Meet the Illinois CASA Staff
Chief Executive Officer
Mari joined the CASA movement as a volunteer advocate in 2012. Shortly thereafter, she joined the staff of CASA Lake County and moved to the State Office in October of 2017. With a background in resource development, Mari understands the complex and diverse funding and organizational development needs of the Illinois CASA network.
Her previous non-profit experience includes serving as the Program Officer in Education at the Chicago Community Trust and working as the Board liaison at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She began her career in management consulting. Mari is a graduate of Stanford University and completed her graduate work at the University of Chicago.
Mari lives with her family in Chicago, and you can find her at home in her kitchen or a yoga studio almost anywhere in Illinois.
Beatriz first joined the CASA family in 2015 at the local program level. Beatriz has been with the Illinois CASA office since August 2019. She has served as the Director of Accountability and most recently in her current role as Deputy Director since 2020. At the state level, Beatriz has been instrumental in elevating the state office into a robust and actively engaged organization supporting the various needs of the Illinois CASA Network. During her tenure at Illinois CASA, Beatriz led the transition of the local programs to Optima providing various trainings on the topic throughout the years. Beatriz currently chairs the Equity Task Force and the Data Task Force within Illinois CASA. While at the local program level, Beatriz served in several different capacities including Advocate Supervisor, Internship Coordinator, Director of Programs, Interim Executive Director, and Director of Operations.
Beatriz understands the multitude of skills necessary to run a program, as well as the challenges faced by programs. Prior to joining the CASA family, Beatriz worked as a foster care case manager, foster care supervisor and clinical screener with Spanish speaking families involved with DCFS in Cook County and throughout Northwest Illinois. Moreover, Beatriz has worked in the area of immigration, one of her other passions besides working with vulnerable children and families.
Beatriz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago, and a Juris Doctorate from Northern Illinois University College of Law. Beatriz has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Illinois since 2010. Beatriz is also licensed as an attorney in the State of Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas.
Director of DEI & External Affairs
Anibal consults various organizations, churches, and politicians on various topics such as: operations, volunteer and staff recruitment, mentoring, program/service implementation, monitoring and evaluation, economic development, and public policy. He also served as the Regional Get Out to Vote Director for JB Pritzker for Governor campaign. Mr. Vega was also the Campaign Manager and Government Affairs Liaison for Cook County Commissioner of the 4th District, Commissioner Stanley Moore. Mr. Vega promotes several agencies and their programs through networking and relationship building with multiple organizations, Alderman, Commissioners, and local institutions. He is also responsible for expanding the impact of diversity and inclusion through strategic objectives through community partnerships.
Vega’s commitment to service spans globally and locally. Globally, he served in several countries as a 12-year highly decorated member of the U.S. Army Infantry-Airborne unit and was honorably discharged in 2014. Locally, he works as an Associate Pastor of Greater Omega M.B. Church in Chicago for the last eighteen years. As the youngest pastor on the team, he looks for new and fresh ways to lead people to meet their spiritual goals and destiny, even if it means going to where they are – literally, whether it is the church house, courthouse, or on street corners.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Nonprofit Management from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois, and currently pursuing his 2nd Master’s degree. In addition, he has received several certifications from North Park University in Ministry and from the University of Notre Dame in Business Management and Nonprofit Leadership and Development.
As a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., he has held several positions currently as Chapter President, a chartering member of the Tau Delta Lambda chapter in Puerto Rico, Alpha Advisor, Chaplain (District and Chapter), Foundation Chair (District and Chapter), Midwest Region IMDP Trainer, and on the National Commission for Political and Civic Engagement. He also sits on several nonprofit boards, auxiliary boards, and local school councils.
Director of Training
Karen joined CASA in 2017 as a volunteer advocate for CASA of Cook County. Her experience supporting families in Cook County ignited a passion for the cause, and Karen became a member of the Illinois CASA team in November 2020. Prior to joining CASA, Karen had extensive experience in the education sector. She has been a teacher, coach, trainer and quality assurance expert. She also has experience with board development, strategic planning and mentoring district personnel. Karen is excited to have a full-time opportunity to contribute to all the great work CASA is doing throughout the state of Illinois.
Karen lives in Riverside, IL with her husband, Tom, and their three crazy dogs.
Administrative Assistant of more than fifteen years. Determined, confident and well-organized with extensive experience in supporting mid and senior level managers. Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. I love to read and travel. As a mother of three, I was drawn to this position because of my love for children. I’m a highly approachable individual with a willingness to make a positive mark.
Laurie joined CASA in 2020 as the Grants Specialist. A graduate of Concordia University, she has a background in non-profits with experience in event management, programming and grants administration. Laurie lives in Chicago where she enjoys exploring the city's robust restaurant scene and riding along the lakefront.
Grants & Contracts Manager
Jen joined Jerseyville CASA as a volunteer advocate in 2017 and was hired as the Executive Director of the program in 2020. Jen moved to the Illinois CASA office in 2022. She understands the challenges the local programs encounter and looks forward to utilizing her skills and passion to continue to grow the CASA mission in the state of Illinois.
Jen has prior work experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry and possesses a Bachelor of Science degree in Business/Organizational Leadership.
Jen currently lives in Alton Illinois and loves to hike, kayak and play pickleball!
Social Media and Training Coordinator
Sophie joined CASA in 2023 and has a background working with a range of child advocacy non-profits. She has a passion to help create a world where all youth get a fair chance, and that is why she was drawn to this role. Sophie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Arizona State University where she graduated at the age of 19. Her experience includes program coordination, data integration, creating child advocacy informational vlogs, and non-profit Board organization. She is excited to be a part of the CASA mission in Illinois.
Sophie has a passion for all things music and she loves camping, cats, and food!