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 Key Staff Biographies

Suzy Hirsch, Executive Director

In August 2007, Ms. Hirsch began to work with Richard England regarding a new not-for-profit that he envisioned.  That relationship broadened as she began to assist Mr. England with the due diligence necessary to implement his vision.  Ms. Hirsch took on the key staff position of the emerging entity called Chess Challenge in DC and was appointed Executive Director in May 2008.  Since then she has led CCinDC, with the support of a very capable staff and Board of Directors, to a place of prominence in the DC youth development community.

Ms. Hirsch has worked professionally and as a volunteer in the field of fundraising for over 30 years.  She was president of her own company, The S. Hirsch Group, Inc., from 2000 to 2008, during which time she provided financial resource development consulting to organizations in the community.  In her work, she assisted organizations in establishing infrastructure and provided research, technical information, prospect review, marketing, event planning, and solicitor training.  Ms. Hirsch successfully developed and implemented strategic plans and directed Annual, Major Donor, Capital, and Endowment Campaigns.  Prior to this, she worked for two national organizations – as Associate Director of Endowment for one and Director of Development for the other.

Ms. Hirsch holds a B.A in Fine Arts and an M.L.S in Information Studies from Syracuse University.

Jan Gordon, Program Director

Ms. Gordon joined Chess Challenge in May 2008.  Ms. Gordon has several years of experience in school social work as well as non-profit program development and management, with a focus on children and families.  Prior to joining CCinDC, she served as Director of Client Services for the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM) in Falls Church, VA from 2000 to 2007.  Ms. Gordon’s professional background also includes work with graduate social work students as an adjunct faculty and student advisor at Boston University as well as a practicum supervisor for VCU and GMU Schools of Social Work.

Her responsibilities include partnership development, data management and program evaluation, coach recruitment, oversight of all daily program operations and events, and supervision of program staff.

Ms. Gordon holds a B. A. in Psychology and an M.S. in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Elio Cruz, Program Manager

Mr. Cruz joined Chess Challenge in DC as Program Manager in February 2016. His previous work included serving as the Youth Programs Coordinator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).  At NMNH he coordinated the implementation of programs for youth during out-of-school time, focusing on program logistics, outreach, partnership development, and participant recruitment. Mr. Cruz also served as the museum lead for a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project called CHISPA! (Children Investigating Science with Parents and After School), where he worked with local Latino-serving community-based organizations to expose elementary age students to science through after school programs and museum visits.

Prior to his work as the Youth Programs Coordinator, Mr. Cruz worked as a Museum technician at the National Museum of Natural History’s Insect Zoo for 3 years, caring for the 50+ species of live arthropods in the permanent exhibit and laboratory and assisting with the management of volunteers. Mr. Cruz is a member of the Youth Workforce Leadership Academy that is a 10-month professional development opportunity for youth serving professionals.

Elio holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Marymount University.