Leadership Team

Kate Warren Barnes

Kate Warren Barnes / Vice President of Policy and Government Relations

Kate spearheads Jumpstart’s policy advocacy activities. Kate and the policy and government affairs (PGR) team, work to advance Jumpstart’s advocacy agenda in early education, higher education, and national service. The PGR team leverages strategic relationship and movement building with policymakers, partner organizations, Jumpstart alumni and impacted constituencies to address the challenges we are facing in the early care and education sector and workforce.

Kate is a social worker and a relentless champion for social justice who has worked to build a more equitable world using policy advocacy to dismantle systemic oppression. For over a decade, Kate has utilized roles in government affairs combined with an inclusive leadership style, to promote movement building in community with children and families to improve health and wellbeing. Examples of this include Kate’s service in policy and government affairs roles at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital, the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter, and Harbor Health Services.

In service to her community, Kate also serves as a licensed foster care provider and volunteers on several nonprofit board including the American Civil Liberties Union Massachusetts, and Project Bread, a statewide nonprofit working to solve and prevent hunger in Massachusetts.

As a curious lifelong learner and believer that education is a form of liberation, Kate serves as an adjunct professor at Boston University’s Graduate School of Social Work and is a doctoral student at the Sacred Heart University School of Social Work.

Kate strives to balance work, academics and community service by finding joy in soul care that includes exploring different health and wellness practices, traveling, vegan baking and cheering on the New England Patriots.

Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra

Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra / Vice President, Marketing, Communications & Brand

Zuhirah is a strategic communications leader with experience at national and international nonprofit and mission-driven organizations.  She comes to Jumpstart from UNICEF USA where for four years she led multi-channel and digitally-led brand campaigns to increase support for UNICEF’s global humanitarian work in the United States. Her proven expertise in brand, integrated campaigns, digital marketing, social media, media relations, partnerships, entertainment marketing, and award-winning content development has driven transformational impact, narrative change, and organizational growth over the course of her career. Zuhirah began her career in the music industry transfixed by the growing influence of Hip-Hop culture in the mid-1990’s and what it could do to lift the voices of underserved and marginalized communities. After graduating college, Zuhirah’s first job was as a tour publicist for The Roots at Geffen Records. She says this is where she earned her media and communications stripes and where she learned how to craft a narrative and tell a story, uplifting hidden narratives and eventually becoming publicist for Jay-Z as well as Ja Rule, Method Man, Redman, De La Soul, and DMX, among others. Zuhirah was also part of the team that revived a bankrupt Converse brand leading to a sale to Nike and 2400% return for investors before turning to nonprofit communications through a consultancy with the historic civil rights organization, the National Urban League. During what turned into an 8-year tenure at the National Urban League, Zuhirah led and provided strategic direction and management of the organization’s integrated brand marketing and communications initiatives and multi-city events including: Put Our Children 1st education advocacy program with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as managing the Leagues’ marketing of the first ever Red Nose Day in the United States. Zuhirah has lived in New York City, Bermuda, Tanzania, and The Netherlands where she received an MA in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam. Zuhirah also holds a BA in Economics from Barnard College, Columbia University. Zuhirah currently resides in New York’s Upper Hudson Valley with her husband and two daughters and sits on the boards of Oceans First Institute and the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators where she is the Board Chair. 
Ashley C. Williams

Ashley C. Williams / Vice President of Programs

Ashley C. Williams, Ed.D. is the Vice President of Programs where she leads the organization’s workforce strategy to expand the pipeline of qualified, diverse talent pursuing careers in early education. Dr. Williams lends decades of experience to her role as her work over the years is situated in the nexus of early learning, family engagement, higher education, and policy with a specific focus on early educators. She has worked in several roles in early care and education, including serving as a Jumpstart Corps Member and team leader where she started her ECE journey. She continued on to become a preschool teacher, Head Start center director, and early childhood teacher educator at the undergraduate and master’s levels at SF State. She is the former Associate Director of EDvance and served as the Senior Quality and Workforce Analyst for the San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education. Prior to returning to Jumpstart as a part of the organization’s leadership team, Dr. Williams was the Director of California Policy and Educator Engagement Programs for the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. Her professional work extends internationally as she co-led a study abroad service-learning program in ECE settings in South Africa and New Zealand. Dr. Williams is also a Policy Fellow at the National Black Child Development Institute. Overall, Dr. Williams’ daily work is rooted in contributing to early learning systems in ways that explicitly reveal, dissolve, and resolve systemic inequities that cause harm to children, families, and the educators that work with them- especially when they are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Dr. Williams earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership at SF State where she also earned her B.A. in Child and Adolescent Development and an M.A.Ed. with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education.
Jessica Lazzara

Jessica Lazzara / Vice President of Education & Research

Jess joined the staff at Jumpstart in 2000, but her Jumpstart journey began prior to that. While attending Wheelock College, she saw a yellow flyer for Jumpstart on a bulletin board and immediately knew she wanted to be a part of this work. She joined Jumpstart as a college student volunteer and, eventually, a team leader serving at Head Start classrooms in Boston for three years. Jess has held many roles at Jumpstart. She also worked as field staff, directly recruiting, training, and coaching college students in Boston. She then moved into a regional program director role, where her focus was on supporting staff in the field. She also successfully grew Jumpstart’s impact in Boston through various partnerships and innovations. For the last 14 years, Jess has been a part of the national education and research team, landing in her current role as vice president in 2012. In this role, Jess is dedicated to using research, best practices, and field feedback to inform Jumpstart’s current and future programming. She loves working with others to conceptualize and develop new and innovative models. Jess lives in Woburn, Massachusetts with her husband and young son.

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