President and CEO
John Valverde is the president and CEO of YouthBuild USA. He joined YouthBuild in 2017 after decades of work as an advocate creating access to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people and those who have historically been defined by their challenges instead of their potential.
John began working with imprisoned individuals in 1992 to ensure access to HIV/AIDS counseling, high school equivalency instruction, alternatives to violence programs, and college education. In 1995, responding to the gap created by the elimination of TAP and Pell funding for people in prison, he led an initiative to develop and deliver a college-level certificate program, the Certificate in Ministry and Human Services. In 1998, he co-founded Hudson Link for Higher Education, the first privately funded accredited college program in New York’s prisons. More than 1,200 students in prison have graduated from Hudson Link, which has grown to serve nine college partners in five correctional facilities.
In 2009, John worked with a team at the Osborne Association to create New York City’s first green jobs training program exclusively for people with criminal records. As Osborne’s executive vice president, John launched, managed, and led programs including children, youth, and family services; substance abuse treatment; workforce development; community benefit projects; financial literacy; health and wellness services; housing; alternatives to incarceration; mentoring and leadership development; and social enterprises. John has led teams that offer multiple evidence-based interventions, with a trauma-informed approach, to distinct populations that range from very young children to the elderly.
As a steady and persistent advocate for removing barriers and creating access, John has worked with city, state, and federal agencies to develop and operate proven job readiness and placement programs. He forged Osborne’s first relationships with labor unions and has served on the Board of Pathways to Apprenticeship, supporting individuals from traditionally underserved communities as they gain access to apprenticeship programs.
John often serves as a keynote speaker at important and related events to share his personal story of transformation and second chances. As a young man who was incarcerated at 21, John’s work to accept responsibility for his actions and commit to making amends started him on a journey of redemption that allowed him to imagine and build a new future. Though he was incarcerated for almost 16 years, John is now recognized as a proven leader and example for people affected by the criminal legal system. John’s personal and professional life embodies the work of YouthBuild and is a powerful representation of its mission. He is the proud recipient of the 2018 Brian S. Fischer Achievement Award from Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. This award is presented annually to a formerly incarcerated leader who has made an impact by advocating for positive change in the world.
John is a Marano Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Sector Skills Academy; a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow; co-chair of the National Service, Civic Engagement and Volunteering pillar of the Partnership for American Democracy; a member of the New York State Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration; a member of the Leadership Council of 24/7: The People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety; and an elected member of the Council on Criminal Justice. He holds a Master of Professional Studies in urban ministry from the New York Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Mercy College.
Chief Financial Officer
Chief People and
Chief Strategy Officer
Shauna-Lee Ruglass is the chief people and culture officer at YouthBuild USA. In her role she partners with the CEO, Executive Leadership Team (ELT), and Board of Directors to support, nurture, and develop a thriving community at YouthBuild USA and across the YouthBuild movement. She ensures organization-wide alignment, cohesion, and impact in the planning and implementation of organization priorities. She drives decisions that lead to high-performing teams, engaged employees, and a positive work experience, both in-person and virtually. She collaborates with and sets the strategy for the team that manages Human Resources and Operations, working to strategically develop and cultivate an environment of inclusion that values and celebrates diversity at every level.
Shauna-Lee brings a systems-based, culturally competent, and trauma-informed perspective to the Executive Leadership Team. With over fifteen years of nonprofit administration experience, she has spent the majority of her professional career working to bring evidence-based interventions and programming to marginalized communities and individuals in need. She has been part of the YouthBuild USA team since 2007, when she began as an administrative assistant. Since then, her roles have included chief of staff, manager of YouthBuild USA’s Speakers Bureau, executive assistant to the CEO, and special projects manager to the CEO.
Shauna received a master’s degree in clinical social work from Simmons College, now named Simmons University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard University as well as certificates in personal development coaching from CaPP Institute and urban leadership from Simmons College.
Ophelia Liu is the chief financial officer at YouthBuild USA. In this role, she oversees the finance department, ensuring the organization’s fiscal discipline, financial reporting, planning and analysis, and grant control and statutory compliance.
With over 15 years of experience, her leadership background spans multinational, publicly listed companies. She provided leadership in finance and administration for Jardine Engineering’s Far East headquarters and for Meidensha’s four regional offices in China. An ISO certified lead auditor, she served as an implementation committee systems member during Jardine’s transition from Jardine Engineering Management Information System (JEMIS) to JD Edwards. More recently, she served as the director of finance and administration at a nonprofit organization, Quincy Asian Resources, Inc. (QARI), where she oversaw the budget and state and private grants, managed various accounts, fundraised, conducted community outreach, and worked directly with the treasurer of the board and CEO. She has been part of the YouthBuild USA team since 2018, when she began as the financial grant manager and accounting specialist and was later promoted to assistant controller. During her tenure at YouthBuild USA, her leadership has been integral to advancing the organization’s financial stability.
Ophelia received a master’s in professional accounting from the Open University of Hong Kong. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business studies from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Quincy College. She is a Designated Federal Grant Manager certified by the Department of Justice.
Jonathan Stenger is the chief strategy officer at YouthBuild USA. In this role he leads the implementation of YouthBuild USA’s strategic plan and drives the alignment of departmental strategies to advance its global mission, while accelerating the organization’s efforts to become a world-class global support center for the network of YouthBuild programs. He is responsible for moving YouthBuild USA’s major strategic projects forward through a singular focus on excellence, process improvement, and impact. He also oversees its Alumni Services, Data Services, Digital Information Systems, and Marketing and Communications departments.
Jonathan brings more than twenty years of progressively responsible not-for-profit organizational experience in strategic planning, editorial and publishing, public affairs, and government relations. He most recently served as senior policy strategy advisor for Osborne Association — a New York based criminal justice reform and direct service organization that braids policy advocacy, direct services, and leadership development to serve and strengthen individuals, families, and communities affected by the criminal legal system. Prior to that role, he was Osborne’s first vice president for external affairs, leading the effort to align Osborne’s communications, fundraising, and government relations efforts with its core values and organizational strategy. He has served as a consultant, advisor, volunteer, and board member at more than a dozen social justice-focused organizations and currently serves on the board of the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison.
Jonathan has a master’s
degree in politics and constitutional law from The New School for Social
Research and a bachelor’s degree in politics and legal studies from the University
of California, Santa Cruz. A committed lifelong
learner, Jonathan continues to study diversity, equity, inclusion, and
accessibility (DEIA) best practices and process improvement methods and their
application in nonprofit direct service organizations and educational settings.
The Board consists of individuals with relevant expertise in the fields of public policy, research, financial management, law, advocacy, nonprofit management, corporate management, housing, youth development, and community economic development. It includes four graduates of YouthBuild programs.
Michele Courton Brown is responsible for identifying and evaluating new business opportunities at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, including acquisitions, strategic alliances and joint ventures that drive competitive advantage, support strategic objectives, and drive profitable growth. She also sources strategic investments for Zaffre Venture Fund.
Michele is executive board member of Quality Interactions, a leading provider of cultural competency training for the healthcare industry that she led as CEO for six years. The company trains healthcare professionals to communicate with and care for diverse patient populations to improve patient experience, health outcomes and financial results. Clients include top tier hospitals and medical schools, and large health plans across the country.
Previously Michele was a senior vice president and national practice director for Bank of America’s Philanthropic Management Group, and a market director, leading a multi-state team providing client service, fiduciary, administrative, and philanthropic advice to high net-worth individuals, families, foundations, and nonprofit institutions, with combined assets of $6 billion. During her tenure, she successfully sold a private company held in trust for $318 million. Michele was President of the FleetBoston Financial Foundation, which contributed over $25 million annually to charitable organizations. She conceived the bank’s Museums On Us! customer access program, offering free visits to the nation’s leading arts institutions, now celebrating its twentieth year.
Michele holds a BA from Boston University where she is completing a MSci in Health Communications. A frequent speaker on entrepreneurship, health equity and nonprofit board governance, Michele co-authored Just Money: A Critique of Contemporary American Philanthropy.
Michele serves on the boards of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Health Resources in Action.
Kathy Witsil has had a career with JP Morgan Chase and its heritage organizations for over 20 years. She joined Bank One in 1998 in digital marketing (an emerging area at that time). She is now in CCB Operations with responsibility for Auto Operations and Product Management. Prior to this role, she has held leadership roles in card services, small business banking, and student loans. Kathy also holds seven patents in the areas of data, payment devices, and card design.
Carla Reeves is a Director at Goulston & Storrs, where her practice is focused on employment law, litigation, and investigations. With over ten years of experience, Carla advises companies and organizations of all sizes on a variety of employment matters; represents clients in state and federal litigation, administrative proceedings, and arbitration proceedings; and conducts investigations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other forms of workplace misconduct.
A committed voice for justice, Carla develops and implements customized workplace trainings, cultural assessments, and equity reviews to support efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace.
In addition to her employment practice, Carla advises and represents clients in government investigations and enforcement actions. Her experience includes matters involving the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Justice, and State Attorney General offices. She is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts and New York.
In 2021, Boston Magazine named Carla one of Boston’s top lawyers in employment law; Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly noted her excellence in the law as an up-and-coming lawyer; The National Law Journal named her an Employment Law Trailblazer; and Best Lawyers in America named her “one to watch” in the category of litigation, labor, and employment.
Carla is a board member of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Union College, and a Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School. Currently she is based in Boston, Massachusetts.
Chi Kim is the CEO of Pure Edge, Inc., a private operating foundation dedicated to supporting educators and learners in combating stress and developing social, emotional, and academic learning competencies with an open heart and mind. Prior to joining Pure Edge, Inc., she was a California school superintendent. She also served as a school principal, teacher, and leadership coach as well as a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She is co-founder of the Teaching Garden program that was adopted by the American Heart Association to support heart health through school gardens.
Chi is a 2018 Pahara-Aspen education fellow, board chair and trustee of the Great Minds nonprofit board, a member of CASEL Board of Directors, Coalition for Career Development Center, and FECOP Board of Directors. She also sits on the advisory councils of SEL4US, Project Wayfinder, Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, and Family Code Night/MV GATE.
She earned a BA in psychology and a master’s of education from UCLA. She also holds a Tier I administrative services credential from California State University, Dominguez Hills; a Tier II administrative services credential from Loyola Marymount University; XPT Performance Breathing certification; and Oxygen Advantage Functional Breathing certification. She is a mom to three wonderful girls and resides in the greater Boston area.
Sharon Adams-Taylor was most recently associate executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and was responsible for child health, youth development, social justice, and equity initiatives. She raised more than $31 million while at AASA and re-granted millions to help schools improve the health, education, and life trajectories of children and youth in poverty. In 2021 alone, her work directly impacted 2.9 million students in 53 school districts.
Prior to AASA, Sharon was a senior associate at the Children’s Defense Fund, where she coordinated its adolescent pregnancy clearinghouse. She was also a researcher at the UNC Child Health Outcomes Project, which was the first organization in the nation to track key indicators and monitor morbidity and mortality rates for childhood diseases. Sharon also directed the Head Start Resource Access Project where she coordinated health training for 178 grantees in six states. Her other previous positions include maternal and child health clinical director at the Virgin Islands Department of Health and mainstreaming coordinator at Baltimore City Public Schools.
Her most recent publications include Expanded Pathways: Youth Apprenticeships Give Students Brighter Futures; Health and Hunger through the Lens of Race, Ethnicity and Culture; Feeding Hungry Minds: Stories from the Field; A Shared Vision to Change the Course of Childhood Obesity in African-American and Latino Communities; and Happy, Healthy and Ready to Learn! Insure All Children, which was launched by former U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King and former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
Sharon was named 2019 School Health Leader of the Year from the American Public Health Association. In 2022, she received the Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award for her work in equity and social justice across the globe. She holds degrees from Howard University, The Catholic University of America, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She served fellowships with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and has served on more than 10 state, local, and national boards. Sharon is recently widowed with two adult daughters — Aja and Ife — whom, she says, make all things possible.
Sarayfah Bolling is the Director of Programs and Strategic Engagement at Callisto, a national nonprofit organization that uses technology to empower survivors of sexual violence. As a member of Callisto’s executive leadership team, Sarayfah develops and executes the national programming strategy designed to engage survivors and their allies in education, awareness, and utilization of post-assault resources and tools with special emphasis on Callisto’s proprietary tool, Callisto Vault. She also serves as the relationship manager of Callisto’s campus, local, state, and national partnerships across the gender-based violence movement.
Prior to joining Callisto, Sarayfah was the Project Director of the T.E.E.M.S. AmeriCorps Program at Georgia State University. She deployed college students, recent alumni, and STEM subject matter experts into Metro Atlanta K–12 schools and afterschool programs to support supplemental instruction in math and science.
Sarayfah has over 10 years of experience in the Higher Education field working with students in various capacities including residential life and housing, student conduct, multicultural affairs, admissions, and civic engagement. She believes that young people should have all the opportunities in life to pursue their passions, nurture their talents, and chart a path that honors who they want to be. This informs her commitment to serving, empowering, educating, and supporting young people across the United States.
Additionally, Sarayfah has served as a consultant to nonprofit organizations and leaders in the development of onboarding and transition programs, volunteer management policies and processes, organizational restructuring, and change management.
Sarayfah is currently a doctoral candidate in the Ed.D. in Learning, Leadership, and Organization Development program at the University of Georgia. She holds a master’s in social justice education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a bachelor’s of organizing theme from Union College in Schenectady, New York.
William Chatman is currently the Executive Director/CEO of Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc. (CCS), a 31-year-old community-based nonprofit that drives fundamental transformation of neighborhoods, communities, and the circumstances of those who reside there. This is done through the facilitation of workforce development that leads to a sustainable wage, meaningful community engagement, and affordable housing. Through his pursuit of several funding opportunities, William has led CCS out of a significant budget deficit. He has multiplied the number of employees from five to 28, and the number of YouthBuild programs from one to four, with two more in development, setting the agency on a trajectory to become a pillar in the community once again.
Prior to William stepping into this role in March of 2020, he had 18 years of professional experience in youth programming. He began his career as support staff at the Boys & Girls Club. He went on to become a transformative leader for several programs that offer young people structure, safety, and inspiration, including The Way to Peace Project and Ellis Arts Academy. He also managed two YouthBuild programs that were recognized nationally for their turnaround under his leadership.
William is a proud graduate of YouthBuild Rockford, a workforce development program run by CCS. This program not only gave William an opportunity to develop and pursue his goals, it also gave him key leadership skills that he utilizes every day. William graduated with honors, an Excellence in Leadership award, a role as president of the Youth Policy Council, and three years of experience on YouthBuild USA’s National Council of Young Leaders, representing all YouthBuild programs in the state of Illinois.
William presents across the country on topics like diversity and inclusion, race and discrimination, and his character education curriculum. William has also won three national awards including the YouthBuild USA Rising Star award and the CCS’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been called “Stateline Strong,” by Channel 17, due to his powerful story.
Jody Cornish is a social impact and philanthropic advisor, working at the nexus of social impact strategy, organizational effectiveness and resource aggregation. She currently is the senior vice president of alignment, innovation and investment at City Year, focused on clarifying City Year’s multi-year strategy for impact, aligning operations with strategy and ensuring aggregation of resources to support operations and innovation in key areas. Jody also co-leads education thought leadership for City Year.
In addition to her work at City Year and her service on the YouthBuild Board of Trustees, Jody is a board member for Next Generation Learning Challenge, and Big Picture Learning. Previously, Jody was a managing partner with New Profit – a Boston-based venture philanthropy fund. During her time with New Profit, she worked with the senior leadership team and Board of more than 30 nonprofit organizations to optimize their strategies for growth and impact. During her last five years at New Profit, she was the co-lead for New Profit’s ground-breaking K-12 education fund, Reimagine Learning, which combined work in policy change, investments in leading edge education entrepreneurs, programmatic work in youth voice and in community-informed school change in Essex County, resulting in the convening and engagement of nearly 1,000 education innovators across sectors. This work was featured in a Deloitte whitepaper: Shifting a System: The Reimagine Learning Network and how to tackle persistent problems.
Prior to joining New Profit, Jody was the co-founder and lead strategist for Lodestar International, an international development consultancy focused on supporting cross-sector collaboration to address entrenched economic development challenges in the developing world.
Jody previously worked in strategy execution with leading technology and financial services firms in New York City. She started her career as a Consultant at Monitor Group, where she focused on research-informed growth strategies for start-ups, mergers and companies in transition. Jody’s passion for social impact stems from her own background and her commitment to equity. She is a first-generation college graduate from rural Pennsylvania and knows firsthand the impact that circumstances and luck can have on life trajectories.
Joe Gaudino is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he has more than 10 years of experience in public accounting. His practice area is in audit and assurance, with a focus on the Asset and Wealth Management sector. He works with a wide range of clients, from alternative fund managers and endowments to global asset managers. Joe is a uniquely skilled manager. He builds high-performing teams, coaches with enthusiasm and authenticity, and sustains long-lasting relationships with his clients and colleagues.
In concert with his professional career, Joe is dedicated to community engagement. He spent several years on the Massachusetts Council of Champions for Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization that facilitates community mentorship programs and provides historically underserved students with hands-on learning experiences and opportunities. As a council member and mentor to several students in the program, he gained invaluable life lessons.
Joe received his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Rochester. He holds a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in accounting from Northeastern University. Joe is also a certified public accountant. As a fifteen-year resident of Brookline, Massachusetts, he remains active in local government and neighborhood redevelopment committees. Joe’s grandfather, and namesake, was a proud member of the carpenters union in Rochester, New York, for 65 years, which has instilled in Joe a great appreciation for careers in the trades.
Todd Goldberg is a managing director at PGIM Real Estate and head of U.S. Transactions. Based in Madison, New Jersey, Todd is responsible for leading the U.S. Transaction function, which focuses on acquisitions, sales, and financing nationally on behalf of PGIM Real Estate’s managed accounts. In this capacity, he has sourced, underwritten, and closed several billion dollars in transactions. He is currently the chair of the U.S. Equity Investment Committee and sits on the U.S. Executive Committee.
Prior to his current role, Todd was a co-portfolio manager for a series of closed-end real estate opportunity funds where he handled transactions, asset management, and portfolio analysis for several years. He also spent six years in PGIM Real Estate’s core-plus account, a multibillion-dollar commingled fund, where he led a group focused on deal structuring and asset management for over 75 different assets valued at in excess of a billion dollars. Before joining PGIM Real Estate, Todd held positions at Bankers Trust and First Investors, where he concentrated on various aspects of accounting, valuation, and reporting for both institutional and retail mutual funds.
Todd is a member of the CFA Institute and the New York Society of Security Analysts. Todd has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree with a concentration in finance and economics from Fordham University.
As senior vice president and general manager of strategic partnerships, Greg Hybl is responsible for strategy and development of American Express’s largest strategic partnerships at an enterprise level. Fusing a small-company entrepreneurial mindset with large company leadership experience, he is responsible for building innovative partnerships and finding new business opportunities and solutions to expand those relationships across American Express. He joined American Express in 2009 and has held a variety of positions increasing in responsibility across their Merchant Services and Commercial Payments businesses.
Greg launched his career in finance at General Electric and then moved into marketing and sales positions at Dell before running Andrew Harper, a private-equity owned luxury travel and publishing business, where he led a critical business transformation. He is a former Board Member of the U.S. Travel Association and United Negro College Fund (UNCF) where he gained a deeper appreciation of the challenges and opportunities related to education equality.
Greg lives with his wife and three children in Summit, New Jersey. He earned a BA in Finance from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas, Austin.
Xavier Jennings is the equity and leadership manager at Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC). He is also on MHYC’s staff Program Leadership Team and oversees the agency’s leadership and alumni councils. Xavier is responsible for providing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and trainings to MHYC’s staff, AmeriCorps members, Board of Directors, and other stakeholders. He also oversees the agency’s leadership development curricula, which aims to increase opportunities for youth participants to advance their skills and uplift their voices. As a creative and dynamic facilitator, he implements leadership trainings within each program.
While searching for a job in his late teens, Xavier found an opportunity to join MHYC’s YouthBuild program in Denver, CO. There, he earned his GED, developed skills to become self-sufficient, and made strides to improve his future. He graduated in 2008 and then served as a YouthBuild alumni mentor until being promoted to staff in 2010.
As a full-time staff member at MHYC, Xavier currently manages the same YouthBuild program he attended. He teaches classes and works directly with opportunity youth ages 18 to 24 as they pursue their education, prepare for future careers, and grow into community leaders. He is committed to removing some of the barriers opportunity youth face and providing them with the support he needed growing up. He has represented YouthBuild USA nationally, proudly serving on YouthBuild USA’s VOICES and National Alumni councils.
Xavier graduated from the Community College of Denver in 2015. He is a proud father of two kids. In his free time, he volunteers as a basketball and football coach for local little league sports teams.
Sam Ladah began his career pursuing an interest in international human rights law. For the past fifteen years, he has worked in the technology sector, creating new employment opportunities to make the sector more inclusive.
In his current role, Sam is the HR vice president for IBM’s rapidly growing Cloud business. He recently led the talent organization for IBM globally, where he was responsible for all of IBM’s talent acquisition, HR analytics, workforce strategy, professional development and performance management programs.
Sam has held numerous positions with IBM, including a recent two-year assignment in Tokyo as the HR vice president for IBM Japan. Sam also completed a two-year assignment based in London as the HR director for IBM’s services business across a dozen European countries. Prior to these international assignments, Sam led due diligence and negotiated the HR terms in more than a dozen IBM acquisitions and divestitures.
Early in his career, Sam practiced law in the areas of insurance defense, criminal defense and commercial litigation. He represented primarily US and European clients and volunteered a significant portion of his time at public interest law firms representing victims of human rights abuses. In transitioning from law to business, Sam worked at software and consumer internet companies in Silicon Valley.
Sam holds a BA in Political Science from the University of California at San Diego, a JD from Emory University School of Law, and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He is a member of the California Bar Association.
For the past 23 years, Barry Lott has worked with federal agency officials, state and local policymakers, local agency authorities, national associations, and industry leaders to develop, implement, and provide economic opportunities for those in underserved communities.
Barry has extensive private sector and national nonprofit experience. He is currently a director at the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the national voice for every person’s right to age well. At NCOA, Barry manages the oversight of the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is the only federally funded job training program for older adults. He also oversees subcontractor operations and subcontractor contracts. Additionally, Barry monitors the fiscal performance of the division, which consists of 24 project offices in 12 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
Previously, Barry worked for MAXIMUS Inc., an international leader in government services, where he worked with government clients in Delaware, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. to deliver practical and innovative solutions to improve the performance of their workforce services programs. Barry received MAXIMUS Workforce Services Presidents Recognition awards for FY2001 and FY2002 and was a recipient of the FY2003 Workforce Division Presidents Award of Achievement and Excellence.
Barry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Frostburg State University and is a 2011 Marano Fellow graduate of the Sector Skills Academy run by the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program. In addition to YouthBuild USA, Barry serves on the Board of Directors for Delaware Futures and True Access Capital.
Francisco Medrano is a Clinical Social Worker and Certified Addiction Specialist, providing recovery services for the past 10 years.
He has had a variety of different assignments within the nonprofit and government sector working with justice populations. In his past 22 years of experience, he has worked with adults, juveniles, and families struggling with addiction and mental health.
Francisco received his bachelor’s in criminal justice with a focus on juvenile justice from San Diego State University. While earning his bachelor’s in criminal justice, Francisco developed an interest in the addiction recovery field, which drove him to further pursue a master’s in social work, which he also earned at San Diego State University. He went on to earn his LCSW.
Francisco is a proud graduate of YouthBuild MAAC Project, class of 1998, which introduced him to the importance of community work. After graduating from the program, he was moved to organize community service projects and be actively involved in youth advocacy and criminal justice reform. He served as a member of the board of directors for community nonprofits and YouthBuild USA’s National Alumni Council.
Francisco enjoys trips with his family to Lake Tahoe and fishing, and he is always on the lookout for a unique coffee shop to explore.
With a passion for education, advocacy and social entrepreneurship, Ray Mills has focused his professional career on underserved communities. Ray owns and operates several businesses in Georgia, including Mills Media Group and The Mills Academy. The Mills Academy is an early education and daycare center in his hometown of College Park that provides a safe, peaceful and nurturing learning environment for up to 150 children. Currently he is working on plans to open a private, charter elementary school (grades one through five) serving students predominately from distressed and underserved communities with an emphasis on financial literacy.
In 2014, Ray co-founded Run for Justice, an advocacy organization designed to bring attention to the tragic death of Michael Brown. He and Co-Founder Londrelle Hall completed a 21-day, 614-mile running campaign from Atlanta to Ferguson, Missouri, to increase awareness of racial injustice and raise funds in support of Brown’s family. He is also the author of the book Let’s Start a Business, offering insight and experience to both young and older professionals alike.
Ray obtained a GED, pursued a college degree on athletic scholarship at Florida International University, and later studied business administration at Kennesaw State University. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife and three children.
Neo Ntsala is the Leadership and Counselling Officer at the Saint-Gobain YouthBuild Academy (SGYBA). She is also a program assistant for the YouthBuild Alternative High School (YBAHS) in Orlando East, Soweto. Neo works closely with the Operations Officer to develop an alumni network program that aims to become a supportive, proud, national network of current and future graduates collectively making extraordinary contributions to the YouthBuild alumni community, the organization, and the public good.
After graduating high school in 2014, she went on to work part-time until she decided to upskill herself and join YouthBuild South Africa (YBSA) as a program participant in 2017 at the SGYBA. There, she attained her National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level 3 in Ceiling and Partitioning Installation and gained skills that allowed her to propel herself into youth work. After graduating from the program, Neo furthered her studies by completing a course in basic counselling and trauma and bereavement training.
As a staff member at YouthBuild South Africa (YBSA), Neo facilitates life skills classes that help young people prepare for their future careers through work-readiness training and leadership development. She assists students to overcome psycho-social barriers by providing student counselling and support. She dedicates her spare time to mentoring young people in her community and church and supports local nonprofits in their mission to reduce illiteracy in informal settlements by donating reading materials and running a book club.
Neo is a loving wife and mother to two kids. She believes that given the opportunity and sufficient support, young people can come up with solutions to overcome barriers to their personal growth.