Fedora Galasso, MPAff, MSSW, Chief Executive Officer (She/Her)
Fedora Galasso is the Executive Director of the Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS) where she leads the organization in strengthening services for Texas youth and young adults. Prior to joining TNOYS she was the Southern Regional Director for Young Invincibles, a national, nonpartisan policy research and advocacy organization committed to amplifying the voices of young adults and expanding their economic opportunity.
Fedora has extensive state government experience. At the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, she managed several innovative statewide programs that fostered public and private partnerships to expand access to health, education and economic supports for Texans. At the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Fedora worked as a senior policy analyst and Child Protective Services investigator and legal liaison. In these roles she identified and disseminated evidence-based best practices, program models, and policies to improve the child welfare system.
Fedora graduated with dual master’s degrees in Public Affairs and Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin where she specialized in social and economic policy with a focus on innovative child and family social policy and programs. During this time she worked at Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Texas Council on Family Violence, researching, implementing, and evaluating family economic security programs. She received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University – Commerce.
Fedora was born and raised in Guyana, South America, and has lived in Texas for the past twenty years. In her spare time, Fedora enjoys teaching and practicing yoga, swimming at Austin swimming holes and parks, and eating breakfast tacos.
Michael Grisham, Chief Operating Officer (He/Him)
Michael Grisham joined TNOYS in April 2022 to oversee operations and help ensure TNOYS is optimally positioned to achieve and exceed its policy, practice, and partnership goals. Michael is a public service leader with over 12 years of experience working in the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). During his time at HHSC, Michael led agency-wide initiatives and provided consultancy aimed at achieving efficiencies and improving organizational operations. He also led departments, programs, and projects focused on connecting Texans in need to social services, including the HHSC Community Partner Program (CPP), the 2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Network (TIRN), the SNAP Education program, and the Presumptive Eligibility program. Throughout his work, Michael endeavors to channel his experience, skills, and passion for public service towards effectively serving populations in need. Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Administration from Texas State University.
Natalie Ferguson, Operations Manager (She/Her)
Natalie Ferguson is the Operations Manager at TNOYS joining in early 2021. She graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelors in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. Since moving to San Marcos, TX, Natalie has been very involved in her community. In the city, she volunteers with scholarship organizations as well as mentoring new students at Texas State University. Natalie worked with Young Invincibles TX to further their youth programming and facilitate discussions around healthcare and higher education advocacy. She is extremely passionate about uplifting the voices of young people in the political process. Natalie is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration.
Lauren Dimitry, MPAff, Grants Director (She/Her)
Lauren Dimitry joined TNOYS in August 2020 to support the grant and contract needs of the organization. Lauren is a government relations professional with multifaceted experience in policy, stakeholder engagement and communications. Lauren has worked in and around government and nonprofits her entire career. Most recently, she oversaw a multimillion dollar federal grant program and large-scale process improvement projects in different roles at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In her work, Lauren strives to address systemic challenges and influence others to move toward strategic, mission-focused goals. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Government and received her Master’s of Public Affairs from UT Austin’s Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Lauren Rose, MPAff, Director of Public Policy (She/Her)
Lauren Rose joined TNOYS in January 2019. She has worked both inside and outside of the Texas Capitol. The 86th Texas Legislative Session was her 7th legislative session – with the bulk of those years focused on policy change to improve the lives of Texas children and support at-risk and system-involved youth. Lauren worked at Texans Care for Children for 8 years and has been volunteering as a mentor through the Seedling Foundation for 6 years. Lauren received her master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Government all from the University of Texas at Austin.
Theo Adams-Hernandez, MPAff, Policy and Research Manager (They/Them)
Theo Adams-Hernandez is the Policy and Research Manager at TNOYS and joined in April 2022. Theo is a proud Latinx trans person from the border who received their master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin, and two bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Dance from UT El Paso. Their experience includes working in gender equity and inclusion, international development, disaster response, COVID vaccine program coordination, the juvenile justice system, and reentry program building for adults in Travis County. They’re incredibly passionate about making a difference, advocating for justice, and are excited to learn and grow more in their role here at TNOYS. In their free time, Theo enjoys sailing with their partner, and exploring the world with him and their two dogs.
Ann-Charlotte Proffitt, MPAff, Director of Practice (She/ Her)
Ann-Charlotte joined TNOYS in January 2019 to contribute to, and eventually lead, TNOYS’ practice strategy. In this role, Ann-Charlotte develops and oversees strategies to provide training, technical assistance, and capacity-building support to youth-serving organizations across the state. Major practice initiatives include conferences, emergency preparedness and response, and building Texas’ capacity to prevent and address commercial sexual exploitation of youth. Prior to this role, Ann-Charlotte worked for the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin on evaluations of state-funded initiatives. She has also worked with foundations to manage grants and develop investment strategies, as well as nonprofit organizations to conduct financial research, write grant applications, and support fundraising. Ann-Charlotte received her master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and her bachelor’s degree in Plan II Honors and French, all from the University of Texas at Austin.
Sedoo Ijir, MPH, Program Manager (She/ Her)
Sedoo Ijir (pronounced “Se-Doe”, rhymes with “Meadow”) is passionate about creating effective programs and resources to meet the health and well-being needs of youth and marginalized communities. Before joining TNOYS, Sedoo was an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the University of Houston-Downtown’s (UHD) Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. As part of UHD’s hub for community engagement, she recruited and collaborated with staff, students, faculty, and community organizations to support high-impact learning practices while also conducting effective community engagement projects. Sedoo provided technical assistance to over 20 projects and, through her community relationships, connected them to the people and resources they needed to thrive. Sedoo also has experience working with immigrant and refugee youth at Football United, as well as identifying the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals and developing trainings for service providers with the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago. Sedoo earned her master’s in public health at Northwestern University and her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience with a minor in Global Health also from Northwestern.
Alexander Polk, Program Coordinator (He/They)
Alex Polk is driven by using his skills and lived experience to help young people overcome challenges and adversity. At TNOYS, Alex develops and presents training content on youth issues, supports program development for member organizations and external stakeholders, and supports the coordination of conferences and other training events. Alex started with TNOYS as a member of TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council in 2017 and has presented numerous times at various conferences and on training webinars, particularly on youth homelessness, CSEY, and LGBTQ issues. As a transgender rights advocate, Alex prides himself on his ongoing efforts towards equity, inclusion, education, self-care, and empowerment.
Tiona Moore, MSW, Director of Partnerships (She/Her)
Tiona Moore has close to a decade of non-profit leadership experience in areas such as: Program Development/Non-Profit Management, Infant and Maternal Child Health/Development, Special Needs, and much more. Her experience ranges from urban to suburban areas on the east coast, specifically in NJ/MD. More recently, in her role as the Director of National Programs, she worked to develop and implement programs for a national autism organization. Her experience has been spread across both the private and public sector managing programs. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Monmouth University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Rutgers University. Tiona is a New Jersey native, born and raised! She recently moved to Texas with her husband, a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant, and her son. Tiona enjoys traveling and family time during her free time.
Jermaine Neblett, Engagement Manager (He/Him)
Jermaine Neblett is a nonprofit leadership professional with experience in the arts, social services and youth services sectors. He received degrees from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, TX; as well as The New School in New York City. Previously, he served the Houston community by leading his team to provide the best possible disaster response and volunteer experience to over 84,000 volunteers and pushed 100,000,000 pounds of food to the Greater Houston Area providing vital nourishment to those in need. In addition, Jermaine managed the Salvation Army Greater Houston’s Young Adult Resource Center, where he became a Trauma-Informed Care advocate by providing a plethora of direct services to young adults ages 16-25 experiencing homelessness and other barriers.
Neblett moved to Houston in 2015 after managing a nationwide arts and writing program in NYC. In his free time, he is a multidisciplinary artist working in poetry, photography, and conceptual art; he has work published in literary publications including Obsidian: Literature & Art in the African Diaspora. He is working on projects that uncover the subtleties of masculinity, perceived welcomeness, and the push and the pull of intra-community discrimination. He lives in North Houston with his husband, Cory; and their fur babies, Barack and Andrew.
Kennedy Huerta Quintanilla, Partnerships Coordinator (She/Her)
Kennedy Huerta Quintanilla is a Native Texan born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was here that she first built out her passion for helping youth in the justice system, by getting involved with CASA of the Coastal Bend and Nueces County Court at Law #5. She is a recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Science in Political Communication. She has built out her young career in the nonprofit space and gained nonprofit management experience from her two and a half years at Young Invincibles, a policy advocacy group aimed at expanding economic opportunities for young adults. She also gained public affairs, organizing, and legislative experience as a Bridges Fellow for Texas American Federation of Teachers, a statewide education union with over 66,000 members. She is very excited to bring the skills from her previous roles into the Partnerships Coordinator position so that she can better advocate for marginalized youth in Texas.
Brenda Woolley, AmeriCorps Member, Youth Support Specialist (She/Her)
Brenda Woolley is originally from Haiti, but currently resides in Dallas, Texas. She is currently in pursuit of her Master’s in Public Administration, with a focus in Nonprofit Management. Being from a third-world country, Brenda has witnessed the struggle of living in a world of limited resources and has experienced the impact of social and economic injustice. Brenda joined the Young Adult Leadership Council in hopes of learning and advocating for those in need of assistance-mentally or physically. Since then, Brenda has completed her time with YALC and recently joined as one of the new AmeriCorps members. Brenda joined with the intent to make a difference and learn more about how and why things are done a certain way. Brenda hopes to continue to be a part of the change, and process.
Mary Bergeron, Director of Communications (She/Her)
Mary Bergeron has worked with TNOYS since November 2019 and came on as TNOYS’ Director of Communications in April 2020. She has over a decade of experience in marketing, communications, and product management, having worked in both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Prior to joining TNOYS, Mary led marketing and product management at an education technology startup, where she helped to drive year-over-year growth, increase social impact, and position the company for a successful acquisition. Mary has worked with a range of mission-driven organizations, and she is excited to work with TNOYS to further important projects that impact youth and young adults.
Tessa Ammons, Outreach Manager (She/Her)
Tessa Ammons Ammons joined TNOYS in July 2021 as the Outreach Manager. She is passionate about using her lived experiences to guide her work in managing the TNOYS membership program, events, and data. Before joining TNOYS, Tessa received degrees in Biology and Social Science with a focus on Leadership in Criminal Justice. Her professional experience includes work in the juvenile justice system and as a Career Technical Education curriculum developer and educator in the state of Oregon. Tessa loves spending time with her husband and daughter and is excited to continue work to positively impact youth in the community.
Alexander Pryor, Communications Consultant (He/Him)
Alexander Pryor joined TNOYS in August 2020 to support the communications and marketing needs of the organization. His bread & butter is in graphic design, however, through his mosaic of experiences, Alex is well versed in other areas such as social media content and video editing. His full-time experience has primarily been through digital communications roles in the non-profit industry but has a history of supporting start-ups and small businesses as well. Alex was born in Washington, D.C. and received his bachelor’s degree in American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Meet The Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC)
Betty Bajika, YALC Member (She/Her)
Betty has extensive experience in leadership and in counseling and guiding youths. Previously, she served as a PAL leader at her high school. In this role, she assisted students by guiding them and counseling them. She also assisted them with anything else that they might need help with (not just school-related work). Betty also has experience in sales associates from working at Stein Mart, and experience as a waitress from working at Sonic fast food.
Betty has been involved in the National Honor Society in her high school where she did most of her hours by babysitting for free, either in church or at the house of the parents who needed a babysitter. She also volunteered her hours to teachers that needed it. There, she graded papers, helped tutor kids or even fellow classmates who needed it.
Betty was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but moved to Arlington when she was nine years old. Betty is currently in college, working on her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of West Texas A&M.
Cameren Collins, YALC Member (She/Her)
Cameren is currently staying in Houston, TX. Cameren has dealt with a lot of intense experiences while being in the system and she is here to help change the system by being an active leader in the LGBT 🏳️🌈 community and also being a leader in the YALC .
Elizabeth Madrigal, YALC Member (She/Her)
Elizabeth Medina Madrigal is currently a student at Texas State University majoring in Sociology with double minors in Peace and Social Justice Studies and Latina/o/x Studies. She is excited to be a member of the YALC to improve the lives of underrepresented youth through the work of advocacy and policy. Social justice causes such as reforming the foster care system as well as juvenile justice reform inspire her to combat socioeconomic barriers these underrepresented youth face in society.
Gabriel Marquez, YALC Member (He/Him)
Gabriel Marquez is 18 years old and attends the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is also a walk-on for the football program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. At UTSA he studies Kinesiology. Gabriel has experienced several injuries while playing high school football, and this experience was the reason he fell in love with Kinesiology, which was a very big eye-opener and a motivator. In his free time he loves to work out, spend time with friends and family, and be outdoors and do sports. He is also a former sports trainer, enjoys digital animation and arts, and is a foster-care advocate.
Grace Goetz, YALC Member (They/Them)
Grace Goetz is a part-time college student working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Software Development at Austin Community College, as well as a full-time parent to their three-year-old son. Grace joined the YALC to strengthen their advocacy skills and to learn more about the seven systems in Texas that TNOYS works with. They are excited to be a part of the important work that TNOYS does and to have opportunities for their voice to be heard.
Helaina Hackett, YALC Member (She/Her)
Helaina Hackett is 19 years old and super excited to be a part of the YALC! She is originally from Austin, Texas, but has lived in many different states including New Mexico, Oregon and New York. Helaina entered the foster care system around age 13. Before entering the system, she experienced youth homelessness. During her time in care, she went through different shelters and homes until she reunited with her siblings and lived with her aunt. After aging out of care, she went to New York for a year and persevered through many trials such as domestic violence and homelessness. Helaina is currently residing at an SIL in Houston and is doing so much better!
Helaina has always had a passion for being a motivational speaker and has been very involved with advocacy during her time in the system. In 2020, she won the Foster Angel’s Central Texas Resilience Award. She also has attended many TNOYS conferences and has actually spoken in a few panels. Her dream is to be on a TED Talk!
I’munique Liggens, YALC Member (She/Her)
I’munique is a role model for the youth in the justice system and Child Protection Services. Yet, she didn’t let the trials and tribulations devote herself to working on her Bachelor’s degree in Social Worker for now.Her strong passion for advocating for youth in the justice system led her to be a part of TNOYS’ The Young Adult Leadership Council.
Montoya Thomas, YALC Member (She/Her)
Montoya entered foster care at age 5 due to a history of abuse, and she lived in 12 foster homes and 2 residential treatment centers. Montoya participated and advocated with TNOYS’ P.E.A.K.S camp, Teen Conference, Youth Leadership Council, Lone Star Conference, and Youth in Action at the State Capital. She also participated in the Houston Alumni Youth Center Fundraiser with Guest Speaker Simone Biles. Montoya completed the Cosmetology Program at Huntsville High School, and she studied Abroad in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai China during the summer of 2016. Montoya was previously an All-Star with FosterClub and she continues to advocate as a voice for youth. Montoya enjoys traveling, public speaking, and modeling. She has a very bubbly personality, is open-minded and loves trying new things. She enjoys outdoor activities and is invested in anything that promotes health and wellness.
Precious West, YALC Member (She/Her)
Precious West is a new member to the YALC, and she’s very happy to be on the team. She is hoping that one day she can make a difference in someone’s life. She believes that everyone deserves someone who can listen and understand what they’re going through.
Tatyana Carraway, YALC Member (She/Her)
Tatyana was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She’s a 20-year-old full-time freshman student at HCC, studying psychology. She has a passion for being the voice for those facing hardships because she has been through many herself. As a young woman and a single mother she feels the need to do anything she can to help prevent end, and fix issues such as youth homelessness, wrongdoing in the juvenile justice system, and the flaws in the childhood welfare system overall. She’s very excited to be a part of YALC and TNOYS, and can’t wait to make an impact.
Tiara Kirksey, YALC Member (She/Her)
Tiara is a young entrepreneur who has faced various hardships, yet she is passionate to give hope to those who need it and make the change she wishes she saw in her upbringing. She hopes that by joining the YALC she can use her voice and experiences to encourage others and make real change in the justice system.