Jeff Hilger attended St. Paul the Apostle School and founded and named the first Bright Star School, Stella Academy, in honor of his K-8 school Principal, Sr. Stella Maria Enright, D.M.J. After attending Loyola High School ('88) and Georgetown University ('92), he joined Teach For America and spent several years teaching in bilingual classroom throughout Los Angeles. He later attended UCLA Law School ('98) and earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning before being selected for a U.S. District Court Clerkship and becoming an attorney. While working for Proskauer Rose LLP, he worked on a pro bono project to help open the Los Angeles Leadership Academy. He also visited KIPP Houston several times and, in partnership with Fr. Ken Deasy and many people from St. Agatha’s Parish Family in mid-city Los Angeles, was able to raise funds and engage community interests to found and open the Stella Middle Charter Academy in 2003 as its first Principal Teacher. In 2006, with the help of Sr. Ramona Bascom, O.P., who served as the first principal of the high school, Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy, Jeff became the first Executive Director of Bright Star Schools.
The founding of Stella Academy and Bright Star grew out of Jeff’s desire to give students in the mid-city Los Angeles community the same educational opportunities he himself had benefited from while in school. Jeff and Bright Star parted ways in 2013 after he spent a yearlong sabbatical in Tarragona, Catalunya, Spain while working on projects for the schools. He is currently the Director of Education for the New Opportunities Organization, which serves adult students – both inside county jails as well as throughout Los Angeles County at multiple community partner locations – who return to school to earn a high school diploma. He is also a practicing attorney focused, in part, on clients who are underserved by traditional legal services models.