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.

Leigha Haynes

Leigha Haynes is a Vice President at Vista Credit Partners. Prior to joining Vista, Ms. Haynes served as a Vice President at Madison Capital Funding LLC, where she focused on raising, structuring, and managing investment vehicles on behalf of third-party investors. During her time with Madison, Ms. Haynes also worked as a Corporate Vice President in Madison’s Compliance department and as a Senior Accountant, where she focused on developing, implementing, and testing compliance processes, and accounting research and financial reporting. Before her time with Madison, Ms. Haynes worked at KPMG LLP as a Senior Audit Associate, where she focused on financial services. Ms. Haynes earned a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.B.A. from J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Mercedes Hill

Mercedes M. Hill is Associate General Counsel at Beam Suntory Inc. where has broad general corporate, transactional and litigation responsibilities on a global basis.  Prior to joining Beam Suntory Inc., Ms. Hill spent over 12 years in private practice at Jenner & Block, LLP.  In addition to her legal accomplishments, Ms. Hill is also a 2016 Fellow in the Leadership Greater Chicago (LGC) program and a member of the board of directors of Epic Academy. 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.

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.

Adam Semel

Adam Semel, AIA, is a Managing Partner in the Chicago of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), where he serves as a leader of the firm’s strategic growth and client engagement across all regions. He plays an integral role in the management and delivery of large-scale complex projects, with an extensive multi-billion-dollar portfolio that includes projects in Chicago, across the United States, and overseas. His expertise extends to several practice areas, including commercial, residential, cultural, education, interior design, and urban design at all scales. Semel is highly experienced in navigating public agency approvals, zoning regulations, and facilitating meaningful conversations with local communities.

Semel plays a key role in SOM’s commitment to Chicago and serves as an advocate for the city’s continued growth. In 2016, Semel was named a Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, and in 2019, he joined the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Architecture Center. Semel holds degrees from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Wesleyan University.