U.S. staff

Executive Director

Shari Blindt
Executive Director

Shari Blindt was appointed executive director for Common Hope in September 2006, having previously served as the director of development. Shari brings more than 18 years of experience in the marketing and client services industry. Prior to Common Hope, she served in senior management roles with Penn Garritano Direct Response Marketing, Global Marketing Solutions for Fair Isaac Corporation, and Global Financial Services for DynaMark, Inc. Her experience leading team-based, collaborative business units contributed significantly to her clients’ success and the growth of these organizations.

Shari’s involvement with Common Hope began shortly after the adoption of her two Guatemalan children, when she felt a strong need to give back to the people of Guatemala. She began volunteering both in the US office and on the executive board’s marketing and fundraising committee. She also led a Vision Team, where she was able to directly participate in the services that Common Hope provides. In September 2005, Shari left the for-profit sector and joined the Common Hope staff.

At Common Hope, Shari sees a fitting unification of her personal and professional life. She has a very personal passion for building opportunity for impoverished Guatemalan children and families and says, "Common Hope is my opportunity to truly give back to a country which has helped to make my family and my life whole."


Lynn Brysiewicz
Director of Finance and Administration

As the director of finance and administration for Common Hope, Lynn provides leadership and support for financial management, accounting, administration, and sponsorship. This includes the management of budget development, human resources, and systems. In all of her work, Lynn strives to support our staff to maximize our efficiencies and financial resources.

Prior to Common Hope, Lynn served in various leadership roles with Optum Health and HealthPartners. Lynn’s passion for serving and working with Guatemalans began in 1998, when she traveled to Guatemala on a Vision Team with Common Hope. In 2001, Lynn returned to Guatemala as a long-term volunteer in San Lucas Tolimán. She continued volunteering in Guatemala working on many administrative and development projects prior to joining Common Hope.

Dan Dahlke
Raiser's Edge Database Administrator

As the Raiser's Edge administrator, Dan is responsible for the full oversight, vision, strategy and integrity of the Raiser’s Edge donor database. He ensures that all gift and constituent data is collected, stored and properly used by members of the organization. He also supports program management decision-making by producing new and ongoing analysis reports incorporating relevant data points.

Dan is a U of M graduate, and he spent most of his career in IT for Control Data Corporation, Aetna Health Plans, and HealthPartners. In 2011, he made the switch to the world of non-profits, providing database management and technical support at Saint Croix Lutheran High School before joining Common Hope. He enjoys using his technical skills in a way that helps to make a difference in the lives of others.


Michelle d'Almeida
Donor Relations Manager

Michelle's role is to care for the vital relationships that mobilize our work in Guatemala. She nurtures relationships by meeting with and listening to our supporters, and she plans fundraising events to increase awareness for our cause.

Before working for Common Hope, Michelle worked for an organization in New York City that supports children’s health care in Cambodia. She worked closely with Cambodian-American communities on the East Coast and was able to spend four months working on-site in Cambodia to establish a fundraising department. After this experience Michelle moved to Geneva, Switzerland to attain her master's degree in international relations from Webster University. Michelle is passionate about international humanitarian work and is very excited to be back in Minnesota, working to support children and families in Guatemala.

Lizz Peterson
Marketing & Communications Manager

As the Marketing & Communications Manager, Lizz oversees all print and electronic communications. She supports the Development team by editing the monthly e-news, annual newsletters, website, and other communications materials. She also manages our blog and social media presence.

Before working for Common Hope, Lizz was the Marketing Director at a small advertising agency in the Twin Cities. After a period of “soul searching,” she decided to look for ways to combine her love of copywriting, marketing, and volunteering. This led her to Common Hope, where she joined the staff in January 2014. She feels honored to have the opportunity to work for an organization she’s passionate about and use her skills to ultimately make a difference in the lives of others.

Kallie Sandell
Development Associate

As the development associate, Kallie supports the team through donor relations, event support, marketing and communications, translation, and data processing and administration.

Before Common Hope, Kallie worked in Spain from 2011-2014. She is certified at the mastery level in Spanish having attained the DELE C2 certification, the highest of the six levels established in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. She is grateful to work for an organization that promotes education, social change and volunteerism. She loves the versatile nature of her role at Common Hope and is honored to be a part of the mission.


Jessie Szopinski
Sponsorship Manager

As sponsorship manager, Jessie oversees the sponsorship program in the U.S. Jessie works closely with the Sponsorship Director in Guatemala, pulling both teams together to grow and maintain the partnership that is at the heart of Common Hope’s mission – the special relationship between a donor and sponsored student.

Jessie was introduced to Common Hope by a former Vision Team Coordinator and was drawn to the mission and values of the organization. She is excited to be part of a team that is dedicated to social change and long-term development in Guatemala.

Teresa Hermodson-Olsen
Sponsorship Coordinator

Teresa’s role encompasses many tasks, which all aid in supporting the Guatemalan and St. Paul staff in facilitating the important relationship between donors and sponsored students. Teresa's greatest strengths include her contagious energy, organization, and Spanish-speaking abilities, making her a crucial member of the Sponsorship Team. If you want to sponsor a student, visit your student in Guatemala, host a presentation about Common Hope and sponsorship, or translate letters for our students in Guatemala – Teresa would love to hear from you!

Teresa and her family have a long history with Common Hope through sponsorship and Vision Teams. Most recently, Teresa was the facilitator of Common Hope’s youth leadership program in Antigua for 2.5 years, where she was able to see first-hand the great work that Common Hope is doing through our partnerships with the children and families of Guatemala. Teresa left a piece of her heart in Guatemala which is why she is very excited to continue her work with Common Hope in St. Paul, connecting others to Common Hope and the amazing families we serve.

Vision Teams

Brianna Jensen
Volunteer & Community Liaison

Brianna coordinates Vision Team trips to Guatemala for individuals and groups so that people can learn about Common Hope's work first-hand and integrate their experience into their communities back home. She also introduces and promotes Common Hope to new interest groups such as schools, churches and businesses.

Brianna spent a year in Guatemala after college with Common Hope coordinating and receiving Vision Teams on the ground in Antigua. She is excited to now work with the Vision Teams on the U.S. side, preparing and orientating people for time in Guatemala. Brianna has had a love for the Guatemalan people and culture ever since she spent a semester there studying in college and feels so fortunate to be able to be part of an organization that is dedicated to the country she loves.


Colleen Tracy
Office Administrator

Colleen supports the U.S. office in the areas of HR administration, in-kind donations, and office operations. She also supports the executive director, Shari Blindt, with board communications and other projects as requested.

A graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, Colleen worked for a number of years at Ecolab, most recently in the human resources department. She learned of Common Hope from her parents, who participated in a Vision Team. In addition, Colleen’s nephew volunteered with Common Hope in Guatemala and still lives in-country, working for another NGO. She and her husband recently visited their nephew and fell in love with the mission and people when they toured Common Hope. Colleen enjoys the close camaraderie she finds at Common Hope.