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Diane Downing

Executive Director

Diane manages and directs all operations for Say Yes Cleveland, along with the partnerships and collaborations we rely on to pursue the Say Yes Cleveland 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 and Executive for Service during the administration of Mayor Michael White. Most recently, Diane worked as Senior Vice President and Director of Corporate Affairs for Huntington Bank in Cleveland.

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Sharese Ryan

Director of Student and Family Services

Sharese supervises, coaches, and trains Say Yes Cleveland’s team of 100+ Family Support Specialists. She works with Say Yes Cleveland staff, schools, and external service providers to develop and maintain a support network that propels students to success. Sharese has formerly worked as a supervisor of child welfare caseworkers for Franklin County Children Services in Columbus, and as a social service worker and then supervisor for Cuyahoga County’s Division of Children & Family Services. She earned a Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology degree from Eastern Michigan University, and a Master of Education degree in adult learning and development from Cleveland State University.

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Aletha Kern

Director of IT and Data Management

Aletha Charlotte Kern is responsible for developing and implementing Say Yes Cleveland’s data and tech processes, tracking the status and needs of current and future students. Aletha possesses a wealth of technical expertise gained throughout the course of her career in the corporate sector. Working at Say Yes Cleveland, she is actively pursuing her dream of providing technological expertise to an organization that makes a difference in the lives of Cleveland’s youth.

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Brittney Church

Assistant Director of IT and Data Management

Brittney provides the monitoring and maintenance of Say Yes Cleveland’s data management processes, assists in data gathering and analysis to support community reporting needs, and coordinates the training of data system end users. Before taking on her current role, Brittney served from 2019-2021 as the Family Support Specialist (FSS) for Max Hayes High School. She has a Masters of Education degree and is pursuing certification in education technology from Cleveland State University.

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Lisa Naylor

Director of Programs and Partnerships

Lisa develops, implements, and manages programs for Say Yes Cleveland students, with a particular focus on out-of-school time and expanded learning. She joined Say Yes Cleveland after working at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) as the Director of Community Engagement & Wraparound Services, where she led the District’s Community Wraparound Strategy. Naylor earned a Bachelor of Arts from Kent State University and a Masters Degree in Nonprofit Management from Case Western Reserve University.

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Jon Benedict

Director of Communications

Jon is responsible for Say Yes Cleveland’s communications and marketing efforts, helping ensure that everyone with a stake in the city understands the mission of Say Yes Cleveland. Prior to joining Say Yes Cleveland, Jon spent his nearly 20-year career helping organizations in Cleveland and across Ohio communicate effectively and achieve their strategic goals. As Vice President at R Strategy Group, he provided strategic communications counsel and services to school districts, libraries, policymakers, local governments, education and human service agencies, advocacy groups, and more.

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Lauren Welch

Assistant Director of Communications

Lauren supports all aspects of Say Yes Cleveland’s marketing, outreach, and public relations. Before joining Say Yes Cleveland, Lauren was Managing Director of Laurel Cadence, a marketing and advocacy firm with clients in Cleveland, Columbus, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Lauren’s work as an advocate, brand strategist, and creative have taken her across the country. Lauren began her career working with such high-profile clients as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Zico Coconut Water, and Reebok. Lauren has over 15 years of expertise in high-profile marketing, communications, and advocacy.