Meet the Say Yes Cleveland Team

The staff members of Say Yes Cleveland work to help every Cleveland student achieve success in school and beyond.

From left to right: Aletha Kern, Diane Downing, Victor Young, Jon Benedict, and Georgina Galindo. 

DIane Downing

Executive Director

Diane manages and directs all operations of Say Yes Cleveland, along with the partnerships and collaborations we rely on to pursue the Say Yes mission.

A longtime Cleveland resident, Diane has held numerous roles in civic leadership, including as the Cleveland District Director for United States Senator George Voinovich, Executive for Service during the administration of Mayor Michael White, and Deputy Director of the Ohio Lottery and on the executive staff in the Office of Mayor George Voinovich.

Most recently, Diane worked as Senior Vice President and Director of Corporate Affairs for Huntington Bank in Cleveland, where she developed strategies for expanding the bank’s community involvement. From May 2015 through August 2016 she served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Host Committee for the Republican National Convention, the nonprofit civic group that enabled the convention to take place in Cleveland. Diane also formerly served in the leadership of the Cleveland Browns as, among other roles, Vice President and Stadium Operations Director. She was Project Manager at the City of Cleveland for the construction of Cleveland Browns Stadium (now First Energy Stadium).

Contact Diane at ddowning@sayyescleveland.org

Victor Young

Director of Student & Family Services 

Victor oversees services supporting the Say Yes Cleveland initiative. He works with students, families, Cleveland Metropolitan School District teams, and service providers to develop and maintain a service network that propels students along the pathway to success.

A former teacher, Victor has spent his 35-year career in education. He has served as a CEO, foundation officer, trustee, consultant, and executive coach working in and with public and private schools, foundations, and education nonprofits serving K-12 schools. He spent 20 years working in Northeast Ohio, as managing director of The Busara Group, founder of what is now the Stark Education Partnership, president of The Learning Communities Network, and senior program officer for pre-collegiate education at the Cleveland Foundation. More recently, Victor was the managing director of VCY Stratagem, where he led the collective impact work in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park for PolicyLink, which is funded by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative in Silicon Valley. He also was the founding president of Cornerstone Literacy, a teacher professional development organization.

Contact Victor at vyoung@sayyescleveland.org

Aletha Kern

Director of Chapter Data Management and Student Services

As director of Chapter Data Management and Student Services, Aletha is responsible for developing and implementing Say Yes Cleveland’s data processes that track the status and needs of current and future students. Kern worked for more than 10 years as an IT business analyst at American Greetings Corp. While there, she developed her expertise in data analytics, data warehousing, data management and reporting, and large software and hardware project implementation. A graduate of Cleveland’s Jane Addams High School, Kern has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Tennessee State University and is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree at Cleveland State University.

Contact Aletha at akern@sayyescleveland.org

Jon Benedict

Director of Communications

Jon is responsible for Say Yes Cleveland’s communications and marketing efforts, helping ensure that students, parents, community members, and everyone with a stake in the city understands the Say Yes mission.

Prior to joining Say Yes Cleveland as Director of Communications, Jon Benedict spent his nearly 20-year career helping organizations in Cleveland and across Ohio communicate effectively and achieve their strategic goals. Since 2010, he was vice president at R Strategy Group, where he provided strategic communications counsel and services to diverse clients that included school districts, libraries, policy initiatives, local governments, education and human service agencies, advocacy groups, and more. Benedict graduated cum laude from Cleveland State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Contact Jon at 216.409.6160 or jbenedict@sayyescleveland.org

Family Support Specialists

Say Yes Cleveland Family Support Specialists serve as a resource in our support service schools to identify, engage, and assist at-risk students. Our Family Support Specialists connect students (and their families) with the services they need, often using our Postsecondary Planning System (PPS). Contact info for current Family Support Specialists can be found here. 

Front, left to right: Raymond Hill, Miles Park; Brittney Church, Max Hayes; Shauna Scott-Rose, New Tech East; Bethany Lee, Orchard; Alexandra Mora, Buhrer Dual Language; Arnisha Rogers, Mary Bethune; Ashley Gulley, Marion-Sterling; Tracy Simpkins-Smith, Almira; HerMaya Onunwor, John Adams College & Career.  Back, left to right: Victor Young; Alyssa Ellis, Rhodes College & Career; Jamila Campbell, Wilbur Wright; LeKisha Rogers, Joseph P. Gallagher; Cassandra Klein, Memorial; Jerrold Goodloe, Michael R. White; Nora Leahy, Lincoln West Global Studies; Tia Hickson, John Marshall Civic & Business Leadership.