Nicole McKinney is a nonprofit professional with more than 20 years experience in the non-profit sector, including experience in fundraising, grant funding, advisory board development and youth programming.
She has worked for 19 years in the United Way Network (with the past 15 years spent at United Way for Southeastern Michigan) in various positions, such as Director of Resource Development, Campaign Manager, Detroit and Wayne County Area Director, and most recently as Work-based Learning Director.
Some of her notable accomplishments have included providing funding to much needed programs in metro Detroit, establishing a school-based health center in River Rouge School District, and helping students to achieve industry certifications, job shadows, access to college, and internships.
Prior to United Way, she has held positions as Vice President of Member Services at the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce, Marketing Manager at the Battle Creek Enquirer, and served as a Consultant for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Expert-in-Residence program. In addition, she has served on numerous non-profit Boards.
Currently, she serves on the Birmingham Public Schools Board, and was appointed to the State of Michigan Teacher Tenure Commission in August 2019, by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, for a five-year term.
McKinney is a graduate of three leadership programs: Leadership Detroit Class XXXVI, Southern Wayne County Chamber Leadership 21, and Battle Creek Community Leadership Academy.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development, and a master’s degree in business administration.
With over 20 years in public safety, Letitia comes to Friends-Detroit with a demonstrated history of motivating teams and building positive working relationships across departments and throughout the community. After 15 years as the Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety for the University of Detroit Mercy, Letitia launched a coaching firm emphasizing personal development, strategic planning, and leadership. She holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and an MA in Ministry Studies from Grace College & Seminary, where she serves on their Board of Trustees. Letitia also serves on the CE National Urban Youth Advisory Board.
Before coming to Friends–Detroit, Alease acted as Director of Operations and Administration for the Detroit Historical Society for 12 years, where she honed her skills in operations, management, administration, and facility management. A graduate of Leadership Detroit, and a mayoral appointee to the Detroit Historic District Commission, Alease is an active and integral part of the Detroit community.
Alease has over years 20 years of experience managing nonprofit organizations. As chief operating officer for The Parade Company Alease was an administrator, manager, and event producer creating memories for the community and the nation, producing two of Detroit’s loved traditions, the annual fireworks display, and America’s Thanksgiving Parade.
Joining the team in 2021 as Development Director, Laura serves as a supporter and an ally of the Executive Director while being focused on implementing the organization’s strategic fund development plan. As a resourceful development professional, committed project manager and enthusiastic relationship builder, Laura is passionate about helping mission-minded organizations and entrepreneurs grow their enterprises while living out their vision and values. Combining expertise in strategic consulting, operational excellence, and business development, Laura eagerly leverages her background to support nonprofit organizations as they build their capacity to achieve their missions. Prior to transitioning to the nonprofit industry, Laura worked in private equity as a Vice President, Acquisitions and Asset Management for ASB Real Estate Investments. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She is also a member of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, an avid reader and volunteer, and loves to spend time outside with her family.
Daniel Cuffie, second youngest in a family of 11, grew up on the east side of Detroit, Michigan. After high school, he went on to Point University where he gained much life experience and was involved in many different volunteer projects, including providing natural disaster relief to the area of Southern Georgia. While attending Point University, Mr. Cuffie held many job titles, and was even elected as the Student Government Association Vice President. He graduated from Point University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and has come back to help cultivate the youth of Detroit, creating a brighter future for the city and for the kids.
Autumn is excited to be part of the Friends of the Children–Detroit team. She has worked with children almost her entire life both as a volunteer and as an employee. Autumn received her bachelors of science in Psychology/Behavior Analysis from Northern Michigan University and her Masters in Education from Harvard University. She has worked for summer camps and in the school system extensively, and hopes to use that experience to best serve her students in the program.
Lara Ahrens is excited to be on this journey with Friends of the Children-Detroit. She studied at Calvin College and graduated with a major in Chinese Studies and a minor in Psychology, but working with youth is where her passion lies. She spent approximately three years working with students in the foster care system, and was a House Supervisor for a middle school foster home before moving to the Detroit area. She worked as a paraprofessional in a 4th grade classroom in Detroit leading up to coming onboard with Friends of the Children. She is looking forward to using her experience, knowledge and passion for improving the quality of life for children and families in Detroit at our organization.
I have had the opportunity to work in youth development and coaching since 2010 in many different positions. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Sport Management at Central Michigan University in 2018, and worked as the Athletic Director for Metro Detroit Youth Clubs from 2019-2021. I look forward to being a part of positive change in my mentees’ lives for years to come!
Michelle is excited to be apart of the Friends of the Children Detroit team. She has over 10 years experience working with children and families. She has held various positions such as preschool teacher, family advocate and foster care worker. She holds a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education and a Masters Degree in Family Studies. Michelle is a certified trauma informed educator and children’s author. Her motto is, “trauma will not win!”
Lakesha holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a minor in Human Resource Management from Baker College. She also received a Master’s in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University. Lakesha has been a Title 1 Math interventionist and POHI (Physically and Otherwise Health Impaired) paraprofessional in Mount Clemens Schools. She taught 2nd grade for eight years and has also served two years in the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness AmeriCorps Program.
A native Detroiter, Lakesha is a strong believer that children should learn to advocate for themselves, and know that they have someone who will consistently be in their corner, no matter what.