BOARD OF DIRECTORS
April Fraser, BSN | Board President
April Fraser is the proud mother of four, happily married to her best friend. She is a passionate birth doula and natural childbirth educator of nine years, serving many Richmond families over the course of that time. April was a member of the 2011 Mayor’s Breastfeeding Commission, which served as a catalyst in launching programs now serving Richmond area moms. April completed her Doula Training with toLabor. Shortly thereafter she felt a strong call to leave her job in the corporate world. She returned to college to further serve her community and complete her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing at Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing. That call has led her to serve families in various capacities. Her clinical experience and professional knowledge of disease processes have been a great addition to her love of all things related to birth and women’s health. April currently works at McGuire Veteran’s Hospital as a Surgical ICU nurse serving Veterans and their families. Her job as an ICU nurse allows her to work and practice her first love as a volunteer birth doula and childbirth educator.
Laurie Aronovici, BSN, RN | Director
Laurie Aronovici served as a perinatal nurse for thirty-nine years, with thirty-five of them specifically in Labor and Delivery. During that time she pursued academic progression, advancing from an Associate Degree to a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Additionally, she was an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant from 1991 to 2011, Chair of the Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition for 11 years, a Certified Childbirth Instructor through the Richmond Childbirth Association for 27 years, a certified yoga instructor through the Nara School of Yoga for 48 years, a perinatal yoga instructor through Sylvia Klein-Olkin’s Positive Pregnancy Fitness for 25 years, a perinatal massage therapist through Kate Jordan’s Body Work for the Childbearing Year for 11 years, certified in Reflexology and Healing Touch Level 1, and certified in Electronic Fetal Monitoring through National Certification Corporation. She is currently a member of the Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative. Laurie has a strong commitment to ensuring safe perinatal care for all birthing people, and finding effective ways to decrease maternal morbidity and mortality. She is also strongly committed to seeing breastfeeding/chest feeding become the cultural norm. Laurie has been married for 41 years and has three wonderful adult daughters and three joyous grandsons.
Rachael Deane, Esq. | Director
Rachael Deane is the mother of two young children and a public interest attorney with nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofit advocacy. She currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Voices for Virginia’s Children, the Commonwealth’s only multi-issue child policy and advocacy organization. Rachael earned her B.A. at the University of Mary Washington and her J.D. at the University of Richmond School of Law, where she volunteered extensively with local legal aid offices and completed the school’s Education Rights Clinic. After law school, Rachael embarked on a career in fair housing advocacy and was named a “Top 40 Under 40” housing advocate by the Virginia Housing Alliance in 2012. After the birth of her first child, Rachael felt a strong call to return to child and family advocacy while experiencing firsthand the lack of accessible, affordable, evidence-based, and compassionate health care and support services for childbearing families. From 2017 to 2022, she served as Legal Director the Youth Justice Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center, where she advocated for policies to ensure that all children and families in Virginia can thrive. Rachael was born and raised in the Richmond area.
Shanteny Jackson | Director
Shanteny Jackson is an Afro-Latina mother, wife, community advocate, and leader. As an immigrant and a young mother, Shanteny had to learn how to navigate and understand the US healthcare system. This experience was life-changing because it realigned her calling and purpose in life. She embraced many roles of service and advocacy in communities of color to help others learn to navigate and understand Virginia’s healthcare system.
Shanteny is the Executive Director of the Virginia Community Health Worker Association. She earned her B.A. in International Studies with minors in Spanish and Education from Mary Baldwin College. She also earned a Master’s degree in Counseling with a concentration in Addictions and Recovery.
Shanteny continues to elevate and highlight the role identity and representation plays in communities of color, particularly in the Latinos diaspora. In her essay, “The Dream & Reality of an Afro-Latina,” Shanteny explains this concept. This piece was featured in the 2021 collection of Richmond Racial Equity Essays.
Robin Sharma eloquently said, “your environment influences your mindset.” Shanteny is the product of many environments, including the Ginter Urban Gardener Program (2018), Community Trust-building Fellowship (2019), Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute (2019), and Circles USA (2019).
Jessica Lee, Esq. | Director
Jessica Lee is a mother and an anti-discrimination attorney focusing on the needs of pregnant and caregiving workers and students. For the last two decades, Jessica has worked with non-profit organizations to advance gender, racial, and environmental justice in Virginia and internationally. In 2015, Jessica joined the Center for WorkLife Law where she is now the Senior Staff Attorney and Director of the Center’s Pregnant Scholar Initiative. Jessica’s research and advocacy advances gender and racial equity in the workplace and in education, and she is a nationally recognized expert on the laws at the intersection of employment, education, and maternal and infant health. Jessica directly counsels pregnant and postpartum people facing discrimination or health risks at work or school and enjoys translating complicated legal issues into approachable and useful tools for non-lawyers. She also engages in policy advocacy to secure protections for workers and families, with the overarching goal that no one should have to choose between protecting their health and earning a living. Jessica earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. In her free time, Jessica can usually be found caring for her edible and medicinal garden or exploring nature with family.
Kirsten Olsen | Director
After the birth of her first child in 1997, a son named Graham, Kirsten Olsen began to recognize that perhaps pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum recovery and new parenthood were not as Hallmark precious, nor as simple as often presented. Her pregnancy was easy as far as pregnancies go. Her first labor and delivery was also uncomplicated (long, long, long – but uncomplicated), and her postpartum went well, too. She had tons of support! But still, the culmination of all the work made her feel different. Weird. Like, new eyes – transformed. How come nobody talks about this. . . identity crisis people go through? And how much help you actually, practically, really need?
In January of 2001, Kirsten took her first birth doula course through ALACE, now known as ToLabor. Later that year, she also took the CAPPA training in order to become a postpartum doula, and gave birth to her second son, Marsden, in October of 2001. Kirsten also taught childbirth education classes for Brighter Birth. She attended births, taught classes and took care of postpartum people up until 2008 when she became pregnant with her third child, a daughter (yay!) named Maddy.
After Maddy’s birth in 2009, Kirsten decided to go back to school for nursing. She graduated from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in August of 2012 with an LPN, and began working at the first freestanding birth center in Richmond, Complete Care Birth Center. In that role, she was the clinical nurse for the midwives and started facilitating group prenatal care. She also attended births and made postpartum home visits – heaven!! Unfortunately, the birth center closed in April of 2013.
In May of 2013, Kirsten began working at Virginia Commonwealth University in the School of Medicine for the Department of OB/GYN, under the auspices of the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns initiative. This five year long research project through the Center for Medicaid Services was investigating the positive effects group prenatal care had on the disparities people of color experience in pregnancy and birth.
Group prenatal care seems almost magical at first, though in fact a great many obstetric providers remain unconvinced that this model of care delivers on everything it purports: better experiences for both patient and provider, less incidence of preterm birth for participants, increase in breastfeeding, greater adherence to care. Kirsten went back to school for her Master’s in Education in Adult Learning to get better at this job of educating adult learners. And she can tell you: group prenatal care is not magic! It’s social collectivism! It’s dialogue education! It’s transformative learning! These are the educational frameworks utilized in this model of care. People are seen. People are heard. People are loved and cared for. Everyone.
In this role, Kirsten got to witness first hand the amazing transformation of countless pregnant people and their partners. Her goal remains to see to it that all pregnant people are taken care of well: that they are seen, they are heard and they are loved.
As a young child, Keya Strudwick knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. Always eager to learn and to care about the wellbeing of others, it seemed like a natural fit when Keya decided to pursue a career in Healthcare Administration.
Being a transformative, empowering servant leader has led Keya to participate in several national and international mission trips, volunteering with numerous organizations that focus on uplifting, sustaining, and supporting women, children, and youth.
Aligning her passion and purpose, Keya earned her Bachelor degree in Business Administration from Greensboro College and a Master of Business Administration from Strayer University. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Health Administration from the Medical University of South Carolina.
We’re growing our board and committees. If you are interested in improving the local pregnancy, birth, and early parenting ecosystem through board or committee service at Nurture, please inquire at info@NurtureRVA.org or fill out this questionnaire.
Leslie Lytle | Executive Director & Founder
Leslie Lytle is a mother, wife, yoga teacher, and childbirth advocate who thrives on connecting people with resources and facilitating growth. She began working with pregnant people as a massage therapist in 1992 which influenced her choice of care providers for her own pregnancy in 1995 – 96. Inspired by the midwife-supported birth of her son, she became a doula in 1998, began teaching prenatal and postpartum yoga in 2000, and is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Over 3000 pregnant and postpartum people have participated in her programs.
Leslie holds an MS in Sociology where her focus was the sociology of health and illness with additional coursework in public health. She is fascinated by the intersection of biology and culture that is ever present in the childbirth and early parenting arenas. A member of the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program Class of 2013, Leslie completed a Certificate in Non-Profit Management through Non-Profit Learning Point in 2014, is the 2016 recipient of the Pat Asch Fellowship for Social Justice, and is a member of Initiatives of Change’s Community Trustbuilding Fellowship cohort of 2018. She looks forward to the day when Richmond will be known far and wide as a parent/baby/family friendly city.
Raena Gradford | Relationships Coordinator
Raena Gradford graduated from Old Dominion University in 2020 obtaining her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Women Studies and Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. Since graduating Raena has worked for different nonprofits allowing her to display her intersection of skills surrounding public relations and social work. She’s currently in her second year of the MSW program at Virginia Commonwealth University and interning for the Virginia Down Syndrome Association. Raena is passionate about eliminating racial disparities amongst maternal and infant health. In her free time Raena enjoys going on runs with her dog Marley and spending quality time with her niece and nephew.
Shakeya Lewis, CLC | Lactation Support Provider
Shakeya Lewis is a mother of two from Chesapeake, VA. She began her path to breastfeeding advocacy through experience as a teen mother in 2012. A breastfeeding peer pilot program through #RVAbreastfeeds was the beginning of her education in the lactation field and her work with Nurture. Shakeya has a son, 3, and a daughter, 7, who she breastfed for a total of 4.5 years. In 2018, she obtained her certification as a Certified Lactation Counselor. Shakeya continues advocacy through lactation support, working as Nurture’s Resident CLC for the Nurture and RVAbreastfeeds social media pages.