Briana Persley, ’97 ’22, is the director of youth services for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, where she oversees programs for court-involved youth who have public or status offenses.
Early in her professional career, Persley, a child and family studies graduate, served as a counselor at United Methodist Home for Children and Youth. Then, she was the social services coordinator for Manchester Center before working at the Lexington Housing Authority as the resident program coordinator.
“Being able to plan a curriculum for small children was extremely helpful in finding my passion in programming,” said Persley. “It helped me learn about development in children and adolescents to ensure the activities were both age and developmentally appropriate. The knowledge gained in my classes set the foundation of understanding important factors to serving and working with all age groups.”
For 15 years, Persley served as a crime victims’ advocate at the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. During this time, she was also the Fayette County Public Schools’ Experienced-Based Career Education liaison and joined the board of directors at Partners for Youth Foundation, Inc. In 2017, she became the executive director of Partners for Youth before obtaining her current position.
“There were several youths who had been killed in Lexington in 2016. This impacted my oldest son because he had gone to school with one of the victims since elementary school through high school,” Persley explained. “For 15 years, one of my specialties was youthful offenders. After these tragedies, I knew that I had to do something to help prevent youth from entering a life of criminality and decided to get back in the community to help.”
Persley returned to EKU and obtained her master’s degree in criminal justice policy and leadership in December of 2022.
“The biggest highlights of my career have been being able to combine all of my experiences to make a stronger impact on youth and to give them the tools needed to succeed in life,” Persley said. “Through my roles, I have been able to participate on advisory councils, serve on boards and commissions, and numerous other opportunities that allow me to gain more knowledge to help and empower youth.”
Persley attributes her successful career to the people she has worked with over the years.
“I listened and learned from them,” she said. “No one can be effective in their role if they are not humble enough to recognize that they don’t know everything.”