesDeputy Director, Early Childhood

As the son of Salvadoran immigrants and the first one in his family to graduate from college, Andy has seen the transformative power education can have on an individual, family, and community. Passionate about expanding educational equality, Andy first worked in Head Start classrooms in Los Angeles where he helped develop children’s language and literacy skills. Andy’s (elementary/middle school) teaching experience in high-need communities in L.A., Miami, and NYC reinforced his dedication to expanding access to a quality early childhood education. Recognized for his contributions to his students and the school community, Andy was nominated Rookie Teacher of the Year at his school and was a runner-up for the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award.

Seeking to expand his impact in education, Andy completed a fellowship through Education Pioneers where he led the development of the History curricula at a Houston high school. Before joining Commit!, Andy also worked as the Director of Civic Engagement at Symphonic Source where he managed and executed the company’s philanthropic initiatives, particularly in early childhood education.

Andy currently serves as Chairman of DISD’s Early Childhood Advisory Council and sits on the board of the Young Leaders in Education, an education service and advocacy organization with the SMU Simmons School of Education. Andy received his Master’s of Science in Education from Hunter College and graduated from Pepperdine University with a dual B.A. in Political Science and Religion.


SagarSagar DesaiDirector of Higher Education/Workforce

Sagar is a Houston native who, through experiences in the US and abroad, has seen the impact education can have. Before joining Commit!, Sagar worked at InsideTrack, an organization focused on improving college retention and graduation rates across universities through personalized coaching. He started as an Operations Analyst where he developed high-impact analysis, defined data management processes, and built a reporting suite for senior management. He later became a Technical Project Manager, driving the organization’s software strategy.

Beyond InsideTrack, Sagar has contributed to this work in various capacities. For two years, he mentored five Oakland students as a part of BUILD, an organization pairing underserved students with professionals to build a local business. In Chicago, he has consulted for Chicago International Charter Schools- a 16-school charter network- where he developed their 5-year technology strategy and for Chicago Public Schools, where he identified over $25mm in cost savings from its transportation operations. Sagar also serves on the Associate Board of Namaste Charter School in South Chicago.

Sagar received his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 2013 and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2006.


Jonathan FeinsteinDirector of Community Engagement

A former classroom teacher in his home state of North Carolina, Jonathan has taught in both traditional and charter school settings through Teach For America and KIPP. After leaving the classroom in 2007, he was hired by imc?, a strategic and creative agency based here in Dallas, to author its first corporate social responsibility report. Over the following four years, he led strategic initiatives to improve the agency’s impact on employees, clients, local communities, and the environment. These efforts included a pro bono program which delivered more than $2 million in strategic and creative marketing services to selected nonprofits since 2009, with a special focus on education-focused organizations in Dallas.

Jonathan maintains a strong relationship to the community where he first taught, helping to found Henderson Collegiate, a charter school in Vance County, North Carolina.

Jonathan earned a B.A. in Ethnic Studies from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.


Kyle Gardner Commit photoKyle GardnerCo-COO, Chief Program Officer

Kyle brings a passion for education to Commit!, inspired by his experiences growing up in the Providence (RI) public schools and six years in the classroom teaching math.

Kyle most recently worked as a consultant at The Bridgespan Group in New York, where he advised foundations and nonprofits on social impact strategies that touch young people. At Bridgespan, he helped a large foundation implement its postsecondary education funding strategy, a grassroots community organization develop a national economic justice strategy, and a growing foundation incubate initiatives to improve employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. While in New York, Kyle also volunteered as a tutor to middle school scholars seeking to improve their math fundamentals.

Prior to Bridgespan, Kyle was a consultant at ZS Associates, where he advised health care clients on data-driven sales and marketing strategies. As an Education Pioneers Fellow during business school, he developed a vendor membership strategy for a state charter schools association. Kyle also was an active leader in Duke’s MBA Net Impact chapter, managing learning events and launching an Education Interest Group.

Kyle received his MBA as a Fuqua Scholar from Duke University and graduated from Yale University Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics.


CJefferycopyChelsea JefferyWilliams Fellow

Chelsea is a native to Dallas County, growing up in Coppell, TX and graduating from Coppell High School. Chelsea chose to stay in Dallas and attend Southern Methodist University after being named a President’s Scholar and receiving a full-tuition merit-based scholarship. At SMU, Chelsea became passionate about education while completing research on Texas education policies her sophomore year. In 2012 she joined Teach for America as part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Corps where she taught Algebra, Geometry, and Math Models for two years at Dallas Can Academy, an alternative high school. Within her first-year at Dallas Can Academy, Chelsea was nominated by her peers to be Math Department Head, where she led her team to engage in rigorous, critical-thinking based math instruction and data driven classrooms. Chelsea’s students showed an average of 127% growth her first year of teaching and had an overall class mastery of 80.2% her second year of teaching.

Chelsea graduated Southern Methodist University Magna Cum Laude with a B.B.A in Accounting in 2012.


Jensen.Sarah_2 copySarah JensenDeputy Director, College Access & Success

Sarah Jensen has widespread experience as an education advocate and is dedicated to expanding students’ access to and success in postsecondary education.

Prior to joining Commit! as an Associate, Sarah served as the Research Analyst for the National Math and Science Initiative. In that role, she produced case studies highlighting the impact of NMSI’s teacher professional development program on teacher practices and student performance. Sarah also provided analysis on trends, issues, and perspectives in education and published findings through print and online media.

While in graduate school, Sarah interned for the Texas Senate Committee on Education and the Government Affairs division of UT Arlington. She was also a Graduate Intern for The Meadows Foundation in Dallas where she assisted in the foundation’s strategic planning process.

As the daughter of a middle school librarian and high school band director, Sarah grew up in a household of public school educators. Her own dedication to education was developed prior to graduate school during her time as an Admissions Representative for Texas Lutheran University counseling prospective students on admissions and financial aid. She continues to volunteer as a college adviser for Dallas students through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentor 2.0 program.

Sarah earned a Master of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and graduated from Trinity University with a B.A. in Political Science and Communication.


Ashwina1Ashwina KirpalaniDirector of Analytics

Ashwina is a classroom educator turned business professional with experience in strategy and analytics. She had the privilege of attending school and teaching high school mathematics in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system. Prior to joining Commit!, Ashwina worked at Kaplan Higher Education Campuses as Director of Strategy and Business Analytics. During her 5 ? year career at Kaplan, Ashwina led projects to understand how operational changes affected student retention and graduation rates. She also analyzed differences in student achievement for blended and non-blended courses and programs.

Ashwina is passionate about serving her community, and in particular, working with at-risk youth to develop their math and reading skills. She also helped to launch a computer training program for adults from underserved communities.

A native of South Florida, Ashwina completed both an M.B.A., with an emphasis in Management Science, and a B.S. in Computer Engineering, from the University of Miami.


robertRobert MundingerAssociate

Robert is a native of North Texas who attained his primary and secondary education in Dallas public schools. Prior to joining Commit!, Robert was an equity analyst at Oakview Capital Management in Dallas. In this role, Robert conducted research on a wide variety of companies and investments to align with his clients’ needs. His interest in improving education and desire to make an impact in his own community led him to join Commit!.

Although Robert’s background is in finance, there are many other things that spark his interest. He has always been drawn to the revolutionary world of technology because of its far-reaching ability to help learners interact and engage. This inclination has pushed him to learn a wide variety of programming languages. Robert strongly utilizes these interests and skills to analyze and present complex data in a visually-appealing, simplified manner.

Robert earned his B.A. in Finance from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.


gabrielaGabriela PerezDevelopment and Education Associate

Gabriela Perez has been working in the Education sector in Dallas County for over 6 years. In her prior role as Director of Education Initiatives for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Gabriela developed and executed education initiatives and projects in multiple schools in Dallas ISD, Irving ISD and Plano ISD. Since 2007, she led an annual competitive grants process, including development of a request for proposal, proposal evaluation, and selection of nonprofit providers which demonstrated the best investment of donor entrusted resources. Gabriela directly oversaw fund allocations for college readiness programs that resulted in higher on-time promotion and graduation rates.

Through her work in these initiatives, Gabriela cultivated deep relationships and impactful partnerships with nonprofits, ISD administrators, community college districts, and community stakeholders. She actively advocated for the best interest of students, parents and schools and convened community organizations and programs on campuses in order to streamline service delivery and maximize program impact.

Gabriela earned a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of North Texas.


Andres RamosDirector of Operations and Web Strategy

A product of both public and private schools, Andres received a merit scholarship to attend a preparatory academy after attending public schools for most of his life.  After graduating from college, Andres joined Teach For America as a 2008 RGV corps member, where his students were able to attain a 100% passing rate on the 8th grade TAKS test and close the achievement gap that existed between their school and schools that didn’t receive free and reduced lunch by 100%.  After the classroom, Andres joined Teach For America’s staff where he served as a Recruitment Director for the region of South and West Texas.  Andres transitioned off TFA staff to co-found PolicyPulse, a social web app that connects community members to their elected officials around local policy issues. Andres has also worked as a policy intern for the U.S. Department of Education and was a Mayoral Fellow for the office of the Mayor of Los Angeles.

Andres earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and went on to study Economics at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.


sameen_picSameen WajidAnalyst

Sameen became heavily involved in public education through the GO Fellowship, where she had the opportunity to teach English at an orphanage in Karachi, Pakistan. Upon returning from her travels, she was determined to better understand the public education system, and what she could do to positively impact her community. Utilizing her experience abroad to create a bigger impact, Sameen established, an e-commerce website aimed at helping low-income families in Pakistan send their children to school. Sameen is passionate about extending educational opportunities to all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Sameen recently graduated magna cum laude from Austin College with a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science.


WardTarik WardCo-COO, Chief Strategy Officer

Tarik Ward is a former rocket scientist from Long Island, New York with a passion for helping organizations that are dedicated to achieving social equity. He has been involved in education in some way or another, be it tutoring, student teaching, or volunteering, for over 15 years.
Tarik has helped various non-profits develop volunteer engagement strategies, sustainable business models, growth strategies, and program evaluation methodologies. He has served on the board of Workshop Houston, an afterschool enrichment program in Houston’s 3rd Ward, he was also an adviser for Families Empowered, an organization that helps parents choose the best schools for their children.

Most recently, Tarik started his own social consulting practice, advising several Houston non-profits on workforce development, early childhood development, and international education. Prior to that, he was a consultant at Deloitte consulting where he worked with non-profit community partners to develop their early child education programs as well as working with large multi-national oil and gas firms manage new acquisitions.
Prior to Deloitte, Tarik worked at NASA as a flight controller for the International Space Station.

Tarik is a graduate of MIT, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Stanford Graduate School of Education.


Jeanne Whitman BobbittCommunity Support

Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt was Eugene McDermott Headmistress of the Hockaday School of Dallas from 2004 to 2011.  At Hockaday, she re-structured the organization to create a leadership team of ten to develop matrices of shared leadership and accountability.  She implemented structures for improved risk management; a records retention policy; and a systematic approach to performance reviews, including the development and implementation of a faculty compensation model.  She led the articulation and adoption of the Tenets of Faculty Excellence.  Under her leadership, admission applications increased every year for seven years (through the economic downturn).  She established a seven-figure contingency fund and doubled the annual allocation to the capital replacement budget.  Annual Fund contributions doubled across the seven years of her leadership, and commitments to capital and endowment grew by approximately 35 percent.  Whitman Bobbitt also worked to build a culture of inclusivity and shared ownership; she began the practice of bringing together all School employees at School meetings and providing simultaneous translation of presentations so that information—and leadership—could be shared more broadly.

Before her appointment to Hockaday, Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt was Vice President for Development and External Affairs at SMU, where she directed University advancement and led the University’s first successful fundraising campaign past goal to its $543 million finish.  Her responsibilities included direction of the Tate Lecture Series, Alumni Relations, Communications and Public Affairs.  She came to SMU from responsibilities at Wake Forest University where she worked in academic affairs, communications, and public affairs.  She has experience teaching at the secondary school and college levels.

Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt serves on the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University; she is a member of Dallas Assembly, Charter 100, and International Women’s Forum Dallas.  She is on the Advisory Council for Dallas Afterschool Network.

Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt earned her master’s degree from the University of Virginia and her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University.


Kevin MelendezIntern, Summer 2014

Kevin Melendez was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Born to immigrant parents, the values of hard work and humility were always stressed to him and are present in all facets of his community life. Kevin and his family have resided in the same East Dallas community all of his life. He attended his local Dallas ISD feeder pattern, graduating from Bryan Adams High School. Kevin is the first in my family to graduate from high school (Class of 2012) and, subsequently, the first to attend college. As a rising junior at Brown University, Kevin is currently working towards a double major in History and Economics and is involved with the Latino Ivy League Council, Habitat For Humanity, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and is a coordinator for ESL tutoring at Providence schools.


Niyat MulughetaIntern, Summer 2014

Born and raised in Mesquite, Texas, Niyat Mulugheta graduated as the Valedictorian of her class at John D. Horn High School in 2012. She is currently entering her junior year at Harvard College to pursue a B.A in Government with a secondary in Economics. Before interning at Commit!, Niyat spent her previous summer working on political campaigns in Boston, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas.

At Harvard, Niyat co-directs the Alberta V. Scott Mentorship Academy, working to help high-school age, African-American women develop the social, academic, and work-related skills necessary to accomplish their postsecondary ambitions. Her passion for education initially sparked from the many conversations she had with her mentees, who were continually met with roadblocks and a lack of resources throughout their academic careers.

At Commit!, Niyat worked directly with the Deputy Director of College Access/Success, Sarah Jensen, with multiple communications, data, strategy, and event planning projects focused on college affordability.