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Senior Leadership Team

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

—Barack Obama

JOSEPH T. JONES, JR.

President & CEO

Joseph T. Jones, Jr. is founder/CEO of the Center for Urban Families (CFUF), a Baltimore, Maryland nonprofit service organization established to empower low-income families by enhancing both the ability of women and men to contribute to their families as wage earners and of men to fulfill their roles as fathers.

Prior to founding CFUF, Joe developed and directed the Men’s Services program for the federally funded Baltimore Healthy Start initiative and replicated the Baltimore affiliate of the nationally recognized STRIVE employment services program.

His ability to engage and provide hands-on services to fathers garnered him the reputation of trailblazer in the field. Joe is now a national leader in workforce development, fatherhood and family services programming, and through his professional and civic involvement influences policy direction nationwide.

Joe has received numerous awards and honors for his leadership and programming including the Johns Hopkins University Leadership Development Program’s Distinguished Leadership Award, an honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Morgan State University, the Walter Sondheim Public Service Award, the White House Champion of Change, and was a 2013 CNN Hero.

Joe is a Weinberg Fellow and a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He is happily married and has three children.

BRIAN S. LYGHT

Chief Operating Officer

Brian Lyght is a business development and strategy professional with over 25 years of combined private, public and philanthropic sector experience helping organizations improve their operational performance and fulfill their mission. Reporting to the Founder, President & CEO of the Center for Urban Families, Brian has led all internal operations since joining CFUF in 2017. Brian manages the organization’s senior staff who have responsibilities for programs, finance and administration, human resources, and research and evaluation. He provides a strong day-to-day leadership presence to achieve CFUF’s mission to strengthen urban communities by helping fathers and families achieve stability and economic success.

Between 2013 and 2017, Brian served in dual roles: as Director of Knowledge Management at Casey Family Programs, and as Executive-on-Loan to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. While at the U.S. Department of Labor, Brian contributed to the implementation of an integrated national workforce investment system that supports economic growth; provides employers with skilled workers; and supports disadvantaged youth to obtain skills and good paying jobs with career pathways.

Prior to joining Casey Family Programs, Brian served as a Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation from 2002 to 2013, where he coordinated strategic grant making and cross-foundation collaboration to improve outcomes for youth in foster care. Brian also served as a Program Director for Economic Opportunity Programs at the Enterprise Foundation from 1997 to 2002. In earlier career positions – as Assistant Vice President for Corporate Community Development at CoreStates Bank, and as Special Assistant to the President of the Massachusetts Community Development Finance Corporation – Brian supported the development and expansion of small, minority-owned, and community-based businesses. Brian began his career in 1986 as an investment banker at PaineWebber where he structured tax-exempt bond financings to support the development of affordable housing.

Brian holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Sabree Akinyele

Director of Programs

Sabree K. Akinyele has served as an executive leader in the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years. Most recently, Sabree served as Vice President of Programs at Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Columbus, Ohio where she provided strategic, operational, and fiscal recommendations to the CEO and board to continually improve CSS’ operations and service recipients. While in Columbus, Sabree served on the founding committee for Move to Prosper, a placed-based program, giving single moms affordable rental housing available in neighborhoods that offer access to opportunities, such as good schools, safe neighborhoods, employment and other indicators of opportunities. Prior to her tenure with Catholic Social Services, Sabree was the Director of Our Daily Bread Employment Center, a program of Catholic Charities of Baltimore.

Sabree has provided direct services as an advocate, health educator, student advisor, GED teacher, and program manager. Sabree grew up in Baltimore City’s Harlem Park neighborhood seeing the changes that plagued the community. It was that experience that led her to study sociology and urban studies at Villanova University. Sabree holds the belief that our cities and the people who live in them have much to offer. However, many individuals and communities have been forgotten and marginalized. It was with this passion for making a difference in the lives of those individuals and communities that Sabree developed her program design and implementation, management, and evaluation skills. She also has a passion for working with urban families and youth, people in recovery, and returning citizens. Her goal is to help non-profits work more efficiently and effectively developing processes and systems.

Sabree completed the Leadership Development Program for minority managers and her MBA in management at Johns Hopkins University with this goal in mind. She is a Weinberg Fellow, and in 2017, as the Vice President of Catholic Social Services she received the Management Excellence Award from Catholic Charities USA. She is an experienced coach and team builder. Sabree is known for her ability to develop strong teams, and teams that are mission focused. Her excitement about numbers and data began at Hopkins when it became clear that good data and reporting help organizations make better decisions to support programs and maximize resources. Sabree understands that nonprofit organizations must tell their success stories and validate them with data. She has managed budgets over $4,000,000.

Throughout her career, she has remained consistent in her belief that each individual served must be treated with dignity and respect. Most importantly, the service provider must recognize that each individual brings a strength and a spirit within that has to be acknowledged and supported.

To quote Sabree: “I believe that we can create a City where our families and communities thrive—a City that supports individual creativity and enriches us all.”

MARILYN M. AKLIN, D.P.A.

Director of Development

Marilyn has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, community development, TRIO Programs, Title I parental involvement policy and advocacy, international relief, and higher education.

Marilyn currently serves as the Director of Development for the nationally recognized Center for Urban Families (CFUF)) and reports directly to the President and CEO. Founded in 1999, CFUF has as its mission to strengthen urban communities by helping fathers and families achieve stability. Since its founding, CFUF has provided fatherhood, family strengthening, and workforce development support to more than 31,000 individuals seeking better lives for themselves and their children.

Before joining the CFUF family, Marilyn was the Director of Development for Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), an award-winning nonprofit affordable housing development corporation dedicated to creating vibrant communities by developing affordable housing communities supported by research-based and continuously evaluated resident programs. In her role, Marilyn secured funding to support the extensive community building work of CPDC, conducted partner fundraising, and guided the design, implementation, and evaluation of multiple CPDC resident services programs.

Marilyn earned the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and the Master of Public Administration degrees from the University of South Carolina; the Doctor of Public Administration degree from the University of Baltimore; and the Master of Theological Studies from the Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC. While at Wesley, she was a Presidential Scholar. Marilyn is an itinerant elder and pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In the mid-1990s, Marilyn served as the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Title I/Chapter 1 Parents in Washington, DC. She went on to serve as the Executive Director of Payne Memorial Outreach (PMO) (Baltimore, MD) under the leadership of Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie from 1996 to 2001. Marilyn led PMO to join the welfare-reform effort, helping more 700 TANF recipients enter-and stay in-the workforce. She also guided the renovation of PMO’s five-story 32,000-sq. ft. NIMROD Center at a cost of $2 million. The NIMROD Economic Development Center included a senior adult daycare center, computer technology center, business incubator, adult basic education classes and job training services.

Marilyn is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Women of Color in Community Development, and a fellow of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference’s Micah Institute and Excellence Fund.

BRITTNY HERRING

Director of Family Strengthening & Community Engagement

Dr. Brittny Herring is an experienced human services professional who has spent most of her life living in Long Island, New York where she worked for almost a decade at Catholic Charites, dedicating her career to working in the areas of mental health and senior services, before relocating her family to Baltimore, Maryland in 2015.

Prior to joining the Center for Urban Families as the Director of Family Strengthening & Community Engagement, Brittny most recently held the position of Director of Homesharing at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.  In that critical role, she successfully led a team that addressed housing instability experienced by some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents—seniors and youth experiencing homelessness. Brittny was also instrumental in implementing an intensive family preservation program for fragile families involved with the child protective service system.  This program utilized research-based strategies; provided crisis intervention, counseling, skill building, and access to other life-changing services; as well as, advocating for families impacted by substance use in Baltimore County.

Brittny has held various leadership positions in the human service field, with expertise in the areas of early childhood education, mental health, senior services, case management, and affordable housing. Brittny has a passion for supporting at-risk youth and has conducted motivational speaking at youth shelters and detention centers in New York. Brittny holds a Master’s degree in Human Services. In 2019, Brittny was awarded a PhD in Human and Social Services after completing a research study and her dissertation, “Cyberbullying: The Lived Experience of Parents,” which explored the impacts of cyberbullying and identified it as a public health issue affecting individuals, families, and communities at-large.

Brittny is the mother of two young adults and a resident of Baltimore City. Brittny continuously seeks opportunities to affect change and assist people with improving the quality of their lives through acts of mentorship and volunteering.

ZACHARY B. JEFFERS

Director of Finance & Administration

Zachary B. Jeffers (Bryant) is a skilled and strategic finance professional. He has served organizations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit industries for approximately 20 years. He has worked seamlessly with internal and external stakeholders to provide Financial Reporting to help navigate their journey toward meeting goals and adapting to changing financial dynamics.

During the early part of his career, he worked as an Accountant in the Financial Reporting and Operations Division of T. Rowe Price. After leaving T. Rowe Price to pursue opportunities in Real Estate Accounting, he ultimately became the Vice President of Accounting for KLNB Management, a regional commercial property management company where he worked for five years. After a successful season at KLNB, he was a Property Accounting Manager and Controller for General Growth Properties, where he was responsible for the oversight of a portfolio of regional malls and office properties whose aggregate annual revenue was over $200 million.

Prior to joining the Center for Urban Families as its Director of Finance and Administration, Bryant most recently served as the Controller for the Baltimore Community Foundation (which manages approximately $130 million in Net Assets).

Bryant is a seasoned financial professional who has a passion for people. Bryant has served the Baltimore Community for the majority of his life. He mentors and coaches young men, serves as the Vice President of his family’s non-profit, which continues his father’s legacy of assisting families in need and has a long track record of mentoring and enhancing the professional climate at the various organizations he has been part of.

Bryant is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.