We’re pleased to introduce the Fellows and facilitators of the 2023 Cleveland | Cuyahoga Workforce Leadership Academy! The Academy — launched in partnership by the Ohio Workforce Coalition and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program — brings leaders from across the Cleveland | Cuyahoga workforce ecosystem together for a year-long series of retreats, workshops, and action learning projects. The Academy provides a forum for local leaders to work collaboratively to identify local and regional systems-based challenges and create shared solutions for economic opportunity for all. Fellows work with leading practitioners throughout the country as they deepen networks; strengthen systems leadership skills; apply race, equity, and systems change frameworks to their work; and increase understanding of effective strategies and programs.
The Cleveland | Cuyahoga Workforce Leadership Academy is one of eight local academies launched in 2023. Alumni of the Academy become part of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Fellows Network, joining Fellows from fourteen previous Academies in eleven cities in the US and Canada.
Dr. LaShon Sawyer
Director of Advocacy & Policy, Towards Employment; Director, Northeast Ohio Workforce Coalition.
She champions workforce development advocacy and policy efforts while having a deep passion for social justice issues and advocating for inclusion, racial equity, and fair hiring practices. LaShon also runs a clinical private practice where she specializes in serving adult individuals conquering stressors associated with depression, anxiety, and trauma.
Dr. Sawyer holds the highest clinical license available in her discipline, licensed independent social worker with supervision privileges. She also holds an MS in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University and completed her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice at Capella University. LaShon focuses on criminal justice reentry advocacy, policies, and services. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, LaShon loves to spend time discovering new locally owned businesses and food options while spending time with her teenage son and extended family.
Director, Ohio Workforce Coalition; Founder, R4 Workforce
Rebecca is a strategic connector, advocate, and coach to others in the workforce ecosystem. R4 Workforce allows her to support regional and statewide capacity building, networking, and public policy or system change. Rebecca is a two-time Aspen Fellow with current projects focused on job-quality, racial equity, young adults, state policy change, and the future of the workforce field.
Youth and Young Adult Manager, OhioMeansJobs|Cleveland-Cuyahoga
In June 2022, Rachel stepped into the role of Youth and Young Adult Manager at Ohio Means Jobs. Rachel’s progression through the public workforce system started in 2018 as an Employment Specialist for United Labor Agency, assisting Adult and Dislocated Workers achieve their education and career goals. Through strong process development and policy interpretation, Rachel quickly took on greater responsibility by developing best practices, supervising team members, and program management.
In her experience with Workforce Innovative and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funded programming, Rachel brought exceptional leadership and direction to the program, working with community organizations and government entities to develop and implement successful strategies that resulted in positive outcomes for all stakeholders.
Rachel’s goal for public workforce is to open opportunities for all job seekers to have access to information, resources, funding, and training to pursue careers in industries and occupations of choice rather than jobs of necessity.
Deputy Administrator, Cuyahoga County JFS
Cuyahoga Job and Family Services promotes economic self-sufficiency and personal responsibility for families and individuals by timely and accurately determining eligibility for a range of quality services that include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Prevention, Retention, and Contingency (PRC), Child Care Assistance, and Work Programs, in accordance with Federal, State, and County regulations.
Paul earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Cleveland State University. Prior to his work at CDJFS, Paul was the Deputy Director with the Cuyahoga County Office of Child Support. He has over 20 years of senior management experience in workforce programming at the state and local level. Currently, he resides in Bedford Heights, OH, with his wife.
Founder and Managing Principal, Rise Together
Rising Together is an impact firm that helps create systems-level change that enables and empowers international newcomers to join the local workforce. A people-centric problem solver, she started her career in the private sector where she built global youth programs, crafted international events, developed worldwide brand initiatives, and facilitated leadership workshops in eight different countries.
Tanya has since served in various levels of government, first as an Economic and Social Recovery Fellow in the Office of the Governor of Connecticut and most recently supporting workforce efforts in the US Department of Transportation. Through these experiences, she saw great power in working at the intersection of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and decided to move to Ohio in January 2022 to launch Rise Together. She holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Senior Program Officer, Enterprise Community Partners
Kelly has spent her career in the nonprofit sector working to support the items foundational to quality of life including housing, employment, and physical and mental health. Kelly is a graduate of Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. She is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and has held leadership roles at several Northeast Ohio nonprofits and in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Kelly’s current role at Enterprise Community Partners focuses on solutions to homelessness including access to employment and workforce services. When she is not working, Kelly can be found biking around Cleveland with her husband or singing with Windsong, Cleveland’s Feminist Chorus.
Devin H. Cotten
Founder & CEO, Universal Basic Employment & Opportunity
He has spent the majority of his career serving Cleveland’s most disinvested communities. Devin specializes in finding wins at the intersection of people, process, and data.
He has held positions on regional policy coalitions, community led task force, and bridged the gap between community and institutions for the benefit of creating systems of success. Devin believes that everyone should bowl in life with bumpers. If you are moving down the lanes of life you should be guaranteed the opportunity to knock down some pins.
The desire to create that guarantee has been the north star for his career and genesis to UBE. Prior to leading UBE, Devin worked in community development, education operations and management, and professional basketball. In all of these roles, Devin unearthed the relationship between data, process, and people to drive outcomes.
Program Leader, Grantmaking, Deaconess Foundation
Danielle has 15 years of experience serving nonprofits, philanthropic intermediaries and foundations. Danielle has cultivated a career in philanthropy since graduating from college. Prior to her arrival at Deaconess Foundation, Danielle served as the Director, Grantmaking and Community Partnerships at United Way of Greater Cleveland. Prior to that she worked in both metro Detroit and New York City serving underrepresented communities across the United States.
Danielle believes it’s critical to support grantmaking with a racial equity and justice lens. Danielle earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 2006 and her Master of Art in Teaching from Bard College in 2011. Danielle was a 2022 Crain’s Business “40 under Forty” awardee. She also participates on the Funders Collaborative on COVID Recovery as a co-chair of the Nonprofit Resiliency workgroup. Danielle, a native of Shaker Heights, currently resides in Euclid.
Senior Director, Workforce Development, Urban League of Greater Cleveland
Goren positions brands for growth and engagement opportunity. He specializes in community building, change management and positive impact interventions.
As Senior Director of Workforce Development for the Cleveland OH affiliate of the National Urban League he focuses on talent development and retention strategies for Cleveland Cuyahoga. Dillard’s team received a National Urban League Movement Champion Award for workforce development. During his tenure he has strengthened stakeholder collaboration, partnership participation and increased job placement rates from 64% to 79% while expanding work-based training for diverse talent recruitment, retention and career advancement.
Dillard holds a BA in Government from Georgetown University and an MS in Positive Organization Development from Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management. He is a certified facilitator for KOLB Institute for Experiential Learning and enjoys family, friends, movies, sports, and vacation travel.
Director of Workforce Development, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
Sheri joined as senior program officer in July 2011. She served as Director of Economic Opportunity, where she developed and implemented asset-building strategies, such as the Community Financial Centers, housing, workforce development, and small business & entrepreneurship programs. Most recently, Dozier serves as Director of Workforce Development, where she leverages public-private partnerships to position Community Development Corporations to play a prominent role in connecting economic and workforce development opportunities with low-to-moderate income households in Cleveland neighborhoods.
Dozier is a graduate of Central State University and has a Master’s degree in Urban Planning, Design and Development from Cleveland State University. She has been involved in the field of Community Development in the City of Cleveland for over 20 years. She has held positions at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Housing Network, Famicos Foundation, and the former Ohio City Near West Development Organization (now Ohio City Inc.).
WIOA Services Program Manager, United Labor Agency
Throughout her tenure with the agency, Maura has helped job seekers with job searching, resume writing, mock interviewing, identifying new career paths, and education funding. In 2016, Maura took on a supervisory role, where she continues to assist staff with daily service delivery. Maura holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University – College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Social Services has been Maura’s passion during her working career. Prior to joining ULA, she dedicated her time as a mental health caseworker, assisting the community with completing daily activities, finding housing, and medical care.
Program Manager, Cuyahoga Community College Ohio Options Program
She is responsible for managing, monitoring and implementing academic and workforce learning programs. Salome is a career educator with more than 27 years of K12 and adult education experience. Salome’s experience ranges from providing classroom instruction for students to strategically facilitating workforce and academic funded initiatives to the underserved adult population in the city of Cleveland. Salome’s career in adult education has given her the opportunity to be involved in advocacy as the State of Ohio Advocacy Fellow in 2021 and is currently a board member of OAACE (Ohio Association of Adult & Continuing Education).
Salome is a graduate of Malone University earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing and currently enrolled in Tiffin University to complete a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Salome loves showing kindness and spending time with her new grandson and family.
Board President / Senior Project Manager, Northeast Ohio Worker Center / Thomas P. Miller & Associates
Grace is responsible for the planning, coordination, and support of teams executing a portfolio of workforce development projects. During her time with TPMA, Grace has led several economic and workforce development opportunities such as regional workforce needs assessments, WIOA business services strategic plans, DEI toolkits, and career pathway mapping. In her previous roles she has worked on system change initiatives across Northeast Ohio as a Sr. Project Manager for Towards Employment including the skills-based hiring initiative TalentNEO and the Annie E. Casey Generation Work project.
Additionally, she is the Chair of the founding Board of Directors for the Northeast Ohio Worker Center (NEOWC) where the organization builds worker power through organizing, advocacy and education across the region. Notably, the NEOWC leads the Guardians for Fair Work coalition which pass enhanced wage theft enforcement legislation in Cleveland in 2023.
Katherine B. Hollingsworth
Managing Attorney, Economic Justice Group, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland focuses on employment and consumer issues. Katherine joined Cleveland Legal Aid in 2011 and her practice has focused on mortgage and property tax foreclosure defense, payday and auto title loan collections, utilities, automobile repossessions, and student loans. Katherine began managing the Economic Justice Group in 2015.
Katherine is a 2004 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to joining Cleveland Legal Aid, Katherine was in private practice in Boston, Massachusetts and served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable F. Dennis Saylor IV in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Juan Carlos Medina Santana
Workforce Development Coordinator, The Spanish American Committee
I moved to Cleveland from the Dominican Republic 5 years ago. I have a bachelor’s in political science and administration and worked for for-profit organizations, but being in this city, I felt the need to help the community and couldn’t be from a better place than Spanam. I have been working for The Spanish American Committee since I moved to Cleveland. As a Career Coach and later as the Workforce Development Coordinator, I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish my goal of helping so many people from the Hispanic Community, but also anyone in The Greater Cleveland area, starting in this city from zero and helping them to become successful, self-sufficient and to move forward into their careers and life. Volunteering is something that I enjoy.
Int VP of Engineering, Manufacturing and Workforce, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C)
Ray has 33 years of industry experience in aerospace, automotive forging in B2B, and consumer goods. He has 18 years of adjunct faculty, and five years of administration experience in higher education. He loves training people in manufacturing. He graduated from LCCC and Akron University in automation engineering and received an MBA from Cleveland State University.
Mentor Recruitment Manager, College Now Greater Cleveland
Nicki is an innovative leader, dedicated organizer, and relationship creator with a passion for community advocacy. As a Military Spouse, she became adept at jumping into communities, supporting and growing efforts in over a dozen communities where the family resided. Now settled back in her home state of Ohio post-retirement, Nicki is using the skills developed working in numerous military adjacent nonprofits to connect community mentors with post-secondary students. Nicki is committed to civic engagement and currently serves on the Friends of the CH-UH Library Board and completed the Civic Leadership Institute at the Cleveland Leadership Center.
Melaak Rashid (She/Her)
Development Director, Smart Development Inc
Melaak is also an Independent Nonprofit Consultant specializing in grant/fund development, cultural competency, and organizational development. Her work at Smart Development encompasses community development, workforce, housing, civic engagement, and social service work within the refugee, immigrant, and Arabic-Speaking communities. Her work has revolved around supporting new and existing refugees and immigrants in Cleveland over the last 10 years by serving as an advocate, trusted voice, and partner leveraging resources and creating opportunities for her community.
She is a current PhD candidate studying Public Administration and Social Change, as well as holds a Masters in Public Administration with an Urban Planning and Nonprofit Management certificate.
Associate Director, Salus Group
Crystal Reed is a dynamic and collaborative leader, with over 10 years of process improvement and project management experience in the Healthcare sector. She currently serves as the Associate Director for the Workforce Connect Healthcare Sector Partnership Intermediary, where she is focused on supporting strategies to reduce labor market inequities and address the talent needs of Cleveland area hospitals. In this role, she is able to integrate her love for her community, with her passion for helping people become the best versions of themselves.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Crystal received her Master of Business Administration from Ursuline College. In her free time, she works as a fitness instructor providing small group and personal training services to women. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a member of the National Black MBA Association, and has been recognized by Code M Magazine as a 2023, mover and shaker.
Dr. Ángel L. Reyes-Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Director, McNair Scholars Program, Cleveland State University
In this role, he prepares undergraduate students for graduate school, especially Ph.D. programs, by providing services and opportunities to underserved students. He also works on other projects aiming to reduce barriers to student success. Dr. Reyes-Rodríguez has been an active member of academic and professional organizations focused on professional development, engagement, and advocacy. In 2021 he was recognized as one of Crain’s Cleveland Business Forty under 40 honorees, and in 2022, as one of AmMore Consulting’s 100+Latinos Cleveland must know.
Program Director, Apprenticeship Hub, Greater Cleveland Partnership
GCP helps companies drive innovation and growth through work-based learning initiatives to connect with and hire diverse talent living in Northeast Ohio. The ERAP Hub builds employer-driven apprenticeship programs in IT, healthcare, facilities maintenance, retail banking, insurance claims, and hospitality management.
Prior to joining GCP, Erin spent six years at a manufacturing trade association and its educational foundation focused on workforce development, grants, and scholarships. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from the University of Evansville and a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from John Carroll University.
Program Officer, Workforce Development & Talent Cultivation, Cleveland Foundation
In her current role, Nicole is responsible for addressing talent attraction and retention challenges and opportunities in the Greater Cleveland area to support equitable economic growth.
Prior to joining the foundation, Nicole managed a competitive grant through the Department of Labor. In that capacity, Nicole engaged local employer partners and nontraditional sources of talent to design and implement pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship models of education and on-the-job-training to increase employment, academics, and retention deliverables in Cuyahoga County.
Nicole started her professional career as a second-grade teacher in the Cleveland community. Nicole currently holds a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Urban Studies from the University of Pittsburgh with a certification in women and gender studies.
Director, El Barrio and Workforce, The Centers
El Barrio and Workforce for The Centers, one of the oldest and largest health and human service organizations in Northeast Ohio. The Centers serves over 23,000 people a year providing integrated health and wellness services, early childhood education, and workforce development. Melissa is an experienced public and nonprofit servant leader. She has served on the leadership team since 2010, helping to drive significant programmatic growth and impact in her tenure. In her role, she leads implementation and compliance of a multi-million dollar contract and grant portfolio.
Melissa received her Master’s in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management Certificate from Cleveland State University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Applied Science with honors from Youngstown State University.
Training Services Program Manager, Towards Employment
Towards Employment provides career readiness training and a full range of career coaching to citizens of Cuyahoga County, and we are proud to work with many justice-impacted individuals in helping empower them in their search for economic self-sufficiency. I come from a background as a computer programmer, project manager, professor, division chair, and now full-time workforce development professional.
I feel lucky to be in this position with a great organization like TE, as I can bring my experience in helping young people become young professionals and in developing educational systems to workforce development. I also feel very lucky to be part of this Academy, with its emphasis on creating an ecosystem that emphasizes dignified, humane labor with employers who care about their employees.
Director, External Education and Workforce Development, The MetroHealth Hospital
Tiffany joined The MetroHealth System in November 2018. Under her leadership, Tiffany has been responsible for Employee Recognition and Corporate DEI initiatives. Most recently, Tiffany is focused on Workforce Development efforts – specifically related to the MH/Tri-C Access Center, Healthcare Sector Collaboration efforts, Apprenticeships, Internships and Youth Exposure programming – including Lincoln West Science and Health High School.
Tiffany holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Tiffany has over 20 years of experience in Leadership Development, Performance Management, Change Management, Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity, and HR policy. Tiffany is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD).