Youth In Mind

Inspiring youth engagement and leadership development within mental health systems

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The Story Of Youth In Mind–Inspiring Youth Leadership and Advocacy
Empowered Youth Change The World

Youth In Mind comes from a unique perspective as it is the only statewide, constituent-ran, non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of young people affected by mental health through education, advocacy and collaboration. Youth In Mind’s inception was out of the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY) Conference, where United Advocates for Children and Families (UACF) and CMHACY noticed more and more young people attending their conference. CMHACY, the largest mental health conference for over 30 years in California, collaborated with UACF, and funded a small conference where YOUTH Training Project (YTP) Director, Jamie Lee Evans, MSW took on supporting youth to organize.

In 2004, young people affected by mental health organized the first Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) at the CMHACY Conference. This was CMHACY’s first dedicated space for young people in over 30 years, igniting a fire. Out of these initial meetings, YLA attendees envisioned a nonprofit ran by young mental health constituents making positive change in the community, and within the Mental Health System. Since inception, Youth In Mind has conducted 15 leadership conferences, developed and delivered numerous workshops and educational forums, and continues to support our members in mobilizing and changing the lives of youth and young adults impacted by mental health throughout California.

With much appreciated help from the Zellerback Family Foundation, Youth In Mind has held two annual leadership institutes and transitioned into a nonprofit October, 2010.

Youth In Mind specializes in popular and experiential education. Our annual youth leadership conferences engage members in civic leadership in order to do grassroots organizing and systems-change work. We develop and deliver curricula to providers, youth, families and educators. Recently, Youth In Mind piloted Mad Organizers, a civic education course incorporating education, organizing and art.

There are four active Locals in Orange, Alameda, Sacramento and Humboldt Counties. Currently, Youth In Mind is accepting applications for an intergenerational, member driven Steering Committee which will take on our conference planning, spread the local model and develop stronger volunteer support.

Youth In Mind has high hopes of alliance building and transforming the mental health system. Please stayed tuned, and reach out if you’re interested in having Youth In Mind come to your local region.

Susan Manzi, President

Susan Manzi is an award winning advocate, community educator and organizer. She speaks to the injustices of vulnerable families and young people within Systems of Care, and dreams of a day where neighborhoods can share resources, restore justice, and speak peace to one another–keeping folks out of Systems, and thriving in communities. Her lived experiences as queer, a third generation foster care survivor, and a psychiatric *thriver* have empowered her to develop and deliver models and policy for systems-change in Mental Health and Child Welfare. Much of her training and advocacy career started in Humboldt County, where Ms. Manzi was an active part of Prop 63, co-founding the California Youth Connection Chapter and Humboldt County Transition Age Youth Collaboration (HCTAYC). In addition to her activism in Northern California, Ms. Manzi’s worked on National work groups to address critical issues of disproportionality, disparity and permanency within the Child Welfare System. Recently attending the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Ms. Manzi was a Fellow with the New Organizing Institue and studied under Professor Marshall Ganz, grappling with the struggle to have frontline communities uphold psychosocial wellness as a core value when doing social justice and liberation work. As an artist, Ms. Manzi strives to bring holistic healing and the creative arts into her political work. She currently lives in the Bay Area where she attends school and works as a freelance consultant. A founding member of Youth In Mind, Ms. Manzi envisions the day when the original leadership team can look back, and see the ripples of resistance within the mental health community, and the power that young people with a vision have.

*Awarded Advocate of the Year by the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth, May 2011


Rochelle Trochtenberg, Secretary

Rochelle Trochtenberg, Youth In Mind Board Secretary, is a former foster youth from Los Angeles County who grew up in group homes for youth labeled as severely emotionally disturbed.Rochelle graduated Magna Cum Laude with Bachelor in Social Work in 2009 and was named Student of the Year at Humboldt State University.Rochelle is committed to working with youth to advocate for systems of care that are youth driven.Recently awarded the Unsung Hero,Rochelle is currently the Lead Youth Organizer for the Humboldt County Transition Age Youth Collaboration where she works with youth impacted by foster care, mental health, or homelessness to bring youth input and engagement to improve county systems and service delivery. Rochelle is dedicated to helping and inspiring other youth to change the system and prepare for emancipation, higher education, and life after the system.


Leslie Brown, Treasurer

Leslie Brown, believes in the power and voice of young people. She has worked with various populations of youth over the past 12 years assisting them to develop programs and supports that empower. Leslie is an Associate Project Director at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. She provides project management, research, evaluation and design support for a variety of CompassPoint’s leadership and consulting projects, including the Leadership Development Program for Executives Serving Transition-Age Youth, the Fundraising Academy for Communities of Color, the Leadership Development Program for Next Generation Leaders of Color g programs that empower underserved and underrepresented populations. Prior to her work at CompassPoint Leslie authored HEY’s Guide: Youth Empowerment, which was designed to provide step-by-step instructions on how to enhance organizational infrastructure to promote youth leadership. Prior to working at HEY(Honoring Emancipated Foster Youth) she was the Associate Director of Ozone House, the nation’s second oldest homeless youth shelter. Leslie brings a strength based approach to her work and strives to create systems, supports and strategies that empower individuals and communities.


Haydee Cuza, EdD, Member

I became involved in Youth In Mind because the very name of the organization represents what I know makes a difference in individual and collective lives. Making youth a priority and keeping their healing journey as the main objective in policy and day to day life matters! I have been a recipient of mental health services on and off since I was fourteen years old. I am still learning how to stand up for myself and my desires and my beliefs but it is because of quality mental health services through a therapist and group work that I have been able to learn how to move to positions of leadership and strong self-worth. I now love myself and know that I matter in the world. It is not only through traditional mental health services that my life has improved but through healthy, loving, meaningful friendships and relationships that have brought me closer to my authentic self. Organizations that give youth a voice and a chance to build quality relationships matter! I don’t know if I will ever be without the effects of the traumas I have experienced but I am aware of myself. I am open to love, mostly open to loving myself because I matter. I have a strong relationship with my daughter and respect her as an individual who was affected by my depression and healing process but who has her own life now. I can be there for her but I do not need to control her. That is growth. That is me loving her as a mother who has an adult child. I know she matters!


Gregory Manning, PhD, Member

Dr. Greg Manning holds a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis in health psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Manning is a licensed clinical psychologist in state of California. He consults and trains professionals of multiple specialties and lay persons regarding their work with children and families both in the community and within the foster care system. Dr. Manning is a faculty member at the University of Phoenix in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.Dr. Manning has extensive experience working in Government and Non-Profit mental health agencies. Dr. Manning has served as an individual, family and group therapist, group home therapist and manager, clinical supervisor and psychiatric disability insurance case manager. Dr. Manning also has experience in the area of developing and implementing innovative and community mental health programs.


Kate Teague, Member

Kate Teague, is involved with Youth In Mind because she thinks that youth should be advocates for themselves and others, that their expertise should be valued, that treatment should help youth, not hurt, and that empowered youth will address stigma.Apart from working with Youth In Mind, Kate professionally works for California Youth Connection as the Bay Area/Central Valley Outreach Coordinator.California Youth Connection is a foster care advocacy organization guided and focused by current and former foster youth that works to involve foster youth in child welfare policy and improving social work practice.In general, Kate believes that empowered youth change the world!


Angel-Lee Woolsey, Member

Angel-Lee Starr Woolsey, 25, was once labeled as a former foster youth, mental health consumer, indigent, drop-out, defiant, at-risk, and often told she failed to attach. This changed when she learned to become an advocate not only for herself but also for others. Angel began her journey as an advocate in 2002 as a peer educator at a local LGBTQ youth drop-in Center in Orange County. Later became involved with the Orangewood Children’s Foundation as a Peer Mentor, joined the Orange County chapter of California Youth Connection and became chair, and began working in the field of social services before her college graduation! Angel’s experience working in a probation placement and seeing how severe depression and other mental illness created barriers for youth inspired a desire to learn more about mental health. In 2006 she obtained a position in a mental health FSP where she continued to work on various advocacy projects and also joined the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project where she gained experience with curriculum development and became a professional trainer.
At the age of 22 Angel experienced an unexpected manic episode and was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. Unable to cope Angel lost employment, housing, relationships, and dropped out of college unable to complete her finals on her last semester senior year. Angel struggled to navigate the adult mental health system in Orange County, first dealing with stigma from friends and family and then dealing with her own internalized stigma.
Angel became involved with Youth In Mind and quickly developed strong support networks with peers, community members and organizations. Angel was able to thrive and quickly got on the road of recovery.After almost one year of struggles, she gained employment as a mental health service provider where she was able to learn skills to maintain employment regardless of her new mental health diagnosis and the dreaded side effects of mood stabilizers. Angel is currently a case manager for a transitional aged youth FSP (Full Service Partnership) in Orange County and collaborates with other county non-profits taking various leadership and advocacy roles.
Angel is glad to now use her own labels and sees herself as a successful former foster youth, advocate, paraprofessional, college graduate, leader, and strongly believes that with education and empowerment youth have the ability to change the world.


Captain Young, Member

Captain Young is an activist for social justice change. Identifying as both a professional and a consumer of system services has led Captain to make a life long commitment to reform and eradicating bad practice in these system. Captain advocates to address poverty, LGBTQ Rights, Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, and Youth rights. Captain Young stresses the importance of wellness sustainability teaching to youth and young professionals and to speak out brazenly about structural racism and the disproportionality and disparites in our nation.


Lynette Cox
Darryn Green
Jude Koski, MBA
Kelsey Mac
Anna Lisa Pagarigan, MBA

Torhon Barnes, MSW Member

Torhon Barnes is one of the Youth in Mind’s original steering committee members. Although not directly impacted by the mental health system, Torhon feels that he was not given the appropriate mental health services as a former ward of the state. He has also seen how the system has been detrimental to many family members and friends who are consumers and is advocating for youth voice and representation in respect to their mental health and treatment. When Torhon is not volunteering his time to work and advocate with YIM members, Torhon works with current and emancipated foster youth at Orangewood Children’s Foundation, is a Freedom Writer Teacher, and sits on the Blue Ribbon Commission and board of Wendy’s Kids. Torhon will also be entering his second year of graduate school at USC in Fall 2009 where he is pursuing his social work degree with an emphasis on working in school settings.


Denise Gil-Perez, MSW Treasurer

Denise Gil-Perez, Youth In Mind Board Treasurer, is passionate about working with youth who have mental health challenges and those that have been in foster care. She is originally from Miami, FL and graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work from Florida International University in May 2007. She is expected to receive her Master’s in Social Work with an emphasis in Social Action and Change from San Francisco State University in May 2009. She has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area with her spouse for the last two years, and has been an intern at Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project and California Youth Connection.


Matt Lord, Member

Matt Lord, is on the board of directors for Youth In Mind because he is frustrated by the lack of education, and wellness development in and around mental health services. Matt has devoted his life to finding ways to help everyone suffering from mental illness to have access to non-restricted solutions. A core part of Matt’s recovery has been the hope he gained through interacting with other youth who have experienced the same difficult and dynamic suffering as he, and alleviated it. Along with peer to peer services and the recovery model, Matt is an advocate for holistic practices- especially those that help bring people joy, empowerment, and into the present moment e.g. exercise, meditation/mindfulness, appreciation, yoga, and quantum physics. Matt is currently employed at Daniel’s Place, a Transition Age Youth Center and also sits on the board of the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth, The Painted Brain, and the steering committee of the CA Youth Empowerment Program.


Victoria Schraeder, MSW Member

Victoria Schraeder, MSW is on the board of directors for Youth In Mind. In her youth Victoria had both first and second hand knowledge of the mental health systems successes and failures. Since that time Victoria has been working or involved in both the mental health and the foster care systems. She has been employed with a group home, a law office for the dependency courts, and has founded a Youth Empowerment Camp for foster youth. Victoria is also passionate about suicide prevention and interned at San Francisco Suicide Prevention her second year in the San Francisco State University School of Social Work. She graduated with her MSW in May 2009.


Alexxa Goodenough
Molly Schulze
Ariel Souza
George Del Rio
Danielle Thompson

Nicole Demedenko Lehman, MSW, Former Executive Director

Nicole Demedenko Lehman, 27, is a former Orange County Foster Youth who grew up in kinship care with her four younger siblings under her grandmother’s care.Nicole began a career in advocacy at age 20 with the California Youth Connection, advocating for legislative change for foster youth, and the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project, training social workers and community members to work with transition aged foster youth.After being accepted into the Guardian Scholar’s Scholarship for former foster youth, Nicole became a Peer Mentor with the Orangewood Children’s Foundation and eventually the coordinator for the project.Once working as a professional in the field, Nicole began to work in the field of youth mental health advocacy as co-founder of Youth in Mind in 2006, was the first elected Steering Committee President, and is now the Executive Director.In 2009 Nicole graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California with a concentration in Community Organizing, Planning and Administration.In addition to her executive functions at Youth in Mind, Nicole is also currently she is the Education Director at the Recovery Education Institute of Orange County.


Jamie Lee Evans, MSW, Consultant

Jamie Lee Evans is a co-founder of Youth In Mind and a strong believer that with empowerment, education and support, all youth make powerful and important contributions to the well being of all society. In addition to Youth In Mind, Jamie has been involved in the start up of several cutting edge positive youth development programs including the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project and the Humboldt County Transition Age Youth Collaboration.Jamie’s work style is collaborative and she incorporates the concept of Big Love into all that she does.Originally from Los Angeles, Jamie is a former foster youth, a mental health consumer and a professional consultant to non profit organizations. She lives in Oakland, California, and when she is not working with fantastic young people she is studying and practicing the art of Muay Thai (kickboxing), riding her bike and thinking about expansive wellness for all.



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