Staff and Board

Ashley Turnage, Executive Director

Ashley graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Performance in Health and Recreation and minored in Sociology. Ashley earned a four-year scholarship to play volleyball at Western Michigan University while receiving her education. She has been working with youth programs since 2013 and enjoys making a difference with the children and community. Her goal is to help children overcome barriers and to guide youth to success.

Yulonda Taylor/ Miles, Program Manager

Yulonda has worked at Eastside Youth Strong since 2012. Her excellent organizational skills and rapport with young people provides the necessary qualities to support youth in their success socially, emotionally, and academically. Prior to her work with Eastside Youth Strong, Yulanda led the after-school program for the Eastside through the City of Kalamazoo for three years.

In addition to her work with Eastside Youth Strong, Yulonda is also employed by the Kalamazoo Public Schools, where she serves as a classroom specialist. Yulonda enjoys walking, cooking and spending time with family.

Robert Washington, Youth Development Professional

Robert Washington is born and raised in Kalamazoo Michigan. He is currently a senior at Western Michigan University obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in communication. With my mom being a principal and my dad being a psychologist giving back to children in the community has always been instilled in me. I’ve worked for Community in Schools, City of Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo Public Schools, so, I believe with my presence I can bring a lot to Eastside Youth Strong and the community!

Anija Jackson, Youth Development Professional

Anija Jackson is born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She is currently enrolled in Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and plans to pursue her career in finance and continue on to teach kids about it. Babysitting and having nieces and nephews developed her love for children and being a natural leader led me to have a love for wanting to teach kids. I believe My good communication skills and strive to help children grow can bring a lot to the eastside community.

Emily Russell, Lead Teacher for YEP

I bring a diverse range of experiences in the nonprofit sector, having previously served as a Director of Development. Currently, I am actively involved as a board member for a nonprofit organization, where I contribute my experience in strategic planning and advancement for their organization. Additionally, I have successfully founded and led my own nonprofit initiative. With a strong background in education and a passion for empowering children, I have helped students become successful entrepreneurs by teaching them the skills to run their own businesses. I am passionate about helping students identify their unique skill sets and scaffolding their initiatives to turn their passion into product for the free market.

Sam Lealofi, Organizational Founder

Sam is the founder of Eastside Youth Strong. She retired as Executive Director in 2021. She had been with the organization since it began in 2011. As a former Eastside Neighborhood Association director and Eastside resident, with a work history in the nonprofit housing sector, workforce development, and funding, Sam has been instrumental in building the organization from the ground up to support the organization’s vision of creating an environment where all Eastside youth can reach their fullest potential.

Sam holds a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from Western Michigan University and has completed coursework toward a Masters in Development Administration from Western Michigan University, focusing on international development and project management in developing countries.

Sam has traveled extensively, living in Europe and Africa. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Paul, and her dog, Malu.

Board of Directors

Meg Blinkiewicz – President
Director of Network Engagement, MAPS

Matt Dygert – Treasurer
Branch Manager, Consumers Credit Union

Alexis Caples  – Secretary
OST Program Development Coach & Youth Mobility Mentor, Kalamazoo Youth Development Network

Beth Gregory-Wallis
Senior Philanthropic Advisor, Kalamazoo Community Foundation

Tafari Brown
Director of Finance, Kalamazoo Community Foundation

Shaunna Padgett
Senior Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer, First National Bank of Michigan

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