Thomas Applegate • Executive Director
Thomas is excited to be working with our team of staff, volunteers and community stakeholders for the betterment of life on the northwest side, where he is also a resident. He is committed to strong community and economic development through active engagement that fosters equal access to opportunities for all residents.

Prior to NRC, he was the Executive Director of Hostelling International-Chicago where he oversaw the $3.5m hostel facility operation with 36 full time employees. Thomas started his professional life as a litigation attorney in Chicago and also owned a fine Asian antique store with his spouse Athene.



Dalia Aragon • Housing and Economic Development Organizer

Dalia is deeply involved in the communities served by North River Commission as both an Albany Park resident and activist. She founded Israel’s Gifts of Hope Foundation in 2018 that partners with Moms Demand Action, Never Forget Chicago, and other community partners to raise awareness on important community issues. A native Spanish speaker, Dalia spent her 5 month internship prior to starting on staff full time working in the business districts bringing essential resources for growth to our many family-owned businesses. She is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Justice Studies and Psychology with a passion for creating opportunities that will help create a stronger and more equitable community. In her spare time, she enjoys going for runs, entertaining her toddler, tuning out to music, and reading.  Hablo español.


Carson Poole • Community Organizer for Parks, Recreation, Open Space, Arts and North Park Village

Carson works with the North River Commission and community stakeholders to support equitable, responsive, and resilient community development. He applies his Masters in Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he focused on community development, and his experience as a planner and community practice professional in Chicago. Carson brings a passion for ethical urban practice, resilient urban ecosystems, and dynamic arts and cultural opportunities as ways to improve quality of life. He has previously worked with Place Lab (at the University of Chicago Arts and Public Life Initiative), the Chicago Botanic Garden, Openlands, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Carson grew up on a third-generation family farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University. In his spare time, you can find him biking, working in his community garden, playing 16" softball, baking bread, or talking about the finer points of maple syrup production to anyone who will listen.


Marisabel Pozo • Economic Development Organizer

Marisa is thrilled to work with North River Commission and help small business owners and entrepreneurs achieve their goals through the Regional Business Center program. She is looking forward to applying all of the knowledge she gained in her Masters in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

After working in the private sector for a couple of years, she is happy to get back into economic development and use the experience she has working in nonprofits and government agencies in Chicago and abroad. Born and raised in Ecuador, she moved to Chicago for college and lived almost 15 years in Albany Park, where her parents still reside. This background gives her a sense of belonging and understanding of the identities in these neighborhoods and their potential. She is excited to continue to build strong relationships with businesses in order to achieve a thriving, inclusive and equitable community. Hablo español.

Kendall W. Anderson Photography (C) 2016

Benjamin Corpuz • Economic Development Organizer

Growing up in Riverside, IL, Benjamin soon discovered the subtle and remarkable differences the built environment can have on one’s day-to-day experiences. Following this path, he has pursued a career in helping communities achieve their goals through collaboration, engagement, and empowerment. Benjamin looks forward to putting plans into practice by supporting local businesses through the Special Service Area program at NRC. Benjamin has heard stories of his grandparents emigrating from Mexico and the Philippines to start their own small businesses in Chicago. Their triumphs and struggles are a source of inspiration for Benjamin to help ensure the NRC service area is healthy, prosperous, and locally owned.

Benjamin previously worked as an architectural designer, an intern at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, a graduate research assistant at the Great Cities Institute at University of Illinois - Chicago, and as a planning consultant across the U.S. In his free time, Benjamin enjoys walking his dog, cooking a pot of gumbo, rock climbing, or a combination of the three.

Jennifer Morado • FORGE Bateman Elementary Site Coordinator

Jennifer Morado is excited to be part of the North River Commission Organization and work with a team that supports the community she lives in. She is the School Site Coordinator at Bateman Elementary School, where she as well is a parent of two attending children.  Jennifer grew up on the northwest side of Chicago and is a proud Chicago Public Schools product; attending both elementary and high school.  Her experience as a CPS student has given her a deep sense of commitment to FORGE’s mission and vision. Moreover, Jennifer graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in Human Resource Development.  She has experience in coordinating and implementing programs and is excited to build the FORGE program at Bateman.  Jennifer loves cooking during her spare time. She enjoys watching thriller and mystery series, as well as spending time with her family or working on fun DIY home projects with her husband.


Stef Coleman • FORGE Palmer Elementary Site Coordinator
Stef Coleman has lived on three continents, has two pets, raises one reader, and lives surrounded by books in Albany Park. She brings a decade of non-profit experience to her role as the Palmer Site Coordinator for FORGE and is excited to see how the community center will have a transformative impact on countless lives. She and her husband are deeply involved in the Palmer Elementary community, serving on its Local School Council, Parent Advisory Council, and Friends of Palmer groups.
Stef has a Masters of Divinity and knows way too much about all forms of speculative fiction. In past lives she's been a university adjunct instructor, a blogging editor, a minister, a staff member for 2nd Story, freelance editor, and a content editor for a global non-profit organization. (Some of which she continues to do). She speaks German, English, and books. She is a writer of nonfiction essays and is at work on her novel (in her spare time). Hit her up if you need recommendations on books or just want to talk about writing.
Elizabeth Tellez • FORGE Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center School Site Coordinator 
Elizabeth is super excited to be working with the North River Commission. She is the school site coordinator at Von Steuben MSC, where she also graduated from in 2020. Elizabeth grew up in Chicago and is attending Wilbur Wright College, but plans to transfer to ISU to further pursue her psychology degree. Being closer in age to high school students, Elizabeth has a deeper sense of what it means to work alongside students with many different stories and is looking forward to expanding academic excellence at Von with FORGE. Elizabeth loves to read and relax in nature.

FORGE School Site Coordinators