Category: Education

Dr. Sara I. Gamez, Associate Director

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona - Student Support & Equity Programs (CA)

Dr. Sara I. Gamez is a first generation college graduate, alumni of Foster Care, youth advocate, speaker/facilitator and scholar-practitioner. Dr. Gamez has over 15 years of experience in higher education, and currently serves as the Associate Director for Student Support & Equity Programs (SSEP) at Cal Poly Pomona, assisting to lead the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Renaissance Scholars (foster youth support program), the Veterans Resource Center and the Undeclared Student Program. She has worked as a part-time research assistant on a California State University (CSU) system-wide study on Student Housing Instability and Food Insecurity in the CSU, and currently serve as co-chair for the Food and Housing Security Taskforce on her campus. Additionally, she provides leadership and advocacy serving as chair for the Southern California Higher Education Foster Youth Consortium (SCHEFYC) and nationally as a co-chair for the Community on Homelessness and Foster Care within the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ (NASPA) Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community (SCIHE-KC).

Rachel Mayes Strawn, Ph.D., Program Director

Virginia Community College System - Great Expectations Program (VA)

Rachel Mayes Strawn, Ph.D., is passionate about the transformative power of education and sees that power in action every day as the Program Director of Great Expectations, the Virginia Community College System’s program for youth who have experienced foster care. Dr. Strawn succeeded former Virginia first lady, Anne Holton, as Program Director in 2014. Under her tenure, the program has expanded to 21 of Virginia’s 23 Community Colleges and gained national recognition. Dr. Strawn was honored by the National Association of Social Workers - Virginia Chapter earning the Citizen of the Year award in 2016. Under her leadership, the Great Expectations program won the national Aging Out Institute’s 2018 Education Award. She also completed the yearlong Senior Leadership Seminar, ACE Women’s Virginia Network in 2017 and has presented at multiple national and state conferences. She recently co-authored a chapter for the December 2018 New Directions for Community Colleges on housing and food insecurity amongst community college students. She also authored a soon to be published chapter on rural community colleges as a student choice for the same publication.

Category: Employment

Kenny Williams, VP of Community Based Services

Sunrise Children's Services - VentureON Program (KY)

Kenny Williams is the Vice President of Community Based Services for Sunrise Children’s Services where he oversees therapeutic foster care services, foster-to adopt, adoption, independent living, the community mental health division (family services), and a human trafficking prevention program. Kenny has been on both sides of the desk within the child welfare system and leads with the mindset “everyone has a seat at the table and finances should never dictate dreams or what should be.” When an identified need with no viable solution was presented regarding teens aging out of care, Kenny and his team designed a specialized program with young people, ages 18-21 which aged out of the foster care system, to ensure their successful transition into contributing adulthood was a viable option. VentureON is the result of an innovative private child care organization vision combined with business, church and government support that connects those dynamic young adults aging out with resources that help them find housing, jobs and an education to build their own future and surrounds the young adult with a care plan team, a mentor, partnerships with employers and safe, stable housing. Kenny has many titles but husband and father brings him the most joy and fulfillment.

Lisa Miccolis, Executive Director/Founder

The Monkey & The Elephant (PA)

Lisa Miccolis is the Executive Director/Founder of The Monkey & The Elephant and has more than eight years of experience working as a barista and café supervisor. She spent a year coaching low-income youth at YouthBuild in North Philadelphia before journeying abroad to South Africa, where she met Ephraim, the young boy who inspired The Monkey & The Elephant. Since earning a B.A. in Psychology at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Lisa has dedicated considerable time to building The Monkey & The Elephant from the ground up.

Category: Housing

Kimberly Gilmore, Program Director

Acenda Integrated Health (NJ)

Kimberly Gilmore is the Program Director for Adolescent Supportive Housing & Mentoring Programs at Acenda Integrated Health. Kimberly has been employed at Robins’ Nest (now merged with Acenda Integrated Health) for 13 years, and has been working with youth aging-out, homeless and/or at-risk of homelessness since 2008. As Program Director, Kimberly is responsible for the overall management and administration of Adolescent housing programs. This is including - but not limited to - oversight of personnel, resources and program components necessary for effective services. Kimberly also serves on various state and local committees to assist in ending homelessness. Kimberly is an active member in the Southern New Jersey Continuum of Care (SNJCoC) and currently serves on the SNJCoC Executive Board.

Diehdre Gregory, Manager

Children's Home Society of Virginia - The Possibilities Project (VA)

Diehdre joined Children’s Home Society of Virginia in 2017 as manager of The Possibilities Project, an innovative program providing housing and supportive services to young people who have aged out of Foster Care with little to no support. She brings 20 years of experience working to serve children and families in Richmond City and surrounding counties. After teaching briefly in the public school system, Diehdre began her career in the mental health field working directly with at-risk teens in a residential setting. Over time, Diehdre effectively utilized her knowledge and skills to develop and manage many successful therapeutic programs throughout Richmond, VA while strengthening communities along the way. However, Diehdre is most proud of the numerous children, families, and professionals in the field that have been able to reach their own levels of success based on the advocacy and training provided by programs under her leadership. In addition to her undergraduate degrees in Elementary Education and Behavioral Science, Diehdre also holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Professional Clinical Counseling.

Category: Life Skills

Tina Raheem, Administrator

Volunteer Fairfax (VA)

For nearly 20 years Tina Raheem worked at Foster Care to Success (former Orphan Foundation of America), managing the nation’s largest college scholarship program for foster youth. Under her leadership, 65% of scholarship recipients completed their college education. While at FC2S she also wrote four handbooks for foster youth and their advocates, on topics including academic success, life skills, health maintenance, and mentoring. She is now Grant Writer and Administrator with Volunteer Fairfax, Northern Virginia’s premier source for connecting volunteers with opportunities and amplifying their effect through nonprofit training and support. She is the mother of three grown children and a multi-species family of cats, dogs and whatever else walks, hops, swims or flies into her home.

Emily Marchese, Executive Director

Roots & Wings (NJ)

Emily Marchese is the Executive Director of Roots & Wings. She earned a Bachelors degree in English from Cornell University and a Masters degree from the London School of Economics. For over twelve years, Emily has been fundraising and developing programs to serve at-risk youth in New York and New Jersey. Her passion for making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and teenagers grew through leadership roles at CancerCare, the Endowment for Inner-City Education, and St. Philip’s Academy, in Newark, New Jersey. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Every day, she is driven by the enthusiasm of the community in supporting these young adults, the passion of the clients to build a brighter future, and the dedication of this incredible team.

Category: Relationships

Lisa Guillette, Executive Director

Foster Forward (RI)

Lisa Guillette is a recognized leader in child welfare practice and non-profit administration. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Foster Forward, a statewide community based organization that empowers lives impacted by foster care. During her tenure, Foster Forward has earned multi-million dollar competitive contracts and grant awards from the State of Rhode Island, the federal government and private funders. In 2018 Foster Forward’s Works Wonders program received national recognition as the Child Welfare League of America’s National Blueprint Award and the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance Innovations in American Government Award recipient. Ms. Guillette has twenty-five years of professional experience in education and child welfare and has served in her current role for over fifteen years. She has been appointed to serve on several legislative commissions and community boards and in 2005 was honored with a United States Congressional Angels in Adoption Award. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Providence College.

Kenyon Whitman, Program Director

University of California, Riverside - Guardian Scholars Program (CA)

Kenyon Lee Whitman is the Program Director of the Office of Foster Youth Support Services/Guardian Scholars Program at UC Riverside. He has a B.S. in Kinesiology from Fresno State, and a M.A. from Fresno State in Education Leadership and Administration. Kenyon is currently working toward a PhD in Higher Education Policy and Administration at the UC Riverside, where his research focuses on underrepresented students in higher education. Specifically, his research centers on the college-going experiences of foster youth. Kenyon has worked in a range of student affairs units, including Residential Life, Service-learning, and Outreach and Recruitment. As a former foster youth, Kenyon understands first-hand the challenges foster youth face as they work toward earning a college degree. Kenyon is also a proud alumnus of the Renaissance Scholars Program at Fresno State.