Civic Leadership Foundation

Empowering Young People to Lead

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The Civic Leadership Foundation Staff

The Civic Leadership Foundation is led by a visionary team committed to providing CLF program participants with experiential learning opportunities in leadership and social entrepreneurship education and enrichment.

Open positions are always posted at Please check the NPO website if you are interested in employment with CLF. (No phone calls please.)

David Elias, Ph.D.

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, and Santa Clara University. He has worked with a wide variety of students from high school dropouts to law school students, and has mentored graduate assistants as they began their teaching careers. As Coordinator of Developmental English at Eastern Kentucky, he oversaw all developmental writing and reading courses.

An accomplished author, Dr. Elias’ work has been published in journals such as Composition Chronicle and Research in the Teaching of English. He has served as a reviewer for the latter publication and for Written Communication. Interested in the impact of technology on pedagogical processes, he has also published scholarly articles on the subject at  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” to “The Technological Professionalization of Preservice Secondary English Teachers.”

Dr. Elias has received numerous awards, including an award for Outstanding Tutor from Bronx Community College, an Outstanding Teacher of the Year award from the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, and a Saskawa Fellowship from the American Association of College and University Professors.

He 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.

Adar Cohen, Ph.D.

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. 

He brings an array of experience to his role at CLF. Dr. Cohen has investigated human rights abuses at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp; designed and taught courses at Sherubtse University, the first college in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan; and led nonviolence trainings in church basements and community centers throughout the US.

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 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. A faculty member in the Peace, Justice, and Conflict studies department at DePaul University, Dr. Cohen is a recipient of the DePaul Engage teaching award for making a significant contribution to students' learning and development as socially responsible and engaged leaders.

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 almost 25 years of non-profit experience to CLF. He has served as a certified public school teacher, a licensed psychotherapist (LCSW), Clinical Program Director, CFO, and as Executive Director for two 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 educational programs similar to those offered by CLF, including at the middle school and high school levels. 

Mr. Dean states he is “very excited to be with CLF” and is “eager to help further CLF’s mission and work to reach more youth in great need.”


Deonna Hart

Programs Coordinator

As Program Coordinator, Deonna Hart assists with coordinating and facilitating implementer training and support sessions for various CLF program partners across the City of Chicago.

Ms. Hart has worked in non-profit youth programming for the past five years.  Most recently she served as a teaching fellow at the CLE (Civic Leadership Education) program at Mark Sheridan Elementary School. She mentored a cohort of 8th graders, preparing them to become active civic leaders who are ready and equipped for high school. Prior to mentoring, Ms. Hart was the Program Coordinator for the Bridges to Pathways program, an initiative between the City of Chicago Department of Family Support Services and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. She has also served as a program mentor for the Youth Working for Success program. 

Ms. Hart holds a B.A. in Theatre and Graphic Design from Chicago State University of Chicago.

LaVerne E. Mathews, MBA

Development Director


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. 



Mary C. Miro, MA

Partnerships Manager


In May of 2016, Mary Miro joined the Civic Leadership Foundation team as the Partnerships Manager. Prior to her current role at CLF, Ms. Miro served  as the Community Relations Specialist for Loyola University Chicago, where she cultivated strategic relationships between Loyola University and its external partners in business, government, and nonprofit sector. 

Prior to joining Loyola in June of 2012, she worked for range of non-profits focused on improving the economic sustainability of low-income neighborhoods through job-training programs and business outreach. 

Ms. Miro attended Marquette University, earning her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology. Following Marquette, she pursued a M.A. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, focusing her studies on public policy, community organizing, and non-profit management.