Board & Staff


Cheryl Leanza

Policy Advisor

Cheryl A. Leanza is the President of her consulting firm, A Learned Hand, LLC, In this capacity, she serves as policy advisor to the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc. — the church’s historic media advocacy arm. Her other clients include National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Public Knowledge and Native Public Media.

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Ms. Leanza’s prior positions include Principal Legislative Counsel for telecommunications at the National League of Cities where she was lead lobbyist for local elected officials. She also spent six and one-half years as Deputy Director of Media Access Project. Ms. Leanza has been a leader in public interest advocacy, advocating for diversity in ownership, low power community radio, children’s media, and other policies furthering First Amendment principles, including network neutrality. She has represented non-profits before the Federal Communications Commission and in the U.S. Appellate courts, and has been widely quoted in the trade and mainstream press on these issues.

Ms. Leanza is an Adjunct Professor at GeorgetownUniversity, Dept. of Communications, Culture and Technology and is Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Media & Democracy Coalition. A cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and the Ford School of Public Policy, Ms. Leanza has served on the Executive Committee and the Foundation Board of the Federal Communications Bar Association.

Board of Directors

Sara Fitzgerald


Sara Fitzgerald, treasurer, is retired following a career in journalism and public policy that included 15 years at The Washington Post as an editor and new media developer.

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She is the author of three recent books: “Elly Peterson: ‘Mother’ of the Moderates,” “Conquering Heroines: How Women Fought Sex Bias at Michigan and Paved the Way for Title IX,” and “The Poet’s Girl: A Novel of Emily Hale and T. S. Eliot.” She helped found, and served as vice president, communications, of Funds For Learning, LLC, a consulting firm that specialized in the federal E-rate program and school technology funding. She also served as director of member services for the Interactive Services Association in the mid-1990s.

She has written widely on such topics as online safety for children, Internet marketing and privacy, online taxation and Total Cost of Ownership of technology for K-12 schools. A longtime member of Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, VA,, she served as president of the board of directors of the United Church of Christ’s Central Atlantic Conference from 2007-09.

Charles Jefferson, Jr.


Charles Jefferson is a Chicago-based communications and media professional. He currently works as the Director of Marketing/Communications for the National Setting at the United Church of Christ, where he leads a team of marketing, communications, and design professionals in increasing the visibility and vitality of the UCC and to energetically engage audiences while encouraging philanthropic support of the church.

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He also works as a communications/marketing consultant for several organizations, including Foundation 65, the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Hair Essentials Company, and as an occasional freelance reporter for The Gateway Journalism Review.

Prior to his role with the United Church of Christ, Jefferson worked in various communications roles with Holy Trinity High School, Chicago Theological Seminary, the Moran Center, and Community Renewal Society. After receiving his bachelor’ s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, Jefferson worked as a web and segment producer for Chicago Tonight, the nightly news and public affairs show on WTTW-Channel 11. Jefferson also worked as a producer and photographer for Waskul Entertainment, a multimedia company that produced live web segments for the NAB Show in Las Vegas; an apprentice at WGN-TV, where he was an assistant web producer for the station; and as a staff adviser to The Columbia Chronicle, the award winning, student-run newspaper at Columbia College Chicago.

Jefferson also served as program manager for Columbia Links, a high school journalism and news literacy program that was housed at Columbia College Chicago. There, Jefferson coordinated student interviews, orientations, co-planned class syllabi, ran all social media efforts, produced the student webcast and co-managed production of the annual magazine featuring student stories that was distributed to high schools across the Chicago area. Jefferson received his journalism degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2014. Jefferson is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) – Chicago Chapter.

Brian Lapis


Brian Lapis, secretary, is a professional communicator, employed as the Chief Meteorologist and evening weather anchor at WWLP TV, the NBC affiliate in Springfield, Mass. Like many professional broadcasters, he has worked at a variety of stations, both radio and television, in a variety of cities, predominantly in southern New England.

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Mr. Lapis is a past member of the UCC Executive Council and Office of General Ministries Board of Directors. He is active in the UCC’s Massachusetts and Connecticut Conferences. Mr. Lapis holds a BS in Television, Radio and Film Management from Syracuse University and a Broadcast Meteorology Certificate from Mississippi State University.

Emily McKenna


Emily brings with her years of experience managing religious organizations and events, and joined the UCC Center Church of Hartford, CT staff in August 2021.

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When Emily is not at church, she’s at church! She also serves as Youth Ministry Coordinator for Oasis Multi-Church Youth Group, made up of six New Haven, CT area churches. She is a long-time volunteer at Silver Lake Conference Center, the UCC’s outdoor ministry site in CT. Emily loves living in the West End of Hartford with her partner Casey and their four year-old son, Peter Parker. She is thrilled to be a member of the UCC Media Justice Board.

Jessie Palatucci


Jessie Palatucci, member, is the senior digital communications manager for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker Lobby in the public interest. In that capacity she oversees FCNL’s digital advocacy program and web communications.

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Prior to joining FCNL, Jessie spent more than a decade working in online communications and public policy advocacy for the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries and with the D.C. interfaith advocacy community.

She holds a M.A. in Communications from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from Saint Michael’s College. Jessie lives in Washington, D.C. and is a proud Vermonter.

Rev. Freeman L. Palmer


Rev. Freeman L. Palmer serves as the Conference Minister for the Central Atlantic Conference United Church of Church.

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Freeman began this call in February 2019 after serving nine years as Associate Conference Minister, Congregational Development, for the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ. Freeman was ordained at The Riverside Church in 2004 to his call as Associate Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan, where he served for five years. He is member of the Reformed Church of Highland Park in Highland Park NJ. Freeman is also an original contributor to the African- American Lectionary, an online worship, scriptural, and cultural resource used principally by African American congregations.

Originally from Washington DC, Freeman is a second career minister, attending Seminary after a fifteen-year career with CBS Inc. He had several positions in television and radio financial management before serving as head of Finance and Administration of WCBS-AM News Radio 880 in New York City. After graduating from Georgetown Day High School in Washington, Freeman’s educational background includes a BA in Economics from Swarthmore College, an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a M.Div. with honors from New York Theological Seminary, where he served as Comptroller while a student and received an award from the faculty for excellence in theological studies. He also served for two years as Chief Financial Officer for the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, one of New Jersey’s largest social service organizations serving people living with HIV/AIDS. Rev. Freeman lives with his spouse, Donal, an ordained minister with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, in Baltimore with their Australian Silky Terrier Pooh.

In his spare time, Freeman enjoys both traditional and contemporary jazz, reading books ranging from biographies to graphic novels, enjoys movies, and as a ‘map geek’ with extensive knowledge of the US highway system, enjoys getting on a road just to enjoy it and see where it leads.

Marti Pascale Weston


Marti Pascale Weston, member, is retired after a longtime teaching career at schools in the Washington and Chicago area. In 2015, she was recognized as an Outstanding Educator by the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE). Throughout her career, she has focused on digital world access and ethics.  

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Currently, she maintains two blogs, “Media! Tech! Parenting!: Timely Topics on Teaching & Parenting Digital Learners,” and “As Our Parents Age: Timely Topics for Adult Children.” The daughter of a UCC clergyman, she is currently a member of Central Congregational United Church of Christ in Atlanta, GA.

Earl Williams, Esq.


Earl Williams, Esq., chair, is a graduate of the Cleveland State University, Cleveland Marshall School of Law and Ohio University Scripps School of Communication. Mr. Williams served as a legal intern with Citizens Communication Center, Washington D.C. and as an undergraduate intern at WGN Radio Television, Chicago, IL.

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He is a member of the Ohio Bar. He has served as an Assistant County Public Defender and Assistant County Prosecutor. He currently serves as a city council member of the City of Shaker Heights. Married with three children, he is a member of Euclid Avenue Congregational Church UCC, Cleveland, Ohio.

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