HOPE Christian School: Via

Castenzio Venegas, Founding Principal

Castenzio Venegas is responsible for leading the new school startup with HOPE Christian School Via in Racine. Previously, Castenzio was the Director of Teacher Development at the Center for Urban Teaching (CfUT) in Milwaukee, WI. He holds his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/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).

Prior to joining HOPE as the founding principal, he served for three years in Phoenix, Arizona as a Teach for American Corps Member, taught abroad in Italy for one year, and taught freshman English while serving as the Grade Level Representative at HOPE Christian High School. In 2011, Castenzio was awarded the “Faith-in-Action” award at the annual HOPE Fall Celebration in recognition of his faithfulness and courageous Christian Leadership. In the summer of 2012, Castenzio served as the Assistant Principal of CfUT’s summer school program at Risen Savior Lutheran School in Milwaukee. The following two years, Castenzio served as the lead principal, as well as trained future urban principals, and started two new CfUT summer school sites at HOPE Christian School Prima and Sherman Park Lutheran School, respectively. 
Castenzio joined the CfUT team as the Director of Teacher Development in July 2012. In this previous role, and in addition to the summer school leadership development program, Castenzio served as a resource for aspiring urban teacher candidates and beginning teachers by working to ensure that they were equipped with the initial training necessary to be highly effective in the urban classroom. Additionally, he supported beginning teachers through monthly professional development sessions and ongoing instructional mentoring and coaching. Castenzio currently lives in Racine and is a native to the city.  

Ciji Pittman, Managing Director

Ciji is responsible for facilitating growth and expansion including new school startup, regional startup, and overall organizational expansion. 
Previously, Ciji founded and lead a high performing charter school in Memphis through the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship.  As the Founder and Head of School Ciji oversaw school operations, student academic achievement, board development, human resources, budgeting, and facility expansion.  During her time in the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, Ciji completed school leadership residencies with high performing charter networks and schools, studying and implementing the best practices that have led to outstanding academic achievement in schools that serve predominantly low-income students.

Ciji began her career in education as a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta, GA.  During her experience she wrote curriculum as part of the first Student Achievement Toolkit for the Atlanta Institute and also served as a Corps Member Advisor for incoming corps members.  She is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received her bachelor’s degree and the University of Chicago Law School where she was a Butler, Rubin, Saltarelli, & Boyd Diversity Scholar.