Meet the PCC Team

PCC’s team is small but mighty. Many of us were once the students for whom PCC fights today. Calling on our unique talents, experiences, and points of view, we take bold and strategic action to effect systemwide change that supports greater college access and greater college success for underrepresented students across the state.

Meet the PCC Team


Lisa Castillo Richmond

Executive Director

I see my role as continuing to build the organization’s impact as a powerful advocate for students and a force for advancing racial and socioeconomic equity in Illinois Higher Education.

As the first in my family to attend college, I have seen the many ways in which higher education has erected barriers for students that have nothing to do with academic ability and must be intentionally dismantled. I have been fortunate to work in a number of incredible organizations, but none that has the potential for systemic impact on the scale that PCC does.

I grew up in Illinois, the daughter of small business owners and descended from generations of blue collar workers. My parents made it possible for me and my siblings to attend college, and it fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life. At a time when a college degree has become even more necessary but the cost to earn one has become prohibitively expensive, we are working to ensure PCC’s efforts meet the urgency of this moment.


Mike Abrahamson

Senior Manager of Research and Policy

PCC strives to be deeply evidence-driven in all it does, and I help with the research and data efforts that can keep us grounded in work that can measurably improve equity in both higher ed policy and practice. 

I am passionate about helping to remove barriers and reverse historical inequities for students. I believe that we have a moral imperative to do so, but also feel that economics, data, and research can be utilized in advocating for change, and I hope to add that lens throughout our work.

After working in communications for an educational institution, I wanted the skills to analyze policy through a quantitative lens. I earned a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, and worked with City Colleges of Chicago through a Mayoral Fellowship, before coming to PCC in 2018.

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Lauren Grimaldi

Communications Associate

I find effective and meaningful ways to communicate PCC’s research, practices, and policies to higher education professionals, advocates for equity in college access and attainment, and the general public. 

Earning a degree was life-changing for me, and my undergraduate institution afforded me countless opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Too many students do not receive this same level of support, and I want to ensure more students from underrepresented backgrounds are able to access, persist, and complete their degree.

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Roosevelt University, a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from DePaul University, and worked in politics for national and statewide candidates and causes. 


Paula Hanley

Senior Partnerships Manager

I help design strategies, coordinate professional learning opportunities for staff and faculty, and provide coaching supports to our college and university partners to help them achieve equitable outcomes. I also serve as the point person for ILEA on Summit, Equity Institute, Equity Circles for Change, PDP and Newsletter.

I believe we have an obligation to create student-ready institutions to support today’s students. We need to shift our thinking and focus policies and practices with an equity lens for all students, especially Black, Latinx and low-income so that their path to completion is clearly defined and supported.

I spent 30 years working in HE across all sectors and areas such as advising, enrollment management, transfer student services and one stop services before coming to the PCC. I have been with the ILEA Initiative since the start, am a former CC student and a proud Bradley University alum.

Cameron Heimann

Operations Associate

I am responsible for supporting the implementation of consistent operating standards, office management, and managing our Executive Director’s calendar.

After witnessing inequity throughout my primary and secondary scholastic career growing up in the Metro East area and attending the University of Missouri, it became a passion for me to prevent these injustices from continuing to occur.

I studied Political Science and German at the University of Missouri with a focus on American government and bureaucratic structures. After working in operations at different public service businesses, I saw the opportunity to work for PCC and take my talents to an organization that is making real change in Illinois to make higher education more equitable across the board.


Jonathan Lopez

Senior Manager of Operational Effectiveness

I oversee the implementation of effective operating standards across all PCC departments and ensure PCC meets financial, development, audit, and HR compliance.

My college experience is a story full of challenges as an undocumented student. I graduated after nine  years experiencing all systemic barriers in higher ed, which still exist today. Working at PCC represents my opportunity to join an organization driving change so others don’t have the same college experience I had.

After growing up impoverished in Mexico, I moved to Chicago to realize my dreams of a college education. I have worked in the nonprofit sector for 12 years developing my skill set in operations. At PCC, I get to utilize my diverse talents towards a mission I believe in.


Sonianne Lozada

Community Engagement Manager

I support my team’s work by bringing the research and data to life and making sure it translates to communities. All while educating and empowering stakeholders to take this information, fuse it with their own lived experiences and elevate their voices to end the inequitable disparities that have burdened Illinois college students.

I’m a second generation college graduate and don’t take that privilege lightly. I want to make sure my work creates pathways for those coming after me. It is my duty to raise my voice and advocate for injustices and inequities even if the issue doesn’t directly affect me.  

I wanted to be a voice, so I studied Journalism at Columbia College Chicago. Working with high school students and witnessing their struggles, I had to do more. Knowing my work couldn’t just impact one student, but many, I pursued a Master of Arts in Public Policy from National Louis University. 

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Caitlin Donnelley-Power

Policy Analyst

I support PCC’s policy and practice work with research and data analysis to advance evidence-based policy recommendations, reports, and legislative priorities. 

As a policy researcher and organizer, I understand the importance of community voice, needs, and experiences in dismantling racist systems and practices. My role at PCC allows me to support the work of advocates and students pushing for racial justice in higher education with a strong research base.

I received my Master’s in Education Policy at Loyola University Chicago, where my research focused on student voice and structural barriers to racial justice. Before joining the Partnership, I worked on projects related to racial equity in K-12 and postsecondary education with Loyola’s School of Social Work and NORC at the University of Chicago. 


Joe Saucedo

Senior Partnerships Manager

As part of the College and University Partnerships team, I bring my depth of direct student services, social justice education, and other professional experiences to bear on guiding higher education teams toward centering Black, Latinx, and economically-disadvantaged students in their decision-making. I curate learning and development opportunities driven by evidence-based practices and institutional gaps in serving students appropriately.

The work of interrupting the systemic exclusion of economically-disadvantaged and racial-minoritized communities is ongoing. The stories shared among the students that our nonprofit strives to uplift resonate with me on a personal level. I choose to engage the work of equity and organizational change because our students throughout Illinois deserve better.

My village of support has origins in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, and extends across the country. As a proud Mexican American with parents who never earned a college degree, my journey toward PCC was nonlinear and supported by a legacy of hard work, resilience, and love.

Danielle Stanley

Government Affairs Manager

As the Government Affairs Manager, I educate members of the Illinois General Assembly on issues that impact equitable college access and completion. I also monitor the political environment, manage relationships with state policymakers, and identify opportunities to promote state and local policies that improve equity in higher education.

I’m a higher education advocate because I know the power of an advanced degree. For too long, Black, Brown, and low-income people have been locked out of higher education because of the soaring increase in tuition, looming student loans with high-interest rates and fees, and minimal support in state and federal aid.

I first became interested in higher education policy as a Research Associate for CTBA. Seeing the disparities among the public universities during the budget impasse, I co-authored a report to highlight the decade trend of disinvestment that predated it. Years later, I’m still passionate and committed to making higher education obtainable, accessible, and affordable for those who seek it.

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Mercedes Terrazas

Equity Program Manager

As the Equity Program Manager, I implement equity-centered coaching and support to our college and university partners that are working on institutional change to ensure equitable outcomes for students, faculty, and staff. I facilitate professional opportunities to promote a community of practice that promotes evidence based practices to advance equity in higher education.

I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects of structural racism and inequities that hinder the educational and social advancement of diverse first generation college students and the BIPOC community. At PCC, I have the opportunity to work towards equity and justice in higher education while having a greater impact in society. 

I earned a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. My work has focused on improving the campus racial climate for diverse students while offering them holistic advising to reach their aspirations. As a proud Latina and a TRIO Alumni, my passion is to advance racial and socioeconomic equity for diverse first generation college students.