Heather Goodlett, Executive Director
Heather Brown Goodlett graduated from the University of Richmond in 1994 with a B.A. in Speech and Communications and an elementary teacher’s certificate in Early Childhood Education. After teaching for 4 years, she earned a Masters of Education in Reading from Virginia Commonwealth University in May of 2000. Heather began teaching at Glen Lea Elementary School in the fall of 2000 where she was a Title One-Reading teacher and yearned for real change in the futures of her students. In 2000, Mrs. Goodlett became aware of the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation (DGYLF) and Learning Centers in Washington, D.C. She soon began the process of fact-finding, researching, and relationship building, and in late 2001 attended a National Training Institute for DGYLF to begin launching an affiliate program in Richmond. By September 2002, the quest to establish the organization soon became a full-time position. She resigned from her position with Henrico County Public Schools and began the search for a building in the neighborhoods around Glen Lea Elementary School. The Youth Life Learning Center of Richmond officially began in Delmont Plaza Apartments, a subsidized housing community, in July 2003. Today she continues to invest in the Northside, now her own neighborhood, as Executive Director over YLFR and its four LCs.
Katharine Torres, Director of Operations
Katharine started as the kindergarten-second grade teacher at the Delmont LC in 2007 after receiving a B.S. and teaching certification in Early Childhood Education from James Madison University in 2006. The children and families of YLFR captured her heart and she was immediately hooked by Youth Life’s commitment to long-term investment through relationships. After six years at Delmont, Katharine moved up with her students who had graduated out of elementary school to start the LC Remix program for middle and high schoolers in 2013. She is thankful for the opportunities she has had to grow as the organization and the students have grown.
Leahna Sullivan, Program Director, Northminster LC
Leahna has been at the Highland Park LC since its inception in 2008. Her purpose is to work with kids to see them reach their potential and live the life that Christ has secured for them. Youth Life is the perfect fit for her passions; Jesus and kids. She enjoys music of all kinds, morning glories, the color purple, and resting in the embrace of God’s great grace. She lives in the Highland Park community that she loves.
Amber Smith, Program Director, Delmont LC
Amber taught in a public school classroom for 3 1/2 years but always felt there was a relational and Biblical aspect missing. Many of her former students needed individual attention for both academic and emotional needs that she wasn’t always able to provide because of the number of students in her class and the non-stop daily demands of a classroom teacher. As a Youth Life teacher, she is able to give her students the extra support they need to succeed academically and the individual attention they long for to feel known and loved. She also loves the fact that the Delmont LC is surrounded by the apartments of the families they work with, which provides the opportunity to work not only with students, but also their families. The most important reason she chose to work with Youth Life is that she gets to share the gospel with each of my students on a daily basis and teach them about the love and grace Jesus has for them. They may not all have a present earthly father but they do have a Heavenly Father that loves them unconditionally and that will never leave them.
Haley Pavie, Lead Teacher, Northminster LC
Haley moved to Richmond in 2016 and attended Randolph-Macon College, where she earned her Bachelors in Psychology with certificates in Elementary and Special Education. For the past two years, she has served as a reading intervention teacher in Hanover County, where she fostered a love for helping children unlock the gift of reading. She believes literacy is a social justice issue and her goal is to bring awareness to these issues and to try to bridge the gap between awareness and action. Haley is passionate about making sure that all children feel seen, heard, and loved, and she is excited to build lasting relationships with her students through Youth Life.
Maggie Cusumano, Community Engagement Coordinator
Maggie graduated from Elon University in 2016 with a bachelor’s in English and Professional Writing and moved to Richmond shortly thereafter. Through working with neighborhood kids in Richmond’s East End during a year-long program, Maggie realized the Lord had given her a passion for serving youth and teaching them about Jesus. She worked as a teacher for four years at Youth Life’s Delmont Learning Center and has recently transitioned into an administrative role where she can use her writing and communication skills while still furthering the mission of Youth Life. In addition to kids and Jesus, Maggie also loves writing fiction, building things, and gardening−basically anything where she gets to be creative. She believes that God has called every one of his people to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
Jackie Jiménez, Program Director, Southwood LC
Jackie became a Spanish teacher to bring together her passions for teaching and the Spanish language. She was a student teacher during her freshman year of college, which ignited her love for teaching children. As a native speaker (being of Cuban decent), Jackie has always had a love for the Spanish language, its rich history, and its people. She is thrilled to be able to bring her gifts to Youth Life and is very grateful to God for opening this door. “I’m so excited to work with the Spanish-speaking community in Richmond and share God’s love for us. What a privilege.” When she is not teaching, Jackie spends as much time as possible with her husband of 28 years and her three adult daughters.
Brianna Jiménez, Teacher, Southwood LC
Brianna moved to the Richmond area with her family as a child and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. She worked in communications for three years and spent time volunteering at a local non-profit focusing on the Latino and Spanish-speaking community. With her passion for that community, Brianna started mentoring at the Southwood Learning Center when it opened in 2017 and joined the staff in October of 2018. Her prayer is that students will see their God-given worth and capacity for greatness in all that they do.
Kayla Wyche, Program Staff
Kayla is a 2020 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology. She wants to pursue her passion and fulfill God’s purpose for her in the counseling field. Some of her hobbies include reading, shopping, and watching shows on Netflix. Her favorite Bible verse is John 16:33, “In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”