Board of Directors

Andrew Annacone, President

Andy has spent his career helping organizations innovate and grow and has been involved with EPIC Academy since 2012.  Andy is currently a Managing Partner at TechNexus, a Venture Capital and Strategic Advisory firm that helps corporations drive strategic growth and transformation. Prior to TechNexus, Andy led Corporate Venture Capital and new business innovation at Outerwall, Inc.   He was a Principal with growth advisor Galt & Company, and has held senior leadership roles at Sears and Gap.  Early in his career, he founded Arthur Andersen’s Shareholder Value consulting practice.  Andrew is active in the venture community, serving as Board member and mentor to several early-stage companies and lecturing on venturing at various universities.  Andrew earned an MBA from the University of Illinois.

Mark Haggerty, Vice-President

Mark Haggarty is an MBA with the heart of an educator and the experience of an executive. His passion is to provide vital services and counsel to communities, in the hopes of generating positive change in the lives of others, and in doing so, inform his own life choices and perspective. Originally from New York, Mark graduated with a B.A. in English from Kenyon College in 1996, and then was privileged to participate in the fast-paced Internet Boom 1.0 with startups in both New York City and San Francisco, California, before transitioning in 2002 to the non-profit space as a career. Mark worked in direct service and program delivery for the College Track organization in East Palo Alto, CA, and volunteered his time in summer workshops for College Summit, until 2006 when he became a father for the first time and relocated with his wife Amy to her native Chicago. After completing an MBA at Loyola University Chicago, Mark built a non-profit consultancy, with clients across Chicago and the midwest specifically focused on education reform efforts and college success for first-generation, low-income student populations. His biggest client became the OneGoal organization; Mark was instrumental in the creation of the OneGoal three-year curriculum that now governs student progress though the program. Since 2013, Mark has been employed full-time as Director of New Site Development, leading the internal and external efforts to open new regions annually for OneGoal around the country. Mark has been the Vice Chair and Chair of Development on the EPIC Academy Charter High School Board of Trustees, a OneGoal partner school, since 2014. He is also Chair of the Care Club, a service organization, for the Ravinia Elementary School PTO where his children attend. Mark resides in Highland Park, IL with his wife Amy, their daughter Kai, and son Caleb.

Chris Martin, Treasurer

Chris is a Managing Director at TwinBrook Capital Partners and joined the Epic Academy board in 2013. Prior to joining TwinBrook, Chris was a Director at Madison Capital Funding. Chris holds a B.A. in Finance from the University of Delaware Lerner College of Business and Economics, and a Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Chris has been involved with Epic Academy since 2011, and helped develop a financial based intensives program for students.

Michael Johns, Secretary

Michael Johns is an educational director who strives to inspire the next generation of leaders through his passion and dedication. Currently, he serves as the Director of Mentors and Volunteers for Chicago Scholars, a comprehensive mentorship program that facilitates students’ persistence in high school and transition into higher education. In this role, he leverages his excellent relationship building skills to recruit, train, and manage over 300 mentors and volunteers. Specifically, he has collaborated to develop an intensive mentorship program, connect students to their mentors, and coordinate volunteer events to inspire students to become better learners and give them the tools to confidently pursue their dreams.

Bill Gerstein

Bill Gerstein has had a long career in education and in business. Most recently Bill led a major effort for the Chicago Public Schools to create a comprehensive community engagement strategy in the Humboldt Park community. Prior to that he was the co-founder and principal of two small high schools. One was the School of Entrepreneurship, a small high school located within the South Shore High School campus in Chicago. In 2007 he left South Shore to start the Austin Polytech Academy in the Austin community. Mr. Gerstein was a high school social studies teacher and track coach for eight years before he became the owner/operator of a small chain of supermarkets (Mr. G. Finer Foods) in Chicago. While in business, Mr. Gerstein became actively involved in many community activities on the South Side of Chicago including public schools. In 1996 Mr. Gerstein sold his business as part of an effort to expand into a bigger location. After running a community based organization, he obtained a masters degree in school administration. Working with the community and teachers he helped organize four small schools within South Shore High School as the school converted its structure from a comprehensive model to a campus of autonomous small high schools. Mr. Gerstein resides on the South Side with his wife (a Chicago Public School teacher). They have four children and one grandchild.

Leigha Haynes

Leigha Haynes is a Vice President at Madison Capital Funding LLC and focuses on structuring and managing investment vehicles on behalf of investors. Prior to joining Madison Capital in 2012, she worked at KPMG LLP in the Financial Services Audit practice. Leigha holds a B.S. and M.A.S. in Accountancy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently working towards completing a Masters in Business Administration at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Mercedes Hill

Jenner & Block Partner Mercedes M. Hill focuses her practice on M&A, investments and corporate counseling. She represents strategic and financial buyers and sellers in connection with complex M&A, restructuring and investment transactions ranging from under $25 million to more than $5 billion.  Ms. Hill’s experience crosses a variety of industries, including the aerospace and defense, aircraft, agriculture, automotive, consumer products and services, food, energy management, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare IT and supply chain industries.  In addition to being a member of the firm's Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity and Corporate Finance Practices, she is also the leader of the African American Affinity Group and a member of the firm's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Hiring Committee and Associate Development and Evaluation Committee.

Ms. Hill is consistently recognized for her work including being named a “Rising Star” in M&A by Illinois Super Lawyers. In 2016 and 2017, she was recognized by Legal 500 for her experience in middle-market M&A and received the Leadership Excellence in Law Award from the National Diversity Council.  In 2015, she was named an “Emerging Lawyer” in M&A law by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company and was named to M&A Advisor’s “40 Under 40” list. In addition to her legal accomplishments, Ms. Hill is also a 2016 Fellow in the Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC) program, a member of the board of directors of The Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, a member of the board of Epic Academy and volunteers as legal counsel to Ladies of Virtue, a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of young women, ages 10 to 18, in underserved communities. Ms. Hill, a graduate of The Ohio State University, received her law degree from Harvard Law School.

Maria Kim

After 13 years in the insurance industry, Maria Kim joined Cara – a social purpose organization uplifting people and communities through the power of employment. Maria serves on the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation as well as the boards of EPIC Academy and  Rebuilding Exchange. She has been a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow since 2008, a 2012 American Marshall Memorial Fellow and a 2013 TEDxMidwest Emerging Leader. Maria holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Joshua Milberg

Joshua Milberg serves as the Director of Technology Strategy at Allstate Insurance.  He has previously served in a number of leadership roles in the energy, environmental and strategy consulting sectors. Josh holds a bachelors degree from Claremont McKenna College.  He received his Masters in Business Administration with concentrations in Strategy and Finance from the Yale School of Management.

Aaron O’Donnell

Aaron O’Donnell is an associate in the Chicago office of DLA Piper LLP (US).  His practice centers on all aspects of commercial real estate law including the acquisition, disposition and development of office, retail, hotel, multi-family and industrial properties, joint venture and private and preferred equity investments, mortgage and mezzanine financing and lease negotiations.   Aaron received a BBA in Finance and Business Economics from the University of Notre Dame and a JD from the University of Michigan Law School.

Carrie Stewart

Carrie co-founded Afton Partners with Scott Milam in 2011, and currently serves as the firm’s CEO. Afton Partners’ mission is to support America’s public education organizations by aligning finance with organizational strategies – to sustain effective academic initiatives. To accomplish this mission, Afton collaborates with school districts, state and local education agencies, charter school operators, and social venture philanthropists and other reform-minded investors in public education.

Carrie is the founding Board Chair of EPIC Academy, a public charter high school in the South Chicago community of Chicago, Illinois. She served on the steering committee for New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) during its founding year, and currently serves as Board Member of North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School in Chicago, Illinois.
Prior to establishing Afton, Carrie was a Senior Director at Alvarez & Marsal. From July 2005 to March 2007, Carrie helped in the rebuilding of the public school system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Carrie co-led the start-up and expansion of a CMO, the Algiers Charter School Association, as its founding Chief Operating Officer, establishing all of the network’s non-instructional operations and welcoming some of the first returning families home. While living in New Orleans, Carrie also served as Interim Treasurer of the New Orleans Public Schools. Prior to joining Alvarez & Marsal, Carrie spent five years in Arthur Andersen’s corporate restructuring group in Chicago. She earned her BBA in Finance magna cum laude at the University of Notre Dame, with a second major in French. Carrie is a CFA charterholder.