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Conference Leadership Team

Ersaleen Hope
Executive Director

Ersaleen currently holds the position of Assistant Vice President of Institutional Equity and Belonging at Colorado College. Ersaleen brings an extensive background in event coordination, program management, social justice, advocacy, community engagement and leading with an antiracist, diversity, equity and inclusion approach. She is the founder of H.O.P.E. in Action LLC where she provides organization consulting and transformational coaching services for school districts, local and state governments, and nonprofits. Her eldest son attended the AAYLC in 2023, and she accompanied him. This allowed her to witness firsthand people working together for a common goal. She looks forward to leading similar experiences to enhance student empowerment in their communities and beyond.

Debra Johnson
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Deputy Executive Director
Registration Chair

Debra is a native Coloradan, a mother of two and grandmother of 5. Debra was the Director of the Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center, a Marketing Specialist for a major corporation and has volunteered with several non-profit organizations and churches. Her extensive background in event planning, volunteer coordination, marketing, leadership, and business administration brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to the AAYLC family. Debra volunteered as the chair of the Parent Workshops at the 2023 AAYLC conference, and her granddaughter attended the conference sparking a desire in Debra to be more involved in the mission and vision of AAYLC.

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Brittny Wheeler 
Committee Chair - Youth Workshops 

This is Brittny’s first-year volunteering for AAYLC. After witnessing its success last year, she was drawn to volunteer to help ensure its continued success. Brittny is passionate about volunteering because she believes that we are all called to have a positive impact on the world around us.  In addition to volunteering with AAYLC, Brittny has led the 'Sponsor a Foster Child for Christmas' efforts for Maple Star Foster Agency for the last five years. 

Pamela Roberts
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Committee Chair - The Village 

Volunteering has been a vital part of Pamela’s life starting in high school and continuing to this day.  Pamela began working to support marginalized students in out-of-school time in Denver, Colorado’s Five Points and surrounding neighborhoods. In 2017, Pamela was named a Next Generation Leader Award winner through the National After-School Association and completed a fellowship with the National Institute of Out-of-School Time with Wellesley College in 2021. Currently Pamela is the COO of the Sachs Foundation, a Chair of the El Paso County Community Block Grant Advisory Board, and serves on Pikes Peak Children's Museum, 4th Judicial Oversight Commission and Safe Passage boards. As a first-generation student, Pamela personally knows how education, volunteering and representation can change lives.   

Rene Koonce
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Committee Co-Chair - Community Outreach & Volunteers 

Rene’ has been actively and passionately involved with AAYLC for over 25 years. She has served as a Speaker, Volunteer, Committee Chair, Board Member and Deputy Executive Director during these years. Rene’ takes pride in being involved in the community by being a part of various organizations. She is a public speaker and has spoken at various events for different organizations. Rene’ currently works for Unitedhealthcare. 

Chelonda R. Marshall 
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Committee Co-Chair - Community Outreach & Volunteers 

Chelonda has lived in Colorado Springs for 21 years. She is the mother of 2 daughters, and the excited grandmother of 1. After serving many years in the Booster Club for Harrison High School, Chelonda became heavily involved in the Southeast Colorado Springs community. She serves as the board chair for Mission Medical Center, is a member of the El Pomar Foundation BAC, and recently the Volunteer and Community Outreach liaison for a local political leader. In 2015, Chelonda started a small non-profit, Chelsea’s S.M.I.L.E Network, in honor of her daughter who passed away in 2011 due to health complications after a stroke. Today Chelonda is the Employment Experience Manager and leader of the Diversity, Belonging, and Inclusion Advisory Group for The Navigators.   

Demetrius Simpson 
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Committee Chair - Facilities 

Demetrius, originally from the Midwest, is a residential and commercial builder based in Colorado Springs. He actively engaged with the Big Brothers program as a mentor before graduating from trade school, around the time his son was born. Demetrius and his family made the decision to relocate to Colorado Springs in 2019. Recognizing the importance of investing in the well-being of our children, Demetrius values opportunities provided by organizations like AAYLC, enabling him to contribute to this cause while fostering a sense of community.

Tonya Brooks 
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Committee Co-Chair - Food Service 

Tanya has been involved with AALYC for the past six years. Tonya says volunteering allows her to meet new individuals in her community. She is pleased to assist where she is needed, and working with the children gives her joy. She believes that kids have numerous opportunities to become who they want to be in life.

Brook Sklenar 
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Committee Co-Chair - Food Services 

Being active as a volunteer since high school, Brook has been able to turn her volunteering into a career as a Volunteer Coordinator for various non-profits. She is currently in her 2nd year with the Sachs Foundation as their Program Administrator.  Brook volunteered last year at the AAYLC with registration.   Brook says she truly enjoys seeing and being part of our communities’ youth in their future endeavors.  

Samantha Paulin 
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Committee Chair - Vendors

Samantha Paulin is a licensed clinical social worker with ten years of experience, currently working as a mental health therapist with college students at Colorado College. She is dedicated to serving children, youth, and families and most of her work and volunteer experiences have been extensively in school-based mental health, special education, resource coordination, community outreach, and case management. She is passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of young people and volunteered with AAYLC to feel more connected to the community in Colorado Springs.    

Briona Robinson
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Committee Co-Chair - Student Advisory

Briona is a Junior at Fountain Valley School of Colorado. This is her first time working with the AAYLC. She enjoys volunteering in youth organizations because She believes that it is important to create a voice for the youth so that they can become active members of society. Briona is currently Teen Miss Rocky Mountain Earth and has received many honors as a scholar. Briona is also a successful Documentary Director with the Youth Documentary Academy. 

Ysabella Coker 
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Student Advisory Committee Co-Chair 

Ysabella is a junior at Fountain Valley school of Colorado. This is her first year working with the AAYLC. Youth organizations are important to Ysabella because she is passionate about youth advocacy. Ysabella believes it is important for younger people to express their opinions and concerns about topics they relate to. Ysabella is the co-founder and co-president of the black student union and an admissions ambassador at Fountain Valley School of Colorado. 

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