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PFA Team
Leadership Team

 

Kevin Krebs

Founder & Managing Partner

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A first-generation college student and lifelong entrepreneur, Kevin has founded four companies and helped launch a student-athlete mentoring program at his alma mater Northwestern University. A two-sport athlete at Northwestern in football and baseball, Kevin supports higher education by empowering schools and parents with expert college admissions and guidance on paying for college while inspiring students to achieve their potential through goal-oriented mentoring programs.

Kevin Taylor

CTO, Investor & Board Manager

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Kevin is a coder and entrepreneur who lives in the Chicago area, where he makes things out of words, bytes, scarce resources, and even flour, water, salt and yeast.

 

As an entrepreneur and investor, Kevin has so far had two successful exits. In 2011, Obtiva was acquired by Groupon and in 2014, MadMimi was acquired by GoDaddy.

 

As a CEO, Kevin has earned several awards. In 2010, he was nominated for “CEO of the Year” by the Illinois Technology Association. Also, in 2010 and 2011, Obtiva was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the country’s fastest growing private companies, growing 99 percent and 142 percent over a three-year period, respectively.

 

As an educator, in 2011, Kevin was awarded a Coleman Fellowship by the Kaufman Foundation for innovation in teaching Entrepreneurship.

 

Kevin has suffered from a lifelong obsession with entrepreneurship and is an angel investor and advisor for early-stage start-ups. He has a current interest in businesses that improve, and even turn on their heads, tired business models, ones that are ripe to receive exponential boosts by properly leveraging technology, operational, and business model innovation.

 

He also consults with dev shop, design firm, and other tech service business leaders who want their businesses to be amazing. His software development company, Obtiva, demonstrated that there is plenty of room for creativity and innovation in tech services.

 

He has formally advised, mentored, and consulted for dozens of startup and small to medium-sized business founders and management teams in diverse industries.

 

He is a co-founder of the Software Craftsmanship North America conference and has organized and presented at numerous technology and entrepreneurship conferences and events.

Dan Farnesi

Executive Vice President

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Dan has more than 30 years experience from owning and operating his own businesses to working in large corporations. Dan’s expertise includes finance, sales management, operations and marketing. His background in finance has provided a great foundation for him to work with PFA teammates to develop tools that help families understand the financial implications of their college options. Additionally, his varied professional experience brings a broad view of issues and opportunities helping develop operational policies and procedures to facilitate PFA growth while delivering on commitments to our families.

 

Dan loves his job and the way PFA is changing lives every day.

Julie Daniels

CPA & Controller

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After attending a PFA workshop in 2012, Julie was intrigued with the convergence of financial planning, academic counseling and career development as key elements for a successful matriculation to the undergraduate collegiate experience.  PFA afforded an ideal opportunity to leverage her business expertise with a passion for helping people realize their dreams of affordable higher education.  Upon joining PFA as Controller in 2013, Julie also became a client.

 

Julie attended Central Michigan University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration (Accounting) and graduating Cum Laude from the University Honors Program in three years.

 

Julie began her career with Deloitte & Touche, providing audit and business advisory services to large, multinational corporations in a variety of industry sectors.  She then transferred to the mergers and acquisitions practice, specializing in corporate tax.  Julie later joined the tax practice of Coopers & Lybrand, specializing in expatriates/inpatriates, estates and trusts and high net-worth individuals. Prior to joining PFA, Julie worked with a smaller accounting firm providing a variety of tax and accounting services to her clients. She brings a wealth of public accounting and professional services experience to her role at PFA.

 

Counselors

 

Karen Daluga

Counselor

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Karen has worked side-by-side with families throughout the Chicago western suburbs on college planning helping students with admissions to selective and highly selective schools including the Ivy Leagues, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Notre Dame, University of California Berkeley, Oberlin, and University of Michigan.


Over the course of her 10-year college planning career, Karen has visited more than 225 schools across the country, actively attending college update meetings to learn about newly announced majors, changes in admission requirements, or new scholarship information.

 

Karen has extensively shared her college planning expertise by presenting to corporations and financial planning companies, contributing to the National PTA on-line newsletter, providing interviews for National PTA radio program, and guest speaking for a local test prep companies.

 

Prior to joining Partners For Achievement, Karen worked as a college advisor at a private school where she developed and directed a College Kick Start program, College Boot Camp and a College Essay Workshop for students. She has also served as Membership Chair on the Executive Board of Directors for Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA), a national organization for Independent Educational Consultants, as well as served as Co-Chair of the National HECA conference in 2013. She is a member of HECA and Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC).


Karen has an MBA from DePaul University and holds a Graduate Certificate in College Counseling, with Honors, from UCLA. She and her husband are the parents of two daughters and a son, all of whom are college graduates.

Kendall Hayes

Counselor

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Kendall has enjoyed working with students of varying academic abilities and talents over the years. She has extensive experience working with students pursuing their dreams of admission to highly selective schools. Likewise, Kendall works with students who were initially challenged within the college search process. Ultimately, students have identified and achieved their goals of attaining admission to the colleges of their choosing.

 

Kendall’s journey to becoming a college counselor began in college admissions where she worked for two years as the Assistant Director of Admission for her alma mater, DePauw University. Since then, she has worked for two remarkable high schools, both citing nearly 100 percent of their graduating classes attending four-year institutions. Kendall’s most recent and longest experience as a college counselor has been at Benet Academy where she guided students of all academic abilities and levels of motivation, student athletes, performing artists and their families to navigate the college search and application process.

Georgia Boepple

College & Career Counselor

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Georgia brings her knowledge of the corporate world to PFA college students and parents, helping them navigate their way through the matrix of collegiate academic planning and career launching.

 

Georgia’s background includes communications, advertising, insurance, financial services, in addition to developing her own financial software company. Her interest in working with high school and college students stems back to volunteering in local high schools developing programs in college admissions, scholarships and job shadowing that introduced high school seniors to different industries throughout the Chicago area.

 

Georgia counsels students on college and career planning, helping college and career-bound students with resume development, interview preparation, business etiquette, as well as networking within various industries.

 

After recognizing a trend that college students are not graduating in a timely manner and are failing to find jobs in their career fields, Georgia felt impassioned about helping students with college and career planning.

Shelly O'Neill

Counselor

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Shelly has counseled more than 400 high school students and visited 200 college campuses throughout the United States while working as an independent college consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years.

 

Shelly’s advised students on admissions to every college tier from non-selective to the highest selective schools with acceptances to Stanford, Northwestern, all University of California schools, University of Southern California, Claremont Colleges, Georgetown University, The George Washington University, Boston College, MIT, University of Michigan and many more.

 

She has been a board member with the Higher Education Consultants Association, a member of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling, and a volunteer for Pass With Flying Colors, a non-profit college support program for first generation or underserved college and high school students.

 

Shelly graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in communications and later earned a UC Berkeley College and Career Advising graduate certificate (with honors). Previously, she worked in advertising for 10 years. Shelly and her husband have a daughter and two sons, two of which graduated from college.

Terri C. Houston

Counselor

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Terri Houston is a trainer, partner and mentor of students, college administrators, and business professionals around the country. “Ms. H”, as affectionately known by students she has guided and mentored, most recently served as an independent consultant designing customized inclusive leadership training for colleges and universities.

 

Terri shares Partners For Achievement’s goals of helping students and parents navigate the complicated college planning process. Terri’s unique and extensive experience working with college students and universities provides PFA families with unparalleled insight into higher education.  For more than 13 years, Terri served as senior director for recruitment and multicultural affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she partnered with admissions, financial aid and orientation departments overseeing pre-enrollment and retention programs for high school juniors, seniors, college freshmen and their parents.

 

Additionally, she managed diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for Portland Oregon’s largest behavioral healthcare organization and directed recruitment, student leadership and career development programs at Iowa State University, Ferris State University and Chicago’s Robert Morris University where she began her higher education career.  And although a proud Chicago native, she traveled around the world through the internationally renowned Semester at Sea Program.

 

Terri holds a Bachelors from Loras College and a Masters from Central Michigan University.  She is a certified Life Coach, Safe-zone® trainer and professionally accredited through the Central Association of College and University Business Officers.  Terri’s commitment around making college accessible and achievable for students and parents is her number one goal.

Julie Morrow Soto

Counselor

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Julie has worked with students and the college planning process for 14 years as a high school counselor in the Northern suburbs of Chicago. She has worked with students pursuing a wide variety of colleges and universities. Julie has attended numerous college articulation conferences and college fairs to stay currents with admission trends. She has also conducted research on admission criteria for colleges and universities across the country.
 
Julie has a Master’s Degree in Counseling from DePaul University. She has worked with and mentored students in academic settings for 20 years. She is passionate about her work and loves guiding students and families with all aspects of the college readiness and application process.
 
Julie lives with her husband and twin boys in Glenview, Illinois. She loves being part of the Partner’s for Achievement team and the mission to serve students and families in a personalized manner.

J. Tracy Mehr

Counselor

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Tracy has more than twenty years of counseling experience working with both public and private high school students throughout the Chicago area. He loves connecting with the students and truly feels as though they often change his life more than he changes theirs. He has worked with students pursuing a wide variety of colleges and universities and feels one of the most important elements in finding the right fit is helping students learn how to share their story.

 

Tracy has a BS in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a Master’s Degree in Human Services and Counseling from DePaul University. He has been an active member of the Illinois Association of College Admission Counseling (IACAC) as both a conference presenter and a member of the communications and membership committees.

 

Tracy lives with his wife and two children in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. They have lived overseas for a number of years and traveled extensively during that time. Tracy enjoys being part of the PFA team and believes that the financial tools and guidance available at PFA provides families with resources not typically found in their high school counseling department.

Allyson Neumann

Counselor

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Allyson has unique experiences working with students of all ages and varying abilities and talents over the years. She has worked in all avenues of the school counseling field and has been on all sides of the desk. Allyson's favorite part of her job is connecting with families and be able to help students realize and achieve their full potential. She has worked with students pursuing a wide variety of colleges and universities and feels that finding the perfect fit for your child is the most important aspect of all. Having been raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Allyson is very in tune with what parents and families are looking for in their student's continuing education.

 

Allyson's journey to becoming a School Counselor started with a BA in Psychology from The Ohio State University. She then continued on to receive her M.Ed in School Counseling from Cleveland State University. Since moving back from Cleveland, Allyson has been a School Counselor and 504/IEP Coordinator at multiple schools in the area giving her extensive knowledge on student's with different learning needs. She has also previously been a private Executive Function Coach, traveling to student's homes and helping them learn the skills to be successful in high school, college, and beyond.

 

Allyson lives in Bucktown with her husband and goldendoodle Scarlett. She enjoys traveling, Ohio State Football, spending time with her family, trying new restaurants, and of course creating relationships with her students. 

 

Essay Coaches

 

Jennifer Taylor

Essay and Editorial Director

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A seasoned news reporter, Jennifer’s 13 years of professional journalism experience spans small, mid-size and large daily newspapers. A mother of two teenage children, Jennifer empathizes with PFA college-bound students experiencing anxiety over college application essays. Sit-down, exploratory interviews with students help draw out authentic stories and positions them to craft compelling and polished college application essays.

 

Jennifer is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered education, higher education, business, and local government for news organizations including the Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star and the Daily Herald.

Cameron Gearen

Essay Coach

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After earning an MFA in writing, Cameron taught middle school, high school and college for 15 years. She has taught essay writing to undergraduates at Yale University and Indiana University. She also worked on the team that helped set up Yale’s first new study abroad program in forty years: The PKU program to Beijing. Cameron has two teenaged daughters, a fact which makes her feel quite empathetic to families and students applying to schools. Cameron has also worked as a private tutor and college counselor with middle school and high school students.

 

After leaving teaching, Cameron worked as a full-time freelance writer for corporate clients such as JP Morgan Chase, Kellogg (cereal), Rand McNally and many others. These experiences working with companies to tell their “stories” have helped Cameron further earn her writing chops. Along the way, she has written advertorials, articles for print and web, social media copy, and has ghost written the blog posts of executives, to name just a few. Along with her PFA colleagues, Cameron helps students shape and edit their essays in an effort to beautifully and clearly express the student’s “story.”

 

Cameron has published her poetry, fiction and essays widely. In 2005, US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky chose her poetry chapbook, NIGHT, RELATIVE TO DAY, for publication. Her first full-length book of poems, SOME PERFECT YEAR, was just released by Shearsman Press and is available on Amazon. Cameron is a native of Oak Park and an alum of Oak Park and River Forest High School, Wesleyan University (Connecticut) and Indiana University (graduate program).

Will Wagner

Essay Coach

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Will, a graduate of Knox College with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, has nearly three decades of professional experience as both a writer and an editor. He has worked in virtually every facet of publishing, from newspapers and national magazines to websites. In addition, he authored a book about the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Blues, published in 2004 by Taylor Trade.

 

For Will, being an essay coach for PFA is as gratifying as any of his previous endeavors. Will, the father of a 20-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter, welcomes the opportunity to pass on what he knows about writing to the “next generation.” The finished products from the PFA students—thoughtful, carefully crafted essays—never fail to put a smile on his face.

Jody Paige

Essay Coach

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Jody Paige has been writing as long as she can remember. Creating her own neighborhood newspaper as a child, she turned her passion into her profession. She has spent 18 years in various writing and editing positions from a hometown paper to a major daily. Jody is a mother of tween triplet boys and understands the value of helping each student’s unique qualities and gifts shine through in an essay designed to stand out.

 

Jody holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago and her experiences span from investigative work to specializing in education and local government coverage as well as content writing and editing for papers including the Kane County Chronicle and Chicago Tribune.

Debbie Applebaum

Essay Coach

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Since receiving a Masters degree in Psychology from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have been actively involved in the education arena for over 20 years. Driven by an intellectual curiosity combined with an analytical mindset, my aim is to deliver value to my students.   A natural storyteller, strong strategic thinker and the ability to work collaboratively to develop compelling essays is my expertise. I am the proud mother of two high school students.

Cheyanne Becker

Essay Coach

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Cheyanne is an avid reader and literary critic with an extensive background in analyzing, assessing and critiquing a wide range of academic-level essays. Cheyanne is a tutor in English, meeting weekly with college students to provide guidance in academic writing. Additionally, Cheyanne grades and provides academic feedback on student essays for college professors.

 

Crafting a college application essay requires an authentic approach and genuine self-analysis. Cheyanne coaches students to achieve an authentic, compelling essay with introspective questions about a topic sincerely important to the student.

Chris Bench

Essay Coach

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Since he was a child, Chris has known he wanted to teach. Whether it be in his classrooms at the University of Chicago or Roosevelt University or the hundreds of students he’s worked with in his decade of essay coaching, Chris loves helping students find their voice on the page. “It’s an amazing privilege,” he reports, “seeing a student learn who they are as a writer. You’re really watching them discover themselves.”

 

In his free time, Chris is an avid cook. He particularly enjoys preparing Mexican food, even growing his own chiles for salsas and moles, and every Fourth of July, he throws a pig roast for his friends. An Eagle Scout, Chris also enjoys camping, backpacking, and paddling. He has gone trekking in Glacier, King's Canyon, Yellowstone, and Gates of the Arctic National Parks. When he’s relaxing, Chris loves music and record collecting, and he’s always excited to learn what’s in his students’ earbuds.

 

Chris received his A.B. in English Language and Literature from Kenyon College and his M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago.

Sara Walsh

Essay Coach

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Sara has worked as a high school English teacher for the past 14 years. She began her career at The Dwight School in New York City, where she guided students in their preparation for the International Baccalaureate diploma. Sara later served as both an English teacher and dorm parent at EF Education New York, an international boarding school, where she taught students from more than 49 different nations—a highlight of her life so far! While at EF, she also helped prepare students with their college application essays. Currently, she works at Fusion Academy in Oak Brook, where she holds the position of English and yoga teacher. Sara is a graduate of The University of Notre Dame and holds an MA in English from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has been published in The Washingtonian, The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and Chronogram.

Marisa Mancini

Essay Coach

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As a mother of two college-age students, Marisa knows firsthand the stress and pressure students and families face during the college application process. She deeply cares about her students, and loves to help them overcome their writing fears.  As a writer and mentor, Marisa is dedicated to helping each student identify meaningful themes, structure compelling stories and draft language that engages readers.

 

Marisa’s writing background is extensive. As a litigation attorney for more than 11 years, she is skilled in both analytical and persuasive writing, and has mentored new attorneys in legal writing. Later in her career, she worked as an independent college consultant and guided students through all aspects of the college application process, including essay consulting, coaching, and editing. Marisa also worked as a campaign manager for a local mayoral candidate, where she wrote press releases, social media posts, and campaign speeches. Currently, she is a freelance journalist for a local newspaper.

 

Marisa earned a Juris Doctorate degree from DePaul College of Law and a B.A. in English from Loyola University. Additionally, she is published in three legal journals.

 

Marisa spent her junior year of college at the Loyola University Rome Center, which forever flamed her passion for traveling and adventure. She is fluent in Italian and proficient in Spanish.

 

Staff

 

Kim Anderson

Director of Community Outreach

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Kim joined Partners For Achievement in late 2015 after an extensive search to find the right company to assist her high school age daughters with the college search and application process. PFA demonstrated that they were large enough to have the breadth and depth of knowledge in these areas, but still small enough to care. She liked that the program is structured in such a way that each student receives individualized attention and a unique plan meeting their needs as they work to find the right collegiate experience.

 

As Director of Community Outreach, Kim is excited to share PFA’s message with school districts and businesses throughout the Chicago area through free workshops that educate families about the most important steps to college planning and career success. Kim’s passion for education began as an undergraduate where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, and continued into her 15-year career in the financial services industry where she trained, mentored and managed hundreds of employees in the areas of underwriting, marketing and client services. Kim received her MBA from Northwestern University with an emphasis in marketing and management strategy.

 

Kim is married with three children, the youngest who will be part of the class of 2024. She has been a dedicated volunteer to numerous philanthropic and educational organizations from Hinsdale Junior Women’s Club and Robert Crown Center for Health to chairing numerous committees on the PTO at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. Most recently, she served as PTO president. Kim enjoys tennis, travel, reading and time with her family.

Julia Farnesi

Program Coordinator

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A graduate of Western Illinois University, Julia oversees students through the steps of the PFA program making sure timelines are met. Prior to joining PFA, Julia served as a guerilla-marketing specialist for a major, national restaurant chain overseeing and tracking the development of marketing in locations across the country. She also brings to PFA students an experienced perspective of studying abroad. Julia understands selecting a college is one the biggest life decisions students will make and enjoys ushering them through a smooth process.

Jeannine Palhegyi

Administrative Assistant

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Jeannine is the first person you meet at PFA, greeting our families with a smile. Her extensive background in administrative services includes specialties in client interactions, budget management, and personnel support.

Rasha Myers

Program Coordinator

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Rasha Myers is a former teacher, and program manager.  With more than 10 years experience in educational management, Rasha has instructed students through distinct individualized teaching methods, aimed at improving their overall performance. Myers is a dynamic thinker who focuses on identifying individual strengths to apply her findings in the most effective and efficient manner. Rather than apply forced, quick fixes to potential areas of struggle, Rasha opts to build upon areas of skill and excellence through which she guides students and professionals towards logical practices and endeavors.

 

As a program coordinator for Partners For Achievement, Rasha orients new students and families to PFA, making sure students meet program milestones throughout the college planning process.

 

Rasha holds a Master of Science (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor’s of Science (B.S) in Biology from Tuskegee University.  As a Chicago native, she enjoys joining friends and family to try new restaurants, attending musicals, and traveling off the beaten path.

 

 

Advisors

 

Mark Ward

Investor & Education / Technology Advisor

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A technology investor, Mark is the former Chief Operating Officer of Fastweb, the nation’s leading college scholarship search aggregation site, which was acquired by Monster; he stayed on to run the business as its General Manager for five years.

Jim Bresingham

Investor & Finance Advisor

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A former CFO for Berkshire Hathaway’s The Pampered Chef, Jim is currently the CFO at THI, (owned by TA Associates) and is currently prepping the company for an IPO in 2016.

Jimmy Reilly

Investor & Advisor

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Currently CEO of Cavan Capital, Jim has 30 years of investment experience having served as Chief Investment Officer and Portfolio Manager of AllianceBernstein Large Cap Growth Strategies ($25-45B in AUM) and has personally managed over $10B in AUM in LCG for separately managed accounts and hedge fund clients.

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