Speakers and performers

Jesse Ross Headshot

Jesse Ross (Speaker)

Jesse Ross is the CEO of Mr. Jesse Ross LLC, a leadership development consulting company that focuses on enhancing communication and connection while addressing conflict management, culture, people development, and productivity in an intentional way.

Alexis headshot.OBBPS (1)

Alexis Kantor (Speaker)

Alexis Kantor has been a dedicated supporter of Avenues for Youth for over 15 years, having served as a board member, Building on Dreams table host, and host home volunteer for LGBTQI+ youth experiencing homelessness. Alexis spent two decades at Target, most recently as their VP of Owned Brands Strategy and Operations, where she led multiple teams around the globe, focused on product design, development and sourcing, helping to create equity in product quality and experience.


Shayla Reaves (Emcee)

Shayla Reaves joined WCCO in December 2020 as an anchor and reporter, contributing to the morning and mid-morning, and anchoring noon newscasts.

A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she was named the top broadcast student in her graduating class.

Before moving to the Twin Cities, Shayla worked in Greenville, NC where she co-anchored evening newscasts for WNCT-TV (CBS). In Tampa, FL she served as a field reporter for the market’s #1 rated morning show covering breaking news, hurricanes, and news overnight.

In addition to reporting, she fill-in anchored in Tampa and Columbus, Ohio. While in Columbus, she earned an Emmy for coverage of a train derailment and explosion. Her career has also included four years of reporting in Louisville, KY.

When she is not reporting, Shayla enjoys spending time with her husband, crafting, and exploring the Twin Cities!


Known MPLS (Musical Artists)

In the summer of 2019, Courtland Pickens founded Known MPLS, an audition-based community gospel youth choir. The choral ensemble was established in the later part of 2019 as an extension of Voicez, Inc., a 501(c)(3), nonprofit music organization striving to train and develop the next generation of singers and composers throughout the Twin Cities. Courtland is Known MPLS’s Creative Director and leads with the performance-based music education to galvanize youth between the ages of 12-25 as agents of change. The choir promotes self-esteem, leadership skills, cultural awareness, discipline, and a commitment to excellence.

Since its inception, Known MPLS has had an opportunity to share the stage with some of the most prominent musical artists. Known MPLS has performed in a wide variety of venues, joining the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Ordway Theater and the Annual Music for the Holidays at The Armory. Known has performed alongside Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker & Israel Houghton on the Festival of Praise Tour, and Shane & Shane for a National Live TV Broadcast. Known has recorded music with Kaycyy Pluto, Darnell Davis & Maya Buckner, as well as numerous events in local churches, high schools, and community centers.

“It is very important to me that we train the next generation of singers & songwriters. Music can be very uplifting, a stress reliever, can bring peace, and bring a community together! I hope to empower youth to follow their dreams by teaching them how to find their voice.” – Courtland Pickens, Creative Director of Known MPLS