Staff Profiles

Denise V. Fuller

Denise is a new member of our staff, with us just a few months, but we’re so glad to have her! Denise works with us at Act Together as a Crisis Care Professional. 

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

My favorite memory at work would have to be when a client told me how supported they felt when I was present.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

I want the public to know just how supportive and interactive the facility truly is with the clients. They help them maintain homeostasis during crises and provide a stable safe environment for the youth.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I would say my mother is my biggest influence. She was a teacher and homeschooled me on top of my traditional education. She is kind, consistent, and patient.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

I’ve worked with children my whole life. Supporting adolescents with their mental health is not just a job for me, it’s an advocation.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Support, structure, stability.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

The advice I would give my teenage self would be to follow your head, not your heart.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

If stuck on an island, I would bring a notebook, flint, and a knife.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

💪

 

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Ron Dargan II

Ron Dargan II is a Crisis Care Provider who comes to Youth Focus with years of experience.  He was a court counselor with the Department of Juvenile Justice and is also a Guilford County Schools high school counselor. We know he looks uptight in his picture, but Ron is the chill one on the team who likes to cut a joke when the staff needs a pick me up.

 

 Let’s learn more about Ron!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

I enjoy the comradery with coworkers during company events, meetings, and training.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

The one thing I’d like the general public to know about Youth Focus is that, though we’re bigger in size with the AYN merge, this family-like company is VERY passionate about the care of its clients and patients.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

My supervisors, Esther, LaVonne, and Temara, all have influenced me with their leadership in different ways when approaching my work.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

My enjoyment and passion to work with youth led me to Youth Focus.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Family-like, client/patient-friendly, reputable.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Be the 1st version of yourself (not a 2nd version of anyone else), strive toward your passion (enjoyment over money), and always be kind and respectful (it’ll take you a long way).

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

Survival kit, water, clothes.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

I use the laughing and silly face emoji the most because I like to joke and have fun a lot…like our youth. 😂🤪

 

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Diana Cooper

You know we love shining the spotlight on our wonderful staff, and today it’s Diana Cooper’s turn!

 Let’s learn more about Diana!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

My most cherished memories are staff celebrations; birthdays, baby showers, promotions, celebrations.  We have a great team.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

We offer wonderful therapeutic programs to support local youth.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

My husband is my greatest influencer in how I approach my work. I try to model his detail-oriented and strategic thinking when it comes to my daily tasks.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

Prior to moving to North Carolina, I was a nonprofit consultant for over 15 years. I like administrative work that has a purpose.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Compassionate, therapeutic, innovative.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Your uniqueness is your superpower. You are what the world is looking for.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

Books, books, and books.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

😃

 

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Ayeisha, Live-In Program Coach

Ayeisha spends her days and nights at My Sister Susan’s House.  She is a live-in program coach who came to Youth Focus as an intern.  All the gold stars for Ayeisha, one of the best live-in staff members we’ve ever had.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 Let’s learn more about Ayeisha!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

I started with Youth Focus as an intern and was working with a young lady.  Once I became a full-time staff member she graduated our program, and it was great to see how far we’d both come.  

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

I wish more people knew about all the services we provide.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

The young ladies I work with have definitely been my biggest influence and motivation.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

I was a Human Development and Family Studies Major at UNCG so I have always wanted to help people. I learned about Youth Focus while searching for an internship.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Inclusive.  Engaging.  Conducive.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Stop worrying so much about the future that you forget to live in the moment and enjoy your life.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

Knife, satellite phone, boat.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

🙃

 

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Ali, Program Coach

We’d like to introduce you to Ali Hobson, Program Coach.  Ali is a Program Coach for My Sister Susan’s House and a Case Manager for the HEARTH Rapid Rehousing program. She provides support and services through case management (individualized goals, referrals for resources, connections with providers and other professionals)  to youth who are transitioning into rentals of their own in the rapid rehousing program.  Ali is very passionate about the work she does with our youth and is full of energy.  She does a fantastic job getting our youth involved in service-learning projects.  She loves to lead craft projects, especially those involving glitter.

 

Let’s learn more about Ali!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

I honestly don’t think I could pick just one! I believe every staff member loves when their clients succeed, but I also love it when clients are real and raw. My favorite memories involve clients connecting with their emotions and struggles instead of just lashing out or shutting down.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

Youth Focus serves youth, but we will always do whatever we can to help people access the services they need. Youth Focus is connection and family.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I instantly think of Esther Ngo, the Act Together Program Manager. When I pause to reflect further, it’s the youth we work with. Every moment I spend with them and every interaction helps me learn something new. They help me grow and become better. I hope I’m doing the same for them.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

My struggles growing up, and my hope for the future. People can change.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Hope. Access. Acceptance.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Don’t change a thing, except maybe that hair. Stop bleaching the underside! You doubt the good in yourself too much. You are on the right path, and everything now will strengthen you later. Your relationships will be deeper. Your heart will be full. You are enough.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

My bookcase, my other bookcase, and my husband’s stash of MREs from his military days. But that’s only because my third bookcase has boring books.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

That depends on who I’m talking to! 🤣🙅🏼‍♀️🙈🤦🏽‍♀️🤨😒😂🤷🏼‍♀️

 

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How to #BeAConnection for a Child or Family

Youth Focus Safe Haven Therapist, Ashlyn Hodges, shares important identifiers and tips for understanding how you can be a connection in preventing child abuse.

Many people may refer to child abuse as physical abuse that shows marks on a child; however, the signs aren’t always so clear. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, and emotional, or a child may be neglected, meaning that their caregivers don’t provide the child with basic needs such as food, shelter, or safety.

It’s important to know how to recognize the identifiers of the different types of child abuse, which is why I have listed identifiers within the four main types of child abuse.

Physical abuse: Physical abuse is when someone physically hurts a child’s body or puts a child in physical danger. It is important to remember that it doesn’t matter the extent that the child gets hurt (whether the child becomes seriously hurt and needs medical attention or if the child simply has a mark on them) because any harm to a child is child abuse. This can include situations when someone:

    • Is hitting and beating a child
    • Is hitting a child with an object, such as a belt or a stick
    • Is kicking a child
    • Is burning a child with hot water, a cigarette, or an iron
    • Is holding a child underwater
    • Is tying up a child
    • Or is severely shaking a baby

Signs of physical abuse may include:

    • Bruises, welts, or other injuries that can’t be explained or don’t match with the child’s story
    • Burns, especially from cigarettes, that can’t be explained
    • Injury marks that have a pattern, like from a hand, belt, or other objects
    • Injuries that are at different stages of healing
    • Medical or dental issues that go untreated

Kids who’ve been physically abused may also:

    • Avoid any kind of touch or physical contact
    • Be afraid to go home
    • Seem to always be on high alert
    • Wear clothing that doesn’t match the weather — such as long sleeves on hot days — to cover up bruises
    • Withdraw from friends and activities

Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity with a child regardless if any physical contact has been made or not. This can include situations when someone:

    • Forces a child to take part in pornographic pictures or videos
    • Has any sexual contact with the child, from kissing in a sexual way to having sexual intercourse
    • Makes phone calls or sends emails, texts, or other messages that are sexual in any way
    • Shows the child someone else’s genitals, as with “flashing”
    • Shows pornography
    • Tells “dirty” jokes or stories

Signs of sexual abuse may include:

    • Avoiding a certain person for no clear reason
    • Bloody, torn, or stained underwear
    • Bruising or bleeding around the genitals
    • Pain or itching around the genitals that might cause problems walking or sitting
    • Pregnancy or STD’s, especially under the age of 14
    • Refusing to change clothes in front of others
    • Running away from home
    • Displays knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for their age, or even seductive behavior

Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse is when someone displays a pattern of behaviors that harm a child’s emotional well-being and development. This can include situations when someone:

    • Abuses others when the child is around, such as a parent, brother, sister, or pet
    • Fails to show love and affection to a child
    • Ignores the child and doesn’t give emotional support and guidance
    • Shames, belittles, criticizes, or embarrasses
    • Teases, threatens, bullies, or yells

Signs of emotional abuse may include:

    • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
    • Speech problems or delays in learning and emotional development
    • Depression and low self-esteem
    • Doing poorly in school
    • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant, demanding, passive, aggressive)
    • Headaches and stomachaches with no clear cause
    • The child doesn’t seem close to a parent or caregiver
    • Showing little interest in friends and activities
    • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums)

Neglect: Neglect is when a caregiver doesn’t give the child basic care and protection. This can include situations when a child is lacking:

    • Clothing
    • Food
    • Heat in cold weather
    • Housing with clean living conditions
    • Medical care
    • Or when a child is left alone for long periods or under dangerous conditions

Signs of neglect may include:

    • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather
    • Hygiene consistently bad (unbathed, mattered and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor)
    • Being left alone or in the care of other young children
    • Eating more than usual at a meal or saving food for later
    • Doesn’t get medical, dental, or mental health care
    • Frequently late or missing a lot of school
    • Poor weight gain and growth

Preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility, not just a child or a parent. There may be many reasons that families may not want to seek help for child abuse. The stigma of abuse and fear of legal consequences, the abuser, and financial instability, among others, can prevent an individual from reporting abuse. Some of the reasons that people have reported are as follow(s):

A loved one or neighbor may notice changes in a child’s demeanor or behavior, which may be signs of abuse. A loved one or neighbor can seek help by utilizing the following resources:

    • If there is an immediate danger, you should always call 911
    • If you suspect a child is being harmed, you can contact your local child protective services (CPS)
    • If you reside in North Carolina, you can visit https://www.ncdhhs.gov/ for information on reporting or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 422-4453 (there are specific websites for all states in which you can google child abuse reporting information for your state, and the information will appear).
    • If you are aware of sexual assault, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (24/7 hotline).

If you suspect abuse, reporting it can protect the child and get help for the family. Each state identifies mandatory reporters (groups of people who are required to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect). However, any concerned person can and should report suspected child abuse.

When calling to report child abuse, you will be asked for specific information, which may include:

    • The child’s name
    • The suspected perpetrator’s name (if known)
    • A description of what you have seen or heard
    • The names of any other people having knowledge of the abuse
    • Your name and phone number

For more information about where and how to file a report, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 422-4453.

There are daily ways that individuals can be a connection to a family or child in preventing abuse. Simple acts like reaching out to have a conversation, offering to carpool, or cooking a fresh meal can help alleviate the stress a child or parent feels but also create a trusting relationship. Encourage others to be a connection through your actions and words, to lead by example. Additionally, share this post so that your family, friends, and other community members can have access to this information so that they can be a connection!

If you enjoyed this post, please like our page and follow us on our social media accounts for additional informative, fun, and helpful posts like this one! We appreciate all of you and what you’re doing to better the community in which we live in! Remember, #Beaconnection!!

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Jonathan Mindas, HEARTH Program Manager

Jon Mindas manages HEARTH. HEARTH offers transitional housing to homeless young adults age 18-21 in a supervised, yet independent, living environment.  Youth receive counseling, vocational and educational training, parent education services, independent living skills training, and other supports as needed for his or her individual situation.  Read more about HEARTH here

Let’s learn more about Jon!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

The Youth Focus Holiday party. We got to celebrate with our families and our clients in a fun atmosphere. We laughed for hours, got to bowl (lots of gutter balls for me) and ate plenty of great food. I’m looking forward to the next holiday party.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

The copious amount of services we offer.  From residential treatment, outpatient counseling, transitional living, foster care, and crisis shelter.  The list goes on and on. Youth Focus has endless services for youth who are experiencing a myriad of problems in Guilford County.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

Jason Yates. He was my first teacher in the field of social work and I was very fortunate to work alongside him at Caring Services Inc. in High Point. I have known Jason for 10 years now and he’s been a constant mentor, supporter, and source of inspiration in my life. I consider him a dear friend and someone who gave me my first opportunity in social work. He’s been in the field for 25+ years and works tirelessly to help those in need. He provided me the tools I utilize today and we’ve had many conversations about social justice, how to therapeutically engage with clients, and how to become more impactful with the people we serve. I owe my career to him.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and soon after she started attending a support group led by a clinical social worker. I was able to attend this group with my mom and it was my first experience in a therapeutic setting. I was blown away by the amount of support and encouragement that was provided in a group environment. It was a safe place for my mom during the most difficult time in her life. I knew that I wanted to provide that safe place for others.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Impactful, supportive, safe-place….I know that’s two words, but I had to say it!!!

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

In life, you will make plenty of mistakes. Take the time and learn how to forgive yourself.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

My wife, my dog, and suntan lotion.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

💪🏼

 

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Adrian Wright, Program Coach

Adrian Wright = The Definition of Team Player!   The young adults that Adrian works with absolutely love the support they get from him. He greets everyone with a huge welcoming smile and we are so glad to have him on our team.

Let’s learn more about Adrian!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

The day one of the youths and I rang the bells for the Salvation Army during Christmas.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

I wish the general public knew that the work we do at Youth Focus is essential to building a better today and tomorrow for young people and for the larger world.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

Jon Mindas! I don’t say that because he is my boss or anything. He handles his duties with dignity and respect for others. Even in times of difficulty, Jon continues to serve our clients with honor. Jon uses his gifts and talents to make this company and our program better! He is the real MVP Champ!

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

The job application on Indeed. LOL, no I’m playing. I was looking for a place where I could play an influential role in a young person’s life. At Youth Focus I can do that. I love we stand right next to our clients from day one and as cliche as it may sound, we accompany them on the journey of a lifetime. It’s the best feeling in the world.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Empowerment. Hope. Family.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

That guy was wild. I don’t think he would listen to me because that was never really his thing, but I would tell the young man to slow down. Be serious about school. It may not seem like a big deal now, but it will later. Listen to your teachers, strive for good grades, study for the SATs and get into a good college. It will make things easier, I promise. Education is how you challenge your thinking and become a better person. Don’t give up, even when you feel like you should. Life gets a whole lot better. Oh, and don’t go to that one place on that one day…you know what I’m talking about kid.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

I need a Wilson to talk to! My phone, iPad, and my Bible.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

💯

 

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Rebecca Hood, Crisis Care Professional

Rebecca Hood began her career with Youth Focus as an intern– but you’d never know it!  If you walked into Act Together, you wouldn’t even suspect she was an intern because she inserted herself as a crucial part of our team.  When her internship was over we didn’t want to lose a significant member of our team, so we had to hire her!  

Let’s learn more about Rebecca!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

We took the clients to the zoo and it was so much fun. The kids loved it and I loved seeing the excitement on their faces of learning something new.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

We do so much more than people think. We aren’t just temporary housing, or where bad kids go. We provide care and support for youth who need it. 

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

All of my Act Together coworkers and Esther Ngo have influenced me a ton! They all have had a part in my knowledge of this work and have given such good advice. I couldn’t be more thankful for my coworkers.

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

I knew I wanted to work with this population, but I was unsure of how. I heard about Youth Focus when I was a senior in college, and Esther Ngo spoke to our class during a Placement Panel. Once I heard more and began emailing with her, I knew it was exactly what I wanted.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Impactful, Community Focused, and Life-Changing.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Make the most of everything! Create memories everywhere you go! Don’t dwell on things that you cannot change or things you wish you would’ve done differently.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

A helicopter to get off the island, duhhhh! 

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

🥴 or 🤣

 

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Olivia W. Smith, Trauma Therapist

Olivia Smith is a Trauma Therapist with Safe Haven.  Safe Haven Outpatient Counseling provides free counseling to youth ages 6 to 24.  Funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission, Safe Haven provides free outpatient counseling to youth victims of crime.   This often includes victims of physical violence, bullying, sexual assault, rape; mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, or neglect; and youth who have been a witness to domestic violence or local gang violence.

Trauma-Focused Therapy is a specific approach to therapy that recognizes and emphasizes understanding how the traumatic experience impacts a child’s mental, behavioral, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. This type of therapy is rooted in understanding the connection between the trauma experience and the child’s emotional and behavioral responses. The purpose of trauma-focused therapy is to offer skills and strategies to assist your child in better understanding, coping with, processing emotions and memories tied to traumatic experiences, with the end goal of enabling your child to create a healthier and more adaptive meaning of the experience that took place in his/her life. source

Let’s learn more about Olivia!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

Validation in this field is so important since so much of our work is difficult to “measure.” I remember one afternoon I received a text message from a staff member at our Transitional Living Program letting me know that one of the residents came home motivated, inspired, and excited after a session. Knowing I have instilled any amount of hope in the clients I have the pleasure to work with, no matter how small, will always stick with me as memorable and meaningful. These stories are what makes the challenge of the work that much more rewarding.

 2. What is one thing you wish the general public knew about Youth Focus?

We have an awesome staff. One of the reasons I didn’t hesitate about coming on board with this agency is because of the history and culture of the staff. On any given day, I am going to encounter a fellow staff member that makes me laugh, encourages me or provides a different perspective, teaches me something new, and shows me how passionate they are about the clients and families we serve.

3. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I simply can’t choose one person. I feel like I have literally been raised by a powerful team of influencers that come from so many different fields. There is one person that has mentored me, professionally and personally that comes to mind that reminds me every time I see him that right here, right now, is the only place I need to be. He helps me to continue with the mantra- “Bloom where you are planted.”

4. What led you to Youth Focus and working with young adults?

Before entering the social work field, I have spent much of my life engaging with youth in various settings including working in preschools, working with Upward Bound students during my time in college encouraging their high school academic journeys, and 3 years working in youth and college ministry. I spent a year serving with AmeriCorps VISTA on a sustainable, community-supported farm working with the special needs community and it was this year that ultimately led me to social work.  I was attracted not only to the clinical counseling side but to the advocacy and social justice side. “When a flower does not bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” (Alexander Den Heijer). It’s just as important to work with our systems as is it is to work with individuals if we want to truly see societal shift and change in the realm of mental and physical health and holistic healing.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Informed, empowered, hope-filled.

6. What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Listen up girlfran, people will love you so much more if you can just learn to love yourself and show up as that person, wholly authentic. AND- Older folks (parents, grandparents, that random lady at church that always smiles at you but you think she’s really judging you on the inside) might not see the world the same way you do, but they may actually know a thing or two and have wisdom that MATTERS. Learn to let your guard down and listen. You might really learn a life lesson or two that will make a lot more sense later on.

7. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

I’m never a fan of these questions. Mostly because I would probably tell you 3 completely different things if you asked me tomorrow. Priorities change, am I right? If I was going today, it would be a giant thing of crisp spring water, a yoga mat, and my favorite pillow. (I need good sleep to be able to brainstorm creative ways to get off this island!!!!)

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

🤗

 

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Given the current state and local guidelines for COVID-19, Youth Focus has temporarily suspended all on-site visitors and volunteers. This does NOT include clients or those accompanying clients to appointments. Those coming on-site will be asked to wear a mask for the duration of the appointment and limit the number of accompanying guests. Thank you for your understanding and commitment to the safety of our youth and staff.
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