BOARD OF DIRECTORS
FARAH NOOR CHEEMA
Farah Noor Cheema was born and raised in Pakistan, where she earned her medical degree with honors at King Edward Medical University. After immigrating to England, then the US, Farah was moved by a common theme: the unifying, cyclic benefits of community service. She became impassioned to promote self-sufficiency and empowerment through educational advancement. Thus, over the last decade, she has held volunteer leadership positions at various institutions, including the Avery Coonley School, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the Muslim Leadership Academy at the Islamic Foundation of Villa Park, the Islamic Council of North America, and many interfaith community unification endeavors between Muslim, Christian and Jewish places of worship. She has also served on the board of the US branch of the Hunar Foundation, and collaborated with both Viator House of Hospitality and the Human Development Foundation.
Melike Oncu was named General Counsel of the International Code Council in January 2013. Ms. Oncu joined the International Code Council in October 2008 as Assistant General Counsel. As General Counsel, Ms. Oncu serves as a member of the ICC Senior Management Team and oversees all legal affairs for ICC and the ICC Family of Companies. Ms. Oncu holds a juris doctorate from George Washington University, and a bachelor's degree from Lafayette College. She began her legal career as a corporate attorney with the law firm White & Case, LLP. She also served as Of Counsel for the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, LLP. She currently lives in Chevy Chase, MD with her husband, two teenage daughters and her dog.
JULIA MANGLANO TORO
Julia Manglano Toro is a native Chicagoan of a Spanish and Colombian background. She has studied literature at the University of Illinois (UIUC), the DePaul University College of Law, J.D., and American University Washington College of Law, LL.M. in International Human Rights. She had worked for 2 years with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She has practiced immigration law for 16 years and runs her own immigration law firm, JULIA M TORO LAW FIRM, for the past 8 years in Washington DC and Baltimore, MD. She currently lives in Virginia with her spouse and three children.
WENDY KAPLAN MILLER
Wendy Kaplan Miller attended Amherst College where she co-led the Cambodian Refugee Tutoring Project. She taught fourth grade at the Bullis School in Potomac, MD. After graduating Harvard Law School, she served as an AmeriCorps attorney doing domestic violence work at Western Mass Legal Services and a housing attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. She has been on the boards of Raising A Reader Massachusetts and the Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Foundation. She has been on the selection advisory committee for the GreenLight Fund and co-chaired a philanthropic giving circle at the Palo Alto Jewish Community Center. She volunteers in the Ravenswood School District. She currently lives in Palo Alto with her husband, two sons and two dogs.
Educational Programs Director (Volunteer)
Kathleen O'Connor has spent her entire adult life teaching in diverse educational settings. She graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College with a degree in History. Afterwards she taught math in the Washington D.C. public schools, before earning a Masters’ in Education from Harvard University. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University where she worked developing math curricula and teaching both under-privileged middle school students and Vanderbilt undergraduates. She was awarded the Provost Fellowship in Educational Technology and the prestigious Master Teacher fellowship, which she used to study equity in undergraduate teaching. Upon graduation, she was awarded the Jules Seaman Award for scholastic, personal and professional achievement, and the Tennessee State Volunteer Award, recognizing her work with students from low-income families. She then moved to Madagascar where she worked as a volunteer English teacher with Malagasy orphans and as a full-time math and science teacher at the American School of Antananarivo. She later worked as an educational consultant in Belgrade and spent several years as an assistant professor of psychology at Dominican University, where the majority of her students were first generation college students.
Managing Director (Volunteer)
Michael O'Connor attended Amherst College and Harvard Law School, where he was President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. While in school, he worked for Cesar Chavez and the U.F.W, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Southern Center for Human Rights, D.C. Public Defender Service, and the United States Department of Justice, Office of Policy Development. In the mid-to-late ’90s, he was a Senior Trial Attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and an Associate Counsel to the President of the United States at the White House. He then was an international field worker for Catholic Relief Services in war-torn Madagascar and Kosovo and then served as Regional Director for South Asia for International Justice Mission, in which capacity he testified to a U.S. House of Representatives’ committee on issues of international human trafficking. Since 2007, he has been a portfolio manager in the financial industry.
MARICRUZ PONCE DE LEON
Maricruz Ponce de Leon is a Chicago native who has worked in community development and housing policy for various non-profits in the greater Chicago area. She studied urban planning and public policy at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she also worked in housing and neighborhood revitalization efforts. She has experience leading collaborative planning sessions and has provided consulting services in the areas of process planning, facilitation, and relationship building, primarily to nonprofit community organizations. Maricruz has served on various action and parent advocacy committees and has held several leadership positions for social justice organizations. She has helped develop leadership at the volunteer, administrative and board level at various not-for-profit groups.
For the first fifteen years of his adult life, Seth Rigoletti was an English and theater teacher at a private high school. He started and ran his own outdoor theater company for a few years in his early thirties and served on the board of two different non-profit organizations that worked with teenagers using theater-based learning. In 2010 he left the career of teaching behind to start his own company. He became a leadership coach who focuses on helping leaders and teams communicate with clarity and a greater impact. His passion is in helping leaders and organizations create cultures that engender trust and collaboration that improve the lives of all stakeholders. He’s grateful for the opportunity to work with FORA and to be back in the world of education. What he most admires about FORA is that it is an organization that fosters genuine relationships with students and their families to change the trajectory of their lives. He spends his free time exercising virtually with Michael O’Connor, hiking with his wife and being teased by his children.