Board & Staff

UFC's widely diverse team of staff and board members are qualified, caring people who connect with the youth and maintain the highest quality service levels.

  • Kara Allen Soldati, MSW, Ed.D.
    President + CEO
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    I aspire to ensure that my servant heart and business mind ensure that I stay focused on disrupting and dismantling systems that don’t center and solve for the most marginalized. Though my career began in the classroom in Oakland, I have experience in both the public and private sectors and in local and international service delivery. In my free time, I run around with my 5yo, teach grad courses at Pacific Oaks, amass books I’ll someday read, and play basketball in LA’s rec league.

    Denny Luria, Ph.D
    Chair
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    I am a psychologist focused on helping girls and women develop their own voices and a stronger sense of self. I am proud to be part of UFC because we provide the relationships necessary to help our girls (and boys) do just that – grow into sturdy, resilient young adults.

    Clare Yorkison
    Chief Financial Officer
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    Certified Public Accountant

    William Temko, Esq.
    Secretary + General Counsel
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    Partner, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP
    Co-Chair, California Committee South of Human Rights Watch

    Dara Kay Barker, Esq.
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    Member, Everychild Foundation
    Co-Chair, Everychild Public Policy Committee

    Tremale Berger
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    Project Manager, DPR Construction
    Co-Founder, Gentlemen’s Agenda Foundation

    Judy Billings
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    Board Member, the Theodore Forstmann Foundation

    Preston Brooks
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    Partner, Cox, Castle & Nicholson
    Green Advisory Council, California League of Conservation Voters
    Board of Directors, GreenWish
    National Brownfields Association
    National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP)
    California Building Industry Association (CBIA)
    Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Alicemarie H. Stotler of the United States District Court, Central District of California

    John Campisi
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    Agent, Creative Artists Agency
    UFC holds a special place in my heart, as I was at Nancy Daly’s kitchen table as a 12-year old boy when UFC was created. Having been an agent at CAA for the past 25 years, it was my relationship with Nancy’s son, Bobby, that officially brought be back into the UFC family.  A native of Los Angeles, I currently live in Santa Monica with my son, Sam.

    Robert A. Daly, Jr.
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    Morgan Stanley
    Founding Member, the Junior Committee for the Stephen D Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders

    Kimberly Marteau Emerson
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    I’m a lawyer, civic leader and human rights advocate, currently involved in promoting integration efforts in Germany, where I live, and also address the role of gender there by creating conversations around bringing women to the economic and political decision-making table. I’m an avid tennis player, skier and runner, love California Cabernets and German Rieslings, read whatever I can get my hands on and, when time permits, binge watch Homeland, House of Cards, Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black.

    Mitchell Evall, Esq.
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    Partner, Venable LLP
    I have had the privilege of being involved with UFC for over twenty-five years, and throughout that time, I have always been humbled by the caring and gifted group of people at UFC who have devoted themselves to the plight of foster youth, and I have consistently been amazed by the resilience and strength of the youth we strive to serve.

    David Fisher
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    Chairman Emeritus, Capital Group International, Inc.
    Trustee Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Trust
    Board of Trustees, Alliance for College Ready Public Schools, Alternative Living for the Aging, California Institute for the Arts, Lowe Institute, and Harvard-Westlake School
    Advisory Board Member, UCLA School of Public Policy, International Monetary Fund Retirement Plan and Monetary Authority of Singapore

    Marianna Fisher
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    Chairperson, Westside Children’s Center

    Rob Friedman
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    Entertainment Media Executive

    One of my passions is bridging the entertainment and nonprofit worlds; I founded two programs at Lionsgate, Lionshares and Impact Day, which allow employees to give back and connect more deeply with their communities. In my off time, you can find me engaged in any number of outdoor sports, skiing and fishing in Sun Valley and scuba diving any chance I get. I’ve been diving since I was 18 and have logged over 80 excursions.

    Jarred Kennedy
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    Jarred Kennedy is the co-head of Global esports at Riot Games. A member of the Riot team since 2013, Jarred started his career at McKinsey & Company where he created strategies for consumer, technology, and media companies in the US and Europe. Since then, he has held several entrepreneurial positions across a range of businesses, including Encompass Digital Media, where he played a key role in scaling Encompass from a US-based startup into a global technology services company, and most recently Riot’s global merchandise business, which he launched. Jarred is a married father of 3, a lifelong gamer, and a huge LA Lakers fan. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

    Richard Merkin, M.D.
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    Founder + CEO, Heritage Provider Network
    Founder, Los Angeles Jewish Symphony
    Board of Trustees, California Institute Of Technology
    Board of Directors, The Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools

    Dinesh Moorjani
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    Dinesh Moorjani is a technology executive, CEO and investor. He is a Managing Director and head of the Los Angeles office for Comcast Ventures. Dinesh was the founder & CEO of Hatch Labs, where he co-founded numerous mobile enterprise software and consumer companies from the ground up. Dinesh co-founded Tinder in 2012. He has held leadership roles at IAC/ InterActiveCorp and Samsung Electronics in the US & Asia. He co-founded Saffronart, a Sequoia Capital-backed global fine art marketplace and auction house, where he continues to serve on the board. Dinesh is an active faculty member and adjunct professor at both UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and USC Annenberg. He sits on the advisory boards for Harvard’s California Research Center and Northwestern University’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship. Dinesh is an advisor to American Express, Assurant, and Warburg Pincus, the global private equity firm. He serves as an independent board director at numerous companies, including Alight. Dinesh earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University and his MBA from Harvard.

    Jaye Toellner Rogovin
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    I enjoy working on the UFC Board because the Members are incredibly talented and committed. I also am wowed by the capable and dedicated staff, and inspired every day by the kids of UFC! I love spending time with my family – husband John and two daughters, Hattie and Eva; I have minor obsessions with my dogs, travel, crossword puzzles, and reading. I have a major obsession with Hamilton! The Musical. Who knew I’d take to hip-hop in my 50s!

    Nadine Schiff-Rosen
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    Board Trustee, the Sundance Institute
    Circle of Friends of The Help Group
    Board Member, Maria Shriver’s Women’s Nation
    Member of Pacific Council

    Ande Rosenblum
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    Board Member, University of Southern California School of Social Work
    Member, EveryChild Foundation

    Erin Mulcahy Stein
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    Partner, SDS NexGen Partners LP
    Board Member, Maria Shriver’s Women’s Nation
    Advisory Committee, Equality Now

    Demonte “Tray” Thompson
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    Born and raised in Compton, California, Demonte “Tray” Thompson is one of 12 siblings. As a foster youth, Tray found his education to be a safe haven from the trouble in his family and community. Tray earned his B.S. in Finance from Cal State Northridge, where he served as the founding president for the Black Male Initiative organization that aimed to improve black males’ academic, social, and career success.

    With a passion for money management, Tray started his career within CSUN’s Financial Aid Department, where he grew the Financial Literacy Program and presented to hundreds of his fellow Matadors about credit reports, loans, and budgeting. A er his stint at CSUN, Tray secured the position of Regional Marketing Associate at AIG. Staying active at AIG, he is the active President of the Los Angeles Young Professionals employee resource group, providing networking, volunteering, and community outreach events to members.

    Mr. Thompson continues to support organizations and causes that give black men, foster youth, and members of his community the opportunity and inspiration to seek a higher education. Currently, he sits on the board of directors for Cal State Northridge’s Alumni Association. Tray has goals to obtain his MBA and take a larger stage to advocate for foster youth and first generation college students.

    Kiko Washington
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    Executive Vice President, Worldwide Human Resources, Warner Bros. Entertainment

    My first impression and exposure to UFC was through attending a Brass Ring Dinner. One of the speakers was a college readiness alumni who was a sophomore film and tv major.  She was incredibly impressive and passionate about her dream, to work at a major studio! Fortunately for me, I was able to get to her with an offer before other studio attendees, and she began working at Warner Bros. the next summer. That night, and the subsequent summer, led me to helping to expand the UFC/WB partnership, and I was lucky enough to be asked to join the UFC Board a few years later.

  • Katherine Kasserman, MSW
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    I am grateful to work in partnership with the mission driven, smart and caring team members and youth of United Friends.  Our intentional community setting encourages me to develop meaningful connections and to be innovative in creating opportunities for growth.  In my personal time, I enjoy the LA weather, try new food and plan weekend getaways.  I am originally from Chicago and spend all my vacation time flying back to visit my family. 

    Alesha Walker
    Experiential Learning Coordinator
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    I have always been passionate about service and how we, as a community, can work to support one another and create a healthy home. Working at UFC and having the chance to interact with our scholars first as a College Counselor and now as the ELC continues to open my eyes and heart to all of the work that has yet to be done as well as all of the amazing achievements. And, with my background in education and my belief in the problem-posing model, I am honored to build dynamic curriculum for our scholars. In my down time, I love to volunteer with puppies, explore Los Angeles, and read all of the books that come my way.

    Carol Larkin
    Coordinator, Scholars Program
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    Passionate for children’s causes, I began working at United Friends after completing a master’s degree in forensic psychology from the George Washington University. Currently, I work as our Scholars Program Coordinator ensuring we are able to recruit as many youth into our program as well as being a liaison for our community partners. A fun fact about me is that I am obsessed with cats but particularly with the Sphynx breed (hairless cat) – they’re just so adorable and soft!

    Norbert Negrea
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
    Nesli Marin
    Grants + Compliance Coordinator
    Jaemmie Cañas
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
    Danielle Cameron
    Resource Specialist, Housing Program
    LeiJuana Hardy
    Property Management and Housing Coordinator
    Mariangela Ruiz-Hernandez, MSW
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
    Porscha Johnson
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    I am extremely passionate about social work! However, it can be a stressful career field. An ideal social work agent must possess skills in engaging in strength-based practice. As a social work agent at UFC, in the role of a College Counselor, it is pivotal that I see things from scholar and caregiver perspectives in order to empower them and truly understand their feelings. Consequently, the fact that I have an opportunity to empower and build close relationships with clients, led me to a fulfilling career at UFC. Two fun facts about me: I secretly love singing out loud when I think nobody is around. Also, I am in love with nature and I have a massive interest in human behavior.

    Antoinette Moreland-Carter
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
    Brian Miller
    Communications Coordinator
    Josie Heiman
    Assistant Director of New Initiatives + Special Events
    Lia Spriggs
    Executive Assistant
    Angela Carter-Blackshear, MSW
    Director, Housing Programs
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    Working within the field of human services and nonprofits for over fifteen years, Angela has extensive managerial experience in the non-profit sector and a record of success in getting initiatives off the ground and flourishing. She is currently working as the Director of Housing at United Friends of the Children, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and support services for youth transitioning out of the foster care system.

    Throughout the numerous leadership positions she has held throughout her career, she has been blessed with a variety of opportunities to help support the development of communities, organizations and individuals. B ’Empowered Consulting is an agency that Angela co-founded that specializes in nonprofit development with small to midsize nonprofits. Her experience within the field of nonprofit development extends from front-line case management to executive level leadership. She has experience in fund development, organizational management, in addition to program development and evaluation.

    Angela has extensive experience as a grant reviewer and evaluator of programs. Serving in the role of peer reviewer for the federal government, she has reviewed over one hundred (100+) grant proposals; including: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquent Programs (OJJDP), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Department of Justice (DOJ).

    Her career has been dedicated to organizations and initiatives that have worked to provide innovative, evidence-based programming and services for underserved and highly at-risk populations. Angela holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California (USC) and a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications from California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

    Tracey Calderon
    Development and Grants Coordinator
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    With passion, Tracey has dedicated her time and efforts to working closely with underserved communities, including populations in homelessness, prison, migrants, and refugees. Her life-transformative experiences in India and Haiti drove her to earn a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College. Believing in United Friends of the Children’s vital work and mission, Tracey is excited to advance United Friends’ zealous commitment to foster youth. Tracey enjoys the quiet of early mornings, the scenery of long runs, and the element of scrumptious surprise when tasting different cuisines.

    Kara Allen Soldati, MSW, Ed.D.
    President + CEO
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    I aspire to ensure that my servant heart and business mind ensure that I stay focused on disrupting and dismantling systems that don’t center and solve for the most marginalized. Though my career began in the classroom in Oakland, I have experience in both the public and private sectors and in local and international service delivery. In my free time, I run around with my 5yo, teach grad courses at Pacific Oaks, amass books I’ll someday read, and play basketball in LA’s rec league.

    Eda Acevedo
    Receptionist
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    I have been the receptionist at United Friends since February 2015 and am fortunate to be able to welcome our youth. Often they come in with a frown, but with time I see them walk back in with so much excitement and confidence as their goals are met and exceeded!

    Allyson Brannon
    Property Management + Housing Coordinator
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    I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Los Angeles in 2014 after working as a Chicago-based United Airlines flight attendant for two years. Prior to joining UFC, I was an Assistant Manager for a 257 unit property in Whittier, CA.  Although I enjoyed the job, I wanted to pursue more meaningful work in line with my experience, passion and education background (B.A. Communications/ Sociology) and knew UFC was the perfect place to pursue my goals.  I enjoy concerts, camping, the beach, and traveling. My favorite movie is “The Burbs” and my favorite food is seafood.

    Michael Brooks, M.Ed.
    Senior College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    Growing up in New England, I studied Psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Upon moving to Southern California, I served as a Correctional Deputy Probation Officer at East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility and understand the power and opportunity education brings to youth. I began serving foster youth at a level 14 group home and was drawn to UFC because of its relationship based model. As part of the UFC family I couldn’t be happier and in my spare time I enjoy listening to music and going to the beach. I’m inspired by creative, passionate individuals who live life to the fullest.

    Essie Calderon, M.A.
    Advocacy Counselor, Housing Program
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    I’ve been with UFC for a little over two years and absolutely love and believe in the work we all do. When I’m not working I enjoy taking my dog Max to the beach, hiking, and The Grove!

    Monique Cardona
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    I’ve just celebrated my first full year at UFC and couldn’t be happier about it. I love what I do and am grateful for the chance to work with so many inspiring youth and their families. When I’m not trying to leave the world in better shape than I found it, I enjoy the beach, playing with my dogs, and ice cream.

    Cassandre Castanon, M.L.I.S.
    Logistics Coordinator, Scholars Program
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    I’ve worked for United Friends for 6+ years and have a bachelors in History/Political Science and a Masters in Library and Information Science. I am a history nerd and make sure to incorporate that into any vacation I take. I love books and spend my time spoiling my nieces and nephew.

    Karla Fernandez
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    I’ve been an educator for over five years and am passionate about innovation in learning and teaching, having taught literacy at Chicago Public Schools and the Noble Network of Charter Schools. While I am a native of Los Angeles, I am an alumna of the University of Chicago and lived in the windy city for many years prior to joining UFC in 2015. When I am not out in the community and in schools meeting with my scholars and their caregivers, I am reading literature, practicing yoga, or watching sci-fi movies.

    Dan Gallagher
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    I recently joined the College Readiness team, but one of my favorite things about working at UFC has been getting to know all of the wonderful staff, youth, and families. Outside of work, I enjoy exploring LA, hiking, and going to the beach.

    Stacey Gallaher
    People + Operations Coordinator
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    I am enjoying working for an organization that supports such an amazing cause.  I can relate to the foster youth in that I was adopted, probably for different reasons, but nonetheless, I received the love and support from individuals who cared for me deeply.  I’m Central American (from Belize), so I have been blessed with the exposure to different cultures and to people from different walks of life, so I can appreciate diversity.

    Noah Gan, MSW
    Transitions Manager, Housing Program
    Frank Hoang, M.S., PPS
    Manager, Scholars Program
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    I first started at UFC as a College Counselor and I now have the honor of managing the service area I started in with an amazing team. I have lived in Los Angeles for the last 13 years and I get to share my experiences with my wife and puppy. I love to travel, I love my family, and I love what I do.

    Kita Hutchins
    Office Manager
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    For 15 years I have been at United Friends, the first non-profit organization that I’ve worked for and it has been a great and rewarding experience.  In my free time I enjoy reading John Grisham books – one of my favorites is “The Racketeer”.

    Charmaine Jackson, MSW
    Alumni Coordinator
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    As a UFC staff member for over three years now, I have had the pleasure to work with some amazingly dedicated and selfless people. One of the things I love about my job is building strong supportive relationships with the young people we all serve. When I’m not at work, I enjoy long walks on the beach with my dog Oliver and doing Karaoke!

    Elsa Jaimes
    Career + Education Counselor, Housing Program
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    I am incredibly humbled to work with such an inspiring group of people and fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful family here at United Friends. I love spending time with loved ones, watching my nephew/godson grow up, and anything sweet I can get my hands on.

    Joe Jones, MFTI
    Advocacy Counselor, Housing Program
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    I have been employed at United Friends since February 2012. I am blessed to work with such great young people and a terrific team/staff. I am married and I have a 16 year old son. I enjoy bowling and listening to jazz  music. I am passionate about basketball and have been a coach for over seven years! I also enjoy spending time with family and friends and taking Caribbean vacations.

    Elizabeth Kesner, M.A.
    Director of People + Operations
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    Supporting our youth and staff members over the past 8 years has been a huge growth experience and continues to fill me with inspiration and joy. As a West Virginia native, I enjoy living the year-round sunshine dream in Los Angeles with my amazing spouse and two delightful, mischievous cats.

    Megan Levitan
    Director, Education Programs
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    I feel honored to have seen our scholars’ journey from middle school through college graduation over the past ten years. When I’m not at work getting inspiration from the amazing students we serve and the incredible staff that support them, I keep busy hiking the trails of Debs Park in my neighborhood, cultivating a California native plant garden, and trying to build a relationship with two cats that I’m fostering.

    Maria Mendoza
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    As a counselor, I enjoy learning about the future aspirations, discussing college selection, and ultimately working as a team to measure whether we are reaching our goals. My role at United Friends allows me to be a part of a scholar’s academic and personal journey, and I feel honored to reflect and affirm all their strengths.  In my free time, I continue to support the work of my local community center, serve as an active alumna of my fraternity, watch the Dodgers, and enjoy fun dates with my creative and loving niece.

    Danielle Morgan, MA
    Director, Outcomes + Evaluation
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    As the Director of Outcomes and Evaluation, I have the pleasure of collaborating with staff, leadership, and stakeholders. I joined the UFC team because of the emphasis on relationships as the key to positive outcomes and am passionate about closing the gap between research and practice and advancing strategies that increase impact for foster youth. I love logic models and data visualizations….and hiking.

    Hannah Olade, M.A.
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    I have been with United Friends of the Children since 2006 and I continue to be inspired by our mission and vision to empower foster youth. What makes me tick is seeing others discover their passion, walk in their purpose, and create meaningful, impactful lives. I believe every person regardless of circumstances has something great to contribute to society. My goal is to help them develop their talents and become confident as well as successful in who they are as individuals. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, creating, learning new things, arts and crafts, DIY projects, and following current employment and educational trends.

    Dawn Omori, MS, PPS
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    Gardena native and Bruin alum! I am passionate about youth and educational advocacy, and I’m inspired daily by the resilience and strength of our United Friends scholars. I enjoy watching the NBA, baking and spending time with my partner and our sweet pup.

    Carla Palmer
    Senior Manager of Corporate + Community Engagement
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    I have been with United Friends for 14+ years and I enjoy the work as much as I did the first year I started working here. The strength and resilience exhibited by the young adults in our programs never ceases to amaze me. Things I enjoy most are spending time with my 18 year old son, training for a Spartan Race or half marathon, boxing, hiking, cycling, traveling the world and inspiring former foster youth to live their best life.

    Damaris Pereda, M.Ed.
    Impact Manager, Scholars Program
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    I am a former teacher, lifelong learner, and usually feel better about life after having a cup of coffee, or enjoying a great meal and quality time with wonderful people in my life –  including our youth and families! My favorite time of year is graduation season – it’s such a great time to celebrate the hard work and perseverance of our youth! It is a privilege to get to work alongside our youth as Impact Manager of the Scholars Program at United Friends.

    Jamila Russ, MSW
    Assistant Manager, Housing Program
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    I’ve been a part of the UFC family since February 2015 and continue to enjoy the work with the population we serve. Every day, I am inspired by my coworkers’ creativity, intuitiveness and genuine care in all aspects of the job. The continued team work is irreplaceable. In my free time, I enjoy my quiet time and improving my health through weight training, cardio and boot camps.

    Nawal Salim, MSW
    Manager, Scholars Program
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    I’ve been at UFC for a little under two years now. I truly value the unique relationships I get to foster with my students as I support them with their educational visions. When I’m not in counselor mode I enjoy spending time with my family.

    Eric Shamp, MBA
    Assistant Director of Development
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    I’ve enjoyed being with United Friends for over 6 years and have seen so many of our scholars achieve their college and life dreams. When I’m not in the office, I’m usually enjoying the outdoors with my wife and our 4 kids

    Francia Telesford, MSW
    College Counselor, Scholars Program
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    I was previously with UFC from 2011-2015 as a Pathways Advocacy Counselor and took time to be home with my new daughter. I recently served as a Student Services Advisor at USC and am thrilled to be back in the UFC community.

    Maleta Wilson, MSW
    Advocacy Counselor, Housing Program
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    I am a graduate from the USC School of Social Work and am very excited to be part of the United Friends team! I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area but have lived in Los Angeles for the past eight years. I also lived in New York for one year and I absolutely love all three places I have been lucky enough to call home! A few things I like to do for fun are hike different trails in the area or bake different treats. I like to think I hike so much to balance out all the chocolate from my baking!

    Daniel Xavier, MSW
    Community Manager, Housing Program
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    As an Advocacy Counselor for the past 4 years, I’ve cultivated strong relationships with the youth and still maintain many of those relationships even after the youth have left the program. As a UC Santa Cruz alumnus and proud Banana Slug, I love taking trips up to the central coast to enjoy the laid back atmosphere amongst the beaches and redwood forests. Being an avid soccer fan, I never miss an opportunity to insert into the conversation the latest scores or updates from major tournaments around the world.

    Francisco Zamudio
    Manager, Scholars Program
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    I’m a Los Angeles native, coming to UFC from Rutgers University where I was most recently Director of New Student Orientation and Family Programs. I’m excited to be back in LA and to help United Friends lead their college success work.

LA County is home to 30,000 foster youth
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