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Our Board

The Uplift Our Youth Foundation is steered by a distinguished board of directors, each bringing unique expertise and unwavering dedication to our cause. These leaders share a collective vision: to provide a transformative impact on the lives of young individuals in Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties. From our founder's pioneering spirit to the invaluable experience of every board member, we are united in nurturing the potential of our community's youth. Join us in recognizing the commitment and achievements of our guiding stars.

Myron Frierson


Larry Leatherwood

Chairperson Emeritus

Spencer Simmons

Grants Committee

Octavis Long

Events Committee

Betty Sanford

Fundraising Committee

Keith Gentry

Events Committee

Larry L. Leatherwood, MPA, SEF - 
Chairperson Emeritus

Larry L. Leatherwood is the founder/chairperson of the Uplift Our Youth Foundation. The Foundation was created under the auspices of the Capital Region Community Foundation (CRCF) in May, 2002. Larry stated that the foundation was created through the cooperative efforts of Paulette Granberry Russell and with the support of Patricia Reynolds, who at the time was the President of the CRCF. Larry further stated that his intent in creating the Foundation (Fund at that time) was to create a funding vehicle for smaller 501© (3) tax exempt organizations/agencies that either didn’t receive funding or insufficient funding in the Lansing tri-county area. The Foundation was incorporated as a 501© (3) tax exempt organization in November 2005.


Larry is a retired Deputy Director for Administration in the Michigan Department of Transportation and also served as a lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is an executive consultant and is working with multiple clients in business and marketing development, training in ethics, civility, conflict resolution and program evaluation. Additionally, previously was a Adjunct Consultant with the Michigan Association of School Boards.

He holds a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Public Administration from Western Michigan University. He has attended Executive Management programs at both Wayne State University and Howard University in Washington, D.C.. He has completed and was awarded Senior Executive Fellows Program recognition from the John F. Kennedy School of Government Harvard University.

Larry is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions some of which include Who’s Who in Vocational Education, Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who among Black Americans. He also has received the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Advocate of the Year, Michigan Public Servant of the Year, Wall of Distinction Western Michigan University, Lansing YMCA President’s Award, Hope Scholars Award, White House Conference on Small Business Recognition, Dr. George James Service Award, Western Michigan University School of Public Affairs and Administration Department, Michigan Legislative Black Caucus “Partners in Community Service” award. He also received the “Kevin Bibbs” award from the Gentlemen of Distinction, Jack and Jill –Lansing and the Community Service award from the Lansing Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. 2008 Spirit of Scouting Award by Chief Okemos Council of Boy Scouts. 2008 Friend of Youth Award, Lansing Boys and Girls Club. Recipient of the “I have a Dream Legacy Award” 2011 The Urban League of Battle Creek. 2011 Honoree for the Lansing Black Lawyers Association 14th Annual Otis M. Smith Annual Dinner.

Larry has served on many community and state –wide boards and commissions. They included Commissioner, Martin Luther King Commission, City of Lansing, and Past Chairperson Lansing Metropolitan YMCA, past Chairperson Capital Chapter American Society for Public Administration. He previously served as the Chairperson of Sparrow Specialty Hospital, Executive Committee Capital Area Health Alliances. He previously served as a Governor’s Appointee to the Michigan Broadband Development Authority, the State Officers Compensation Commission, and the Higher Education Facilities Authority. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and the Alpha Chi Boule’ fraternities. Nominated by former Governor Jennifer Granholm to Ferris State University Board of Trustees. Recently appointed to Delta Township Economic Development Corporation.

He is married to Martha and is the father of Dr. Stacy Leatherwood a physician in Detroit and Jeffrey Leatherwood a video music magazine publisher.

Myron Frierson - 
Executive Committee - Chair

Mr. Frierson is a retired state executive. He served as the Director of the Bureau of Finance & Administration for the Michigan Department of Transportation, providing strategic direction for the department’s fiscal management, contracting, and internal administrative service programs. Prior to his current appointment, he served as the Administrator for the Real Estate and Financial Operations Divisions within the Michigan Department of Transportation. A Certified Public Accountant, Mr. Frierson earned his bachelor of arts from Michigan State University. In addition, to serving on the board of Uplift Our Youth Foundation, he is on the board of the Lansing Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation.

Jason Blanks - 
Executive, Fundraising, Events (Chair) Committee

Jason Blanks, alum of Western Michigan University, currently holds the position of Executive Director for the Capital Area Health Alliance. He has 20 years of executive level experience working with diverse and underrepresented populations. His goal is to empower the Greater Lansing Area to achieve better health and create improvements in local healthcare resources, personal health, and well-being of the entire community.

As the former Executive Director of Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce, a membership – led agency; Jason spearheaded major strategic shifts to transform the Southfield Area Chamber into an organization which operates as a resource hub for community partners and members. 

During Jason’s previous tenure with the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency; he was responsible for co-directing a federal Head Start program for Oakland County. Jason managed all agency grant making efforts. Jason has extensive knowledge in directing adult prisoner and youth reentry programs.

Nattiva Curry - 
Event, Grants Committee

Dr. Curry has more than 25 years of professional experience in higher education administration, program development, assessment, and grant writing. She holds a BS and MS in Merchandising Management and Human Resource Management, and a Ph.D. in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education, from Michigan State University (MSU). She is knowledgeable about federal TRIO programs and the policies that govern these programs, which serve first-generation, low-income, under-represented students; and students with disabilities. Her professional and academic endeavors focus on student achievement, leadership and professional development, civic engagement, and mentoring for diverse student populations.  

During her professional career, she established liaison relationships with community organizations, institutions of higher education, and professional education associations to develop high-impact academic and social support programs for undergraduate students. Her programmatic and diversity efforts in higher education have been recognized by both MSU and external entities. 


Dr. Curry’s leadership and involvement in the Greater Lansing community reflect her interests in the arts, women’s health, youth development, education, history and culture. Presently, she holds board appointments with Dream World Studios for the Arts and Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy, and is a former Board member of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing and Riverwalk Theatre. Dr. Curry serves as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.®, Delta Tau Omega Chapter (Lansing). Moreover, she is an active community volunteer with the American Red Cross, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Leadership Team and the MSU Black Alumni Association (Lansing Chapter). 

John Gardner -
Finance Committee

John P. Gardner is the Director of External and Government Affairs for Comcast’s Heartland Region, leading external affairs operations and the Internet Essentials program in Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky and serving as liaison to local units of governments in central Michigan. He has been in the cable television industry for more than 25 years, holding positions in cable franchising, contracts administration, human resources and government relations.


Gardner earned an Associate’s Degree at Lansing Community College. He is also an alumnus of Michigan State University, earning Masters of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Political Science, degrees.

A life-long resident of the Lansing area, Gardner serves on the boards of Cristo Rey Community Center, Uplift Our Youth Foundation and the Delta Township District Library.

Betty J. Sanford, MA, LMSW
Fundraising Committee - Chair

Betty Sanford’s career spans more than 5 decades some in community service counseling in a residential treatment center for girls in Nashville, Tennessee and organizing military families living on the economy in Kaiserslautern, Germany. She discovered early on in her professional career that in her service to others she the happiest. The transition from community service to education came in 1987 at Michigan State University (MSU). There Betty advised, mentored, taught a freshman seminar, and directed SUPER, a summer Bridge Program. During her 27 year tenure at MSU, she has touched the lives of hundreds of students, supported students studying abroad in New Delhi, India, published, and brought national recognition to the University.

Uplift Our Youth Foundation is an extension of her desire to help shape young people’s aspirations for scholarship and service and for productive leadership with global reach. Mrs. Sandford serve as mentor for FAME (Fostering Academic s, Mentoring Excellence) at MSU and is the founder of “Words have Power”. This group takes a critical look at the perception, depiction, definition, and portrayal of “black/dark” in our language and its implications affecting the self-concept of young people. Betty is happily married for 46 years with two sons.

Patrick Connally -
Executive Committee - Technology Committee

Patrick Connally, Ph.D., is a seasoned managing director with a robust 22-year background in service delivery and enterprise transformation across various industries. Adept at leading and communicating, Patrick excels in delivering project and program solutions that enhance global client value. His approach is deeply rooted in understanding stakeholder needs, applying metrics, and utilizing entrepreneurial strategies to foster innovative solutions.

Patrick is currently a Director of Digital Strategy and Services a CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. 

Earlier in his career, Patrick held impactful roles at global organizations including as the National Industry Director at Microsoft and Managing Consulting Director at Teradata. He also enjoyed a successful career at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Accenture.

In addition to his extensive professional experience, Patrick holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Development from Cabrini University, among other academic qualifications. His thought leadership includes several published articles on topics ranging from emerging technologies in leadership to agile project delivery strategies.

Patrick enjoys professional affiliation and certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI). He is a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Spencer J. Simmons, MBA -
Grants Committee

Spencer is originally from Kalamazoo, MI. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University in 2002, majoring in marketing, accounting,  and general business. In 2017, he completed his master’s degree in business administration from Davenport University. He is an Accounting Manager with the Office of Highway Safety Planning, a division within the Michigan Department of State Police. He has held this position for over four years and has been with this division for almost fifteen years. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated since March 2012. He personally enjoys reading, watching movies, spending time with family and friends, and traveling with his wife Kristen to new places.

Spencer is a strong advocate for helping to provide a positive influence to our youth. He believes if you’re successful in life; you have a duty to “Pay It Forward” for the next generation. Uplift Our Youth is built on service towards helping the positive development of our future leaders.

Dr. Jessie J. Storey-Fry - 
Events Committee

My name is Dr. Jessie J. Storey-Fry and I am a single mother and Lansing resident of over 40 years. I am a proud alumnus of Kellogg Community College, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education, English and Sociology, an M.A. in Reading Instruction and Curriculum Development, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration , Teacher Supervision and Curriculum Instruction. I am a retired East Lansing Public School Principal, Director of Elementary Education, and Central Office Administrator with over 40 years of teaching and educational administration experience in public schools, including Adjunct Professor at the M.S.U. College of Education. I was the first African American female Principal at Spartan Village and Red Cedar Elementary Schools and the first African American female Central Office Administrator in East Lansing, with over 25 years of administrative service. 

I have belonged to numerous civic and community organizations and boards. I am a Life member of Delta Tau Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. the Urban League and the NAACP. I am a member of the Elementary and Middle School Retirees Association of Michigan School Principals, and former member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society. I currently serve on the Board of Directors and the past Vice President for the Uplift Our Youth Foundation. One of the highlights of my professional career was the founding and development of the first Professional Development School in the State of Michigan and the country. This was a joint collaboration with the East Lansing Public Schools and the M.S.U. College of Teacher Education and the Taubman Foundation. After retirement, I was hired by the U.S. Department of Education to implement a special “Best Behavior”, and Student Conflict Resolution Program at Dwight Rich Middle School in Lansing, for three years. After that program ended, I was hired by the Lansing School District to tutor and mentor elementary and middle school principals to improve their building administrative skills and work with teachers.


I have received numerous awards and recognition including a nomination for the East Lansing Community Volunteer Crystal Award. As a volunteer over the years, I have worked at Lansing Christian Services, St Vincent Catholic Social Services, and the American Red Cross, as well as served on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was a former mentor for seven Katrina survivors sent to Lansing from Louisiana. Currently I am an active member of Trinity A.M.E. Church, where I am a member of the Mass Choir, the Public Relations Committee, the Stewardess Board, the Women’s Guild, the Women’s Missionary Society, the Trustee Board, the Kitchen Committee, the Laymen’s Organization and the Church Deaconess.

I have a passion for visiting nursing homes and home visitations to the sick and shut-in church members. I love reading, walking and working on my yard, making floral arrangements and spending time with family and friends. As part of my commitment to studying the Bible and developing my own spiritual growth, I have become a faithful member of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I enjoy helping others become successful in their lives and helping them improve their self-esteem and personal development.

I am the proud mother of one daughter, Dr. Falyne J. Fry, who currently resides in Los Angeles, California and is employed as a Board Certified Psychiatrist and Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine Clinic and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.

Keith Gentry

Events Committee

Octavis Long

Events Committee

Heather Taylor - 
Communication Committee - Technology Committee

Heather Taylor received an associate degree in Computer Programming and Microsoft Certified CNA. She has worked in the technology field all her professional career.  She served 13 years with State of Michigan as an Information Technology Analyst.  Ms. Taylor is currently employed by Ingham County District Court.  

Ms. Taylor is also the director of a local well-known community dance group called Worship Without Words, affectionately called WWW.  WWW is a liturgical community praise dance group that also has a cultural edge. WWW dance group derived from an earlier dance group developed by Ms. Taylor called the African Masquerade Dancers.  WWW services the community by performing high-spirited, heartwarming dances at festivals, weddings, graduations and many other events.  During the height of Covid-19 WWW answered the community call and created a dance project that catered to senior homes and nursing facilities.

Ms. Taylor is a lifelong community servant. She was appointed by Mayor Andy Schor to the Lansing Regional Sister City Commission and also the Lansing Housing Commission.  She serves as the Vice President of the Lansing Housing Commission. Heather is also a member of the Detroit Zeta Amicae Sorority where she serves as the Scholarship Committee Chairperson.

Fredrick Ford - 
Grants Committee

Fredric Ford is a retired manufacturing professional with an extensive, broad-based background of diversified responsibilities and accomplishments in the automotive industry. He has well established knowledge in business operations areas including information systems facilities management, production operations and public relations.

Ford has a well-established reputation within the General Motors Corporation (GMC) for getting tasks completed with high quality results and has demonstrated that he is a team builder with strong employee development skills. He has thirty (32) years of experience with GMC and has served at the plant level as a material shift leader; a superintendent of manufacturing engineering maintenance; production superintendent of body, trim, paint and chassis assembly; and was also a maintenance supervisor and coordinator of car assembly. He received the GM President’s Award for his outstanding leadership and dedication.

Ford received his Associate Degree at Lansing Community College (LCC) and a Bachelor of Administration Degree at Northwood University. He also completed his electrical apprenticeship (IBEW) at LCC and is licensed by the State of Michigan as a master electrician and an electrical contractor.

Mr. Ford is very active in his community as a deacon at Friendship House Of Prayer Baptist church and currently serves as the Past President of the Holt/South Lansing Rotary Club and prior to 2015 served on the Board of Education for Holt School District for 13 years. He has also served as junior and senior high football coach in both the Lansing and Holt School Districts and is a mentor and motivational speaker for children and youth in the Greater Lansing Area. Mr. Ford is currently employed by Lansing Community College in the Extension & Community Ed Department as a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Coach, Career Jump Start Career (Region 7) Liaison and Job Developer. Mr. Ford is a devoted brother of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Epsilon Tau Sigma Chapter, Lansing, Michigan

Jason Blank

Executive Committee

Patrick Connally

Executive Committee

Kevin Scott

Executive Committee

Bill Tansil - 
Grants Committee Chair

Bill Tansil is the Division Administrator in the Transportation Asset Management Support Division which primarily supports activities of the Statewide Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC).  The TAMC is comprised of professionals from county road commissions, cities, a county commissioner, a township official, regional and metropolitan planning organizations, and state transportation department personnel.  The Council reports directly to the State Transportation Commission.  Council members are appointed to 3-year terms.  The Department of Management and Budget is represented on the TAMC by the Center for Shared Solutions (CSS).  CSS is the central data storage agency of the Council and serves as a non-voting member.  The Council is also heavily supported by a contract with Michigan Tech University through a contract administered by the TAMC Support Division.  In addition to TAMC support, the Division is responsible for data analysis and management, report preparation, and grant application and management.

Mr. Tansil has over 30 years with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and worked in many areas, including multi-regional planning, non-motorized planning, data collection, and data monitoring.  Recent emphasis areas have included asset management, system management, system monitoring, data collection and analysis, and Geographic Information Systems.  Special areas include Project Manager for the Connected Vehicle Strategic Contract, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS),
non-pavement asset management, and central selection contract review.


Under the leadership of Mr. Tansil MDOT has been involved in the Pavement and Surface Evaluation Ratings (PASER).  PASER is a statewide program that includes the inventory and rating statewide of all publicly owned roads.   The PASER ratings are a key component of the governor’s dashboards and have been featured prominently in the discussions that led to improvements to the tax structure changes in Michigan in the funding formula to improve roads over the next decade.  Mr. Tansil has also been involved in important areas, such as the collection of highway traffic data to estimate the amount of person or vehicular travel, vehicle usage, and vehicle characteristics to meet the Federal Highway Administration’s requirements.   This information is used by MDOT to make design and planning decisions.


Mr. Tansil participates in various national committees or initiatives:

  • Planning Committee for the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) National Cooperative Highway Research Program on Asset Management Synthesis Project regarding the Service Life of Ancillary Transportation Infrastructure Assets.

  • TRB’s Panel on Transportation Applications of Restricted Use Technologies.

  • Pooled Fund Planning Committee for the National Conference on Asset Management.

  • Planning Committee for TRB’s Workshop on Research Needs for IntelliDrive (Intelligent Vehicle) Applications for the public sector.

  • Research Advisory Committee for ITS.

  • Project Manager for Evaluating Roadway Surface Technologies.

  • Bill Tansil is a graduate of Michigan State University in Urban Planning with post graduate work in Geography and Planning.

Brian Whitefield - 
Board Member

Brian Whitfield has been a Graphic Designer for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MOOT) for 25 years. A lifelong passion for painting, graphics design and Illustration, Brian graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Kendall School of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1985. He acquired a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, MD in 1991.

After returning to Michigan in 1992, Brian accepted a position at Alma College, Alma Michigan as Adjunct Instructor, teaching Advanced Illustration. In 1993 he taught painting at Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has served as Grant Panelist, and Visiting Critic for Alma College Senior Art Show, and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Brian has contributed to over 30 exhibitions of his artwork in the Lansing area, Detroit, Washington D.C., Baltimore Maryland, Chicago, Illinois, and London, England. He also has a permanent piece at Lansing Community College, Arts and Science Building entitled, “Mid-Night, Sunday Morning.” He exhibits yearly at the popular ArtPrize Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In 1988 Brian designed the national 75th Anniversary Logo for Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. He was commissioned in 1992 to produce 35 portraits of past National Presidents and Executive Directors of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., displayed at the headquarters in Chicago, Ill. During the last three years he has created several large murals in the mid-Michigan area.

Brian has received many awards for his work, highlighting a few are: 1984-Designer of the Ingham County Flag; 1991-The Basil H. Alkazzi Award (U.S.A.) a $5,000 Acquisition Award to an American Artist; 2006-Major Contributor in the design of the Michigan’s license Plate; 2013, Winner of the Design of Michigan’s newest plate, “The Mackinaw Bridge,” which was named the Best New Plate, Internationally, by the American License Plate Collectors Association. 2017 Arts Council of Greater Lansing Individual Artist Award.

Brian Whitfield

Board Member

Heather Taylor

Communications Committee

William Tansil

Grants Commitee

Jessie Storey-Fry

Events Committee

Dr. Nettavia D. Curry

Grants Committee

John Gardner

Finance Committee

Fred Ford

Grants Committee

Kevin Scott - 
Executive, Finance (Chair) Committee

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