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The LA Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) is building a community of organizations working in concert to ensure that every youth is served in a holistic way with a coherent array of complementary services. We are building and strengthening bridges among more than 50 public agencies, service organizations, educational institutions, and employers to better connect youth with education, jobs, and opportunity.
Building multi-sector partnerships to improve education and employment outcomes for transition age foster youth to thrive.
Transition age foster youth in Los Angeles County have the knowledge and skills to allow them to achieve economic mobility and flourish in their personal lives.
Building on the foundation of current initiatives, our Strategic Plan sets forth a course of action for the future of the OYC that is dynamic, innovative, and responsive to new opportunities. Utilizing the five strategic priorities below, we are working together to improve the systems designed to support TAY through a long-term and sustainable collective impact approach:
Lauri Collier is the director of the LA Opportunity Youth Collaborative. Lauri has over 20 years of experience working with vulnerable populations, and her expertise is working with child-welfare programs serving transition age youth. Previously, as vice-president of housing and operations at St. Anne’s, she worked in collaboration with DCFS Youth Development Services to bring the Transitional Housing Plus (THP+) funding stream into Los Angeles County in partnership with DCFS and licensed one of the first Transitional Housing Plus Foster Care (THP+FC) housing programs in Los Angeles County. She also served as the director of the Los Angeles Transition Age Youth Collaborative, which developed an evidence-based, trauma informed, work-force development curriculum in collaboration with Columbia University School of Social Work’s Workplace Center. She expanded the reach of work readiness curriculum by and partnering with over 15 community-based organizations, and the curriculum is currently being embedded into the public workforce system.
Melanie G. Ferrer-Vaughn (she/her) is a macro social worker who keeps the individuals and the community at the forefront. Melanie’s compass is driven by justice, equity and liberation. She uses an intersectional lens paired with a strength based and empowerment approach. Melanie believes in bringing your whole self into the room and values authenticity, humility, and intention. Prior to joining the Opportunity Youth Collaborative, she worked for Seneca Family of Agencies where she held an array of positions – as a therapist, supervisor, and director designing and overseeing programs such as a Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Prevention Program, Immigration Program, Juvenile Justice Assessment Program, Outpatient Clinic, and Wraparound Program. She is passionate about working with youth and families, and seeing healing take place on an individual level and helping systems transform. Melanie is originally from the Bay Area, but Los Angeles has been her second home for many years. She resides in Compton with her partner and son. Melanie received her Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California with an emphasis on community organization, planning and administration.
Melisa Urbina (she/her) serves as the Senior Project Coordinator for the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative. Melisa is a non-profit professional with 10 years of experience working with at-risk youth, with 5 of those focused on foster youth. She began her non-profit career at Orange County Human Relations (OCHR) in the city of Santa Ana. There, as a Human Relations Specialist, she successfully ran the BRIDGES Safe and Respectful Schools Program in five different school sites across Orange County. She began working within the Child Welfare system when she joined the Alliance for Children’s Rights in the Summer of 2017. Melisa is originally from the San Diego/Tijuana border area. and moved to Orange County to pursue her education. Melisa wanted to pursue a career as a college professor. However, the universe had other plans, as she fell in love with working with youth and seeing them thrive. Melisa holds a B.A. and M.A. in Spanish Literature and Linguistics from California State University, Fullerton.
Senior Project Coordinator
Brisia Gutierrez is currently the Systems Change Project Coordinator for the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative and is now Co-Chair of the DCFS Director’s Advisory Council. Brisia graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science, and a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Brisia is a former foster youth who is extremely passionate about uplifting the voices of foster youth and working with foster youth to shift power and leadership to those most affected by the system.
Building Ecosystems for Youth Opportunity (BEYO) Student Intern
Taneil Franklin is a former foster youth and is currently a Young Leader with the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative at the Alliance for Children Rights and the new OYC BEYO Student Intern. She is a sophomore at Los Angeles Trade Tech College majoring in Political Science with the hopes of becoming a lawyer. Taneil is passionate about advocating for former foster youth especially when it comes to having easy access to free or affordable mental health services.
UNITE-LA — Senior Director, Systems Change Strategy
As Senior Director for Systems Change Strategy at UNITE-LA, Carrie Lemmon leads the strategic advancement of the L.A. Compact partnership and facilitates the development of collaborative solutions to complex social challenges in the public sector. Carrie helped launch the OYC in 2013 and co-convenes the OYC Foster Youth at Work and Foster Youth College Promise campaigns. She is driven by a passion for not only public service, but also the power to transform systems and change the odds for youth who are deprived of equal opportunities to succeed in school, career and life. In her role with the L.A. Compact, Carrie is particularly focused on facilitating cross-sector engagement around issues related to community schools, transition-age foster youth, college enrollment, and youth workforce development. A native of L.A. County, Carrie holds a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College and a Master of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
John Burton Advocates for Youth — Senior Program Manager
Jessica currently serves as a Senior Project Manager at John Burton Advocates for Youth. In this role, Jessica leads the Foster Youth College Advancement Project, an initiative of the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative, that convenes a robust network of leaders in L.A. County to co-design systems improvements and collaborative strategies to increase postsecondary attainment for current and former foster youth in the region. Jessica also provides technical assistance and training to public agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Prior to her work at John Burton Advocates for Youth, Jessica spent nearly 15 years working with transition-age youth (TAY) in a direct service capacity, many of whom were current and former foster youth and youth experiencing homelessness. Jessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has experience providing therapeutic services, including crisis-management, to youth ages 5-21. Jessica has designed and managed a TAY drop-in center in Pasadena, California. She has earned her B.A. at the University of San Diego and her Master’s in Social Welfare with an emphasis in Organizations, Communities and Policy Settings from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
We appreciate our generous partners who make this work possible. Our deepest gratitude to this dedicated community of funders who support the Los Angeles Opportunity Youth Collaborative.
The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions
The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Walter S. Johnson Foundation
Pritzker Foster Care Initiative
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
The Stuart Foundation
If you are interested in joining the LA Opportunity Youth Collaborative as a partner, we’d love to hear from you!