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Our Trustees

Julia Upton MBE DL
Chair

Julia joined the Board in 2014 because she is passionate about the voluntary and community sector in helping to create vibrant and successful communities. Professionally she worked in education and then led a philanthropic and grant-making charity. She continues to support philanthropic initiatives and developing partnerships that enhance communities. She is also a trustee of the Milton Keynes Rose Trust and The Stables Theatre. In 2019-2020 she was the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in 2020.

Jenny Walker
Jennifer Walker
Vice Chair

Jennifer graduated from SOAS University of London with a Masters of Science in Managing Development.  Her background is in the management of development projects including community education, outreach and schools mainly in Southern and Eastern Africa.  Jennifer has over 20 years of experience in securing funds, developing relationships with stakeholders, philanthropic investment funds, grant making and managing the marketing of organisations.  She is the Vice Chair of YMCA MK, a Trustee of MK Museum, a UK Women Leader Finalist and a member of Women in Enterprise.  Jennifer has three children, loves travelling, feeding family and friends and taking her dogs on long walks!

Laura Keen
Treasurer

Laura worked as an auditor with Grant Thornton for 14 years before moving to become Finance Director of a group of Audi Dealerships. After relocating back to the area in 2008, she became Finance Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the MK Community Foundation. She retired from that role in 2018 but retained several Board positions in the voluntary sector in Milton Keynes including Treasurer of AHA MK, Treasurer of MK Festival Fringe and Chair of Milton Keynes Art Centre.

Laura joined the YMCA Board in December 2020 after spending more than a year attending the Finance Committee as an adviser. 

Festus Akinbusoye
Festus Akinbuoye

Festus joined YMCA’s Board in 2019. As a former resident of YMCA MK himself, Festus knows only too well the impact the right support and advice can have on a young person’s life.

As a former Parish Councillor and in response to rising anti-social behaviour, Festus initiated plans that led to his local council fully funding a Youth Club. Festus has advised MPs on issues such as community safety and knife crime for many years and, in May 2021, was elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire; the first black police and crime commissioner to have been appointed in Britain.

Preston Ayres

Preston was a partner in Grant Thornton, Chartered Accountants, and became Treasurer of YMCA MK in 1983 (and held that role until 2020). He remains a Trustee and is also a Trustee of YMCA Northamptonshire.

Preston negotiated the purchase of our original flats and retail units. This valuable asset enabled the recent development of our amazing new campus, which was opened in March 2020.

He is also a Trustee of Extra Mile Challenges, which organises an annual cycle challenge, giving over £1.6m to other charities.

Dr Vasco Fernandes 

Vasco joined the Board in 2016. He retired as a Consultant Physician within the NHS in 2011, and has experience in public health, substance misuse and general practice.

Vasco was Chair/Member of the British Medical Association’s Regional/National Public Health Committee and sat on the National Public Health Laboratory Service Board. He was previously President of the MK Equality Council and is currently Patron of the Milton Keynes Therapy Centre (base of the MK Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Group Charity) and a Vice President of the MK Community Foundation.

Dr Anthony Holden 

Tony has served with the YMCA since 2008. He was first a member of the YMCA Northamptonshire Board and later joined the YMCA MK Board. Tony is a member of the YMCA MK Finance Committee and became Chair of YMCA Northamptonshire in March 2016. He is by profession a physicist and has an extensive background in youth work with 32 years as leader in the Scout Association including serving as District Commissioner in South Northamptonshire. He serves as a Trustee and PCC member at the parish church of St Peter with St James Brackley, where he is also Safeguarding Officer. Tony enjoys the outdoors, especially hiking in the countryside.

Cheryl Montgomery

Cheryl has been close to the YMCA for over 20 years. Before her retirement from Homes England in 2010, she was responsible for helping local organisations prepare to meet the demands of a growing Milton Keynes. From 2009 until 2020, she was Chair of the Board of Trustees of YMCA MK. In 2013 Cheryl qualified in textile design for embroidery and specialises in creating women’s vestments. Cheryl is a member of Christ the Cornerstone ecumenical church in Central Milton Keynes. She lives near the new campus.

Julia Valentine

Julia has been a Board member since February 2001. She first became involved with YMCA MK when, as the local careers service manager, she led in establishing the Connexions Service and drawing in key voluntary organisations – including YMCA MK – to join the Connexions Partnership responsible for providing a range of information, advice, guidance and support services for local young people. Recently retired, Julia is Chair of our Personnel and Training Committee, and previously a member of the Task Group overseeing the building of our new campus. Julia also enjoys scuba diving and is qualified as an Advanced Level Diver.