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CYC Legends

As part of CYC’s 25th Anniversary celebration, in the month of May, CYC chapters honored individuals who have helped further foster youth voice in their communities. Congratulations to CYC’s Local Legends!

Contra Costa: Don Graves
Don Graves

Don was chosen for the CYC 25th Anniversary Legend Award because of his commitment to the Contra Costa County chapter since 1996. Don believes in Positive Youth Development and has stated that CYC is that philosophy in action. During his 25-year child welfare career, he cites being a CYC adult supporter as one of his greatest honors.  To witness firsthand how CYC develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative, policy, and practice change has impacted his approach to service delivery. "We must involve the youth voice in every aspect of service delivery. We know that when we work in partnership with our youth, outcomes improve, because our youth take ownership and hold themselves accountable in setting and achieving their goals."  
One of his proudest achievements is building a 10,000 square foot Youth Facility in Contra Costa County where youth can come to learn life skills, connect with other youth, and seek resources. "To have youth sit in on the architect process and help design it, then select the colors and furniture and see the finished product is motivational and inspiring. Since the grand opening in 2001, thousands of youth have accessed services there."

Don continues to advocate for youth throughout the state and has been instrumental in developing programs that assist youth in making the transition into adulthood.

Don is currently the program coordinator for the Contra Costa County Children and Family Services' Independent Living Skills Program. Don is married and has a daughter. He lives and works in Martinez and calls Contra Costa County his home.

Alameda: Therese Marin Clenney

Therese Marin Clenney works with the Alameda Independent Living Program and a long time Alameda Chapter Adult Supporter for over 10 years.  She has a created a loving, caring, and supportive environment for Alameda's Foster Youth.  As a former foster, she is really committed to the youth in Alameda becoming thriving adults.

Butte: Meagan Meloy
Meagan Meloy has been an Adult Supporter for the Butte County CYC chapter since 2004. She has 12 years of experience working with families, youth, and education systems.  This experience includes direct services, program development, and coalition building.  She has provided educational support services to students in foster care and is dedicated to improving education outcomes for young people.  Meagan is an advocate for change and believes that all youth can be successful!

Fresno: Elizabeth Guerrero
Elizabeth is a former CYC Fresno Chapter Supporter. She completed her first year of her Master’s Degree in Social Work in Family Reunification, long-term foster care and independent living program in 1997. While attending a conference on youth in care, she learned about CYC. In 1999, Elizabeth became the ILP coordinator, and took an active role in forming and shaping the CYC Fresno Chapter. Elizabeth, through her passion of helping youth in care, motivated and empowered them to take charge in building a chapter, and making changes in the system on a local and statewide level. Elizabeth has been married for over 13 years and has four children: 3 daughters, ages 11, 9, and 5; and a son who is 8. Elizabeth states that she is “very blessed.”

Glenn: Robin Smith
Robin has worked for the Glenn County Office of Education for 13 years as the Foster Youth Services and Homeless Services (McKinney Vento Program) coordinator. She has also been an adult supporter for California Youth Connection since 2001 and has positively influenced many foster youth. She even returned to college at age 47 to finish her bachelor’s degree at 50, giving the youth she was working with a great outlook on post-secondary education and showing them it is never too late to follow your dreams. Since she has helped many individual youth reach not only their high school educational goals, but has mentored many youth through college. In 2011 she hired a former foster youth to help her with the Foster Youth Services program in Glenn County, giving her the opportunity to show her small county that when given the opportunity foster youth can succeed. She is an amazing advocate and mentor for foster youth and her compassion is irreplaceable.

Humboldt: Phillip Crandall
Phil Crandall is the Director of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services. For almost thirty years Phil has been working to provide social services, behavioral health and public health services to children and transition age youth. Phil is passionate about children and youth and making sure we have all the tools and he provides the support we need to succeed in life.  In 2008, he invested in creating the Humboldt County Transition Age Youth Collaboration to engage youth in plans to improve county systems and service delivery to TAY.  One of the first organizations Phil looked to for expertise was CYC. Humboldt Chapter CYC is proud to offer the Legacy Award to Phil Crandall for his tenacious commitment to youth engagement.

Kern: Olivia Kent
Olivia has been a member of the CYC Kern Chapter since 2008. Since Olivia has been a member, she has been a driving force of the chapter with her awesome organizational skills and her experiences in working with current and former foster youth. Olivia was instrumental in Kern completing its first local issue and spent many hours meeting with youth and community members promoting the resource card that came out of the local issue efforts. Olivia also became a part of the Youth Training Program and has made herself available to speak about advocacy and legislation issues within CYC and our community.
Olivia was chosen as the recipient of the CYC Legend Award because she has contributed a great deal to the Kern chapter in the last five years and we love that she is a tireless advocate for foster youth!

Los Angeles: Delia Johnson
Delia has been with CYC from the very beginning. She was instrumental in organizing youth in Los Angeles to create Foster Youth Connection which eventually formed into California Youth Connection. Delia was one of the visionaries in who integrated youth empowerment and youth voice into the independent living program class’s curriculum. Through her work with the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Delia helped design programs that promoted leadership skills development. Delia is a nurturer, a role model, a coach, a friend and confidant for countless youth from foster care in LA. She has guided and nurtured CYC members to be positive role models.

Mariposa: Jim Rydingsword
Jim Rydingsword was chosen for the CYC 25th Anniversary Legendary Awardee because he was very instrumental in establishing the chapter in Mariposa County. Jim believes in the youth and is known to advocate for foster children that have not been adopted. Jim understands the need for funding foster care initiatives such as AB 12 and takes every chance he can get to promote the work that CYC does. Jim believes in the chapter so much that he has created a means for them to receive financial support to do the outreach for other current and former foster youth.

Merced: Holly Karim
Holly Karim was chosen for the CYC 25th Anniversary Legend Awardee because she has been the longest standing supporter. Holly has proven to go above and beyond to make sure that the chapter has the resources necessary to sustain itself. Very helpful and supportive, Holly ensures that the documents are completed to support the chapter that one may not suspect is necessary. Easy to talk to, Holly is currently an ILP social worker with Merced Human Services Agency.  Holly Karim is married and just recently had her second child while helping CYC.
Monterey: Ray Gonzalez
Ray Gonzalez is the former ILP Coordinator for Monterey County. In 2009 he was instrumental in initially forming our local Monterey County CYC Chapter. His legacy lives on with the continued enthusiasm and dedication of our current Monterey CYC Chapter’s Youth Members and Adult Supporters. Ray has been and continues to be a strong advocate for youth. His genuine appreciation of young people is reflected in his professional work with youth, as well as how easily he is able to engage with youth and develop strong caring relationships with them.

Napa: Dantasia Hardiamon
Dantasia Hardiamon was selected for the Legend Award because she has been the President of the Napa CYC chapter. She has been involved in several major events such as Summer Conference and Day at the Capitol. She has always gone above and beyond to support fellow members, such as offering rides to members, purchasing food for meetings and attended the majority of events. We often refer to her as the glue of the Napa chapter, as she has held the chapter together when there were no members at the table.

Orange: Mike McKenzie
Mike has been active in the non-profit community working with adolescent youth since 1988 starting as a Camp Counselor at Pyles Boys Camp located in Sequoia National Forest.  He spent 10 consecutive summers at Camp leading underprivileged young men on backing packing trips helping them to develop leadership skills, build self-esteem, and envision a successful future.  Mike currently serves as Program Supervisor at the Orangewood Children’s Foundation (OCF) where he has been on staff since 1993.  In this role he oversees programs designed to prepare foster youth for independence.
One of Mike’s greatest experiences was serving as an Adult Supporter for the Orange County Chapter of California Youth Connection (CYC) for 10 years.  It was a great honor and privilege for him to work with such dedicated CYC Staff and Adult Supporters, and most rewarding to work with the CYC Members who have and will continue to change foster care in a profound way.  Mike feels CYC is one of the greatest foster youth development and foster youth advocacy groups in the United States and he is thankful to have been included in such a worthy cause.

Riverside: Jasyn Anastasia Detmers
Jasyn Anastasia Detmers was so passionate and filled with energy.  Always patient, she explained everything in detail, teaching and informing, supporting and empowering, but never making our decisions for us and never exerting her own will or opinion.  She completely understood and believed in the philosophy of CYC, the unique strength of a youth run organization.
Sacramento: Cathy Dessert
Cathy Dessert works for the Independent Living Program in Sacramento County. She also works as a school Counselor for Elk Grove Unified School District Foster Youth Services.  She has been an Adult Supporter for 14 years.  She is a champion for many foster youth in Sacramento and greatly appreciated for recruiting, transporting, and supporting CYC members for over a decade. Cathy really enjoys the youth.  She likes seeing them grow from very intimidated people to outspoken and proficient speakers.  They become poised young men and women who can deftly propose changes in the Foster Care system just by honestly telling their stories. She feels that no one else can do that the way the CYC youth do.

San Bernardino: Roxie Findsen
Roxie Findsen has been a dedicated member and adult supporter of CYC. She was one on the founders and ever since has made CYC a priority in her life. She loves empowering foster youth and loves seeing legislative change. She is always there for the members whenever she is needed, without Roxie our chapter wouldn't be where it is today.
Thank you for all that you do for us Roxie!!!!
San Diego: Vina Sandal
Vina Sandal is the San Diego chapter’s choice for the CYC Legend Award.  An adult supporter for nearly two-thirds of CYC’s existence, Vina was instrumental in the formation of the chapter in the early 1990s, its rebirth in the 2000s, and its continued growth today.  Her unsurpassed sincerity, unparalleled passion, and unwavering commitment to foster youth issues has earned her the respect of the youth, fellow supporters, and child welfare professionals throughout San Diego and beyond. Vina has always championed the organization’s cause, and her consistent refrain of placing the utmost importance on the “youth voice” resonates as a reminder of how advocacy at the grassroots level can promote groundbreaking change.  Her advanced networking skills, boundless creativity, and genuine talent for holding those in her circles accountable have been defining hallmarks which render her uniquely invaluable to the San Diego chapter.  Vina has expanded the boundaries of an adult supporter into a role in which she not only shapes foster youth to believe in themselves and the concept of youth empowerment, but also provides them with the confidence that she will always serve as a reliable ally, constant presence, and lifelong connection.

San Mateo: Carrie Hollenberg
Carrie was born and raised in the Bay Area and after living in Illinois, Washington, DC, Santa Barbara and just outside of Yosemite, she returned to the Bay Area and now lives in Walnut Creek.  She works as a consultant to businesses, government agencies and non-profits, helping them identify how social trends and future developments in technology might affect their business as well as studying consumer behavior to help companies target their products and services to people who would like utilize them the most. Carrie became involved with the San Mateo Chapter of CYC nine years ago when a friend of a friend suggested visiting a chapter meeting.  She was immediately impressed and in spite of barely having heard of foster care, Carrie was deeply inspired by the Members’ willingness to participate in CYC and use their personal experiences to work to improve the foster care system.  Seeing new, shy, I-am-hiding-in-my-hoodie youth get involved with the chapter, make friends, gain confidence and become an active members continues to keep Carrie involved in CYC, a commitment that is renewed each year at the Day at the Capitol conference as members work together to turn a rough, disjointed presentation into a clear, strong message to educate the legislators about a critical foster care need.  Carrie continues to be inspired by the laughter and joyfulness of CYC members in spite of their trials and being with the Members makes her laugh and feel full of joy.

San Luis Obispo: Patrick Considine
Patrick was a key champion in encouraging and supporting the development and organization of the San Luis Obispo CYC Chapter. His determination to have a youth voice in the county laid the foundation for the San Luis Obispo CYC Chapter to grow in their successes.

Santa Clara: Monica Simons
Introduced to CYC by her Independent Living Program (ILP) Counselor, Darcy Cabral, Monica became a CYC member at age 16.  In CYC, Monica had the chance to voice her opinion and improve opportunities for foster youth.  She was also able to meet people in the community and learn invaluable leadership skills.  Monica learned about opportunities for former foster youth that could help her achieve her dream of going to college.  Monica began her college journey at DeAnza College and later transferred to San Jose State University.  During her time at San Jose State, Monica was instrumental in developing the Connect, Motivate, Educate (CME) Society, a campus support program for former foster youth which later became the San Jose State University Guardian Scholars Program.  Monica graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Justice Studies in 2005.  She also transitioned from being a CYC Member to a CYC Supporter to give other foster youth the opportunity to voice their opinions and improve opportunities for foster youth.  The Santa Clara Chapter is extremely grateful for the dedication, passion and guidance Monica has shared with the Chapter and with CYC throughout her involvement and would like to acknowledge her contributions to the foster youth in Santa Clara County as well as throughout the state of California.  Like her mentor and former ILP counselor, Darcy, Monica continues to give back to the community and inspire other foster youth as a case manager in the Transitional Housing Program Plus at EHC Lifebuilders.

Santa Cruz: Isaiah Garcia
In 2006 Isaiah attended a San Mateo Chapter meeting along with Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center Strange Program Staff, Vanessa.  Even though Vanessa had explained CYC and talked about attending the meeting to learn more about the organization in hopes of building a chapter in Santa Cruz, Isaiah came because he would get dinner and the chance to go somewhere.  This is often the story many CYC leaders tell when they talk about how they first got involved but overlooks the very important leadership role Isaiah played in creating the opportunity for current and former foster youth in Santa Cruz county to participate in CYC and have a voice in the policies that affect them.  Along with getting to go somewhere, Isaiah was also a part of the team that presented the Santa Cruz application to the CYC Advisory Board in 2007 and was a founding member of the current chapter.  He went on to take several leadership roles including chairing chapter meetings, representing Santa Cruz foster youth in policy meetings and at the Advisory Board and participating in the Summer Leadership and Policy Conference Curriculum Development Committee where he helped create the process for more than 100 of his fellow CYC members to create recommendations around prioritizing mentorship for foster youth, increasing the number of safe and caring placements for LGBTQ foster youth, and the need to create an evaluation process to ensure foster youth are being placed in foster homes that meet their needs.  Back in 2006, it might not have been Isaiah's intention to be a leader but it is what he is.  Santa Cruz has benefited greatly from his leadership and CYC is grateful.

Shasta: Pamela Hewlett
Pamela Hewlett, MSW has been employed with Shasta County CPS for approximately 14 years and currently supervises an investigation unit. As a former youth, Pam decided to dedicate her life, education, and profession to improving the child welfare system. As an adult supporter for the Shasta County Chapter of CYC, Pam and her members traveled throughout Europe to obtain a global perspective on foster care issues and hosted three community dinners to raise awareness to local foster care issues. Pam’s employees describe her as a passionate, caring, and dedicated individual. For these reasons, Pam was selected as the 25th Anniversary CYC Legend Award Recepient by the Shasta County Chapter of the California Youth Connection.

Sonoma: Alissa Gentille
Alissa Gentille is currently the Executive Director of On The Move (OTM), a nonprofit organization located in Napa and Sonoma counties with a mission to develop young people as leaders by building exceptional community programs that challenge inequities in their community. Alissa has spent the last 10 years working for OTM in various leadership capacities building her expertise as an effective and passionate nonprofit leader.  She began her career as the founding Director of VOICES, the first youth-led community center for current and former foster youth in the nation. In 2011, Alissa began to serve as OTM’s Associate Director, a role which allowed her to expand her personal leadership experience through the direct supervision of a number of programs and administrative functions related to the organization. During her time as the Associate Director and under her supervision, OTM launched two major initiatives and grew the overall fiscal capacity of the organization. Alissa currently serves on the board of Foster Kids Fund and acts as an Advisor for Operation Goals. She received a BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University and is currently a candidate for a MA in Nonprofit Administration at the University of San Francisco.  Aside from a  three year stint in Napa to launch VOICES, Alissa has resided in San Francisco for the last 15 years.  

Stanislaus: Victor Serrato
Victor Serrato is the Director of Student Support Services at the Stanislaus County Office of Education.  He has been a strong advocate and supporter for the Stanislaus Chapter. He has always offered opportunities to our members and foster youth overall.  Victor has assisted us in on many occasions with our County-wide events and so much more.
When we need help, he has been there and that means the world to the supporters and members of the CYC Stanislaus Chapter.

Tehama: Judge McGlynn
McGlynn graduated the Santa Clara University School of Law, finishing second in his class. In 1986 he joined the law practice of his father, Thomas J. McGlynn. After becoming partner, he and his father formed the firm of McGlynn & McGlynn. The firm has been serving Tehama County for nearly 40 years. McGlynn is a fourth-generation resident of Tehama County. Since his return to Red Bluff after law school, McGlynn has been an active member of the community. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber of Commerce, where he later served as president. He has been a member of the Red Bluff Kiwanis club since 1989, serving one term as president and acting as the director of the Kiwanis youth camp for six years. The chapter chose Judge McGlynn because he is new to juvenile court and they have seen firsthand how different from other judges he is.  He requests their presence at court and speaks directly to them asking about their thoughts and feelings and with that they see that he genuinely cares for them.

Ventura: Raquel Montes
Raquel was the visionary and organizer of the Ventura County Chapter of the California Youth Connections (CYC) in 2007.  Raquel became the founding President of the County Chapter in the winter of 2007 and continued as such until 2010. She has now “aged out” and is now an adult supporter. She has is the ability to show infinite compassion but bridle it with common sense discipline as she works with youth.  Raquel is so awesome because there isn’t a selfish bone in her body, she is hospitable and generous. She is always willing to go above and beyond to help anyone in need.  Raquel is a fighter, an awesome mentor and a good friend. She is passionate about what she does and we are thankful to have such an excellent role model in our lives! Since she has done all this at so young an age, we can look forward to what she'll do in the future...  the best is yet to come.

Yolo: Ashly Dyke
Ashly has been a member of California Youth Connection for more than 6 years, and her ongoing commitment to CYC and to improving the lives of foster youth is evident in the role she has played in both the Siskiyou and Yolo County Chapters. Ashly’s involvement with CYC first started in Siskiyou County, where she helped the chapter cultivate a relationship with a juvenile court judge. Together they developed a system for tracking communication between youth and their lawyers in order to generate accountability. After enrolling in UC Davis, as a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, she was instrumental in building a CYC chapter in Yolo County. Since its establishment in 2011 she has served as the chapter’s Vice President and, more recently, as its coordinator. Within the last year she spearheaded the organization of Yolo County’s fundraiser, which with the help of unsparing community members, raised roughly $7,000. Since then the chapter has used some of this money to participate in Day at the Capitol and to accomplish its local project---creating and dispersing tri-fold resource cards to Yolo County’s foster youth.

* CYC is a registered 501c3. All donations made to CYC are tax deductible.
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