Michelle is Senior Director of FosterEd. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the non-profit and philanthropy sectors, as well as substantial expertise in child welfare and education. Most recently, she served as the Associate Director of Child Welfare with the Stuart Foundation, where she led a major initiative to improve education outcomes for foster youth across California. Her life’s work has been focused on helping young people realize the vastness of their potential and supporting systems change efforts that put the needs of youth at the center of policies and practices. Michelle’s professional experiences span a broad spectrum: as an artist, stage director, fundraiser, community activist, strategic planner, and program director — all the while as a passionate advocate for young people and families. Her superpower is finding out what is uniquely awesome about people. She lives in San Francisco with her amazing husband Cliff and step-son Theo, and holds a B.A. from Macalester College in Minnesota.
Program Support Team
Rachel Velcoff Hults is an attorney and Deputy Director of Programs for NCYL’s FosterEd initiative, focused on improving the educational experiences and outcomes of system-involved youth. She previously served as FosterEd’s Chief Operating Officer and as Project Manager for FosterEd’s demonstration program in Santa Cruz County, California. Prior to joining NCYL, Rachel worked at Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, where she represented youth and families on public benefits, health access, and education access issues. Previously, she was a litigation associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in Washington, D.C. Rachel received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005 and her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2008.
Casey is an attorney and Director of Implementation. Previously, he was the Director of FosterEd California and Project Manager for FosterEd Santa Cruz County, where he led FosterEd’s efforts to improve the education outcomes of the county’s foster youth and to embed our model into Santa Cruz County’s public agencies. In 2006, Casey received an M.S.W. from the University of Wisconsin Madison and began his work as a child welfare social worker. He returned to school in 2009 to pursue a dual degree in law and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Casey clerked at NCYL in the summer of 2010 and graduated with his J.D./M.P.P. in May 2013.
Atasi Uppal is an attorney on NCYL’s Juvenile Justice and FosterEd teams. She leads program and policy advocacy to improve the education outcomes of youth in the juvenile justice system, and much of this advocacy aims to support youth who are living in the community and supervised by Probation. Atasi also provides training and support to off-site FosterEd staff, who provide direct services to system-involved youth, and she assists with juvenile justice-focused litigation. Prior to joining NCYL, Atasi was a Trial Attorney at the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts, where she represented low-income children and parents in state custody, termination of parental rights and status offense cases. Atasi received her B.S. in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science and her J.D. from the University of Michigan. At Michigan Law, Atasi was an Executive Editor for the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and worked at legal services organizations focused on child welfare, special education and juvenile justice.
Andrew Moffett is the Project Manager for Data and Technology for NCYL’s FosterEd Initiative. He will continue to enhance and expand on our student support data system, EdTeamConnect (ETC). Prior to joining NCYL’s FosterEd Team, Andrew has worked on large-scale youth-centered initiatives in New York City and the Bay Area. Andrew is also an AmeriCorps – Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) alumni and actively engages in various volunteer initiatives that promote and advance his passions for the expansion of access to quality supports for disadvantaged children, families and community members.
Taylor Chambers joined NCYL in June 2017 and supports the FosterEd team. She graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and minor in History with a thematic focus on gender from Stanford University in 2016. Originally from Sacramento, CA she has volunteered with various direct service organizations that support women, children and families in Northern California. Most recently, she served students with high needs at a Boston elementary school as an AmeriCorps member and ultimately hopes to pursue a legal career to better advocate on behalf of vulnerable children.
Molly Dunn is the Director of FosterEd Arizona. Deeply influenced by her own early experience as a foster child, Molly has dedicated her career to improving the education outcomes of system-involved youth. As a direct services provider, with Legal Services for Children and the San Francisco Public Defenders’ Office, Molly advocated on behalf of hundreds of youth in special education and school discipline matters. As a clinical instructor at Stanford and Loyola law schools and as a supervisor with Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, she has mentored and guided other advocates to serve system-involved youth. As a policy advocate with the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Molly sought to remove systemic barriers and secure much-needed resources to help youth in foster care achieve success in school and in life. Molly holds a B.A. from Macalester College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Pete is the Senior Advisor of FosterEd Arizona. He has worked in juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health in Tucson, Arizona for over 30 years. Pete is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked in direct services in institutional, residential and community settings as well as administration. He has supervised both foster care and therapeutic foster care programs. Pete served for eight years in the Arizona House of Representatives, including five years as Chairman of the Human Services Committee. In 2003 he founded the Arizona Children’s Caucus, a bipartisan caucus in the legislature promoting children’s issues and received numerous state and national awards. Pete served for one year as Chairman of the Human Services Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures and served two years on the Legislative Working Group of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Pete received his B.A. from Colorado College and his M.Ed. from the University of Arizona.
Andrea is the Director of Student Supports & System Partnerships: FosterEd Arizona. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2007. She went on to receive her graduate degree in education from American University in Washington, D.C. where she was a teacher for six years. Andrea has worked with and mentored children of all ages and has deep roots in the Tucson community. The fact that she is bilingual and bicultural has assisted her in bridging gaps within the communities where she has worked. Her understanding of the achievement gap in education and her desire to see an end to it, has led her to become a FosterEd Education Liaison in 2013.
Arayah is the Manager of Youth Development & Volunteer Engagement for FosterEd Arizona. She comes from a family of educators and is passionate about youth advocacy and community service. As a young person, Arayah served on the boards of the Pima County Public Library and the Every Voice in Action Foundation and volunteered with the Pima County Women’s Commission. She attended Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC and graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in Political Science and Global Studies. She returned to Arizona after 5 years in North Carolina working for the National Climatic Data Center, North Carolina Democratic Party, and the Campaign for Southern Equality. Arayah is a firm believer in the power of young people and the ability every individual has to serve their community.
Julia (Julee) is an Education Liaison with FosterEd Arizona. She holds an undergraduate degree in family studies from the University of Arizona. She began her career over two decades ago working with youth involved in the juvenile justice system and their families through the juvenile court, providing case management services to improve educational outcomes and reduce recidivism. She then moved on to provide in-home services to families who had been referred to Child Protective Services. Working with families in their homes gave her a real life understanding of the challenges disadvantaged families face day to day. Prior to joining NCYL, she worked in foster care, educating, licensing and supporting foster families to meet the needs of the foster children in their homes. Julee speaks Spanish, providing her the ability to work with Spanish-speaking families, and she also has knowledge of American Sign Language.
Jennifer is an Education Liaison with FosterEd Arizona. She graduated from The University of Arizona with a B.S. in Family Studies and Human Development. Her interest in child welfare began when she interned with Child Protective Services and continued to develop through her work at Casa de los Ninos children’s shelter. In 2003, Jennifer began her service in the United States Peace Corps in the Pacific country of Vanuatu as a Youth Development Volunteer, working with youth in rural communities to develop programs around gender advocacy, sexual and reproductive health, and education. She remained in Vanuatu after her service, working at a local NGO as Research Manager and Youth Center Manager for 8 years before returning to Tucson. Jennifer’s 18 years of experience in multi-cultural settings working with at-risk children and youth has given her insight in working with children in the foster care system and the unique challenges they face.
Shane is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. After serving in the U.S. Army, Shane attended the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on an Athletic Scholarship for Cross Country and Track and graduated in 1999 with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. Shane spent 5 years working in law enforcement before moving to Arizona where he worked for 6 years with the Arizona Department of Child Safety as an Investigator and then as a Case Manager for the Young Adult Program. For the past 5 years, Shane has worked with students and families in the Tucson and Marana Unified School Districts as a Drop-Out Prevention Specialist and as a District Social Worker. Shane was a board member on a local non-profit where he worked on a charitable race. Proceeds went to the Title I school where he coached and to Youth On Their Own, a local non-profit helping homeless youth graduate high school. Working with foster youth and helping them to graduate and be successful members of the community has always been his passion.
Jennie is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Originally from New Jersey, she moved to Tucson to study Psychology at the University of Arizona and graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in that field. Jennie has experience working with underprivileged youth within many rural communities of Arizona. She also has an extensive background working with local non-profits and behavioral health networks. As a foster parent herself, Jennie wants nothing more than to aid system-involved youth in their journey to success as each and every child is capable and deserving of such.
Sandra is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Her educational background in social work and experience in working with vulnerable populations allows her to identify and address a multitude of systemic barriers facing students in foster care. Sandra strives to make the public education system a more equitable one, a place in which all children have an opportunity to achieve their full potential. She received both her BSW and MSW with a concentration in Planning, Administration, and Community Practice from Arizona State University. Outside of her role as an Education Liaison, Sandra promotes social justice by increasing civic engagement within the social worker community. She volunteers her time with a local non-profit organization in an effort to make the political landscape more diverse and inclusive. Sandra is fluent in Spanish.
Jaron is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Previously, he was an Independent Living Specialist II with Arizona’s Children Association (AZCA) where he helped foster youth aging out of care build life skills ranging from opening bank accounts and renting apartments to preparing for college. Prior to AZCA, Jaron was a Mentor Program Coordinator for Aid to the Adoption of Special Kids. In that position, he assisted foster youth in finding and matching with mentors from the community. Jaron’s previous experience also includes serving as a Residential Advisor for HomeBase Youth Services, which offers transitional living services to homeless youth ages 18-24. He obtained his B.A. in English from the University of Phoenix in 2013, and his M.A.Ed. from Northern Arizona University in 2017.
Jessica is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Jessica attended Northern Arizona University and graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Prior to working as an Education Liaison, Jessica interned for the Department of Child Safety in Flagstaff and soon after began working permanently with the Department. Jessica understands from her own experience the difficulties of obtaining higher education and having the support to do so. Jessica’s goal is to see all children, especially those in foster care, succeed and she knows that it takes all of the systems involved in our foster youth’s lives, working together, to make that a reality.
Ashely Dickerson is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. She is a proud Arizona native and attended the University of Arizona where she studied the Social and Cultural Foundations in Public Education while focusing on Adolescent Development, Ed Policy and Africana Studies. Ashely has extensive experience both in and out of the traditional education field and has worked with various nonprofits including serving as an elementary school teacher, completing four terms as an AmeriCorps member in her community, and launching her own leadership and empowerment program for girls of color. Education campaigns and civic engagement are at the core of her efforts. She is passionate about creating an equitable and just education system in Arizona, which has led her to FosterEd: Arizona.
Victoria is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. Victoria has worked in the education and behavior health fields for over 10 years. Previously, she worked for Valley of the Sun United Way as a Destination Graduation Coordinator where she case managed high school students and ensured that they were on track to graduate. She is an active advocate for youth, and as a licensed foster care provider she is experienced and passionate in delivering and supporting positive change to all children, families, and community members.
Rose is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. While she is originally from Texas, she has lived in New Mexico, Arizona, and spent a year teaching in South Korea. These experiences have given her a strong cultural competence that she brings to NCYL, along with her passion for social welfare. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Public Management and Policy in 2012, she worked with Arizona’s Children Association (AZCA) as a bilingual behavioral health case manager, where she gained an understanding of the state’s behavioral health systems and needs of families within our communities. She then transitioned into child welfare as an Independent Living Specialist II, where she taught teens in the foster care system life skills and assisted them in their transition out of care. Rose enjoys working with youth and strives to empower them to dream big and reach their full potential.
Margaret Olmos joined NYCL in 2017, returning to her home state to serve as State Director for FosterEd California. Prior to joining NYCL, Margaret was the Assistant Superintendent of Student Programming for the Recovery School District in New Orleans, LA. In her role, Margaretexpanded career-pathways to bridge K-12, Community College, and industry partnerships aimed at serving at-risk youth. Prior to joining the RSD, Margaret served in the Obama Administration, first serving in the White House as the Deputy Director of Research, and then moving to the U.S. Department of Education as the Chief of Staff for the Office for Civil Rights. Margaret began her career as an AmeriCorps NCCC member. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Haverford University, with a minor in Special Education, and earned a Masters in Comparative Politics from Queens University in Northern Ireland, where she was trained as a mediator.
Kawena is the the FosterEd Program Manager for the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County. Prior to joining the FosterEd team, Kawena worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as a Children’s Social Worker (CSW) for nearly 7 years. During her last two and a half years with DCFS, Kawena worked in the Foster Youth Education Program. She provided services to youth in high school, creating individualized education case plans and providing advocacy for the youth to access services to ensure positive education outcomes. Kawena also spent time as a substitute teacher while transitioning from her work as a CSW. Kawena earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Psychology, and hopes to use her education and experience working with foster youth to ensure the education needs of foster youth are being met on the local level, and make efforts for change when necessary on a larger scale.
Valentine (Shiko) is the FosterEd Program Manager for Contra Costa County. Valentine is a children’s rights advocate and strongly believes that the success of children is a strong indicator of a thriving community. As such, Valentine has worked in various capacities in service to children/youth and their families, most recently as a Program Manager at an autism treatment company. She is excited to continue to work with children and families, she is also thankful for the opportunity to shape systems that will improve educational outcomes for youth.
Joy is the FosterEd Program Manager in Santa Clara County. Before joining NCYL, she worked with Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), a local community-based organization, as the Evaluation and Learning Manager, where she supported the advancement of their Theory of Change and evaluation efforts. Also with FLY, she served as a Case Manager in Santa Clara and Alameda counties, where she supported young people in navigating the justice system and achieving their goals. Prior to working with FLY, Joy worked with several local law enforcement agencies and community based organizations, supporting adults and youth engaged in the justice system. She holds an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from San Francisco State University. Motivated by the challenges she witnessed in her home town of Vallejo, CA, she comes to NCYL with a deep passion for supporting justice involved youth and reducing recidivism.
Kim is the Project Manager for FosterEd Santa Cruz County, where she works to ensure foster children and youth are supported by an educational champion and strengthened by an education team. Kim served as an Education Liaison for close to three years before transitioning into the Project Manager role in November 2015. She holds an undergraduate degree in human development from the University of California, San Diego, with a minor in Spanish literature, and a master’s degree in education and a teaching credential from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has several years’ experience as an elementary school teacher, and has also been a tutor, coach, and mentor for at-risk high school students. Kim is fluent in Spanish, enabling her to serve both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families.
Erika is an Education Liaison with FosterEd Santa Cruz County. Erika earned her B.S. in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2007. Previously, she worked at the Live Oak Family Resource Center as a Community Support Specialist and then as a Family and Youth Advocate. As a Family Advocate, she provided families with case management services to strengthen the well-being of the entire family. As a Youth Advocate, she worked with youth on probation, connecting them with appropriate resources to fulfill the terms of their probation. Erika is a native Spanish speaker, enabling her to serve both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families.
Megan is an Education Liaison with FosterEd Santa Cruz County. She holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Albion College and earned her Master’s Degree from Santa Clara University in Counseling Psychology, with an emphasis in Correctional Psychology. Megan has several years of experience working with foster youth and youth on probation in Santa Cruz County, and has worked with various county and nonprofit service providers in serving these youth.
Norma is an Education Liaison with FosterEd Santa Cruz County. Norma has dedicated most of her career to working in the non-profit world to address poverty and injustice issues. She has worked with individuals and families to help them become self-sufficient by providing case management, direct services, advocacy, and referrals. She is driven to serve her community by her wonderful family and the amazing support and resources she has also received by her community. She has two amazing children and received her Masters in Social Work at San Jose State University.
FosterEd New Mexico
Grace is an attorney and the Director of FosterEd New Mexico. Before coming to FosterEd, Grace worked at Pegasus Legal Services for Children in Albuquerque, NM where she acted as guardian ad litem and youth attorney to children and youth in foster care, represented youth in emancipation cases, and worked with homeless and runaway youth on a variety of issues. Grace is also active in policy and legislative work related to children and youth throughout New Mexico. Grace is certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist by the National Association of Counsel for Children. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and was admitted to the New Mexico Bar in 2008.
Amy is Chief Education Liaison for the Lea County, New Mexico demonstration project. Prior to joining the FosterEd team, Amy worked for the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) as an In-Home Services Clinician for three years. She provided services to monitor child safety and to prevent youth from coming into state custody. Previously, Amy was a supervisor at a non-profit agency in Roswell, New Mexico. She oversaw the implementation of grants, ensured program fidelity, and managed a staff of seven. Amy received her B.A. in Community Health from New Mexico State University in 2002. In 2012, she received her MSW from New Mexico Highlands University. Amy lives in Lovington with her husband John and two children.
Indiana Department of Child Services – Education Services Team
Previously FosterEd Indiana
Melaina directs FosterEd Indiana, which now operates statewide as a publicly funded program of the Indiana Department of Child Services. Melaina is dedicated to ensuring the educational stability and success of DCS involved youth. Prior to bringing her enthusiasm for education to DCS, she taught first, second and third grade, as well as, a split classroom of second and third graders. She has been inducted into Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education and the Golden Key International Honor Society. Her Bachelor of Arts degree is from Purdue. She received her Master’s in Education with specializations in both Child Development and Family and Community Services from Ashford in 2013. She was originally hired as one of the Northeast Liaisons in 2012 and has since been promoted to the Education Services Director in September 2014.
Sabrina Ellison has nine years of public education teaching experience in both inner city and rural settings. After receiving her Bachelors in Elementary Education, Sabrina spent seven years teaching in the inner city schools of Houston, Texas (2000-2007). Upon moving back to Indiana in 2007, Sabrina became a proud mother while pursuing her Master’s Degree in Special Education. Sabrina received her graduate degree in 2009, and taught Developmental/Special Needs Preschool and Severe Disabilities. Sabrina received both her Bachelor’s Degree and her Master’s Degree from Indiana State University.
Steven Takacs has been an educator for ten years. He graduated from the University of Indianapolis in 2004 with a BA in Journalism and English. He is a licensed secondary English teacher who is also bilingual (Spanish). He has taught English and English as a Second Language in the United States and Mexico as well as undergraduate courses in Philosophy. In 2010, Steven completed his MA in Philosophy at IUPUI. In his free time, Steven enjoys reading, being outdoors, fishing, hunting and being with his family and friends.
Jay McGee has a passion for the benefits of alternative education classrooms. Jay taught secondary social studies for seven years at an alternative school in Colorado and at Munster High School in Indiana. He then returned to Indiana University Bloomington to attain his principal and superintendent licenses and to earn his M.A. in School Administration and Ed.D. in Education Leadership. Jay has a wide variety of experience in K-12 education, having served as a principal in traditional schools, charter schools, an alternative school, and at Burris Laboratory School on the campus of Ball State University. He has presented at state and national conferences on topics in alternative education and laboratory schools.
Jeri Gibson has been a Special Education teacher for eighteen years in elementary schools throughout Indianapolis and nearby cities. After serving many children in Special Education classrooms, mostly emotionally handicapped, she worked with foster children in various agencies including DCS. She recently transferred from being a Family Case Manager to an Education Liaison where she can share her expertise of both education and DCS with the entire team. Jeri received her Bachelor’s degree in Education from MacMurray College.
Verne McCue has been a Special Education teacher for ten years. He has worked in both public and private education. Mr. McCue is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Grant County. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University and his Master’s Degree from Ball State University.
Jason Rivich has been working with children with behavioral and special needs for eight years. After receiving his Bachelor’s of Science from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Jason began his career in education in Warsaw Community Schools where he taught Adult Basic Education/GED preparation classes and elementary physical education to students with severe emotional disabilities. Because of his vast experience working with both adult and adolescents, he is eager to work to build educational champions for youth who have suffered through traumatic events. Outside of the office, he coaches Little League, YMCA youth basketball, and volunteers with the Boy Scouts.
Travis Stahl has a special gift of working with children in alternative education settings. Although, he completed college with the best intentions of being a social studies teacher, he quickly found himself working as the director of an alternative school and in a detention center, not only teaching social studies but also math, English, science and electives. Travis received his degree from Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne. He is married with two beautiful daughters.
Traci Larrison is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and a licensed School Social Worker. She was employed at Brownsburg Community School Corporation for 12 years and enjoyed working with children of all ages. Her passion is empowering youth to be successful in their education and life. Her experience working in schools allows her to truly understand the complications that occur with schools and children involved with DCS. Traci received her BSW from Illinois State and her MSW from Indiana University.
Anita Johnson has fervor that is quite evident in the field of education. Before being hired as an Education Liaison with DCS, she taught middle/high school English in the Gary and Merrillville Community School Corporations for approximately 15 years. Anita received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism/English Education from Indiana State University. After graduating from Indiana State, Anita returned to her hometown of Gary, Indiana to teach. “I felt a need to return to my hometown and teach because Gary had given me a strong educational foundation that has helped me become the person I am today.” In 2012, she received her Masters of Arts Degree in Adult Education from the University of Phoenix. She has been a member of several educational organizations, such as PBIS, PTA, and the Gary Reading Council. She believes the best gifts we can give to our youth are knowledge and character. Anita is married and the mother of three beautiful daughters.
Jeffrey Neumann is originally from LaPorte County Indiana and a graduate of New Prairie High School in the heart of the “snow zone.” Jeff is a former public school educator in the state with 8 years in the classroom and 22 years as an Elementary Principal. He has been an educator in many parts of Indiana including Kentland, Renssealer, Warsaw, and now Greenwood. Jeff states “I share the excitement of the core team of EL’s and believe the position of Educational Liaison is yet another world class intervention offering assistance to the children, and all citizens of Indiana, working with very talented DCS staff to bring the best educational opportunities to the most fragile of Indiana’s young people.” Jeff received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Indiana University. He received his Administration Certification from Purdue University.
Kelly Hargett taught for 9 years as a Special Education teacher in the private school setting. After leaving the classroom, she began working for the Department of Child Services in 2010 as a Family Case Manager in Scott County, Indiana. Kelly also worked seven years as Eligibility Caseworker Supervisor for the Division of Family and Children in the 1990s. Her diverse background in both the educational setting, as well as, the social services setting helps Kelly understand the difficulties that children in DCS care face, both academically and culturally. Kelly received her Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education with a Kindergarten Endorsement and her Master’s of Science in Elementary Education from Indiana University Southeast. Kelly and her husband, David, are the proud parents of daughters Caitlin, Paige, and Mallory.
Naomi Koeplin has taught high school and middle school Language Arts in rural northwest Alaska and also Louisville, Kentucky. Naomi received her BA in English Education from Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana in 2008, and her M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona in 2012. While earning her master’s degree, she also attained endorsements in Early Childhood Education and Structured English Immersion and taught in elementary and preschool classrooms. She moved to Bloomington, Indiana and joined the Education Services program with DCS in 2012. Naomi embraces the incredible potential that being an Education Liaison affords to influence educational success for youth in DCS care. Naomi will be pursuing the Master of Social Work program at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis beginning in the Summer 2015 term.