Meet The Team
Our people are what make CME great. Our members, mentors, and volunteers share our passion for social and academic needs of our youth through Experience, Mentoring, and Exposure, and we couldn't do what we do without them!
Founder & Board President
Bernard Lilly, Sr.
Bernard Lilly Sr. founded College Mentoring Experience (CME) in 2014 because of his concern for the high rate of school dropouts and graduation rates of students. This vision launched the creation of a mentoring organization with the mission "To help students WIN!”. It has always been about the kids and providing them with a fair opportunity to have a chance at success. Over the past seven years College Mentoring Experience has exposed youth to college tours, cultural and sporting events, scholarship opportunities and most importantly, a great mentor.
Bernard, born and raised in Alabama, moved to Chicago in 1990 and currently resides in the Austin community. Mr. Lilly is a proud father of 4 beautiful children, an Administrative Pastor at Greater St. John Bible Church, and a professional photographer. He is passionate about photography and ministry. He has enjoyed creatively collaborating with people through his business photography and videography business, BLS Unlimited, and serving the Austin community at Greater St. John Bible Church.
Bernard is proud of the growth CME has achieved and the strong base of active mentors and volunteers that share the same passion for wanting our youth to succeed that the organization continues to benefit from.
Mr. “Make It Happen" is the mental blueprint that I follow in my daily walk of life. In Darion’s current role as Program Director for College Mentoring Experience, he focuses on the day-to-day organizational operations, community liaison, program development and driving the organization’s efforts to make an impact in the lives of the young people in the Chicagoland area. He has held board positions focused on diversity and inclusion (African American Associate Resource Group National Board and Midwest Chapter President), over 20yrs of leadership experience within a fortune 500 company in the capacity of product implementation, and technical support. Darion was born and raised in Chicago, grew up in the Austin and Lawndale area, and has been married for 20 yrs with two children. Darion studied Graphic Arts at Triton College prior to starting his professional career in 1995.
Yolanda A. Wells is a “start-up member” of the CME family. She has served as a mentor, parent of a mentee, and a member of our board of directors since our inception. Currently she serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for College Mentoring Experience. She is a born and raised resident of the Austin community and a product of the Chicago Public School System. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social and Criminal Justice from Central Michigan University.
Ms. Wells serves on her townhome board as secretary with 4 years of service to her fellow owners. She enjoys a career with a large insurance defense firm in Chicago, as a seasoned HR professional with 20+ year’s work experience. An active and long-term member of her church, she serves as the Director of the Missionary Ministry and a bible study teacher.
Ms. Wells adores her CME family and believes whole heartedly in our mission statement of making a difference in the life of a student one family at a time. It is her heart felt desire to be of service to family, friends, neighbors, and her community at large.
Patrice Morris, Chicago Native, born and raised in the heart of the westside of our beautiful city. I am the proud mother of two incredible daughters and an educator of many. A graduate of John Marshall High School, I set my sights on higher education, securing a Bachelor's of Science in Electronic Engineering Technology while minoring in Aeronautics. After working as a computer technician for 5 years, I found myself yearning for something more fulfilling; desiring to do more by way of education. Knowing first hand the challenges faced by inner city students, I wanted to be the bridge that minimized the gap in educational growth and skill development. This prompted my return to school, proving its never too late to change careers. Focused on the goal, I pursued a Masters in Elementary Education and a Teaching Certification from Chicago State University. I didn't stop there. I also obtained a Masters in Administration Leadership, not wanting to limit myself to helping solely by way of the classroom. After 15 year of teaching, the motivation and drive continued to push me forward. As STEM made its presence , so did the need for knowledge in the field. Inspired yet again to ensure our children were versed on the subject, I returned to my roots in engineering and earned a degree in STEM Leadership from American College of Education. I am currently serving as a Science Support Specialist and celebrating 20 years of educational instruction. I am also honored to serve as a Board Member of an organization as esteemed as College Mentoring Experience. CME affords me the opportunity to continue to aid and encourage students to strive for excellence in academics and pursue secondary education. My unyielding passion for education and the learning of others continues to lead my charge in exposing students to the limitless possibilities that education can provide.
Erika Orr is an Illinois, Cook County Circuit Court Judge where she presides over a Domestic Relations calendar in the Markham, Illinois courthouse. Prior to coming onto the bench, Erika was a solo practitioner of the Orr Law Group, Ltd. in Chicago, where she specialized in domestic relations law. She has worked extensively in litigation matters involving allocation of parental responsibilities involving decision making, parenting time, child support, and adoption, as well as evictions. In addition, her practice included contracts related to surrogacy, real estate sales transactions, franchise agreements and entertainment agency agreements. Prior to establishing the Orr Law Group, Ltd., Erika practiced international tax law where she specialized in international acquisitions and dispositions, accounting for income taxes of publicly-traded and private equity portfolio companies, including dealing with complex income tax matters such as undistributed earnings of subsidiaries. She also has significant experience with international, federal, state and local tax preparation and planning, accounting and more in-depth services such as single audits and program-specific audits and financial statements.
Erika has written and lectured on legal topics relating to income taxation, corporate formations and domestic relations law. Erika volunteers regularly and is on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Mentoring Exchange in addition to participating in local mentoring activities such as conducting “Posse” interviews for graduating seniors in underrepresented communities seeking financial scholarships through the Posse Foundation.
Erika earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois-College of Law. She received her Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In addition, Erika graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and Language with an emphasis in Spanish from the University of Chicago in 1995. Erika Orr was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1998.
Shacarra Westbrooks has over ten years in marketing and sales experience. Before joining UnitedHealth Group, she led marketing initiatives, campaign launches, strategy planning, content writing, and data analytic reporting for all lines of service at PwC. She was responsible and successful in managing and reducing multimillion dollar budgets and nonprofit/ sponsorship requests for the Midwest region. Shacarra spent two years in Europe and Asia leading events and marketing campaigns at Reuters News while pursuing her master’s degree.
She is passionate about real estate and is currently a licensed real estate broker in Illinois in which she focuses on properties in the south, west, and north sides of Chicago. Her real estate investments have been featured in mainstream media outlets in the news.
Shacarra enjoys working with children and is on the board of directors for College Mentor- ing Experience. CME is a nonprofit organization that is focused on fostering relationships and education for children in low-income families around the Chicagoland area.
She has her Master’s in International Business Marketing from St. Mary’s University in London and her Bachelor's in Marketing. She currently resides in Chicago her family.
Sacella Smith has more than 20 years of nonprofit, and public sector leadership experience. For nine years she served as the Executive Director of the Youth Job Center of Evanston, (YJC) a thirty-eight year old nonprofit organization that provides job placement, training and employment support to approximately 1,500 youth each year. Under her leadership and direction, the YJC launched multiple employment and training initiatives, created regional partnerships and increased its annual operating budget from $485K to $1.5 Million.
In 2014, Sacella was hired by the President of Triton Community College to restructure and expand the institution’s advancement office. During her tenure at Triton, she centralized grant operations, formalized and streamlined college grant processes while also increasing the institution’s grants portfolio from $2.7 Million to over $6.5 Million. Additionally, she is the Founder & CEO of Synergistic Strategy & Development, LLC (SSD). SSD is a small boutique consulting firm that offers a wide range of services that include: strategic planning, fundraising, leadership coaching, board development, program design and evaluation.
Often referred to as a “visionary and change maker,” Sacella is committed to social justice and empowering youth from under-resourced communities to reach their full potential. She is a highly effective business leader, skilled in change management, strategy development, fundraising, social justice, board engagement, legislative affairs and operations planning. Sacella’ s prior experience includes positions with Bethel New Life, Inc., Uptown Habitat for Humanity, Safer Foundation and Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training. She has been recognized as a nonprofit “trailblazer” and was awarded the “Woman to Woman Making a Difference in Illinois” by the Illinois State Treasurer’s office. She has also received the Family Focus, Inc. Community Leader Award, and the NAACP Evanston/North Shore Community Impact Award.
She is a proud military veteran and an active member of the NAACP (Chicago Westside Branch), Chicago African-Americans in Philanthropy, Chicago Women in Philanthropy, and the League of Women Voters (IL). Moreover, Sacella serves on the boards of the College Mentoring Experience (CME) and Unity Parenting & Counseling, Inc. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she majored in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration and Management.
Bernard Lilly, Jr.
Bernard Lilly, Jr. is one of the original members of the Board of Directors of College Mentoring Experience. He is a graduate of Providence St. Mel High School and Lawrence University where he earned a B.S. in Anthropology.
Bernard excelled in the classroom as a student and currently serves as a school based mentor with College Mentoring Experience hoping to ignite the fire of education and a brighter future in students that may not see a future beyond their neighborhood.
Bernard currently serves as the music education coordinator for Build Chicago and he’s entrenched in community outreach as a member of CHICAGO 200, a program for emerging leaders whose goal is to enhance the quality of life for residents across the city.
Bernard Lilly, Jr., is blessed to blend his passions for music, mentoring, and ministry at such a youthful age.
Kim started as a mentor with College Mentoring Experience in 2019. A 12 year veteran of the higher education industry, first working in admissions and later career services, she is passionate about helping all students find opportunities and resources to pursue their educational and professional aspirations. Prior to joining the College Mentoring Experience Board of Directors, Kim spent the last decade serving as the Event Director for the Chicago Dance Marathon, supporting Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. A lover of art and music, her favorite things to do with her Mentee are visiting museums and going to concerts.
H. Lewis Kennebrew, II
Husband and Father of a Son and Daughter
B.S. Aerospace Science Engineering, Tuskegee University
MBA emphasis in New Product Development, University of Michigan: Ross School of Business
Founder, Collegiate Access (College Admissions & Financial Aid Services)
25+ years experience in Enterprise Software Management Consulting
Chief Delivery Officer, Carimus LLC
Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Christopher Crater currently serves as the Senior Associate for The My Brother's Keeper Alliance at the Obama Foundation. Where he is a member of the Civic Engagement Team. His primary responsibilities function to mobilize local civic, nonprofit, and philanthropic leaders to help build outcomes in Chicago communities, with a specific focus on expanding opportunity for boys and young men of color. In addition to community engagement oversight, Christopher aids in program Management for the Obama Youth Jobs Corps (OYJC). When he is not working on behalf of his community in his professional capacity, he volunteers his time and energy serving as the Youth Ambassador for the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce and also serves on the Board of Directors for DePaul University’s Business Council on Homelessness & College Mentoring Experience. Christopher earned his Bachelor of Arts in Radio Television from Mississippi Valley State University and his Masters in Communication Studies from Arkansas State University. Christopher is a Member of Kappa Alpha Psi.
Shinwe Shelton is the Deputy Director of Operations at Providence Englewood Charter School. Shinwe manages all of the non-teaching activities, including business, operations, logistics, and development. Her efforts enable the principal and leadership team to focus on teaching and learning, knowing that the school’s day-to-day operations are running efficiently and effectively. Shinwe’s leadership skills and commercial experience contribute significantly to the school’s strategic decision-making. In addition, Shinwe reports to the executive board.
Shinwe has more than 20 years of experience in financial and operations management with the Chicago Public and Charter Schools. She earned master’s degrees in education and business from Loyola University and Roosevelt University and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Concordia University.
Shinwe strongly believes that all children have the ability and intellectual prowess to set and achieve goals to be successful lifelong learners.
School and Site Based Coordinator
Joniqua Clay is a School and Site Based Coordinator at College Mentoring Experience. She makes it happen when it comes vetting and conducting background checks for mentors to be placed in Chicagoland schools. She provides curriculums for the school-based mentors to conduct during the school sessions. Joniqua attended Colombia College pursuing her degree in fashion design. She is currently working on her own fashion line and is dedicated to making premium clothing.
My name is Areonna and I’m the Administrative Coordinator at CME. I have received my degree in sports journalism from Marquette University and during my time at CME, I have used my writing skills to write and receive over $60,000 in grant funding. Areonna has also played a pivotal role in the implementation of CME’s constituent management software and she serves as a liaison to our community partners.
View sports blog: https://theariassist.com/lets-talk-sports/
T’Andrea Halliburton is the 1:1 Specialist at College Mentoring Experience. She went to Wright College and is now pursuing her career as a Nails Specialist. T'Andrea is dedicated to helping youth go to college being that she has already been in their shoes.
Aisling graduated with a B.A. in English and New Media from the University of Limerick, Ireland, in 2018. She moved to Chicago that same year, working in the tech industry in corporate America. With a passion for mental health and supporting her clients on reaching their goals, she decided to pursue her master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Adler University where she is currently a full time student.
At CME, Aisling manages website initiatives and ensures content is up to date, reflecting all of the fantastic work the team does. She is honored to be a part of, and support, such an amazing mission.
Social Media Intern
Katie received her BA in Advertising and Theatre from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adler University. She spent many years doing administrative and marketing work for theatre companies, performing, and teaching high school drama. She has a passion for connecting communities through the arts and wants to help individuals find their authentic strengths. Katie is proud to work with CME as their social media intern and hopes to spread the word on the importance of mentoring.