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Meet the Team

The Spark Learning team has decades of experience in research, policy, and operations across a variety of human services fields. Learn more about our team here.


April Allen (she/her), PhD, MPA  serves as the Founder and CEO of Spark Learning for Organizations She is a forward-thinking and forward-looking changemaker with a passion for using data to transform systems that serve children, youth, and families. Her professional life includes senior roles in research, government, and nonprofit settings, unified by a dedication to working across systems to meet family needs. A substantial portion of her research agenda has focused on the experiences of children involved with the child welfare system, informed by her own experiences as a child in care.


Dr. Allen’s proudest accomplishments include convening and building the capacity of communities to translate data into action. She launched Amplify Action Research to train and empower people with lived experience to be the authors and leaders of the research, evaluation, and performance measurement that will drive critical system change in child welfare and related human services systems. [See More]

Katy (Kat) Carter (she/her) holds a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Political-Economic Infrastructures in Rural and Urban areas from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). During her undergrad, Kat also spent time abroad studying in Spain at Carlos III University of Madrid through UCSB's study abroad program. 


Prior to joining Spark as a Research Assistant, Kat was part of the second cohort of the Amplify Action Research Program. She also worked at the Santa Barbara Community Hazardous Waste Collection Center as a hazardous waste technician.


Kat is passionate about helping combat the climate change crisis through helping to create healthy and resiliant communities. Kat plans to do this work throughout her career. She believes that policies and decisions made at the local level have the biggest direct impact on people's everyday lives.

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Reginea Jackson (she/her) serves as a Special Projects Coordinator with Spark. She initially joined the organization as part of the inaugural cohort with our Amplify Action Research program. In her current role, Reginea specializes in managing research participant recruitment, development of performance measurement frameworks and logic models, and project management, as well as producing research findings.

Reginea completed a Bachelor's degree in Human Development and Communications at the University of California, Davis. She also recently completed the University of CaliforniaDC program in Washington, DC that provided further, direct exposure to research and public policy experience.

Melissa Lemus (she/her) serves as a Research Analyst with Spark. She initially joined the organization as part of the inaugural cohort with our Amplify Action Research Program. In her current role, Melissa focuses on designing and managing data collection, as well as performing statistical analyses.



Melissa attended the University of California, Davis and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. She plans to further her education and pursue a Master’s degree in Public Policy to continue her work with research institutions and advance her career goals.


Christina Squires (she/her), PhD, serves as the Research Director for Spark Learning. Christina joins Spark with over a decade of cross-sector experience in higher education, nonprofit, and social enterprise spaces, where she’s worked alongside organizational and community leaders to leverage social science for social good. Christina’s work prioritizes individual and community empowerment and systems transformation. She is trained in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and utilizes an equity-based approach to research to promote social change. Her work emphasizes the creation of both research and evidence-based systems, programs, practices, policies and advocacy efforts that center the lived experiences of those they represent.

Across her work, Christina aims to support individuals, organizations, and communities to utilize their lived expertise to impact change. Her most fulfilling professional experience to date has been the mentorship of others in the research process.

[See More]

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Amplify cohort.

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