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.
Jasmine Amons supports the FosterEd and Health Teams. As a volunteer, she co-hosts East Bay Green Drinks and is a member of Thousand Currents’ Leadership Team. Previously, she worked as the Grants and Development Manager at Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. She graduated with a BA in History and a minor in Italian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013.
Pete is the Director 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.
Molly Dunn is the Deputy 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.
Andrea is Senior Education Liaison with 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 a position as a FosterEd Education Liaison.
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 delinquent juveniles and their families through the juvenile court, providing case management services to improve educational and delinquent outcomes. 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 underprivileged 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.
Arayah is the Volunteer Coordinator for FosterEd Arizona. Arayah comes from a family of educators and is passionate about youth advocacy and educational rights. Arayah attended Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC and graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in Political Science and Global Studies. She returned to her hometown of Tucson, AZ, after 5 years in North Carolina working with volunteers in political campaigns and organizations devoted to LGBT marriage equality in the South. A consistent and devoted volunteer since age 11, Arayah has long been committed to helping others help! She is a firm believer in giving to the community as a way of growing and succeeding as a person.
Minsun Park Meeker is Director of FosterEd California. She brings extensive experience in child welfare program and policy development, implementation, and evaluation. As Outcomes and Evaluation Manager at United Friends of the Children (UFC), an education and housing provider for current and former foster youth in Los Angeles County, she led the organization’s implementation of a framework to better track and evaluate program data and outcomes. Before her time at UFC, Minsun served as the Senior Policy Director for the Child Welfare Initiative (CWI), where she partnered with public and private child welfare agencies to improve housing, employment, mental health, and transition programs and policies for current and former foster youth. Prior to joining CWI, Minsun worked as a Fiscal and Policy Analyst at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office and was responsible for evaluating the fiscal and programmatic impact of legislative and gubernatorial child welfare and labor proposals. She has also worked for the University of Southern California’s Center on Educational Governance; the Los Angeles Commission for Children, Youth, and Families; and Union Station Homeless Services. Minsun holds an M.P.P. from the University of Southern California, and a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in International Studies and German from the University of Pennsylvania.
Angela Vázquez brings to her work a passion for ensuring equity for vulnerable youth from birth through young adulthood, especially as life opportunities are impacted by trauma and instability. She has worked with young women living in a group home and organized young adults with mental illness as a graduate student for two years, giving her a practical and community-driven perspective to policy and systems work. A summer at Los Angeles Universal Preschool highlighted the importance of reaching vulnerable kids early — a commitment that she continued at Advancement Project as a Policy Analyst for several years, convening statewide early care and education stakeholders, and simultaneously facilitating policy development and implementation discussions for very young children in foster care in Los Angeles County. Most recently, she led Advancement Project’s partners on the Coalition for Educational Equity for Foster Youth in support of Los Angeles Unified School District’s investments and efforts to serve students in foster care. Angela currently serves as Board Co-Chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network — Los Angeles where she hopes to build the next generation of social justice leaders in LA. Angela received her MSW concentrating in Community Organizing, Planning, and Administration from the University of Southern California after graduating cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a BA in Psychology.
Kawena is an Education Liaison with FosterEd California. 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.
Yesenia is an Education Liaison with FosterEd California, where she brings her passion for working with vulnerable communities to influence systems-level change and improve the education outcomes of foster children and youth. Yesenia received both her BA in American Literature and Culture, with a minor in Education Studies, and her MSW with a concentration in School Social Work from the University of California, Los Angeles. As a graduate student, she provided clinical case management to families identified as at-risk for child abuse and neglect in the San Fernando Valley, and most recently interned at Family Service of Santa Monica, where she provided school-based mental health services to children and youth (K-12) in public schools. Prior to graduate school, Yesenia worked at CASA of Los Angeles as a Volunteer Services and Outreach Coordinator, ensuring that foster children were paired with a Court Appointed Special Advocate, giving foster children a voice in the court and community.
Lily Colby is an Equal Justice Works Fellow on the FosterEd California team. Lily is an alumna from the foster care system and a former foster parent herself. Before joining NCYL, Lily interned for local, state, and federal direct service non-profits, advocacy organizations, and legislative offices including the American Bar Association Center on Children in the Law, Legal Services for Children, the East Bay Community Law Center, and the United States House of Representatives. Lily also is currently is on the Board of the Center for Independent Living and Legal Services for Children. Lily’s fellowship will allow her to work on improving the educational trajectories of youth in the foster care system by improving the training and support to their foster parents and caregivers. Lily obtained her B.A. in Economics from Yale University in 2010 and her J.D. from Berkeley Law in 2015. Her Equal Justice Works Fellowship is sponsored by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
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.
Melaina directs FosterEd Indiana, which now operates statewide as a publicly funded program of the Indiana Department of Child Services. She previously spent two years as an Education Liaison with FosterEd Indiana. She has taught first, second, and third grade, as well as a split level second/third grade classroom. She earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from Purdue University and an M.Ed. with dual specialization in Child Development and Family and Community Services from Ashford University. In 2005, she was inducted into the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education, as well as the Golden Key International Honour Society in 2011.
Brandon is an Eduaction Liaison in the Northwest region of Indiana. He has been an educator his entire life and holds degrees in both elementary and special education. His heart is with children with autism. He has worked with first-, third-, fourth-, fifth-grade, and middle school students. He is well-versed in working with children in all parts of the spectrum. Brandon is a firm believer in building the community in which one lives. He has helped with the Porter County Special Olympics, Riley’s Hospital Miracle Ride, Feed the Children, and Ink for Autism. Brandon received his degree from Indiana University Northwest.
Jeffrey is an Education Liaison in the Southeast region of Indiana. He 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 eight 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 is excited about serving as an Education Liaison, offering assistance to Indiana’s children, and working with Department of Child Services staff to bring the best educational opportunities to foster youth. Jeff received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University. He received his administration certification from Purdue University.
Verne is an Education Liaison in the Northeast region of Indiana. He has been a special education teacher for ten years. He has worked in both public and private education. He and his wife are currently foster parents, and in October 2011 adopted two girls from the foster system. Verne 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.
Jeri is an Education Liaison in the Central/Central East region of Indiana. She 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 the Department of Child Services. She recently transferred from being a Family Case Manager to an Education Liaison, where she can share her expertise in both education and DCS with the entire team. Jeri received her bachelor’s degree in Education from MacMurray College.
Kelly is an Education Liaison in the Southeast region of Indiana. She taught for nine years as a special education teacher in a private school setting. Most recently, she worked for the Department of Child Services for two years as a Family Case Manager in Scott County, Indiana. She also worked for seven years as Eligibility Caseworker Supervisor for the Division of Family and Children in the 1990s. Kelly received her B.S. in elementary education from Indiana University Southeast in 1988 and her M.S. in elementary education from Indiana University Southeast.
Steven is an Education Liaison in the Central region of Indiana. He has been an educator for eight years. He graduated from the University of Indianapolis in 2004 with a B.A. 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. In 2010, Steven completed his M.A. in American Philosophy at IUPUI where he is an adjunct philosophy professor. Steven’s work in philosophy has been recognized internationally as well as nationally, as he is a published philosopher who enjoys learning, teaching, and challenging others to think.
Jay is an Education Liaison in the Central region of Indiana. 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 seved 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.
Travis is an Education Liaison in the Northeast region of Indiana. His background is in working with children in alternative education settings. Although he completed college with the intentions of being a social studies teacher, he quickly found himself working for a detention center not only teaching social studies but also math, English, science and electives. His teaching turned into a leadership position. Travis received his degree from Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Traci is an Education Liaison in the Northwest region of Indiana. She 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 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 B.S.W. from Illinois State and her M.S.W. from Indiana University.
Sabrina is an Education Liaison in the Central / Central West region of Indiana. She has nine years of public education teaching experience in both inner city and rural settings. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Sabrina spent seven years teaching in the inner city schools of Houston, Texas (2000-2007). Sabrina received her graduate degree in special education in 2009, and taught developmental / special needs preschool. Sabrina received both her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree from Indiana State University.
Naomi is an Education Liaison in the Southwest region of Indiana. She previously taught high school and middle school language arts in rural Alaska and in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a strong supporter of Title IX and coached wrestling while in Alaska. Naomi received her B.A. in English education from Bethel College in Mishawaka, and her M.Ed. in elementary Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. While earning her master’s degree, she also attained endorsements in early childhood education and structured English immersion and taught in elementary and early childhood classrooms.
Jason is an Education Liaison in the Southwest region of Indiana. After receiving his B.S. from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, Jason began his career in education in Warsaw Community Schools. He taught Adult Basic Education/GED preparation for four years, while also teaching physical education to elementary students with severe emotional disabilities. Before joining the Indiana Department of Child Services, Jason taught middle and high school students with severe emotional disabilities. Because of his vast experience working with both adults and adolescents with severe emotional challenges, 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 and YMCA youth basketball, and volunteers with the Boy Scouts.
Chandra Breneman is an Education Liaison. She has a Master’s Degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Indiana State University. She is currently pursuing a Special Education Degree with a projected completion date of 2016. She began her work with the Indiana Department of Child Services in October 2011 as a Family Case Manager in Martin County and then transferred to Greene County. In January 2014, Chandra became a Collaborative Care Case Manager for Region 17. Prior to beginning employment with DCS, she was a teacher, independent tutor and social worker. Although the most recent years have been devoted to case management, the passion for education has always been present. She resides in Linton, Indiana.