Staff Directory

Staff Directory

Staff Directory


2425 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208
Office: 317-923-8111
Fax: 317-923-8112

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Leadership Team

Dennis E. Bland, Esq. (CLD ’82), President
BA, DePauw University | JD, Indiana University McKinney School of Law
Dennis leads the direction of and manages the operations of CLD to accomplish organizational goals and long-range strategies. His passion is driven by a concern for plight of African American youth and community.

Gail A. Bradford, CPA,  Accounting and Human Resources
BS, University of Arizona
Gail helps insure that CLD is an excellent steward of all financial assets. She prepares financial reports and assists in budget preparation, grant proposals and reports. She also provides human resources support for CLD staff.

April Ervin (CLD ’86), Senior Manager of Development
BS, Northwestern University | MBA, University of Michigan
April oversees the Development team and is responsible for supporting the long-term financial sustainability of the organization. With over 20 years of experience, she is committed to leveraging her background to ensure CLD continues to thrive as one of the most preeminent centers in the nation dedicated to transforming the lives of minority youth. As a CLD Alumna, April has a personal passion for helping all children receive the highest quality education and opportunities she believes were afforded to her. April’s team includes the areas of grant writing, alumni and community relations, fund raising and marketing.

Whitney Johnson, Senior Manager of Programs
BA, Penn State University
Whitney oversees CLD programs and initiatives. She comes to the organization with great passion and experience from Baltimore schools and youth serving agencies. Whitney leads the Programs Team in achieving the ultimate goal of creating and delivering quality curriculum that empowers youth. Whitney’s team includes the areas of program coordination, administration, evaluation, recruitment, and data management.

Carolyn Ladd, Office Manager
BS, Martin University | MBA, Indiana Wesleyan University
Carolyn organizes and coordinates office operations and procedures in order to ensure organizational efficiency and effectiveness. She is the Administrative Assistant to the President. Carolyn is the mother of a CLD Alum.


College Prep Institute Team Members

Joni Clark, Program Coordinator
BA, Wilberforce University | M.Div. Interdenominational Theological Center | PhD, Indiana University
Joni is responsible for planning, organizing and implementing CLD’s Business Orientation Project, SAT Prep, and Success Prep programs. Committed to empowering minority students to enter higher education prepared, Joni also assists in several one-day opportunities including the College Prep Institute Workshop Series and Lilly Summer Experience.

Karen Bledsoe, Reading Specialist

Jordan Finch, Math Tutor

Essence Hibbler, Program Assistant
Essence serves as administrative support and assists in the effective planning, coordination, delivery and evaluation of the following CLD programs: Business Orientation Project (BOP), Rawls Scholars Medicine Initiative, Success Prep, SAT Prep, and Emerging Scholars. Although Essence did not participate in any CLD programs as a youth, she has a passion for helping young people discover their life purpose and is excited to help further the CLD mission.

Lena Hill (CLD ’99), Assistant Director
BS, Indiana Tech
Lena supports the CPI team in fulfilling the CLD mission to prepare African American youth and parents for academic, college and career achievement. Lena is passionate about providing college readiness resources to all families, especially underrepresented populations. Additionally, Lena assists in designing initiatives to increase knowledge and access to academic requirements and career pathways.

Shelley Jackson, College Success Coordinator
BS, Northern Michigan University | MA, Ball State University
As the College Success Coordinator, Shelley works with CLD Alumni to help advance their college success and completion. Previously working in higher education, Shelley collaborates with collegiate staff and community partners to identify resources that maximize student achievement. Additionally, Shelley is responsible for planning, organizing and implementing CLD’s college success programs: Emerging Scholars, College Prep, College Goal Sunday, and all internship/job shadowing programs.

Aaron Marshall, English Tutor

Aaron Parker, Math Tutor

Shirley Smith, Receptionist


Development Team Members

Ronald Brown, Development Manager
Ron plans, organizes, and manages the major development events and is the lead CLD grant writer. Ron is directly responsible for the awards granted at the Minority Achievers Awards and Scholarship Gala and is in his 21st year at the Center for Leadership Development. His interest and passion come from a desire to see African American youth succeed at unsurpassed levels to affect change in their lives, their family’s lives and the life of their communities.

Kayla Plummer (CLD ’12), Development Associate
As the Development Associate, Kayla provides primary support for all development related activities and team members with an emphasis on donor management, grant research, establishing community partnerships and data entry. Kayla is passionate about holistic youth development and is a proud CLD Alumni. She is currently in her final semester at the Lilly School of Philanthropy.

Kelsey Taylor, Development and Marketing Coordinator
BS, Indiana University 
Serving as the Development and Marketing Coordinator, Kelsey coordinates event-related development activities and opportunities with an emphasis on donor retention and engagement, grant research, sponsorship solicitation, reporting, collateral creation and marketing. Kelsey’s fundraising expertise and visual communications background are pivotal in supporting her passion of youth development.


Programs Team Members

Jeanette Caston, Receptionist
With over 20 years of customer service experience, Jeanette services CLD guests via phone and/or face to face inquiries. She provides general information regarding the organization to customers and assists in general administrative and clerical support.

Rahja Ford, (CLD ’12)Program Assistant
Rahja serves as administrative support and assists in the effective planning, coordination, delivery and evaluation of the following CLD programs: Precious Miss, Self-Discovery/Career Exploration Project and Role Model/Advisor Experience. Having participated in several CLD programs, including CLD’s flagship SD/CE, Precious Miss, Success Prep and College Prep, Rahja appreciates what CLD has to encourage youth in the community. Rahja has a passion for helping the young people she serves find happiness and success.

Jonathan Jones (CLD ’00), Program Coordinator
BS, Indiana University
Jonathan is responsible for planning, organizing and implementing the following CLD programs: Business Orientation Project, Imani Book Club, Jr. Self-Discovery and Project MR. His passion for youth development throughout our community aids him in creating quality initiatives.

Deborah Ross, Manager of Program Evaluations and Administration
BS, Indiana University
Deborah manages the coordination and delivery of all administrative program functions for efficient planning, delivery and data management of all programs. Prior to joining the CLD team, Deborah and her husband volunteered for the organization. They are proud parents of 3 CLD Alumni.

Erika Smith (CLD ’99), Database Coordinator
Erika oversees, maintains and improves CLD’s data collection, tracking and reporting process to enable the organization to identify access, evaluate and accurately report on the performance and outcomes of CLD programs and Fund Development efforts. She also provides assistance to the Development department in identifying and maintaining CLD’s Alumni and donor base.

Gabrielle White (CLD ’11), Recruitment Associate
BA, Purdue University
Serving as the Recruitment Associate, Gabrielle builds awareness of CLD throughout the Greater Indianapolis area with the goal to enroll more parents and students in CLD programs, initiatives and services. Gabrielle brings higher education and student affairs recruitment experience from many colleges and universities, including her alma mater Purdue University, and has a passion for making college acceptance and successful matriculation attainable for all.


Meet our Licensed Guidance Counselors!

Linda Bingham (Ms. B)
BA, Indiana University | MA, Butler University
“Teaching is my passion! I knew at an early age that I wanted to be an educator. I taught for 7 years with Indianapolis Public Schools’ Crispus Attucks and Northwest High Schools. I was a school counselor for 21 years in Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township Lawrence North, and McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology. I retired from Lawrence in June 2013 after 28 years as an educator. I had the pleasure of becoming a Licensed Guidance Counselor for the Center for Leadership Development in February 2013 and it feels as though I am living my dream!”
Ms. B specializes in: exceptional learners, organization and time management, study skills and habits and career counseling. 

Magdalene Gates (Nita)
BS, Indiana State University | MS, Indiana State University
As a CLD guidance counselor within the College Prep Institute (CPI), Nita provides academic, career and college counseling services for students and their parent and/or mentor. With more than 8 years of experience, Nita’s passion is helping families with testing and finding scholarships and affordable institutions. She is currently a high school counselor in Washington Township.
Nita specializes in: high school preparation, college preparation, college readiness, test preparation, scholarship research, diploma types, test anxiety and college searches.

Jeffrey Johnson
BA, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma  | MA, Indiana University | MS, Butler University
“From the age of 10 I always wanted to work in schools! For 24 years I have taught history and English in grades 7 through college. I returned to school myself when my daughter entered college, and I earned a M.S. in School Counseling in 2014 after doing my internship at CLD. I was immediately impressed by CLD’s caring staff and their commitment to excellence. In addition to my work here, I currently teach high school history, and I also work as a K-8th grade counselor for Horizons, a summer academic program for at-risk students in Indianapolis.”
Jeffrey specializes in: study skills, time management, success in the classroom, college preparation, growth mindset, college and scholarship searches and application essays.