Our dedicated team bringS innovative, fresh, and focused perspectives to CYC. We strive to uplift youth Members as they aim to empower positive change.
Executive Director, Janay Eustace is a former member of the Sacramento Chapter, which she became involved in during her time in the foster care system. Janay graduated from Sacramento State University where she received a Master of Social Work Degree and served as a Clinical Social Worker in the Sacramento Community. She advocated to establish Sacramento State University’s Guardian Scholars Program which continues to support current and former foster youth today. She previously worked for California Youth Connection (CYC) as a volunteer and employee for many years in many different roles. One of many accomplishments Janay is proud of, is helping execute the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12) and implementation as a CYC employee.
Janay has worked for the California Welfare Directors Association (CWDA), collaborating closely with California’s county child welfare agencies in legislation. She has also worked as a Sacramento County Child Protective Services Social Worker, spending time at the California Department of Social Services gaining the State perspective as well. Before returning to CYC, Janay most recently worked at the Youth Law Center as a Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) Champion and Youth Engagement Lead.
Furthermore, Janay is a dedicated advocate and speaker for child welfare reform. CYC’s youth-led vision is fundamental to her and she is committed to ensuring the integrity.
Janay is also an immensely proud wife, mother to three amazing boys, sister/chosen sister, God-mom, and aunty.
Miguel is the Communications Project Manager at CYC. Part of his role is to create clear and distinct feedback loops between state and local agencies regarding the decisions, crises and policies which directly impact foster youth. He is responsible for uplifting and distributing this information and works closely with our program staff to manage key partnerships with local and state decision-makers.
A kid at heart, Miguel believes deeply in the power of youth voice as a catalyst and force for social change. A former CYC member, his lived experience in the foster care system informs his work as he works with CYC members to increase the communications capacity of the organization.
Outside of work, Miguel enjoys watching anime and playing with his dog, Kaido (pronounced KA-EE-DO).
Jeannette currently supports the planning and implementation of CYC’s annual conferences, including Day at the Capitol and the Summer Leadership and Policy Conference. She also supervises conference volunteers and collaborates with the conference planning committee, and works closely with the development team to identify in-kind donations.
Jeannette has over 10 years of experience working with a wide range of youth and young adults. Her most recent experience was working with Transitional Aged Youth as a housing specialist. Her passion for helping and elevating youth stems from her most rewarding experience as a single parent. With a love of working with people, she enjoys giving her all and doing whatever is necessary to ensure the future leaders are successful.
In her spare time, Jeannette enjoys roller skating, hiking, utilizing her organizational skills, and spending time with her family.
As Operations and Data Manager, Janel fulfills a multi-faceted role, supporting CYC’s operations, data collection, data analysis, and reporting functions. This includes the monitoring and implementation of our strategic plan—all key to ensuring the organization’s accomplishments. She works collaboratively to ensure that CYC staff are supported to be successful in fulfilling their roles, while they uplift youth leadership and systems transformation.
Janel is excited to work at CYC because she sees the shared purpose in supporting and empowering a community of young leaders who will make positive contributions in this world, she appreciates how this shared purpose connects to her role in the organization.
Previously, Janel served at the California CASA Association for 15 years as the Data and Technology Manager, then as the Marketing and Program Manager, where she learned vital skills to oversee various data and communication systems. But her most important role was her time spent being an advocate for youth in care, while serving as a CASA volunteer with the Alameda County CASA Program.
Janel is a very proud mother of three children. When she’s not spending time with her family exploring the California coast, she enjoys relaxing with a good book.
As the far southern community advocacy coordinator, Kenny’s primary responsibilities include promoting leadership development, strengthening chapter processes, facilitating community and advocacy efforts, building local relationships to strengthen access to decision-makers to build the social capitol of members, and increase visibility for funding opportunities, and developing curriculum and training materials.
Kenny feels blessed he was introduced to CYC at an early age. As a member, CYC showed him that young people had a voice, and not only a voice but a story. After attending several county meetings as a youth he started to see change, he also started to understand there was a bigger purpose to this work. The work being done changes the lives of youth, like his younger sister. From that moment, he found Advocacy and never looked back.
In Kenny’s free time he coaches youth baseball, watches sports, all while spending quality time with his family.
Trisha Carnero is the Administrative Coordinator for CYC. She is responsible for performing a variety of clerical and administrative functions in support of the Executive Director, finance, human resources, development, strategy, and programs. She will work closely with the executive team to ensure that efficient, effective, and quality processes and systems are in place to support staff and align with the policies and mission of the overall CYC organization.
Trisha feels her approach to public administration and the mission of CYC are deeply aligned through two central principles: we see those who we serve as our equals and we want to work in solidarity with the people we serve to become more empowered, confident, and a transformative agent of change in all of the societal institutions they enter.
Apart from work, Trisha loves music and loves to dance!
Sade currently serves as the Curriculum and Training Managing Director at CYC. This position is responsible for managing the Youth-Led Training Program, including the trainers’ certification and training opportunities through peer-led curriculum, supporting youth facilitators during annual conferences, and stakeholder trainings. Sade will also support our youth-led advocacy efforts and hold responsibility for building out curriculum for the professional development of members, staff, and volunteer supporters.
As a former member of both the Alameda and Sacramento County Chapters, Sade is passionate about upholding foster youth voice and ensuring they are central in the creation of educational tools and models to be used by all children & family serving entities.
Sade raps and writes stories in her spare time.
Jessica is the Northern Community Advocacy Coordinator for CYC and is responsible for providing the foundational resources for youth-led advocacy and leadership development activities in county-based chapters throughout California.
Jessica’s purpose for working with the California Youth Connection is to help create change within the Child Welfare System. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at California State University Chico with a minor in psychology. She has experience working in direct services where she developed a strong passion in youth leadership. Jessica has lived experience in the foster care system and is a former member of CYC so she significantly values advocating and teamwork to ensure no voice goes unheard.
In her personal time Jessica enjoys hiking, family bonding, and outdoor activities with her three dogs.
Our statewide policy manager, Makayla James is a former member of the Butte Chapter. She became involved with CYC while completing her BSW program at the California State University, Chico. She was drawn to our mission due to her interest in policy and her passion for creating change within the foster care system.
Makayla has interned with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) to produce a special report and conduct a congressional briefing regarding the Impact of COVID 19 throughout the Child Welfare System. She is also an alumni with the International Foster Care Alliance where she had the opportunity to spend time in Japan to work hand in hand with the prefectural government and the foster care community to elevate the importance of authentic youth engagement.
Makayla is dedicated to elevating youth voice, fighting for social justice and creating change within the foster care system. She aspires to continue to build a legislative platform that highlights lived experience in the effort to create a more inclusive system for the next generation of foster youth, living out the motto, “Nothing about us without us.”
Makayla’s publication: Seeing Beyond the Covid 19 Pandemic: Creating Change for Vulnerable Children and Families
Quijai (goes by Jay) is the Special Initiative Manager at CYC. Quijai will focus on promoting leadership development, strengthening chapter processes, facilitating community and advocacy efforts, as well as building local relationships.
Quijai has a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cell Biology with an Emphasis in Genetics and a minor in Race and Law. She has volunteered in many facilitation and committee roles during her 4 years as a member and is excited to empower the youth she encounters and strengthen connections.
Saira brings experience in public health research, grants management, funder relations, and nonprofit administration to CYC where she is responsible for all things finance. That includes paying bills, ensuring CYC and our staff get paid on time, and working closely with the Board, members, and colleagues to maintain our strong financial health.
Her work has supported inclusion and diversity, with a particular focus on participatory action. The CYC youth-led model is a great example of the type of change that is possible when we center the voices of those most affected.
Saira grew up in Redding, and in addition to helping things run smoothly, she likes feeding people, meditating, and playing in the dirt. You’ll likely find her near the kitchen showing off pictures of her dog, nieces and nephews, or recent gardening adventures.
Meribe coordinates an extensive array of duties for the policy team, including travel logistics for Policy Parties, Curriculum Development, Shadow Day, YTP and other important events. She maintains the administrative workflow, implementing procedures that support CYC staff and members.
Meribe’s purpose for working with CYC is to ensure logistical aspects are complete so members and staff have more time to spend on issues that matter. She has much love and appreciation for CYC because it gave her hope as a young person 18 years ago and now she hopes to be a positive influence on today’s members. Meribe feels privileged to see young people transform and grow their confidence while participating with CYC.
In her free time Meribe loves spending time with her family/chosen. She enjoys music (from Billie Holiday to Rick Ross), math, reading, puzzles, nonfiction, decluttering, gardening and relaxing in the sun.
As Human Resources Administrator for CYC, Yaasmin ensures that the organization cultivates a continuous learning environment, is compliant with the most recent labor laws and HR practices, and cultivates and upholds a strong team to implement our youth-led mission and vision.
Yaasmin brings to CYC over a decade of experience in human resources, having served as a Human Resources Analyst for the City of West Hollywood, where she was responsible for the administration of various benefit programs, compensation, recruitment and selection, and employee training and development.
After retiring from the public sector, Yaasmin discovered CYC while looking for an opportunity in the nonprofit field where she hoped to work with others who are passionate about a cause and motivated by purpose. She believes that there is no cause more significant than that of advocating for the rights of youth in the foster care system.
Yaasmin attended California State University, Long Beach, where she studied Business Administration, and the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied Human Resources Management.
As the Chief Philanthropy & Strategic Partnerships Officer, Marissa is responsible for the organization’s overall fundraising strategy, cultivating and maintaining relationships with key funders and stakeholders, and bringing CYC’s youth-led vision to life.
Committed to social advocacy and amplifying under-represented voices, Marissa is thrilled to be at CYC, and help uplift our community of young people to feel empowered as change agents and in their ability to transform the foster care system.
As a new resident of the Bay Area, Marissa enjoys exploring her new neighborhood, hiking, and spending time with loved ones.
Hello! I am Alexis Obinna, the Community Advocacy Assistant at California Youth Connection, and I partner with Kate Teague to support the LA region. I have a Bachelors in Social Work and specialize in outreach, networking and engagement. I am so grateful to support members in the LA Region, build relationships with community partners, provide outreach and engagement to new members, and support current members. I meet the unique needs of LA through regular chapter visits, general support, training, and community building.
I was a member of CYC for over 6 years and value the leadership , workforce, and networking opportunities I have gained as a member . I now have the privilege of doing what I love by working with CYC and it is amazing! CYC has impacted my life beyond membership and I am grateful to be a part of the leadership ladder by connecting foster youth to CYC and building relationships with various community partners.
I love my cats and making art, I also own two small Etsy businesses!
As the Central Valley Community Advocacy Coordinator, Brandy is responsible for providing the foundational resources for youth-led advocacy and leadership development activities in county-based chapters throughout California. She will do this by expanding the membership base and volunteers, developing sound organizing strategies specific to the chapters they serve in collaboration with members, assisting with fundraising, supporting members to run chapter meetings and strengthen engagement, facilitating community outreach and advocacy efforts, and developing and facilitating curriculum and trainings that support member leadership.
Brandy’s purpose for working with the California Youth Connection is to help create change within the foster care system. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Psychology at Park University with a minor in business administration. With 5 years’ experience working in direct services with foster youth, families and community supports, she strongly felt there was a much higher need to support youth by helping advocate for their needs and having their voices heard as individuals.
Brandy is a mother to an amazing little boy; she loves spending time with her family and going on adventures. She also enjoys listening to music, reading, puzzles, organizing, and self-care (doing her nails and mindfulness).
Jordan Sosa is a former member of the California Youth Connection (CYC) Orange County Chapter and currently serves as the Statewide Legislative and Policy Manager. He got connected with CYC through the Guardian Scholars Program at Cal State Fullerton.
Jordan has interned with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means working on the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) and with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) to present a congressional briefing on how the federal government can improve the U.S. child welfare system. Jordan also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the nsoro Foundation, which provides direct academic scholarships and college preparatory programs for foster youth.
His passion for youth voice in child welfare comes from his siblings growing up in foster care, who gave him the motivation to advocate for all youth in care. He hopes to increase equity and dismantle structural oppression that exists within the systems that impact children and youth.
Jordan was featured on the Orange County Register on “Walls that Unite,” [https://www.ocregister.com/2017/03/20/csuf-student-reconnects-with-heritage-through-education-art/] a service-learning project to learn about Mexican culture, history, and art — primarily muralism — and visit with students in the small town of Ojos de Agua, Guanajuato.
Jaleesa is the Community Advocacy Coordinator for the South Bay. Jaleesa is responsible for providing the foundational resources for youth-led advocacy and leadership development activities in county-based chapters. Jaleesa is responsible for expanding the membership base and increasing volunteer participation, developing sound organizing strategies in collaboration with members that are specific to the chapters they serve, and strengthening engagement; support member leadership.
Jaleesa chose to work with CYC because she enjoys helping young people develop the skills needed to transform the child welfare system, grow into their full potential, and beat the negative statistics associated with being in foster care. She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Welfare with a concentration in Public Child Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Jaleesa has worked as a child welfare policy analyst for a national advocacy organization in Washington, DC. She also has experience working in direct services as an Emergency Response and Continuing Services social worker with the Department of Family and Children Services. Jaleesa has lived experience in the foster care system and has experience working with youth adult-partnerships.
In her free time, Jaleesa enjoys writing, reading, and participating in outdoor activities.
As the Lead Community Advocacy Coordinator, Kate works with the CYC Chapters in LA County providing technical assistance to support CYC Members in developing their leadership and putting their campaigns for change into action both locally and regionally. She has been with CYC since 2006, first as the Bay Area/Central Valley Outreach Coordinator, then the Bay Area Regional Coordinator, and now the Lead Community Advocacy Coordinator. Kate first became involved with CYC as an Americorp intern at the Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara County when her then supervisor, Deryk Clark (a former CYC board member), told her that part of her job would be to attend CYC meetings. After several years of volunteering as a Supporter with the Santa Clara and Alameda Chapters, she joined the CYC staff.
Kate enjoys working at a place where “youth led” and “youth driven” are concepts that are assumed and it is a given that youth have the knowledge and experience to make powerful contributions to systems change. CYC is also a place where she can find other people as passionate about policy work being led by people directly impacted by those policies.
Throughout the year, Kate enjoys time off for road trips and other adventures, especially international adventures with the Foster Youth Cultural Exchange.