Shirley Torres is the Chief Program Officer for Homeboy Industries where she leads the
organization in strategies to receive, engage, and retain citizens returning from California state
and federal prisons, county jails, and juvenile detention facilities. She has served as both the
Director of Re-entry Services and as the head of curriculum and training department where she
was responsible for designing, developing, and implementing the educational components for
Homeboy. She spent three years working as a Release Counselor as part of a contract with the
Los Angeles Probation Department, specifically focused on girls and gangs within juvenile
detention camps. Raised in South Los Angeles, a neighborhood populated by violence, drugs,
and gangs, she knows first-hand the structural barriers and challenges facing urban youth and
their futures. Torres graduated from UCLA, becoming the first in her family to earn a college
degree. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work from USC with a concentration in Community
Organizations, Planning, and Administration.
Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Art Academy. In 1995, he became a member of
the East Los Angeles Streetscapers, when he was mentored by many Chicano artists and
muralists, who introduced him to creative expressions of all forms. For over a decade, he served
as a counselor and then Director of Substance Abuse Services & Programming at Homeboy
Industries. Fabian’s art has been showcased in solo and group exhibitions throughout the
United States and abroad, including Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Brooklyn, and
throughout Latin America.
A Technical Assistance (TA) Session is a ninety-minute communal learning space where participants are encouraged to ask questions to generate insightful discussions. Each of the 8 sessions available on the second day are led by credible experts in their specified subjects who are thrilled to answer questions and have open conversations with participants. This Q&A format allows those in attendance an opportunity to have their most complex questions answered along with a chance to learn from others. If many attendees have the same questions, a greater portion of the ninety-minute session will be dedicated to answering those questions in depth
A “Workshop” at the Global Homeboy Network Gathering is a ninety-minute experience where participants listen and learn from subject matter experts. In the Workshops, all taking place on the first day of the Gathering, presenters will share via lectures, slideshows, videos, and more. The format will include time at the end for participant questions.
Miah Sommer Miah Sommer is the Founder and Executive Director of The Bike Union Mentoring Project. A Nebraska native, Miah grew up on Bancroft street in South Omaha. Prior to The Bike Union, Miah served as Market Manager for The Trek Bicycle Stores of Omaha and was the co-founder of B.R.A.G.G. a running and cycling based youth mentoring program. The combination of his professional skills and his personal life experience compelled Sommer to found The Bike Union in 2014. In his (scarce) spare time Miah, enjoys reading, riding his bike, and spending time with his wife Katie, his two sons, Henry and Charlie, and their family dog, Willie.
Christopher Poulos Christopher Poulos is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Washington Statewide Reentry Council. Prior to his appointment, he served as Executive Director of Life of Purpose Treatment at the University of North Texas, where he was also an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice. During law school, he served at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and The Sentencing Project. Poulos has advised United States Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on addiction and justice policy and served on several task forces related to criminal justice policy. He graduated cum laude from the University of Maine School of Law, where he was President of the American Constitution Society and represented children facing criminal charges as a student attorney in the Juvenile Justice Clinic.
Tarra Simmons Tarra Simmons is an Attorney and the Director of the Civil Survival Project at the Public Defender Association in Seattle, WA. Civil Survival project advances the rights of the formerly incarcerated through organizing, leadership development, legislative advocacy and direct legal services. Prior to law school, Ms. Simmons was incarcerated related to her own struggles with childhood trauma and substance use disorder. She graduated from Seattle University School of Law in May 2017, magna cum laude, with the Dean’s Medal and the Graduating Student Award, but was initially denied the right to take the bar exam because of her own criminal history. It was national news when the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in her favor, allowing her to take the bar exam and become a member of the Washington State Bar Association.
Arlin Crane Arlin joined the Homeboy staff in 2012 as a kitchen manager, looking for some down time after running kitchens at Whole Foods. But she fell in love with the people of Homeboy and is now the Director of Social Enterprise for the Culinary Division, managing the day-to-day operations of virtually every business Homeboy owns. Arlin had her first business whens he was 14 and hard work is nothing new to her. She starts her work day at 4 in the morning and spends the rest of her day attending to the needs of all her employees. When everyone goes home for the day, she stays late to finish anything else that needs to get done. This job has taught her to balance her entrepreneurial spirit with the compassion-based mission of Homeboy. Leading with love has been her main priority here and in her words, “I don’t want anyone to ever look down at any of these people they’re stronger than most of us.” She would like to move development forward for more women-focused social enterprises and become more of an advocate for businesses with a social mission. Women who used to struggle with prison and drug problems are now leading million dollar businesses and this is thanks to the trust, support, and respect that Arlin gives the employees she works with every day. Arlin has taught Homeboy so much of what she knows about business, but Homeboy has taught her unconditional love.
Christy Stillwell Christy Stillwell comes from a background of gang violence, substance abuse, incarceration, young motherhood and domestic violence. Lost, confused and feeling betrayed she enrolled in a women’s outpatient drug and alcohol program. It was there she came to understand she was a victim of domestic violence and a drug addict. After completing the program and continuing some years of aftercare, she was encouraged to spread her wings and fly. She landed at Homeboy Industries 8 years ago where she worked in the Homegirl Cafe for a year. As her case manager learned her story, realizing she was a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence, she offered Ms. Stillwell the opportunity to attend a DV training which would certify her to facilitate groups. At the time Ms. Stillwell did not realize the training was to work with batterers, so she had to think deeply about that, ultimately recognizing that working with batterers is a powerful way to support victims, by helping them learn about their triggers, motivations and past traumas that may cause their behaviors. Currently, Ms. Stillwell manages the domestic violence program and facilitates court-mandated classes at Homeboy Industries. She is a Certified Domestic Violence Facilitator and Certified Anger Management Facilitator. She is also the liaison to Peace Over Violence and supports women in their healing and in following their dreams. Her specialty is working with gang-members and those seeking recovery.
Marissa Gillette Marissa Gillette was born and raised in Los Angeles and has been with Homeboy Industries since 2010, serving as Director of Educational Services since 2014. Ms. Gillette and her staff are responsible for the overall design, development, implementation, and evaluation of the organization’s curriculum, serving almost 300 trainees and community clients each month with a comprehensive selection of about 50 weekly classes, including court/DCFS-mandated and Probation-approved classes. In addition to managing the day to day operations of the department, including student services, educational outcomes, mentorship of trainees, and oversight of dozens of volunteer teachers, tutors and class facilitators, Ms. Gillette and her staff collaborate with local community organizations and educational institutions which complement and strengthen Homeboy’s mission of supporting the goals of men and women redirecting their lives. Ms. Gillette was born and raised in Los Angeles, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a BA in Cultural Anthropology, emphasis in Social Documentation.
Virginia Garcia Virginia Garcia is a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and Gender Based Violence Program Manager at Peace Over Violence, a community-based nonprofit dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. In this capacity, she manages POV’s PREA Program working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department responding to and addressing concerns related to sexual violence that impact inmates currently detained in the Century Regional Detention Facility, Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers, and the Inmate Reception Center for the county of Los Angeles. She also manages the advocacy component for POV with the Family Justice Center, working in collaboration with the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, LAPD, the City’s Victim’s Bureau, The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Project, and other sister agencies whose focus is to end gender based violence. She previously volunteered at POV as a hotline counselor for the Los Angeles Rape and Battering Hotline. Additionally, Virginia works with Aimee Berrios to co-facilitate the weekly Women Over Violence group at Homeboy Industries which helps educate and empower survivors of domestic violence. Prior to POV, Virginia worked with high school students at El Rancho High School as a substance abuse counselor. She was also a support technician at Cri-Help Socorro working closely with individuals who struggle with substance use and who have been impacted by homelessness, human trafficking, incarceration or the judicial system, and DCFS. Virginia received an Associate of Arts Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Legal Assistance Certificate from the Computer Education Institute in 2007. She also received a Chemical Dependency Certificate from East Los Angeles College in 2012. She is a survivor of intimate partner violence but more importantly the proud mother of three children.
Aimee Berrios Aimee Berrios is a Domestic Violence Specialist at Peace Over Violence, a community-based nonprofit dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. Aimee started at POV in 2015 as an Emergency Response Coordinator and Case Manager where she provided 24-hr emergency response at hospitals and police stations to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. She advocated for survivors with law enforcement, social workers and judges, and assessed survivors’ needs and provided resources, referrals, and crisis intervention as necessary. In 2018 she became a Domestic Violence Specialist, where she now works with LAPD to provide support for survivors including help with restraining orders, finding shelter placement, and offering crisis intervention. Aimee co-facilitates a weekly domestic violence group for women at Homeboy Industries with her colleague Virginia Garcia. Aimee has an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from East Los Angeles College and is working on a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management at the University of Phoenix. She is a survivor of intimate partner violence and a proud mother of three beautiful adult children, and a precious granddaughter.
Jason Manuel Jason Manuel was born in South Central, Los Angeles in April 1980. He shared his mother’s addiction since birth. At the age of 12, he was incarcerated for the first time for 13 months in Central Stillmore Juvenile Detention Camp. After incarceration, his grandmother adopted him to save him from entering the system. With no fatherly presence, raised solely by women, he grew up to be a very sensitive person. Without a father, Jason turned to the street life searching for a feeling of belonging. He looked up to the men in his gang as big brother and fatherly figures. He believed that they had his best interests at heart when, on later reflection, he realized that they did not. With his gang, he began to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at the young age of 12. This caused him to start smoking PCP at the age of 14. At the age of 22, still smoking PCP, Jason was sentenced to 15 years in prison. While spending time in prison, he encountered Homeboy Industries watching documentaries. When he got out prison he came to Homeboy Industries in 2017, but was surprised by the predominantly hispanic population at Homeboy. As he states, his twisted prison mentality taught him that if someone is not black, he is his enemy. It took him time to understand that the people at Homeboy were in fact his brothers. At Homeboy, Jason took classes to help himself and teach him what it means to be a man, including anger management, men’s group, parenting, and GED classes. Five to ten years from now Jason hopes to be a great motivational speaker and give back to youth. At Homeboy he works security full-time, and has been able to visit Youth Authority and Juvenile Hall through the front door, an experience that he never could have imagined.
Arique Franco Arique was born in April of 1984 in Long Beach, CA. He lived with both of his parents until about the age of 8, growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Around the age of 10, his mother took Arique and his siblings away from his father. This was the last time that he was able to see his father. Due to the lack of parental guidance being raised by a single working mom, Arique became gang-affiliated at the age of ten. Gang violence seemed normal to him; most of his family members involved in gang life. At the age of eleven, he spent a few days in juvenile detention center for the first time at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall. Right after his release, he was sentenced to 90 days in juvenile hall for a crime he committed while on probation. While in custody, he would often get into fights and began being sent into solitary confinement at the age of 12. Outside of incarceration, he would bounce around from school to school, often getting expelled. He was in and out juvenile detention center from the age of 11 until 18. At the age of 15, Arique was taken away from his mom by the Long Beach Gang Unit. At the age of 15, he had his first daughter. He ended up running away from Optimist Placement Home to be with his daughter. He began to hide from the cops and run away from his parole officer. He later got caught for another crime and spent three and a half years in prison. He would return to prison often for different violations. He was in and out of prison until he decided to change his life. Eventually Arique became tired of the gang lifestyle. He would sit in his cell and reflect on wanting something more in life. He is now working at Homeboy on a GED to have “open door” opportunities, getting tattoos off of his face, learning new things in classes, along with working in the cafe. In 5 years he sees himself staying focused and working a full-time job, potentially construction or art design.
Janna Shim Janna Shim is a Deputy Probation Officer serving the Court and community of Orange County, California. She began her probation career in 1997, supervising high-risk youthful offenders in Orange County’s “8% Early Intervention Program.” She has since held various positions within the Sacramento County, Yolo County and Orange County Probation Departments. Her past assignments have included Teen Court for dual-status youth, Intensive Juvenile Supervision, and the non-conventional duties of grant writing and legislative analysis. However, she remains most passionate about opportunities to collaborate with other service providers in efforts to achieve the best outcomes for individual youth, families and the communities in which they live. Janna currently works in Juvenile Investigations, where she conducts social study investigations and prepares comprehensive reports for the Court. These reports include those for 707 WIC transfer hearings, during which Probation recommends whether youth charged with serious offenses are better suited for Juvenile or Adult Court proceedings. Janna is a department Trauma Responsive Practices (TRP) trainer. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from California State University, Long Beach.
Kelly Rozek Kelly Rozek has been defending the indigent as an attorney with the Orange County Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender’s office for 14 years. Over the course of her career she has worked in adult criminal, dependency, delinquency, and mental health. Ms. Rozek is a trailblazer and was the first attorney in Orange County to keep a youth in juvenile court after the passage of Proposition 57 in 2016. Utilizing her background in mental health and with the utilization of trauma informed care she developed and collaborated with various experts and agencies to create a new way of combatting 707 hearings for juveniles. Ms. Rozek has developed innovative legal strategies on keeping juveniles accused of violent crimes in the juvenile system. Ms. Rozek currently works collaboratively with community partners to address the needs of each juvenile to ensure successful re-entry into the community.
Veronica Mendieta Veronica Mendieta is a paralegal serving Orange County, California’s indigent community. She has worked with the Orange County Alternate Defender’s Office for six years. She was the sole paralegal for four of those years in an office with 30+ attorneys. Her career began 12 years ago working in the private criminal defense sector. Veronica currently works on the preparation, disposition, and reentry work of the 707 WIC Transfer Cases using a holistic approach. The 707 WIC Transfer Cases consists of youth charged with serious felony crimes and at risk of having their cases being transferred to adult court. She collaborated and implemented procedures for her office relating to the handling of the 707 WIC Transfer Hearings since the passing of Proposition 57 in California. She conducts the investigation of the juveniles’ social history. She fervently collaborates with management, governmental agencies, Juvenile Court and local service providers for the optimum outcome in the youth’s rehabilitation and reentry into the community. Veronica is also a certified domestic violence counselor lending a hand to working with the youth’s families. She also holds a Paralegal Certificate (ABA approved) and a Certificate in Criminal Defense Investigation.
Crystal Anthony Crystal Anthony is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Underground GRIT, a non-profit in Orange County that provides men, women, and youth who have been system impacted and breaking cycles perpetuated by trauma. Recognizing the gaps in our system and the needs of the most vulnerable and helping empower care solutions for members, and walking through life with each member as they are incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities, jails, and prisons and re-enter into the community. Ms. Anthony was previously a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for the County of Orange’s Health Care Agency and provided expert training on human trafficking, and trauma specific treatment for individual and group prevention and intervention for youth in juvenile detention facilities. Ms. Anthony has developed and launched innovative restorative justice programs in the high risk security units in Orange County juvenile hall. Utilizing innovative and compassion based programs to implement trauma specific individual and family therapy treatments, art therapy, expressive arts, poetry, self-empowerment events and restorative healing circles.
Alisha Markle Alisha Markle is the Deputy Court Administrator with Chatham County Juvenile Court. She has 19 years of experience in the field of juvenile justice. Before moving to Chatham County, Mrs. Markle was employed at Cobb County Juvenile Court, in various positions. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and Argosy University. Mrs. Markle worked as a juvenile probation officer, family therapist, and program coordinator in accountability courts, specifically in Juvenile Drug Court and Family Treatment Court, before working in court administration. Most of her education and experience focuses on behavioral health and addiction. She has served on several accountability court committees to develop certification standards for family treatment courts and support implementation for new programs across the state. She enjoys shopping, cooking and spending time with her family. Mrs. Markle and her husband, Keith, have one daughter.
Dare Dukes Dare Dukes is the executive director of Deep Center, Savannah’s award-winning creative writing, leadership, and advocacy program for public school youth and adults in their village. Deep Center uses creative writing, art, and culture to help young people connect their learning to their lives, their lives to their communities, and their actions to transformational change. Deep also works with adults in their village to make sure youth are seen in their full humanity, and to identify and advocate for administrative and legislative policies that make Savannah a safe place for all young people and their families.
Judge Lisa Goldwire Colbert Judge Lisa Goldwire Colbert is a Chatham County Juvenile Court Judge. She was appointed by the Chatham County Superior Court Judges in September, 2012. Judge Colbert is a graduate of Groves High School, Savannah State University, and the University of Georgia School of Law. She also served six years in the Georgia Air National Guard. Judge Colbert has worked as an Associate for Alston & Bird, LLP in Atlanta; an Associate for the Law Office of Charles W. Bell & Associates, P.C.; Senior Staff Attorney for the Office of the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee; Staff Attorney for Chatham County Superior Court Judge Louisa Abbot; and Assistant County Attorney for Chatham County, Georgia. She has served on the boards of the Savannah CASA, Inc. and Parent and Child Development Services, Inc. She currently serves on the boards of Goodwill Southeast Georgia; Step Up Savannah and on the Board of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice by appointment of the Governor.
Tanya Washington Tanya Washington is a Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, currently working in the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group (JJSG). She began her career in New York working first as a criminal defense attorney at a community law office in Harlem, NY and later as Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the New York State Attorney General’s Office. In 2005 she joined the Casey Foundation in Baltimore, MD to focus on reforming Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice systems across the country. She has provided technical assistance to the states of Louisiana, Maryland, Florida, Georgia and New Jersey. Tanya’s work has helped promote innovative strategies to improve decision-making, increase community options and reduce the number of young people growing up outside of a home. Currently Tanya is leading the development of Casey’s strategy to end the youth prison model by influencing the take up of principles to promote a gold standard of care for juvenile facilities. In her free time, Tanya enjoys camping, kayaking, cooking and skiing.
Tammie Blaha Tammie Blaha is the Chief People Officer for Goodwill Southeast Georgia a social enterprise serving 6,900 individuals with barriers to employment and overseeing a workforce of 800+ employees. She joined Goodwill Southeast Georgia in 2012 as vice president of corporate affairs. She was previously employed by Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska, as vice president of marketing, development and housing in Grand Island, Nebraska. As Chief People Officer Tammie is responsible for the organization’s staff, its culture, values, ethics and mission. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney with a degree in Social Work and Sociology. She is a graduate of Goodwill Industries International Executive Development Program in 2017 and their Senior Leadership Development in 2005. She currently serves as Secretary and Executive Board member for Center Court (Accountability Court) in Savannah, GA and National and Regional member of SHRM.
Tim Stay, CEO Tim Stay was formerly the CEO, as well as a co-founder of Unitus Labs, an innovative poverty alleviation non-profit. Tim Stay started and ran Marketing Ally, which became one of the Top 50 Call Centers in the U.S.A and had over 1,110 employees. He started and later sold FreeServers.com to About.com. He was a co-founder of Bizcradle, a business incubator that launched such technology companies as SenForce, which sold to Novell. Tim was former CEO of Perfect Search Corporation, an big data search engine and software development company. Tim was most recently awarded EY’s 2018 Social Entrepreneur of the Year award for the Utah region, along with the others on the management team of The Other Side Academy. Tim was voted as one of the vSpring 100 technology entrepreneurs in Utah and was recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from BYU. He has served on the Utah Valley University Foundation Board and on the Advisory Board for the Center of Economic Self-Reliance at BYU. He has been Community Council Chair at Lakeridge Jr. High and at Mountain View High School. He also served on the Utah State Board of Education Advisory Panel for Community Councils. Tim holds a civil engineering degree and also has an M.B.A. and an M.A. in International Studies, with a focus on economic development in developing countries, all from Brigham Young University.
Dave Durocher, Managing Director
Dave Durocher was arrested for the first time at the age of thirteen. By the time he was 38, he had been to prison four times for a total of fifteen years. Dave was arrested yet again, and this time he was facing a twenty-nine year prison sentence. In what the Judge called “the chance of a lifetime” he afforded Dave the opportunity to go to Delancey Street instead of prison but reminded Dave in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t complete his commitment at Delancey Street he would be spending the rest of his life in prison. Not only did Dave complete his initial two year commitment, he stayed for a total of eight years and became the Managing Director of Delancey’s Los Angeles facility for five of those years, overseeing two hundred and fifty residents and a multitude of vocational training school businesses that funded the operation and provided the training ground for residents to learn how to live a constructive and meaningful life. Dave oversaw a 300% increase in revenue during his tenure over the facility. Dave is tenacious, interpersonally skilled, a good manager and an inspiring public speaker. He had helped countless others regain their dignity and their lives before he moved on to enjoy his own success as the person he had become. Now Dave has moved on to the next chapter in his life as the Managing Director of The Other Side Academy, in Salt Lake City, a two-year Life Skills Academy similar to Delancey Street, where men and women can come to learn about honesty, accountability, integrity hard work and self-respect. All the traits that will insulate them from a life like the one Dave had and enable them to become the kind of person Dave is today.
Gareth Bozung, Graduate
Gareth started down his destructive path early much like most of the students at The Other Side Academy. He began using alcohol and marijuana around the age of 13 and spent the next 22 years of his life battling addiction and a severe opioid dependency. “I was the guy that was always influencing others to do wrong” he reflects. “Making empty promises, and going to any length to get what I want. I was completely selfish and I used others for my personal benefit.” When Gareth arrived at The Other Side Academy in February of 2016 he remembers himself as cynical and hopeless, full of shame and remorse for the people he had hurt throughout his addiction and for not living up to his full potential. “My change process at The Other Side Academy was a slow one. It took me a long time to believe in myself and the possibility of a different life.” With consistent work and commitment Gareth slowly began to turn his life around. He began to discover who he was and what was important to him. “The biggest lessons I have learned at The Academy are to not sell out for what I want in the moment, and that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.” Moving forward as a staff member at The Other Side Academy, Gareth is excited to have a purpose in helping people. He finally sees how his years of bad decisions can be used to help and benefit others. He is excited to be a part of the team that launched the second campus, this one in Denver, CO. He is excited to be involved in opening multiple facilities in multiple states and living his life’s purpose of helping others.
Matthew Sims, Graduate
Matthew’s criminal life began at an abnormally young age, and he became a convicted felon by age 13. Juvenile detention drove him deeper into the world of addiction and crime. He joined the military in an attempt to gain some structure but remained out of control; resulting in military prison and a dishonorable discharge. Matthew’s life dissolved into chaos with multiple failed marriages, gang affiliation, and a cycle of prisons and jails. He recognized it was time to change, and took the bold step of writing to The Other Side Academy to ask for help. Matthew began his stay at The Other Side Academy with great struggle as he refused to believe in the process. He continued behaving the only way he knew how before realizing the community would always, without fail, see right through him. Through his transformation, he has learned to use his influence and experience to help others. Among the many accomplishments of his stay at the Academy, Matthew helped build the #1 rated moving company in the state, an automotive / fleet care program, and a hair salon for men – all of which he now manages. Additionally, he operates graduate housing, post graduate activities and maintains a strong focus on interviewing potential students and mentoring them upon arrival. He is thrilled about his promotion to Staff and eager to use his many years of knowledge as a student to help others reach their full potential and give hope to the hopeless.
Steven Kim Steven Kim is a co-founder of Project Kinship where he serves individuals impacted by gangs and incarceration. His commitment to healing cycles of incarceration, gang membership and community violence stems from over 15 years of working with traumatized and abandoned youth throughout Orange County. Steven is highly regarded for his human rights work in the field of forensic social work where he led multi-disciplinary teams to identify early childhood traumas on high-profile-death penalty cases. He is sought out for his expertise on understanding root causes of violence and has facilitated trainings on the state and federal levels of the criminal justice system. He currently teaches at the University of Southern California lecturing on best practices that focus on adolescent gang prevention and intervention strategies.
Donna Harati Donna Harati is the Director of Legal Services and Community Lawyer at Homeboy Industries. Prior to her role at Homeboy, Donna clerked for a federal judge in Ohio. During that year, she helped facilitate a class at the women’s prison in Cleveland. She has been actively involved in prison-related work for over a decade and taught full time at the Penitentiary of New Mexico for two years prior to law school while simultaneously serving as a crisis volunteer at the Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center. During law school, Donna had the honor of interning at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. She graduated magma cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 2015. Donna is committed to transformative justice based responses to harm and to imagining and working toward a world without prisons.
Brittany Morton Brittany Morton is the Academic Program Coordinator at Homeboy Industries. She works alongside students as they pursue their high school diplomas, GED (certifications) and higher education goals. She is continuously learning and collaborating with students as they work to create space, share story, and embrace both their academic and experiential knowledge. Brittany believes that education is a tool for social change and transformation. She knows education transforms at a personal, communal, and generational level as it frees the mind, empowers folks, and unites communities. Brittany is currently pursing her MA in Social and Cultural Analysis of Education at Cal State Long Beach. She received her BA in Sociology with a minor in Global Studies from Azusa Pacific.
Amanda Zilka Amanda was born in New York City in 1987, but calls Louisville Kentucky “home.” Following her grandmother’s death in 2006, she found comfort in drinking, fully unaware of her alcoholism. Within ten years, her alcoholism quickly took over her life and destroyed it. Beaten down and broken by her illness, She found sobriety and hope at the Women’s Healing Place (Louisville) on May 11, 2016. After completing their program and working as their staff assistant in mid 2017, Amanda joined Choosewell Communities. It was her stepping stone and guidance while transitioning back into society and motherhood. Since then, she has regained full custody of her youngest child, became certified as a peer support specialist and has been helping other mothers in recovery, as well as becoming an emerging visual artist. As of July 2019, she has her own art studio, Kwiot Panda’s Art Studio LLC. Choosewell Communities gave her the foundation to achieve all these things and more.
Mary Wilkins Mary (Nisey) Wilkins is a “hope dealer” committed to bringing solutions, support and accountability to parents in early recovery who are navigating the joys of parenthood, personal growth and community-building. Nisey is a grateful wife and mom of 2 amazing boys (Timothy Jr – 9; and Zaelynn – 3) with over 2 years of continuous sobriety. She builds on her own recovery journey, her lived experiences and her skill as a state-certified Peer Support Specialist to lead other ChooseWell Community moms who are working on the specialized work team at Facilities Management Services as they commit to building thriving new lives for themselves and their children. She has been a Founding Mother in ChooseWell’s Project Thrive since June, 2017.
Stephanie Barnett Stephanie Barnett is a “Compassion Warrior”, healthcare solutions architect, and spiritual director. For more than three decades, Stephanie has provided leadership to healthcare organizations in a variety of corporate, operational and business development roles. In 2014, she co-founded ChooseWell Communities, a Louisville KY-based non-profit that creates and nurtures a community of kinship with parents navigating early recovery while they create safe, healthy and nurturing homes for their very young children. She and her husband, Danny, have six kiddos who have been her greatest supporters and teachers!
Jennifer Coombs Jennifer Coombs is the VP of HR and Operations for FMSpbc. She has been with FMS for 9 years. During that time she has been a part of the growth and innovation at FMS, growing from 300 employees to over 900. Her passion for people and purpose has allowed her to play a role in defining FMS as socially conscious business. In 2016, FMS earned its status as a B-Corp and became the first Janitorial Company in the world to become a Certified Benefit Corporation. FMS’ social mission is “to provide opportunity and access for our team members and help the communities where we live thrive”. It is this mission that drives Jennifer to work with her team, her customers and the community to find innovative ways of doing business while addressing social issues that folks face every day. Jennifer is married with three young children and lives in Louisville, KY. A city known for its commitment to compassion.
Cassandra D. Harris-Gray Cassandra D. Harris Gray is the CEO and co-founder of Creative Spirits Behavioral Health, an outpatient substance abuse, mental health, and violence prevention center dedicated to helping individuals transform their lives through emotional, physical and spiritual healing. She utilizes a holistic, transformative approach to care by bringing hope and healing through therapeutic and community supports including peer support, case managers, and employment specialist. She is a gifted author, columnist, lecturer, counselor, corporate trainer, adjunct professor and workshop conference leader. She has 25 years of experience in behavioral and mental health services as a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate, Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Mrs. Harris-Gray has authored and published her first book “90 Days of Power.” She is the developer and host of her own web-show “In the Multitude of Counsel” which helps demystify the stigma of mental health and substance abuse. Her personal mission is to help individuals reach their full purpose, discover the uniqueness of their best selves through mental health, spiritual wellness, and self discovery, “transforming lives into their creative spirit”.
Steph Frances Founder & Executive Director
Steph brings twelve years of experience in youth career development. Her expertise lies in activating talent in youth on the margins and creating dynamic cultures that engage youth in their intrinsic motivation to learn. She has led Prodigy’s enterprise to double-digit year-over-year sales growth and accolades such as Best New Coffeehouse in Denver, and built an apprenticeship model for disconnected youth with an 85% completion rate. She has represented Prodigy at the Global Homeboy Network Gathering, the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum, and the National Youth Employment Coalition. Steph holds a Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Regis University and was a Denver Business Journal 2018 Outstanding Women in Business finalist.
Brady Grant Director of Learning
Brady comes to Prodigy after three years as the Senior Academy Dean at Denver School for Science and Technology and eight years of career development, postsecondary planning, and job readiness program development for Denver Public Schools. This experience developed a deep understanding of the weaknesses in our education system and the points at which youth disengage. He is well-positioned for the role of supporting apprentices in their learning and integration into the workforce after Prodigy. Brady holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Bradley University.
Audrey Villa Apprentice
Tyree Pruitt Apprentice
Josh Goralski Founder and CEO, Unlocking Communities
Josh Goralski recently completed his Master’s of Social Justice at Loyola University Chicago while launching Unlocking Communities. He grew up in a progressive Catholic church where social justice was a regular topic discussed and began volunteering at the early age of five. Josh has been traveling to Haiti since 2009 and been involved supporting a church in Haiti since the age of 8. He has nearly 10 years of experience leading and supporting organizations the social sector formally and many years of volunteering before that. Before embarking on his master’s to examine the structural roots of poverty and the possibilities of social enterprises he spent three years at YMCA of the USA overseeing a change in national data collection strategies from 2,600 locations and leading innovation initiatives. Concurrently, he also consults with various local, regional and international nonprofits providing consultation on operations and strategic planning. Josh is an active member of Old St. Pat’s church where he is involved in various social justice ministries and is on the young adult leadership team. Josh’s proximity to suffering began at an early age with his father’s incurable illness and led to him giving his Dad the gift of life through a kidney donation in 2011. When Josh needs an escape, you can find him running!
Ernso Sylvain Ernso Sylvain is the Haitian country director for Unlocking Communities. He is nearing completion of his Bachelors in International Affairs. He oversees our expansion efforts into new communities, works with current communities to expand and deepen their impact in their community, and leads all training initiatives. Additionally, Ernso also runs an English learning institute, Happy Haitian Productions, where students have can learn English to help further their career aspirations.