Degale Cooper, MSW, (She/Her/Hers)
CEO & President

Picture of Degale smiling
Photo credit: Erin McKinney

Degale Cooper joined YouthCare as the Chief Program Officer in June 2018. Her thirty-year professional history in the non-profit sector includes an array of direct clinical services, program development and implementation, international consulting on issues of child welfare, and executive-level experiences within organizations dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women, improving foster care systems, and eliminating experiences of homelessness for youth, young adults, and families. She has held leadership positions at The Mockingbird Society, The YWCA, Treehouse, and Youth Eastside Services.

Degale received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Washington, B.A. in Psychology from Seattle Pacific University, and clinical supervision certification from the University of Washington. With over fourteen years as a foster parent, Degale passionately engages in her community as a mentor and support for children, youth, and families. In her free time, Degale enjoys fishing and squid jigging, camping, designing great food, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

Suzanne Sullivan, (She/Her/Hers)
Chief Advancement Officer

Suzanne believes homelessness is an experience and not the reflection of one’s character. She has 25 years of fund development and communication experience, serving in leadership positions at various social service-focused nonprofits including Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, Compass Housing Alliance, Teen Feed, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound. Throughout her career, Suzanne has been committed to helping youth, individuals, and families experiencing homelessness achieve stability.

Suzanne hails from New York and studied at Parson School of Design. She has been involved with the Human Rights Campaign from 2016, serving on HRC’s National Board of Governors and Seattle Steering Committee. In her free time, Suzanne is an visual artist and loves to cook.

Emma York-Jones, (She/Her/Hers)
Chief Program & Impact Officer

Emma is driven by the principle that everyone deserves a safe and warm place to call home, and she believes that through data informed work and performance improvement, housing equity can be achieved. Emma began her career with YouthCare in 2009, providing direct service to youth and young adults in housing programs. Since then, Emma has held various leadership roles, overseeing YouthCare’s Young Adult and Adolescent Housing Departments and the agency’s performance and quality improvement efforts, respectively. She has also led YouthCare’s capacity building Project EQTY and has presented nationally on topics related to serving LGBTQ homeless youth and adolescents transitioning to independence. Prior to launching a career at YouthCare, Emma was a health education volunteer in the United States Peace Corps in Tanzania.

Emma, originally from North Carolina and a graduate from Roanoke College, moved to Seattle in 2008. Today, Emma and her wife are raising two boys, who in their free time enjoy camping, hiking, traveling, coaching youth sports, and cheering for local soccer teams and the US Women’s National Team. As a family, they have had the opportunity to attend two World Cup Championships and look forward to many more!

Merica Whitehall, (She/Her/Hers)
Interim Chief Operating Officer

Merica Whitehall brings over 25 years of experience empowering teams, strengthening organizational operations, improving financial performance, planning infrastructure reinvestment, and developing and implementing long-term strategy. In addition to a broad range of experience, Merica brings a commitment to social justice, and has shown this commitment through various Executive Director roles in which she has championed the integration of DEIJ into organizational values, culture, and operations.

Prior to her role as YouthCare’s Interim COO, Merica served as the Executive Director of Fontenelle Forest at which she spearheaded the creation of a 20-year master plan and completed development of new revenue streams, capital projects, and acquisitions. Before leading Fontenelle Forest, Merica was the Executive Director of the Nature Consortium in West Seattle leading a team that engaged over 3,000 volunteers annually.

Merica earned an Executive Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Leadership from Seattle University where she then taught frameworks for community engagement as a faculty member. While serving at Seattle U, she also led the Treehouse Tutoring Corps providing academic support and mentorship to youth in foster care.

Merica is a skilled consultant whose clients include the Seattle Community Law Center, the Seattle Police Department, ArtsWA, STG’s Paramount Theater, Seattle Center Festal Cultural Festival Series, and SouthEast Effective Development. She volunteers her time as she serves as a member of the Association of Nature Center Administrators’ DEI Committee to advance DEI nationally.


Allison Barber, (She/Her/Hers) | Associate Director of Benefits & Compliance

Audra Laymon, (She/Her/Hers) | Senior Director of Workforce Development & Engagement

Brandin Tolbert (He/His/They/Them) | Associate Director of Community Based Housing

Danee Smith, (She/Her/Hers) | Director of Adolescent Services

Debbie Adams, (She/Her/Hers) | Associate Director of Transitional Housing

Eric Sysak, (He/Him/His) | Information Technology Director

Erin Chapman-Smith, (She/Her/Hers) | Senior Director of Housing

Jessie Friedmann, (She/Her/Hers) | Director of Public Policy

Jose Pizarro, (He/Him, EI) | Associate Director of South Seattle Youth Center

Kevin Parker, (He/Him, His) | Community Campaign Director

Mariam Abarientos, (She/Her/Hers) | Senior Director of Finance

Megan Davies, (She/Her/Hers) | Director of Evaluation & Impact

Melanie Hetherington Mayo (She/Her/Hers) | Director of Strategy & Integration

Randi Eseltine, (She/Her/Hers) | Director of Community Engagement

Randy Corradine, (He/Him/His) | Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Rebecca LaNasa, (She/Her/Hers) | Director of The Orion Center

Sara Berner, (She/Her/Hers) | Associate Director – Adolescent Housing Services

Tashina Kreilick, (She/Her/Hers) | Director of Development

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