Haydée Cuza became the Executive Director of California Youth Connection in September 2016, bringing to the position more than 15 years of strategic leadership experience in social justice, youth-led advocacy, workforce development, and research and evaluation. She has been part of the CYC community for over 30 years, beginning as a founding member at the age of 16, and serving on the CYC staff earlier in her career, first as the Bookkeeper and later as the Southern Region Policy Coordinator.
Strong ties with her fellow CYC members and a connection to a community of people with lived expertise in foster care set the foundation for her education and career choices. Haydée has worked in non-profit advocacy on behalf of children, youth, and young adults who have experienced foster care, mental health, criminalization, and homelessness.
Immediately prior to becoming the Executive Director of CYC, Haydée served as the Executive Director of Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery (PEERS), a constituent-led mental health organization, where she managed major transitions in staff and leadership, expanded relationships with funders, and integrated innovative programming with the transition age youth program and a groundbreaking approach to peer-to-peer support for people who experience voices and visions (psychosis). She also co-founded a workforce development program in East Los Angeles, and conducted research and provided technical assistance to workforce development programs nationally.
Haydée holds an EdD in Education Leadership from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA, Magna Cum Laude, in Urban Studies and African American Studies from Loyola Marymount University. As a doctoral student at UCLA, she conducted research using a critical race theory perspective on racism and its impact on the life trajectory of young people in South Central Los Angeles. She is also extremely proud of her community college education at West Los Angeles Community College where she graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Outside of work, Haydée enjoys spending time with her wife, daughter, and grandchildren, dancing, and dabbling in interior decorating.