Our Staff

Marcus Littles

Senior Partner

Marcus Littles specializes in organizational development, particularly within the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. His work experience includes TCC Group, the Ford Foundation, where he served as a Program Associate in Community and Resource Development, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Littles is the founder of Frontline Solutions, and provides leadership to projects in organizational development, policy advocacy, and philanthropic engagement. A native of Mobile, he is a graduate of Auburn University and holds a master’s degree in Public Administration, with a concentration in Nonprofit Management, from the University of Delaware.

Ryan Bowers

Senior Partner

Ryan Bowers is a community engagement and policy advocacy specialist. At Frontline, he directs applied research projects, provides consultation on policy solutions, and partners with clients to develop community engagement strategies. He recently served as Community Engagement Coordinator for the office of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. In his role there he worked to ensure the voices of parents, students, and community stakeholders were heard in the development and implementation of education policy and reform. Before serving in the mayor’s office, Bowers worked for Public/Private Ventures and taught 6th grade with Teach for America.

Micah Gilmer

Senior Partner

Micah Gilmer is a specialist in applied research and social enterprise with a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University. He currently serves part-time as Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Innovation at UNC Chapel Hill. His academic work focuses on the intersection of cutting-edge youth development practices with “mainstream” contexts like education and athletics. At Frontline, Gilmer provides leadership to applied research teams, directs the creative process for reports, and oversees public communication.

Melissa DeShields


Melissa DeShields brings over 15 years of experience in the non-profit sector to her work. Prior to launching her own practice, DeShields, Hagan and Associates, DeShields worked with a national consulting firm providing organizational development and strategic community building support to community-based organizations and philanthropic institutions. DeShields has previously held positions at the Urban Affairs Coalition (formerly GPUAC) and at The Philadelphia Foundation. In 2008, Melissa was identified as one of Philadelphia's “Top 101 Emerging Connectors” by Leadership Philadelphia.

Danielle Torain

Senior Consultant

Danielle Torain brings with her a wealth of expertise in philanthropy, workforce development, organizational strategy and facilitation. She was most recently a Senior Associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) in its Baltimore Civic Site, where she managed strategies and investments under the unit’s Family Economic Success and Neighborhood Transformation portfolios. Danielle is an alumna of the University of Richmond and has a JD from the University of Maryland School Of Law. She continues to serve on a number of boards throughout Baltimore and maintains an enduring commitment to supporting emerging leaders throughout the city.

Shawn Mooring

Senior Fellow

Shawn Mooring specializes in organizational development and strategy planning, particularly within the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. His work experience includes positions with The Twenty-First Century Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, Public/Private Ventures, and the Ford Foundation. In addition to his work with Frontline, Shawn provides strategic leadership as Network Manager to the National 2025 Network for Black Men and Boys, which helps connect, empower, and transform Black men and boys throughout the U.S. A native of Philadelphia, Shawn is a graduate of Hampton University and holds a master’s degree in Public Administration, with a specialization in Community Development, from the University of Delaware.

Emily Hylton

Senior Fellow

Emily Hylton is a project manager, researcher, and writer with a background in advocacy and public health. She has four years of experience providing grassroots organizing in the Arab Region for organizations such as Friends of the Earth Middle East and the International Labor Organization. She has a Masters of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she was a Sommer Scholar from 2015-2016.

Michael Johnson

Director of Finance & Operations

As Frontline’s Director of Finance & Operations, Michael Johnson is responsible for the overall financial management of the organization and also oversees the firm’s administrative and general business operational needs.  Prior to joining Frontline, Michael worked in finance, as a bond trader for Janney Montgomery Scott. More recently he worked as the Operations Manager for Circle of Hope, a network of churches in Philadelphia. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Temple University and is currently pursuing an MBA at the Fox School of Business and Management.

Joseph Sircar


Joseph Sircar manages internal and client projects for Frontline Solutions. Joseph’s past work has been focused in the educational, financial, and technological empowerment space, and he has experience leading strategic planning, IT infrastructure development, and program/fundraising in the non-profit sector. Joseph holds a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Political Science from UNC Chapel Hill, where he was a Robert E. Bryan Social Innovation Fellow and a Distinguished Scholar Recipient.

Khayla Deans


Khayla Deans is a storyteller and image activist who cares deeply about amplifying the voices and images of people who are often unheard or unseen. She believes that media, art, and history can be used as powerful tools for empowerment when used in the right hands. With BA in Public Policy and African American Studies from The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Khayla seeks work that is heavily rooted in the movement of social change for Black communities. For four years, Khayla implemented new ways to bridge community needs and action through her work as a Consultant at Frontline. Khayla is also passionate about telling the stories and creating authentic images of Black women and girls at The Beautiful Project (TBP). She is currently the Digital Media Strategist at TBP where she develops the media strategy for TBP exhibits and manages all of the organizations communications channels.

Jessica Barron


As a trained sociologist and demographer, Jessica is committed to advancing knowledge, research, and strategies around dismantling systemic barriers to racial equality and inclusion. In her most recent role, Jessica served as a research scientist and instructor at Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute, publishing on this very topic. Jessica has a wealth of expertise in large-scale data-collection and management, facilitation, strategic planning, program assessment and evaluation, and qualitative community-centered research. Jessica received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas A&M University. She has worked on projects funded by national entities and has published her findings in both academic and non-academic outlets.

Ashley Simpson

Associate Consultant

Ashley Simpson is a passionate and strong advocate for youth development and juvenile justice system transformation. Initially, Ashley joined the team in 2015 as a HPJ Fellow. A year later she returned to Frontline the work as an associate consultant, where she is responsible for managing and supporting internal and client projects. Prior to joining Frontline, Ashley was a Davis Projects for Peace grant recipient, where developed programming for young girls in Cape Town to combat gender-based violence in their community. Ashley graduated with honors from UNC Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Public Policy, where she received numerous distinguished scholarships.

Afif Rahman

Associate Consultant

Afif brings a breadth of experience as a political strategist, an economic and social policy analyst with a deep interest in urban and community development, and an advocate for inclusive governance and economies. He was most recently a pollster at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2016 election cycle. An American Muslim and firm believer in engaging minority communities to shape policy and culture, Afif co-founded two organizations, the Poligon Education Fund and MassMuslims, to empower Muslims nationally and locally through civic engagement, legislative advocacy, education, and leadership development. Afif was an American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute Fellow at USC and a Millennial Leaders Project Fellow at Union Theological Seminary. He graduated with a B.S. in Neuropsychology and Mathematics from Northeastern University, where he was a National Merit Scholar and served on the President's Social Impact Council.