National Board of Directors

We give generous thanks to our dedicated board for their unwavering commitment to Raising A Reader and early childhood literacy.  


Board Chair

President, Child Trends

Carol Emig has spent her career at the intersection of public policy, programs, and research related to children and youth.   Since 2006, she has been President of Child Trends, the nation’s largest research center focused exclusively on improving the lives and prospects of children and youth.

Carol focuses on impact – ensuring that research and evidence are central to public policy and programmatic decisions that affect children, youth, and their families. Her work at the national and state levels has had impact on child poverty, early childhood, child welfare, and racial equity.

Under Carol’s leadership, Child Trends has added robust research areas in child welfare, poverty, and trauma; launched the Child Trends Hispanic Institute, now the nation’s leading research center on Latino children; expanded its capacity to support policymakers with data and research; grew its communications function; and redoubled the organization’s commitment to promoting equity.

Carol’s previous professional experiences include Executive Director of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, Deputy Director of the National Commission on Children, Senior Associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, director of a state children’s advocacy organization and, early in her career, research assistant to First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

Carol chairs the Board of Directors of Raising a Reader and serves on the Board of the Children’s Chorus of Washington. She is also an advisor to the Board of Directors of Venture Philanthropy Partners. In the past, Carol has served on the Boards of the Stoneleigh Foundation and Reach Out and Read.

Carol has an undergraduate degree in international relations from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.



Board Secretary

Senior Fellow, National Conference on Citizenship

Sterling Speirn is the former Chief Executive Officer and now a Senior Fellow at the National Conference on Citizenship. He previously served as President & CEO of the Peninsula Community Foundation, now the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (PCF: 1992-2005), and as President & CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF: 2006-2013).

From these philanthropic platforms, Sterling has been a long-time champion of early childhood development and early childhood literacy as essential elements for interrupting poverty and promoting racial equity. He has also supported efforts to promote civic and community engagement as well as service and volunteering as key strategies for revitalizing our democratic culture and practices.

At PCF he founded the Center for Venture Philanthropy, and launched the Raising a Reader take-home book program which today operates at more than 3,000 sites serving more than 135,000 children annually. Also during this time, Speirn taught a seminar on philanthropy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and PCF’s innovations in donor services were profiled in a Harvard Business School Case Study.

At WKKF he helped launch America Healing in 2009, a five-year, $75 million initiative to support programs that promote racial equity and address structural racism.   He also championed the creation of a $100 million Mission Driven Investment Fund that built a remarkable portfolio of private double bottom line investments in alignment with the foundations programmatic and place-based focus areas.

For several years he served as co-chairman of the national D5 coalition on Diversity in Philanthropy. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and is a member of the Racial Equity Working Group of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.   He also serves on the Board of Directors of Kindred, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that works in local public schools to build trusting relationships between parents of diverse backgrounds and supports them to work with school leadership to drive equity and diversity in their schools and communities.

Speirn began his career as a 7th  and 8th    grade English Teacher in Cleveland, Ohio.   Later he was a law clerk at the U.S. Department of the Interior, worked as a poverty lawyer in North Carolina; and managed a large community health center in Arcata, California.

Sterling earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and holds a law degree from the University of Michigan.

He is married with two sons and is an avid hiker and community gardener.



President and CEO, StriveTogether  

Jennifer Blatz is the president and CEO of StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working in 70 communities across the United States to enable nearly 13 million young people to succeed in school and life.

Jennifer is a nationally recognized leader and expert in building place-based partnerships. For two decades, she has designed, developed and implemented strategies that drive large-scale community improvement through partnership with local leaders and organizations.

Prior to taking the helm of StriveTogether, Jennifer served in leadership roles, including Deputy Director and the Senior Director of Operations. She was instrumental in launching the national Cradle to Career Network and creating the StriveTogether Theory of Action™. She also developed a bold plan for 24 communities across the country to reach systems-level transformation by 2023.

Before leading StriveTogether, Jennifer was a founding member of StrivePartnership, serving Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Through her contributions, StrivePartnership became one of the most notable collective impact initiatives in the country.

Jennifer began her career in the education sector. As executive director of Ohio College Access Network, she led a network of community-based programs focused on improving access to and attainment of postsecondary education.

Jennifer serves as a PolicyLink Ambassador for Health Equity and as a LEAP Ambassador. She was also invited to help launch the Weave Movement at the Aspen Institute.

Jennifer has been named a YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Rising Star and a Cincinnati Business Courier Forty Under 40. She is a graduate of United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Volunteer Leadership Development Program, the Billions Institute Skid Row School for Large-Scale Change and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Women Excel Leadership Program.

Board Treasurer

Former Executive Vice President, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

As the former executive vice president, Erica lead SVCF’s efforts to identify and respond to the most challenging issues facing the San Francisco Bay Area region. In this role she would oversee the institution’s discretionary grantmaking programs, strategic initiatives, research and convening activities. She also supported the institution’s public policy and advocacy work on board-prioritized issues.

Erica joined the community foundation in 2003 and has held several senior leadership positions including vice president and senior vice president of community leadership and grantmaking. Under her leadership the organization has received numerous awards for its work in economic security, early learning and education, immigration and land use planning.

Prior to joining the foundation, Erica was the director of research and evaluation at Applied Survey Research in Santa Cruz, California. While there she led the firm’s community assessment and major evaluation projects throughout the State.

Erica graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz and studied in Spain and Mexico. She serves on the board of the Community Action Agency in San Mateo County and is a current fellow of the American Leadership Forum – Silicon Valley Chapter.

Erica lives in Half Moon Bay with her husband, Jesse and daughter, Paloma.


Grand Secretary, Freemasons of California

Allan Casalou is the grand secretary of the Freemasons of California.   In this role, he leads the staff at the California headquarters in San Francisco and oversees the business operations of the fraternity throughout the state. He serves as secretary to several operational and charitable boards including the Masonic Homes of California and the California Masonic Foundation.   Since 2002, he has been the editor of the award-winning Freemason magazine.

For over 25 years, Allan has been a leader in the non-profit sector. He worked as a project officer for the Merced County Office of Economic and Strategic Development where he managed many small business development projects, including a Central Valley farmer’s disaster relief loan program and a micro-enterprise program for Southeast Asian immigrants. Allan is the founding executive director of the Merced Center for the Performing Arts and led membership, education, and leadership programs for youth organizations in California.   Allan joined the staff of the Freemasons in 1999 as executive director and was elected grand secretary for the first time in 2008.

In addition to international speaking engagements on behalf of Freemasonry, Allan is a frequent speaker on topics relating to nonprofit board governance, leadership, and change management.

While his professional work includes nonprofit board service, Allan volunteers for a number of organizations including Raising A Reader.   He is also vice-president and treasurer of the Five Bridges Foundation in the Bay Area and is a director of the Nob Hill Association in San Francisco.

A native of California, Allan received a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Master of Business Administration from the University of San Francisco.


Chief Development Officer for Cohesity

Kirk Law is Chief Development Officer for Cohesity. In his 30+ years of experience, he has led development teams in both startups and larger corporations.

In his 30+ years of experience, Law has led development teams in both startups and larger corporations. Prior to Cohesity, Kirk was Senior Vice President of Development at Tableau Software, helping people see and understand their data.

Before joining Tableau, Law was Senior Vice President of Engineering at Primary Data, developing intelligent automation software for enterprise data management. Previously, he was Vice President of Engineering at SanDisk. He spent over 12 years at NetApp in several VP of Engineering leadership roles, and more than 14 years at Silicon Graphics. As well, he co-authored 4 US Patents from his time spent at RCA’s David Sarnoff Research Center.

Law is on the Board of Directors for the national non-profit organization Raising a Reader, and holds memberships with the following organizations: the Executive Leadership Council, Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Eta Kappa Nu, the Purdue EE Honor Society.

Law holds both a BSEE and MSEE degree from Purdue University. He has been honored as a recipient of the 2012 Purdue University Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering (OECE) award.