Our Team

Executive Leadership

Alysia Lee


Alysia receives national recognition for advancing access, equity, and decolonization with artists, organizations, and communities. Her methods center on anti-racism, creativity, and justice. 

Previously, Lee was the education program supervisor for Fine Arts Education for the Maryland State Department of Education across five arts disciplines: music, dance, visual art, theatre, and media arts. She supported the statewide arts learning community by advancing policies for arts-rich, lifelong learning in and through the arts for all Marylanders, producing over 1,000 hours of robust technical assistance annually, and managing a robust grant portfolio.


Alysia also founded a grassroots youth development organization, Sister Cities Girlchoir (SCG). Heading into its 11th season, Sister Cities Girlchoir is an award-winning and trendsetting choral education program with performance credits from Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and numerous school and community stages.


Recent recognitions include awards from The Kennedy Center, The Knight Foundation, the National Association of University Women, the Stockton Bartol Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and BEQ Pride. Recent speaking/facilitation engagements include the U.S. Department of Education, The Kennedy Center, VH-1 Save the Music, Carnegie Hall, Arts Education Partnership, TEDX, many colleges and universities, and national and state professional associations.

Dr. Nicassia Belton

Vice President of Learning, Evaluation & Data Management

Dr. Nicassia Belton is the Vice President of Learning, Evaluation, and Data Management. She joins BCYF from the Maryland State Department of Education, where she served as the Director of Data and Accountability for Career Programs providing strategic oversight of all accountability systems, program evaluations, research, and data collections for all career programs in Maryland. 


Dr. Belton has spent over 15 years working with state and local education agencies, postsecondary institutions, and nonprofits. She has led the work to promote accountability ecosystems centered on culturally responsive and equitable evaluation, while utilizing strategic research and data to drive change to improve equity in access, opportunity, and outcomes for Baltimore’s children and youth. 


Regina Salliey Cooper

Vice President of Grantmaking and Technical Assistance

Regina Salliey Cooper brings experience from the nonprofit, public, philanthropic, and academic sectors. She is the founding principal of R. Salliey Philanthropic Advisors- whose mission is to make life better for others through philanthropy- and has applied her social work training to promote opportunities for youth, particularly girls and families. She is also the co-creator of Black Girls Global Exchange, a global ambassador program for middle and high school girls in the US, Eswatini, and South Africa. Regina previously served as a Program Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, managing a portfolio of national programs that promoted educational and economic opportunities for youth and families. She also served as Deputy Director of the Maryland Department of Human Resources’ Office of Grants Management. There, Regina oversaw food & nutrition, victim, fatherhood, homeless, and transitional services programs. She has also served as an educator as a faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. A Baltimore native, Regina is one of four daughters and a proud wife and mother.


In addition to over 20 years of direct service and administrative experience in the nonprofit, public, philanthropic, academic, and private sectors, Regina uniquely holds the experience of being both a grantee and funder. Working at both the programmatic and macro levels provided her with a breadth of perspectives on public-private partnerships and moving the needle for change. Moreover, it has given her a firm grasp of nonprofits’ intricacies and challenges. With significant familiarity with youth development and philanthropy, she supports the notion of disrupting the status quo and shifting the paradigm of philanthropy.



Sarita Edwards

Executive Assistant to the President

Ms. Sarita S. Edwards is the Executive Assistant to the President of Baltimore Children, and Youth Fund, Inc. Sarita brings over 12 years of exceptional administrative experience to BCYF. Sarita has spent her occupational career working alongside high-level executives and community, military, and political officials. She has gained the acumen and expertise to manage and coordinate large projects, including working with corporate boards and community leaders. During the 2020 Presidential Election, Sarita served as a key Morgan State University leader who guided the university to become an election sight for the first time in its 155-year history. 


Sarita is currently a candidate for a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A) from the University of Baltimore. Sarita is an active member of the Baltimore County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and Sigma Nu Tau Entrepreneurship Honor Society. 


Reporting directly to President Alysia D. Lee, Sarita is honored to have the opportunity to help develop improved administrative management systems on behalf of BCYF, Inc.  


Lillian Jacobson

Strategic Initiatives and Planning Officer

Lillian Jacobson (she/her) is an experienced administrator and event planner. She joins the Baltimore Children & Youth Fund as the Strategic Initiatives and Planning Officer. She previously served as the fine arts project manager at the Maryland State Department of Education overseeing grants, developing professional learning for educators, and creating opportunities to celebrate students’ voices through the arts; and as the Regional Events Planner at the Maryland State Arts Council, executing in-person and virtual events throughout Maryland. Lillian is currently on the Kennedy Center’s Community Advisory Board. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

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Maria Lay

Contracts and Grants Manager

Maria Lay is the Grants & Contracts Manager for Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. She is a West Baltimore native with over 20 years of experience in economic data analysis, compliance, and administration across government and nonprofit sectors. Maria holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations & Promotions from Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism & Communications. She also holds an MBA specializing in Human Resources Management from Louisiana State University. Outside of work, Maria is a classically trained singer who has traveled the world performing multiple genres with countless well-known artists. She loves creative writing, dry humor, animals, and home improvement projects.

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Ariel Davis

Director of Communications

Ariel is the Director of Communications at the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. Additionally, she co-founded The Arts Administrators of Color Network, a non-profit organization she helped establish in 2016.  There, she has supported steward communications efforts to provide professional development and networking opportunities for creative leaders throughout the United States. 


Previous experiences include work with the Save The Music Foundation, The Kennedy Center, The MusicianShip, the Lewis Prize for Music, and the HBCU Jazz Education Initiative.



Hana Machover

Program Officer

Hana received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Maryland – College Park and earned her Master’s in School Counseling from Johns Hopkins University. Before earning her Master’s degree, Hana worked at the Division of Psychiatric Services Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine on an intervention study with high-risk participants. She has spent the past three years working as a Baltimore County Public Schools School Counselor. She has dedicated her time to creating equitable learning spaces for students and providing them with individualized resources to help them succeed. Hana is excited to utilize her varied skills and experience to support Baltimore children, youth and families.


Sheree Miller

Program Officer

Born and raised in Baltimore, Sheree truly understands the inner city’s challenges. She is passionate about identifying and treating the disease of drug addiction and advocates for the fair treatment of all incarcerated people. In recent years, Sheree has provided technical assistance for several youth-based grassroots and non-profit organizations across MD and DC.


Sheree is married with two sons and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Coppin State University. She promotes dignity, respect, safety, hope, and care at-promise youth.


Elisabeth Savage

Program Officer

Elisabeth is a native Baltimorean and has worked in various capacities in the nonprofit and educational sectors throughout the State of Maryland since 2000. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a focus on child abuse and neglect (trauma) and a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Education and Psychology) with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education. Elisabeth specializes in capacity building, organizational self-assessment/strategic planning (SWOT Analysis), program sustainability, KPI’s and outcomes. Additionally, she has extensive experience as a grantmaker. Elisabeth demonstrates a dynamic leadership style that motivates and makes her a strong advocate for the nonprofit industry.

Bennice Thayer

Vice President of Finance and Administration

Bennice Thayer is an experienced finance and accounting professional across nonprofit, technology, and service-oriented arenas.  Before joining Baltimore Children and Youth Fund, she was the Director of Finance and Administration for sister organizations Lexington Market, Inc. and Baltimore Public Markets Corporation. She was second-in-command in operating six public markets across Baltimore City. 


Her background includes grants and contracts management at international, federal, state, and local levels; working with European and South African organizations; contracting with the Department of Defense, Department of Human Services, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Agency for International Development, among others, and through high-technology satellite and long-distance telecommunications. 


She is the former co-founder and Executive Director of a learning center that serviced over one hundred schools, from elementary through post-graduate studies, in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Cat Frost

Program Associate, Grantmaking & Technical Assistance

Catherine Frost (she/her) is a theatre-maker, educator, and arts administrator. As a panelist, applicant, and administrator, she has participated in various grant review processes with local and state-level arts and community philanthropic organizations such as the Maryland State Arts Council, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs. As a Teaching Artist, she has engaged learners at the National Portrait Gallery, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater, and Young Playwrights’ Theater. In community engagement roles at multiple DC theaters, Catherine has curated free events connecting audiences with local activists and service providers. She’s also a member of the DC playwrights’ collective, The Welders. Outside work, Cat enjoys exploring eateries, galleries, landmarks, art classes, and improv shows.

Michelle Brownson

Administrative Coordinator, LEDM

A Baltimore City native, Michelle Brownson is the Administrative Coordinator for Learning, Evaluation, and Data Management for the BCYF.  With over 25 years of experience as an administrative professional, Michelle brings resource-intensive insight and the ability to implement best practices while prioritizing and producing favorable results.


In her previous role, she worked within the Maryland State Department of Education, operating as the Finance Administrator for the Division of Career and College Readiness. Michelle is strategic and works hard to bring value to the team so that all can successfully move the needle to get the job done.

Nikea Burgess

Administrative Coordinator, Grant Making and Technology Assistance

Nikea was born, raised, and educated in Baltimore City, Maryland. She graduated from Edmondson-Westside high school and continued pursuing her education at Paul Smith’s College in New York before transferring to Morgan State University. Finding a desire and interest in healthcare, Nikea received her certification and licensure in Medical Assistance in 2007. Upon receiving her diploma, she had the opportunity to work in various specialties and departments within healthcare, such as Internal Medicine, Oncology, Gynecology, Infectious Disease, Plastic, Reconstructive Surgery, and many more. She provided training and job placement for pre-certified Medical Assistant externships, new employees, and the disabled during her tenure. Nike has always believed in helping; however, she can do so while learning.

Allen Blackwell III

Avis Ransom Institute (ARI)/Board of Directors Administrator

Allen Blackwell joins the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund after directing operations for youth homelessness and foster care services for Baltimore City Public Schools, overseeing strategic planning, technical assistance, and citywide resource distribution. Allen has 10+ years of experience building strategic partnerships, scalable youth programs, and transformative social impact solutions. Allen specializes in project management and operational oversight with extensive knowledge of community needs assessments. Allen previously served as a former educator for Baltimore and Atlanta Public Schools, Adjunct Professor for Howard Community College, and Educational Coordinator for the Baltimore City Health Department, and has a combined 20+ years of experience in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors. Allen is committed to advancing inclusive best practices that amplify the voices of marginalized communities and dismantle systemic inequities. Allen received his Bachelor of Arts (History) from Morgan State University and Master of Teaching from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

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Kieta Iriarte-Amin

Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships

Kieta M Iriarte-Amin is the Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships at Baltimore Children & Youth Fund (BCYF). Kieta Iriarte-Amin is multi-hyphenated Baltimore based, vetted non-profit professional who before this role focused on providing technical assistance, grant and project management consultation to entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, schools, and nonprofit organizations when she wasn’t at home with her loving family.


Kieta holds a B.A. in Mass Communication + Communication Studies and an M.A. in Nonprofit Management + Women’s Studies both from Towson University and In a past life Kieta was the co-founder and is now the Board Chair of Bmore Empowered (BE) a non-profit based in West Baltimore. At BE everything from fiscal sponsorship to a camp for young women and girls of color through mindfulness and entrepreneurship were at the nougat of Kieta’s role.


Just like the projects that Kieta has touched before this role BCYF is more than grantmaking and Kieta’s soft, caring yet effective approach to telling the BCYF story with external stakeholders, creating engaging initiatives to engage the BCYF community and stakeholders will be


Her heart and empathetic disposition toward youth and especially Black and Brown girls in Baltimore city as well as her expertise as a powerhouse of advocacy for accurate grant monitoring, reporting, fiscal responsibility and improving the overall climate of businesses any and everywhere from ideation to longstanding bring Kieta to BCYF to whom she’s not a stranger as she serves as a consultant focusing on grassroots technical assistance and capacity building since 2019.