About Us

Who We Are

We are a team of people who are passionate about bringing communities together to empower young people to change the world.

“Service is at the core of humanity. It creates empathy, compassion, self-esteem, greater human connection – and a shared sense of responsibility for one another.” – The Humanity Rising Team

Our Team

Debbie

Debbie Ferruzzi

Founder/CEO, Board Member

Debbie has been passionately involved in entrepreneurism and socially conscious activities for most of her professional life. She enjoyed a 25-year career working for legendary real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell, and in her role as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Debbie developed and led the company’s first social impact programs that engaged employees across the country. Believing that “one story can change the world,” Debbie steered the BeCause Foundation, a Chicago based nonprofit, as it produced five independent documentary films and related strategic impact campaigns. The theatrically released film “Bully” helped shine national attention on the bullying crisis in America. Debbie was also the driving force that led to 121help.me, the new North American crisis helpline for at risk children. A Chicago native, Debbie obtained an MBA with a concentration in finance from the University of Chicago and a BS in business from Eastern Illinois University.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to bring people together through Humanity Rising. I believe that young people truly have the power to change the world and I’m inspired daily by the acts of service and volunteerism performed by students who have become part of the Humanity Rising Movement.

Gena Dorris

Director of Development and Communications

Gena Dorris obtained a BS in Communications from Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD) in 2003 and started her career developing and executing public relations and fundraising initiatives for a non-profit agency in Memphis, TN. She then ventured into the sports and entertainment industry, managing communications and executing events for the Memphis Grizzlies NBA Basketball team and FedExForum arena. After several years with the team she transferred those skills to Youth Villages, a nonprofit agency focused on helping families in need. As the spokesperson and community advocate for the foster care program, Gena created messaging and implemented strategy to recruit and retain foster parents.

In 2016, Gena decided to further her education and personal development by moving to the UK and completed a MA in Advertising and Public Relations from Richmond American International University in London. While living abroad, she gained experience building relationships with international media at Karla Otto PR and discovered a love of travel and cultural immersion.

Most recently, she served as Communications and Development Director of DeltaARTS, a nonprofit agency for arts education in West Memphis, AR.

In her free time, Gena enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and reading. She also loves history, museums, art, and is self-proclaimed fashion enthusiast.

Niko

Niko Soriano

Chief Program Manager

Niko Soriano is the Chief Program Manager of Humanity Rising, Founder & CEO of Dynamo Leads & Lead Photographer of Soar Photography. His passions include backpacking, travel & volleyball to name a few. He believes that through empowerment we can create a more compassionate, caring and understanding world for generations to come. Youth have the power to create incredible impact, the time is now to help elevate humanity.

Board Members

Maja Muric

Board Member

Maja is a is a former professional tennis player and Olympian from Croatia, a war torn country that has inspired her to drive positive change around the world. When the war broke out in Croatia in 1991 Maja was 17 years old. She was one of the top juniors in the world and at the beginning of her professional tennis career on the WTA (Women’s Professional Tour). Experiencing war has had a huge impact on her tennis career, but more so, on her ambitions to have a positive lasting impact on others. Maja represented Croatia around the world by winning many international junior events and then as a professional tennis player for over a decade. Some of those events include all the Grand Slams, 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and Federation Cups. Winning two medals at the 1993 Mediterranean Games was one of the most memorable moments of her career as it was the first time Croatia competed as an independent country. Maja continued to play on the WTA Tour until the end of her career in 2000 when she dedicated the next 12 years to helping improve the quality of life for children with cancer. These experiences inspired her to expand her work and start her own not for profit organization in 2005 called Humanitarian Wave that works towards creating lasting positive effect in the quality of life of people and communities in need. In 2012 Maja took on her current role as the lead of Galactic Unite, a Virgin Galactic initiative that is harnessing the power of space to inspire and support the next generation to help solve many of our greatest global challenges. Maja is passionate about Galactic Unite and its unique opportunity to help change the perception of our place on this planet and in the cosmos through removing the barriers which have historically kept all but the elite few firmly on this side of the final frontier.

Therese Rowley, Ph.D.

Board Member

Dr. Rowley is CEO of Accelerated Alignment, a trusted advisor to business leaders and executives. She partners with them through complex challenges of personal and organizational strategy and transformation, using innovative approaches and intuitive intelligence. As a skilled intuitive, she supports strategic decisions with intuitive data and supports leaders to deepen their access to intuition. In addition, her work with Fortune 500 as well as small company leaders in facilitating large scale change in industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing, market research, marketing/communications, real estate development, and financial services spans three decades. In 2008 Dr. Rowley founded The Conscious Business Network™ to highlight new business models and facilitate professional connections that are shaping the new marketplace of integrity, transparency and inclusion. She consults with YWCA-Chicago on Transformation and Social Innovation and is an 1871 Mentor. She believes conscious business and social enterprise are marketplace foundations for our future sustainability and is passionate about influencing youth to consider this mindset and have/co-create the tools to engage and co-design the future economy. Dr. Rowley has been adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco, the University of Chicago Graham School and Booth School’s LEAD Institute, as well as Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies where she teaches on topics of leadership, strategy, intuition and transformation. Her book Mapping a New Reality: Discovering Intuitive Intelligence offers a conceptual foundation and developmental opportunities for clients who want to accelerate access to their innate wisdom.

Steve Sarowitz, Board Member

Steve Sarowitz

Board Member

Steve Sarowitz is Founder of Paylocity (Nasdaq: PCTY), a leading U.S. provider of payroll and HR solutions. In addition, Steve also serves as CEO of Blue Marble, an international payroll provider, and as Director of Payescape, a UK payroll provider. He is also an international philanthropist with an interest in promoting unity by and promoting universal education and advocating for the elimination of racism, sexism, nationalism and religious prejudice. He also serves on the board of NCAT, an organization that builds state-of-the art training centers in urban areas. He and his wife have a family foundation which supports over 50 worthy causes worldwide, including programs helping orphans, foster children, refugees and many other people in need.

Steve graduated from U of I in 1987 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. While at the U of I, he often ran barefoot through campus. He is still an avid runner, a member of the Chicago Area Runners Association Hall of Fame and a 3-time winner of the MSE Division of the Chicago Chase Corporate Challenge. Steve was raised Jewish and first heard of the Baha’i Faith at the Jewish Student Center while a student at U of I. Many years later, he began studying the Baha’i Faith and declared as a Baha’i in February, 2015. Three days after declaring as a Baha’i, a friend recommended that Steve make a film about the Baha’i Faith. Steve immediately began a new career in the film industry. He helped fund and promote the documentaries He Named Me Malala and Rosenwald. He served as Executive Producer for the award-winning documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Steve produced and released ‘The Gate’, a groundbreaking documentary about the founding of the Baha’i Faith.

Steve lives in Highland Park, Illinois with his wife, 2 children, 2 dogs and a turtle named Duchess. When he is not working or doing philanthropy, you can often find him guiding at the Baha’i Temple in nearby Wilmette, Illinois.

Brad Schnitzer

Brad Schnitzer

Board Member

Associate at Techstars Chicago

Managing Director of More Than Me Foundation 501(c)(3)

Formerly the Director of Business Development and Partnerships for Built In, the largest online community for startups and tech companies in 7 U.S Cities.

Founding member of Mhub Chicago and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago. Mentored undergraduate students while providing internship opportunities.

Serves on the board of the Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago as well as the Associate Board at Make-A-Wish Illinois. Interests include coaching youth athletes, health/nutrition, and investing. Managing Director of More Than Me Foundation 501(c)(3). Serves on the board of the Miracle League of Music City and the Associate Board at Make-A-Wish Illinois. Founding member of Mhub Chicago and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago.

Advisors

Beth Coronelli

Advisor

Beth is a former director of Humanity Rising now serving as an advisor to the organization. She previously was Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Apollo Education Group, one of the world’s largest private education providers. Her experience includes a mix of corporate and non-profit positions, including leading investor relations for publicly-traded companies across a range of industries, serving as the director of the University of Iowa Executive MBA Program, and developing communications and programming for Rotary International. Beth believes education is the cornerstone to building a brighter future and is committed to empowering our future leaders to take the initiative to serve. She has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University.

Allison T. Davis

Advisor

Allison is a former director of Humanity Rising and a vice president of Equity International, with her primary responsibilities in communications. Previously, Allison directed communications and philanthropic programs at Equity Office Properties Trust (EOP) for seven years. During that time she worked with EOP leaders in such major U.S. markets as New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver to develop volunteer and giving programs that directly involved employees and benefited their local communities. During her time at EOP, the company was regularly recognized as a Best Place to Work in local markets, thanks to high levels of employee engagement fostered by internal communications. She holds an MS in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University and a BA from Duke University.

Cheryl Romanowski

Advisor

Cheryl Romanowski has dedicated both her personal and professional life to empowering and motivating others. After playing Division I Volleyball in college, she began her career as a coach which led her on an international journey heading up clubs and teams in Europe. For over 20 years she lived in the Netherlands, where in addition to coaching and teaching, she worked with various organizations in Business Development with a focus on motivating sales teams to reach their highest potential. Cheryl’s passion is unwavering in her commitment to helping the next generation live an authentic and inspired life through service.

Cheryl holds an M.A. in Kinesiology from University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as a B.S. in Psychology from Loyola University.

Ambassadors

Alisha Gupta

Ambassador

Alisha Gupta is the host of the What Cause Inspires You? podcast! She launched WCIY as a way for students to share the service they are doing in their communities and inspire a community-wide call to action. She hopes you join her and Humanity Rising in improving our society by transforming passion into progress.

Devin

Devin Moore

Ambassador

Devin is a 16 year old junior in high school with plans to make impactful changes in this world. Devin is the founder of #RaceToSpeakUp, an anti-bullying organization. He was inspired to create the #RaceToSpeakUp

organization after being racially cyberbullied in middle school. Devin understands that a person shouldn’t be bullied and he is driven to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to another kid.

Devin is dedicated to getting a state anti-bullying law passed which will keep students safe in schools from bullying and implementing mandatory anti-bullying classes in schools.

Devin has served as the Guest Speaker for Humanity Rising’s Empowering Youth To Change The World Podcast and What Cause Inspires You? Voices Podcast educating viewers about the different types of bullying (cyber, physical, verbal and social) and its devastating effects.

Devin has spoken to elementary students about being an upstander and to #RaceToSpeakUp against bullying. He also initiated an anti-bullying workshop at his high school that educates students 7th through 12th grades about the importance of speaking up and using their voice for bullying prevention.

Devin understands that it is time for change – a change for the better and he plans to make that happen through his hard work and dedication for the bullying cause. He understands that people shouldn’t be mentally and physically traumatized from bullying because of their skin color, size, social class and sexuality.

Faith

Faith Wang

Ambassador

Faith is a high school student in the Chicagoland area. She is passionate about anti-bullying and positivity, since she believes that as long as everyone puts in a little effort to care about one other, we can easily make the world a better place.

Interns

Beth

Beth Fischer

Intern

Beth is an accounting major at DePaul University set to graduate in 2022. She was instilled with the values of service and social responsibility in high school, taking them to heart to find personal growth and gratitude in actions benefiting others. Beth chose to work with Humanity Rising due to the connection to her values and the opportunity to develop her professional career. Her causes of interest include immigration, racial equity, mental health, youth development, and environmentalism.

Quentin

Quentin Griffin

Intern

Quentin has a BA in psychology and is currently pursuing Masters in Digital Communications and Media Arts. The fight for environmental justice, social and racial equality, are all causes that inspire him. He strives to be in a position where he can help foster and highlight unique, creative leaders who are determined to tell their stories.

Sam

Sam Heringhaus

Intern

An incoming senior at DePaul University majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Digital Marketing. From Columbus, Ohio but wants to live all around the world.

Rebecca

Rebecca Huang

Intern

Rebecca Huang is an incoming second-year student at Northwestern University studying Mathematics and Economics with a minor in History. She is from Atlanta, Georgia and is passionate about politics and social advocacy.

Palak

Palak Janjrukia

Intern

Palak is a second-year undergraduate student at DePaul University. He is double majoring in Finance and Management Information Systems. He is from Chicago, IL. Some of his passion includes: helping people who are in need and volunteering.

Samuel

Samuel Junker

Intern

Samuel is from Dayton, Ohio and studies mathematics and economics at Northwestern University. He is passionate about addressing the issues of homelessness, hunger, and the epidemic of addiction affecting our communities.

Aza

Aza Leal

Intern

Aza is a third-year undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago, double majoring in Cognitive/Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology. She is from Bolingbrook, Illinois. She is passionate about supporting and uplifting young voices in the pursuit of their goals. She believes that students and young adults possess the power and energy to drive lasting change.

Wei-Yun

Wei-Yun Lee

Intern

Wei-Yun is a graduate student in Business Analytics at DePaul University. He is passionate about disability and healthcare.

Kevin Man

Intern

Kevin is a rising Junior at Northwestern University majoring in Economics with a minor in Political Science and Business Institutions. At Humanity Rising, He is a Grant Writer and works in corporate outreach. The cause that inspires him is the environment. Without huge changes to the way that we consume carbon, global average temperatures will continue to climb, so we need both institutional and individual change!

Nadia

Nadia Mohideen

Intern

Nadia is a Senior at Loyola University Chicago studying for a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in French. She is passionate about education and encouraging kids to stay in school. She wants to help kids get affordable access to a quality education so that everyone has the chance to fulfill their dreams.

Anthony

Anthony Okocha

Intern

Anthony is a rising senior at Depaul University. He is currently studying Economics and History. He is passionate about spirituality, mental health, and restorative justice.

Kelly

Kelly Phelan

Intern

Kelly is a rising Junior at DePaul University majoring in Communications & Media with a minor in Community Service Studies. The cause that she is most passionate about is homelessness. During the school year, she volunteers regularly at a local shelter and it is always the highlight of her week.

Arin

Arin Pieramici

Intern

Arin is an incoming junior at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is passionate about healthcare and homelessness.

Charlotte

Charlotte Rapp

Intern

Charlotte is a rising second year student and varsity athlete at the University of Chicago. Throughout her life she has been passionate about fundraising for the American Cancer Society. She wants to bring healthcare access to more people and help empower students to find the cause which inspires them!

Hannah

Hannah Thomas

Intern

Hannah is a rising senior at DePaul University studying marketing. She is passionate about the healthcare industry. Most importantly, she loves empowering people to be strong individuals through fitness and mental health awareness.

Divitya

Divitya Vakil

Intern

Divitya is a second-year student at Northwestern University studying Cognitive Science and English. Her passions are in Women’s Rights and Education.

Hope

Hope Valls

Intern

Hope is a rising junior at Northwestern University studying Theatre and Economics and is serving as a grant-writing and outreach intern at Humanity Rising. Her passions include disability justice and education, and specifically how theatre and art intersect with these fields.