Officers and Directors - Step Forward - Providing Cuyahoga Community Services to our residents
LaRese Purnell has 19 years of experience in business management, taxation, and finance. He is the current Managing Partner of CLE Consulting Firm, an Accounting, Tax and Payroll services company located in downtown Cleveland and one of the largest minority firms in Northeastern Ohio and co-owner of Black Box Fix Restaurant located in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio. He is a strong innovative financial and strategic leader with instinct and intellect, a formidable combination in the business world. He has served in executive positions, within leading businesses and financial departments within multi-million dollar for profit and non-profit corporations.
LaRese received his MBA in Finance from the University of Toledo. He is currently pursuing his master's in accountancy in Corporate Taxation from John Carroll University, with an expected completion date of Spring 2024. LaRese is committed to the community and its residents, so he serves on the following Board of Directors, he is currently the Chair Elect of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, The Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital, Vice Chair for Cleveland Public Library Foundation, is the current Chairman of the BOD for Step Forward Today (formerly CEOGC) the largest community action agency in the State of Ohio, recently named the Co-Chair of the National Board of the Economic Empowerment Program of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc based in Atlanta, GA and a board member of Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU). He is also a proud member of 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
He's the author of Financial Foundations, Building Financial Freedom One Tool at a Time, where he uses everyday language to address the most fundamental questions people have about money. He has traveled to over 35-40+ cities nationally to teach financial literacy at various conventions, seminars, colleges and universities and various other events. He is also the founder and visionary behind The Real Black Friday that is responsible for helping to bring awareness and providing access to black owned businesses throughout Northeastern Ohio, within an over $5.5 million-dollar economic impact. He has been featured in various local and national publications and has appeared on multiple radio and television programs discussing various Financial matters. In 2023, he has been named as the National Ambassador for Our Money Matters, an organization that is focused on creating wealth for students at HBCU's across America and working with organizations and non-profits nationally to decrease the wealth gap in the black community. He was named as one of Cleveland Magazines Most Interesting People, Smart Business 50 and Crain's 40/40 and many other recognitions.
Outside of work, LaRese stays busy spending time with his wife Rashaunda, son (Gaven) and (Maceo) and daughter (Gabbi), serving the community, playing sports, and traveling.
Judge Michael J. Ryan
Board Vice Chair
Judge Michael John Ryan is the elected judge for Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals. Ryan has nearly 26 years of experience in the legal and justice system, 17 of which have been as a judge. He has presided over the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division and Cleveland Municipal Court. Prior to being elected judge, Ryan gained invaluable experience on the bench as a Magistrate for the Cleveland Municipal Court. When he was elected Judge for Cleveland Municipal Court he was a staunch advocate for Get on Track, a program to help those who did not complete high school and were convicted of misdemeanors earn a G.E.D. Judge Ryan also served as one of the initial judges for the Cleveland Municipal Court Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket.
Prior to his ascending to the bench, Ryan was an Associate with Forbes, Fields and Associates, Co., worked as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the City of Cleveland and Administrator for the City of Cleveland Department of Public Safety.
Ryan is currently a trustee for St. Edward High School, he recently served as a trustee and chairman for Sisters of Charity Foundation and is now serving as Vice Chairperson of Step Forward’s Board of Directors. Through the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Ryan was instrumental in the creation of “A Place 4 Me” Initiative to prevent homelessness among young adults who had aged out of the foster care system. He also worked with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which focuses on strengthening families and ensuring access to opportunity for children. Ryan also served on the Board of Trustees for the Literary Cooperative of Greater Cleveland and continues to serve as a mock trial judge for the Cleveland Municipal Court and the Cleveland Municipal School District. Ryan also volunteers his time speaking with young people about issues surrounding domestic violence, social justice and the legal system.
Judge Ryan is also an author. In 2015, he self-published his memoir, “The Least Likely: From the Housing Projects to the Courthouse."
Eugenia Cash-Kirkland is the Social Support Services Director in the Office of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity Social Support Services Unit for the City of Cleveland. Cash-Kirkland joined the City of Cleveland in 2022, after retiring from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Cash-Kirkland has more than 30 years of experience in social work with the Anti-Fragility Initiative at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where she has served victims of violence between the ages of 6 and 15-years old, the Department of Children and Family Services, Board of Developmental Disabilities Cleveland Clinic Foundation and MetroHealth Medical Center. She has a proven leadership and in-depth knowledge of behavioral health services, operations and programs in a variety of settings with children, youth, adults and families.
Cash-Kirkland is a change-agent and community advocate for human services on several community boards, including the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Science Visiting Committee, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. - Greater Cleveland Alumni Chapter and as Board Secretary for Step Forward.
Cash-Kirkland has been awarded many accolades over her career, however her most coveted accomplishment was that she was awarded the National Association of Social Work’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Region 3, Cleveland, in 2022.
Joyce L. Walker
Sherelle L. Tucker
Cecil B. Lee