We are a team, compassionate and resolved, with a commitment to meeting people where they are and empowering them to become tomorrow's leaders. 


Adar Cohen, Ph.D.

Co-founder and Executive Director of Programs

As Executive Director of Programs, Adar Cohen is responsible for all aspects of CLF's efforts to empower young people for success in school, work, and civic life.

With Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, with gang leaders and correctional officers in Chicago, and with Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, Dr. Cohen has led dynamic change processes in settings defined by conflict and uncertainty. He has investigated human rights abuses at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp; led nonviolence trainings in church basements and community centers across the US; and, at the invitation of the King of Bhutan, lectured and designed curriculum at Sherubtse University, Bhutan’s first institution for higher education.

The recipient of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, and the George Mitchell Scholarship, he holds a B.A. in Conflict Resolution from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, an M.A. and Ph.D. in International Peace Studies from the University of Dublin (Trinity College), and completed a conflict mediation training program with Mediation Northern Ireland.

With Steve Fiffer, Dr. Cohen is the author of Jimmie Lee and James: Two Lives, Two Deaths, and the Movement that Changed America. With Howard Rossman, he is the recipient of the Facing History and Ourselves "Upstander Award," which recognizes individuals who have spoken out and acted in order to make a difference in their communities and their world. He has lectured at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and DePaul University.


Paul Dean, MS, LCSW, MA

Executive Director of Operations

As Executive Director of Operations, Paul Dean works with CLF’s Board of Directors to craft and implement the organization’s strategic initiatives, and oversees the day to day operations of CLF.

Mr. Dean brings over 25 years of non-profit experience to CLF. He has worked as a certified public middle school teacher, licensed psychotherapist (LCSW), Clinical Program Director, CFO, and as Executive Director for three non-profit organizations. He holds a masters degree in statistics and finance, in education, and in social work from the University of Chicago. Mr. Dean also has experience implementing and directing social-emotional and academic educational programs similar to those offered by CLF, including at the middle school level.

Mr. Dean has published three articles on education in Chicago, is a past member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Education and is the recipient of three Fellowships.


Shannon Dick, MA

Program director

Shannon Dick joined the Civic Leadership Foundation in May 2018. In her role Shannon works with current and prospective partners to adopt and implement CLF programs, particularly in the areas of program/curriculum development, training, program support, and assessment/evaluation.

Before working with the CLF, Shannon was the Manager of Community Engagement at the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. While there, she managed the DMRF's support program and worked closely with volunteer leaders to develop support groups and engage in education, awareness, and advocacy activities. Prior to this, Shannon served in the Peace Corps as an Education Volunteer in Rwanda. During her service, she taught English to middle and high school youth and implemented a number of both youth empowerment and community health related projects in Rwanda’s eastern region.

In addition to non-profit management, Shannon has worked in social research with the University of Chicago Survey Lab where she did field research for several studies on the South Side of Chicago. She has also tutored and mentored K-8th youth in Seattle Public Schools as part of Treehouse for Kids, which provides academic support for youth in foster care.

Shannon holds BAs in Journalism and Cultural Anthropology from Seattle University, and an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.


David Elias, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Director, Curriculum and Assessment

David Elias, Ph.D. is a co-founder of the Civic Leadership Foundation, and oversees the organization's curriculum development and assessment.

During his 30 year career, Dr. Elias has taught at Stanford University School of Law, the University of California - Davis, Santa Clara University, and Eastern Kentucky University. He has worked with a wide variety of students from high school dropouts, developmental students, and maintenance workers to graduate students and professional staff.

An accomplished author, Dr. Elias’ work has been published in journals such as Composition Chronicle, Research in the Teaching of English, and Kairos. In addition, Dr. Elias has presented at educational conferences from the Netherlands to New Orleans on topics as diverse as “Preparing Creative, Ethical, Effective Leaders” and “The Technological Professionalization of Preservice Secondary English Teachers.”

Dr. Elias holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. from Rutgers University in English, as well as a Ph.D. in education from Stanford University.

Deonna Hart pic for website 3-27-19.jpg

Deonna Hart

Civic leadership trainer

Deonna Hart is a trainer of trainers who has worked in nonprofit youth programming for the past eight years. She firmly believes that her role in life is to be an active member of the village/community who is responsible for growing the fruit that will go out and feed the world.

As the lead Civic Leadership trainer, she directs and facilitates implementer trainings and also develops and designs various youth leadership events across the organization.

Deonna has served in several capacities for CLF, beginning as a frontline mentor of CLF programs for the City of Chicago Department of Family Support Services, then as program coordinator of the CLF middle school initiative, and now as lead trainer for new and continuing CLF program partners.

Deonna holds a B.A. in Theatre and Graphic Design from Chicago State University of Chicago and is a candidate for the Masters in Nonprofit Management at North Park University.


LaVerne E. Mathews, MBA

Director of Development

In July of 2016, LaVerne Mathews joined the Civic Leadership Foundation team as the Development Director.

After a successful career in Government and Corporate America, LaVerne has spent the last 12 years in non-profit management and has held such positions as Director of Advancement, Loaves & Fishes Community Services; Director of Development, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago (CRFC); Director of Special Events, Holy Trinity High School and Special Events/Corporate Relations Officer, La Rabida Children’s Hospital.

LaVerne holds a BS in Business Administration from Olivet Nazarene University and a MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. 


D-Nick Stockman

Civic Leadership Teacher


D-Nick The Microphone Misfit (born Dominique Stockman) is a Chicago hip hop emcee and teaching artist from Flint, Michigan. A DePaul University graduate, D-Nick works for CLF as a teacher, mentor, and trainer. He taught writing and was a director at Free Street Theater for seven years and was the middle school and high school theater teacher at Perspectives Charter School. In 2010 D-Nick was selected to be a Hip-Hop Diplomat in Algeria as part of the FEW collective. D-Nick has released two solo Albums: "Brace Yourself for The Impact" and "Graphic Novel." With his group The Microphone Misfitz he has released "Escape From Babylon" and "Escape from Babylon Volume II" which come inside a full color comic book of the same title written by none other than D-Nick himself.


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Open positions are always posted at Please check the NPO website if you are interested in employment with CLF. You may also fill our the form below.

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