Leadership and Staff

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning’s staff is comprised of professionals from a range of disciplines, which include education, child development, social work, and youth development. Our staff works collaboratively through an interdisciplinary approach to relation-based practice to best meet the needs of those we serve. Preschool teachers hold Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in early childhood education or child development and Illinois Professional Educator Licenses with Bilingual or English as a Second Language endorsement. Infant and toddler teachers hold Bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education or child development and the Infant Toddler Credential. Family Support Specialists hold Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in Social Work or Human Services. The Carole Robertson Center’s programs are delivered by a workforce representative of those served. This workforce, at all levels within the organization, includes community residents and former program parents and program alumni.

For more information about employment opportunities, please visit our Employment page.

Bela Moté

Bela Moté

Chief Executive Officer

Bela Moté, Chief Executive Officer of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, is an experienced non-profit executive and early childhood professional who has spent her career supporting early childhood and youth development at the local, national and international levels. She is committed to providing high-quality, deeply impactful programs for children, youth, and families. Prior to being named Chief Executive Officer of the Center, Bela served as Vice President, Evidence-Based Youth Development for the YMCA of the USA. She has also held leadership positions with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Teaching Strategies, Inc., and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. She began her career in early childhood as a Montessori preschool teacher and considers that experience to be her North Star. Bela holds a master’s degree in Education from Erikson Institute, is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and participates on many councils and committees. Bela was a Chicago Foundation for Women's Breaking Barriers 2011 honoree.

312.243.7300

moteb@crcl.net

Executive Leadership Team

  • Sonja Crum Knight

    Sonja Crum Knight

    Vice President, Programs and Impact

    Sonja Crum Knight is the Vice President, Programs and Impact, in this role, she leads the programs team in developing systems and processes to elevate quality and deepen the impact of early childhood programming, community partnerships, family engagement, and mental health. Sonja believes that ensuring equitable early learning for our nation’s most vulnerable children is a matter of social justice. With nearly 16 years of service in early childhood education, Sonja has held a variety of roles working both with and for children and their families. Most recently, Sonja was the Executive Director, Early Learning and Child Development at One Hope United. Sonja is a graduate of Capella University where she earned a PhD in Education. Sonja also holds a master’s degree in early childhood administration from National Louis University and postgraduate certification in online instruction from Roosevelt University.

    312.243.7300, ext.243

    knightso@crcl.net

  • Carol Merrill

    Carol Merrill

    Director, Operations

    Carol Merrill is the Director, Operations, where she oversees daily operations, including information technology, facility services and management. As a youth, Carol was enrolled in the Center’s school age program from kindergarten to eighth grade. In 1995, she returned to the Carole Robertson Center as a full-time employee. During Carol’s tenure, the Center experienced significant growth and she provided successful oversight of major capital projects, including our two flagship locations. Carol earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Tuskegee University.

    312.243.7300, ext. 221 

    cmerrill@crcl.net

  • Michelle Pitre-Young

    Michelle Pitre-Young

    Vice President, Human Resources

    Michelle Pitre-Young, the Vice President, Human Resources, is a results-oriented executive with experience leading all aspects of HR operations, including training and organizational development, employee relations, talent management, benefits, and compensation. She places heavy emphasis on leading the Center though transformative and significant improvements to increase morale, productivity and talent acquisition and retention. Prior to Carole Robertson Center, Michelle held senior roles as the Director, Human Resources of Illinois Housing Development Authority and as the Human Resources Account Director for the Taproot Foundation. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Elmhurst College and is a Senior Certified Professional through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

    312.243.7300, ext. 256

    pitrem@crcl.net

  • Kenny Riley

    Kenny Riley

    Director, Out-of-School Time Programs

    Kenny Riley is the Director of Out-of-School Time (OST) Programs. His areas of focus include coaching OST staff and developing programmatic and evaluation strategies that ensure Carole Robertson Center for Learning’s school age programs are aligned with best practices in the field. With 15 years of experience in youth development and program management in non-profits, Kenny brings a unique perspective about the importance of research, data, youth engagement, and staff training. Kenny previously worked as the Program Manager for MAPSCorps and as a Restorative Justice Specialist at the Umoja Student Development Corporation. Kenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Grand Valley State University as well as a master’s in Community Development from North Park University.

    (773) 521-1600, ext. 114

    rileyk@crcl.net

  • Terri Connor Brankin

    Vice President, Fundraising and Communications

    Terri Connor Brankin joined the Center as our Vice President of Fundraising and Communications in July of 2019. Terri comes with over 20 years’ experience as a lead development professional at some of Chicago’s top nonprofits such as Northwestern Memorial Hospital Foundation, Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund and St. Ignatius College Prep. Terri’s deep knowledge includes grant writing, major gift cultivation and solicitations, corporation and foundation relations, strategic planning, team management, and communications that lead to deepening engagement with donors and volunteers. She has a B.A. in English and History from St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame, completed MBA coursework at North Park University in Accounting, Finance and Business Ethics, and last year earned her CFRE credential as a Certified Fund Raising Executive.

    312.243.7300, ext. 226

    brankint@crcl.net