OUR JIT staff
Meet the team behind JIT.
Don is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in Psychology, History, and Political Science, and a certification to teach secondary education. In 2004, he also earned a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology.
Don began his career as a high school history and psychology teacher before three decades in media as an award-winning artist/animator, writer-producer, news director, project manager, and communications consultant, including receiving the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award. The one constant throughout the years has been Don’s commitment to use his talents and influence to serve the community.
Don was instrumental in the early formation of Just in Time for Foster Youth and used his leadership position at KGTV/ABC10 San Diego to produce a My First Home Extreme Makeover segment, giving JIT much-needed visibility in its infancy. Since then, Don has been a consistent supporter, joining the board in 2009 and assuming the duties of Executive Director (now Chief Empowerment Officer) in 2010.
Under Don’s leadership, and using a model for sustainability based on measurable impact, JIT has grown from one full-time staff member to the current committed team of 30; increased services beyond Basic Needs to include Financial Fitness, Career Horizons, Bridges to Success, Changing Lanes, Pathways to Financial Power, and Rise to Resilience; expanded reach with offices in central San Diego and North County; and raised its profile through partnerships and collaborations throughout San Diego. Don’s most significant accomplishment has been defining the key drivers for transition age youth to achieve self-sufficiency, well-being, and life satisfaction – critical resources plus lasting relationships through a community model of service – then confirming JIT’s model through consistent tracking to prove its durable impact.
JIT’s theory of change is that “systems” cannot meet the essential needs of youth impacted by foster care so caring communities must be created to change current negative outcomes and empower young people to achieve their full human potential. Don’s vision is to “scale by sharing” JIT’s model to organizations and communities across the country, transforming human services efforts from transactional resource providers to consistent and durable communities of care that provide an essential sense of belonging and connection that is necessary for future success. Don’s belief is that the old saying about teaching a someone to fish to empower him for the long term needs to be taken one step further by inviting her to be part of a fishing village.
Don loves being a catalyst for change in the world, learning new things every day and connecting with people in significant conversations. His work/life integration includes watching movies and playing games, being able to work, dance, and laugh with his wife Diane all week long, and spending his time being useful in any way he can.
Diane is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Hudson Institute of Coaching; she also enjoyed a successful 24-year career as a senior account representative for First American Title Insurance Company in Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. Earlier in her life, she was a high school English teacher, editor of a town paper, and director of public relations for a nonprofit health resort, always in search of ways to serve and grow.
In 2003, Diane and a small group of friends co-founded Just in Time for Foster Youth; she served as Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board of Directors until becoming the Development Director in 2014. Her responsibility is to engage the greater community in the Just in Time mission, ensuring the financial sustainability of the organization; she has been instrumental in raising the JIT budget from $20,000 to $4 million, serving over 800 youth annually.
Diane is also credited with launching JIT’s Coach Approach to Mentoring, an innovative training founded on the belief that others are empowered when we set aside our own agenda, become truly curious, and ask powerful questions that expand thinking and promote insight. Currently, Diane’s aspiration is to strengthen Just in Time by cultivating strong leadership and to share our our unique, community-based model with other cities and states.
Diane is an avid learner and reader, as well as a player of games; her favorite forms of therapy are binge-watching the best television series and spending time in nature.
From the moment she became a Career Horizons coach, Trish fell in love with the people and mission of Just in Time for Foster Youth. She developed an amazing bond with a former foster youth and felt how everyone was working tirelessly to help youth like her become self-sufficient. After one year of volunteering, Trish joined the JIT staff as its Volunteer Engagement Manager. Trish combines her professional experience as a strategy director with her personal experience as a JIT volunteer to implement strategies that deepen volunteers’ connections with transition age foster youth.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of Trish’s approach, which she leverages to empower volunteers and integrate them into the organization.
Trish earned her MBA from the Yale School of Management. She holds three coaching certifications and has served as President of SANDAPT (San Diego Chapter of the Association for Psychological Type). Trish’s career in the for-profit sector spans 20 years and includes employment at American Express, Lexus, iCrossing, Toyota Financial Services and North Star Coaching.
Simone feels a great sense of pride as an alumnus of foster care. She spent her five years in care at San Pasqual Academy, where she developed a love and admiration for the foster youth community and began to create positive impacts as a mentor, tutor, and teacher’s assistant. After emancipating, Simone attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where she obtained her BA in Child Development with minors in Ethnic Studies and Psychology.
Simone later earned her MA in Postsecondary Educational Leadership with a specialization in Student Affairs at San Diego State University. Her decision to pursue a master’s degree was fueled by her desire to represent the foster youth community in higher education. During and after her master’s program, Simone contributed her lived experience and education to support students in the SDSU Guardian Scholars Program – first as a graduate assistant and finally as the Program Coordinator.
Simone first connected to the JIT community in 2009 through College Bound, where she was embraced by JIT staff and volunteers for achieving the greatest goal 18-year-old Simone had achieved: getting accepted to college. When Simone graduated and returned to San Diego, she reconnected to JIT and maximized her experience by participating in Financial Fitness, My First Home, Basic Needs, Career Horizons, Healthy Practices, and all the annual events she could fit on her calendar. Simone has also been a dedicated advocate for JIT, connecting current and former foster youth to this amazing community. Simone’s passion and dedication to her community is what led her to work for Just in Time, where she aspires to be a compassionate leader, an unapologetic advocate, and a positive cheerleader. She currently serves as a Youth Services Associate Director and is most proud of serving on the Child and Family Strengthening Advisory Board, contributing her lived experience and advocacy for improvement of Child Welfare Services.
Outside of JIT, Simone’s hobbies include spending time with friends and family, coaching others, and walking her dog, Ginger.
Jennifer’s professional work experience spans over 20 years in the media and advertising industry as a sales and marketing executive. Born and raised in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY area, Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional & Technical Communications and double minored in Business and Psychology. In 2017 she left the world of media to go back to school and finished an Executive MBA program in December 2018. While earning her MBA, Jennifer also began studying the world of nonprofit and how her corporate skill set could transfer over. She knew she wanted to move into purpose-driven work for her second act.
When introduced to Just in Time’s mission, Jennifer knew immediately it was where she belonged. While never having been a foster youth herself, Jennifer understood from an early age that she would have to figure quite a bit out on her own, and experienced first-hand the power and positive influence a mentor and a community had on the trajectory of her own life. Joining the JIT team was life coming full circle and provided an opportunity to give back in many ways. She sees the uniqueness in all individuals, and intuitively knows that “one size doesn’t fit all” which matches up well with JIT’s unique theory of change and individualized approach to serving youth.
When she’s not in the office, you can find Jennifer with her nose in the book, hiking a mountain, skiing down a hill or wakeboarding behind a boat!
Growing up in the foster care system, as a teen Reshae experienced the instability of being bounced around from placement to placement and high school to high school before finally establishing a relationship with Ramona High School. However, before her senior year, she was moved to a group home in Hillcrest. Wanting to stay at Ramona High School, Reshae advocated for herself and helped establish the passing of California bill AB490. Reshae was the first student in San Diego County to utilize the benefits of the bill, which allowed her to continue her senior year in Ramona while residing in Hillcrest.
After high school, Reshae enrolled in San Diego Job Corps where she was introduced to security management operations. She worked in the security industry for 10 years, but she wasn’t completely satisfied with her career path. She took the time to identify a new career path and started working at New Alternatives as a Child Care Worker. While looking for resources for a youth, she stumbled upon Just in Time. From the moment she saw JIT’s mission and the services that were offered, she wanted to be a part of it.
Reshae joined the JIT family in 2016 as a youth services coordinator yet identified a need for operations management. Having a strong background to support an operations role, the transition was made for Reshae to oversee the operations of the organization. For over three years, she has been the operations guru for Just in Time, assisting in creating a stronger infrastructure and communication capacity and strengthening workflow protocols. To further build her skill set, Reshae went back to school and recently completed her master’s in business.
When Reshae is not at JIT, she is running around with her 7-year-old son. They share the love of baseball, music, movies, and art. She also serves on the board for Imperial Beach Little League where her son plays and is involved with her Imperial Beach community through various projects.
Nancy is a native San Diegan and former foster youth who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from California State University San Marcos and her Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from San Diego Mesa College.
Although exiting foster care was not the smoothest transition, Nancy was able to get connected with various programs that provided the necessary tools to help acclimate young adults into the world of adulthood. With support from Change a Life Foundation, CSUSM ACE Scholars Program, Fostering Opportunities Dollars for Scholars, Just in Time for Foster Youth, My Girlfriend’s Closet, Promises2Kids’ Guardian Scholars Program, and the YMCA, she was able to complete her undergraduate studies – debt-free!
Nancy has been involved with the Just in Time community for over a decade, starting as a participant in 2009 through My First Home when she was just 18 years old. She immediately understood the JIT mission and felt supported, so continued engaging in nearly all the services offered, including Basic Needs, Financial Fitness, Career Horizons, College Bound, and Pathways to Financial Power. In 2017, she was invited to join the JIT staff and served as the Youth Services Coordinator for Basic Needs and what was then Healthy Practices. Her passion and dedication helped her grow quickly within the organization, and in 2019 she was put in charge of the new North County office. In January 2021, Nancy took on the role of Associate Director of Outcomes & Measurements, were she oversees the consistent operation of all of our services; manages systems, procedures, and impact measurement for our services; and oversees administrative services. She also provides direct supervision for Basic Needs, Changing Lanes/Auto Access, Housing Access, My First Home, and Financial Fitness.
Nancy aspires to be the role model she wished she had during her time in foster care, advocating for youth, creating change, fostering connections, and empowering every young person who walks through the doors of JIT. As an advocate for youth, Nancy has also participated in several panel and speaking opportunities throughout the years with organizations such as Access, FosterClub, Junior League of San Diego, and Promises2Kids.
Outside of JIT, Nancy enjoys creating paper crafts as an expression of gratitude and love (check out her Instagram!). She also loves to engage in new and challenging experiences, ranging from hiking to rafting!
Virgo immigrated from the Philippines in 2000 and transferred to San Diego State University from Fullerton College in 2015. He recently graduated from SDSU with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. One of his long-term goals is to obtain a master’s degree in Higher Education and promote the success of former foster youth in underrepresented fields such as biology. He hopes that his impact on others will lead them to embrace their experiences and celebrate their achievements.
Virgo invested his time at SDSU as a voice to empower his peers in the former foster youth community. Through his student leadership positions in SDSU’s Guardian Scholars program and Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay men, he has learned how to represent his community and love his intersecting identities. His passion for leadership stems from his desire to establish brave spaces for his peers that are inclusive and encourage them to share their experiences.
Originally only drawn to Just in Time for the physical resources, Virgo has since learned the impact that can be created by a team with a shared vision. This impact motivated him to leave his previous employment as a dialysis technician and join the revolution that is changing the perception of foster care.
Virgo started on the JIT team as the College Bound Youth Services Coordinator and was soon promoted to Lead Youth Services Coordinator then Associate Director – Outreach & Engagement. Some of his accomplishments include leading the recruitment for the largest College Bound cohort in JIT history (75 youth!) and bolstering the College Bound experience by creating wrap-around support and integrated workshops for essential college skills including how to establish boundaries and set priorities, drug and alcohol awareness, and navigating financial aid and scholarships. In his position, Virgo aspires to strengthen our community where lived experiences are valued and celebrated, everyone works together to advance the greater mission, and positive impact is shared.
Outside of JIT, Virgo is a proud father to three well-behaved dogs; he describes two as being cute and the other as having a great personality! His other passions include cooking and baking.
Cori graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and has grown over the past 13 years as a mortgage professional. She is well-versed in many mortgage lending programs and especially enjoyed working with first-time home buyers. With this knowledge, she volunteered numerous times as a guest speaker and educator in Just in Time’s Financial Fitness service, teaching the necessary steps to prepare for future home ownership.
Cori previously volunteered with Promises2Kids as a mentor in their Guardian Scholars program. In 2012, she and her husband became foster parents through Angel’s Network to their now adopted 9-year-old daughter. They also have two boys, 11 and 13 years old. Cori enjoys watching her oldest son play soccer and both boys practice parkour. Her daughter loves ballet, singing, and being in local musical theater performances.
Cori exited the mortgage business in December 2017 to pursue working full-time with foster youth. She is excited to combine her passion in serving foster youth with her professional knowledge and experience in lending and finance to help young adults gain auto financing access within Just in Time’s Changing Lanes service. She recently took over Changing Lanes and helps JIT participants remove barriers in order to receive their driver’s licenses and purchase reliable vehicles.
In addition, Cori manages the Horizons House, a home in La Mesa set up for five young women to live and pay affordable rent. She is also continuing to seek out other housing resources throughout San Diego County to connect our participants to.
When Cori is not at Just in Time, she appreciates time with her children’s activities, hiking, swimming, and traveling to new places.
Rachel is an alumnus of San Diego State University, where she graduated magna cum laude from the School of Journalism & Media Studies with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and an Allied Discipline in Marketing. She began her professional career at a full-service advertising firm in San Diego, where the start-up environment combined with her strong work ethic allowed her to grow from an intern to an executive in just a few short years. She excelled in the creative side of things, especially copywriting, which allowed her to establish a new position as Creative Services Manager for the company.
While she loved her clients, coworkers and the creativity that went into working in an ad agency, Rachel didn’t feel entirely fulfilled in the advertising world and wanted to use her talents in a way that more directly helped those around her.
Although she never experienced foster care first-hand, from the moment she read JIT’s core values and mission, Rachel knew she wanted to be a part of it. She happily accepted the position of Brand, Communications & Marketing Coordinator in May 2018. Since then, she has utilized her skillset to build upon the JIT mission through engaging messaging, compelling grants, and other creative endeavors. She loves telling the stories of Just in Time’s community and sharing JIT’s mission, and hopes to one day help expand the organization’s model beyond San Diego County.
Outside of the workplace, Rachel enjoys live music, singing, movies, and art, and is mother to a house rabbit named Django.
Ivan is a graduate of San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in General Business Administration. He began his career with the Parks and Recreation Department in the City of San Diego, where he excelled at problem solving by creating a partnership with the San Diego Police Department and establishing clear roles to eliminate illegal camps at parks and beaches. Soon after, Ivan obtained a job at ICW Group as a Claims Processor where he learned the value of data integrity and customer service. However, he soon discovered his position would be relocating. Rather than picking his whole life up and moving like he had so many times during his decade in foster care, Ivan committed to staying in San Diego.
During Ivan’s job search, he came across an opportunity that felt like destiny: Just in Time for Foster Youth was looking to fill a new position in their Volunteer Services department. Ivan’s time spent as a JIT participant combined with the professional skills he gained during his internships and time at ICW Group made him a perfect fit on the JIT team. He began as our Volunteer Services Coordinator, recruiting for My First Home and other services before being quickly promoted to Volunteer Services Specialist then Service Enterprise/Partnerships Manager. In his current role, he leads social and service enterprise for the organization, and has helped us secure a truck for My First Home, upgrade and expand our Distribution Center, and establish and lead many partnerships. He is passionate about creating a community for the youth we serve and ensures many have extra income through helping with My First Home.
Outside of work, Ivan loves listening to podcasts and hip-hop, playing and watching soccer, watching Mixed Martial Arts and live sporting events, and spending time with his cat Meela.
Kathryn is a driven and passionate young woman who first fell in love with child advocacy during a trip abroad where she got involved with a non-profit bringing food, mentorship, and healthcare to children across western Tanzania. She came home from this trip with a newfound vision to gear her bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo toward a career in the non-profit world, focusing on child advocacy and being a voice for the unnoticed. She’s so excited to bring her knowledge and hunger to learn to Just in Time and connect caring volunteers with youth transitioning out of the foster care system.
Kathryn has worked for multiple established non-profit organizations in San Diego for more than four years and her past experiences have included program management, volunteer oversight, fund development and donor relations, marketing, and event planning. She’s a jack of all trades, willing to go where the need is and build up her skills as she goes. At her core, Kathryn deeply believes each person has the invaluable opportunity to live a meaningful life and make the world a better place, and she’s thankful to be able to encourage this value with volunteers and partners at Just in Time.
As a Volunteer Services Coordinator, Kathryn has the incredible opportunity to engage San Diego community members from all walks of life in a variety of volunteer roles. Along with facilitating New Volunteer Info Sessions and Coach Approach to Mentoring trainings, Kathryn supports the Youth Services team with Pathways to Financial Power, NEXTjobs, and Rise to Resilience. She hopes to continue to grow both professionally and personally to be the best she can at her role and effectively contribute toward the lasting impact of the Just in Time mission.
In her free time, Kathryn enjoys hiking, going to the beach, and spending time with her husband and dog, Lucy.
Ren has always been passionate about building quality relationships, enhancing personal growth, and applying her optimistic attitude to make a positive impact on society. Throughout her college career, she worked, interned, and volunteered in various community-serving environments catering to diverse cultures. Ren graduated Magna Cum Laude with distinctions from San Diego State University, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and minor in Television, Film, and New Media. She also received her Associate of Arts in Communication from Southwestern College. Her experiences and educational background have helped guide her in the direction of leadership within non-profit organizations.
After learning about Just in Time’s lasting impact from good friends who were also JIT participants, Ren knew she wanted to serve in the community the encourages former foster youth to become Confident, Capable, and Connected.
As Volunteer Services Manager, Ren leverages her genuine desire to connect people with one another to facilitate and create lasting relationships between volunteers and youth participants. Ren has increased volunteer capacities and engagement in a variety of our youth services and events. She hosts New Volunteer Info Sessions and Coach Orientations to learn more about volunteers to see where we can highlight their range of expertise, experience, skills, and availability. Along with recruiting and orienting our Volunteer Coaches and Workshop Facilitators to fit our Youth Services need, Ren also leads the volunteer effort for our Just in Time community events.
For all who join the JIT community, Ren aspires for them to be willing to meet our youth participants where they are at: whether they are reaching out for basic needs; working on stable housing and transportation; pursuing a higher education; looking to attain meaningful employment; and/or achieving their financial goals. Ren is continuously inspired by the hundreds of volunteers that make these incredible lasting connections with participants and hopes to continue to share the Just in Time mission with everyone she meets.
During her free time, Ren enjoys outdoor activities, reading motivational books, and learning new things. She is an aspiring influential individual who hopes to motivate others to tap into their full potential and reach self-actualization.
Caitlin is a recent graduate of Grossmont College, attaining three associate degrees in Business Administration, Economics, and University Studies: Business and Economics. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at San Diego State University. Ever the ambitious student, Caitlin truly enjoys learning and finds comfort in staying productive. She aspires to pursue higher education for as long as she can afford the tuition. As she says, “Why stop at only one PhD?”
Caitlin first learned about Just in Time for Foster Youth in 2019 when she heard a radio spot about the organization and immediately knew she wanted to get involved. She became a participant just months before her 27th birthday and wasted no time, engaging in every service and event possible, including My First Home, Pathways to Financial Power, and Rise to Resilience. Empowered by JIT to know her strengths and grow from experiences in the foster care system, Caitlin has embraced her past by confidently sharing her story in hopes that she can inspire others.
Caitlin’s tenacity and passion caught the attention of the JIT community and staff, and in October 2019 she was invited to join the team. JIT is kicking off Caitlin’s career and she currently serves as the part-time Investor Outreach Coordinator, taking pride in being part of a mission that supports transition age foster youth like herself in becoming self-sufficient and successful. She says the most meaningful part of her job is being a part of a solution, a change, and a community bigger than herself. She strives to be an unapologetic voice advocating for her peers and mobilizing future progress.
In addition to being a JIT participant and staff member, Caitlin is caregiver to a disabled veteran and a single mother. When she’s not working or studying, she is passionate about painting with her daughter and would love an opportunity to paint a mural or participate in a city beautification project.
Kyra is an ambitious life-long learner with a comprehensive educational background ranging from biochemistry to child development. A graduate of the Los Angeles community college, El Camino, Kyra has attained three associate degrees in Early Childhood Education, Communication Studies, and General Studies of Culture & Communication. Kyra is pursuing two degrees from San Diego State University in Psychology and Speech Language & Hearing Sciences, which will eventually lead to her end goal of having a doctorate in both subjects.
Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, Kyra struggled with her identity as a former foster youth and moved to California in order to build a new life for herself. Prior to 2017, when her engagement with Just in Time began, Kyra wouldn’t disclose her background. However, now it is her passion. JIT helped Kyra accept her history and advocate for those in her community. She believes that communication is the essence of human connection, which is what drives her goal to support every individual in finding their own voice to express and advocate for their well-being.
Starting as an intern for the Youth Services team in January 2018, Kyra energetically grasped the culture and grew into the JIT lifestyle. With her dedicated hard work, she quickly made an impact on the organization and earned a part-time position as the Youth Services Administrative Assistant. Working closely with her team to build up JIT as a whole, her talents we discovered to be needed elsewhere for the benefit of the organization. Assuming her new role as Impact & Systems Administrator in September 2019, Kyra is continuing to learn about and support JIT in all its effort to serve the community. She is always ready to commit wholeheartedly to any task she is faced with!
Ozzy received his Associate of Science in Physics from Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga before moving to San Diego in 2015 to pursue his undergraduate degree. In spring 2020, he graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in Engineering, Computer Science, and Counseling and Social Change.
In his time at SDSU, Ozzy was very involved on campus in a variety of ways, especially in roles where he encouraged other foster youth to own their stories and follow their dreams. He served as the president of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity during the 2018-2019 school year, as a SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Academics, Relationship) mentor and assistant coordinator for the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs; and as an active member of Guardian Scholars.
Ozzy is driven by a motivation to help foster youth succeed and is empowered through his experiences supporting others. He loves the feeling of knowing that together, youth who come from traumatic or uncertain backgrounds can truly thrive.
As a member of the JIT team and former JIT participant, Ozzy hopes to support, inspire, and motivate participants along their journeys to self-sufficiency and well-being, and aims to serve as a role model for what you can achieve and overcome when you are surrounded by a community of support. In his role as Youth Services Admin/Salesforce Specialist, Ozzy is a welcoming face for youth, leading orientations for new participants, greeting each person who visits the Mission Valley office, and collaborating with outside agencies to make sure our youth are getting the support they truly need.
In his free time, Ozzy enjoys hanging out with his frat brothers, playing video games, and volunteering in the community with his fraternity. His future aspirations include becoming a college advisor for sciences or college coordinator and pursuing a master’s degree related to his passions.
Chris is a native of Dallas, Texas but grew up and lives in East County San Diego. Chris began his 30-year media career as an intern at a San Diego radio station while going to junior college. Eventually he would be charged with overseeing the marketing and promotions departments for five of San Diego’s top-rated radio stations along with managing 30 full- and part-time employees. Chris was always most proud of his ability to use the power and megaphone of those radio stations to give back to the San Diego community that has been so good to him.
Chris first became acquainted with the struggles facing foster youth 15 years ago when he was approached by a former colleague to donate prizes and help promote a fundraiser for San Pasqual Academy. Chris was recently introduced to the Just in Time mission by an old friend and co-worker, and immediately knew this was where he needed to be.
Chris is the Customer Relations Manager at JIT and provides extraordinary stewardship to the investors and staff of Just in Time. Chris is looking forward to his one-year anniversary with the organization and is still humbled and inspired every day by the generosity our investors extend in support of the JIT mission.
Chris’ passions are family and travel. When Chris is not at work in the JIT offices, you can usually find him with family or relaxing with friends at his family homes in Palm Springs, California and Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
Irving graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry and a minor in personality and social psychology. This was a huge accomplishment for him because while growing up in the foster care system, he did not have a traditional educational experience; from the tender age of one, he constantly moved around, and the instability caused him to not attend school until he was 15 years old.
Because of this gap in education, Irving became a constant learner and is adaptive to people’s needs and personal growth. Irving is passionate about Latinx empowerment and has mentored at SDSU in several different formats as a SOAR mentor as well as an Aztecs Reaching Aztecs (counseling and psychological services) peer mentor.
Irving was a JIT participant for three years and you may now see him if you are a part of Bridges to Success, Pathways to Financial Power, or NEXTjobs, or are in need of employment and housing resources. Irving navigates the job and housing markets with youth as well as guides them as they develop their professional and personal lives.
Irving is passionate about movies, TV shows, and podcasts – so if you ever get bored and need recommendations, be sure to reach out to him and he will try to identify some content you may be interested in. In his free time, Irving also loves to longboard on smooth pavement.
Sal is a proud graduate of the prestigious Preuss School UCSD and San Diego State University with degrees in Cultural Proficiency, Leadership, and Counseling & Social Change. While in college, Sal served as president of the Guardian Scholars Student Advisory Board at SDSU and as a Peer Mentor for first-year students who identify as first-generation, low-income college attendees. Sal is passionate about establishing relationships with people from an array of communities and cultures, which he credits to his time spent in Europe and Asia. By his senior year at San Diego State University, Sal was both a licensed realtor and a mortgage loan originator.
Having been involved with Just in Time since the age of 17, Sal often shares how his initial motivation for contacting JIT was to obtain a laptop, printer, and school supplies at College Bound. Little did Sal know that his College Bound coach, Marty Goodman, would become an integral part of his life, assisting with the purchase of his first car, providing part-time employment, supporting his study abroad adventure, and helping him obtain his real estate license. For the next six years, Sal continued to develop relationships that would have a profound impact on his life, personally and professionally. For example, JIT volunteers Susanne and Brad Livingston offered to mentor Sal and hired him to join their mortgage loan brokerage firm.
While experiencing immediate success in the real estate industry, Sal began to realize that he had a calling—to utilize his skills and strengths to benefit humanity and change lives. As Development Outreach Specialist at JIT, Sal is often utilizing his skills to establish new relationships with our greater community while maintaining a high level of stewardship for current investors. Sal has embraced his role in Development both to garner support for transition age foster youth and to build his capacity as a leader in the nonprofit community. Sal’s ultimate goal is to one day manage a non-profit organization, continuing to pave the way and make positive change for future generations of former foster youth.
In his free time, Sal loves to spend time rooting for his favorite sports teams, San Diego Gulls, Denver Broncos, and San Diego Padres. When he isn’t cheering on his teams, his other hobbies include traveling, meeting new people, and, in the near future, spending time with his firstborn son.
James is a San Diego native who lived with his parents until the age of 12, when he entered the foster care system. He spent most of his six years in the system residing in group home facilities where he had to adapt to communal living situations and institutionalized relationships. Although he has experienced his own challenges within the foster care system, James appreciates the opportunities it has exposed him to. Before foster care, he lived in an unstructured home where he had to grow up too fast and often fend for himself. During his time in care, James had the opportunity to thrive with structure and learned that his level of independence was a skill set, not a survival method.
Today, James lives with a growth mindset and is beating the odds every day. As a graduate of CSU San Marcos with a bachelor’s degree in Literature and Writing, James has gained many connections and employment opportunities that have taught him that hard work and dedication pay off. Not only is James dedicated to continuous growth, he strives to build and strengthen his relationships with others and is honored to be married to his best friend, our Youth Services Associate Director, Simone! James understands how important these accomplishments are for himself and his peers who have spent time in foster care; he believes that a person’s background does not determine their future aspirations and endeavors, and people in this community are capable of creating their own destinies.
James has been connected to Just in Time for over 10 years, both as a participant and as a committed staff member. As a past participant, he valued the compassion and accountability the staff and volunteers instilled in him; he continues to embody these qualities in his everyday life. As a staff member, James has learned that this work takes perseverance and tenacity in order to make a difference in the lives of the young adults we serve. James’ goal is to be intentional with every project he is involved with. He is extremely proud to be a part of the Just in Time community and is committed to the enormous efforts of supporting young adults striving to achieve self-sufficiency, well-being, and life satisfaction.
When James is not at work, he enjoys spending time with loved ones (especially if food is included), riding his motorcycle, and cooking; his favorite dish to make is biscuits and gravy.
Nyla is a recent graduate of the University of San Diego, achieving a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She considers this a major accomplishment because growing up she missed much of her schooling from ages nine through 15, as she experienced homelessness with her family and was constantly in and out of foster care. She hopes to use her degree to heal herself and her younger sisters from whom she was separated in foster care, forgive her abusers, and heal her at-risk community that has also endured traumatic experiences.
Nyla served her community in many ways before joining the JIT team. She was a liaison for homeless youth in San Diego County, leading a board of young adults who have experienced homelessness and ensuring that County funding was being used properly to end youth homelessness. She has also advocated to end food and housing insecurity on USD’s campus through the Torero Renaissance Scholars Program for foster and homeless youth, and helped with the Child Hub at Jewish Family Services for families who struggled with homelessness. Most recently, she was an intern at Urban Corps of San Diego County, where she worked closely with the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator to develop a marketing strategy to help transition age youth gain high school diplomas and job training skills.
Nyla has been connected with JIT for two years, first as a participant in services such as Changing Lanes, College Bound, and Basic needs, and now as one of the newest members of the Youth Services team! As a Youth Services Coordinator for JIT’s employment services, Nyla is helping to design and execute the services that teach professional skills and prepare youth for meaningful employment.
Nyla aspires to pursue a doctorate in Psychology and help make systematic changes in the mental health field, especially educating minority communities on the importance of mental wellness. She hopes to reduce the stigma of seeking treatment and encourage others to find healthy coping mechanisms.
Outside of JIT, Nyla is passionate about breaking generational cycles and enjoys reading, journaling, meditating, and laughing. When she’s not working, you can find her singing in her car or trying new places to eat!
Originally from Indio, California, Esmeralda moved to San Diego in 2016 in pursuit of better educational and professional opportunities. She attended San Diego Mesa College, where she achieved her associate degree in Sociology in 2018, graduating with honors. She then transferred to San Diego State University, where she was an active member of the Guardian Scholars program, including serving as the Vice President of Internal Affairs for the Guardian Scholars Student Advisory Board. Esmeralda graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2020, earning a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Counseling and Social Change.
Before joining the JIT staff, Esmeralda had been connected to Just in Time as a participant for two years. She engaged in JIT services such as College Bound, Career Horizons for Young Women, Financial Fitness 103, and Basic Needs – all of which she credits for much of her personal and professional growth. Esmeralda shares that she was hesitant to join the JIT community at first; with a vast lack of resources available to her growing up in the foster care system, she had a hard time believing that a supportive community like JIT could even exist. But since then, she has embraced the support and her identity as a former foster youth – an identity she was taught to suppress in the past. “Before JIT, I was shy reserved, and afraid,” shares Esmeralda. “Now I am confident, open-minded and strong!”
Esmeralda joins the JIT team as our new Youth Services Administrative Coordinator for our North County office. In her role, she is a welcoming face for all youth who visit our Vista location and leads New Youth Orientations for young people joining our community. Most importantly, she builds rapport with participants so they feel comfortable seeking assistance, even if it’s just a friendly ally to talk with. Esmeralda is passionate about giving back to the community she says has given her so much and is excited to help others find their full potential, regardless of their past experiences.
In the future, Esmeralda plans to go to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in counseling and aspires to become a high school counselor. She also hopes to help Just in Time create a space where counselors are regularly available to participants during business hours so they can receive additional mental and emotional support.
Outside of Just in Time, Esmeralda enjoys going to the movies (especially seeing horror and comedy flicks), playing video games, and shopping. You can also find her painting when she needs to unwind.
A first-generation college student and former foster youth, Jen recently graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religious Studies, and a goal to eventually become a child advocacy lawyer. During her time at San Diego State, she held a Vice President position in a Student Organization called AIESEC, assisting students to volunteer abroad to develop leadership and positively impact communities in other countries. In addition, Jen volunteered teaching students English in Thailand and creating interactive activities with people diagnosed with intellectual disabilities in Colombia.
With a passion for helping people, learning more about inter-governmental affairs, and policy implementation, Jen was also an intern to the City of San Diego in City Hall Councilmember Chris Cate’s office and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in Supervisor Cox’s office. During her time interning for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Jen collaborated with different counties to gather cross-sectional data and provide analysis on various child welfare systems across the nation.
Jen has been connected with JIT for three years and has been an active participant for two, engaging in services and activities such as Basic Needs, Coach Approach to Mentoring, and Career Horizons. Now, as a Youth Services Coordinator for College Bound, Jen looks forward to helping youth become the best versions of themselves so they feel confident, capable, connected, and ready to achieve their aspirations in life.
Outside of Just in Time, Jen is passionate about advocating on behalf of youth in foster care; ensuring their voice is heard and they have the tools to enhance their quality of life and promote self-sufficiency and well-being. Moreover, to continue her advocacy work, she is a member of the National Association Counsel for Children (NACC) Youth Advisory Board, she participated in the Child and Family Strengthening sub-committee bi-monthly meetings, and is currently a member of the Just in Time Council to Create Change for Foster Care.
In her free time, Jen is practicing the ollie trick on her skateboard, loves reading, enjoys picnics at the park and watching Netflix shows, is a boba milk tea connoisseur!
Nina’s nonprofit work spans over three years in youth services. Born and raised in the San Diego County foster care system, she has been able to choose her community to be her family. Nina earned her associate degree from Southwestern College and is currently continuing her education at Cal State San Marcos, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Child Development. Nina is drawn to the nonprofit world and loves that through it, she has found a way to stay connected while giving back to her community.
In February 2020, Nina was introduced to Just in Time for Foster Youth and immediately participated in multiple services including Financial Fitness, My First Home, Career Horizons, and Pathways to Financial Power. Nina has been able to utilize such services to help her feel empowered, mend her relationship with money, and heal from her past trauma. Joining the JIT team only 11 months later was the moment Nina knew Just in Time had changed her life forever. She now spends her days giving back to others who may be experiencing the same things she has growing up in foster care. Nina says that for once, work does not feel like work because she loves what she does each day.
Nina aspires to be a voice for those who have not yet discovered theirs. She wants to be that person she wishes she had in her corner cheering her on while in foster care. While mentoring youth is a passion for Nina, she has also found a way to give back to her community while being a budget-conscious college student and part-time employee. Nina has given her testimony at multiple public speaking events in the hopes to spread awareness of the struggles and needs of foster youth. Although she cannot give financially, this has become a unique and brave way to give her time, love, and passion to help to end the cycle of foster care.
When she’s not in the JIT office, you can find Nina with her nose in a book, crafting, lifting weights, traveling with her friends, or on an adventure to find a new food to try.
OUR JIT SUPPORT TEAM
Meet the team behind the team at JIT.
Gayle is a certified public accountant with a degree in accounting and an MBA from Arizona State University in Tempe. She spent the first five years of her career as an auditor with Deloitte, where she audited not-for-profit organizations, regional governmental groups, and publicly held companies. After receiving her MBA and raising her family, Gayle joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles and spent the next 11 years providing accounting and consulting services to multinational corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and various governmental entities within the federal government of the United States and the countries of Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia.
As an experienced auditor and consultant, Gayle has helped organizations achieve best-in-class finance and accounting functions through the implementation of enabling technology, re-engineered processes, redesigned procedures and training. After leaving PricewaterhouseCoopers and settling in San Diego, Gayle spent the next few years as Controller for the Information Technology division of Sony Electronics. She thought about retiring but after reading an article about Phillip Rivers, his Rivers of Hope Foundation, and its assistance to youth at Just in Time for Foster Youth, she volunteered on the Audit Committee of JIT. She was soon asked to be part-time Chief Financial Officer, which she gladly accepted in 2012.
Fully committed to the JIT mission, Gayle uses her skills and experience to help keep the finance and accounting functions running smoothly so everyone else can do what they do best in order to serve JIT’s youth. As CFO, Gayle manages the accounting functions, processes, procedures, and internal controls at JIT and provide inputs and guidance related to finances. Her accomplishments have been achieved through team efforts – successful audits year after year, a healthy cash reserve, timely financial reporting, cross training within the accounting department, and a team of talented accounting professionals. By lending her talents and experience, Gayle is helping to build a financial infrastructure that is scalable and can be replicated anywhere. Her vision for the future is to see the JIT model proliferate from coast to coast, as every city in America has former foster youth who need a welcoming community of support once they leave foster care.
Outside of Just in Time, Gayle enjoys traveling and renovating and flipping properties.
With over 10 years’ experience in social services combined with lived experience as a former foster youth, Vanessa’s passion for bringing about durable change for disadvantaged populations can be felt by all who know her.
Vanessa entered care at the age of three, having upward of 16 placements before aging out of the system at 18 years old, completely unprepared for adulthood. She experienced homelessness and hopelessness, but through perseverance, faith and hard work, she slowly began to build a life for herself.
At 19 years old, Vanessa also took on the responsibility of caring for her two younger sisters. While working and going to school, she became a licensed foster parent with Casey Family Programs and worked tirelessly to provide the stable, loving home she had never experienced. After eight long years of balancing work and caring for her sisters, she graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management.
For the past six years, Vanessa has used her lived experience and creative passion to design services that fill gaps for transition age foster youth. In her previous role as Youth Services Director at Just in Time for Foster Youth, she identified a clear gap: mental health services that are relevant, transformative, individualized, and realistic for transition age foster youth. She conducted focus groups and surveys, and interviewed and collaborated with clinicians and service providers to develop a curriculum called Rise to Resilience (R2R). Vanessa has since transitioned from her role as Youth Services Director to bring this dynamic service to communities, starting with one that has done so much to support her: Just in Time for Foster Youth.
Outside if JIT, Vanessa is an empowered mother and recently launched a social enterprise called Mommies and Mimosas Supportive Network focused on helping mothers achieve wellness and financial independence.
Steven is a graduate of San Diego State University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. He also received his Associates in Applied Arts at Golden West Community College.
Steven spent 10 challenging years in the foster care system, where he had to overcome many obstacles brought on by moving to 30 different homes before he turned 18. He believes that moving and interacting with so many foster families and group homes made him a stronger individual in dealing with obstacles and hardships.
Steven has participated in many services at JIT including Financial Fitness, My First Home, and Bridges to Success. As a previous participant, he can relate to youth’s circumstances and knows how difficult it is emancipating from the system with no resources to survive. He’s always wanted to give back to youth with similar backgrounds, and by becoming part of the JIT staff, he now knows he can make a difference in many young people’s lives.
In his current role as College Bound Study Abroad Coordinator, Steven supports the Youth Services team in a variety of ways, including overseeing the Study Abroad service and contributing to the revamp of JIT’s Financial Fitness series. He aspires to be a voice for former foster youth and staff, and wants their stories to be heard, and their needs to be represented, in ways they never imagined possible. Personally, Just in Time has been a platform and resource for Steven to expand his mind and become the best version of himself.
Outside of JIT, Steven loves to play sports, travel the world, try new foods, and hang out with his friends and family.
Evonne Ermey began her career in media after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with her Bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in political science.
As a digital producer, first for CBS Radio and then for Entercom Communications, Evonne utilized her skills to tell multi-media stories across a variety of platforms. In addition to blogging and producing video content for the web, Evonne joined Susan DeVincent on-air as the co-host for the weekly public access show “Living Better in San Diego.”
Eventually Evonne expanded her role at Entercom, establishing production style and training guides for multiple station websites, introducing weekly and monthly reports for tracking qualitative and quantitative data, and helping to create standard operating procedures for social media management.
While Evonne developed her talent as a multi-media producer, her true passion remained writing. Her long-form, investigative journalism has been published in the Prescott News and the Tucson Sentinel.
In May of 2020, Evonne was invited to join the Just in Time for Foster Youth team as a grant writer and storyteller. The opportunity to make a difference in her community through such an impactful organization was one she could not pass up.
Originally from California’s high desert, Evonne Ermey has been a San Diego resident since 2007. In her free time, she is a long-distance runner, an ambitious home cook, and an international traveler. Her favorite thing to do in San Diego is watch the sunrise over Fiesta Island with her three dogs.
Amy Blum, President of Eagle Marketing, Inc, has added the role of JIT Brand & Marketing Manager to her passion portfolio, fulfilling her desire to fully partner with a non-profit in all aspects of their marketing impact. For nearly 20 years, Amy has developed winning strategies and loyalty campaigns for hundreds of companies in a broad array of industries. Her focus has been on using the power of marketing to help non-profit organizations tell their story in a consistent and compelling way that engages donors, volunteers, and the community at large.
Prior to joining Eagle Marketing, Amy was the Community Affairs Director at KGTV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego, where she received several national awards for the projects she created. She started her career in San Diego at United Way in communications and marketing. After graduating from Emory University with a B.A. in History, Amy worked as a writer and producer for CNN. Amy is a master “plate spinner” between running Eagle and running after her three kids. She and her family love adventure in the great outdoors and volunteering with social justice organizations.
DeRahn’s professional career started in 1997 as a software engineer in New York. While the job was financially beneficial and technically challenging, he had the persistent feeling that something substantial was missing. In 2005, when he attained his first Personal Trainer certification, he finally realized what was missing: meaningful human connection. Since that day, he committed to dedicating his life to learning about people and helping them grow to become the best version of themselves. In 2009, he left the software world to pursue fitness and health coaching full time, eventually starting his own company.
DeRahn’s continual desire for authentic communication, connection, and collaboration made Just in Time for Foster Youth the perfect addition to his life. He joined the JIT community in 2016 as a volunteer for College Bound and Coach Approach to Mentoring. Then, in September 2020, he became a part of the JIT staff as a consultant for Bridges to Success and Coach Facilitator for Coach Approach. His many years of experience as a health coach honed his skills of listening, empathy, and relating.
Enduring his own painful and mostly solitary journey from scared, repressed youth to confident, capable adult not only gave DeRahn the tools to climb toward self-actualization, but also instilled the passion to share those tools, so that our youth won’t have to endure the same trials and tribulations that he did.
Outside of JIT, you will find DeRahn salsa dancing, playing the flamenco guitar, or practicing yoga – sometimes all at the same time.