Meet Our Regional Leaders

Zach Verriden, Executive Director, Wisconsin Region

Zach VerridenZach comes to the role of executive director after having served as National Director of People Development and principal of HOPE Christian High School. In his time as principal, the HOPE team increased their student’s ACT average to outperform the city, state and national averages for African-American students and achieved 100% college acceptance in each of those three years (a first in the city of Milwaukee). Furthermore, overall EXPLORE/PLAN/ACT averages during Zach’s tenure with the high school demonstrated more than two points annual growth and this amount of growth led the way among the Schools That Can-Milwaukee cohort of high-performing urban high schools in the city. Zach attributes this achievement to the outstanding team of dedicated professionals at the high school.

In addition to the work of the HOPE team at the high school, Zach has also been instrumental in the creation of the Leading With HOPE internal leadership development series, in addition to The IMPACT Series external leadership development series. Zach also teaches a graduate level class on frameworks for curriculum development at Alverno College.

Prior to joining HOPE, Zach worked in multiple roles with Teach For America-New Jersey and YES Prep Public Charter Schools in Houston where he also earned his business certificate from the Rice University Jones School of Business. Zach has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was recently awarded the Distinguished Recent Alumni Award, and a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Castenzio Venegas, Principal Director, Wisconsin Region

Castenzio VenegasCastenzio led the new school startup of HOPE Via in Racine before accepting the role of principal director for the Wisconsin region.

Previously, Castenzio was the Director of Teacher Development at the Center for Urban Teaching (CfUT) in Milwaukee, WI, where he served as a resource for aspiring urban teacher candidates and beginning teachers, equipping them with the training necessary to be highly effective in the urban classroom. He served as an Assistant Principal of CfUT’s summer school program at several campuses in Milwaukee. He started two new CfUT summer school sites at HOPE Prima and Sherman Park Lutheran School. He served for three years in Phoenix, AZ as a Teach For America Corps Member, taught abroad in Italy for one year, and taught freshman English at HOPE Christian High School. Castenzio was awarded the “Faith-in-Action” award at the annual HOPE Celebration in recognition of his courageous Christian leadership.

He holds his bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from Carthage College and received his M.Ed. in cross categorical special education K-12 at Arizona State University. He also earned a graduate certificate in instructional mentoring through the Southeastern Wisconsin New Teacher Project (SEWNTP) as well as earned a graduate certificate with Relay Graduate School in the National Principal Academy Fellowship (NPAF) program.

Erica Samz, Director of Operations, Wisconsin Region

Erica comes to the role of regional director of operations after serving as a director of operations at HOPE Fortis for four years. In her regional role, she supports the school level operations in the HOPE schools and ensures excellence and compliance in areas such as the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, finances and vendor relations.

Erica received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where she taught high school foreign language as a Teach For America corps member. She made the decision to use her strengths to impact and improve urban education through school operations and left the classroom to join the school operations team at KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle School in New Orleans.

Upon moving back to Milwaukee, she learned about HOPE schools, and found HOPE to be the perfect intersection of her passions – her faith and desire to ensure equal opportunities for all children regardless of socioeconomic status. Erica loves serving behind the scenes to make school operations work seamlessly so teachers and school administrators can focus on scholars.

Ashley Boyte, Operations Specialist, Wisconsin Region

Ashley Boyte is a graduate of Culver-Stockton College with a degree in Business Administration. While she majored in Business, working with students has always been a passion. Upon graduation, she joined Teach for America and was placed to teach in Milwaukee. She taught Kindergarten for two years at HOPE Caritas while attending Cardinal Stritch University. She graduated from Cardinal Stritch University in 2017 with a Master of Arts in Urban Education. Upon graduation and finishing her Teach for America commitment, Ashley knew he still wanted to work in a school setting. She sought a role where she could incorporate her business skills with her desire to serve children. Ashley became the School Operations Manager for HOPE Caritas, and then transitioned to the role of Regional Operations Specialist for HOPE Christian Schools Wisconsin Region.

Fatima Wakefield, Community Relations Director, Wisconsin Region

Fatima WakefieldFatima is a Racine resident and founding family member of HOPE Via in Racine. She has first-hand experience as a HOPE parent and is excited to bring HOPE’s 3 Cs of Christ.College.Character. to more families in her community.

Prior to joining HOPE, Fatima was an Economic Support Worker for Racine County’s Human Services Department where she determined eligibility for various federally funded programs. She is skilled in customer service and is excited to help families with HOPE’s enrollment process, which for many families includes enrollment in the Milwaukee and Racine Parental Choice Programs.

Brenna Prochnow, Principal, HOPE Fortis

Brenna’s passion and commitment to urban education is rooted in her desire to be see all students afforded excellent educational opportunities, and in turn, become agents for change in their communities.

Brenna joined the HOPE Fortis team in 2012 as a teaching assistant. Her talents and dedication propelled her to a lead teaching role for middle school math, and she remained in the classroom for the next two years as a 5th and 6th grade math teacher. She served as the Middle School Grade Level Chair, mentoring and leading a team of middle school teachers as they transitioned to a new behavioral management system. She then spent two years as the Dean of Instruction before transitioning into the Principal role in 2017.

Brenna graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor of arts in legal studies and sociology. She then spent a year abroad working for a Christian mission organization in the Middle East. Upon completing her year commitment, she heard about the great work HOPE was doing on the north side of Milwaukee and could not wait to move to Milwaukee to join the HOPE team and family.

Chelsea Prochnow, Principal, HOPE Prima

Chelsea ProchnowChelsea is a passionate educator dedicated to providing all children with an excellent education regardless of their zip code. During her first year as Principal, Chelsea implemented organizational change to drive student achievement, improve school-wide culture, and create a sustainable work environment for her staff. Under her leadership, students are out-performing their peers on the NWEA MAP test, behavior incidents have decreased by nearly 20%, the amount of time on-task in class continues to increase, and staff retention rates have improved each year. Chelsea shares her leadership talents to support other HOPE schools and impact educational outcomes for more children through her role as a Principal Coach.

Chelsea began her career as a Teach For America Corps Member teaching 3rd Grade in Milwaukee Public Schools. In 2010 she expanded her education experience joining HOPE Christian Schools as a middle school teacher. As a recognized leader in her school, Chelsea was promoted to the role of Dean of Instruction where she led the school-wide implementation of rigorous, Common Core aligned instruction as well as differentiated small group work for reading and math.

Chelsea is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and received her MBA in Educational Leadership from Milwaukee School of Engineering. She holds a masters in Educational Policy from Marquette University and a bachelor of arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Tammy Rasco, Principal, HOPE Christian High School

Tammy RascoA native of Milwaukee, Tammy’s passion for Christ, urban schools and Milwaukee’s youth is contagious. Tammy’s teaching experience ranges from early childhood to intermediate and middle school. After 13 years of dedicated service in Milwaukee Public Schools, Tammy served charter schools in leadership positions including dean of students, assistant principal, and principal. She is passionate about the impact of project-based learning and STEM education, often encouraging scholars to choose career paths in engineering, science and math.

A Sunday school teacher in her church, Tammy knows the impact that a growing relationship with Christ can have in the lives of HOPE scholars. As principal of HOPE Christian High School, she is committed to upholding the legacy of 100% college acceptance for all HOPE Christian High School graduates and leading HOPE to become the premier faith-based high school in Milwaukee. She is motivated by her favorite scripture passage, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Tammy holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University, a master’s degree in urban education and curriculum & instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from St. Cloud State University. She obtained her teaching certification from Milwaukee Teacher Education Center.

Edie Martwick, Founding Principal, HOPE Fidelis

Edie is a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran College where she majored in education. As a college student she was awarded the “Impact Award” recognizing her leadership and contributions to the mission of the college. As a teacher she continued to demonstrate the importance of teacher as leader, serving at St. Marcus, HOPE Christian School, and EAGLE College Preparatory Schools in Arizona. While at EAGLE, she completed her Master’s Degree program in Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University (ASU).

Edie moved back to Milwaukee in 2009 to assume another leadership position as Director of Coaching for the Center for Urban Teaching. She mentored first and second year teachers, organized regular small group mentoring meetings, and coordinated the Urban Conference in Milwaukee.

In 2011, Edie returned to St. Marcus where she served as a kindergarten teacher, an instructional coach, Director of Primary, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Assistant Principal. In 2015, Edie joined the HOPE team as a Founding Principal. Edie received her master’s degree in educational leadership from Alverno College in 2016.

Katie Lambert, M. Ed., Interim Principal, HOPE Via and Founding Principal, HOPE Veritas

Katie LambertKatie Lambert is leading the expansion of our second Racine school, HOPE Christian School: Veritas. Her mission as an educator is “to make school a place where every child can thrive and succeed, feel safe and loved, and develop a faithful relationship with Jesus.”

Katie began her service to HOPE Christian Schools in 2013 as a third grade teacher and Grade-Level Chair (GLC) at HOPE Fortis in Milwaukee. In the summer of 2015, she became the Founding Dean of Students for HOPE Christian School: Via. While at HOPE Via, she developed the HOPE Via Parent Leadership Organization and school-wide systems that fostered a positive learning environment for children.

Prior to joining HOPE, Katie served in the Teach For America Milwaukee region. During this time, Katie was a third grade teacher at an International Baccalaureate charter school on the north side of Milwaukee. While teaching, she served as a mentor for aspiring urban teachers and led professional development on effective instruction and classroom management as a Content Team Leader (CTL). During the summers of 2013-2014, Katie coached new teachers from across the Midwest at the Teach For America Chicago Institute as a Corps Member Advisor (CMA). It was during these foundational years that Katie realized the essential need to provide children with a faith-based education. This led her to HOPE.

Katie has participated in numerous leadership trainings from the Milwaukee Emerging Leaders Program and Uncommon Schools. In 2016, Katie was awarded the “Serving Leader” award at the annual HOPE Celebration in recognition for her ability to lead others with a servant heart and humility. Katie is excited to help build the HOPE network in Racine and looks forward to bringing Christ.College.Character. to more children.

Katie holds her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice through Indiana University and received her M. Ed. in Educational Policy and Leadership from Marquette University. She also holds a teaching license for first through eighth grade in the State of Wisconsin.

Jameela Lee, Principal, HOPE Semper

Jameela believes that God has a purpose and a plan for every teacher and scholar at HOPE and is very fortunate for the opportunity to help each scholar and teacher reach their full potential. Jameela comes to the role after serving schools in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, bringing a wealth of experience to her new role. She began her educational career as a Teacher Assistant, then progressed to lead teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, and now principal at HOPE Semper.

Mrs. Lee is a graduate of Southern University and A&M college in Baton Rouge, LA where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications. She went on to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership from William Carey University in Gulfport, MS. While serving as Assistant principal in Gulfport, Jameela also completed the National Institute for School Leadership through the University of Mississippi.

Jameela has a passion for teaching others about Christ and is able to fulfill her passion at Christ the King Baptist church. She is a member of the family life ministry and teaches Sunday School and Wednesday night bible study. Jameela feels blessed to be part of an organization that embodies her belief of Christ first, preparing for college, and building strong character in the next generation.

Deniece Fields Russell, Principal, HOPE Caritas

Deniece has been in the education field for more than 17 years, serving as an educator, leader, motivational speaker, and author.

A native of Milwaukee, she began her career with the Milwaukee Public School system as a middle school English Language Arts teacher. From there, she traveled the Midwest as a reading/writing curriculum coordinator. She relocated to St. Louis to serve as Assistant Principal for one year before being promoted to Principal of the Confluence Academy Old North Campus where she served for three years, leading a staff of 90 members and more than 1,000 students. She later moved to Chicago where she served as Director/Principal of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago for four years. While there, she received a Principal Achievement Award in the city of Chicago, and was honored by the Mayor of Chicago as one of the city’s 82 principals who made “exceptional growth” in one year. In 2014, Deniece was recruited back to Milwaukee to serve as the first Executive Director of Acelero Learning Wisconsin, a major Head Start organization. Fueled by her true desire to work in urban education and help prepare young people for their life’s work, she accepted the role of Principal at HOPE Caritas in 2018.

Deniece received her early formal education from the Milwaukee Public School system and received her bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after attending Tuskegee University in Alabama for her first two years of undergraduate study. She holds a Master of Education degree in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

^