Transforming urban, public education is a team effort

We are uniting a team of experts across sectors with a shared motivation… the belief that all students are capable and deserving of reaching their fullest potential.
James Rees
Learning Coach | 2020 Ascend Teaching Innovation Fellow

Interested in joining our team?

We are always looking for passionate individuals to join our team.

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.

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.

Anna Layman

Learning Coach
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.

Darian Gray

Learning Coach | 2021 Ascend Teaching Innovation Fellow
Darian’s passion for education equity came from years of community-based learning. Her dedication to service was nourished by her time as a Bonner Scholar, where she partnered with Oberlin Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club, and America Counts. She was selected as a 2021-2022 Ascend Teaching Innovation Fellow and currently serves as Learning Coach for students at Bond Hill Academy. Darian received her B.S. Biology and minor in Africana Studies from Oberlin College, with a focus on culturally responsive pedagogy and how education policy impacts Black students.

Sara Poplack

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Whether working with adults or children, Sara is committed to creating learning communities that are supportive, joyful, innovative, and challenging. Prior to joining Bonds of Union, she was an Assistant Head of Lower School and Curriculum Coordinator at a school emphasizing the role of social emotional well-being, curiosity, and reflection in the learning process. In this role, she promoted curricular innovation and faculty development on personal, small group, and systemic levels. Sara received a B.A. in Psychology: Neuroscience from Colby College, an M.A. in Elementary Education from Fairfield University, and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Santa Clara University.

Jenna Schmidt

Director of Student Learning & Development
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

Director of Family-Centered Initiatives

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.

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.