Newsmakers for December 2007-January 2008

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DC Action for Children, a 16-year-old advocacy organization and an affiliate of Voices for America’s Children, has hired Kate Sylvester as its new director. Sylvester has taken on various freelance projects (including for Youth Today) for the past two years, after she closed the doors at the nonprofit she founded, the Social Policy Action Network. That organization found financial support for moms in need, through second-chance homes and crisis nurseries. Contact: (202) 234-9404,

Fiona Blacke

Fiona Blacke has been named CEO of the Leicester, England-based National Youth Agency (NYA), a group that seeks to promote effective youth policy and support youth work across The Pond. Blacke most recently served as regional director for the Learning and Skills Council in Yorkshire, and before that served as CEO of the Scottish Community Education Council. NYA produced Young People Now (roughly the equivalent of Youth Today in the United Kingdom) until 2002, and now serves as a content provider for the publication’s new owner, Haymarket Publications. Contact: 0116-242-7350,

Seth Turner is in as federal and state affairs manager for the Rockville, Md.-based Goodwill Industries, after enjoying a year as his own boss, consulting for the likes of the Campaign for Youth Justice and the National Human Services Assembly. Turner, who ran the policy shop for the National Youth Employment Coalition until 2004, should add a breadth of knowledge to Goodwill’s policy shop, where the priorities include issues involving the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act and the passage of the Second Chance Act (H.R. 623), which would help offenders re-enter the work force. Contact: (202) 580-7495,

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has hired Marjorie Newman-Williams as chief operating officer, a position that has not been filled “for some time,” according to spokesman Ed Shelleby. Newman-Williams spent the last 28 years at the New York-based United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), most recently as director of information technology. CDF hasn’t had a true second-in-command since the brief tenure of David Hornbeck (now a board member) as president in 2005.

Also joining the 35-year-old advocacy shop founded by Marian Wright Edelman is Natacha Blain, who will be the lead strategic adviser on its Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline, which documents the ways poverty sets many young minority males on a path to prison. Blain comes to CDF from the office of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), where she served as legislative director. Contact: (800) 233-1200,

Nina Selvaggio

Nina Selvaggio is the new director of policy and programs for Washington-based Family Pride, which advocates on behalf of gay parents. Selvaggio was director of the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in Boston. Contact: (202) 335-5015,

Janet Carter has been named executive director at Team-Up for Youth, an Oakland-based Bay Area nonprofit that works to expand and improve after-school sports opportunities for youth in low-income communities. Carter moves across the bay to Team-Up from the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund, a national policy and education organization, where she was executive vice president.

One task on her immediate agenda will almost certainly be to keep sports programs in the discussion for the funding geyser that has graced the California after-school industry. The state’s after-school budget has more than doubled in the past year, but with a major focus on academic development. “It’s important to make sure there’s adequate funding, and that funders realize the power of sports in reaching youth development goals,” Carter says. Contact: (510) 663-9200,

Justice Policy Institute (JPI) co-founder and Executive Director Jason Ziedenberg will step aside in mid-January after 10 years, making way for successor and renowned reformer Sheila Bedi. Bedi, a Detroit native, is the co-director of the Mississippi Youth Justice Project, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization based in Jackson, which she joined in 2003.

Bedi made a significant imprint on the Mississippi system. She was instrumental in drafting and pushing for passage of the state Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2005, which prohibited the incarceration of first-time nonviolent offenders and made money available for community alternatives to lock-up. A year later, the Mississippi Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act of 2006 put in place much-needed standards on juvenile defender training, detention centers and re-entry planning for the state.

Ziedenberg, who spent his last three years at the helm of JPI after Vinny Schiraldi left to make over the messy Washington, D.C., juvenile system, has not yet announced his plans. He will return to the West Coast, where he grew up. With a barrage of juvenile justice reforms in California (sending most of the state-incarcerated youth back to county facilities) and Washington (which is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change reform effort), the guess here is he won’t be unemployed for long.

Replacing Bedi at the Mississippi Youth Justice Project is Bear Atwood, who heads south, leaving her job as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Contact: (202) 558-7974,

Roger Olson is the new vice president of rural and agribusiness development at the National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase, Md. Olson will create and lead the council’s agribusiness fundraising plan and develop strategic alliances. Olson has been the executive director of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, and most recently served as president of Rural Lifestyle Media. Contact: (301) 961-2800,

Cal George left the Bethesda, Md.-based Community HealthCorps, an arm of the National Association of Community Health Centers, in September after 12 years. Replacing him at the helm is Jason Patnosh, the organization’s former deputy director.

George leaves the group, which he helped to start, in a healthy position. In its first year, George says, it placed about 100 members with seven programs. In its 12th year, it placed 800 AmeriCorps members at 40 programs in 19 states, making it the third-largest national AmeriCorps-funded operation, behind City Year and Teach for America.

George plans to travel, then consider future career options in Washington and California. Contact: (301) 347-0400,

Lottie Gatewood, a former spokeswoman for the Washington-based research group Child Trends, has landed at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, Fla., as director of development. Handling communications for Child Trends is David Carrier, a familiar face in the youth work field, after stints with the National Collaboration for Youth and the National 4-H Council. Contact: BGC of Palm Beach County (561) 683-3287,

The D.C.-based Independent Sector elected United Way of America CEO Brian Gallagher to be chairman of its board of directors at its annual business meeting in October. No other changes were made in the board leadership, as the board re-elected Vice Chairman J. D. Hokoyama, CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics; Secretary Luz Vega-Marquis, CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation; and Treasurer Gary Yates, CEO of The California Wellness Foundation.

Five new board members were elected: Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation; Stephanie Bell-Rose, founding president of The Goldman Sachs Foundation; Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation; Marguerite Kondracke, CEO of America’s Promise Alliance; and the Rev. Larry Snyder, executive director of Catholic Charities USA. Contact: (202) 467-6100,

Elaine Carpenter is in as senior associate for the technology program of The Children’s Partnership (TCP), a nonprofit with headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., and Washington that pushes for increased health insurance coverage for children and improved usage of digital technology in the education, health, work force development and civic engagement fields. Carpenter was a public policy consultant for such clients as Policy-Link and the Community Technology Foundation of California. The Partnership is run by Co-Presidents Laurie Lipper in Washington and Wendy Lazarus in Santa Monica. Contact: (202) 429-0033,

Trabian Shorters


The Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (assets: $2.3 billion) hired Trabian Shorters to head its community programs, overseeing the 18 Knight staff members focused on direct investments in its 26 designated communities. Shorters moves over from Ashoka, an Arlington, Va.-based program that identifies and supports entrepreneurs around the world. Shorters was co-director of Ashoka’s U.S. program, and had previously helped to establish such other major social entrepreneurial efforts as AmeriCorps, Public Allies and the National African-American Males Collaborative. Contact: (305) 908-2600,

Marianne Bichsel is the new managing director of communications at the Seattle-based Casey Family Programs (assets: $2 billion), which provides direct services in foster care and funds the development of new approaches in the field. Bichsel will assist Casey’s new Washington-based policy staff. Regina Schofield, former U.S. assistant attorney general for justice programs, recently joined the foundation as managing director of public policy, while Joo Yeun Chang, former senior attorney at CDF, came on as her director of public policy. Bichsel has been a spokeswoman and policy adviser to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels since 2001. Contact: (206) 282-7300,

The Lumina Foundation (assets: $1.5 billion), which funds research and development of post-high school educational opportunities, hired Jamie Merisotis to succeed its founding leader, Martha Lamkin, who will retire in December. Merisotis is founder and president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, based in Washington, and will take over at Lumina after New Year’s Day. Contact: (800) 834-5756,

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., hired Merrilea Mayo to direct its Future of Learning Initiatives, where she will oversee the foundation’s work with the Federation of American Scientists in developing new learning initiatives using gaming and simulation technology. Mayo was the director of the Government-University-Industry-Research Roundtable at the National Academies in Washington. Contact: (816) 932-1000,

The New York-based William Randolph Hearst Foundation announced the retirement of Ilene Mack, its senior program officer and program director for grants. Mack has served in that role for the grant maker since 1974. Contact: (212) 586-5404,

The New York-based Rockefeller Foundation (assets: $3.5 billion) hired Robert Buckley as managing director. Buckley was a lead economist at the World Bank. Contact: (212) 869-8500,

The D.C.-based Public Welfare Foundation named Seema Gajwani to serve as program officer for its Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program. Gajwani was a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia. Contact: (202) 965-1800,

Janine Lee

Janine Lee, a vice president at the Arthur Blank Family Foundation in Atlanta, moves across town to become executive director of the Southern Partners Fund, which funds grassroots organizations in the Southern states. Lee also co-founded Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), a D.C.-based coalition that disseminates information about improving the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations. Contact: Southern Partners (404) 541-9091,; GEO (202) 898-1840,


Harry Wilson survived for six years as associate commissioner for the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF). It was far from a controversy-free posting. Wilson managed many of the abstinence education programs that his boss, Wade Horn, and President George W. Bush championed – a funding stream routinely and vehemently challenged by proponents of comprehensive sex education.

Karen Morison did not fare quite as well. Tapped to replace Wilson, who left in August to take a job with consulting firm ICF International, Morison was jettisoned from the position 40 days later.

ACF did not return e-mails requesting a reason for Morison’s quick departure.

Janet Carter

Whatever the reason for the move, the Bush administration can’t say they didn’t know whom they were hiring. Morison helped write the final report of the White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth for the administration. And anyone seeking reference from her most recent employer, Washington-based Civic Enterprises, would have talked to John Bridgeland, a former Bush policy adviser and former director of the USA Freedom Corps. Among other things, Morison helped Bridgeland produce “The Silent Epidemic,” a study of the magnitude of America’s school dropout problem, done by Civic Enterprises for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Institute for Youth Development President Shepherd Smith, for whom Morison researched numerous federal statutes and regulations to gauge their impact on organizations seeking faith-based grants, says he can’t imagine her ideology was out of step with ACF leadership. “She’s very conservative,” Smith says. As an employee, he says, she was a “conscientious, highly intelligent individual, and held very strongly to the positions she took.” Contact: (202) 401-9215,


Jamie Merisotis

Child pornography charges were not the kind of publicity the National Children’s Museum was hoping for in its return to operation. Chief Operating Officer Robert Singer was arrested last month at his Falls Church, Va., home, accused of distributing 80 images depicting sexual acts featuring minors. Singer, who used the screen name “Badboy2at” while engaging in porn distribution on a museum computer, was caught in a sting carried out by federal prosecutors and New York City Police Department detectives. The National Children’s Museum closed its doors in 2004, but its administrative office has been working to raise $130 million to build a new facility.

An advocate for prisoners has been indicted for allegedly steering contracts within the Illinois Department of Corrections. Michael Mahoney, who will face three counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, was executive director of the John Howard Association, a watchdog group advocating prisoners’ rights. He was also a monitor for Cook County’s juvenile detention center, a troubled facility now being rehabilitated under the watchful eye of National Juvenile Detention Association Executive Director Earl Dunlap.

Mahoney moonlighted as a lobbyist and consultant for vendors trying to get state prison contracts, and is accused of helping to bribe Donald Snyder, who heads the Department of Corrections.

A member of California’s State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has been indicted on federal charges accusing her of conspiring to use a political office for financial gain. Debra Hoffman, a California lawyer who prosecutors say was the mistress of Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona, allegedly accepted $110,000 from businessman Donald Haidl in 1998. That was a fraction of the money and gifts given by Haidl to Hoffman, Carona and others in the legal world in exchange for being named an assistant sheriff and for having what amounted to “get out of jail free” status in the county. Prosecutors have not yet elaborated on the parameters of that agreement.