Who We Are

Meet our coordinating council, staff and members


OYU began with the National Council of Young Leaders, a diverse group of 20 former Opportunity Youth from urban and rural communities across the country who had risen into leadership through our own sponsoring organizations which nominated us to the council. The Council launched in 2012 and now serves as the coordinating council of OYU. Click the plus sign to meet the council.
Adam Strong
Jackson, Kentucky

Adam Strong is currently working as a Medical Laboratory Scientist at Hazard ARH Hospital, assisting and working with doctors, validating results for diagnoses. He aspires to one day become a doctor himself. “Service is a way of life, and I’d like to work with patients to not only rehabilitate them medically but rehabilitate their lives as well.”

Raised by his father in an Appalachian community in Jackson, Adam attended his local community college, working as a security guard at a local coal mine at a time when the coal industry was in decline. He soon found himself unemployed and without options, but was able to gain entry into the YouthBuild Hazard program. At YouthBuild, Adam took part in community service and outreach projects while receiving a much-needed stipend. The experience helped introduce him to a life of service where he could not only improve his community and other people’s lives but his own as well.

Adam went on to serve two terms as an AmeriCorps member at YouthBuild Hazard working as a Teacher’s Aide. Adam characterizes this experience this way: “It feels great being able to work with young people and see them realize that they can not only dream but accomplish as well.”

After graduating from his local community college, he went on to graduate with a bachelor’s from the University of Kentucky’s Medical Laboratory Science Program.  

Sponsoring Organization: YouthBuild USA

Deon Jones
Washington, DC

Deon Jones is special project assistant to the president at Be The Change Inc., a social entrepreneurial organization that creates and manages national issue-based campaigns, such as ServiceNation, Opportunity Nation, and Got Your 6. He is also the founder and facilitator of the Manifest Leadership Institute, an academic and leadership development program for formerly incarcerated teenage boys. Prior to joining Be The Change, Deon served as national spokesper­son at the Campaign for Youth Justice, where he traveled globally speaking on the organization’s mission to end youth incarceration in the U.S. adult criminal justice system. Previously, Deon served as a D.C. advisory neighborhood commissioner represent­ing Ward 3 from 2011 to 2013, making him the youngest elected official in Washington’s history. In 2013, the D.C. City Council passed the “Deon T. Jones Recogni­tion Resolution of 2013” honoring his service to the city and commitment to empowering young people.

Deon has a BA in Political Science from American University and King’s College London and was a public policy and international affairs fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. While at Amer­ican University, he held fellowship and intern­ship positions with the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the White House, and Teach for America. He is the first African-American from American University to be appointed a Harry S. Truman Scholar by former Secretary of State Made­line Albright and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

In addition to being a member of the National Council of Young Leaders, Deon serves on the board of directors at America’s Promise Alliance and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Alumni Association.

Sponsoring Organization: Be the Change, Inc.

Dominique Jones
Oakland, California

Dominique Jones, known artistically as Dom Jones, is an entrepreneur, author, orator, performer, and graduate of the Year Up program from Oakland, CA. The dream of being self-sufficient and able to pursue her artistic endeavors came through her success in Year Up and her internship with Sales Force, where she worked for four years as a full-time IT Systems Analyst. She self-published her first book of poetry, "Boss Patois," in August 2013, which became the 2014 runner-up in the San Francisco Book Festival. Her writing has been published in the Huffington Post, Black Girl Nerds, and in various anthologies. After serving for two years as the Year Up Bay Area Alumni President, she now serves on the National Year Up Alumni Board as the Feedback Chairperson and represents Year Up on the council. Dominique recently left the Bay Area to attend her dream school, Berklee College of Music in Boston, after a song from her album, Wingspan, won the International Songwriting Competition. She is the Founder of Dom Empire, a Performance Arts and Lifestyle Media company, purveying products and experiences that reconnect the audience with an elevated sense of self. Social Justice and Equity being a lifestyle, these topics are weaved throughout her work and service to community. 

Sponsoring Organization: Year Up

Francisco Garcia
Phoenix, Arizona

Francisco Garcia is a Youth Development Specialist through Public Allies and AmeriCorps. He is currently placed at the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development / Casa De Sueños and is working with unaccompanied minors from Latin America. Francisco is an international artist and social entrepreneur that creates murals and artwork that are created with community and contain empowering themes about immigration, justice, faith, and Chicano culture. In 2008, while studying abroad in Mexico, Francisco was inspired and challenged by the work of Los Tres Grandes, the three major figures of the Mexican muralist movement and Frida Kahlo.

In 2014 Francisco was invited to attend the International Artist Residency in India. Francisco has created public art across the US and countries such as Mexico, Europe, and India. In 2008 he won the Eric Fischl Vanguard award which recognizes emerging student talent in the fine arts at the Phoenix Art Museum and was extended invitations to speak at the White House. His experiences include collaborating with different non-profits, art organizations, businesses, and schools. Francisco is passionate about celebrating culture, creating cultural events for the community and working with diverse groups of youth throughout the country.

Sponsoring Organization: Public Allies

Gilbert Bonafé
Greencastle, Pennsylvania

Gilbert Bonafé, Jr., 27, is the School Program Coordinator for Higher Edge, a non-profit that helps high school students get into and through college. A native of the Bronx, Gilbert grew up in a low-income housing district and attended Aviation High School in Long Island City, Queens. In high school, Gilbert joined a TRIO program called Upward Bound. The assistant director of Upward Bound nominated him for the Posse Scholarship, a full tuition leadership scholarship, which he received. Posse allowed him to attend Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA where he majored in Spanish. After Dickinson, Gilbert became a College Adviser for Greencastle-Antrim High School in Greencastle, PA through the College Advising Corps. Upon completing his two-year term with the College Advising Corps, Gilbert attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he received a Master's of Education with a concentration in Higher Education. Following Harvard, Gilbert led a team that created an app for a competition to help community college students, assisted high school students through the college process under a grant at Eastern Connecticut State University, and coached adult students through an online college program called College for America.

As a member of Higher Edge, Gilbert is living out his dream job - creating and executing programs that assist high school students through the college process. He has seen many of his family members and friends struggle economically and he aspires to help the next generation break that cycle through higher education.

“I wouldn't have been able to make it to where I am today if it weren't for people betting on me. I am now ready and willing to step up to the ticket window to place my bets on the next generation.”

Sponsoring Organization: College Advising Corps

Humberto Palacios
Santa Ana, California

Humberto Palacios, 19, attends Santa Ana College and dreams of becoming an internet entrepreneur. “I dream big like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs….my goal is to start an online business, and to also become a philanthropist to give back to my community and to the world.”

Humberto graduated from Sunburst Youth Academy, a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program that helps high school dropouts get back on the path to graduation. At the academy, he became more open-minded and had similar goals as the other teens enrolled in the program. “We were all tired of letting our circumstances control our lives. We all wanted to get on the right track.”

Since graduating from Sunburst Youth Academy, Humberto has participated in the Senator Lou Correa’s Young Senators Program. In addition, he shared his ChalleNGe story with thousands, including Congresswoman Grace Napolitano and other policymakers on Capitol Hill. Humberto also participated in the 2014 GradNation Summit hosted by America’s Promise Alliance where he was able to share his views on the dropout crisis with influencers within the education community.

Humberto now lives by the quote “Believe you can, and you are halfway there.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Sponsoring Organization: National Guard Youth Foundation


Jamiel L. Alexander
York, Pennsylvania

Jamiel L. Alexander is the Senior Fellow for Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions. In this role, he coordinates AFCS youth engagement strategy.

Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Jamiel was as Manager of Youth and Family Programs at Crispus Attucks Association for 12 years serving as the director of afterschool education programs, case manager and promoted to the dean of students at YouthBuild Americorps Charter School. While at the Crispus Attucks Association he was responsible for a variety of tasks including managing afterschool & summer programs, professional & leadership development, youth & family workshops and various community service projects in his role.

Jamiel is a Rising Star award recipient in his community and currently serves as a committee member of the York City General Authority Commission, NAACP, Ancestors Dream Organization and Helping Offer Options & Directions LLC in York, PA.  In 2012 he was appointed to serve on the National Council of Young Leaders as an advisor to our policy makers and in 2013 was chosen to speak at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington. Additionally, he was elected the YouthBuild National Alumni Council's President.

Jamiel continues to engage and serve with many organizations but makes it a priority to take care of “home” first.


Jarrett Jones
Chicago, IL

Jarrett was born and raised on the south side of Chicago where he participated in community-based organizations as an adolescent, beginning with City Year Young Heroes. Although he was apart of this program at a young age, it was still difficult to avoid the social norms of the community he grew up in. This included elements such as exposure to violence, gangs, and drugs. It wasn’t until he reached the age of 19 and had lost countless friends and classmates to the criminal justice system and the violence that plagues society that he realized he no longer had to accept the same faith as those before him. Being the only one out of his two siblings to obtain a high school diploma, Jarrett went on to work for three different law firms, one multi-billion dollar corporation, and surpassed what society had expected for him.  

Jarrett has gone on to dedicate his time to the same non-profit that taught him such good values at a young age. He is currently working for City Year’s Chicago Corps as a team leader managing a group of young adults who are working at an elementary school a few blocks from where he graduated high school.

He has aspirations of establishing his own non-profit organization to counter the systematic oppression of people of color in all ways, shapes and forms (primarily in education, economically, and socially).

Julie Jent
Jackson County, Kentucky

Julie Jent is a senior at Berea College where she majors in Political Science. She participates in a work-study program at two on campus positions. At Partners for Education, she strives to help all Kentucky children succeed and at the Center for International Education, she is a resource for applications and connects students to opportunities around the world. She was nominated for two White House awards; Champion for Change and Beating the Odds. Julie has lived in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Russia. She was recently accepted into the U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program where she worked at the Bureau of International Organizations in the Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. In June 2017, Julie was named a Sargent Shriver Youth Warrior against Poverty and received $5,000 to decrease poverty in her one stop-light town of McKee, KY. Summer of 2018, after graduating, Julie will continue her work with the State Department at an embassy abroad (Tbilisi, Georgia or Astana, Kazakhstan). Julie balances her time between being an avid extreme sports lover and an advocate for change. 

Sponsoring Organization: Partners for Education Berea College

Kimberly Pham
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Kimberly Pham is a youth advocate from the City of Philadelphia. She is a student at Temple University, where she majors in social work. She also works with the Philadelphia Academies Inc., providing students with exposure and preparation for college and career pathways. Kimberly is a committee member for the Project U-turn Collaborative, which focuses on program, policy and funding for Opportunity Youth in the city of Philadelphia. Kimberly also represents Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund for Young Leaders.

Kimberly was a former Opportunity Youth. As a girl, she was involved with the juvenile justice system and traveled down a complex road to earn her high school diploma. Upon her return to Philadelphia to finish high school, she found herself left back several grades because of the confusion between the justice and education systems. Her own resiliency and determination to earn her degree led her to track down re-engagement initiatives in the city, reviewing several until she found a program model that worked for her: the GED to College Success Program. From there, Kimberly went on to earn her Associates Degree from Eastern University. She received the very first Distinguished Alumni Award from District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees.

Kim says she is guided by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." She strives to change the injustice and inequality in her community and country.

Lashon Amado
Boston, Massachusetts

Lashon Amado enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Boston for the fall 2011 semester after completing an associate’s degree at Massasoit Community College (MCC) with a 3.8 Grade Point Average. Today, Lashon stands poised for a future career in criminal justice. He also serves as a local and national student leader, participating in speaking engagements across the country. In this role, Lashon’s leadership skills, resiliency and spirit of service have inspired hundreds of students and educators in his community of Brockton, MA and beyond.

Lashon achieved all of this success after dropping out of Brockton High School. When Lashon enrolled in YouthBuild in 2009, he says he had never considered college or anything beyond getting a GED and a paycheck. However, the staff, other students and graduates of YouthBuild Brockton helped Lashon consider all the ways that college could fit into his life and work plans. Lashon participated in classes at MCC while he was still at YouthBuild. At the conclusion of YouthBuild, Lashon transitioned into a bridge program at MCC that helped prepare him for academic and personal success in college.

Sponsoring Organization: YouthBuild USA

Megan Gregory
Anchorage, Alaska

Megan Gregory, 26 is originally from Keex Kwaan (Kake, AK), and is of the Ch’aak’ (Eagle)/Wooshketon (Shark) Clan of the Tlingit Tribe and a member of the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA). Ms. Gregory currently resides in Anchorage, and is committed to serving Indian Country and actively supports addressing the critical health needs of her people. She advocates strongly for addressing the cultural, educational, and social issues affecting Alaska Natives and American Indians, and works diligently to address the high rates of suicide across Indian country.

Ms. Gregory works for an early childhood development non-profit called Best Beginnings as the Partnerships Manager.  In 2012, Ms. Gregory was nominated by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to serve on the National Council of Young Leaders. She was also one of three young board members named to the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) Board of Directors. The Center is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development and advocacy.

Ms. Gregory works with the Rural Alaska Community Action Programs (RurAL CAP) Alaska Native Youth Success (ANYS) Advisory Group, which was created to identify best practices for intervention, diversion, enforcement, treatment and reentry services—while providing feedback on the development of the ANYS Resource Center. Ms. Gregory serves on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention— Alaska Native and American Indian Native Taskforce, a public-private partnership advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

She received the 2011 National Indian Health Service Behavioral Health Achievement Award for outstanding leadership in suicide prevention. In 2012, she received the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) Woman of Distinction Award—the youngest honoree to date.

Sponsoring Organization: National Congress of American Indians

Philan Tree
Tolani Lake, Arizona Navajo Reservation

Philan Tree, 26, born in the Edgewater Clan, is a member of the Towering House Clan of the Navajo Nation.  She is currently interning as an assistant to the Coconino County District 4 Supervisor, tasked with community relations and communications between her office and tribal communities. 

Philandrian served two terms as an AmeriCorps mentor and was selected as The Corps Network’s 2012 Corps Member of the Year.  As an AmeriCorps mentor she had a great opportunity to work in her home community on behalf of the Coconino Rural Environment Corps and secured two memoranda of understanding between Coconino County and the Navajo’s Leupp and Tonalea Chapters.

This collaboration between the county and Navajo resulted in all 17 Navajo chapters receiving Coconino County weatherization retrofits; and in the process, AmeriCorps members benefitted from on-the-job training with participating local contractors in the Navajo Nation Weatherization Assistance Program.

In addition to her work with Coconino County, Philandrian serves as the chair of the Native American Parent Advisory Committee for Flagstaff Unified School District, where she works with families and the District to support and enhance the quality of education for 2,500 Native K-12 students.

Sponsoring Organization: The Corps Network

Raechal Perez
Los Angeles, California

Raechal Kristyne Perez was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and double majored in English and Urban Studies at the University of California- Berkeley. Coming from a large family with seven younger brothers, Raechal was the first in her family to attend college. Gravitating toward educational access programs serving low-income families and students who would be first in their family to finish high school and further their education. During her undergraduate coursework, Raechal worked with AmeriCorps and after graduation served two years with the College Advising Corp at UC Berkeley. Raechal is continuing her work with Trio Talent Search at UC Berkeley and is currently attending Cal State East Bay to acquire her Master's in Public Administration with an emphasis in management and policy. 

Sponsoring Organization: College Advising Corps

Ramean Clowney
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ramean Clowney, 19, recently began his freshman year at the Community College of Philadelphia.  A native of Philadelphia and a product of the Pennsylvania foster care system, Ramean overcame personal struggles – exposure to violence, drugs and abuse – to graduate with honors from the One Bright Ray Community High School, where he was a member of the basketball team and participated on the drum line. 

Ramean is currently Chief Youth Ambassador for the Philadelphia Youth Network, one of the city’s leading youth programs, in this role, he is one of several advocates for local youth. Apsired to one day run for a seat on the Philadelphia City Council, intends to study political science at Howard University, and eventually attend law school. 

“Retrospectively (speaking), I guess you can say I was in search of me . . . . now I no longer settle for mediocrity – excellence is a must.”

Sponsoring Organization: Jobs for the Future

Ryan Dalton
New Orleans, Louisiana

Ryan Dalton, 26, has formerly worked as a trainer and manager for Café Reconcile’s Workforce Development training program in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.  He also served as an Advisory Board Member for The John Besh & Bride Mayor Scholarship at Chefs Move!, which prepares aspiring chefs for management positions in the culinary profession. In that role, Ryan worked to recruit young minority chefs and coordinated the City-Wide Youth Initiatives for the Mayor's Office.

In 2005, he and his family experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which forced them to uproot their lives and move to Houston—and nearly derailed him. During his youth, Ryan faced tremendous hardships: he was a victim of violence, shot multiple times, nearly lost his life, and experienced the murder of his oldest brother, a close cousin and several love ones. Yet, not only has Ryan improved his own life circumstances, but he has assisted other young people to do the same. Through his work in the Mayor’s Office and with other organizations, Ryan has impacted thousands of youth across the New Orleans area. He’s resilient, reliable and dedicated to helping others.

Reflecting on his childhood and his ability to overcome personal challenges, Ryan says: "The solution must come from within. In order to identify the solution, you must fully understand the problem. My objective is to help youth understand their self-worth and to empower them with the knowledge, resources and skill-set necessary to be successful by any means. I got back on track with help from God, mentors, friends and organizations that help me regain hope and create realistic, attainable goals for my life."
Ryan is now a part of the National Council of Young Leaders—the driving force behind the new national Opportunity Youth United movement—and an AmeriCorps Member, serving as a Program Instructor for the Boys and Girls Club. 

Ryan feels like we still have not learned everything we have to learn from Katrina. "Too many young people face Katrina-level hurdles every day in their lives and they too are failed by the systems that are supposed to help. I am one of many young people who fought hard to turn my life around and is working just as hard to help turn our nation around. I want to see this country live up to its promise." It is this passion that sparked him to create The PUSH Project, an initiative dedicated to helping youth develop their potential.

Shanice Turner
Atlanta, Georgia

Two weeks after graduating from Waukegan High School in Illinois, Shanice Turner hitched a ride with her visiting father to Atlanta, Georgia. She knew she wanted “opportunity, education, and something better”. Shanice wanted to see growth and improvement in her life. She wanted to go places.  Four months after leaving Waukegan, Shanice enrolled as a freshman in college. Shanice is currently working on a degree in Community Development at Rodger Williams University. “Something better” is definitely on her immediate horizon.

Shanice joined Year Up in Atlanta in 2012. As a result, she gained job experience and exposure to a whole new world of career and professionalism. Four years after her life-altering decision to pack up and head south, she works in the Education Department as a Post-Secondary Support Specialist at United Way of Greater Atlanta on its Atlanta Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund Initiative.

Shanice would one day like to become a Senior Director in the Education Department. She would like to push for the various programs that seek to level the educational playing field for all children, regardless of their economic background. Shanice has a passion for youth advocacy, and children welfare.

Turner feels that, “education is the gateway to those opportunities that help to mold oneself.”

Sponsoring Organization: Year Up

Shawnice Jackson
Baltimore, Maryland

Shawnice Jackson is a young nonprofit professional committed to building better and stronger pathways to opportunity for underserved and at-risk youth through mentoring, service, and advocacy.

Shawnice started her undergraduate career as a criminology and social deviance major at Notre Dame of Maryland University but transferred to University of Baltimore to pursue her passion for communities and nonprofits as a human services administration major. Shawnice currently serves as a consultant for the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice (MOCJ) and The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions. She also serves as an advisory board member with The Opportunity Youth Network, a leadership

Members of the National Council of Young Leaders, continued council member with The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund and opportunity leader with Opportunity Nation.

Shawnice’s areas of expertise are nonprofits, youth development, and qualitative data management. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she has served as a data collection manager with University of Maryland, project coordinator for Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents, a Baltimore Rising program, volunteer and provider relations coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, and case manager for the MOCJ. Shawnice was recently invited to speak at the Corporation for National and Community Service’s 20th anniversary celebration and keynoted the 2014 Service Learning and Civic Engagement Conference. She continues to give of her personal time in support of the well- being of young people in her community as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children with CASA Baltimore City and volunteer Big Sister. She currently leverages her unique skill set as post-high school individualized services manager at Thread, a Baltimore- based nonprofit that engages under-performing high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom. In this role, she directly advocates and case manages Thread’s opportunity youth population in  crises.

Sponsoring Organization: Public Allies

Tekoa Hewitt
Flint, Michigan

Tekoa Hewitt, 20, is a student in the Gateway to College Program at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. After graduating with his diploma in the spring, he wishes to continue attending Mott until he earns an associate degree. Currently, Tekoa is in the honors program at Mott and actively volunteers by mentoring other Gateway students trying to make the transition to the college environment. He has aspirations to one day attend graduate school to pursue a degree in higher education. In addition to his studies, Tekoa works as a math tutor and writing center consultant. Along with his regular duties as a tutor, he also is a peer tutor mentor, helping incoming tutors get acclimated to the collegiate work environment by leading focus groups designed to improve the quality of tutoring services.

Born to a working-class family in a small suburb of Flint, Tekoa saw firsthand the difficulties America’s youth face achieving an education in a poor economic climate. After his twin brother passed away from complications from hemophilia, Tekoa dropped out of high school at sixteen and started working. He spent the two years after dropping out working at a pizza place on Flint’s east side. But he knew he had to get a quality education to help better his family’s quality of life so he joined the Gateway to College Program at Mott.

While in the Gateway program, Tekoa traveled to the District of Columbia to participate in the GradNation Summit as a youth scholarship recipient. He observed seminars focusing on reducing the number of high school dropouts throughout the nation. He has also participated in the Flint Literacy and Basic Skills Summit, whose mission is to help improve the literacy and graduation rates of Genesee County, Michigan. He also was invited to speak at one of the Summit’s planning sessions to share his story.

“The beautiful thing about being a youth in America is that there are virtually limitless opportunities to those who seek them. The problem facing most young people today is that there is not enough academic, emotional, and financial support available. As young leaders, it is our duty to do our best to help the growth of not just ourselves, but our communities and peers as well.”

Sponsoring Organization: Gateway to College National Network

Teresa Rivera
Bronx, New York

Teresa Lynn Rivera, 22 is a social activist, born and raised in the Bronx. Her passion for social equity was nurtured at The Point CDC. The Point aims to create a safe space for youth through education and the arts. From a young age, Teresa has been consciously sharpening her leadership skills. In high school, she was the president of a youth activist group, ACTION,  that focused on social and environmental issues in the Hunts Point community. During this time, she also assisted in founding a women's empowerment group at The Point.  The Women's group is still providing young women with the resources they need to learn, grow and heal. Teresa is currently program coordinator.

In 2013, Teresa played a lead role in Michel Gondry's "The We and The I". The movie was filmed in the South Bronx and used youth from the community who had no acting experience. The film was used as a platform for these young people to share their experience growing up in the Bronx. 

Teresa is also a proud graduate of Public Allies NY. Upon graduation, she was offered a full time position at her partner organization, Fordham Bedford Housing Corp. Her responsibilities include organizing events for tenants, as well as facilitate an after school program.

Teresa is dedicated to providing young people with a safe space to advocate for themselves and reach their full potential.

Sponsoring Organization: Public Allies

Timothy Gunn
Charleston, South Carolina

Timothy has been working in his community as an assistant team leader for the Sustainability Institute. Timothy has been mentoring at-risk youth between the ages of 17 and 24 about overcoming adversity, not conforming to poverty, not becoming a statistic and, ultimately, teaching them a trade in energy retrofitting. Timothy was recognized for his good work in the community and voted Corps Member of the Year in 2015. This was a national award in which five people were selected out of 23,000. Timothy is also a member of the NAACP, in which he volunteers in the community as a speaker to the youth and advocate against violence in the community. Timothy attends Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina, where he will receive an Associate’s Degree in Business—one of his passions. Timothy started a landscaping company in which he recently upgraded to an LLC. Teaching others and leading by example are his main objectives.

Sponsoring Organization: The Corps Network


Opportunity Youth United is staffed by members of YouthBuild USA, the host organization of this movement. Click to meet our staff.
Dorothy Stoneman

After graduating from Harvard University in 1963 and joining the Civil Rights movement through the Harlem Action Group in NYC 1964, Stoneman organized a summer pre-school for 120 children who had missed kindergarten.  She then lived and worked in Harlem for the next 24 years. She was first a second grade public school teacher at PS 92, and then a Head Start teacher and director at the highly successful parent-controlled East Harlem Block Schools, where she was promoted by the parents to Executive Director in 1969. 

She began the first YouthBuild program in East Harlem in 1978, and served as its director for ten years.  In 1984 she orchestrated its expansion city-wide, in 1988 took it national, and in 2000 began its international expansion, starting in South Africa. She has guided the expansion of this social innovation through many stages and to substantial scale, building YouthBuild USA as an outstanding national non-profit support center, working with the federal government to create a dynamic delivery system, and with the local programs to create a democratic affiliated network in which directors and young people have equal voice. 

As a leader committed not only to the health and impact of YouthBuild, but to building momentum, public will, and policy toward the elimination of poverty, Stoneman currently serves in various leadership roles in the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Network, Voices for National Service, America’s Promise, ServiceNation, America Forward, the National Advisory Board for Public Service at Harvard University, Emerald Cities Collaborative, and the Markle Initiative for America’s Economic Future in a Networked World.

In 2013, Stoneman was thrilled to be invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march on the Washington mall at which Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Stoneman has a bachelor’s degree in history and science from Harvard University, a master’s degree in early childhood education and a doctorate of humane letters from Bank Street College of Education. She has been married since 1974 to John Bell, vice president of leadership development at YouthBuild USA. They currently live in Massachusetts and have two children, one grandchild and 13 godchildren.

Elvera Perry

Elvera has worked at YouthBuild USA supporting the CEO and Founder and the National Council of Young Leaders since 2012.

In 2015, Elvera became the Administrative Manager of the newly organized Opportunity Youth United (OYU) movement, working  to support the National Council of Young Leaders to become a respected, dynamic, center of action and opinion representing Opportunity Youth and to achieve the policy changes called for in the Council’s Recommendations by working closely with existing coalitions, sponsoring organizations, partners and funders. A role of Elvera’s job is to assist in the building out of Opportunity Youth United as a movement, building membership, supporting the Community Action Teams and influencing business leaders, philanthropists, elected officials, media leaders, and others toward respecting the voices of young people.  Before coming to YouthBuild, Elvera worked in Case Management at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center assisting patients with disabilities to make sure their needs were met.  Though the population she works with has changed, Elvera has always had a desire to advocate for those whose voices have been silenced by life experiences, systemic oppression or generational poverty. A graduate of Katharine Gibbs business school, Elvera lives outside of Boston with her two children ages 10 and 20.

Joel Miranda

Joel Miranda is the Director of Leadership Development and Graduate Leadership at YouthBuild USA. As the first YouthBuild graduate to serve in a Director’s role at YouthBuild USA, Joel leads efforts to help deepen the practice of Leadership Development at local YouthBuild programs, overseeing the development of YouthBuild's graduate leadership work, and helping to move the impact of Youthbuild’s leadership work deeper into the wider world. Prior to joining YouthBuild USA, Joel worked at the grassroots level as a Mentor, Case Manager, and lastly Deputy Director at the YouthBuild Just A Start Chelsea/Cambridge program.

Joel sits on the Board of Directors for Just A Start Corporation, a non-profit housing development, homelessness prevention, and education and training provider to adults and young people in the Massachusetts cities of Cambridge, Chelsea, and Somerville. Joel was a 2012-2013 Community Fellow at Boston University School of Management’s Institute for Non-Profit Management and Leadership and a graduate of the 2014 American Express Leadership Academy for emerging non-profit leaders.

In addition to his work and community roles, Joel served as a Steering Committee member on the My Brother’s Keeper Youth Table, is a Steering Group member of the America’s Promise Alliance Caring Adults Initiative, and serves as an advisor to the National Council of Young Leaders and the newly organized Opportunity Youth United (OYU) movement. His thoughts and life stories have been highlighted in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/youthbuild-usa/searching-for-superman-an_b_2760905.html) and he’s been a featured speaker at the Tufts University John M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service Frontiers of Democracy gathering, and at various US Department of Labor convenings where he shares how youth leadership development, love, and opportunity can help young people transform their lives and their communities.

Joel lives in Revere, Massachusetts with his wife Mellie Sanchez.

Lashon Amado

Lashon graduated from a local YouthBuild program in Brockton, MA in 2008 and remains a part of the movement. He is now working on his Masters in Nonprofit Management at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). His passion for social justice stems from his experience as a young man growing up in a low-income community where he faced many challenges himself. Lashon feels obligated to give back and help drive change for disadvantaged populations who face similar obstacles and feel they do not have a platform to have their issues heard. His favorite quote: “It’s going to take the community to save the community!”

Lashon serves as the National Coordinator for Community Action Teams for OYU. In this role, he works with young people, organizations and community leaders in cities across the nation to help build the OYU movement through City Action Teams (CATs). The CATs work to create a collective local agenda for creating pathways to reconnection, increasing civic engagement, and mobilizing their young people to be at the forefront of driving real change.


In cities and counties across America we are organizing groups of young leaders to speak up in many contexts where our issues are being addressed and organize our peers toward civic engagement that will include supporting the Recommendations and engaging our communities in the electoral process.
Atlanta CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Boston CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:

The Boston Community Action Team has over 50 young people and representatives from ten organizations. Stanley Pollack and Leon Rivera from the Center for Teen Empowerment in Boston. Ken Smith for YouthBuild Boston is serving as chairman of the CAT support network and National Council member Lashon Amado is also helping to lead this group.

Chicago CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:
Martrice Manuel: martricem51@gmail.com

The Chicago CAT is organized by the Alternative Schools Network, which envisions a global community where every individual has access to equal educational and employment opportunities. Working in partnership with community-based organizations and schools, the Alternative Schools Network re-engages a diverse community of learners to actualize their true academic potential and personal goals by promoting educational innovation, workforce opportunities and civic participation for future leadership and service.

Los Angeles CAT
Join this CAT:

The Los Angeles Community Action Team launched on February 11, 2016 at the 100k Opportunities Job and Forum led by Starbucks and 32 other companies where 6000 youth attended the job fair and 1,000 youth walked away with jobs. The LA CAT is led by the CRCD and LEAD under the leadership of Marc Wilson and Ely Flores. Both organizations are widely known and respected in the LA area for their work in youth development, community development, and civic engagement. The CAT will help mobilize LA-area youth to advocate for increased opportunity.

New Orleans CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:

Ryan Dalton (email rdalton2@tulane.edu)

The New Orleans CAT, led by Tulane University, was launched at the 2016 Jobs for The Future Summit in June 2016. Ryan Dalton, also a member of the NCYL, is the organizer. At the summit, they recruited over 30 young people to join as members of OYU and are currently working on setting their priorities for action. The NOLA CAT represents a collaborative of 30 organizations in NOLA that serve youth. They also have a coordinating council of nine young leaders.

New York City CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:
Jordan Barton, JBarton@phippsny.org
Philadelphia CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:
Mubarak Lawrence, mulawrence@risingsons.org
Phoenix CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:
Kevin Katsuki, Kevin.Katsuki@asu.edu
Sacramento Youth Alliance Community Action Team
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:

Taylor Buck, taylorb@aesimpact.org

The Sacramento Youth Alliance Community Action Team is a coalition of diverse young people ages 16 to 24 who train, mobilize and organize their peers to work together to increase opportunity and decrease poverty for youth in the Sacramento area.

The SYA CAT launched on February 5, 2016 at the “Black Minds Matter” informational briefing sponsored by the California Legislative Black Caucus and Education Trust–West where two young men testified about the challenges and opportunities they encountered in the California Public School System. The Sacramento CAT is led by AES, a small nonprofit dedicated to being an advocate and ally for all vulnerable California students. Learn more.

Seattle CAT
Anchor Organization(s):
Join this CAT:

The Anchoring Organization for the Seattle CAT is SOAR, a community coalition working together to promote the healthy development of children, youth and families in Martin Luther King County and to ensure that all children succeed in school and in life. SOAR’s work reaches from prenatal care to young adulthood, breaking down silos among sectors, regions, ages, and other divides.


The first 1,000 present or former Opportunity Youth and our Allies who join Opportunity Youth United are our founding members.
Anayensy Ruiz
Anays Antongiorgi
Anette Garnet
Angel Delrio
Angel Lewis
Angelica Bailey
Angelina Kunz
Angelina Record
Anjuanette Bennett
Anna Ying
Anne Ronquillo
Anthony Green
Anthony Roberts
Antonio Simpson
Ariel Johnson
Ashanti Dallas
Ashley Charwood
Ashley Robinson
Ashley Standafer
Ashley Weiss
Astro Barreras
Audrey Phillips
August So
Austin Coomer
Austin Murphy
Austin Simons
Axel Arce
Becky Kouiyoth
Ben Cook
Benjamin Beach
Bernardo Vasquez
Bianca Martinez
Billy Devericks
Blake Flinchum
Blake Young
Bradley Morris
Brandon Dean
Brandon Menjares
Brayden Griggs
Bre'ana Fries
Breanna Cook
Brett Abercrombie
Bria Morene
Brian Davis
Briana Smith
Brianna Robinson
Brittani Bovell
Brooklyn Jones
Brooklyn Newman
Bryan Combs
Our wonderful sponsoring organizations, partners and funders make OYU and our impact possible. Meet them.