For more than ten years, Jorie Das has successfully managed and developed nonprofit organizations in the Greater Los Angeles area, emphasizing youth programming and advocacy for vulnerable communities. She is an experienced youth development specialist and Organizational Development Professional with a solid history of success in the child welfare landscape. She is committed to building strong families, delivering effective services, and significantly improving outcomes for children in the child welfare system.
In 2019, Jorie joined Friends LA as Chief of Staff, overseeing all strategic initiatives and operations. Under her leadership, Jorie has strengthened organizational capacity, including doubling the number of youth served, launching a new satellite office in Antelope Valley, building relationships with private and public agencies, and expanding programs to new service planning areas.
Before joining Friends LA, she served as Interim Executive Director at InsideOUT Writers and worked in executive leadership roles at Baby2Baby and Free Arts.
Jorie holds a BA in Ethnic Studies and Art from the University of Oregon and an MA in International Affairs and Business from Chapman University. She also served in the Peace Corps as a community health agent in Niger while working on various community projects. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Weng has a decade of experience as a youth and young adult pastor, trainer, and administrator. She earned a BS in Biology from UCLA in 2010 and a MA in Christian Formation from North Park Theological Seminary this past May 2021.
Grace believes in the impact that compassionate, consistent, and age-appropriate support can have for young people, particularly those from under-resourced or marginalized backgrounds. In her work as a pastor, Grace created safe space for young people to tell their stories, receive support and care, and take steps toward expanding their futures through weekly tutoring, mentoring, and vocational support groups. As a trainer for an international non-profit with staff in urban communities around the world, Grace teaches and equips staff members through embodied, praxis-based learning experiences in cross-cultural, bilingual, and international settings.
During the pandemic, Grace has hosted a book club, mentoring group, and study club for youth and young adults. When she has time, she also volunteers with a local market’s weekly grocery distribution.
Delani Delgado supports our team as our Development Coordinator, where she designs values-centered partnerships with individuals and entities who believe in our mission to create generational change one child at a time. Originally hailing from the East Coast, Delani obtained her Bachelor of the Arts in Communication in 2019 from the University of South Florida before diving into working for the nonprofit sector. Currently, Delani is enhancing her education as a Master’s of Nonprofit Management student at the University of Central Florida.
Her passion for working for youth-serving organizations was cultivated during the time that she spent as a “professional role model” at a YMCA residential summer camp. Though only expecting to stay for one summer, she enjoyed the engagement with her youth so much that she committed to working for an additional two summers. Delani learned about Friends of the Children amid the COVID-19 pandemic and fell in love with our mission and the intentionality of our programming. As the eldest daughter of a low-income household and two parenting high school youth, there were many systemic pitfalls that Delani could have fallen into -- but like our youth, because of the mentors that she had throughout the course of her life, she was able to rewrite her story.
Dr. Carroll J. Brown III, Psy. D graduated from Phillips Graduate University (c/o 2018) where he obtained his Doctorate degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Organizational Management and Consulting. He is an accomplished and highly respected subject matter specialist in leadership development and change management. His past experiences include working with teams within organizations, assisting managers create methods used for developing, and implementing strategies to improve organizational processes and achieve overall organizational goals. Additionally, Dr. Carroll is a respected mental health professional and has been working in the mental health field for over a decade.
Dr. Carroll is passionate about helping provide mental health awareness and advocacy through educational programs to communities of color. Further, he has developed a passion for helping individuals develop as leaders to improve organizational efficiency through training and development, and by generating methods to cultivate skills to build individual confidence.
Dr. Carroll is proud Matador Alumni wherein he obtained his B.A. in Pan African Studies (now known as Africana Studies). Currently, he sits on the board of the USU at CSUN as the Alumni Representative, is the President of the Black Alumni Association, and is also the Director of Special Initiatives with Minority Psychology Network (MPN).
Tyana Ingram is a Los Angeles transplant originally from The Bronx, New York. After completing her BA at Howard University in 2009, she moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California and began her career in Social Work.
Tyana is currently an Associate Clinical Social Worker and has spent the last decade working in non-profit and government child welfare agencies throughout Los Angeles. Some of her previous workplaces include St. Anne’s, LA County Department of Children & Family Services, and Olive Crest. Right before joining Friends LA, Tyana managed the development and services of an innovative and evidenced-based housing program for parenting former foster youth with First Place for Youth and successfully supported youth in achieving outcomes in education, employment, and financial literacy.
Recognizing the racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare, Tyana is extremely dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and foster care. She’s passionate about providing impactful supportive services to children and families with a strong emphasis on equity and financial wellness. In her free time, Tyana enjoys traveling, exploring Los Angeles, spending quality time with her friends and family, and creating social wellness events for the community.
Grisel Vasquez has over 17 years of experience working with several non-profits and school districts throughout Los Angeles County. She attended California State University Dominguez Hills and studied Sociology. During her time in college, she discovered her love of working with youth.
She started her journey in the After School and Special Education sector. She later transitioned to work with at-risk and foster youth by providing mentorship and support services in South Los Angeles schools. Grisel understood the importance of being a consistent part of a young person’s life at an early age.
Prior to joining Friends LA, Grisel was part of the Parent Engagement Team at LA Promise Fund. While doing this work, she understood the connection and importance of the family unit and the positive effect it has on youth. By combining her passion and experience Grisel joined the Friends LA team in 2019. As a Friend, she developed long-lasting relationships with her youth and their caregivers. In 2021, she became the Program Manager for the Metro-South LA program. She continues to support her families and offer support to staff through coaching and teamwork.
Christian Medina received his B.S. in Criminal Justice at California State University, Dominguez Hills after transferring from Long Beach City College. While in college he worked for the L.B.U.S.D. as a college aide and as a Camp Director for the Lakewood Family YMCA before working as a program coordinator for Youth Mentoring Connection in South Los Angeles. Due to his experience working with youth, Christian found his passion for mentoring.
Christian believes that our youth should be recognized and uplifted for their unique gifts to share with the world. He is excited to be a Professional Mentor with Friends LA and partner with caretakers to improve the overall family unit by providing valuable resources and services.
Corey Long was born and raised in View Park, CA. He graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Master’s in Education. Corey’s passion for education and child development expanded in his time as a youth sports coach and official.
Corey found the hands‐on experience of assisting young boys and girls with their development of not only athletic talent, but also life lessons and skills was a challenge well worth taking on. After graduating, Corey continued to coach and officiate youth sports and also worked as a substitute teacher.
Now with Friends LA, Corey is thrilled to support the communities he grew up near. He possesses a strong dedication to assisting youth and their families in overcoming all barriers to success!
Crystal Aguilar is a professional mentor who formerly worked at LAUSD as a Teacher Assistant for 10 years and taught students both with and without special needs. Originally hailing from South Los Angeles, Crystal eventually spent most of her daily life in East Los Angeles while attending school there.
Crystal graduated from East Los Angeles College with an AA in Social Behavioral Sciences and an emphasis in Special Education. She then transferred to Cal State University, Dominguez Hills and graduated with a BA in American Studies, where she studied our country's diverse society and its worldwide influence.
During her time at CSUDH, Crystal participated in her school’s story slam workshops and performance. There, she learned the resiliencies and power in our stories, and is passionate about sharing this tool with the youth she now works with.
Her mission is to be a part of the village that it takes to raise a child and hopes to pursue family law in the future. During her free time, Crystal enjoys being a tourist in her own city, along with her Siberian Husky, Rosy.
Diamond Neal was born and raised in different parts of Los Angeles, mainly between Mid City and South Central LA. She received her Bachelor’s in Psychology & Social Behavior from UC Irvine and her Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Mount Saint Mary’s University.
Before entering grad school, Diamond worked as a Special Education Assistant and found her passion for serving and advocating for the special needs population. However, as a former foster youth, her heart lies with helping foster youth build grit and resilience, which is why she is especially delighted to work alongside Friends L.A. She has personally overcome several adverse childhood experiences and would like to share her knowledge and tools with other youth who have experienced the child welfare system. Diamond believes that with the proper resources, encouragement and emphasis placed on equity and mental health, youth can use what they’ve learned to find happiness and dictate their own futures.
In her free time, she enjoys doing makeup, spending time with friends and family, and discovering new foods and desserts.
Edson Martinez received his B.A. in Studio Arts with a minor in Chicana/o Studies from California State University Los Angeles.
Using art as a tool, Edson has been giving back to his community by running different art workshops for youth, including M.E.C.H.A’s and C.A.U.S.A’s youth empowerment conference in 2019. Recently he served homeless and former foster youth by providing education counseling and life skills building workshops at My Friend’s place, a non-profit that serves youth in the city of Hollywood.
Recognizing barriers implemented within communities of color, Edson has dedicated himself to supporting and uplifting inner city youth by helping them realize their potential and developing their passions. He is excited to continue his work within youth development as well as build community within families as a Friend.
Eve Perez is a non-binary mentor who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and holds a BA in Sociology, Law & Society from UC Riverside. Eve believes in the power of young people to create positive change and understands that it takes a village to raise a child and continue shaping a better world. They have spent more than 4 years as a mentor supporting under-resourced students in South Central with achieving academic and socio-emotional goals.
Their aim is to continue being a resource for folks through radical acceptance and the use of trauma-informed practices - and eventually go on to earn a Master of Social Work degree. In their free time, Eve enjoys creating art, hanging out in nature, and volunteering for mutual aid.
Jorge Pimentel was born and raised in Los Angeles, later graduating from California State Dominguez Hills with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. He has worked with children for over 10 years and has seen, first-hand, the benefits and importance of a positive role model in a child's life.
Jorge has previously worked at Soccer Shots, a youth enrichment program for preschools across Los Angeles, where he began as a coach and worked his way to a Director position, overseeing 150 preschools in the program.
Now with Friends LA, Jorge is excited to impact the communities and children where he grew up. He can’t wait to have the chance to be a mentor just like the mentors who helped him become the man he is today!
ReAndra Johnson Francis comes from a background in education and higher education access. Before joining Friends LA, she held positions as a teacher’s assistant, tutor, and college mentor.
ReAndra has a passion for children and social justice and believes that everyone should have access to what they need to thrive. What motivates her work at Friends LA are the opportunities to be led by youth and families as they express what they need and work together to overcome institutional barriers.
In previous roles, ReAndra has led projects that support social justice and help folks develop and explore their identities. She holds a degree in Legal Studies from Scripps College and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration and Policy from American University.
Xochitl was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor’s degree in English and Chicana/Latino Studies. Xochitl’s time at LMU fostered her belief in the resilience and power of historically marginalized communities and hopes to be a part of the momentum to shift from community survival to the deserved opportunity to thrive.
Xochitl believes in a radical kindness that nurtures an environment for young people to grow into their abilities, passions, and truth. She has worked with the youth of Boyle Heights for the last three years providing mentorship and academic support as an AmeriCorps Member with City Year and as a College Access Coach.
Xochitl is incredibly excited to continue the important work of uplifting the youth and being witness to their transformation into their most empowered selves!
Zinnia Moreno received her BA in International Development Studies with an African American Studies minor in 2016 from UCLA after proudly transferring from West Los Angeles Community College.
A former high school dropout, Zinnia recognizes the importance of providing youth with the support needed to thrive against the odds. She is also an accomplished artist who has facilitated trauma informed art programming in LA County juvenile detention centers and schools. In her free time, she can be found gardening, writing, and creating.
Alan Arce graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health Education and a minor in Applied Nutrition. Alan has worked with Antelope Valley Partners for Health (AVPH) a non-profit, in many different areas ranging from project coordination, project management, grant writing, community collaboration, coalition development, and program development. Alan has provided oversight to a Youth Services Department that helps youth in the Antelope Valley (A.V.) community grow by providing education, resources and creating a safe place. Alan dedicated 3 years to facilitating after school programs, assisting first generation youth, supporting individuals affected by violence and trauma and aiding schools in the San Fernando Valley. Alan has a great passion working with youth as he mentions that youth are among the most engaging and most intriguing audiences you can work with. They have the same rights to culture as adults, but their circumstances create challenges that can only be met with determination, creativity and integrity. He thinks it is the challenge that makes working with and for children and youth incredibly rewarding. Alan's goal is to be able to provide adequate programs to youth and to be able to support their needs. When not working, Alan enjoys going on hikes, enjoying nature, camping, and planning for the next adventure with his family.
Lora Cofield graduated from California State University, Bakersfield with a BA in History. While attending Cal State Bakersfield, Lora began working in group homes that serviced a range of at risk/high risk and foster youth. Working with this population resulted in Lora pursuing and completing a MA from Pacific Oaks College: School of Cultural & Family Psychology in Marriage & Family Therapy with an emphasis on African American Family Studies.
Lora began providing therapy to children and families throughout the greater Los Angeles area and became committed to providing culturally relevant and sensitive community-based clinical services. As a LMFT, Lora’s clinical lens has been shaped to recognize that parent and/or family engagement is one of the most effective tools in promoting growth and progress in children.
Lora is passionate about supporting families in maintaining functional family structure in order to keep families together and thriving. As a mother of two, Lora is of the firm belief that it truly does “take a village to raise a child” and thus Lora is dedicated to supporting families in building and maintaining their village to support positive family outcomes.
Angel Garcia spent the majority of his life being raised in the Antelope Valley. The years spent living there encouraged him to help the same community that helped raise him. In 2015, he earned his AS in Administration of Justice from Antelope Valley College and followed up with his BS in Criminal Justice from Cal State Dominguez Hills. He brings 10 years of experience in youth development, spanning from youth sports coaching, YMCA youth camp counseling and most recently as the former Teen Director for the Antelope Valley Boys and Girls Club.
Angel has dedicated his time to give back to his community whenever possible. When he heard of Friends LA’s mission and that there was an opportunity coming to the Antelope Valley, he knew he had to be a part of it. He has been wanting to give mentoring opportunities to youth who need it most.
Angel now looks to continue his efforts in mentoring youth from his hometown to give them the best possible outcomes to succeed. He’s looking forward to identifying these opportunities by connecting with caregivers, community partners, schools, and other resources so that the youth feel empowered and motivated. His goal is to provide something to youth that he felt was missing while he grew up here.
Ashakia Morgan helps support and empower youth by creating a safe space for youth to grow and find the spark from within. Ashakia strongly believes that children are the future and hold great potential inside of them that must be unlocked, engaged and supported. She has passion to work with children that need more support in reaching their goals.
By establishing a strong, long-term friendship with a child facing everyday hardship, Ashakia wishes to help children find their light and enjoy the positive things while on their journey to adult hood. With being the oldest sibling in her family and having one sibling diagnose with sever cerebral palsy, Ashakia would often speak for her, comfort her, accompany and interact in her physical therapy and schooling. Here, Ashakia knew she wanted to help all children who may struggle to find their voices and reach for their dreams with a consistent, positive person along the way.
Ashakia has worked with children of different ages and backgrounds by working in the field as a Behavior Therapist and volunteering at after school programs with Casa Pacifica, tutoring part-time and previously working with those suffering at the hands of substance abuse. Ashakia holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University of Channel Islands and a Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration. Now, Ashakia plans on continuing her work here at Friends of the Children to advocate for children and see them reach their future goals.
James Clark understands why mentoring and early intervention for high-risk individuals are essential through his lived experience growing up in Los Angeles, and having a mentor spend time with him as a young boy. He has a passion for helping children strive to be their best by instilling self-esteem, self-awareness, and academic success by providing a consistent support system for children and their families.
James brings many years of professional experience to the team, having previously worked with individuals and families who struggle with addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, and mental health issues. James understands community resources in the Antelope Valley, which he believes will is beneficial for the families he will be working with at Friends of the Children.
James has a bachelor's degree in Human Services, with a concentration focused on Child and Family Services from the University of Phoenix. He also has certifications in Domestic Violence, Substance abuse counseling, and Seeking Safety for trauma and substance-related barriers.
Joaquin Canizales earned his Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Science at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2017. He found a special interest in psychological and behavioral research during his experience as a research assistant at the University of Southern California (USC) and UC Santa Cruz (UCSC), in the Mental Health Lab and Psycholinguistic Lab respectively.
Upon returning to the Antelope Valley (AV) and realizing his passion to work with the youth population, he became a behavioral therapist working with individuals who have varying learning and mental disabilities before moving on to become a case manager for youth.
Now, as a Professional Mentor/Friend for youth facing the most obstacles, Joaquin aims to help them achieve their dreams and become leaders in their communities. He provides one-on-one mentoring services, resources, and constant support for the youth and the families he works with.
As an Antelope Valley native, he realized his purpose was to give back to the community that gave him the opportunity to grow as an individual. His goal is to be an advocate for youth mental and physical wellbeing and to one day have a lifelong positive impact on a youth in the AV.
Kimberly Garner believes that it is a child’s right to be a child. However, she also shares the belief that every child should be entitled to a nurturing, supportive adult that will be a role model throughout their development. Kimberly maintains that children are the future and recognizes that children need stability, consistency, and support to reach their greatest potential and beyond.
Kimberly has served underprivileged children and their families within the Antelope Valley and San Fernando Valley areas through various settings in her previous works as a case manager, a Head Start educator, and in her role working for the City of Lancaster’s Children’s Academic and Recreation Enrichment Success Program (CARES) that served children within the Antelope Valley.
Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Science Child and Adolescent Development from California State University Northridge. She also has her adult/pediatric AED/CPR certification. It is Kimberly’s hope and aspiration that through her work with Friends LA in Antelope Valley, she will guide children to empower and seek their fullest potential.
Kimberly Pichinte is from Palmdale, CA and graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Administration. While in college she volunteered as a peer health educator and provided health education to under-resourced public schools across the San Fernando Valley. Due to this experience, she found her passion for health education and community wellness and is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Community Health Education.
Kimberly is passionate about building healthy and stronger communities and is thrilled to be a part of Friends LA as it is an opportunity to continue advocating for health equity and improve health outcomes among children and families. In her free time, Kimberly enjoys spending time with her family and loves going to the beach.
Max Frausto brings 10 years' worth of experience in the field of social services to the Friends LA team! He has a passion for working with youth. For the past five years, he worked as a substance abuse counselor for youth ages 14 through 17. Through this work, Max realized the challenges youth had internalizing healthy strategies for managing negative situations. He found that by age 14, youth had many years of negative exposure which created barriers to change.
Max joined Friends LA because of our long-term mentorship model. He is looking forward to working with his youth to help them identify and foster their strengths -- thus increasing resilience and their ability to navigate life stressors. Max is excited about collaborating with caretakers and brainstorming strategies that will help improve the family unit and increase access to services. His goal is to be an advocate for youth and improve the way communities view mental health needs!
Previously, Max attended Antelope Valley College where he earned two AA degrees in Liberal Arts and Sciences: Arts and Humanities and Liberal Arts and Sciences: Social/Behavioral Sciences, respectively. Currently, he is a student at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) seeking a Bachelors in Psychology. In the future Max plans to become a California Board of Behavioral Sciences licensed Marriage Family Therapist (MFT).