Heather Martin, Founding Director
Heather Martin holds a Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan. Heather has extensive experience in the coordination and management of innovative, creative arts programming. She has facilitated hundreds of creative arts workshops for youth and adults involved and impacted by the criminal justice system. Additionally, she leads training on best-practices for creative arts interventions/collaborations to activate personal transformation and collaboration for community change. Heather founded Youth Arts Alliance in an effort to establish opportunities for creative expression in the juvenile justice system.
Lucy Cahill, Chief Operating Officer
Lucy Cahill is a visual artist and curator based in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History in 2012. Since then, she has developed her own independent art practice, primarily drawing illustrated concert posters, and has participated in several group exhibitions and a solo exhibition in the Detroit area. She also has extensive experience in arts administration and curation, and serves as a main project partner for the traveling exhibition Hostile Terrain, an exploration of the undocumented migration experience between Mexico and the U.S. through artifacts, photographs, and installation. Lucy deeply believes in the power that art has to foster a strong sense of self and to serve as a vehicle for telling stories both personal and political. To Lucy, art making and educating are a major way to form meaningful human connections both interpersonally and between greater communities. Formerly the Vice President on the Youth Arts Alliance Board of Directors, Lucy has served as the YAA Chief Operating Officer since 2019.
Gretchen is a visual and sculptural artist with a background in custom framing, photography, costume & set design, painting, beading, fiber arts, and cake decoration. She is involved in the Fool Moon & FestiFool celebrations held each year in Ann Arbor, MI. She is excited to share her knowledge and creative practice with her community & YAA - she believes that real, lasting connections can be made through the creation of art.
Susan facilitates YAA workshops in creative writing. These workshops instill a sense of self-empowerment in participants while developing real-life skills such as self-expression and collaboration. Susan provides an opportunity for participants to put their baggage into words.
Amanda is a future attorney hoping to work with juvenile youth and their families. She has been facilitating workshops at Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. She is working with YAA because she truly believes that every troubled soul wants to get better but not everyone has the proper help or outlet to do so.
Lucia Calderon Arrieta
Lucia is a migrant artist and educator from Mobile, Alabama. She earned her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. YAA empowers her commitment to teaching art as a means of critical thinking and complex self-expression.
Gail is a full time artist coming from a commercial art form, design, and marketing background. Her current success with mosaic artwork has enabled her to move from the design field to pursue mosaic art full time; she calls herself an artrepreneur. Her community mosaic projects draw in participants to work collaboratively to create large-scale mosaic installations, resulting in the unique sense of ownership and pride that comes from seeing their individual contributions blossom into a finished piece of art. “The final reward to my work is seeing the effects of the mosaic process on participants. The shattered glass is like the broken parts of their lives and yet even with splintered pieces, they can create a new beautiful whole, and a new image of themselves and their lives.”
Benjamin Cohen is a composer, musician and educator. He has traveled the country with various music projects, composed music for film and television and has taught the art of music production and beat-making to people of all ages all over the United States. He a founder of the experimental electronic Jazz collective HEAVY COLOR and the Midwestern Nostalgic Folk Group The Antivillains. His music has been featured on AllMusic.com, Detroit Metro Times, Time Out New York and WNYC.
Aja Dier aka SALAKASTAR is a multidisciplinary performance artist. She earned her BFA and completed her classical acting training at the acting conservatory at the State University of New York at Purchase College. After living and working in New York City, she moved to her hometown of Detroit and was (re)embraced by Detroit’s arts community. She is exploring experimental work in theatre as an ensemble member of A Host of People, in music as a vocalist and songwriter with Video7, and in writing with iii Sisters, a Detroit-based black feminist writing ensemble.
Katelyn Durst is a warrior poet, community organizer, teaching artist, restorative arts practitioner and freedom baker living in Detroit, MI. She is the founder of Free Black Woman’s Library-Detroit, a black woman’s book bike that houses a trading and borrowing library and biblio installation featuring literature written by black women and femmes. Katelyn loves gardening, good food and deep conversation.
Emily D. Goodman
Emily is a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) with a Limited License of Professional Counseling (LLPC). She earned her master's degree in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling at Columbia College Chicago. She now lives in Detroit, Michigan. Emily is passionate about using dance and movement to help individuals express themselves, as well as engage the greater community to create conversations for social change. She has ample experience working with individuals with an array of abilities, particularly youth in detention centers and youth with autism.
Emily is a passionate farmer, mother, wife, yoga instructor and Farmers Market Coordinator in the Chelsea community. She is dedicated to creating environments where humans get to connect to their food shed, connect to their bodies, and connect with each other. Emily is very committed to helping youth find both internal and external empathy and create change for their own and others lives.
Stephanie is visual artist, teacher and community arts curator based in Detroit. With a BA from WSU in Psychology and Art, Stephanie often incorporates art therapy approaches to facilitate positive coping skills and general self-development. She has 9 years of experience working with young people of all ages, in classrooms, after-school programs, hospital settings and in residential care facilities. Stephanie uses art as a tool to help youth explore themselves and understand the world around them. In her personal practice Stephanie is an installation artist and has curated community exhibitions that link art, healing and collective struggle as a way to preserve space to creatively process injustices and reflect the wisdom and resilience of one another.
Akili Jackson is a Consultant, Instructor and Community Activist- He is on the front-line in the movement towards innovative ways of enhancing the quality of education for children in Southeast Michigan. He has over 10 years experience as a Youth Development Worker specializing in programs that inspire positive character development in youth. As an advocate for community based programs, Akili has participated in and coordinated groundbreaking urban projects that served to motivate parents, and inspire youth to become forces for positive change in their communities. Akili has conducted workshops in Community Education using Hip Hop music as a tool for classrooms in Columbus OH, Atlanta GA, and Manhattan NYC. Akili has presented as a frequent guest speaker for the National African American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) and a panelist/speaker at Antioch University, University of Pittsburg, and University of Windsor Law School. He has served as a guest lecturer at Washtenaw Community College for African Poetry and Literature and at Eastern Michigan University for “Building Effective Classroom Communities”. Currently Akili serves as a founding member and Chief Development and Learning Officer for Community Records L3C an organization dedicated to building community activism through music.
Yusuf Abdul Lateef
Yusuf Lateef is a visual artist that works collaboratively to create positive and vibrant murals for neighborhoods in the midwest and abroad. He earned his BFA in the field of painting and drawing from the Columbus College of Art and Design. Since then, he has completed over 16 murals including projects for Toledo Public Schools, The Toledo Fair Housing Authority and Bowling Green State University. With his guidance, participants are able to share their thoughts and aspirations while learning about the fundamental elements of painting.
With a passion for theatre and the transformative effects it can have on people, Patrick is the Director of Education for Water Works Theatre Company’s youth programs. He also works as a co-facilitator for Shakespeare in Prison and is a stage manager and fight choreographer for numerous theatres in southeastern Michigan.
Madelyn Porter is a member of Actor’s Equity Association (AEA), and has worked in professional theatre for over thirty years. She currently performs Storyliving for Detroit Historical Museum, The Henry Ford, and Troy Historical Society. Porter is lead instructor for Michigan Opera Theatre’s Create and Perform, House Manager for Detroit Public Theatre, and tours a series of One-Woman Shows on a regular basis. She believes that “Theatre is a powerful art form to reach one and teach one.”
Jennifer is a Detroit-based writer where her focus is on creative nonfiction as well as hybrid work that combines both image + text. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Northern Michigan University, and also teaches with InsideOut Literary Arts where she helps to excite and instill elementary school students with a love of words. She understands what a pivotal role writing plays in youth finding their voices, and her teaching focuses on building empathy and a sense of self through the power of the written word.
Frannie partners with YAA to coordinate The Shakespeare Workshop. Frannie is the Director of Shakespeare in Prison, a program of Detroit Public Theatre, and has worked with people in the criminal justice system for the past six years. She firmly believes in the potential of theatre to empower all people and is thrilled to work with YAA to offer this programming.
Shazia is a licensed professional counselor and board certified art therapist who graduated with an MA in counseling and art therapy from Wayne State University in 2011. She works with teens and young adults to help them recognize and utilize their strengths to heal and transform, as well as cope with obstacles along the way. She is involved with YAA because she believes so strongly in its mission to use creativity as a tool to alter potential.
Jenna is a performer, educator, choreographer and movement therapist. She has worked and studied in Ireland, England and the United States, obtaining a Movement Science BS from the University of Michigan and Dance Movement Psychotherapy MA from Goldsmiths, University of London, England. Her mission is to empower, inform and inspire individuals and communities through movement and the arts.
Naidra L Walls
Naidra L Walls is a teaching artist & creative entrepreneur from Detroit, MI. Naidra earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration from Western Michigan University. Their background includes graphic design, marketing, nonprofit consulting, woodworking, teaching, and writing. Naidra values energy-efficiency, sustainability, and equity. They believe that people should have access to space to comfortably live and work. Their current projects include: Founder of Invictus Custom Woodwork, LLC, blk queer grand rapids, and Detroit Proper; Writer in Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project; writing a chapbook tentatively titled, Coughing.
Emily is the Theatre Director at Greenhills School, where she teaches acting and directs productions. While pursuing her MFA in Applied Drama/Theatre for the Young at Eastern Michigan University, Emily was introduced to and became interested in drama and theatre work in prison and detention centers, and she is thrilled to be working with YAA. She is a native Michigander and lives in the area with her family.
Gina Steffey, President
Gina holds a limited license Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan. She works in Community Mental Health for Washtenaw County, and has experience as a probation officer for the Washtenaw County Juvenile Drug Treatment Court. She recognizes the multitude of shortcomings within the juvenile justice system and is passionate about making changes.
Kyle Daniel-Bey, Secretary
Kyle D Daniel-Bey is an artist, published author/poet and formerly incarcerated individual. His passion for art & advocacy for youth who have or may come into contact with the criminal justice system are equal. Having been incarcerated as a youth, he understands some of the pressures young people face & wants to help in whatever capacity available.
Jennifer Schilk, Treasurer
Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. She has held various positions within the field of accounting and finance for five years. She is aware of the challenges faced by our at-risk youth and is motivated to contribute towards improving the individual and social experience.
Elizabeth has been an Ypsilanti resident since 2005 and is constantly looking for more ways to get involved in the community. Her passion for food and helping people lead healthier lives through nutritious food is what lead her to Growing Hope where she is the Engagement Manager. While new to the mission of YAA, Elizabeth is ready to immerse herself in supporting the incredibly important work they are doing.
Erin Keith is the Staff Attorney for Youth Legal Services and Empowerment at the Detroit Justice Center. In this capacity, she helps youth and young adults remove critical legal barriers by litigating misdemeanors, child custody/support matters, and emancipation and expungement proceedings. She also leads youth justice education, advocacy and community outreach programming to teach Metro-Detroit young people about their legal rights. Erin previously served as the Juvenile Defense and Policy Fellow for Georgetown’s Juvenile Justice Initiative. In this role, she focused her policy research, legal advocacy, and project development on the intersection of race and gender to promote culturally responsive, youth-led juvenile justice reform. Erin graduated summa cum laude from Howard University in 2013 with her B.A. in Political Science and from Georgetown Law in 2016 with her J.D. and in 2018 with her LL.M. While in law school, Erin dedicated herself to her community by teaching a human rights course at a local public high school and creating a “Know Your Rights” canvassing initiative in her capacity as Attorney General for Georgetown’s Black Law Students Association. She also served as a student attorney in the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic, where she represented accused youth in delinquency and school disciplinary proceedings. In addition to her campus involvement, Erin served as a judicial intern for a juvenile judge in D.C. Superior Court and as a Summer Associate for Miller, Canfield, Paddock, and Stone, P.L.C. She also interned with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the U.S. Department of Justice in the Public Integrity Section, and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia in the Juvenile Services Program. In 2016, Erin published two articles: She Could Have Been Me: A Tribute to Renisha McBride, in the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, and Wronged Without Recourse: Examining Shortcomings of Compensation Statutes for Black Exonerees, in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Modern Critical Race Perspectives. In 2017, Erin was selected as one of ten fellows nationwide for the National Juvenile Justice Network’s Youth Justice Leadership Institute. As a part of her fellowship, she created the L.O.U.D. Brown Girls program, a workshop series to inspire girls of color who have touched the justice system to become youth advocates and pursue advocacy careers in the future. She is a member of both the State Bar of Michigan and the District of Columbia Bar.
Jeanne Murabito is Executive Director for Student Affairs in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. in Humanistic Studies from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame; studied in Rome, Italy through Loyola University, received her M.A. in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University, and completed all Ph.D. coursework in Higher Education Administration from St. Louis University. Ms. Murabito has 30 years of experience in Higher Education Administration and prior to joining the University of Michigan she served as Dean of Academic Services at Lindenwood University in St. Louis, MO. Ms. Murabito directs the units that comprise Student Affairs: the Engineering Advising Center, the Engineering Career Resource Center, Recruitment and Admissions, the Engineering Learning Center, the Scholarship Efforts in the College, Records and Assessment, Student Support, and all student organizations and activities within the college. She founded the Michigan Engineering Zone (MEZ), an outreach site in Detroit providing exposure for Detroit High School students to STEM fields. The centerpiece of the MEZ is the FIRST Robotics Program, engaging 350+ students a year in a collective build site in Detroit’s Midtown. In 2018, Jeanne collaborated with Qualcomm to develop a Thinkabit Lab at the MEZ, which provides a unique, hands-on STEM experience for middle school field trips during the school year as well as summer camps. Jeanne serves on the board for FIRST in Michigan, is a member of the Dean’s Cabinet, and serves as the point person in the College for issues involving students. She has received the Excellence in Staff Service Award and the Judith A. Pitney Career Award from the College of Engineering, and various recognitions for her service to students through Tau Beta Pi, Epeians, the Spirit of Detroit Award, and most recently, the Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award.