Meet Our Team
Don is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in Psychology, History and Political Science and certification to teach secondary education. In 2004, he also earned a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology.
Wells began his career as a high school history and psychology teacher before beginning an award-winning media career spanning three decades as an artist/animator, writer-producer, news director, project manager and communications consultant. The one constant throughout the years has been his commitment to use his talents and influence to serve the community.
Don was instrumental in the early formation of Just in Time for Foster Youth and used his leadership position at KGTV/ABC10 San Diego to help produce the My First Home Extreme Makeover segment, giving JIT much-needed visibility in its infancy. Since then, Don has been a consistent supporter of Just in Time, joining the board in 2009 and assuming the duties of Executive Director in 2010.
Diane is a co-founder of Just in Time for Foster Youth; she served as Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board until becoming the Development Director in 2014. Her responsibility is to engage the greater community in the Just in Time mission, ensuring the financial sustainability of the organization. Since 2003, she has been instrumental in raising the JIT budget from $20,000 to $4 million, serving over 800 youth annually.
Diane is credited with creating the Coach Approach to Mentoring, an innovative training founded on the belief that everyone is creative, resourceful and whole, and that transformative change occurs when we step outside our own agenda, build rapport, understanding and trust, and ask powerful questions that expand thinking and promote insight.
A graduate of the University of Michigan and the Hudson Institute of Coaching, Diane enjoyed a successful 24-year career as a senior account representative for First American Title Insurance Company in Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar, California. Earlier in her life, Diane was a high school English teacher, editor of a town paper and director of public relations for a nonprofit health resort, always in search of ways to serve and grow.
Volunteer & Administrative Services Director
Monica’s professional work experience spans over 20 years in sales, marketing, recruiting, and diversity and inclusion roles for organizations like the Walt Disney Company, UMass Memorial Health Care, Lutheran Family Services and Keck Graduate Institute, a Claremont College. Born and raised in the Chicago area, Monica earned her Bachelor of Science in Mass Media Communications from Oral Roberts University and her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management.
Monica’s desire to serve foster youth began over 20 years ago when she served as a CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer, where she was dedicated to a foster child’s case and advocated for their best interests. Following her corporate career, Monica served as a child care worker in a Riverside County group home, trained foster parents and later recruited foster parents. Monica is passionate about supporting Just in Time’s mission through organizational effectiveness and maximizing volunteer engagement.
Impact Research & CRM Systems Director
Collaboration is the cornerstone of Trish’s approach, which she leverages to empower volunteers and integrate them into the organization.
Trish earned her MBA from the Yale School of Management. She holds three coaching certifications and has served as President of SANDAPT (San Diego Chapter of the Association for Psychological Type). Trish’s career in the for-profit sector spans 20 years and includes employment at American Express, Lexus, iCrossing, Toyota Financial Services and North Star Coaching.
Youth Services Associate Director
Simone feels a great sense of pride as an alumnus of foster care. She spent her five years in care at San Pasqual Academy where she developed a love and admiration for the foster youth community and began to create positive impacts as a mentor, tutor and teacher assistant. After emancipating, Simone attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where she obtained her BA in Child Development with minors in Ethnic Studies and Psychology.
Simone later earned her MA in Postsecondary Educational Leadership with a specialization in Student Affairs at San Diego State University. Her decision to pursue a master’s degree was fueled by her desire to represent the foster youth community in higher education. During and after her master’s program, Simone contributed her lived experience and education to support students in the SDSU Guardian Scholars Program – first as a graduate assistant and finally as the Program Coordinator. In these roles, Simone supported the personal and professional development and academic achievements of her students while challenging them to be reflective, goal-oriented and make strides toward becoming the best version of themselves.
Education is a very important aspect of Simone’s life. Not only has it helped her take control of her own destiny, it has also enhanced her opportunity to be impactful in the foster youth community. Simone’s passion and dedication to her community is what led her to Just in Time where she aspires to be a compassionate leader, an unapologetic advocate and a positive cheerleader. Simone is excited to be a part of an amazing team, a loving community and cannot wait to meet you.
Volunteer, Operations & Admin Manager
Being bounced around from placement to placement and high school to high school, Reshae finally established a relationship with Ramona High School. During the summer before her senior year, she moved to a placement in Hillcrest. Wanting to stay at Ramona High School, Reshae advocated for herself and helped establish the passing of AB490. AB490 allowed her to continue her senior year in Ramona while residing in Hillcrest and she was the first student in San Diego County to utilize the benefits of the bill.
After high school, Reshae enrolled herself into San Diego Job Corps to start the process of getting on her feet. She has been a speaker throughout the years with College Connection and spoke on the panel for Foster Care Changes in Sacramento with Karen Bass and Darrel Steinberg. She has worked as a child care worker in San Diego with New Alternatives, has been with Just in Time for Foster Youth since 2016 and is currently studying for her MBA.
Investor Relations Manager
Jennifer’s professional work experience spans over 20 years in the media and advertising industry as a sales and marketing executive. Born and raised in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY area, Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional & Technical Communications and double minored in Business and Psychology. In 2017 she left the world of media to go back to school and finished an Executive MBA program in December 2018. While earning her MBA, Jennifer also began studying the world of nonprofit and how her corporate skill set could transfer over. She knew she wanted to move into purpose-driven work for her second act.
When introduced to Just in Time’s mission, Jennifer knew immediately it was where she belonged. While never having been a foster youth herself, Jennifer understood from an early age that she would have to figure quite a bit out on her own, and experienced first-hand the power and positive influence a mentor and a community had on the trajectory of her own life. Joining the JIT team was life coming full circle and provided an opportunity to give back in many ways. She sees the uniqueness in all individuals, and intuitively knows that “one size doesn’t fit all” which matches up well with JIT’s unique theory of change and individualized approach to serving youth.
When she’s not in the office, you can find Jennifer with her nose in the book, hiking a mountain, skiing down a hill or wakeboarding behind a boat!
Youth Services Manager
After she graduated, Amanda received a job as a commercial coordinator at NBC Universal. She valued this experience and loved working in entertainment but realized that she wanted to dedicate her time to help and influence others in need. She had little financial support and at times, worked two jobs to support herself and graduate debt-free. Amanda takes pride in her financial responsibility and hopes to help others achieve financial security. She participated in multiple Just in Time programs and wants to spread awareness about the amazing opportunities and resources available through JIT.
When she’s not working or volunteering, Amanda is passionate about surfing, social movements, traveling and challenging herself to learn new things.
North County Manager
Although exiting foster care was not the smoothest transition, Nancy was able to get connected with various programs that provided the necessary tools to help acclimate young adults into the world of adulthood. With support from Change a Life Foundation, CSUSM ACE Scholars Program, Fostering Opportunities Dollars for Scholars, Just in Time for Foster Youth, My Girlfriend’s Closet, Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars Program and the YMCA, she was able to complete her undergraduate studies – debt-free!
As an advocate for youth to empower their voices, Nancy has also participated in several panel and speaking opportunities throughout the years with organizations such as Access, FosterClub, Junior League of San Diego and Promises2Kids.
Youth Services Lead Coordinator
Virgo immigrated from the Philippines in 2000 and transferred to San Diego State University from Fullerton College in 2015. He recently graduated from SDSU with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. One of his long-term goals is to obtain a master’s degree in Higher Education and promote the success of former foster youth in underrepresented fields such as biology. He hopes that his impact on others will lead them to embrace their experience and celebrate their achievements.
Virgo has invested his time at SDSU as a voice to empower his peers in the former foster youth community. Through his student leadership positions in SDSU’s Guardian Scholars program and Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay men, he has learned how to represent his community and love his intersecting identities. His passion for leadership stems from his desire to establish brave spaces for his peers that are inclusive and encourages them to share their experiences.
Originally only drawn to Just in Time for the physical resources, Virgo has since learned the impact that can be created by a team with a shared vision. This impact motivated him to leave his previous employment as a dialysis technician and join the revolution that is changing the perception of foster care.
Changing Lanes Auto Access Advisor
Cori previously volunteered with Promises 2 Kids as a mentor in their Guardian Scholars program. In 2012, she and her husband became foster parents through Angel’s Network to their now adopted 6-year-old daughter. They also have two boys, 8 and 10 years old. Cori enjoys watching her oldest son play soccer and both boys practice Martial Arts, and her daughter loves ballet, tap and hip-hop dance.
Cori exited the mortgage business in December 2017 to pursue working full-time with foster youth. She is excited to combine her passion in serving foster kids with her professional knowledge and experience in lending and finance to help young adults gain auto financing access within Just in Time’s Changing Lanes program.
Brand, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
Rachel is an alumnus of San Diego State University, where she graduated magna cum laude from the School of Journalism & Media Studies with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and an Allied Discipline in Marketing. She began her professional career at a full-service advertising firm in San Diego, where the start-up environment combined with her strong work ethic allowed her to grow from an intern to an executive in just a few short years. She excelled in the creative side of things, especially copywriting, which allowed her to establish a new position as Creative Services Manager for the company.
While she loved her clients, coworkers and the creativity that went into working in an ad agency, Rachel didn’t feel entirely fulfilled in the advertising world and wanted to use her talents in a way that more directly helped those around her.
From the moment she read JIT’s values and mission, Rachel knew she wanted to be a part of it – and happily accepted the position of Brand, Communications & Marketing Coordinator in May 2018.
Outside of the workplace, Rachel enjoys live music, singing, movies and art, and is a house rabbit enthusiast.
Volunteer Services Coordinator
Kathryn is a driven and passionate young woman who first fell in love with child advocacy during a trip abroad where she got involved with a non-profit bringing food, mentorship and healthcare to children across western Tanzania. She came home from this trip with a newfound vision to gear her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo toward a career in the non-profit world, focusing on child advocacy and being a voice for the unnoticed. She’s so excited to bring her knowledge and hunger to learn to Just in Time and connect caring volunteers with youth transitioning out of the foster care system.
Kathryn has worked for multiple established non-profit organizations in San Diego for more than four years and her past experiences have included program management, volunteer oversight, fund development and donor relations, marketing and event planning. She’s a jack of all trades, willing to go where the need is and build up her skills as she goes. At her core, Kathryn deeply believes each person has the invaluable opportunity to live a meaningful life and make the world a better place, and she’s thankful to be able to encourage this value with volunteers and partners at Just in Time.
In her free time, Kathryn enjoys hiking, going to the beach, and spending time with her husband and dog, Lucy.
Volunteer Services Coordinator
Ren has always been passionate about building quality relationships, enhancing personal growth and applying her optimistic attitude to make a positive impact on society. Throughout her college career, she worked, interned and volunteered in various community-serving environments catering to diverse cultures.
Ren graduated Magna Cum Laude with distinctions from San Diego State University, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and minor in Television, Film and New Media. She also received her Associate of Arts in Communication from Southwestern College. Her experiences and educational background have helped guide her in the direction of leadership within non-profit organizations.
After learning about Just in Time’s success stories from good friends who were JIT participants, Ren knew she wanted to help in the process of encouraging former foster youth to become confident, capable and connected. Now, she is excited to be a part of the JIT family!
During her free time, Ren enjoys outdoor activities, reading motivational books and learning new things. She is an aspiring influential individual who hopes to motivate others to tap into their full potential and reach self-actualization.
Youth Services Coordinator
Originally from Los Angeles, Anthony moved to San Diego in 2016 to pursue his higher education at San Diego State University. Anthony graduated from San Diego State with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and minor in Consoling and Social Change. While at San Diego State, Anthony was a participant and actively involved in the Guardian Scholars Program, which is a support service dedicated to assisting students who identify as former foster youth. Anthony served as a SOAR Mentor for two years, where he mentored 10 incoming Guardian Scholar students during their first years at San Diego State. In addition to serving as a SOAR Mentor, Anthony also served as the Director or Finance for the Guardian Scholars Students Advisory Board. Having been in the foster care system, Anthony’s passion to help and empower his peers stems from the experiences he had growing up.
In his free time, Anthony enjoys traveling, going to the beach, going to music shows, dirt biking, watching his favorite sports teams (Lakers, Dodgers, Los Angeles Kings, Raiders, Boxing and UFC) and visiting his family in Los Angeles.
Ivan is a graduate of San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in General Business Administration. His career began through the Parks and Recreation Department with the City of San Diego, where he excelled in the problem-solving aspect of work by creating a partnership with the City of San Diego Police Department and establishing clear roles to eliminate illegal camps in the Parks and Beaches. Soon after, Ivan obtained a job at ICW Group as a Claims Processor where he learned the value of data integrity and customer service. However, he soon discovered his position would be relocating. Rather than picking his whole life up and moving like he had so many times during his decade in foster care, Ivan committed to staying in San Diego.
During Ivan’s Job search, he came across an opportunity that felt like destiny: Just in Time for Foster Youth was looking to fill a new position in their Volunteer Services department. Ivan’s time spent as a JIT participant combined with the professional skills he gained during his internships and time at ICW Group made him a perfect fit on the JIT team. He recently started as our Volunteer Services Coordinator and is taking the lead on recruitment for My First Home along with other services.
Outside of work, Ivan loves listening to podcasts and hip-hop, playing and watching soccer, watching Mixed Martial Arts and live sporting events, and spending time with his cat Meela.
Youth Services Coordinator
In 2013, Janeth faced the decision of moving to San Francisco or San Diego. After finding out about Just In Time for Foster Youth, Janeth reached out and was offered the support and community she needed to succeed. This prompted her to make the drive and move to San Diego where she attended and graduated from the University of California San Diego with a major in Political Science and minors in Environmental Studies and Regional Specialization of Latin America and the Multi-Ethnic United States. Throughout her time at UC San Diego, Janeth went through several transformative phases; questioning the inequalities she’s faced, the social conditioning she’s been through and the beliefs she was attached to led her to change her diet, perspectives, behavior and outlook on life. Today Janeth prioritizes her purpose in life: to help herself and others. Her involvement with JIT, devotion to environmental stewardship and passion for humankind fuels her to do better, be better, fall and rise.
Investor Outreach Coordinator
Caitlin is a hard-working student, caregiver to a disabled veteran and single mother outside of being a Just In Time participant and staff member.
Currently pursuing an associate’s degree in Business Administration at Grossmont College and expecting to transfer to SDSU next fall, she truly enjoys learning and finds comfort in staying productive. She aspires to pursue higher education for as long as she can afford the tuition. Why stop at only one PhD?
Empowered by JIT to know her strengths and grow from experiences in the foster care system, Caitlin has embraced her past by confidently sharing her story with youth, volunteers and investors in the JIT community in hopes that she can inspire others to rise to resilience.
When she’s not working or studying, Caitlin is passionate about painting with her daughter and would love an opportunity to paint a mural or participate in a city beautification project.
Youth Services Coordinator
Daniella is a graduate of San Diego State University, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in Counseling & Social Change. During her studies at SDSU, she worked part-time at the International Student Center on campus, where she collaborated closely with students from around the globe to support the programs and services that help foster student success, global perspectives, intercultural awareness and international cooperation.
Previous to her studies at SDSU, Daniella worked for over three years in financial institutions such as Mission Federal Credit Union and U.S. Bank. During that time, she learned a lot about finance while also realizing her love for customer service and helping people in general. Upon this realization, she was determined to find a career that aligned with her passion for advocacy work along with giving back to the community she so closely identifies with.
Daniella first became involved with Just in Time back in 2016 as a participant in College Bound. From there, she joined Career Horizons and other services that JIT offers. Growing up in over a dozen foster homes in San Bernardino County, she was unaware that an entire community existed for former foster youth like herself. Now, she works full-time with Just in Time for Foster Youth as a Youth Services Coordinator.
When she’s not working or volunteering, you can find Daniella spending time with her “daughter” Frida, a terrier mix rescue.
Youth Services Coordinator
James graduated with his Bachelor of Arts and minor in Counseling and Social Change from San Diego State University. Prior to moving to San Diego, James spent 16 years in the foster care system, growing up in multiple foster homes throughout the Bay Area of California. As an adolescent, he understood the negative effects and impacts the foster care system can have on young people, and made a goal to someday help other former and current foster youth who experience them first-hand.
While enrolled at SDSU, James spent a majority of his time helping others through the Guardian Scholars Program. In this role, James served as a Community Outreach Officer where he was in charge of managing relationships with foster youth liaisons at community colleges across San Diego County. It was also his duty to present the benefits of SDSU’s Guardian Scholars Program to other former foster youth.
With a desire to continue to empower former and current foster youth, James recently made the decision to join the Youth Services team at Just in Time for Foster Youth. Since he was a young teenager, James knew he had a calling and passion in life; JIT’s mission fits the purpose he has set out to accomplish. As not only a participant but now an employee, James is deeply committed to the Just in Time community.
In his spare time, James enjoys being outdoors and can be seen involved in activities such as hiking, surfing and skateboarding. He also enjoys reading, producing lo-fi music and sports — and loves to watch NBA games whenever possible.
Kyra M Kurita
Impact & Systems Administrator
Kyra is an ambitious student pursuing two bachelor’s degrees from San Diego State University in Psychology and Speech Language & Hearing Sciences. She previously graduated from El Camino Community College with three associate degrees in Early Childhood Education, Communication Studies and General Studies of Culture & Communication. Her goal is to be a life-long learner, as she sees knowledge as the key to opening every door. She hopes to earn a doctorate in either Speech Language Pathology or Psychology.
Prior to her engagement with Just in Time, she struggled with her identity as a former foster youth, however it is now her passion. JIT helped Kyra accept her history in foster care and advocate for those in her community. Her goal is to help every individual find their own voice and learn to express themselves; communication is the essence of human connection in her opinion.
Kyra has experience creating inclusive environments that support the growth of self-confidence having previously been a manager for a music school, a preschool teacher and a tutor. In all of those positions, she worked tirelessly with numerous individuals with compassion and patience. No matter what job she has been assigned, she assures that her work positively impacts the lives of those around her and she connects on a personalized level.
Osvaldo “Ozzy” Cobian
Administrative Assistant Coordinator
Ozzy received his Associate of Science in Physics from Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga before moving to San Diego in 2015 to pursue his undergraduate degree. He is currently in his senior year at San Diego State University, where he is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in Engineering, Computer Science, Counseling and Social Change.
In his time at SDSU, Ozzy has been very involved on campus in a variety of ways, especially in roles where he encourages other former foster youth to own their stories and follow their dreams. He served as the president of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity during the 2018-2019 school year, a values-based fraternity that focuses on brotherhood, scholarship, community service and cultural awareness; as a SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Academics, Relationship) mentor for the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs, guiding incoming freshman through college life, first as a Transfer-Bridge Mentor then as Assistant Coordinator for the program; and as an active member of Guardian Scholars, a program that serves former foster youth students, where Ozzy assisted with outreach, recruitment, mentorship and creating care packages.
Ozzy is driven by a motivation to help foster youth succeed and is empowered through his experiences supporting others. He loves the feeling of knowing that together, youth who come from traumatic or uncertain backgrounds can truly thrive. His future aspirations after he graduates from SDSU in May 2020 include becoming a college advisor for sciences or college coordinator, and pursuing a master’s degree related to his passions.
As a new member of the JIT team and former JIT participant, Ozzy hopes to support, inspire and motivate participants along their journeys to self-sufficiency and well-being, and aims to serve as a role model for what you can achieve and overcome when you are surrounded by a community of support.
In his free time, Ozzy enjoys hanging out with his frat brothers, playing video games and volunteering in the community with his fraternity.
Youth Services Administrative Assistant
Kareli is a strong, passionate individual who believes everyone has a meaningful purpose in the world.
In 2015, she attended California College San Diego but quickly learned that the medical field was not the right fit for her. Since then, she has been exploring what it is that she truly enjoys. You can find her at the gym, beach or spending time with her siblings.
Kareli first got connected with Just In Time as a participant back in 2017. She joined Career Horizons & Financial Fitness the next year where she learned the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships.
Kareli is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to such an impactful organization that she is proud to be a part of!
Our Support Team
Chief Financial Officer
Gayle is a certified public accountant with a degree in accounting and a MBA from Arizona State University in Tempe. She spent the first five years of her career as an auditor with Deloitte, where she audited not-for-profit organizations, regional governmental groups and publicly held companies. After receiving her MBA and raising her family, Gayle joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles and spent the next 11 years providing accounting and consulting services to multinational corporations, not-for-profit organizations and various governmental entities within the federal government of the United States and the countries of Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia.
As an experienced auditor and consultant, Gayle has helped organizations achieve best-in-class finance and accounting functions through the implementation of enabling technology, re-engineered processes, redesigned procedures and training. After leaving PricewaterhouseCoopers and settling in San Diego, Gayle spent the next few years as Controller for the Information Technology division of Sony Electronics. She thought about retiring but after reading an article about Phillip Rivers, his Rivers of Hope Foundation and its assistance to youth at Just in Time for Foster Youth, she volunteered on the Audit Committee of JIT and was soon asked to be its part-time CFO, which she gladly accepted in 2012. Fully committed to the JIT mission, Gayle uses her skills and experience to help keep the finance and accounting functions running smoothly so everyone else can do what they do best in order to serve JIT’s youth.
Investor Stewardship and Events
Previously, Karen worked at USO San Diego in development. She has been a volunteer, board member and president for various organizations in San Diego County including St. Germaine Children’s Charity, The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, San Diego County Federation of Republican Women, La Jolla Republican Women, Federated and the La Jolla Opera Guild. She has also chaired the major fundraisers for all of the above organizations.
Karen and her husband have had six AFS exchange students – students in their senior year of high school. Their “children” live in Denmark, Chile, Germany, Slovakia and Italy. Their daughter from Ukraine immigrated to the US in 2003 and is now an American citizen. Through Just in Time, the Millers now have another daughter – Victoria, a former foster youth and welcome addition to their family!
Prior to her work with nonprofits and volunteer organizations, Karen was a Senior Buyer at San Diego Gas & Electric. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in Foreign Languages, majoring in German and minoring in Russian.
Customer Relations Consultant
Chris is a native of Dallas, Texas but grew up and lives in East County San Diego. Chris began his 30-year media career as an intern at a San Diego radio station while going to junior college. Eventually he would be charged with overseeing the marketing and promotions departments for five of San Diego’s top-rated radio stations along with managing 30 full- and part-time employees. Chris was always most proud of his ability to use the power and megaphone of those radio stations to give back to the San Diego community that has been so good to him.
Chris first became acquainted with the struggles facing foster youth 15 years ago when he was approached by a former colleague to donate prizes and help promote a fundraiser for San Pasqual Academy. Chris was recently introduced to the Just in Time mission by an old friend and co-worker, and immediately knew this was where he needed to be. Chris is excited to use his knowledge and enthusiasm to expand the visibility of JIT’s services, participants and investors.
Chris’ passions are family and travel. When Chris is not at work in the JIT offices, you can usually find him with family or relaxing with friends at his family homes in Palm Springs, California and Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
Lori’s relationship with Just in Time for Foster Youth began in 2009 when she was contacted and hired as bookkeeper by one of JIT’s founding members. In those early days at the Casey Family Programs Building, there was only one office and one staff member. As JIT grew, Lori helped it evolve with its transition to QuickBooks Online and customized the accounting process, researched payroll and insurance needs, and implemented new filing systems to better serve JIT’s specific business model as a non-profit organization assisting transition age foster youth.
Lori has been a constant at JIT for almost a decade, reconciling accounts, making sure the bills are paid, and managing the financial tasks of accounting and record keeping with strict attention to detail. Lori appreciates JIT’s mission, loves working with the young people on staff and seeing the youth served become better prepared to go out into the world on their own. Her dedication has helped JIT become the strong organization it is today.
Steven Vaughn Silva
College Bound Study Abroad Coordinator
Steven is a graduate of San Diego State University, where he received his Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice. He also received his Associates in Applied Arts at Golden West Community College.
One of Steven’s biggest talents is his unique ability to relate to a variety of audiences on a personal level; he attributes this gift to working in the service industry for over seven years, supporting teens as a youth group leader in his church and growing up in the foster care system.
Steven spent 10 challenging years in the foster care system where he had to overcome many obstacles brought on by moving to 30 different homes before he turned 18. He believes that moving and interacting with so many foster families and group homes made him a stronger individual in dealing with obstacles and hardships.
Steven has participated in many programs at JIT including Financial Fitness, My First Home, and Bridges to Success. As a previous participant, he can relate to youth’s circumstances and knows how difficult it is emancipating from the system with no resources to survive. He’s always wanted to give back to youth with similar backgrounds, and by becoming part of the JIT staff, he now knows he can make a difference in many young people’s lives.
Rise to Resilience Consultant
With over 10 years’ experience in social services combined with lived experience as a former foster youth, Vanessa’s passion for bringing about durable change for disadvantaged populations can be felt by all who know her. By her own admission, Vanessa’s experience growing up in foster care was not the greatest. She entered care at the age of three, having upward of 16 placements before aging out of the system at 18 years old, completely unprepared for adulthood. Vanessa experienced homelessness and many days of hopelessness before things began to turn around. Remarkably, she was able to claw her way out of poverty through perseverance, faith and hard work, and slowly began to build a life for herself.
At 19 years old, faced with the possibility that her two younger sisters who had remained in foster care were going to be moved into different homes, Vanessa felt compelled to take on the responsibility of caring for them. While working and going to school, she became a licensed foster parent with Casey Family Programs and worked tirelessly to provide the stable, loving home she had never experienced. After eight long years of balancing work and caring for her sisters, she graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management.
For the past five years, Vanessa has used her lived experience and creative passion to design programs that fill gaps for transition age foster youth. In her previous role as Youth Services Director at Just in Time for Foster Youth, she identified a clear gap: mental health services that are relevant, transformative, individualized and realistic for transition-age foster youth. She conducted focus groups and surveys, using the information she gathered from participants, and from interviewing and collaborating with clinicians and service providers. to develop a curriculum, Rise to Resilience (R2R). R2R is a nontraditional approach to addressing the mental health needs of our community through a 12-month cohort program and an individualized journey of healing that participants experience within a community of support. Vanessa has since transitioned from her role as Youth Services Director to bring this dynamic program to communities, starting with one that has done so much to support her, Just in Time for Foster Youth.
Another gap Vanessa identified during her work was the support and resources available for single parents to help them escape poverty. She noted the resources available to parenting participants were few, and inadvertently create a culture of dependency. This led her to recently launch a social enterprise called Mommies and Mimosas Supportive Network that is focused on helping mothers achieve wellness and financial independence.