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

Karen Pittman
Co-Founder, President and CEO

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

Seghen Abebe
Administrative Assistant

Seghen provides the backbone of support to the Forum’s co-founder and CEO, Karen Pittman, as well as other members of the senior staff.

Improving & Aligning Policies

Gerod Blue
Policy Manager

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

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 and networks.

Michelle Massie
Director of Opportunity Nation and Strategic Initiatives

Michelle leads efforts to utilize data about economic mobility & opportunity to secure support for policies that improve racial, social & economic equity.

Alexander Sileo
Senior Research Associate and Special Assistant

Alex promotes evidence-based policymaking through research publications and convenings of federal policymakers. He also supports the CEO with research tasks.

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.

Ashley Thompson
Content Engagement Specialist

As Content Engagement Specialist, Ashley provides content strategy and support to,, and the Reconnecting Youth Campaign.

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.

Delbria Walton
Senior Policy Associate

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

Planning and Partnering for Impact

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
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
Senior Director, 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.

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.

Nate Ross
Program & Communications Associate

Nate works to link and align various programmatic, communications and social media projects that promote the Ready by 21 Key Ideas.

Strengthening Practices and Programs

Adrienne Bard
Portfolio 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 & Program Associate

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

Alandra Chuney
Senior Program Associate, TACSS

Alandra is a part of the TACSS team in Michigan. She provides technical assistance and coaching to our 21st Century grantees.

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.

Kiylise Crutchfield
Training Design and Delivery Specialist

Kiylise is the Training Design and Delivery Specialist with the Design Team. She is responsible for designing and improving training opportunities and content.

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).

Sarah Eicher
Project Management Assistant

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

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
Project Management & Design Assistant

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

Rachael Heilman
Project Management Assistant

Rachael Heilman joined the team in November 2016 and works on Project Management with responsibilities ranging from travel, packing & shipping, to data entry.

Katharine Helegda
Manager, Research and Evaluation

Katie is on the research team for the Weikart Center.

Barbara Hillaker, Ph.D.
Research Specialist

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

Madeline Kahl
Administrative Assistant

Maddie’s role is to provide administrative support to the Weikart Center’s Executive Team as well as to assist the Design Team with logistics responsibilities.

Sofia Kromis
Project Management Assistant

Sofia's primary role is supporting network projects and clients as part of Field Services. She also provides support for a portfolio of YPQI projects.

LaDonna Lloyd
Project Manager

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

Dave Martineau
Director of Product Design & Innovation

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

Megan McLaughlin
Research Assistant, Research and Evaluation

Megan joined the team in 2017 and provides technical assistance support for the Weikart Center’s online data management platform, Scores Reporter.

Kimberly Howard Robinson, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, The Forum for Youth Investment and Managing Director, David. P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
Leanne Roy
Research Associate

Leanne joined the research team in November 2015.

Amanda Ruud
Senior Program Associate, Technical Assistance and Coaching Support Systems (TACSS)

Amanda serves as a Senior Program Associate for the Technical Assistance and Coaching Support Systems (TACSS) team.

Sandra Taranhike
Research Assistant

Sandra is a Research Assistant, and provides assistance with data analysis, reporting findings, and providing support to Weikart Center clients.

Laenne K. Thompson
Co-Director, Field Services

Laenne oversees internal systems and talent development, and advises quality improvement systems throughout the country, many of which are focused on SEL.

Leah Wallace
Project Manager, Field Services

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

Internal Services & Administration

Keishay Bulluck
Finance Associate

Keishay assists with daily accounting functions at the Forum. She helps with invoicing potential clients, reconciling bank accounts and accounts payable.

Laine Culbreath

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.

Kandice Head
Communications Specialist

Kandice executes strategies to promote the Forum’s work, products and services through design, production and drafting of print and electronic communications.

Galen Irby
IT and Facilities Specialist

Galen is the Forum' chief IT geek and facilities manager. He' in charge of the network, computers and telecommunications. He also handles facilities needs.

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.

Rosa Pittman
Information and Facilities Associate

Rosa, an employee of the Forum since 2002, provides administrative and organizational support to the entire staff.

Nalini Ravindranath
Senior Associate for External Affairs

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

Changing the odds for young people has never been more important