Jessica Paul Werner | Executive Director
Jessica Paul Werner has been dedicated to building the youth development field since she served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in Portland, Maine in 1999. After receiving her Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance in 2002, Jessica supported youth worker professional development and youth leadership programs at the YMCA of Greater Seattle for nine years. Jessica started as YDEKC’s Executive Director and first staff member in 2011. Jessica is a proud Seattle Public Schools graduate and now lives with her family in Shoreline, Washington.
Mona Grife | Social Emotional Learning Strategy Senior Manager
Mona joined the YDEKC team in November 2017. She has been in the youth development field since 2002 serving in a variety of roles as a teaching artist, service learning coordinator, program manager, and capacity builder. She has facilitated and managed youth leadership, service learning, and social emotional programs across Washington with organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Metrocenter YMCA, and United Way of King County. Most recently, she founded Creative Hearts Lab, pop-up workshops for young children that focus on SEL, literacy, and the arts. She enjoys building collaborative partnerships and finding creative ways to align efforts achieve ambitious outcomes. She is also a proud parent of two boys who exercise her SEL skills in ways she never imagined.
Sarah Terry | Research & Evaluation Manager
Sarah Terry came to YDEKC in 2013 after earning her Master of Public Administration at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. She previously worked as a research librarian at several colleges and universities and as a reference librarian for the New York Public Library. As such, she maintains an active interest in connecting people with usable information. Sarah is a Seattle Public Schools graduate and the proud parent of two current SPS students.
René Murry | Public Policy Manager
René Murry has been a direct service worker and advocate for children, youth, and families for over 30 years. She received her Masters in Counseling in 1982 from the University of North Dakota, was a Children’s Protective Services worker in North Carolina from 1984 to 1989, a Foster Parent Developer for the YMCA of Greater Seattle from 1989 to 1994 and a Children’s Legislative Advocate in Washington state from 1989 to Present. Her advocacy roles range from a parent and PTA officer in Seattle public schools to co-chairing the Public Policy Committee of the Children’s Alliance and Chairing the Children’s Campaign Fund. René is the mother of 2 daughters ages 20 and 25 who graduated from Seattle Public Schools and the spouse of a Physician-Scientist at the UW.
Anne Powell Arias | Project Manager
Anne Powell Arias has roots deeply embedded in youth development, starting as a volunteer at the YWCA Family Village in 1997. For more than a decade, she built and managed programs and teams for organizations including the YMCA of Greater Seattle and Good Shepherd Services in New York City. She is passionate about working with youth of all ages from a strengths-based perspective, creating innovative school-community partnerships and programs, and developing leadership within the field of youth development and education. In addition to being YDEKC’s Project Manager, Anne is a leadership consultant, trainer, and coach, serving primarily non-profits and educational institutions. She served as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs with the Coro New York Leadership Center and is a proud graduate of Occidental College.
Hikma Sherka | Policy & Communications Coordinator
Hikma Sherka is a college student passionate about elevating youth voice. She was born and raised in Ethiopia and moved to the United States in 2008. Motivated by her experience of seeing her mother discriminated against in the work place, she decided to pursue a career as a civil rights attorney after graduation. In her high school years, she got connected to the King County Youth Advisory Council and fell in love with the youth development field. She sits on multiple youth boards and was recently appointed to the King County Children and Youth Advisory Board (CYAB). After being the only young person in many spaces that claim to serve youth and young adults, Hikma aims to encourage spaces to center youth voice in the decision-making process.
Stephanie Markham | Database & Administrative Assistant
Stephanie Markham joined YDEKC's team shortly after graduating from the University of Washington School of Social Work in 2019. She is passionate about systems change. At the Community Alliance for Global Justice, she helped optimize their food justice work by designing new protocols for their database and tracking member engagement. She served at Canlis Restaurant for six years, where she voluntarily built databases from scratch to help the team function more highly. She volunteered as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and at ROOTS Youth Adult Shelter and is committed to improving systems that affect youth and children. Her experiences with foster care, adoption, and repeatedly changing schools motivate her to direct her energy toward helping build more supportive systems for youth.