Category - About


The Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY) team holds a wealth of experiences and expertise in the systems that affect and support children, youth, and families. Each ICOY staff member brings to the table a passion for the well-being of children and youth and for the advancement of best practices on the individual, community, and systemic levels.

Our Staff

Andrea Durbin, Chief Executive Officer

Andrea Durbin has been the Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Collaboration on Youth since 2012. A passionate and life-long advocate for young people, she leads ICOY’s work to improve the lives of children, youth, and their families. Prior to becoming CEO, Andrea served as policy and advocacy director for ICOY and led the agency’s federally-funded capacity-building initiative for youth service agencies in Chicago.

In 2017, Andrea helped to shepherd a long-discussed merger with the Child Care Association of Illinois, which took effect on July 1, 2017. Following the merger, ICOY is now the largest provider voice for services to children, youth and families, representing nearly 100 organizations across the state.

In 2016 and 2017, Andrea led the effort to ensure that human service providers were paid for the work they did during Illinois’ historic and destructive state budget impasse, forming the Pay Now Illinois coalition to sue Governor Bruce Rauner and state agency heads over unpaid contracts. The lawsuit attracted national attention and was key in ensuring that providers were eventually paid in full for their work when the two-year impasse ended.

Andrea serves on several high-level committees and workgroups, representing the needs of at-risk children and youth and the agencies that serve them, including as an invited member of Governor Pritzker’s Healthy Families and Communities Transition Team. She represents providers through the Social Services Advisory Council, the Child Welfare Advisory Committee and the Mental Health Opportunities for Youth Diversion Task Force, among many others. She is the Chair of the ACT Now after school coalition; in that role, she has led a comprehensive restructuring and overhaul of the coalition’s governance and operations.

In 2019, Andrea was recognized with the Social Impact Award from the School of Social Service Administration (SSA) at the University of Chicago. Chicago Business Journal named her a Woman of Influence in 2017.

Prior to joining ICOY, Andrea worked for seven years in education, including serving as the Director of Communications at SSA, and for eight years at Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness, where she led efforts to develop programs for high-risk youth, and primary and preventive health services for medically underserved communities. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. Andrea lives in Chicago with her husband and their three teen-aged and young adult children. She is active in her local community as a Trustee for Morgan Park Academy and serves as an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University’s School of Public Service.

Denzel Burke, R.E.A.L. Youth Initiative Co-founder

Rising. Elevating. And. Leading. Youth Initiative (R.E.A.L.) is an unassociated group facilitated by previously incarcerated young people. It is a youth-led, peer-mentor resource hub which addresses the trauma and PTSD of incarceration and post-incarceration community re-entry. R.E.A.L. founders Denzel Burke and Destine Phillips work with young people to address these issues with community education, professional development, the arts, and the use of peace circles for conflict resolution. ICOY is supporting and working with them to ensure they can become a successful standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the future.

One of Denzel’s goals at R.E.A.L. is to create young leaders who then recreate the cycle of leadership in their local community. Currently, Denzel is a Re-Entry Coach with the National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated (NAEFI) and Save One Life Foundation, assisting young people coming home from incarceration. Denzel also works at Circles and Cyphers conducting peace circles with the community. Furthermore, he is a Community Engagement Specialist for the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy project, ‘Evanston's Restorative Justice Community Court’ where he facilitates community visioning discussions.

Sarah Daniels, Assistant Executive Director

Sarah received her BA in Communication/Public Relations from Millikin University in 2016. She then served at her alma mater as an AmeriCorps*VISTA focusing on economic development and education. Many of her duties entailed creating service-learning opportunities for students on campus, grant management for voter engagement, solidifying and maintaining partnerships with community organizations, and performing administrative tasks in Student Development. Based on the project completion as a VISTA, she decided to attend the University of Illinois-Springfield to complete her Master of Public Administration in May 2019. During the first year and a half as an MPA student, she served as a Graduate Public Service Intern (GPSI) at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services - Bureau of Behavioral Health as a Policy Generalist. Building on her experience at HFS, she became a Case Manager for Lincoln Prairie Behavioral Hospital in Springfield, IL where she served as a liaison for hospital psychiatric physicians, nurses, therapists, and families of youth served.

Sarah joined ICOY in March 2020, as a Policy Analyst amidst a global pandemic and has summarized key research findings and prepared polished presentation materials appropriately targeted to tailored audiences. She serves as a subject matter resource in the area of changes to the child welfare and multisystem-involved youth, including staying abreast of state and federal policies in the form of law, rules, and guidance. Sarah also represents ICOY and its members on policy commissions, committees, and various workgroups.

When she isn’t working, Sarah can be found traveling to see family, binge-watching the latest television shows, or enjoying long walks with her dog, Milo.

Ashley Deckert, Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs

Ashley Deckert joins the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY) as the Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs. Prior to joining ICOY, Ashley was the Deputy Director of Child Services for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. As Deputy Director, she had the oversight and responsibility for four state-wide divisions: Residential Monitoring, Residential Recruitment, Foster Parent Recruitment, and Juvenile Delinquency and Restorative Justice.  Ashley was with the Department for 13 years having served in various roles from direct service in the Intact Family Services Division, Supervisor in the Division of Child Protection, to various leadership roles within the Division of Licensing.

Ashley worked to improve outcomes for youth in congregate care settings, who are considered to be the most vulnerable and at-risk population of youth in the child welfare system. Ashley has experience in program development and policy writing and was one of the IL Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) leads with the responsibility of strategizing and implementing changes for the Congregate Care population.

Ashley is a passionate and dedicated child welfare administrator skilled in collaborative problem solving and high-level assessments of complex, systemic child welfare issues. She prides herself on her ability to build and maintain strong partnerships and relationships with internal and external stakeholders. She also has an intense passion for keeping families intact and improving child and family well-being by collaborating with ICOY members, various advocacy groups, and various state government entities.

Ashley received both her undergraduate degree in Sociology and graduate degree in Social Work from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 2018, Ashley went back to graduate school to obtain a Master of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Chicago due to her desire to impact change at the legislative level. At ICOY, Ashley will represent members in the development of state policies and practices to improve child and family well-being.

Lastly, Ashley is a Chicago native, but have resided in Champaign, IL for 20 years. She has a 12 year-old daughter and they both love to travel, eat at different restaurants, and are especially fond of boating season!

Chanel Dotson, Illinois Youth Investment Program Manager

Chanel joined ICOY as the Illinois Youth Investment Program Manager in August 2021. Her role includes supporting Illinois Department of Human Service program sites with their approach to investing in youth employment and education assistance. She currently holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Health Administration from Northern Illinois University. Chanel is passionate about helping at-risk youth in Illinois and believes that addressing youth barriers will contribute to the overall needs of Public Health and success of each youth.

Chanel’s past experiences include interning for an Alternative to Suspension program for Dekalb students. This role led her to managing a WIOA grant contract. In doing so, she worked with transition-age youth in Chicago to secure post-secondary plans after high-school graduation. She also became instrumental in providing youth with work-based experiences, wrap-around services, and personal support. Chanel has several years of mentorship experience with youth aging from 6-24 years of age.

Chanel loves all things fashion. In her personal time, she helps women develop their personal style and provides them with wardrobe assistance. She is also an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated.

Seth El-Jamal, Director of Prevention & Intervention Services

Seth El-Jamal joined ICOY in November of 2020. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in Human Services from Concordia University Chicago. His 20 years of experience in Direct Service programs include Community Outreach, Workforce Development, After School Program Management and Community Health Program Management.

As ICOY’s Director of Prevention and Intervention Services, Seth works to manage ICOY’s partnerships with the Department of Human Services. He leads a team of Managers who facilitate training and technical support for programs that serve many of Illinois’ most marginalized communities. Seth also brings a trauma informed perspective to the work of capacity building between programs and works to provide innovative ideas to partners and stakeholders around work with youth and young adults.

Outside of work, Seth likes to spend as much time outside as possible. He recognizes that meaningful work demands meaningful play. He enjoys all things outdoors including camping, hiking, and fishing with his family.

Sally Ehrlich, Homeless Youth/ Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services Program Manager

Sally joined ICOY in September 2021 as the Prevention & Intervention Manager for the Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services (CCBYS) and Homeless Youth contracts. In this role, she supports youth service providers through capacity building and technical assistance.

Sally graduated from Tufts University in Boston with a degree in Community Health and Anthropology and has spent the past several years working in direct service, both in Boston and Chicago. Much of this work has involved connecting individuals to housing and other resources. She’s passionate about addressing structural inequalities, both in housing systems and elsewhere, and about supporting the community organizations that are leading the way in this work.

Outside of work, Sally enjoys spending time with friends, taking long walks, and discovering new places to go camping throughout the Midwest.

Kacy Garrard, Senior Policy Analyst

Kacy joined ICOY as a Policy Analyst in October 2018 at our Springfield office. Kacy’s passion for policy work came into practice from her experience at working at two different CCBYS agencies.

In her position at ICOY, Kacy serves as the subject-matter resource in areas of child welfare and multi-systemic-involved youth and maintaining effective relationships with youth-serving system stakeholders. Kacy works collaboratively with members of the Illinois General Assembly and ICOY Policy team to write and analyze policies that impact children, youth, and families in Illinois. Kacy was vital to the recent passing of an ICOY Champion-piece of legislation in the 102nd General Assembly, HB3100, which requires mandated reporters to go through implicit bias training. Kacy leads ICOY’s Policy Advisory Committee (PAC), which works diligently to determine ICOY’s legislative agenda for each General Assembly session. Kacy also creates information for the Quick Response Network (QRN), which informs ICOY’s membership of specific laws being voted on and how to rapidly engage with their respective Representative and/or Senator.

Kacy has a Master’s Degree in Social Work – Policy, Planning & Administration from the University of Missouri – Columbia, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from MacMurray College. Kacy is currently working on becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Outside of work, Kacy can be found spending time with her family and dog, traveling to see friends, and cooking new recipes.

Maribel Gonzalez, Illinois Juvenile Justice Manager

Maribel recently joined the team as a Juvenile Justice Manager in September of 2021. In this role, Maribel supports the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and its efforts to reduce racial & ethnic disparities statewide and maintain accordance with federal standards set forth by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. To promote best practices and policy change at the local level, she collaborates with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) staff and provides capacity building for youth-serving organizations and juvenile justice councils. Maribel holds a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal, Law, and Justice and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She hopes to return to school to gain her Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Outside of work, Maribel enjoys trying new food, traveling, watching crime documentaries, and spending time with friends, family, and her pets, Coco and Buster.

Thomas Hagan, R.E.A.L. Youth Initiative Director

Rising. Elevating. And. Leading. Youth Initiative (R.E.A.L.) is an unassociated group facilitated by previously incarcerated young people. It is a youth-led, peer-mentor resource hub which addresses the trauma and PTSD of incarceration and post-incarceration community re-entry. R.E.A.L. founders Denzel Burke and Destine Phillips work with young people to address these issues with community education, professional development, the arts, and the use of peace circles for conflict resolution. ICOY is supporting and working with them to ensure they can become a successful standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the future.

Thomas Hagan graduated summa cum laude from the University of Chicago in June 2021 as a Fundamentals: Issues and Texts and Philosophy double major. As part of his senior thesis in Philosophy, he examined the power relations of the carceral state and the philosophy of abolitionist praxis. Throughout college, he served as co-director of the Bridge Writing Workshop, which facilitates creative writing programs at Cook County Jail and IYC–St. Charles. He additionally worked as a Pozen Family Center for Human Rights Summer Intern and Justice Intern at the Final 5 Campaign – a coalition of activists, advocates, and directly impacted people working to close the five remaining youth prisons in Illinois.  

He is currently the 2021 Dr. Aizik Wolf Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in Human Rights. In this capacity, he works as the co-director of the R.E.A.L Youth Initiative. He also works part-time as an Alumni Research Fellow with the Human Rights Lab at the University of Chicago. In his free time, he enjoys long distance running, getting coffee with friends, and watching basketball.

Alex Hylka, Senior Manager of Technology & Quality Assurance

Alex is the Senior Manager of Technology & Quality Assurance for Illinois Collaboration on Youth. Motivated by a strong sense of commitment to addressing the structural inequalities faced by those who have been historically marginalized, Alex’s work connects ICOY’s large network of members, experts, and advocacy partners to create better outcomes for Illinois’ children, youth and families. Alex has been with ICOY since 2016, having originally taken a position as an Office Coordinator.

Prior to joining ICOY, Alex spent multiple years working in after-school programs providing direct services to elementary school-aged children. While receiving an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa, Alex was funded to perform research on racial and ethnic disparities in school-day experiences in the Iowa City Community School District.

Alex and his wife live in Chicago. He’s an avid traveler, musician, and relentless consumer of all things news and politics.

Heshima Mance, Senior Trauma Specialist

Heshima joined ICOY as a Senior Trauma Specialist in September 2021, to support technical assistance, training and capacity-building with a focus on SPR contracts. She coordinates workshops and trainings, faculty conferences, while supporting individuals and organizations with gaining an understanding about trauma-informed care.

Heshima received her master’s degree in Community Counseling in 2009 from Governors State University. She has dedicated over 17 years to the social service and mental health field. Her professional experience has included parent education, family assessments, individual and group therapy, and Trauma Informed Care trainings. In her spare time, she enjoys time with family/friends and roller skating.

Rachel Monroe, Child Welfare Coordinator

Rachel started working for ICOY as a part-time administrative assistant in March 2020. She later transitioned to the Child Welfare Coordinator role in November 2021. In this role, she supports the Intact Family Recovery (IFR) programs serving both Northern and Eastern Illinois. Rachel is responsible for coordinating, planning, and scheduling upcoming trainings and preparing organizational materials for IFR programming. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Beloit College in 2015.

Above all, Rachel has a passion for helping others and positively contributing to the planet. Rachel is currently a full-time graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from DePaul University. Outside of the office, Rachel enjoys biking the lakefront trail, hiking, and traveling.

Maha McDiarmid, Chief Program Officer

Maha McDiarmid joined ICOY in January 2022 as the Chief Program Officer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Judson University and a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. Her years of work in nonprofit includes experience as a direct care provider in residential living for over ten years and extensive skills in providing training and continuing education. Before joining the team at ICOY, Maha worked in training and operations with CASA Kane County. At CASA, Maha provided the training, continuing education, and support necessary for volunteers to become the Court Appointed Special Advocate / Guardian Ad Litem (CASA / GAL) for children entering the foster care system. As the Chief Program Officer at ICOY, she supports the work of the Prevention and Intervention, Trauma Initiatives, and Training Teams.

Running, building campfires, cooking, and spending time with friends and family are just a few of the things that Maha enjoys doing in her free time.

Destine Phillips, R.E.A.L. Youth Initiative Co-founder

Rising. Elevating. And. Leading. Youth Initiative (R.E.A.L.) is an unassociated group facilitated by previously incarcerated young people. It is a youth-led, peer-mentor resource hub which addresses the trauma and PTSD of incarceration and post-incarceration community re-entry. R.E.A.L. founders Denzel Burke and Destine Phillips work with young people to address these issues with community education, professional development, the arts, and the use of peace circles for conflict resolution. ICOY is supporting and working with them to ensure they can become a successful standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the future.

Destine is currently a Re-Entry Coach/ Case Manager with the National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated (NAEFI) and Save One Life Foundation, assisting youth and adults coming home from incarceration. She serves on the first Youth Advisory Board of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

Randi Slack, Director of Programs

Randi joined ICOY in February 2017 as a Program Assistant for the Pathways Independent Living Program. After the program ended, Randi filled direct service and administrative roles throughout the organization, including Executive Assistant, Office Coordinator, Training Coordinator, Child Welfare Manager, and now the Director of Programs.

As Director of Programs, she supports two Illinois Intact Family Recovery (IFR) Programs operating in Northern and Eastern Illinois, spanning 21 counties. Through these programs, ICOY works to increase the well-being, permanency, and safety of children affected by substance abuse disorder (SUD). IFR improves family recovery stability while increasing system-level capacity and effectiveness by connecting child welfare providers with agencies who serve SUD families in targeted program regions. In addition to managing IFR Programs, Randi supports the overall Programs Team with technical assistance by overseeing the training department that serves both Prevention & Intervention and Trauma Initiatives. Randi also serves as Co-Chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Her leadership has been instrumental in chartering the committee and implementing the overall expectations, priorities, and goals for the organization in our DEI work.

Randi has a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources and Business Management. In addition, she has taken multiple courses in the human services field. Outside of ICOY, Randi has been an entrepreneur for over 16 years, sharing a small business that started on the Southside of Chicago alongside her sister. She has a passion for cooking and recently acquired photography.

Denail Timms, Director of Operations

Denail has been with ICOY since October 2009. As Director of Operations, her duties include assisting the CEO with payroll, bank deposits, income tracking, and serving as primary liaison to ICOY’s human resources, financial team, and information technology support consultants. Outside of work, she enjoys volunteer work, candle making, and spending time with family and friends.

Karina Velazquez, Prevention & Intervention Training Coordinator

Karina Velazquez started her journey with ICOY in August 2021 as the IDHS Training Coordinator for the Prevention & Intervention Team. In this role, she will coordinate technical assistance and provide trainings to all IDHS-funded youth-serving programs throughout the state. In addition, she will collect and analyze data to produce reports for each IDHS training. Before joining the ICOY team, Karina worked as a CNA specializing in dementia care and also worked with rehabilitation patients. Karina has skills in team management and highlights the importance of having a solid team as the foundation of a strong and successful organization.Karina enjoys taking long nature walks, listening to music, painting, and spending time with her family outside of work.

Jocelyn Vega, Director of Trauma Initiatives

Jocelyn joined ICOY as a Trauma Specialist in November, 2019, to support technical assistance, training and capacity-building. Prior to joining ICOY, Jocelyn provided crisis intervention, safety planning and court support to individuals who experienced harm at the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse. During her time there, she also initiated trauma-informed care policy and language access values for a legal aid agency providing legal representation for Orders of Protection.

Over the course of her career, Jocelyn has additionally interviewed Khmer Rouge survivors and provided program consulting for a research fellowship in Siem Reap, Cambodia, as well as served as a legal translator for undocumented farmworkers in upstate New York. Due to these experiences, Jocelyn is dedicated to addressing structural barriers that marginalize experience, expression, and belonging within an intersectional trauma lens.

Richard Walsh, Compliance Monitor

Dick has worked as Compliance Monitor for the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and ICOY since 2009. As Compliance Monitor, Dick ensures that municipal lockups, county jails, and other correctional facilities remain in compliance with federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act requirements for the sight and sound separation of juveniles from adults, the removal of juveniles from adult facilities and the deinstitutionalization of status offenders.

Before coming to ICOY, Dick served as Detective and Youth Officer for the Village of Matteson Police Department for over 25 years. He has also served as Executive Director of the Illinois Juvenile Officers Association, President of the South Suburban Juvenile Officers’ Association, and member of the Advisory Committee of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Board. Dick worked with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and legislators on the enactment of the Balanced and Restorative Justice Act.

Gabriela Zamora, Trauma Specialist

Gabriela joined ICOY as the Trauma Specialist focusing on IDHS programs. She will provide technical support and trauma informed training to youth service providers and staff throughout the state of Illinois. Additionally, she will assist youth serving organizations in the participation of the Capacity-Building Assessment of Trauma-Informed Care for Organizations (CBAT-O).

In 2017, Gabriela graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish at Cornell University. She was a Research Assistant for the Person and Context Lab (formerly known as Personality, Attachment, and Control Lab) with the Department of Psychology at Cornell University. Most of her research focused on different processes such as cognitive and controlled, or automatic and unconscious, and how they shaped people's world experiences. Later, she collaborated with a research study and in 2019, they presented the "Formation and Functions of Relationships: From Initial Encounters to Long-Term Bonds." at the International Convention of Psychological Science symposium in Paris, France. The main purpose of our study was to investigate how even a simple text message from a significant other substantially increases positive affect and deceases negative affect, even in the face of real-world stressful situations. Gabriela has also been a part of City Year Chicago, an AmeriCorps program, as a Student Success Coach and focused on developing the social-emotional learning curriculum for CPS high school students.

In her spare time, Gabriela enjoys running, baking, spending time with family, and watching baseball games.

Cameron Zelaya, Policy Analyst

Cameron received his BA in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2012. He spent the following year in Washington, D.C. where he served as a Legislative Intern for Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Ami Bera. After developing a passion for public service, he returned to Illinois to serve as an In-Person Counselor for the DeKalb County Health Department. There he assisted residents with applying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Desiring to expand his knowledge of public policy and local governance, he decided to attend DePaul University to attain his Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Public Management.

Cameron joined ICOY as a Policy Analyst in July of 2020.

Outside of work, Cameron enjoys running, watching soccer (La Liga mostly), and attending theatre performances.

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