Carol Burnett


Executive Director

Jearlean OSBORNE

Director of Child Care Matters


Director of Healthy Centers/Healthy Kids
Cassandra Welchlin

Cassandra WELCHLIN

Director of MS Women's Economic Security Initiative
Matt Williams


Director of Research

Pamela BERRY

Director of Communications
Roberta Avila

Roberta Avila

Child Care Leadership Organizer

Carol Burnett, Executive Director


Carol is the founder and executive director of the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative. She also serves as the executive director of Moore Community House, a nonprofit community center providing affordable child care and job training in nontraditional occupations for low-income single mothers in East Biloxi. Carol served as director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services Office of Children and Youth, where she administered Mississippi's federally funded child care subsidy programs. During her tenure, Mississippi used more federal funds for child care than any year before or since. Carol was a delegate to the 2015 United National Commission on the Status of Women, she attended the White House Summit on Working Families, and she serves as a Center for American Progress Fair and Reproductive Justice Leader. She is the recipient of the Ms. Foundation Gloria Award, Outstanding Woman of the Gulf Coast Award, the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference Founder's Award, and the MS State NAACP Vernon Dahmer award. Carol is an ordained United Methodist minister in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church (one of the first women in MS to be ordained) and has a Masters Degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY.


Jearlean Osborne, Director of Child Care Matters


Jearlean Osborne is a community organizer for the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative. She has organized community groups for more than twenty years, helping them to become more self-sufficient. She uses the "learner-centered" approach for getting people to step outside their comfort zone to advocate and promote positive changes in their community. This method has proven to be very successful in getting organizations to actively seek community funding to sustain their work as well as develop a sense of commitment and ownership at the local level.

Jearlean's passion for working with communities grew out of her experiences as a disenfranchised person within her own community. She has extensive experience and expertise in early childhood education, adult literacy, non-profit board development, and advocacy with and for poor and low-income children and their families. Jearlean served on the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits board in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was Chair of the Board Development Committee. She has written several curriculum guides: "Welfare Rights and Change," "My Community," and "The ABC'S to Advocating for The Rights of Children in the Public School System."

Jearlean is a 1993 graduate of Leadership Gulf Coast and has earned numerous awards including the Laurel Wreath Award, Zeta Phi Beta Outstanding Community Service Award, and NAACP Outstanding Community Service Award. She received her CDA certification in 1990.


Margie Van Meter, Director of Healthy Centers/Healthy Kids Project 


Margie is responsible for collecting and organizing expenditure data in the Step Up Project.  She also serves as a liaison between staff, contractors, and vendors requesting reimbursement checks from the grant.  Before joining MLICCI, Margie was employed in the policy unit of the Office for Children and Youth, MS Department of Human Services, and also with a local child advocacy organization.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and an MBA in nonprofit management from Yale.


Cassandra Welchlin, Director of MS Women's Economic Security Initiative 


Cassandra is a native Mississippian and change agent for low-wealth communities of color.  She graduated from Jackson State University and is a licensed Social Worker.  Cassandra received a Master from Brandeis University in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.  For nearly a decade she has worked with organizations at the local, state, regional and national level to developed strategies and create opportunities to address the social, political, economical and ecological injustices in low-wealth communities of color that grows out of racial inequitable in public policy.   Cassandra works to build local leadership and partnerships in order to organize their efforts and support their community’s power for the purpose of eradicating racial inequity.   Currently, she is a policy/advocacy consultant managing the Child Care Matters Campaign for the MS Low Income Child Care Initiative.


Matt Williams, Director of Research


Matt Williams is Director of Research with the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative. Matt previously worked as a research associate for the University of Southern Mississippi where he was part of a team studying the economic impact of the BP Oil Spill. In 2012, he joined the Mississippi Center for Justice as a policy analyst, where he worked on a wide range of public policy issues. Matt’s work has helped lead to policy change in TANF and has helped to prevent anti-safety net legislation from going into effect. Matt has published numerous reports, articles and book chapters and his work has been featured in state and national media outlets. Matt holds a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from the University of Southern Mississippi.


Pamela Berry-Johnson, Director of Communications


Pamela Berry-Johnson is director of communications. In this role, she sets and guides the strategy for all Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative communication efforts to consistently and effectively articulate the organization's mission and goals. As an award-winning former newspaper journalist and communications expert with more than 20 years of experience in both corporate settings and higher education, Pamela assists in transforming institutions using out-of-the box thinking, planning and execution. In addition to launching the Clarion-Ledger newspaper's first health section, Pamela also distinguished herself as a fellow in The National Press Club’s Bootcamp for health writers covering HIV/AIDS issues and a Knight Science Journalism Boot Camp for Medical Writers. Pamela was recognized by the Mississippi Press Association as the 2001 Column Writer of the Year. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English (Journalism) from Jackson State University. Pamela also has received numerous other awards in her career, including a series of “Well-Done” journalism awards from Gannett and a 2013 Lantern Award of Excellence for Marketing.


Robert Avila, Child Care Leadership Organizer


Roberta is a social justice advocate, racial healing practitioner and “relentless Mississippian.” Roberta served as the executive director of the Steps Coalition and the Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force, organizations that both advocated to ensure that after Hurricane Katrina vulnerable and low- income residents received resources for an equitable and healthy recovery.  Roberta has served in the non- profit, social justice sector in Mississippi for 35 years and is a founding member of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance. In 2008 Roberta received the Mutual of America Community Award for collaborating and building partnerships and in 2011 and 2017 received the Biloxi Branch NAACP Community Service Award. From 2014 -2017 Roberta served as one of 20 coach/mentors to the inaugural class of the WK Kellogg Community Leadership Network, mentoring leadership in emerging and established leaders in Mississippi for the purpose of helping vulnerable children and their families achieve optimal health, well-being and economic security.