Board of Directors
Debra’s education career spanned over 30 years which included being a Teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, District Administrator for Assessment in Curriculum and Instruction, Adjunct Professor for The Colorado College in the Master of Arts Teacher Education Program, Adjunct Faculty for the Lake Forest College Teacher Education Program in Lake Forest, IL and a member of the Yale School Development Program National Faculty in New Haven, Connecticut. She worked locally in Colorado Springs School Districts 11 and 2. Debra has been involved with the AAYLC for 25 years. She has a passion for educating and providing opportunities for youth to enrich their lives. Debra believes in volunteering to "give back and pay it forward" to the youth and the community because of the many volunteers in her life growing up and as an adult who helped provide opportunities which enriched her life. She has served on several Boards and has participated in Community Leadership Institutes and Programs. Debra is also a member of the Board of Trustees for Emporia State University and a member of Payne Chapel A.M.E. Church.
Dr. Ernest Greene
Board Vice President
Ernest is a leader, business manager and educator with 42 years of experience in the career fields of Military Intelligence, Business Administration, Program Management, and Public (K-12) Education and Higher Education. He also serves as the Secretary of the Colorado Alliance of Black School Educators. Ernest’s aspirations are to lead and support community-based educational and leadership projects and initiatives that are focused on educating, mentoring and empowering inner-city African-American, other minority, and under-served students and adults to achieve their educational, workforce and personal life-time goals.
Stephane is a Retirement Plan Services Technical Analyst at an investment company. Whether at church or in a community organization, she has worked with youth in some capacity for the last 25 years. She thinks it is important to provide youth with the tools and encouragement they need to pursue their dreams. Stephane first became involved in African American Youth Leadership Conference (AAYLC) as a workshop presenter and saw an opportunity to have a greater impact as a member of the Planning Committee and Board of Directors. When not working with AAYLC, she looks for opportunities to serve in her church and other organizations that are dear to her heart--Special Olympics, Kingdom Builders Family Life Center, and Care & Share Food Bank.
Nicole is an experienced leader with over 25 years of proven results developing, implementing and managing resources and solutions for several Fortune 500 companies in the software, telecommunications and aerospace industries. She has been involved with the African American Youth Leadership Conference (AAYLC) for 20+ years as a presenter, corporate sponsor, individual donor, volunteer and board member. Nicole is passionate about ensuring youth have the necessary tools to develop into successful adults. She believes initiative, drive, guidance and support leads to high levels of achievement. Nicole has mentored students through Polk YEA! (Young Entrepreneurs Academy) and serves her community by volunteering at the Help & Hope Center for Douglas/Elbert County and the Tuskegee Airmen's Mile High Flight Program.
Vennita currently works as a Program Director for Peak Education, a non-profit organization that has successfully served over 255 low income students and families, in Harrison School District, to become successful in school and life. For over 15 years, she has been a part of the African American Youth Leadership Conference (AAYLC) as a parent and supporter of her children. Vennita could not think of a better way to serve the AAYLC than through the Board of Directors. She also works with the Kid Power Teen Advisory Board, the SACHs College Prep Academy and the College Readiness and Success Program through El Pomar. Ms. Browning earned her B.A in Communications from the University of La Verne.
Dr. Dennis Natali
Dennis has been in the classroom as a trainer for the USAF since 1980 and is a Professor of Business Studies at Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC). He is a trained researcher and international speaker from Colorado State University with a PhD in Education and Human Resources Studies, and a certified Social Impact Strategist. He is serving his 4th year as a presenter with AAYLC. Dennis was attracted to join because his personal mission statement is in perfect alignment with AAYLC’s mission of “Respect and Responsibility for Success.” As a life-long servant-leader for his community, Dennis has served on various fundraising committees and boards ranging from Boy and Girl Scouts, numerous youth sports teams, Rotary clubs, and a local museum.
Clara has been employed at USAA for 27 years. She has held various leadership positions at USAA and is currently a Lead Program Manager overseeing Quality and Compliance for the Insurance Department. She is active in the Colorado Springs community serving on many boards that help improve the city. Clara has a passion for youth and strives to be an encouragement and inspiration. Being a part of African American Youth Leadership Conference allows Clara to be a role model and provide programs that allow our youth to reach their full potential.
Manya C. Whitaker, PhD
Manya is an Associate Professor of Education at Colorado College where she teaches and researches about educational access and opportunity. She is also the founder of Blueprint Educational Strategies, an education consulting business that works with families, teachers, and school leaders on educational equity and multicultural teaching. Manya is a third generation teacher who firmly believes in ‘lifting as we climb’. She is dedicated to making sure that minoritized children and their families have access to opportunities that enhance their social and cultural capital. As a previous presenter at the AAYLC, she is excited to deepen her engagement with this and other education organizations in Colorado Springs.
Ronald Keels Jr.
Ronald is currently a licensed school counselor in the Harrison School District 2 at Mountain Vista Community School where he works to create a learning environment that honors the whole student. He is an advocate of the Restorative Justice Model and develops and teaches Restorative Justice classes to middle school students with the purpose of fostering a collaborative learning community both in the classroom and in the hallways. For nearly seven years, Ronald has also been involved in the support and recruitment of students who have participated in the African American Youth Leadership Conference. As a former collegiate and professional athlete out of Buffalo, NY, he enjoys engaging with youth as a coach for football, basketball and track and field. In his free time, he also enjoys spending time with daughter, working out and traveling in the pursuit of new adventures. Ronald understands the importance of mentorship and youth development as he attributes it to his own current success.
Taura’s 15 years’ experience in the corporate world has offered her many opportunities and growth. From serving on the front lines in customer service to leading over 40 employees, she has seen it all. Taura prides herself in being a creative, innovative and people person. She has used her talents over the years planning and executing corporate and community events. Volunteering alongside of some Colorado Springs non-profit organizations: Alzheimer’s Association, Coats for Colorado and Playdate Behavioral Interventions, Taura has learned the importance of creating positive relationships in the community. As a previous attendee of AAYLC as a child, Taura has seen what a key resource the organization is to the Colorado Springs community and is proud to serve on the board. As a mother, she believes every child deserves the opportunity to see that their dreams can come true, and the capability of knowing they can WIN at anything they conquer in life.
Student Board Member
Alice is a college student and member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society pursuing a life and career in Social Work. Her educational background includes earning an Associates of Arts in Social work at Pikes Peak Community College before transferring to Newman University to study for her B.A. with an emphasis on trauma. Alice is a Colorado Springs native but has traveled throughout the U.S and outside of the country to Japan. As an avid volunteer and children's literacy tutor, she finds meaning in supporting youth to feel connected to their community and empower them to share their voice while pursuing their personal and professional goals. Alice focuses on providing her community with resources to maintain and improve mental health. Alice is also devoted to the non-profit Break the Silence against Domestic Violence, and volunteers in a food pantry and hospice.