Our Staff

For over 29 years, Bright Beginnings has helped thousands of children and their families experiencing homelessness achieve self-sufficiency.

The Bright Beginnings staff is deeply committed to delivering a high-quality early childhood education to children while supporting their families with the services they need to obtain self-sufficiency. Our staff is highly skilled and able to address the complex needs of our children and families experiencing homelessness. To meet those needs, we hold high standards for our staff. Our teachers are required to hold a four-year degree in early childhood education or a similar focus of study, as well as experience working with young children in a classroom setting. Our program staff hold advanced degrees in their area of service as well.

We believe investing in our staff is important for the continued success of our young learners and, therefore, require all staff to participate in at least 80 hours of professional learning each year.

Meet Our Executive Leadership

Dr. Marla Dean

Executive Director

Dr. Marla Dean, a passionate educator and community leader, is the current Executive Director of Bright Beginnings. Dr. Dean is committed to the success and development of children and families in under-served communities.

Marla M. Dean is a native Detroiter. Dr. Dean relocated to the Washington, D.C Metropolitan Area in 2007. Currently, Marla is the Executive Director of Bright Beginnings Inc., a non-profit, community-based organization, specializing in a two-generational early childhood and family learning centers for both the children and families experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C. 

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Darin Allen

Director of Development and External Affairs

Darin Allen is the Director of Development. Mr. Allen is responsible for establishing and implementing the infrastructure needed to grow Bright Beginnings’ budget through the solicitation of major gifts, federal and state grants, special events, and corporate foundation support.

Prior to Bright Beginnings, Mr. Allen was the Director of Development and Operations for NAESM, Inc. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the University of Alabama.

Danish Ali


Danish Ali is the Controller at Bright Beginnings Inc. He is a licensed CPA and a graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). He is a former Big Four auditor and has extensive experience in public, corporate and non-profit accounting. 

Mr. Ali is responsible for preparing and communicating monthly analysis and reporting of the organization’s financial performance and projections to the Executive Team, Finance Committee and the Board of Directors while ensuring that the organization complies with state and federal financial accounting standards and legal regulations. He is also responsible for preparing and updating cash flow and strategic financial forecasts, overseeing all audit and internal control operations and managing spending against federal, local and donor restricted grants.


Erin Fisher

Chief of Staff

Erin Fisher is the Chief of Staff at Bright Beginnings. Ms. Fisher is responsible for serving as the strategic advisor to the Executive Director, assuming day-to-day responsibility for projects and tasks, and creating and maintaining cross-departmental relationships to enable leadership success.

Ms. Fisher has served children in Washington, DC and Prince George’s County for over 15 years. She is formerly a teacher, instructional coach, and middle and high school principal. Ms. Fisher has earned a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelors of Arts from University of Maryland, College Park.

Toyeka Milam

Director of Programming

Toyeka Milam is the Director of Programming. Ms. Milam is responsible for assisting in planning, coordination, managing and administering programming to support a comprehensive two generation approach to supporting families’ self-sufficiently within our early learning and family development centers. Prior to joining Bright Beginnings. Ms. Milam gained experience working in child mental and behavioral health, intellectual disability services, childcare licensing and quality assurance. Ms. Milam earned her Masters Degree in Human Services Counseling, from Liberty University and Bachelors Degree in Sociology, from James Madison University.

Shaquita Tillman

Director of Education

Shaquita Tillman is the Director of Education. She has served the children of bright Beginnings for over 15 years.  She is a former early childhood teacher.  She has extensive experience in early childhood education, with a concentration in early literacy.  Prior to be promoted to the Education Director at Bright Beginnings, Shaquita served as the Multi-Disciplinary Team Manager where she ensured all Bright Beginnings children received the specialized services needed to meet and mitigate their special needs.

Ms. Tillman is responsible for ensuring high-quality instruction and child development programming for the center-based program for ages 6 weeks to five years old, and she supervises the instructional coaches and teacher staff. She is responsible for setting the educational vision of the program and ensuring Bright Beginnings’ evidenced-based curriculum is implemented effectively across all program options. Ms. Tillman earned a Masters of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Trinity University and Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Morgan State University.