ABC's and 123's:

A Blog by Action for Children

Celebrating the Women of Action for Children


In the spirit of celebrating the remarkable achievements of women globally for International Women’s Month, we are excited to shine a spotlight on some of the extraordinary women within our own organization. Julie DiCarlo, Arla Lyles, and Heather Arra have diverse perspectives, accomplishments, and unique journeys at Action for Children. Let’s get to know them a little better! 

Julie (middle) and her colleagues on the FatherUp team 

Julie DiCarlo is a dedicated FatherUp Program Coordinator, whose journey is nothing short of inspiring. With a background in sociology education, Julie’s career journey began as an educator in Baltimore, Maryland. As an educator for 9 years, Julie noticed that the children needed more than just a teacher. So she became a mentor, a big sister, a mom, and a friend to all of them 

Driven by her passion for child development, Julie transitioned to the Buckeye Ranch before finding her way to AFC, initially working on the Columbus Kids initiative with United Way. Julie was eventually led to the SPARK program at AFC, where she found fulfillment in providing families with essential kindergarten readiness support and connecting them with crucial resources. 

Julie’s dedication continued to shine as she later joined the Father Factor program as a Case Manager, earning recognition for her exceptional commitment and receiving the EXTRA award from her manager, Jeff Kramer. Her infectious positivity and caring nature embody AFC’s ethos of service, earning her the Staff Appreciation Award in her inaugural year. 

“I truly cherish empowering fathers and the overlooked parent. Through FatherUp, we’re able to educate them on their rights, ensure access to resources for them and their families, and guide them to voice their presence in their child’s life.” 

Arla Lyles signing certificates for Mothers Matter cohort participants

Arla Lyles, Program Coordinator for Mothers Matter at Action for Children, has a story that is a testament to resilience, determination, and a deep-rooted passion for making a difference in the lives of others. 

Arla’s journey began after graduating college when she felt a calling to “teach”. Starting as a substitute teacher and later transitioning to a role as a substitute lunch lady to accommodate her role as a mother, Arla’s path eventually led her to AFC through her involvement with Columbus Kids, a program affiliated with United Way, of which Action for Children was a partner. Arla’s persistence and adaptability led her to various roles within AFC, eventually finding her place as the coordinator of the Mothers Matter program. 

Arla’s passion for healing, stemming from her own experiences with racial discrimination and childhood trauma, permeates her work. Through her journey of personal healing, Arla has developed a profound understanding of the importance of holistically addressing the mind, body, and spirit to achieve true wellness. 

One of Arla’s standout qualities is her adeptness at building relationships, a skill honed through her work in Mothers Matter. Arla has cultivated invaluable connections with other community organizations, ensuring that participants receive comprehensive support above and beyond the program’s scope. In doing so, she not only serves the mothers in her program but also finds support and fulfillment for herself, embodying the essence of community service instilled in her by her upbringing. 

Yet, amidst her professional achievements, Arla considers her greatest accomplishment to be her children. As a single parent who has faced personal challenges, Arla takes immense pride in raising three college students who embody kindness, resilience, and advocacy. She credits AFC and the Mothers Matter community for providing the support and resources she needed to navigate parenthood while thriving professionally. 

“Action for Children and Mothers Matter have been some of my greatest supports. I have been able to be the parent I want to be and one my children deserve while working at the agency. The curriculum has given me the positive parenting strategies I needed and the Mothers Matter community has offered the support I required while holding me accountable as well.” 

Heather Arra (right) with her BOSS teammate, Arielle 

Heather Arra serves as the Program Coordinator for The BOSS at Action for Children – and her journey exemplifies versatility, innovation, and a commitment to mental health advocacy. Heather’s career trajectory took her from the classrooms of New Jersey to the entrepreneurial world before leading her to AFC, where her passion for child care and mental wellness found a home. 

Heather’s values are deeply rooted in making a positive impact on the world. Her passion for childcare, education, and mental health advocacy drives her as The BOSS Program Coordinator, while her aspirations continue to fuel her journey towards creating a brighter future for all. 

“AFC has the most welcoming staff and team I have ever been on. This organization brings a dynamic environment and very healthy work environment. It makes you want to do the best that you can for the programs that we’re serving.” 

Author: Tyra James, Program Marketing Coordinator at Action for Children 

Action for Children is the local child care resource and referral agency for central Ohio, and is committed to assuring quality early learning experiences for all children. Our services focus on transforming the lives of children by supporting the everyday heroes who most influence our children’s early growth; care givers, educators, parents, and guardians. Learn More. 

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