Thomas Lee serves as the Executive Director of the Friends of the Children—Los Angeles (Friends L.A.). Friends L.A. is a part of a national nonprofit based in Portland, OR with the mission of breaking the cycle of generational poverty and systems involvement by giving vulnerable children within the child welfare system the ability to create a new story. Friends L.A. provides children impacted by the foster care system with a long-term, salaried, professional mentor, from kindergarten through graduation, no matter what.
Prior to joining Friends L.A., Lee led the Alliance for Children’s Rights’ L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative which works with community partners to create a launching pad for foster youth to overcome barriers to success. Lee also spent more than a decade building strategic partnerships, advocating for and serving foster and probation youth. As the division director for transition-age foster youth at Hillsides Youth Moving On, his team built a comprehensive support system that included a multi-dimensional housing program, mental health services, a drop-in center, and a workforce development program with post- secondary education supports.
An educator at his core, Lee taught high school English and world literature at San Gabriel High School and King Drew Magnet High School in Watts, Calif. for five years. He majored in English at Cal State University of Los Angeles, and he holds a M.Ed. from National University. A husband and father of three, both Lee and his wife Noemi, a therapist, have dedicated their careers to empowering youth to reach their full potential.
Jorie is a certified youth development specialist and a former interim-executive director with over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. Jorie started her career working directly with youth, running social service and civic engagement programs. She has expertise in people management and development, and is seasoned in program design, strategic planning, and arts-for-social-change projects. Jorie loves building and improving systems and is deeply committed to the power of data and evaluation to enhance program outcomes and generate external support.
As Chief of Staff, Jorie provides overall strategic and operational leadership for Friends LA staff, and supports the codification and development of systems to support the organization's expansion efforts, and execution of its mission.
Jorie holds a BA in both 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.
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 including St. Anne’s, LA County Department of Children & Family Services, and Olive Crest. Right before joining Friends of the Children, 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, financial literacy, and healthy living.
Recognizing the racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare, Tyana is extremely dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse and passionate about providing impactful supportive services to underserved children and families with a strong emphasis on equity. In her free time, Tyana enjoys traveling, spending quality time with her fiancé, friends, and family and working on her passion project, Soul Asana, a community group that focuses on encouraging people of color to take intentional time to care of their whole selves by creating inspiring social wellness events.
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 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.
Delani 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.
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.
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 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).
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.