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Erin Whalen

Da Vinci RISE High
Executive Director

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Erin Whalen, born and raised in Los Angeles, California serves as Da Vinci RISE High’s Principal/Executive Director.

Born into a proud Black, Chicano and Indigenous family, Erin found himself enticed by education’s power to provide people with a sense of self that could be leveraged as a powerful force in the world. After graduating from New Roads High School in Santa Monica as a Santa Monica Gem and Posse Scholar, Erin moved away to study Anthropology at Grinnell College in Iowa and at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Erin began his teaching career at North Miami Middle School where he taught all grade levels and sections of English. After being nominated Teacher of the Year, Erin transferred his career in education back home to Los Angeles where he worked at KIPP: Sol in East Los Angeles. . Throughout the years Erin and Kari Croft, RISE’s founder, worked together with students, families and partners to develop concepts for Da Vinci RISE High.

In 2016, Whalen and Kari Croft, applied for and won a highly competitive $10 million grant from XQ: The Super School Project, funded by Laurene Powell Jobs and Russlynn Ali. The pair aimed to create a school that could offer essential but often overlooked resources to this student population, such as one-to-one case management, job opportunities, flexible scheduling, and a curriculum that addresses both immediate and future needs, such as financial literacy. The school they envisioned, Da Vinci RISE High School, opened its doors to 30 students in 2017, and Whalen served as its first assistant principal. In 2021, Whalen became the school’s principal and executive director. The school now serves nearly 250 students in three locations.