Staff Bios

Ohio Office

Tracy Nájera, Executive Director
(614) 221-2244 x 203
tnajera@childrensdefense.org

Tracy has committed her professional career to improving the lives of children and their families. Tracy comes to CDF most recently as a Senior Consultant for Education First Consulting where she supported school districts and education partners to improve education outcomes for children. Previously, Tracy spent six years as a Senior Director of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative at Battelle for Kids where her responsibilities included managing a $54 million federal project with the state of Ohio to improve the efficacy of teachers serving students in Appalachian Ohio. Additionally, she spent eight years at the State Office of Budget and Management a majority of which she served as the Section Chief for Education under three Governors. Earlier in her career, Tracy was an Education Policy Analyst with KidsOhio.org where she worked with public school systems to close the achievement gaps in urban education settings. And, notably, launched her career with CDF-Ohio as a Research Fellow. Tracy holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Masters in Public Administration and a Doctor of Philosophy all from The Ohio State University. Tracy was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised near Dayton, Ohio.

Pam Kreber, Associate Director, Operations & Fundraising
(614) 221-2244 x 201
pkreber@childrensdefense.org

Pam joined CDF–Ohio in July 2013 and brings a diverse background in administration, finance, event management and development. Most recently, Pam served as Director of Finance and Operations for the Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. Her background includes work for the Ohio Department of Development’s International Trade Division, and marketing roles at Ernst & Young. Pam co-founded an event management company, whose clients included Nationwide Children’s Hospital, McGraw-Hill Publishing, and First Night Columbus. Pam is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration majoring in International Business and Marketing. She serves as a trainer with the Youth Education for Safety program in schools.

Ashon McKenzie, Policy Director
(614) 221-2244 x 204
amckenzie@childrensdefense.org

Ashon McKenzie serves as our Policy Director. Most recently, Ashon joins us from the Ohio Legislature where he worked as a policy lead on health, civil and criminal justice, and state and local government issues. Prior to his work in the Ohio Statehouse, he was an Assistant Attorney General in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. In this position, he sought justice for children and schools litigating educator conduct matters on behalf of the Ohio Department of Education.  He also worked on criminal justice matters. Ashon received his J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Currently, Ashon serves on the Board of Directors for IMPACT Community Action. Ashon was a United Way of Central Ohio 2015 African American Leadership Academy Fellow. Ashon and his wife, Jennifer, reside in Columbus with their two children.

Nikki Thomas, Project Manager for Research & Data
(614) 221-2244 x 207
nthomas@childrensdefense.org

Nikki Thomas serves as the Project Manager for Research and Data. She has a PhD in public policy and management and a Masters degree in mathematics from The Ohio State University, and a Bachelors degree in mathematics and philosophy from Boston University. Her research has focused on the sources of government decisions that unequally affect children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She has published in peer reviewed journals and implemented research grants from the National Science Foundation and local government agencies. She recently did research for Project Comprehensive Equity at Ohio State and the Ohio Education Research Center. She received a research award from the American Society of Public Administration and a teaching award at The Ohio State University.

Jessica Haywood, Program Coordinator
(614) 221-2244 x 200
jhaywood@childrensdefense.org

Jessica serves as CDF-Ohio's Program Coordinator. Prior to joining our team, Jessica spent four years building community and client relationships for a Columbus area nonprofit organization focused on the health of infants and mothers.  Jessica was responsible for coordinating and growing community events and development campaigns with large scale organizations.  She also worked closely with families, volunteers, and local businesses.  Jessica has experience in fundraising campaigns, event logistics, donor management, marketing, and volunteer coordination. Jessica brings to us her years of nonprofit experience and a passion for improving the health of children and families. Jessica holds an AAS degree in Business and Marketing.