Our mission is to provide educational tools for families that will facilitate meaningful conversations and activities while developing an emerging awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion with their school-aged children and creating a lasting, positive impact on their communities and the world.


Vera Jones

Vera Jones is a motivational speaker, author, and professional development trainer with over 30 years experience in varied disciplines. She offers leadership, communication, resilience, diversity and inclusion, and conflict resolution coaching and consulting. Vera has her master’s degree in television and radio from Syracuse University and is certified in conflict dynamics and workplace conflict. A former ESPN and Big Ten Network basketball analyst, Vera is also featured in a 47-million view Goalcast viral video called “Trust Your Vision”- the inspiring story of her young son overcoming the challenges of a brain tumor and blindness.

Vera is a Prince George’s County, MD native, who now resides in Jacksonville, FL.

Marla Smith

Marla Smith is a behavioral health coach with Heartland Family Service. In this role, Marla coordinates behavioral health training, providing hands-on coaching to those working with persons with severe mental illness in the habilitation and waiver homes throughout Southwestern Iowa.

Licensed in both Nebraska and Iowa as a mental health counselor, Marla has spent nearly 17 years working directly with clients of all ages and has learned over the years that it’s about connecting with those you serve by meeting them where they are at and communicating in a respectful and trauma-informed manner to help facilitate change.

Marla has a Master’s Degree in youth and family services from Bellevue University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and taking long walks in nature.

Lynsie Slachetka
Communications Secretary

Lynsie Slachetka is a mom and also owner of aJuxt Media Group. With digital, social, and traditional marketing teams, aJuxt Media Group specializes in finding target audiences and aligning marketing and advertising resources to “juxtapose” brands. Prior to founding aJuxt, Lynsie worked for Hearst in digital advertising sales and in the Florida State Capital in the political news corps.

A proud graduate of Dana College in Blair, NE, Lynsie and her hubby have settled in Queens, NY— after 19 relocations — and are raising two fascinating little humans.

Shireen Soliman
Diversity Co-Chair

Shireen Soliman is an Egyptian-American artist, educator, advocate and mother, living in New York City. Shireen teaches visual communication and fashion illustration at both Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute. As a community leader and advocate, she sits on various boards and councils, representing and amplifying the voices and experiences of Muslim-Americans. Through the lens of fashion and the arts, Shireen explores topics ranging from Muslim-American identity, cultural diversity and inclusion, social justice, narrative and representation.

Alyssa Brown
Diversity Co-Chair

Alyssa Brown is a public relations and government relations executive with more than 17 years of experience in public and nonprofit settings including two statewide trade associations and the Florida Legislature. As vice president of the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, she builds proactive, collaborative and regional partnerships to create opportunities for business growth and economic opportunity. She leads the Chamber’s equity efforts, including the creation of Crossroads: Exploring Intersections in Race and Business, a series designed to facilitate honest conversations about diversity, inclusion and equity in business, and is a founding partner of the Greater Gainesville Business Coalition for Change. Alyssa is currently a member of the U.S. Chamber’s Transportation Committee and has served on the boards of various organizations throughout her career.

A Florida State University graduate and a native of Boston, MA, Alyssa lived in Tallahassee, FL for more than 20 years before moving to her current home, Gainesville, FL. She is married to her husband of 16+ years and has two daughters and a spoiled Bichon Frise.

Francis "Fran" Luisi
Community Liason

Fran Luisi is a leader in executive search across industry sectors and multiple geographies, helping organizations build their depth and quality of their Human Capital (HC) and Human Resource (HR) talent and functions globally.

Well known in the Human Capital world, Fran has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Fast Company, and HR Executive magazine discussing Human Capital and Human Resource issues. Fran led the HR Practice in the United States for two global executive search firms. He also has founded his own boutique executive search firm that exclusively recruited HC/HR talent globally. Before entering executive search, Fran held multiple assignments at IBM in a number of locations.

Fran currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Center for HR Management within the College of Business at Florida State University. He also served on the Board of Trustees and chaired the HR Committee at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. He has also been intimately involved with Best Buddies International and Special Olympics in New Jersey and Florida. Fran and his wife, Lauren and their family reside in Winter Park, Florida.


Each person’s journey with race and diversity education is different. If you or a family member have a topic suggestion or a question you’d like our team to explore, please complete this form.

Feel free to drop us a line here. Be sure to connect with us on social media. ChatUs@ColorfulTalks.org

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