Staff profiles

Ellen Hollander

Ellen is an Americorps member and works as our Safe Place Coordinator. She’s a team player and always willing to help with a smile on her face.

1. How would you describe your job in a few words to a stranger?

I work at a youth crisis shelter that provides emergency housing to youth who have run away, are experiencing a family crisis, are victims of abuse or neglect, or are homeless for other reasons.

 2. What’s your typical day at work like?

Every day is a new adventure at Act Together! Each day I work to build rapport with all our clients and help them meet their needs. I process referrals, admissions, and discharges and provide case management to residents. I also complete Safe Place site checks and training with our community partners.

3. What is your favorite thing about working at Youth Focus?

My favorite thing about working at Youth Focus is getting to know the kids that we serve and being able to help the kids learn skills and coping mechanisms to work through conflict.

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

I wish the general public knew how supportive and interactive the staff at Act Together are with the clients. The staff provides a safe environment for the youth and is always ready when a crisis arises. The staff is also very supportive of each other. I know I can always turn to anybody on the team if I need encouragement or advice.

5. What energizes you the most outside of work?

Being creative! I love working on other projects. I am always painting, sculpting with clay, baking, etc. I love the process of creating something new!

6. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

The best advice would be to do what scares you. My mom has told me that the more we face what we consider to be scary, the less scary it becomes. Leaning into that vulnerability helps us gain strength, courage, and confidence. Each experience is an opportunity for growth.

7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

I want the power to instantly learn, speak, and understand any language fluently. In an increasingly more diverse world, the power to communicate and interact with each other holds even greater importance. This power would allow me to connect with people from all over the world.

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

Trust yourself, don’t judge yourself too harshly and, be kind to yourself. The only goal you can’t accomplish is the one you don’t go after.

9. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the youth you work with?

When I tell people I work at a youth crisis shelter, they assume I work with “bad” kids – that these kids are criminals. In reality, the youth we work with are good kids who are often dealing with complex family issues or abuse. We work to provide help and resources for our youth in crisis.

10. What’s one song you have completely memorized?

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers

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Tiana Roberts

Say hello to Tiana, a wonderful part of our team at My Sister Susan’s House!

1. How would you describe your job in a few words to a stranger?

I don’t consider this my job, this opportunity has aligned me with the purpose God has placed inside of me. I am able to express a type of love that some of our clients may have not been able to ever receive before.

 2. What’s your typical day at work like?

A typical day at work for me is helping uplift our clients mentally and emotionally, empowering them in understanding that they are more than just their current circumstance, and providing words of encouragement as it relates to their life challenges.

3. What is your favorite thing about working at Youth Focus?

Being able to be a small impact on the lives of those we serve.

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

Youth Focus is a way for our staff to express our passion. We truly love being able to serve our clients.

5. What energizes you the most outside of work?

Spending time with my family and friends.

6. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

My parents: Go after whatever it is that you love, and stick to it.

7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Mindreader! 

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

You can’t control anything. You have to learn how to persevere through your mistakes in life.

9. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the youth you work with?

That our youth are hard to get along with. Our youth come from various walks of life, and being able to trust may be something they lack. Give them their space, and once they feel like they want to let you into their life the relationship will build from there!

10. What’s one song you have completely memorized?

Soul Ties by MajorNine

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Finn Shepherd

Finn is a newer staff member and has hit the ground running and taken a lot of ownership of his role. He is an active and crucial part of our team and we love having him work on the third shift!

 

1. How would you describe your job in a few words to a stranger?

I work at Act Together with youth 11-17 who are either in foster care, runaway/homeless or seeking respite services from their home situation.

 2. What’s your typical day at work like?

I work the 3rd shift, so typically I come into work and tell the clients goodnight before they fall asleep. Then I make sure they are safe throughout the night and do all the necessary paperwork and file auditing.

3. What is your favorite thing about working at Youth Focus?

I like seeing how the clients improve over their time with Youth Focus, especially when I connect with the clients and they open up to me. It feels like I am taking an active part in helping them navigate and figure out life, even though I only know these clients for the 90 days or less that they are at the Crisis Shelter.

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

I wish the public knew more about the respite services that Youth Focus offers, and the importance of mental health services for youth. Adolescence is a hard time for everyone, and more youth and teens need to know that talking to a therapist would help them.

5. What energizes you the most outside of work?

I love learning languages and playing with my dog and cats.

6. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

My host dad from my study abroad semester in Germany imparted a lot of advice, but I think the best advice he showed me was that it is important to take time to relax in nature and feel connected to your surroundings. That hour or so can relax you and make you feel better and more centered.

7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

The power to speak every language fluently.

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

Honestly, keep on doing what you were doing. It obviously worked out; you’re doing good work that you enjoy.

9. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the youth you work with?

I think a lot of people think that the clients are hopeless. Sure, clients might have a bad history and previous disrupted placements, but there is some underlying reason for these behaviors that is not being addressed. Addressing this reason and these behaviors can help the clients have a better quality of life.

10. What’s one song you have completely memorized?

99 Luftballons by Nena

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Kenyetta Matier

Say hello to Kenyetta Matier, a long-time staff member and integral part of the Youth Focus team! 

 

1. How would you describe your job in a few words to a stranger?

I’m apart of a transitional living program for women who are pregnant or parenting. I assist/guide them on their path to becoming a young woman and finding their path in life.

 2. What’s your typical day at work like?

Typically I’m only available during the 3rd shift so most interactions are helping young women prepare themselves and/or children for the night, in the morning if transports are needed for work and/or daycare or if any circumstances may arise during the night that may require my assistance. This might be medication administration, counsel, possible transportation to and from work, or the doctor.

3. What is your favorite thing about working at Youth Focus?

Having the positive influence to change and/or make a difference in our youth lives. Even if that difference is for one person, it brings joy to my heart that I was apart of their journey to better.

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

Youth Focus offers and provides many services to all ages of our youth. Our primary goal is to serve the families to the best of our ability.

5. What energizes you the most outside of work?

Maintaining my spirituality and peace of mind by helping my elderly family by providing transportation and ensuring their essential needs are met. In addition, I find time to pamper myself with consistent hair appointments, trying various restaurants, and finding a good Netflix show to binge-watch.

6. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

“Let go and let God”. My mom who passed away in 2015 instilled in me to trust and believe in God in all you do and you will prevail.

7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

To always have peace within this world.

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

Although I was raised the majority of my life by a single parent, my mother, that didn’t mean I wasn’t loved any less. Anything you set your mind to, set goals, apply yourself, and stay determined.

9. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the youth you work with?

The biggest misconception is that our youth are “bad kids”. Our youth are not bad kids, but individuals who need guidance and additional positive individuals that can assist in their path of life.

10. What’s one song you have completely memorized?

Take Me As I Am by Mary J Blige

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Ericka Hurt

Ericka Hurt has been a huge blessing to My Sister Susan’s House (MSSH) this year! She jumped in headfirst from day one, and our clients and staff love working with her. We are very fortunate to have someone so committed to our youth in the AmeriCorps role.

 

1. How would you describe your job in a few words to a stranger?

I am a program coach at My Sister Susan’s House where we provide case management and life skills to pregnant and parenting mothers.

 2. What’s your typical day at work like?

A typical day at MSSH is reviewing staff logs and checking calendars. After doing paperwork I prepare the girl’s medication and start planning the day. Once the girls are up I sit and talk to them and play with the babies. I will do case management and just sit and bond with the girls.

3. What is your favorite thing about working at Youth Focus?

My favorite thing about working at Youth Focus is seeing the ladies grow into themselves. Watching them learn how to look at life through a different lens.

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

I wish the general public knew that Youth Focus is all about empowering and helping youth.

5. What energizes you the most outside of work?

I am currently obtaining my Master’s in Social Work and that is what keeps me the most energized because I am looking forward to giving back.

6. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

My dad always tells me that if you are doing something you love it will never feel like work. You will always give it your all because you are in love with what you do.

7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

If I had a superpower it would be to healing. To be able to touch people and heal whatever is hurting or bothering them.

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

I would tell myself that everything will work out.

9. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the youth you work with?

The biggest misconception that people have about the youth I work with is that they are forced here. They believe that they are ordered by the courts to participate in the program. When in reality the youth come here on their own to become better parents and give their child a better life.

10. What’s one song you have completely memorized?

Believing In Me by Monica

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Temara Carthens

Temara Carthens works with us at Act Together as a Crisis Care Professional. 

 

1. How would you describe your job in a few words to a stranger?

I work at a youth crisis shelter. Providing assistance to youth experiencing crisis such as homelessness, childhood trauma and or abuse, human trafficking, and transitioning to a more permanent placement.

 2. What’s your typical day at work like?

Surprisingly no 2 days are ever the same. I’m always trying to keep clients busy and meet all their needs; therapeutically, mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially.  I also prioritize good communication with our community partners (social workers, court counselors, parents).

3. What is your favorite thing about working at Youth Focus?

Being able to have a say in what I do. I love working with these children and using my own ideas. I’m very supported in almost all my decisions.

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

I really wish everyone understood we are not a group home or a scared straight program. We are a resource in the community willing to help youth in crisis, whatever that crisis may be.  Without Act Together a LOT of youth would be on the streets.

5. What energizes you the most outside of work?

Sleep 😴

6. What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

That everyone may not understand how I work as long as it comes from a genuine place. Everyone has a different approach.  To know my worth and what I bring to the table.  My former Youth Focus co-worker Talisa Bell told me this great advice.

7. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

To be invisible. I am very observant and like to watch my surroundings without being a creep.

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

To go harder!

9. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the youth you work with?

That they don’t have a voice.

10. What’s one song you have completely memorized?

Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi 

 

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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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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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