Meet Our Team

The Forum for Youth Investment was founded in 1998 by Karen Pittman and Merita Irby, two of the country’s top leaders on youth issues and youth policy. The Forum’s diverse staff includes researchers, educators, policy analysts, youth work practitioners, advocates, and communications specialists.


CEO and Administrative Staff


Mishaela Durán
President & CEO

Mishaela serves as President & CEO of the Forum.

Ashley Brooks
Program Associate

Ashley supports the Big Picture Approach Consulting Group with support of its public commitments, field services, and national field-building projects.

Improving & Aligning Policies


Gerod Blue
Senior Policy Manager

Gerod manages the development of policy programs, agendas, & various campaigns focused on decreasing the Opportunity Gap & furthering the mission of the Forum.

Shaquana Boykin
SparkAction & Opportunity Youth United Digital Engagement Fellow

A passionate youth organizer, Shaquana works with SparkAction to coordinate digital communications for our partner, the youth-led Opportunity Youth United.

Thaddeus Ferber
Executive Vice President and Co-Founder, SparkAction

Thaddeus works to promote evidence-based policies that help communities achieve equity for all youth and that incorporate youth voice.

Caitlin Johnson
Co-Founder and Creative Director, SparkAction

A writer and journalist passionate about digital movement building & youth leadership, Caitlin runs the Forum’s SparkAction.org and LeaderStories.org networks.

Jaizyha Jones
SparkAction Youth Justice Policy Fellow

Jaizyha is a member of the Forum’s SparkAction youth-led storytelling, narrative expansion, and social media collective.

Jo Ann Paanio
Director of Advocacy

Jo Ann works to advocate for policies that advance racial equity and social justice by connecting with policymakers & directly impacted youth and young adults.

Jordan Pineda
Policy Manager, Children’s Cabinets

Jordan works to ensure that government and non-government stakeholders engage in policies that are horizontally and vertically aligned to promote equity.

Jamal Stone
Digital Engagement Associate

As SparkAction’s Digital Engagement Associate, Jamal helps strategize and execute on content-driven campaigns, with a focus on equity, opportunity and justice.

Danielle Varner
Social Impact Design Associate

Danielle uses the power of visual imagery to help us make data, insights, and calls to action come alive.

Delbria Walton
Policy Manager

Delbria does all things Opportunity Nation. Find out your OppIndex Score today!

Mary Ellen Wiggins
Director of Policy & Research

Mary Ellen works with stakeholders inside and outside of government to use policy and evaluation as tools to promote equity and help youth thrive.

Planning and Partnering for Impact


Ashley Brooks
Program Associate

Ashley supports the Big Picture Approach Consulting Group with support of its public commitments, field services, and national field-building projects.

Merita Irby
Co-Founder & Executive Vice President

Merita is the Forum's co-founder and serves as managing partner of Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting and a coach to state and local partnerships.

Laura Jahromi
Senior Program Manager, Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting

Laura brings extensive on-the-ground experience coordinating & supporting community change efforts to her role managing in-house operations for the BPA team.

Priscilla Little
Senior Consultant, Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting

Priscilla Little has been working in the education arena and conducting educational research for over twenty years.

Larry Pasti
Consultant, Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting

Larry provides support to communities and states interested in bringing the Ready by 21 strategies, solutions and standards into their local work.

Karen Pittman
Co-Founder and Senior Fellow

Karen has made a career of starting organizations and initiatives that promote youth development – including the Forum for Youth Investment.

Katherine Plog Martinez
Senior Consultant

Katherine brings experience at the intersection of k-12 education and positive youth development to her work supporting partnerships and OST programs.

Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom
Consultant, Big Picture Approach Training & Consulting

Alicia’s portfolio includes writing and research projects related to out-of-school time, youth program quality and postsecondary success.

Strengthening Practices and Programs


Adrienne Bard
Senior Manager, Field Services

With an enthusiasm for details, Adrienne provides training and technical assistance to partners across the country engaged in continuous quality improvement.

Joe Bertoletti
Senior Director, Field Services and Vice President, The Forum for Youth Investment

Joe coordinates a team of field consultants and trainers to deliver training and technical assistance to support the development of quality improvement systems.

Poonam Borah
Senior Research & Practice Specialist

Poonam primarily works with projects focusing on instructional and management practices, measure validation, and impact studies specifically around SEL.

Krista Collins, Ph.D.
Director, Research and Evaluation

Krista uses research & evaluation opportunities to partner with youth development organizations to identify, understand & communicate their pathways to impact.

Trevor Davies
Senior Manager, Technical Assistance and Coaching Support Services (TACSS)

Trevor provides coaching and consulting services to the Weikart Center’s clients, including Michigan’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CLCs).

Taylor Davis
Learning & Development Specialist

Tay’s work centers around delivering training and technical assistance in support of continuous quality improvement.

Sarah Eicher
Program Associate

Sarah supports various network projects and clients as part of the Field Services team.

Edgar Gomez
Learning & Development Specialist

Edgar provides support in coaching and training to clients in Michigan.

Jennifer Harris
Senior Manager, Field Services

A “systems-thinker” at heart, Jennifer works closely with intermediaries on projects that focus on matters that directly impact out-of-school time programs.

Amanda Heckenkamp
Communications & Engagement Specialist

Amanda coordinates & supports communications work at the Weikart Center and provides training and technical assistance supports to OST networks engaged in YPQI.

Barbara Hillaker, Ph.D.
Training Content Specialist

Barbara Hillaker’s work centers on developing or improving measures, assuring that they are aligned with developmental science and are valid & reliable.

Paige Kennedy
Learning & Development Specialist

Paige facilitates engaging training sessions that build and strengthen adult skills and provides coaching and technical assistance on CQI efforts.

LaDonna Lloyd
Business Systems & Engagement Specialist

LaDonna provides technical assistance, fosters & maintains positive relationships, & supports quality improvement initiatives with clients around the country.

Alyssa Lucas
Administrative Assistant

Alyssa is the administrative assistant at the Weikart Center where she provides support to the vice president and executive team.

Dave Martineau
Director of Design & Innovation

Dave returns to the Weikart Center as the Director of Design & Innovation with more than 20 years of experience in youth development and facilitation.

Kimberly Howard Robinson, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality

Kim works to strengthen programs and practices that nurture the potential of youth with continuous improvement approaches that marry research and practice.

Amanda Ruud
Senior Learning & Development Specialist

Amanda serves as a Senior Learning & Development Specialist.

Leah Wallace
Learning & Development Specialist

Leah provides coaching, training, and technical assistance to Weikart Center clients around the country.

Internal Services & Administration


Seghen Abebe
Special Projects Associate

Seghen provides direct administrative and programmatic assistance for internal operations and external affairs alongside the COO.

Laine Culbreath
Director of Finance & Administration

Laine oversees the accounting functions of the Forum, including producing financials statements, budgeting, grant reporting & making sure the bills get paid.

Tom Devaney
Vice President, Business Strategy

Tom oversees the Forum’s finance and accounting team and is responsible the organization’s contracting, legal and business strategy functions.

Ian Faigley
Director of Outreach and Engagement

Ian is the point man for partners of the Forum. He manages communications efforts, working with staffers at both the Forum and partner organizations.

Shanell Harriday
Meetings and Operations Manager

Shanell provides comprehensive meeting planning and logistics management for the Forum’s convenings, including the annual Ready by 21 National Meeting.

Paul LaMacchia
Manager, Business Systems

As the Manger of Business Systems at the Forum, Paul oversees our online systems and provides guidance to the users of those systems.

Kris Minor
Chief Operating Officer

Kris oversees the Forum’s external affairs and internal operations: from communications and outreach to human resources, IT and facilities.

Nalini Ravindranath
Grants and Development Manager

Nalini Ravindranath manages the Forum’s fund development activities and relationships with funders.

Ora Shamley
Finance Specialist

Ora is a financial specialist, working on accounts payable, accounts receivable, and many other financial matters for the organization.

Pousga Yerbanga
Senior Accountant

Pousga performs account reconciliations, maintains the general ledger, assists with audit preparations, and performs other accounting duties as assigned.

Changing the odds for young people has never been more important