Our Team
Bonds of Union is based in Cincinnati. We focus our efforts in the Midwest, Mid-South, and Mississippi Valley regions of the U.S. In these communities, our team aims to carry out innovative initiatives that inspire hope and create opportunity.
ALULA ASFAW
Executive Director | Founder

Alula has dedicated his life to renewing hope and prosperity in marginalized communities in the U.S. Prior to founding Bonds of Union, Alula served as Director of Special Initiatives and Special Assistant in the Office of Innovation & Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, Alula helped to oversee the design and implementation of competitive programs such as the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) and Promise Neighborhoods, and closely advised the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Innovation & Improvement on matters of policy and R&D. Previously, he was the Founder and Executive Director of the UW Dream Project, a Seattle-based college access and retention program for low-income and first-generation high school students. Alula received a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science from the University of Washington, an MPhil in Politics, Development, and Democratic Education from the University of Cambridge, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
CASSIA CARUTH
Learning Coach | 2020 Ascend Teaching Innovation Fellow
Cassia’s interest in education is rooted in her passion for improving the health and wellbeing of individuals in her locale and worldwide. As a former student in an international honors program called Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care, she sharpened her understanding of the multifaceted nature of the local and global health landscape and gained invaluable insight on the role that one’s educational attainment plays in their life trajectory. She is eager to engage in work that will advance us towards a world in which all individuals and communities are empowered agents in their overall health and wellbeing. Cassia was selected as a 2020-2021 Ascend Teaching Fellow and currently serves as Learning Coach for students at Bond Hill Academy. She completed a bachelor’s in Linguistics at Duke University with minors in Spanish and Global Health.
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JESSICA DELGADILLO
Program Director | Ascend
Jessica’s respect for educators runs deep. Her passion for adult learning developed from her desire to serve and empower teachers and leaders to create caring, rigorous classrooms. She believes in the potential of all kids and is deeply driven toward ensuring that every child receives a high-quality, fulfilling, and fruitful education. Jessica taught grades K-2 for Aspire Public Schools in Oakland, CA, before becoming Lead Instructional Coach for Aspire’s four regions. Most recently, she served as the Associate Director of Programming for the Ed. Institute at Success Academies, where she worked to improve teacher training and curriculum. Jessica received her B.A. in Developmental Psychology and M.A. in Elementary Education from Stanford University.
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ANNA LAYMAN
Learning Coach | Ascend
Anna was drawn to education after observing its impact on the overall health and wellness of communities in Cincinnati and abroad. She previously worked for Social Action for Children and Women, based in Mae Sot, Thailand, an NGO that provides comprehensive healthcare, education, and social services to Burmese migrant families. Anna was selected as a 2018-2019 Ascend Teaching Fellow and currently serves as Learning Coach for students at Bond Hill Academy. Each of her students has reinforced her deeply held beliefs that education promotes agency and that all students are capable learners. She received her B.S. in Medical Sciences from the University of Cincinnati.
JAMES REES
Learning Coach | 2020 Ascend Teaching Innovation Fellow
James approaches his work as an educator with a deep appreciation for the innate wisdom that all children possess. In the relationships he builds with students, he is dedicated to bringing forward wellbeing by supporting each child’s unique expression of these innate capacities. James previously served as a Student Success Coach with City Year Memphis, where he supported instruction and mentored elementary school students toward developing greater emotional awareness. James was selected as a 2020-2021 Ascend Teaching Fellow and currently serves as Learning Coach for students at Bond Hill Academy. He is inspired by all that his students teach him, and feels immense gratitude for the opportunity to grow together with them. He received his B.A. in Mathematics from Duke University.
JENNA SCHMIDT
Director of Student Learning & Development | Ascend
Jenna experienced firsthand the power and necessity of teaching social-emotional learning alongside academic skills in her six years as a K-2 teacher in Palo Alto, California.  Subsequently, she brought this strong belief in teaching the whole child to her role as a K-4 math specialist. Over the course of four years in this role, she developed a school-wide math curriculum that not only emphasized deep conceptual understanding, but that also fostered “habits of mind” such as perseverance, risk-taking, and flexible thinking.  Jenna received her B.A. in American Studies and M.A. in Elementary Education from Stanford University.
DEBORAH WARSHAWSKY
Managing Director | Bonds of Union

Director of Family-Centered Initiatives | Ascend

Deborah is passionate about increasing opportunity and improving quality of life in low-income communities, both in her hometown of Cincinnati and throughout disadvantaged regions of our country. She believes strongly in the power of holistic, family-centered services to empower households and uplift neighborhoods. Deborah has previously served as a family case manager and youth advocate for low-income families in permanent supportive housing, an educational advocate for youth with involvement in the juvenile justice system, and an urban policy analyst focused on community development and K-12 education. She received a B.A. in Urban Studies from Stanford University, an M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Advisors

DANI ISAACSOHN
Advisor | Strategy & Community Engagement
Dani is the founder and CEO of Cohear, a community engagement and strategy start-up in Cincinnati. Cohear’s mission is to change the way decisions are made by bringing everyday experts who live the issues to the table with decision makers. Prior to Cohear, Dani worked on a number of political campaigns ranging from the local to the presidential level in both grassroots organizing and policy development positions. His policy work primarily focused on domestic issues such as education, immigration reform, criminal justice, and urban planning. Dani also worked in the Office of the White House Counsel, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection, and the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton during his time in law school. Dani received a B.S. in International Relations from Georgetown University, an MPhil in Politics from Cambridge University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
DEMETRE KLEBANER
Advisor | Law & Policy
Demetre is an attorney in the tax practice group of Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago. In his pro bono practice, he counsels nonprofit groups in navigating tax and transactional matters. Previously, Demetre provided legal advocacy and representation to low-income households facing landlord-tenant disputes and other serious housing issues. As the son of immigrants, he recognizes the potential for K-12 education to serve as a ladder of opportunity and the importance of efforts to support families in underserved communities as they strive to realize their goals. Demetre received a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
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REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS
Advisor | Criminal Justice
Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of a memoir and two books of poetry. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was awarded the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His books of poetry are Shahid Reads His Own Palm and Bastards of the Reagan Era. Dwayne is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, 2011 Radcliffe Fellow, and 2012 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. In 2012, Dwayne was appointed to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by President Obama. He is a graduate of Prince George’s Community College, the University of Maryland, the MFA Program at Warren Wilson College, and Yale Law School. Dwayne is a husband and father of two sons.
KRISTEN BUSHNELL BERRY
Advisor | Economic Opportunity
Born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kristen grew up keenly aware of the pernicious economic repercussions of racial injustice and committed to make a contribution to empower communities. Kristen works in K&L Gates’s Seattle office as a law associate in the firm’s energy and corporate practice groups. She is a graduate of Howard University and more recently, Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, where she earned a joint JD/MBA degree. Prior to the start of her legal career, Kristen worked for Senator Mary Landrieu (former D-LA) and consulted for an energy firm in Tianjin, China.
MATTHEW HARRIS
Advisor | Technology
Matt creates and adapts technology solutions to solve hard problems across a wide range of applications, including those faced by non-profits and in education. An experienced software engineer, Matt believes that technology can often be the key to accelerate and amplify meaningful impact. At the University of Washington, Matt helped to co-found the Dream Project and worked as assistant director of the program. He led the effort to create a unified student data system as part of the Road Map Project in Seattle, and established a new shared data model for student record exchange as a member of the technical board of the North American SIF data standard. Matt works in San Francisco at Envoy, a startup creating innovative workplace technology solutions, where he leads the workplace & technology team. He holds a bachelor‘s degree in informatics from the University of Washington.
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SARAH ROENFELDT
Advisor | Thriving Families
Sarah has worked throughout the homeless services continuum with both families and individuals, including in prevention services, shelters, and short-term and permanent housing programs. She was part of the team that implemented coordinated entry access for individuals experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC, and is now Senior Director of Housing for Community of Hope, a non-profit organization that creates opportunities for low-income families to achieve good health, a stable home, family-sustaining income, and hope. Sarah received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Kansas and her Master’s degree in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University.
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CARL SCHRÓNEZ
Advisor | Arts & Culture
Co-founder of Culture Of Creativity (C8), an artist collective, media producer, and creative agency, Carl truly believes in the transformative power of creativity. He defines creativity not only as the wielding of a paintbrush, but as one’s resourcefulness towards experiencing holistic fulfillment: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. As an experienced filmmaker and videographer by trade, Carl has worked with clients large and small alike to share his passion, including the U.S. Small Business Adminstration, Epic Records, BET, and Grammy award-winning singer, Ne-Yo, with whom he toured. He is a proud alumnus of the University of Michigan, where he studied film. Carl currently lives in Seattle with his wife, Elena, daughter, Cici, and son, Lumen.
Join Our Team
Bonds of Union aspires to serve as the vehicle through which we, as a national community, join together to affirm the causes of opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. Today’s immense challenges require the sacrifice and intellectual energy of a new generation. In all that we do, Bonds of Union strives to renew our sense of civic activism and strengthen “the mystic chords of memory” that connect us to our larger, inherited purpose.
We are always looking for talented and passionate individuals to join our team. Contact us to learn more!
Contact Us
Do you want to get involved, share an idea, or just learn more about our efforts? We want to hear from you!