Staff profiles

Talissa Bell, Crisis Care Professional

Talissa Bell is a Crisis Care Professional at Act Together, our emergency shelter for you experiencing homelessness. Act Together is an emergency housing facility for male, female and gender-nonconforming youth who have run away, are experiencing a family crisis, are the victims of abuse or neglect, or are homeless for other reasons. The maximum stay is 21 days, voluntary and must be earned by an earnest effort to develop solutions using other Youth Focus and community resources

Let’s learn more about Talissa!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

My favorite memory from work is when I played basketball with the kids.

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

How helpful our services really are. Sometimes I think our program is not understood.

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

My sister has taught me to be patient and listen to understand, not to respond.

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

A passion for wanting to serve my community.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Unpredictable, safe, giving.

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

The advice I would give my teenage self is to enjoy life and tomorrow will be a better day.

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

Bible, my wig with the wig head, and my phone.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

🤷

 

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Jennifer Shafer, Program Coach for HEARTH Transitional Living Program

Haaaaave you met Jennifer Shafer? Jennifer is a Program Coach at Hearth Transitional Living Program. 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.  

Let’s learn more about Jennifer!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

My favorite memory is when all our staff and youth went out for dinner to celebrate one of our youth’s birthdays. She said it was the only thing she really wanted for her birthday, and that is so indicative of how valuable the relationships we build with the youth really are.

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

That we are here, and that our only motive is to help support our youth in creating a better future for themselves.

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

In my first year of Grad school, I researched the factors make the difference between success and failure in youth.  Time after time research has found that when a youth has just one person who believes in them, whether that is a coach, a teacher, a youth pastor, a family friend, that relationship is always the key factor in their success. It has been my goal to either be that one person or to make sure each of the youth I work with have that relationship with another trusted, responsible and caring adult.

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

As a senior in high school, I made the hard realization that I wouldn’t be able to afford college. Despite a life long plan to go straight to college, I made the decision to enlist in the Navy when I was 17, which required permission from my parents. They were not thrilled with the idea and initially said no, and refused to sign the paperwork. My school counselor at the time sat them down and we talked through my plan, and the reasons why I’d made the decision. By the time that conversation was over my parents were willing to sign the papers. If it wasn’t for my school counselor I’m not sure I would have made it to where I am now, and when it was time for me to separate from the Navy I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Genuine, opportunity, connection.

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

You’re going to make it, so try not to get so caught up in planning your life that you forget to live it.

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

A multi-tool, a pot, and an electronic device pre-loaded with all of my favorite music and a handful of books I haven’t had time to read.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

🤣

 

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Bonny Buckley, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor

Bonny is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor, a National Certified Counselor, and an all-around awesome person who has been with Youth Focus since 2004!  

Let’s learn more about Bonny!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

SO MANY awesome memories! Early during my time at Youth Focus I remember finishing a session with a 6-year-old and giving them a high five of encouragement for the goals they were working on and then walking out in the waiting room and greeting my next client, a 16-year-old who was way taller than me. The fact that I get to work with so many different ages continues to add to my favorite memories. I truly enjoy encouraging and supporting people of all ages on positive goals and feel inspired by the progress (the big and little steps) I get to witness each day.

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

Youth Focus has so many wonderful programs and staff members and everyone deserves access to quality mental health support!

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

I cannot narrow this down to just one person because I have been, and continue to be, inspired by so many wonderful people in my life including my family, teachers, colleagues, and clients that I have had the honor of working with. My work is greatly influenced by expressive therapies and Adlerian psychology. I also want to note that discouraging people and experiences have influenced me because I strive to learn from every experience and help and encourage others to persevere.

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

My undergraduate degree is a BFA in music theatre with minors in dance and psychology. In an acting class, I had a professor mention drama therapy and after class, I went to the library to look up more information. That’s when I learned about all the expressive therapies, including drama, art, music, and dance/movement. It was the beginning of combining so many of my interests with my desire to help people.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Dedicated, Caring, Supportive.

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

Whew! Hang in there! Your brain is going through so much development and change right now and emotions feel so intense (It gets easier!). Some things that feel important aren’t. You don’t have to figure everything out right now. Ask for help when you need it (it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s wise and part of being human). Take care of yourself (physically and emotionally), set healthy boundaries, and if someone doesn’t look out for your best interests and fully respect you then they aren’t really a friend. Don’t lower your standards!

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

I assume my husband and children would be with me already (I’m usually spending time with them when not at work…but how/why are we stuck on an island! People who know me, know that I like to plan and prepare, so if I did get stuck on an island I would have already discussed my general location/plans with others and a recuse mission would be underway shortly!) So, I would like to have clean water, shelf-stable food, and one of my family’s favorite board games to enjoy the time together until we were rescued. But, in case no one was coming, my items would focus totally on safety and survival…my son suggested a fully stocked boat with GPS and satellite phone to coordinate our efforts to get home safe (can you tell where he gets it from)!

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

I still use a flip phone (by choice!) and use an ‘old school’ smiley face is my most used “emoji”!  : – )

 

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Jannifer Pastorick, Safe Place Coordinator

It’s National Safe Place Week, and we’re celebrating!  #NSPWeek2020 honors Safe Place, an outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis that is operated locally by Youth Focus. National Safe Place Week serves to recognize the many valued partners who work together to provide immediate help and safety for all young people. It is a dedicated time to acknowledge Safe Place locations and community partners, volunteers, and staff.  Jannifer Pastorick is the heart and hands behind Safe Place locally.

Let’s learn more about Jannifer!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

I visited the Morehead Park Recreation Center in High Point for a standard site check. The youth program coordinator told me that she was so happy I came and explained that an eighteen-year-old young man from the neighborhood was experiencing intermittent homelessness. With the help of my supervisor, Esther Ngo, I was able to provide her with information about agencies in her community to assist the young man in acquiring support and long-term housing.

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

I share with everyone who asks how impressed and grateful I am to know that everyone in the organization is concerned about and attentive to all of the needs of the children in the care of Youth Focus.

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

Esther Ngo has influenced me the most with her eagerness to serve and her attention to detail.

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

I am a social worker. I have great compassion for vulnerable populations, especially children.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Professional, approachable, attentive.

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

I would advise my teenage self to hone the art of self-control and be strategic in all I do.

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

The Bible, my dog, and a hammock.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

😉

 

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Maddie Schug, AmeriCorps Intern

 

This week, thousands of Americans across the country will participate in AmeriCorps Week, the annual celebration of the more than 1.1 million AmeriCorps members who have pledged to “get things done” for America.   Youth Focus is so proud of our AmeriCorps Intern, Maddie!   Not only is Maddie an amazing young lady and Tar Heel, but she is also dedicated to ending homelessness in the Triad.  Maddie has been working diligently at My Sister Susan’s House with our young moms in a weekly group session.  Every week Maddie works to help our moms achieve their goals, like getting a GED, employment, and housing. She goes above and beyond to make her group sessions fun by letting the young ladies take turns picking what they want to cook. 

Every year, 75,000 AmeriCorps members serve through more than 20,000 schools, nonprofits, and community and faith-based organizations across the country.  They also tutor and mentor young people, connect veterans to jobs, care for seniors, reduce crime and revive cities, help fight the opioid epidemic, and meet other critical needs.  Thank you to AmeriCorps and Maddie! 

Let’s learn more about Maddie!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

Getting to witness the moms at My Sister Susan’s House be present in their children’s lives. It’s the smaller, day to day moments that have been my favorite; getting to be a part of a child’s first birthday party, helping a mom put her child in a high chair and a baby walker for the first time, the sweet and loving looks that the moms give their babies. I love being part of an organization that keeps mom and baby together and fosters healthy development in a safe space for both the mom and the child.

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

I wish the general public had more awareness about youth homelessness in general. The population of youth experiencing homelessness is a huge issue that deserves more resources to help all of the youth who reach out for help. Youth Focus bursts at its seams with dedicated, hard-working staff who work tirelessly every day to make positive impacts in the lives of the youth they serve.

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

All of the staff that I work with at My Sister Susan’s House have gifted me with the knowledge and experience from which I learn and grow every day. Their support and guidance have meant the world to me.

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

I have always known that I wanted to be in a helping profession. A year and a half ago, I took the leap and enrolled in a Masters in Social Work Program. I was lucky enough to fulfill my MSW internship with Youth Focus through my AmeriCorps position!

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Dedicated, compassionate, caring.

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

It’s all about perspective. Be grateful always!

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

My husband, my dog, and Thai food.

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

🥰

 

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Kristy Huynh, My Sister Susan’s House

Kristy HuynhIt’s time to get to know another fantastic member of the Youth Focus team, Kristy Huynh! Kristy is the Program Manager for My Sister Susan’s House and has worked for Youth Focus for two years. 

My Sister Susan’s House offers transitional housing to pregnant women between the ages of 16 and 21. The facility was opened in collaboration with UNCG, the YWCA, GTCC, the City of Greensboro and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, and is LEED-certified.

 

Let’s learn more about Kristy!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

I helped move a young mother into her very first apartment.  She was so excited and ran around the apartment, screaming! I will never forget her joy. 

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

I wish more people knew about the diversity of services we offer; maternity housing, transitional living, rapid rehousing, outpatient counseling for youth who are the victims of crime and violence.  If we see a need for a service, we try our best to provide it. 

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

Our Executive Director, Sarah Roethlinger, has been my biggest influence in how I approach our clients and their needs.  I admire her commitment and compassion. 

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

I have a degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Sociology. I planned to pursue a degree in counseling after college but took a detour to retail management. After my brother passed from a drug overdose, I wanted to help youth in my community, and I interviewed at Youth Focus’ Residential Treatment Center (now a part of AYN).   I worked at the Residential Treatment Center, as well as ACT Together Crisis Care until a position opened in our Maternity Home. It didn’t take long for me to realize I found my perfect fit.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Committed. Compassionate. Supportive.

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

Don’t worry so much! What is meant to be will be.

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

Three people would be my husband and our two daughters. Three things are a toothbrush, toothpaste, and sunscreen!

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

😘

 

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Ashlyn Hodges, Trauma Therapist

Say helllloooo to Ashlyn Hodges, a Trauma Therapist at Youth Focus and all-around fantastic person!  If you’re not familiar with trauma-based therapy, let us enlighten you about this wonderful approach to working with youth.

According to Northwestern University, 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 trauma and the child’s emotional and behavioral responses. The purpose of trauma-focused therapy is to offer skills and strategies to assist the child in better understanding, coping with,  processing emotions and memories tied to traumatic experiences, with the end goal of enabling the child to create a healthier and more adaptive meaning of the experience that took place in his/her life.

 

Let’s learn more about Ashlyn!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

My favorite memory from work would have to be the staff holiday celebrations! ♪♪ It’s the most wonderful time of the year♪♪, after all!

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

Youth Focus is an organization that goes above and beyond to help youth and families in need and makes a positive impact on the entire community.

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

My coworkers and supervisors have all influenced me in how I approach my work and clients. I am so thankful to be apart of an organization that believes in teamwork! My work family has been nothing but supportive and 100% like family!

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

I have always felt led to help people in need. Some of my fondest memories growing up are when my family and I would take blankets to the homeless, Christmas presents to the orphanages, and give out care packages to individuals on the side of the road. It has been an honor to be able to enter into a career where I am able to impact the lives of others and be impacted by their resiliency.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just three words but if I had to choose I would describe Youth Focus as helpful, compassionate, and dependable.

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

I would tell my younger self that it is okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to admit if you don’t know everything. Life is a journey.  We live, and we learn, so it’s okay to ask for help and it’s important to remember that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

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

If I was stuck on an island and would bring a hammock, matches, and a satellite phone that could have service anywhere around the world!

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

My most used emoji would definitely be the laughing emoji 😂! Anyone who knows me knows that I spend the majority of my time laughing and picking around! I believe that laughter is music to the soul!

 

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Temara Carthens, Act Together

Each month, we’d like to highlight one of our excellent staff members by getting to know them better. Without their dedication and passion, our organization would not be what it is today! Behind every program is a fantastic team that works tirelessly to serve our community’s at-risk youth, which in turn allows us to provide quality services unlike any other nonprofit in the Piedmont Triad. We appreciate all of our excellent staff!

This month we’re kicking off our staff highlight with Temara Carthens at Act Together. Act Together is an emergency housing facility for male, female, and gender-nonconforming youth who have run away, are experiencing a family crisis, are the victims of abuse or neglect, or are homeless for other reasons. While at Act Together, youth receive shelter, as well as medical, psychological, and educational support in a home-like environment. The children attend public school, most often the school they were currently attending, and participate in a wide variety of both on and off-campus recreational, cultural and social activities.

Photo of Temara CarthensAct Together has a long history of serving the LGBTQIA community. We are the proud recipient of several grants from the Guilford Green Foundation, a local organization whose mission it is to promote diversity and inclusiveness throughout the gay and lesbian community in greater Guilford County.

Temara is a crisis care professional, weekend supervisor, and scheduler with Act Together. Last year Temara was our part-time employee of the year, and we’re so excited for you to get to know her better!

 

Let’s learn some about Temara!

1. What is your favorite memory from Youth Focus?

Last year I was snowed in with our youth for four days. We had a wonderful time playing in the snow and making memories.

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

We do a lot of great work in Greensboro, but we also work with kids from outside of Greensboro and Guilford County.

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

The youth we serve. Everyone is different and comes from lots of different backgrounds. You have to get to know them and handle them all gently, but differently. By learning their strengths and weaknesses, I can help them grow. Learning that made me better at my job, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by our youth or my co-workers.

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

My father. I think about how if my father had access to more resources or programs like those that Youth Focus offers, maybe, just maybe, his adult decisions and family life would have been better. I firmly believe it is easier to build stronger children than to repair broken men.

5. What are three words to describe Youth Focus?

Community outreach, change, future

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

Always work to be better than yesterday.

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

Food, the Bible, and a phone with wifi 

8. What’s your most-used emoji?

😒

Thanks, Temara, for letting us get to know you a little better, and thank you for all you do for Youth Focus! We appreciate you!

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Leonard Paschall

Youth Focus is excited to feature another one of our amazing staff members! Leonard Paschall, dubbed ‘Lenny’ or ‘Paschall’ by his co-workers, is a mental health technician that has been with the organization for over 15 years. He is an asset at multiple programs within the agency, but his greatest gift is his gift of humor! Enjoy getting to know Lenny!

What do you find the most rewarding part of your job? Helping youth, and seeing them grow into positive productive young people.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Helping youth

Who inspires you? I’m inspired my hard-working co-workers

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about my family and seeing them happy.

What is your favorite food? Give me a good taco!

Do you have a secret talent that your co-workers don’t know about? No one knows, but I’m pretty funny at times!

If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Honeysuckle blossom melon

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?  Great white shark hunting off the Australian coast!

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? I would be an eagle so I could eat fish all day, fly, and be the symbol of this great nation!

What’s the last book you read? Applebee’s menu!

What’s a TV show you never miss? The Walking Dead! I’m hooked on the zombie action.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure? I love ice cream.

What was your first job? I was a biscuit maker at Hardees!

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? The best gift I’ve ever received was my daughter! A gift from God!

If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why? If I had a superpower I would want the ability to read and manipulate minds, Professor X style.

What would you do with $10 million dollars? I would buy 10 million scratch-off tickets and die broke.

You’re alone in your car. What are you listening to? Right now I’m listening to Jhene Aiko. I love her music.

Describe yourself in high school using only one word. supercoolguywhomeveryoneloved

If you had an entire day to do anything you wanted, what would you do? Spend a day out with my daughter, just having fun and eating ice cream.

You’ve been given a $5,000 credit card limit. Which store would you go to and max it out? I would go to Lowe’s Home Improvement and go bananas!

If your life was a movie, what would the title be? It’s a Wonderful Life!

Name one thing on your ‘bucket list.’ I want to go skydiving before I die.

If you could change one problem in the world today, what would it be and why? If I could change one problem in the world it would be to end world hunger. Ice cream for everyone!

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Lashawna Kent, Structured Day

Each month, we’d like to highlight one of our awesome staff members by getting to know them better. Without their dedication and passion, our organization would not be what it is today! Behind every program is an amazing team that works tirelessly to serve our community’s at-risk youth, which in turn allows us to provide quality services unlike any other nonprofit in the Piedmont Triad. We appreciate all of our wonderful staff!

This month we’re kicking off our staff highlight at the Structured Day Program, an outpatient day treatment program for middle and high school students with moderate to severe behavioral problems. These youth receive academic, psychiatric, individual and group counseling to treat mental health diagnoses including ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, depressive disorder and mood disorder. They also receive full academic credit while they attend Structured Day, and participate in enrichment programs such as trips to the local YMCA, yoga and mindfulness, educational outings, and more.

Lashawna Kent is the Program Manager Structured Day. Many will agree that her spunky personality is not only contagious, but serves the program perfectly due to her uncanny ability to relate to the youth at the center while providing them with structure and support when they need it most. She is a favorite among the students that attend Structured Day, and can usually be found in her office with a few teenagers sitting with her and talking.

 

Let’s learn some fun facts about Lashawna!

 

How long have you been with Youth Focus?

9 years

What do you find the most rewarding part of your job?

When you see that a student has made some changes for the better. If one student out of a class makes a change that is an improvement, the struggle was worth it.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Not taking your work home mentally. I have to hit reset button at end of my shift to not focus on the problems that may have occurred throughout the day. Sometimes, the mental stress can drain the energy more than physical activity.

Who inspires you?

My father is my inspiration. He has always been a calming and encouraging part of my life. He would always say, “No child is bad”. He taught me to work hard, respect others, and not to be judgmental. His favorite saying was, “Treat others as you want to be treated, and education is very important but with the wrong attitude, you will create road blocks for yourself.”

What’s your favorite movie?

John Q.

Who would you most like to swap places with for a day?

Nobody. I love my life.  Good times and problems.

What is your favorite food?

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

What is your worst pet peeve?

Disrespect towards older people. I love older people. You can learn so much from them.

If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

Black. It is a mixture of the primary colors.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Africa. I have heard so many wonderful stories about the different countries there. My children have had the experience of visiting some of the countries in West Africa and I would love to visit also. I have tried some of the awesome food and I am curious how it will taste authentic.

Where’s your favorite place in the world?

My family home in the country. I miss it. It was destroyed in Hurricane Floyd. I have so many wonderful memories.

What’s a TV show you never miss?

I love the Golden Girls. I watch it every night before I go to sleep.

What was your first job and when?

Burger King when I was freshman in college. My parents would not let me work in high school.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

I would be like Cupid. I would go around the world making people love one another.

What would you do with $10 million dollars?

I would buy a lot of land in the country. I would build houses for the youth and let them experience working on a farm with animals and learning about nature. I would want them to experience the pleasure of working for something and reaping the reward. For example, planting the food they eat.

Describe yourself in high school using only one word.

Quiet.

If you had an entire day to do anything you wanted, what would you do?

Read a book while sitting on a porch swing with a glass of lemonade.

Do you have any phobias and if so, what are they?

Heights. I do not like being up high on bridges, plans, or amusement park rides.

Name one thing on your ‘bucket list.

Even though I dislike the thought of flying, I want to travel to different places. If God allows me to live to retire, I would spend my days traveling and meeting people from different cultures. I love learning about different beliefs, rituals, and behaviors of others.

If you could change one problem in the world today, what would it be and why?

Technology. I think technology is important but it is very dangerous. It provides too much access and makes society lazy. People depend on it too much and families are losing values. Convenience is not always better.

 

Thanks, Lashawna, for letting us get to know you a little better, and thank you for all you do for Youth Focus! We appreciate you!

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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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