Newsmakers for January 2011


Gary Yates announced last month that he would retire next December as CEO of The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF), based in Woodland Hills, Calif. Yates has led the foundation, which was established in 1992 and has $823 million in assets, since 1995.

TCWF supports efforts to address the health needs of underserved populations, including youth. The board is working on a succession process and plans to begin a search for a new leader in early 2011. Contact: (808) 712-1900,


After more than 12 years as editor-in-chief of Youth Today, Patrick Boyle has joined the Washington, D.C.-based Forum for Youth Investment (FYI) and will serve as communications director for Executive Director Karen Pittman.

FYI is a national nonprofit that helps communities develop strategies to prepare youth for college and the workforce by age 21.

Boyle joined Youth Today from a career spent mostly at daily newspapers, including The Washington Times. He also wrote Scout’s Honor, published in 1994, a book about child molestation within the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America.

In 2007, Boyle broke the news of questionable grant-making practices at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, where then-administrator J. Robert Flores had bypassed a number of high-scoring grant applicants.

Succeeding Boyle as editor-in-chief is former managing editor Nancy Lewis, who joined Youth Today in 2008 after 27 years with The Washington Post. Lewis’ career with the Post included a four-year stint reporting on juvenile and family matters in Washington, and more than a year working on an award-winning project about undetected child abuse deaths.

John Kelly, a longtime reporter for Youth Today and author of this column, replaces Lewis as managing editor. Contact: FYI (202) 207-3333,; Youth Today (202) 785-0764,


The National Youth Leadership Council has hired Kelita Bak to replace its founder and retiring CEO, Jim Kielsmeier, who will remain with the St. Paul, Minn.-based nonprofit to lead one of its new ventures.

Bak, who took over at NYLC in early January, has been the national vice president of advancement for Kansas City-based Camp Fire USA. Before that, she served as director of government relations for service-learning promoter Youth Service America, and as a lobbyist for the 270,000-member American Motorcyclist Association.

NYLC said in a statement announcing Bak’s hiring that she served as a main consensus-builder for service-learning leaders on the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which drastically increased the potential for expansion of AmeriCorps and increased service-learning opportunities.

The council, which Kielsmeier founded 25 years ago, provides training and service-learning curricula and hosts the annual National Service-Learning Conference.

“I am eager to work with the board, staff, funders and external stakeholders to build upon NYLC’s strong foundation and to lead this well-respected organization toward continued and expanded success,” Bak said in the statement released by NYLC.

Kielsmeier will stay with NYLC to lead Engaged Education Now, a coalition started with $250,000 from State Farm Insurance to focus on education policy and the role of service learning in the education world. Contact: (651) 631-3672,


Byron Garrett resigned abruptly in November after serving for just over two years as CEO of the Alexandria, Va.-based National PTA. The news release from the organization said Garrett left “to pursue other opportunities,” but it may have been more contentious than that.

“We definitely expected him to last a little longer,” said spokesman James Martinez. “He and the board decided mutually to part ways.”

National PTA hired Garrett away from a brief stint as chief of staff at the office of public affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a government agency. Before that, Garrett spent two years at the Department of Agriculture’s National 4-H Headquarters, where he was the national program leader for youth development. He was the first man ever to head the PTA .

Garrett, in an e-mail to Youth Today, said he has launched a company called Life Works International “which will provide consulting services to companies, organizations and government agencies in the areas of education, youth development and family engagement.”

His first project is strategic planning for America’s Promise Alliance’s Grad Nation Summit, which is scheduled for March.

Garrett is also listed as the head of a Clinton, Md.-based company called Life Works Entertainment, which offers services including talent management, artist representation and community outreach. Its website identifies Garrett as “one of the most compelling voices of our time.”

Taking his place (at least in the interim) is a familiar face to many in the child welfare realm: Mishaela Duran, a longtime staffer at the Washington, D.C.-based National Network for Youth, which represents the nation’s shelters and service programs for runaway and homeless youth in Washington. Duran has been the organization’s director of government affairs.

Martinez said that National PTA expects to name a permanent successor to Garrett by June, when it holds its annual convention. Contact: (703) 518-1200,


What has become of Duran’s old employer, the National Network for Youth? The network, which had fallen on hard times, thanks to some misguided office moves and accumulating debt, has found a new home. It is now operating out of the offices of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the Beltway membership organization for all of the state advisory groups on juvenile justice. There has been no talk of a formal merger, but both groups are saving money by sharing office space and some administrative resources.

The network is still without a president and has been since Victoria Wagner resigned in June. Wagner left after the network board decided to close its office in Seattle.

“We’re doing fine,” said Harry Wilson, a board member who represents the organization on the federal Coordination Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The plan, he said, is for the network to operate with this “skeletal crew” while it gets its finances in order and pays off creditors: Vice President of Programs Kayla Jackson, Project Director Tara James and Public Policy Director Bob Reeg.

Plans for a March symposium in Washington are under way, and the network recently hosted a joint meeting with the Healthy Teen Network during that organization’s national conference in Austin. Contact: (202) 783-7949,


The Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Youth Law tapped Nancy Berger to serve as director of development. Her most recent position was donor relations manager at Knoxville Zoological Gardens in Tennessee, and before that, she did educational fundraising at the Museum of the City of New York and grant writing for the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

NCYL works to provide resources and legal support to low-income youth, focusing on children who have been abused, neglected, have a disability or are otherwise disadvantaged. The 27-person staff includes legal experts and administrative personnel. Contact: (510) 835-8098,


John Avondolio is the new vice president of marketing and communications at Philadelphia-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Avondolio brings to the position experience with digital marketing, having most recently served as the group vice president of client engagement at international marketing agency Razorfish.

Max Miller has also joined the organization, as chief administrative officer and general counsel. Miller was the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s Innovation Practice Institute, where he developed curricula and programming designed to incorporate knowledge of entrepreneurial innovation into the study of law. Miller has previously worked in a managerial capacity and as corporate counsel for H.J. Heinz Co., and as an attorney for Federated Investors. He serves on the board of the Pittsburgh-based Kingsley Association and of Kids’ Voice, a child advocacy group. Contact: (215) 665-7730,


Denver-based American Humane Association continues to staff up. AHA appointed one of its former consultants, Suzanna Lohrbach, as academic director of child welfare at the beginning of November.

Most recently, Lohrbach was a community services supervisor at Olmsted County Child & Family Services in Rochester, Minn. She serves on several international child welfare advisory committees and has also taught at Winona State University and the University of Minnesota.

The American Humane Association, based in Denver, aims to protect children, pets and farm animals from abuse and neglect. Contact: 303-825-6100,


Patricia Torbet, the longtime senior research associate for the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Juvenile Justice, retired in the fall after 30 years. Torbet and the other researchers at NCJJ are responsible for much of the data collection on juveniles funded by the Department of Justice. She was also a point person for NCJJ’s involvement in Models for Change, the $140 million juvenile justice reform initiative of the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur honored her with a Champion for Change award at its annual Models for Change conference last month in Washington.

NCJJ is affiliated with the Reno, Nev.-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, which is searching for an executive director to succeed Mary Mentaberry, who resigned in September. NCJJ is led by Director Patricia Campie. Contact: (412) 227-6950,


In a year of much uncertainty for nonprofit social service providers, 2010 was kind to San Antonio-based AVANCE, the 37-year-old organization that provides assistance to parents in low-income, at-risk Hispanic families in California, Texas and New Mexico. AVANCE has been structuring an expansion project to reach outside its traditional Latino service base since the W.K. Kellogg Foundation blessed it with a five-year, $12.6 million grant in May.

AVANCE CEO Richard Noriega hired Magdalena Santos in July to be the project manager for the expansion.

The organization is conducting research to determine how best to translate the services it provides Latinos to three additional ethnic groups: African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Non-Mexicans. AVANCE will also expand its services to reach 12 additional Hispanic communities.

To reach these new communities, AVANCE will partner with established organizations across the country to study the populations they serve in order to discover what methods work best for supporting that target audience.

AVANCE has already chosen a partner with which to research services for African-American families. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Excellence Baby Academy is a parenting program that works to promote school-preparedness and increase early literacy levels for children age 4 and under. Researchers from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University are collaborating with AVANCE to conduct ethnographic observations of the Excellence Baby Academy community and evaluating the effects of the programming on both parents and children.

The Kellogg Foundation Award is the largest grant AVANCE has ever received. Since 2008, AVANCE has also received $2.1 million in earmarks from the Department of Education. Contact: (210) 270-4630,



Rebekah Levin joined the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation at the beginning of November as its first director of evaluation and learning. In the newly created position, Levin works directly the foundation’s grant-making programs. She also will promote collaboration and communication among program staff members about lessons learned from interaction with the foundation’s grantees.

Levin had been at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 2006, where she was a research associate professor in the College of Education while simultaneously serving as the director of evaluation for the Council of Chicago Area Deans of Education. She has a decade of experience at Chicago’s Center for Impact Research and was its executive director from 2001 to 2006.

The McCormick Foundation is one of the country’s largest charities and grant-making organizations, with assets totaling over $1 billion. Contact: (312) 445-5048,


Stefanie Sanford, the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s deputy director for program advocacy, is taking over for Greg Shaw as director of advocacy and policy. In her present role, Sanford “leads the team that develops and executes domestic policy strategies and grant-making in support of [Gates’] priorities in the United States.” Prior to her work with the foundation, Sanford served as director of technology policy in the office of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), and as a technology policy advisor to Perry when he was lieutenant governor.

Shaw is leaving his position to become a senior adviser for strategic partnerships within the foundation. Prior to his work with Gates, Shaw was a partner in the marketing communications firm of Shepardson, Shaw, and Kaminsky, and before that served as an adviser in the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Contact: (206) 709-3100,



President Barack Obama has nominated Denise E. O’Donnell to serve as director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the division of the Office of Justice Programs that assists state and local governments with policy, programs and planning. A fair chunk of BJA’s Justice Assistance Grants to states is steered toward juvenile justice-related ventures.

O’Donnell most recently served as the New York State deputy secretary for public safety, which is an amalgamation of 11 homeland security and justice agencies with a combined budget of $4.7 billion. She was the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York under former President Bill Clinton. Contact: (202) 616-6500,



Marvin Perry, the former chief financial officer of the National Children’s Alliance who pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling from the organization, was sentenced in November to one year in prison and to pay $64,390 in restitution. Perry was with the organization, which assists child abuse victims, from 2001 to 2008. He pleaded guilty to pilfering more than $64,000 from the organization, which has received $76 million in federal funds since 1995 to assist abuse victims.

Perry’s former subordinates at the organization, Michael Young and Sharon Martin, have also pleaded guilty in the case; they received probation and orders of restitution. Contact: (202) 548-0090,



Pamela Whitney, 57, a child welfare innovator in Massachusetts. The assistant commissioner of the state’s Department of Social Services from 1986 to 2007, Whitney established a domestic violence unit that combined services for battered women and neglected children. The unit quelled a fight for resources between women’s advocacy groups and child advocates, and became a national model.


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