Ashley Deckert is the Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs for the Illinois Collaboration on Youth. ICOY represents more than 100 community-based providers serving young people and their families with a mission to promote the safety, health, and success of Illinois’ children and act as a collective voice for policy and practice, and by connecting and strengthening the organizations that serve them. Prior to joining ICOY, Ashley was the Deputy Director of Child Services for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. As Deputy Director, she had the oversight and responsibility for four state-wide divisions: Residential Monitoring, Residential Recruitment, Foster Parent Recruitment, and Juvenile Delinquency and Restorative Justice. Ashley was with the Department for 13 years having served in various roles from direct service in the Intact Family Services Division, Supervisor in the Division of Child Protection, to various leadership roles within the Division of Licensing.
Ashley received both her undergraduate degree in Sociology and graduate degree in Social Work from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 2018, Ashley went back to graduate school to obtain a Master of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Chicago due to her desire to impact change at the legislative level.
Lastly, Ashley is a Chicago native, but has been a resident of Champaign, IL for over 20 years. She has a 14-year-old daughter and they both love to travel, eat at different restaurants, and are especially fond of boating season!
Brad McMillan is the Coordinator for the Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership program and has been teaching graduate and undergraduate leadership classes at Bradley University for the past 15 years. Brad has provided leadership for statewide and regional nonprofit organizations for over 25 years. Currently, he Co-Chairs CHANGE Illinois and serves on the Illinois Nature Conservancy Board. He has his Juris Doctorate from Southern Illinois School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University. Brad believes that “the Heart of Leadership is in the Heart of the Leader.”
Dr. Doris Houston
Dr. Doris Houston is the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Illinois State University (ISU) where she leads campus-wide efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). This role extends to university and community stakeholders and includes partnerships and engagements with students, faculty, alumni, civic leaders, and business leaders invested in educational access in higher education.
Prior to joining the Office of the President in 2020, Doris served for two years as Interim Director of the School of Social Work at Illinois State, and thirteen years as a Social Work faculty member. She is the founding faculty researcher for the School of Social Work’s “Illinois Permanency Enhancement” racial equity initiative, which began in 2007 as a partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She is the co-founder of First Star Academy at Illinois State, a college-readiness program for high school students receiving foster care services.
Prior to joining ISU in 2005, Doris served as an Outcome Evaluation Specialist at the Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) at the University of Illinois. She began her professional career as a Child Welfare Specialist and Adoption Specialist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, where she later held the position of Field Office Supervisor at the Urbana, Illinois field office. She received her masters and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in Human Development and Family Studies.
In 2020, Dr. Doris Houston was honored with the McLean County YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and in 2018, she was named recipient of the ISU David A. Strand Diversity Achievement Award.
While originally from Chicago, Doris has called Central Illinois her home for 25+ years. She serves on the Board of the McLean County Center for Human Services, the UIUC Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) External Advisory Committee, and the UIUC Student Affairs Advisory Council (SAAC). Doris is also a member of the McLean County NAACP, and the founder of the Illinois State University Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Leaders Circle.
Honorable Judge Ericka Sanders
Judge Ericka Sanders is an Associate Judge from Marion County, Illinois, appointed in 2010. Sanders presides over juvenile abuse, neglect, dependency, and delinquency cases, as well as problem solving courts, in multiple counties in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. She serves as the chair of the Fourth Circuit’s Juvenile Justice Council and is a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee for Juvenile Court. Judge Sanders was recipient of 2022 Illinois CASA Judge of the Year Award.
As president and CEO of The Community Foundation of Macon County, Natalie provides the vision and leadership for shaping the Foundation’s role as a civic leader, philanthropic partner, and charitable giving vehicle. She brings together a rich background in philanthropy, nonprofit administration, and public policy advocacy. Since taking the helm at CFMC, Natalie has championed efforts to increase local giving from CFMC donors and she believes in philanthropy’s unique ability to deliver “innovation capital” while leveraging partnerships. Under her leadership, the CFMC, which is among the eight largest Illinois community foundations for total giving and assets, has adopted a strategic focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
She believes our communities are strongest when all people can fully participate in our region's abundant opportunities and has focused on ensuring all Macon County residents experience real inclusion and access to opportunities. Her vision launched the CFMC's adult scholarship program which grants $50,000 a semester to adult non-traditional students. She has completed the twelve-week 6-course Equitable Community Change certificate program at Cornell University and is currently enrolled in the Kellogg School of Management's Beyond Diversity program at Northwestern University.
Natalie is an Illinois native and graduate of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where she received her Bachelors in Journalism and Masters of Science. She earned her Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) through The American College of Financial Services. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with 25 years of experience in not-for-profit management.
Locally, she serves on the boards of Decatur Memorial Hospital, The Ameren Energy Assistance Foundation and the Decatur Boys & Girls Club.
She lives in Decatur with her husband Matt, has three married daughters and 11 grandchildren.
2023 Illinois CASA Conference Emcee
Erika N. L. Harold is the Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. A dedicated advocate for civility, empathy, and inclusion, Erika leads the Commission’s extensive educational programming focused on advancing professionalism among the state’s lawyers and judges to build trust and confidence in the justice system.
Prior to joining the Commission, Erika was a commercial and civil litigation attorney at Meyer Capel, P.C. in Champaign, Illinois, where she represented clients at both the trial and appellate levels and advised clients on matters of statutory and constitutional interpretation.
Earlier in her career, Erika was a litigation attorney at the Chicago offices of Sidley Austin LLP and Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C., where she represented businesses in commercial disputes and advised religious institutions in matters involving First Amendment protections.
Erika is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she won a Boykin C. Wright Memorial Award for appellate advocacy in Harvard Law School’s prestigious Ames Moot Court Competition. She funded her legal education through the scholarships and appearance fees she earned as Miss America 2003. Ms. Harold has been active in Illinois politics, most recently running a statewide race for Attorney General.
Erika has taught students about the U.S. legal system as part of the Lawyers in the Classroom program, coached students in city-wide mock trial competitions, and served on the teaching faculty of Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop.
Erika is licensed to practice law in Illinois and the United States District Courts for the Northern and Central Districts of Illinois. She served on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality from 2015 to 2022 and was a Commissioner with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism from 2017 to 2022. Erika also served on the boards of directors of Prison Fellowship and Champaign County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
Erika is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Champaign County Bar Associations. She was selected to the 2017 Emerging Lawyers list, earning recognition in the categories of commercial litigation and civil rights/constitutional law.
Erika is a nationally recognized advocate of bullying prevention efforts and has spoken to more than 100,000 students about combating peer-to-peer harassment. In recognition of her advocacy, she was named one of Fight Crime, Invest in Kids’ “Champions for Children” and received a leadership award from the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Erika is a frequent speaker and panelist on topics including professionalism, civility, leadership, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and was a featured panelist at Fortune Magazine’s “Most Powerful Women, Next Gen” conference.
She received her A.B. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and as a Chancellor’s Scholar.