Our Team

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Kaitlyn Nykwest

Interim Executive Director

Kaitlyn Nykwest, HCEF’s Afterschool & Enrichment Director, works with educators and housing agency staff to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Kaitlyn is a K-6 certified teacher and has received the Be There Award from the United Way as well as the Linda A. Dickerson Award. Kaitlyn holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a certificate in Children’s Literature from the University of Pittsburgh. In her spare time she enjoys reading, exploring nature, photography, and filmmaking.

Miracle Collington


Education Support Coordinator

Miracle Collington joins HCEF as Education Support Coordinator. She will be working to help shape the Mobile Learning Program, in an effort to assist families not previously reached. Miracle received her Bachelor’s in Human Development & Family Studies with a minor in Spanish from The Pennsylvania State University. Her passion to assist and advocate for homeless children comes from her own personal system experience, and she is thrilled to be a part of this great cause. Miracle loves to help others and values education. This position is a perfect mix of the two.

Alizé Strickland

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Family Engagement Coordinator

Alizé graduated from Carlow University where she earned her Bachelor’s in Social Work to advocate for those facing adversity and help them uncover their own strengths and voices to make change. Earning her BSW has confirmed her passion to work with families and children to help them discover the tools they need in their toolbox to thrive and succeed as successful adults.

Alizé has always been a giver, in her personal life, in her community, in her church, and through her work. She is eager and looking forward to new opportunities where her time is best used helping others.


Chris McAneny

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Teen Program Manager

Chris McAneny studied philosophy at Penn State University and sustainable design at the Boston Architectural College. His work in the nonprofit sector has focused on family and student empowerment. He spends his free time volunteering and advocating for youth throughout Western PA and is inspired by today’s young leaders working to create a more peaceful world.

Patience Baker

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Teen Outreach Program Advocate

Patience Baker joins HCEF in the role of Teen Outreach Program Advocate. She will work closely with teens and young adults who are experiencing homelessness in order to remove the barriers they are navigating so that they can thrive in school and in life. Patience holds a BS in Mathematics from Fort Valley State University and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Waynesburg University. She brings with her to the Teen Outreach Program extensive experience working with teens and young adults and the belief that through education anything is possible.

She is happily married to her husband, Robert Baker Jr and together they have an amazing daughter, Selah Rose Baker who loves to sing and dance. In her free time, Patience enjoys reading, coaching youth basketball, and spending quality time with her friends and family.

Alex Jones

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Office Administrator

Alex Jones graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies, a minor in Sociology, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management. During her undergraduate career Alex was heavily involved in service, held the position of Resident Assistant for two years, and had the privilege of serving on the Student Civic Engagement Council. After graduating she worked at the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank as the Administrative Assistant and served as a Public Ally AmeriCorps Apprentice with Reading is Fundamental Pittsburgh.

MJ Meenen

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Director of Development

MJ Meenen develops strategies and programs to ensure that our mission is valued and supported financially. MJ earned a JD from American University, a BA from Allegheny College, and has many years working on behalf of inspiring nonprofits in three cities as a volunteer, board member, and staff member.  Outside of work, her favorite pastimes include travel, music, art, gardening, and volunteering for great causes.

Brian Knight

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Manager of Community Engagement

Brian Knight grew up on a farm in rural Virginia before coming to the big town to study at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating with a BA in English and Philosophy. Prior to joining HCEF, he taught English as a second language in Incheon, South Korea, worked in a small fundraising office in Pittsburgh, and briefly served as a corporate recruiter in Charlotte, NC.

As Manager of Community Engagement at HCEF, Brian recruits and trains volunteers for our programs, performs community outreach, and drives our policy/systems advocacy with the Executive Director. He is passionate about building educational and social systems that care for and meet the needs of all students, especially those who have been historically underserved. In his spare time, he likes to read, bike, hoard board games, and play music for his cats.