FORA_Pattern_Green (1).png

CORE TEAM MEMBERS

Screen Shot 2021-10-12 at 12.46.54 PM.png

ARKHAWAN SALIH

Arkhawan Salih was born and grew up in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, then she immigrated with her family to the United States around a decade ago. She studied her Bachelor's degree in Law and Politics in Kurdistan. In Chicago, she gained a Master's degree in International Relations and Public Policy, and studied Data Science and visualization from Northwestern University. Both in Kurdistan and the United States, Arkhawan has worked in many national and international non-profit organizations on education and training, project management, human rights advocacy, refugee and immigrant rights and resettlement,  and legal/social justice programs. When she is out of work, she enjoys being a mother to two kids and watching them grow, hiking and camping with family and friends, and national and international traveling. In Chicago, she enjoys music symphonies, art exhibits and seasonal festivals and learning about the city and the country's historical sites and life. 

DGMPhoto.jpg

DAVID MCKENZIE

Chief Administrative Officer, david@refugeefora.org

David McKenzie grew up in California and moved to Chicago more than 20 years ago. Possibly the only person who really loves the weather here, he enjoys taking long walks around the city, even when most people would much rather be indoors. David would like to spend more time at the Art Institute of Chicago and in Millennium Park, but he's pretty happy living in Logan Square because there are trees everywhere. He has a law degree and a degree in Chinese Studies. He has done a lot of different things over the years, from computer programming to sculpting, and spent many years running his own small manufacturing business, but he always says that FORA is by far the best and most rewarding work he's ever done.

DSC03463.jpeg

KATHLEEN O'CONNOR

Co-Founder and Educational Programs Director (Volunteer), kathleen@refugeefora.org

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. She was recently nominated by the American Red Cross for the 2022 Hero Award and in 2021 she was awarded the Valuing Difference Award for community activism and achievement by the Wingspan Project and Live Oak Chicago.  

GoodPic.jpg

LAUREN KEARNS

Chief of Staff and Chief Outreach Officer, laurenk@refugeefora.org

Lauren Kearns grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada with a bachelor's degree in International Relations and English. Before joining FORA, she had worked as a communications fellow for a congressional campaign, an intern for a local refugee aid nonprofit, a Youth Ambassador representing the US State Department for a year in Berlin, a summer camp counselor, and an instructor of ESL in a variety of settings. As her greatest passion is providing education and literacy as means of empowerment in under-resourced communities, she feels incredibly fortunate to be part of an organization where she can pursue this every day. In her free time, Lauren most enjoys reading historical fiction, walking in nature, rock climbing, practicing languages, and meticulously planning her future travels, as she is an avid backpacker.

Screen Shot 2020-10-11 at 11.36.35 PM.png

MICHAEL O'CONNOR

Co-Founder and Managing Director (Volunteer), michael@refugeefora.org

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.

Screenshot 2021-08-05 at 11.56.57 AM.png

SIMRAN ARORA

Family-School Partnership Program Coordinator, simrana@refugeefora.org

Simran Arora (she/her) grew up in New Delhi, India, and moved to the United States for her undergraduate studies at Claremont McKenna College, majoring in Psychology.  She has taught in classrooms in multicultural classrooms in India, Indonesia, Denmark, and the United States. She aims to create a meaningful impact on the lives of children around the globe. She finds working with communities extremely fulfilling and feels strongly about women’s rights, multiculturalism, and mental health. After work you can find her painting, cooking, meditating, doing yoga, or exploring Chicago - her new home!

June Naureckas (1).jpg

JUNE NAURECKAS

Head of Online Tutoring, junen@refugeefora.org

June Naureckas, MA, recently graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in Creative Arts Therapy Counselling. They have clinical counselling experience working with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. They love FORA's trauma-informed approach to tutoring and are excited to work with FORA as it continues to grow.

IMG-0174.jpg

IRA JEANNE

Volunteer Engagement & Educational Support Officer, iraj@refugeefora.org

Iradukunda Jeanne (Ira) was born and raised in a refugee camp in Tanzania. When she was nine years old, she and her family were forced to leave Tanzania, and they immigrated to the United States. Although she was scared to move to a place she knew nothing about, she knew the new life she was about to take on would bring numerous opportunities. Since arriving in the U.S., Ira has completed her Bachelor's degree in Mathematics at North Park University, where she gained experience as a Student Ambassador, Mentor, Residence Life Representative, and organizer for the Black Student Union. Determined to "pay forward" the support she received upon arriving in Chicago, Ira developed a passion for empowering other refugees, and through her involvement with the local nonprofit GirlForward, she found fulfillment in working with refugee youth and assisting those who have experienced discrimination and injustice. When she’s not working, Ira enjoys outdoor activities such as bike riding, jogging, and being by the beach. 

image.png

FAZLULHAQ FAYEZ

Educational Support Officer, fayezf@refugeefora.org

Fazlulhaq Fayez was born and brought up in Afghanistan and experienced war, internal displacement, and violence during childhood and adulthood, which made him decide to leave his country and migrate to the US in 2021 when everything collapsed in Afghanistan, to ensure his children would not experience what he went through. Back in Afghanistan, Fayez completed his Master's degree in Sociology and worked with the United Nations, USAID, and international NGOs including Oxfam and Save the Children on partnership and project management in areas of civil society organizational development, child rights promotion, and women's empowerment. With basic to no policy and procedures, Fayez supported around 15 organizations in creating written manuals to put Human Resource, Finance, and Child Safety policies in place, empowering them to work efficiently and effectively and reach a greater number of children and women in need. Fayez says, “FORA is a window of hope for new refugee children who struggle with different challenges they confront at school academically and psychologically. My son is in third grade here in Chicago and I know and feel how he has been and how vital FORA's intervention is in the successful transition of refugee children into the US education system." He enjoys helping others, traveling, music, and walking.

0A64EAE9-B80C-473A-AEA1-423E612243E7_4_5005_c.jpeg

KIERA DONOVAN

Community Outreach Coordinator, kierad@refugeefora.org

Kiera Donovan grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. In 2020 she graduated with her Bachelor's in English from the University of Dubuque, and she is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health. Prior to joining FORA, she gained experience as an intern at World Relief, a Family Community Support Provider in the mental health field, and a student teacher at Dubuque Community Schools. Kiera is passionate about helping people achieve their goals and discover their passions in life, and she believes that education and community support are essential to succeed. In her free time, she loves to read and spend time with her Goldendoodle named Caesar. 

Bio (2).jpg

SUWAIBA OSMAN

Senior Education Supervisor, suwaibao@refugeefora.org

Suwaiba Osman was born and raised in the US as a first-generation daughter of Bengali immigrants. Her formal education ended at the age of ten and only continued when she entered college as an adult with a GED. After completing a degree in Applied Science, she entered the FORA workforce with the passion to assist other disadvantaged individuals attain literacy, grade-level proficiency, and pursue a path to higher education. She believes in contributing to a world that is kinder, brighter, and equal in its compassion for people regardless of their race or background. She also dreams of the day cat owners will finally be appreciated by their pets. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and gaming.