Connection Failure Afterschool Alliance :: Offices & Staff

Offices & Staff

Washington , D.C. Headquarters

1616 H Street NW, Suite 820 , Washington, D.C., 20006

Contact Us

Job & Internship Openings

  • Jodi Grant, Executive Director
  • Melissa Ballard, Research Associate
  • Michael Burke, Development Associate/Grant Writer
  • Shaun Gray, Program Associate
  • Ursula Helminski, Vice President, External Affairs
  • Anita Krishnamurthi, Vice President, STEM Policy
  • Jen Rinehart, Vice President, Research & Policy
  • Sarah Simpson, Communications Manager
  • Alexis Steines, Field Outreach Manager 
  • Erik Peterson, Vice President, Policy 
  • Greta Poku-Adjei, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
  • Ed Spitzberg, Vice President, Development
  • Sarah Watson, Program Associate/Assistant to the Executive Director
  • Nikki Yamashiro, Research Associate 
  • Irina Zabello, Vice President, Finance and Administration

Bios listed below

Jodi Grant, Executive Director

Since 2005, Jodi Grant has been Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, a non-profit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.

In America today, 15.1 million children take care of themselves after the school day ends, including almost four million middle school students in grades six to eight.  Just 8.4 million children are in afterschool programs, but the parents of another 18 million children say their kids would participate if a program were available.  The Afterschool Alliance seeks to educate the public, the media and policy makers about the enormous potential of quality afterschool programs and how programs across the country are inspiring children and creating opportunities for them to succeed academically, socially and professionally.  The Afterschool Alliance serves as a national voice for afterschool and provides resources and materials to more than 26,000 afterschool programs.  It organizes national and local afterschool events, including the organization’s signature event, Lights On Afterschool; conducts research on the need and support for afterschool; creates tools for afterschool practitioners; and connects afterschool leaders to national, state and local opinion leaders.

As Executive Director, Grant oversees all aspects of the Afterschool Alliance’s work – setting its goals and strategies for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, working with the field to help programs tap into federal funding streams, and supervising research to help national, state and local afterschool advocates and providers support, create and expand quality afterschool programs.

Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Grant served as Director of Work and Family Programs for the National Partnership for Women & Families.  In that position, she worked to protect and expand the Family & Medical Leave Act, and was a member of the team that successfully defended the law before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Prior to that, she worked on Capitol Hill as General Counsel to the Senate Budget Committee and as Staff Director for a Senate Committee.  Her legislative accomplishments include expanded support for the child tax credit, the Child Health Insurance Program, and class size reduction.  She also served as liaison to the National Governors’ Association, where she worked closely with Republican and Democratic governors.

Grant graduated from Yale University with honors in 1990 and was elected senior class president.  She received her law degree from Harvard University, where she was elected class president (first marshall).  As a student, she volunteered at an afterschool program. She currently serves as: a Trustee of the America’s Promise Alliance, an Advisory Board Member of Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds” campaign, and as Co-Chair of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry’s Student Development Advisory Committee.  Grant, her husband and two children live in Bethesda, Maryland.  Grant is an avid cyclist.


Melissa Ballard, Research Associate

Melissa joined the Afterschool Alliance in October 2012.  As a research associate, Melissa works with the Vice President of STEM Policy to advance the research efforts of the organization focusing on STEM in afterschool.   Prior to starting at the Alliance, she worked at a children's science center for over three years.  During that time, Melissa was responsible for developing a variety of STEM programs, training educators, and teaching students.  Melissa has a background in engineering and liberal studies, earning a B.S.E. and a B.G.S. from the University of Michigan.


Michael Burke, Development Associate/Grant Writer

Michael joined the Afterschool Alliance in 2013, where he helps to research, explore, and cultivate funding opportunities from local, state, and federal agencies; public corporations; and private foundations.  He also conducts the full range of activities required to prepare and submit grant proposals, as well as manage multiple grants.  Michael came to the Afterschool Alliance from the Salvation Army’s Central Kentucky Services Area in Lexington, KY, where he served as Grant Writer and Development Officer in support of their Emergency Homeless Shelter & Transitional Living Center and Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club.  Prior to his work with the Salvation Army, Michael served at United Way of the Bluegrass as Grant Writer, Project Manager for the Assets for Independence Individual Development Account Program, and Coordinator of the Get on Board Nonprofit Board of Director Training Program.  Michael has a B.A. in History from the University of Kentucky and M.A. in Church History/Theology from Lexington Theological Seminary.


Shaun Gray, Program Associate

Shaun Gray joined the Afterschool Alliance in February 2003.  As the Program Associate, she works with the communication team handling day to day outreach to the afterschool field.  In this capacity, Shaun has taken on a key role in the Afterschool Alliance team.  Working closely with the Vice President of External Affairs and the Chief Finance Officer, she has taken on duties connected with local and state coalition building, accounts payable/receivable as well as preparing arrangements for annual conferences and meetings. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Shaun served as the Meetings and Executive Assistant of a national trade association, American Beverage Licensees.  She planned much of the association's conferences and meetings and assisted the Director of Communications with newsletter updates. Shaun is currently pursuing a degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Washington.

Christine Hall, Development VISTA

Christine Hall joined the Afterschool Alliance in April 2013, as an AmeriCorps Development VISTA. In her position, she works to strengthen the Afterschool Alliance’s capacity to raise funds for our National 21st Century Community Learning Center Sustainability and Food Access VISTA Project.  She is also currently working toward a master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Christine worked with Lindamood Bell Learning Processes and within the D.C. Public School System to help youth develop the underlying cognitive processes necessary to read, comprehend, and process information.  She holds her B.S. in Psychology from Howard University. 


Ursula Helminski, Vice President, External Affairs

Ursula Helminski has worked with the Afterschool Alliance since its inception, and was part of its founding team.  She develops strategy and communications for the organization, and oversees public awareness initiatives such as the national Lights On Afterschool event and Afterschool for All, a campaign uniting high profile and grassroots voices from diverse sectors in support of afterschool.  Before coming to the Afterschool Alliance, she was a Senior Associate at the communications and organizing consulting firm Fowler Hoffman, where she worked on issue campaigns ranging from youth violence prevention to telecommunications, and advised foundations on their communications strategies.  She has served as editor of a trade journal covering policy in Washington, D.C., worked in cause related marketing at The Nature Conservancy and taught English in a Moscow public school.  Ursula has a B.A. in Political Science and English from Duke University.


Anita Krishnamurthi, Vice President of STEM Policy

Anita Krishnamurthi joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2010 as Director of STEM Policy after serving as the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow for the American Astronomical Society.  As Vice President of STEM Policy, Anita is responsible for creating and advancing federal, state, and local opportunities and policies to expand resources and activities that provide students with access to a rich STEM curriculum in their afterschool programs.  Anita brings nearly a decade of experience in science education and outreach to a wide variety of audiences to this role.  Prior to her fellowship, she worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for six years, firstly as an Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Program Planning Specialist at NASA-HQ, and then as Lead for EPO in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.  Before joining NASA, Anita was a Program Officer at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. in the Office on Public Understanding of Science.  Anita's formal training is as an astrophysicist, receiving her PhD from The Ohio State University.  She conducted her postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  


Erik Peterson, Vice President, Policy

Erik joined the Afterschool Alliance in July 2009 and coordinates and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s policy efforts at the federal level by helping develop policy goals and implementing strategies that advance access to quality afterschool programs for all.  Erik works to build and strengthen relationships with policy makers and allied organizations to increase public support and funding for quality before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. Prior to coming to the Afterschool Alliance Erik served as Director of Public Awareness in the Government Affairs Center of the School Nutrition Association (SNA) for almost nine years overseeing the spokesperson network, handling media relations, conducting award-winning awareness campaigns, managing the Political Action Committee and mobilizing members at the grassroots level to help achieve federal and state policy goals. Prior to working for SNA, he organized community gardens, nutrition classes and farmers markets in Central Texas as both a VISTA and staff for the Sustainable Food Center and Austin Community Gardens. He originally hails from Texas and received his Masters in Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas, and also has a Bachelor degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.


Jen Rinehart, Vice President, Policy & Research

Jen Rinehart joined the Afterschool Alliance in September 2002 and established the Afterschool Alliance's WashingtonD.C. office.  Jen takes a primary role in the Afterschool Alliance's coalition building, policy and research efforts, and serves as a spokesperson for the organization.  Recent projects include America After 3 PM: A Household Survey on Afterschool in America and Kids Deserve Better, a campaign to get voters and candidates thinking and talking about children's issues, particularly afterschool.  Jen also served as Interim Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance from December 2004 through June 2005.  Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Jen served for more than five years on the staff of the U.S. Department of Education; primarily as a Project Officer for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, the principal federal program supporting afterschool.  Jen has a B.A in Psychology with a minor in Elementary Education from Gettysburg College and a Masters degree in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park .  She currently serves on a number of advisory boards of organizations that share the Afterschool Alliance's vision of afterschool for all.


Ed Spitzberg, Vice President, Development

Ed Spitzberg joined the Afterschool Alliance in February 2011, where he works with supporters of the afterschool field to provide the resources that the Afterschool Alliance needs to advance its mission.  Ed came to the Afterschool Alliance from Sitar Arts Center, an award-winning afterschool program in Washington, D.C., where as Executive Director he led the organization through growth in number of young people served, local and national recognition including the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award, and fundraising.  Prior to Sitar, he was Development Director at Arena Stage, the nation’s oldest regional nonprofit theater, and also was a product manager for Internet companies including Walt Disney Internet Group and Comedy World.  Ed has taught the arts in afterschool programs for over a decade and is a performing artist himself, having created The Eddie Lounge Show in both San Francisco and the first two Capital Fringe Festivals in Washington, D.C.  Ed has a B.A. in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale University and an M.B.A. from the Anderson School at UCLA.  As a former leader of an afterschool program, Ed knows firsthand the challenges afterschool programs face and the benefits they provide our country’s youth and brings his passion for the field to the Afterschool Alliance.


Alexis Steines, Field Outreach Manager

As Field Outreach Associate, Alexis Steines serves as the liaison between the Afterschool Alliance and its growing network of afterschool providers. She keeps the field up-to-date on the ever-changing afterschool policy landscape and mobilizes them to affect the development of afterschool-related public policy.  Alexis joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2011 after spending 5 years with the School Nutrition Association, primarily as the Public Affairs Associate.  In that position, she monitored federal and state legislation, including the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, served as liaison to several allied organizations, and assisted in managing media relations for the Association.  Alexis holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from George Washington University. 


Sarah Simpson, Communications Manager

Sarah joined the Afterschool Alliance in February 2011, where she works to increase the Afterschool Alliance’s online presence and advance the organization’s mission by coordinating social media campaigns and communications.  Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Sarah worked throughout the country as a grassroots political organizer establishing local advocacy and small-donor fundraising campaigns for various nonprofit organizations, including Save the Children Federation.  Sarah has a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a focus in broadcast and new media.  She also has a M.P.S. in Political Management from The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.


Kamila Thigpen, Project Manager

Kamila Thigpen joined the Afterschool Alliance in August 2011, bringing with her several years of consulting and marketing communications experience in the for-profit world. Her educational experience includes a B.S. in Marketing from Howard University and a M.A. in Education Policy Studies from The George Washington University. Kamila’s passion for afterschool stemmed from her volunteer experience with a DC-based youth development program, which evolved into a four-year term on their board of directors. As Project Manager, Kamila helps to coordinate the Afterschool Alliance’s annual initiatives, including Lights on Afterschool and the Afterschool for All Challenge. She also manages the afterschool webinar series, builds relationships with allied organizations and helps provide strategic direction for a variety of other communications projects. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to advocate for afterschool programs across the country, and to be able to merge her personal interests with her professional career.


Sarah Watson, Program Associate/Assistant to the Executive Director

Sarah first joined the Afterschool Alliance as an intern in December 2012.  In April 2013, she was brought on full-time to provide program and administrative support to the Executive Director.  Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, she served as a 2011-2012 English Teaching Assistant with the U.S. Fulbright Program in Luxembourg.  In her spare time, she volunteers with an afterschool program in Adams Morgan and serves on the board of the Fulbright Association's national capital area chapter. Sarah graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2011, with a B.A. in French and Growth & Structure of Cities.


Nikki Yamashiro, Research Associate 

Nikki joined the Afterschool Alliance in June 2012, where she works with the Vice President of Policy and Research to coordinate and implement annual research activities, design surveys on pressing issues in the afterschool field and analyze research findings, communicating the need for and great successes of afterschool programs to policy makers, afterschool providers and advocates, and the public. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Nikki served in a variety of research capacities, including as Policy Advisor at Third Way, where she handled a wide range of domestic policy issues such as juvenile justice, and as legislative assistant to former Rep. Hilda L. Solis, where she handled education and youth issues. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, and a Masters in Public Policy from University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.