Board of Trustees
COFI’s Board is composed of activists, educators, and civic leaders, and includes four representatives of POWER-PAC IL, the statewide parent group.
Organizations listed are for affiliation purposes only.
Veronica Anderson, Chair Emeritus
Communications Consultant, PenUltimate Group
Veronica Anderson is a communications and planning strategist with expertise in education, media, and public policy. As the principal and founder of the consulting firm PenUltimate Group, she works with leadership teams at school districts and education nonprofits that aim for equitable access, robust engagement, and overall student success. During her career, she has been an education reporter and editor, and has served as a member of the steering committee for the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. She has a bachelor’s in economics and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University, and she was John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University. (Credit: Just Equations)
Fellow, Brookings Institution; former Policy Director for City Clerk of Chicago
Tonantzin Carmona is a Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institution and has served on COFI’s board since 2021. Tonantzin is no stranger to COFI, however, as she was introduced to the organization during her work to reform Chicago’s fines and fees. Tonantzin’s professional background includes roles in public policy, communications, community outreach, politics, and philanthropy. Fun fact: Maria Saucedo, a Chicago Public School, is named after Tonantzin’s aunt.
Jennifer Cossyleon, Secretary
Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, Community Change
Jennifer E. Cossyleon, PhD is a sociologist and policy-informing researcher. She currently works in policy and advocacy at Community Change where she supports grassroots campaigns focused on racial and economic justice. Jennifer is also a co-principal investigator of the nationwide Parent Power and Leadership Study aimed at uncovering how community organizing and leadership shapes the learning of families, broadly defined. Jennifer has been on COFI’s Board since 2022 and has held a deep respect for COFI and POWER-PAC IL since 2014 when she first began learning from and working in partnership with staff and parents on several community engaged research efforts.
Family Support/Family Development Consultant, Wisdom Exchange
Lina is a founding Board Member of COFI. She is steadfast in her commitment to amplify the voices of parents in decisions that affect them, their children, their families and their communities and is always inspired by COFI parent leaders. As a facilitator, convener, and advocate, Lina works with groups to deepen understanding, build relationships, address challenges, and strengthen partnerships and collaborations that improve well-being of children, youth and families. Lina and her husband Dick live in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago.
Diane Fager, Co-Chair
Retired Director of Policy and Program Development, Chicago Public Schools
Diane Fager became interested in COFI when it first started. Formerly the Director of Policy and Program Development for the Chief Financial Officer of Chicago Public Schools, she helped develop programs and obtain funding streams that addressed the non-traditional educational needs of low-income students. As a grandmother, she is very concerned about the impact of climate change, particularly in low-income communities where the worst pollution always occurs. She is active in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and played a key role in the passing of the Clean Equitable Jobs Act in Illinois. Diane loves to dance and recently participated in a flash mob at the Climate Strike in Downtown Chicago!
Rosazlia Grillier, Co-Chair
Co-President Emeritus, POWER-PAC IL and Governing Council Leader, United Parent Leaders Action Network
Rosazlia (“Ms. Rose”) Grillier is the mother of two now-adult daughters, a longtime activist in her South Side Englewood community, and President-Emeritus of POWER-PAC IL. She is the former co-chair of POWER-PAC’s Campaña Saliendo de la Pobreza. As a COFI Parent Peer Trainer, she has traveled the country, providing trainings in El estilo COFI and serving as inspiration to hundreds of other low-income parent leaders. In 2021, Ms. Rose was honored by the Chicago Foundation for Women with the Founders Award. She also serves on the national Governing Council of the United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN).
Vice President of Policy, Center for Neighborhood Technology
Jacky Grimshaw joined CNT in 1992 and has since developed its capacity to engage in public policy advocacy and transportation planning, transportation research, environmental justice, public participation tool development, GIS mapping, community economic development, and air quality. Jacky advocates for and provides expertise to increase transit in the Chicago region. She created and led CNT’s transportation and air quality programs and led CNT’s Transit Future campaign in the fight for mass transit reform and dedicated funding in the Chicago region. Since 2005, she has led CNT’s policy efforts at all levels of government. (Credit: CNT)
Dr. Nia Heard-Garris
Pediatrician, Instructor and Researcher, Lurie Children’s Hospital/Northwestern University Medical School
Dr. Nia Heard-Garris is a pediatrician and a physician-investigator at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and in the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She examines the influence of social adversities experienced in childhood and subsequent child and adolescent health. Dr. Heard-Garris is also interested in the factors that contribute to a child’s ability to thrive despite these experiences. Dr. Heard-Garris, her husband, and 9-year-old son live in Chicago and as new Chicagoans they better understand the phrase “winter is coming.”
Parent Leader, Parents United for Change and POWER-PAC IL
Lettie Hicks is the Co-Vice President of COFI/POWER-PAC IL and the Co-Chair of the Health, Food, and Recess Campaign and a parent leader for almost 10 years with Parents United for Change in East St Louis. She is also an ambassador, peer trainer, and most importantly, a mother of three and native of East St. Louis, Illinois. She likes to take care of herself in her free time by listening to all kinds of music, shopping, going to the spa, and getting her hair done. Lettie uses her skills as a COFI-trained parent to empower other parents to step into their leadership and create changes in their lives and communities.
Co-President Emeritus, POWER-PAC IL
Felipa Mena is Co-President Emeritus of POWER-PAC IL. She is a Mexican immigrant mother and grandmother who has long mentored immigrant, Spanish-speaking mothers to become policy change leaders in Chicago. She is a key leader in both the Justicia elemental y Early Learning Campaigns. Felipa is also a Lead Head Start Ambassador, going door-to-door each summer to help connect low-income and immigrant families with early learning resources. In 2013 Felipa was awarded the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Impact Award. She has served on the Board of West Town Leadership United and has organized with the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, a day labor organizing group.
Co-President, POWER-PAC IL and Parent Leader, Padres Líderes Activos de Aurora
Liliana Olayo is the Co-President of POWER-PAC Illinois and an active parent leader in Aurora, Illinois with Padres Lideres Activos. She is also a COFI Peer Trainer and a COFI Teambuilder supporting Aurora parents to bring their voices to policymaking tables. Locally, she serves as the President of the Oak Park School Neighbors group and President of the Bilingual Parents Advisory Council of District 131. In 2021 she was selected as one of five Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap national fellows, working on economic security issues for families of color.
Retired Certified Financial Advisor
Henrietta Saunders (“Hank”) is retired from a career in finance, education, and non-profit management. She volunteers full-time, mostly for environmental and social justice causes and says that COFI leaders always inspire her to do more. Henrietta has a husband, two sons, and a dog named Stanley.