Cate Swinburn has led YouthForce NOLA since our inception in summer 2015. Cate began her career in education fifteen-plus years ago as a first grade teacher. Prior to YouthForce NOLA, Cate worked as an independent consultant, working with clients such as Relay Graduate School of Education to inspire and prepare non-education major college undergraduates to become teachers, and with the Recovery School District and New Schools for New Orleans to develop a citywide blueprint for high quality special education services. Prior to independent consulting, Cate served as the Chief of Data and Accountability with DC Public Schools, President and Executive Director of DC Public Education Fund, and Portfolio Director for The Fund for Public Schools in New York City, as well as teaching for five years in rural and urban Texas.
Cate holds a Master of Public Administration from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where she was a Dean’s Scholar, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish. Cate is an alumnus of both Teach For America and Education Pioneers.
Director of Training Provider Support
Brittney serves as Director of Training Provider Support for YouthForce NOLA. A native of New Orleans, Brittney has always had a passion for helping others, and a strong understanding of the inequities that exist for families from low-income backgrounds. She began her career in education working with the School Support Center for KIPP New Orleans Schools where she served in a number of roles focused on network level operations and fundraising support. Most recently as Director of Development with Teach For America- South Louisiana, she led the region’s fundraising efforts across the seven parish region to ensure that schools in traditionally underserved communities had the teacher and leadership talent necessary to lead students to excellent academic outcomes. Brittney earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southern University at New Orleans, and she credits her passion for lifelong learning and development to her mother who is an educator and entrepreneur.
Manager of Operations
Candice Black serves as the Manager of Operations for YouthForce NOLA, overseeing daily operations, finances, special events, and a host of other key projects. Candice is a seasoned executive assistant with over 25 years of experience. Having held positions in a variety of business fields, she is able to tailor her skills to meet the needs of a wide array of tasks. In addition to working with the YouthForce NOLA team, Candice also assists The New Orleans Startup Fund, which provides investment capital and mentorship to early-stage companies in the Greater New Orleans region.
Director of School Support
As Director of School Support, Carlin Jacobs manages YouthForce NOLA’s partnerships with local high schools, ensuring schools have the knowledge, resources, and systems in place to deliver high quality career pathways programs of study. Before joining YouthForce NOLA, Carlin worked for eight years at Algiers Technology Academy (ATA), a unique high school that combined a solid education in core subjects with career pathways in digital media and software development to prepare students for college and the workplace. He served for three years as ATA’s Vice Principal. Carlin was also a teacher and the school’s technology coordinator for many years. Prior to his work at ATA, he taught Graphic Design as an Instructor at Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge. Carlin graduated from the University of New Orleans with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.
Director, YouthForce Internship
Cheyenne Ellis leads the YouthForce NOLA Internship program. Previously, Cheyenne was a senior associate with the New Orleans Business Alliance, where she led YouthForce NOLA’s inaugural internship pilot. Prior to working and living in New Orleans, she worked in Copenhagen, Denmark, to develop the Global Economics Program at DIS, and has also worked on cases of international parental child abduction in the Office of Children’s Issues at the US Department of State in Washington, DC. Cheyenne is a native of Dallas, Texas and completed her BS in Public Policy, Economics, and Human Rights from Southern Methodist University. She is a certified yoga teacher and enjoys teaching yoga, doing yoga, and exploring all things New Orleans in her spare time.
Lenna serves as the YouthForce NOLA Program Coordinator, primarily working on YFN’s internship program. Her passion for supporting students started in 2010 when she studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and tutored students in townships. With the realization that educational disparities abroad were just as real at home in the states, her real dedication to youth began. Lenna served two years as a City Year Boston Americorps member working in underserved schools and communities in Dorchester and Roxbury. When Lenna moved to New Orleans in 2014, she worked on the enrichment and personalized learning teams at Akili Academy of New Orleans in the 9th Ward as a teacher and coordinator. Most recently, she managed as the Dean of Enrichment, overseeing all PreK-8th grade enrichment classes, coaching teachers, and leading the vision for Akili’s enrichment programming. Lenna is a Southern California native and a proud graduate of UCLA (Go Bruins!) with a Bachelor of Arts in World Arts and Cultures and minors in Education Studies and LGBT Studies. When she’s not working, Lenna enjoys cooking, crafting and costuming for Mardi Gras, and appreciating the sun outside!
Director of Finance & Operations
Leroy Harris serves as the Director of Finance & Operations for YouthForce NOLA. In this role he exercises oversight in the day-to-day budgeting, accounting, & operations functional areas at YouthForce NOLA. Leroy brings a career background that includes over ten years in public school budgeting & finance with the Little Rock School District in Little Rock, AR where, among other responsibilities, he oversaw the allocation of local & state funding for the 24,000 student school system. In addition to school finance, Leroy has worked in telecommunications management and served as an IRS field agent. Leroy’s most current role prior to working with YouthForce NOLA was as Director of Finance & Operations for Public Schools with the Orleans Parish School Board where he worked directly with school and district-level personnel to manage the financial and operational processes of the four direct-run OPSB schools. Leroy holds a bachelor of science in accounting as well as a master’s in business administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Melissa Ehlinger leads the employer engagement strategy for YouthForce NOLA. Prior to this role, Melissa served as the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at the New Orleans Business Alliance, New Orleans’ official economic development organization. During her tenure at the Business Alliance, Melissa served as the Interim President & CEO and was an integral part of crafting the organization’s overall economic development strategy. She also oversaw day-to-day business attraction and retention functions, as well as the organization’s research department. Her previous experience includes work with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, where she worked as a Project Manager in residential and commercial corridor redevelopment and work as an Attorney with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. A native New Orleanian, Melissa holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Texas at Austin, Phi Beta Kappa; a JD from The George Washington University; and a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of New Orleans. Melissa was awarded UNO’s College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumna Award in 2016 and serves on the Board of the Good Work Network.
Programmer, Public Ally
Nel serves as the YouthForce NOLA Programmer as a Public Ally, working closely with YouthForce Internship team. Her passion for supporting students started in 2007 when she tutored math in college.
As a project manager for YouthForce NOLA, Paige leads the development and implementation of our YouthForce Internship training curriculum, as well as the data analysis focused on capturing the program impact. Paige also helps develop and implement other YouthForce NOLA programs, such as the Soft Skills Teacher Fellowship. Paige is passionate about empowering youth through skill development, confidence building, and exposure to new experiences – both in classroom and the workplace. Prior to YouthForce NOLA, Paige taught high school math at C. F. Rowley Alternative School in Chalmette. She also has experience working with local immigrant populations as an English as a Second Language teaching assistant, and developing programs and training materials for international non-profit organizations focused on adult education and financial sustainability. Paige is an alumnus of Teach for America- Greater New Orleans. Paige graduated with honors from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Development.
In his role as a program manager for YouthForce NOLA, Rahmel wears many hats. In addition to serving as a soft skills coach for the school-year internship program, he spearheads intern recruitment at partner high schools, and co-leads the YouthForce’s inaugural Soft Skills Teacher Fellowship. A proud graduate of the University of Georgia’s school of education, Rahmel began his work in the classroom as an ACT/SAT prep coach for multiple high schools in the Atlanta area. After relocating to New Orleans, he taught physical science and engineering at Lake Area New Tech before transitioning into his current role. Fueled by a vision for a more equitable and inclusive city, Rahmel remains an active advocate for high-quality college and career pathways for young people.