Literacy Volunteers of Illinois


Supporting Volunteer Literacy In Illinois Since 1979


Melissa Auer Program Director, Jump Start

Melissa Auer is the Program Director of the Jump Start program. She began her service with LVI in August of 2013 as the Program Coordinator for IYC St. Charles. As the Program Director, Melissa oversees Jump Start programming at the Illinois Youth Centers (IYCs) in Chicago, Harrisburg, St. Charles, and Warrenville. This includes volunteer recruitment, training, AmeriCorps member supervision and interviewing and assessing youth for participation in the Jump Start Program. She also mentors and tutors IYC youth and is a contributor to the Eye on IYC Newsletter.

Prior to joining LVI, Melissa was Training Coordinator at CASA of DuPage County, an organization that trains volunteers to serve as advocates to youth who are in the Juvenile Justice System due to abuse or neglect. She also has over ten years experience in the world of hospice: recruiting, training and supervising hospice volunteers.

She graduated from National Louis University with a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Leadership and holds a certificate in Volunteer Management. Her interests include reading, gardening, and travel.

Megan Gallardo Marketing Communications Associate

Megan Gallardo is the Marketing Communications Associate since 2022. In her position, Megan manages the LVI AmeriCorps site, works with gathering donation and assists with event planning for LVI AmeriCorps events and conferences. She also works with partnering with other organizations to assist with fundraising for literacy programs in Illinois.

Megan has served as a research assistnant at the University of Illinois- Chicago as a marketing and social media content creator for the promotion of the Chicago History anthology Growing Up Chicago, coedited by David Schaafsma, Roxanne Pilat and Lauren DeJulio Bell since 2021. As part of the Honors college at her university, Megan has also been involved with participating in the research symposium last April. She has also been selected as a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society at her university.

Prior to joining the Literacy Volunteers, Megan worked as a Youth Mentoring and Intern Coordinator for World Relief thanks to AmeriCorps, has served as a College Board AP student leader, works as a writing mentor for the non-profit organization and writing community at The Authors of Tomorrow. In her free time, Megan enjoys reading books and writing her own stories, loves getting to talk to new people and spends time with her family.

Megan is majoring in  the Teaching of English and Communication Studies at the University of Illinois- Chicago. 

Connie Gush | AmeriCorps Member, Jump Start 

I'm Connie. I am a retired special education teacher having taught for 50 years. When teaching, I was involved in many school functions and served on a committee developing the Fine Arts Curriculum for the St. Charles School District 303. I tutored at IYC-St. Charles for 10 years and after retirement, I joined AmeriCorps.  I am an animal activist and volunteer at Animal Control in Geneva, Illinois. 

I am also involved in Community Theater in my area. I live in Elburn, Illinois with my husband, Tom and 4 furry friends. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work at IYC and all the persons involved at the facility.  The dedication, commitment and love I have witnessed and experienced at IYC and AmeriCorps cannot be measured, It is above and beyond anything I could have imagined. I hope to continue doing this for many more years. 

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Lemieux Program Coordinator

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Lemieux is the Program Coordinator of Literacy Volunteers of Illinois’ VOCAL AmeriCorps program. A Chicago transplant, Lizzy originally hails from Maine, but moved to Chicago in 2021. She served as a VOCAL AmeriCorps member and held the role of Volunteer Coordinator at The Learning Center. Now, as VOCAL’s Program Coordinator, Lizzy leads recruitment, onboarding, site placement, training, and facilitates personal and professional development opportunities for members throughout the program year. Lizzy holds a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

Rachel Rusin Program Assistant, Jump Start

Rachel Rusin is the program assistant in the Jump Start program at the IYC in St. Charles. She has a master’s degree in Education from the University of Illinois in Chicago and previously taught English at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago.

In addition to teaching and mentoring students, her responsibilities included overseeing student teachers and novice teachers. After teaching for several years, Rachel retired to raise a family and eventually trained
to become a yoga teacher. We are very excited to welcome Rachel to our staff!

Dorothy Miaso Executive Director

Dorothy M. Miaso is the Executive Director of the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, a position she has held since 1992. As Executive Director, Dorothy manages the day-to-day operations which includes overseeing the agency’s financial, fundraising, communications, and programmatic activities. Under her leadership the budget of the agency grew ten-fold from $100,000 to over $1,000,000. Along with the budget growth came expanded programming especially in national service.

Dorothy has been involved with a variety of literacy and national service-related initiatives at the local, state and national levels and with correctional education for adults and juvenile at the state and county levels.  She is a past member of the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service and a past board member of the American Association of State Service Commissions, a national organization that provides leadership and support to state volunteer service commissions throughout the country.

She has served on numerous committees of the National Institute for Literacy, is a former member of the Illinois State Literacy Council and served two-terms as the Community Representative on the Local School Council of Chicago’s Jones College Prep HS.  She is currently a member of the Illinois Adult and Continuing Educators Association and Chair of the Illinois Conference on Volunteer Administration.

Prior to joining the Literacy Volunteers, Miaso served in various capacities in the public sector in government and not-for-profit agencies. She served as the Assistant Director of Operation ABLE, a non-profit Chicago-based employment program for older workers, and, as the Director of Senior Programs in the Governor and Lt. Governor's offices. She also worked for the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Miaso holds a B.A. degree in English from Northeastern Illinois University and a Master’s in Management of Public Service from DePaul University.

Board of Directors

Blake Dunphy President

Blake joined the Board in 2015. He has been a Chicago Public School teacher for years. Before that, Blake taught ESL in Guangzhou, China for a year and was a real estate broker in Chicago. Blake has a Bachelor’s in History from Colorado College, and his Masters in Teaching in Secondary Education from National Louis University.

Chamala Jordan Vice-President 

Chamala joined the Board in October 2016 after having served as a VOCAL AmeriCorps member in Program Year 2005, and then as the VOCAL Program Coordinator for September 2006 though September 2016. Chamala has a Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Robert Morris College.

John McLeod Treasurer

A security consultant, John has been a member of the Board since 2004 and currently serves as the Vice-President/Treasurer. He is a former local political party official who has been active in his Rogers Park community for the past 30 years and his temple, where he has been a board member for the past 12 years. He has twenty years of work experience in the public sector in the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, and 15 years in the private sector in safety and security. He holds a BA in American Studies from Roosevelt University and is a past President of LVI.

Neisha McNeal

Neisha joined the board in July 2018. She has a broad background in the non-profit sector having served various stints as a program director, program manager, and an operations coordinator, the latter with North Park University, where she also earned a Masters in Non-Profit Management. Neisha is currently a Systems Administrator with the Salvation Army and is also enrolled at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine where she is pursuing a Doctor of Medicine degree in the Addiction Psychiatry Residency Program. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Phoenix University and is a former VOCAL AmeriCorps member.

Madison Palmer

Madison Palmer joined the board in June 2014. He is native of Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from the John Marshall Law School. Since graduating, Madison has worked in the real estate field of Land Use, Telecom, Commercial Leasing and in the legal department of a large international financial institution.

Don Singer

A small business owner and risk prevention consultant, Don has been on the Board since 2005. He has been involved with a variety of civic and charitable efforts in his Buffalo Grove community for the past twenty years, and is the point person for our special events.


LVI began by working with just four LVA programs, and today provides an array of resources and services to staff, tutors, and students in some 100 adult literacy programs statewide.


Literacy Volunteers of Illinois
100 S. State St., Suite 437
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-857-1582

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