Program Team

NLDP Program Staff

NLDP and its companion program the Community Development Corporation Leadership Program (CDCLP, more information here) are designed to enhance the leadership capacity of two distinct cohorts of Cleveland citizens, engaged community leaders working in the City’s neighborhoods and leaders in community development corporations. The NLDP team helps support these leaders throughout their journey in the program.

Damien Ware, Cohort V
Photo by Lisa De Jong

Program Director

Michael R.


Michael R. White

Program Director

Michael R. White is the Senior Policy Advisor and Program Director for The Neighborhood Leadership Development Program (NLDP) and The Community Development Corporation Leadership Program (CDCLP). Prior to joining the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation Michael was the Mayor of the City of Cleveland for twelve years and before that held two other elected public offices, Ohio State Senator and Cleveland City Councilman. Michael graduated from The Ohio State University with a BA in Education and a MA in Public Administration. He and his wife reside in Newcomerstown Ohio where they own a farm.

Program Administrator



Sandra Kluk

Program Administrator

Sandra is a native of Cleveland and has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Cleveland State University. Her work has mainly focused on directing and managing youth programs and social change organizations. She started her career in the Buckeye-Woodland neighborhood of Cleveland as a community organizer. There, she developed community networks and strategies on issues of housing, banking investment, affordable insurance, crime and community development. Later, Sandra turned her attention to youth advocacy and assisted in the creation and management of a career and GED preparation training academy for out-of-school disadvantaged youth. Her most recent work was as Director of Special Projects for a foreclosure prevention counseling agency.

assistant Program Director, CDCLP



Jillian Svala

Assistant Program Director

Jillian realized a passion for a career in social service after graduating from Penn State University. Jillian then moved to Cleveland Ohio to pursue her Master’s in Social Science Administration at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. She began her career with the former Cuyahoga County Board of County Commissioners as a program officer over school-based programming. This led her to an opportunity to serve as the Managing Director with the Council of Neighborhood Leaders, a membership coalition of 14 Cleveland-based not for profit organizations and Settlement Houses, all dedicated to transforming the lives of individuals and families by offering informal supports within the neighborhood of residence for each recipient. More recently, Jillian worked with City Year as the Chief of Staff for the Cleveland site. She currently lives in Avon Lake with her husband, two children and two dogs.

assistant Program Director, NLDP



Julia Ferra

Assistant Program Director

Julia realized her love for volunteering and helping others at two crucial points in her life – first, at the age of 8 when she began helping at a soup kitchen on Cleveland’s west side and later, while in college, when she traveled to New Mexico to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity for a week over spring break. Julia grew up in the Greater Cleveland area and has always had a passion for seeing Cleveland thrive. She is a graduate of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies with a minor in Sustainable Urban Development. Following graduation, she moved to San Francisco to serve as a member in the AmeriCorps VISTA program at a nonprofit serving those experiencing homelessness in the city. Julia currently serves on the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op’s Board of Directors and chairs the board’s Volunteer Committee.

graduate support manager



Marcia Shepherd

Graduate Support Manager

Marcia has spent the last 15 years empowering parents and students and educating them on the policies and procedures of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She is willing, able, and ready to help anyone in need. Marcia has a passion for breaking barriers for parents/students, with the focus on the significant role attendance has on a quality education. She campaigned for parents to get their students to school on time, ready to learn each day. A quote commonly used by Marcia is “children can’t learn if they are not present,” which is why her daughter has perfect attendance at Warner Girls Leadership Academy. As an employee of CMSD since 2007, Marcia has held a variety of positions that have added rich value to her beliefs and have provided insight to the needs of her students. This passion grew and Marcia began to use resources to connect nonprofit organizations with schools to help support and contribute to student and community success. Marcia lives by the mantra “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice."

Executive assistant



Shy'aira Davis

Executive Assistant

Nichole Woods is a lifelong Clevelander who seeks to establish relationships that benefit her community. Nichole’s experience in customer service, teaching, and training and development has allowed her to positively impact organizations that she serves. Before joining NLDP/CDCLP as Executive Assistant, Nichole taught fifth through eighth grade students at Brilliance School in Garfield Heights, Ohio where she primarily taught English and Science classes. She also contracts with the National Basketball Association (NBA) for their annual All-Star Weekend.