New Board Members Michael, Pamela, and Jamie!

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New Board Members Michael, Pamela, and Jamie!

Board Member - Michael Piraino

Newest FYA Board Member Michael Piraino

In February of 2014, FYA Board Chair Emily Dulcan led the Board’s Expansion Task Force through a strategic search for candidates that fit the nimble and roll-up-your-sleeves type culture that characterize FYA’s board. In July 2015, they welcomed two innovators who complemented their mission: (1) Pamela Heisler, the Director of Programs and Partnerships for Children’s Trust Fund of Oregon, and (2) Jamie Wang, one of the original funders from SV2 that launched FYA in 2008.

This past February, they added yet another nationally recognized voice to our board of directors, Michael Piraino. For 21 years, he led National Court Appointed Special Advocates (“CASA”) as the executive director. He’s legendary, not only for growing CASA’s national influence and leading nearly 1,000 independent nonprofit programs across 49 states, but also for his thought leadership within the broader child welfare community. For example, we love this article he wrote for the Huffington Post last year, How Science Can Help Us Measure and Improve the Well-Being of Foster Youth. In it, he writes:

Research elsewhere has begun to confirm that children’s well-being may be dramatically improved if the adults who have these developmental relationships with children also help them develop a “mindset” that is oriented toward growth and success. The key point is this: mindsets can be changed. Developing a growth mindset can allow you to move beyond adverse experiences and help you follow strategies that are in your best interest according to Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

 We also know that when young people, particularly adolescents, develop a balanced understanding of the positive and negative futures they might face, they are much more likely to be able to work around the negative and back to the positive. These “balanced possible selves” can lead to improvements in academic success, behavior, and rates of depression.

It doesn’t take one of the world’s greatest geniuses to know that Piraino’s rich perspective provides a clear and natural reinforcement for FYA’s mission and our current national campaign, Healing from Trauma. We’re so proud to welcome him to our team.

Together, Michael, Pamela, and Jamie elevate FYA’s expertise in executive leadership from a spectrum of perspectives. Below, we list a few additional reasons why we love them, including insights from an interview with our very own Intel pioneer, Jamie Wang.

Pamela Heisler:

Pamela_Heisler-300x275

FYA Board Member Pamela Heisler

  • She’s an original mastermind. She was one of the original founders and child welfare policy managers of our first local partner, the Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC). Since 2010, OFYC has earned numerous policy victories, including free college tuition for foster youth in Oregon and a Foster Youth Bill of Rights. OFYC has enjoyed a 100% policy success rate, translating into six bills passed in five state legislative sessions.
  • She represents. She’s a former foster youth who graduated with a Masters in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from Portland State University and a B.A. in Spanish and Business Administration from the University of Oregon (where she graduated cum laud with honors). ¡Y habla español!
  • She carries the torch. She currently manages grantmaking for Children’s Trust Fund of Oregon and was named Emerging Nonprofit Leader by Portland Monthly Magazine in November 2013.
  • She’s a new mother! When we called her for a comment for this article, her husband David answered, “She can’t come to the phone right now because she is giving birth.” Congratulations and Happy Belated Mother’s Day, Pamela!

Jamie Wang:

  • She’s brilliant. She graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her primary industry proficiency performing advanced financial forecasting for chipmaker Intel. Ask her what she knows about the guy who invented “Moore’s Law,” by the way …
  • She’s got a record. Jamie spent 10 years coaching nonprofit organizations through Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (“SV2”), a charitable giving association whose partners support grantees through funding and management support. There, she met our beloved board veteran, Nancy Cannon O’Connell, and together they endorsed Foster Youth in Action as a grantee in 2008. Jamie enlisted Nancy to take the hands-on role of being SV2’s direct liaison and soon-to-be board member. Meanwhile, Jamie continued to consult one-on-one with FYA Founder, Janet Knipe, and supported the organization as an annual individual donor. In June 2015, Nancy nominated Jamie to join FYA’s board with this email endorsement: “I admire and respect her deeply. She is a gifted board member and volunteer, dedicated thought-partner, and committed private philanthropist.”
  • She’s got advisory skills. When asked how she became good at advising nonprofits, she said, “Practice, practice, practice. And paying attention to what’s going on and what people are really saying. That’s how I got good at forecasting [at Intel], by asking a lot of questions. I also try to push people a bit past normal comfort zones.”
  • She loves foster youth: “My main focus over 20 years has always been improving the life and educational focus of underserved youth. And to me, through all my time in philanthropy, I quickly realized that foster youth are the ones that had it the hardest.”
  • She’s a visionary Board Treasurer. She shared the following point of view with her fellow board members in August 2015, “The first five years of [FYA’s] life have been spent building a foundational network of early adopters of the youth advocacy model. Now FYA is poised to have a national presence and bring the voices of youth from every corner of this country together to support one another and drive meaningful changes to the foster care system.” When asked what motivated her to join the board, she said, “I joined the board because I see FYA at an important inflection point where we have the opportunity to grow like crazy and make an even bigger impact than we already have. I find that extremely exciting.”
FYA Board Member Jamie Wang

FYA Board Member Jamie Wang

Michael Piraino:

  • He’s respected. The Nonprofit Times selected him as one of the “Nonprofit Leaders of Power & Influence Top 50” in both 2013 and 2014.
  • He’s taught law. He received a law degree from Cornell Law School and a master’s degree from Oxford University. Later, he taught law at John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
  • He’s got oratory skills. If you’ve seen the man give a speech, then you already know. He’s a skilled communicator.
  • He understands FYA. He told FYA staff, “FYA is an organization of dedicated individuals, all passionately working to empower the voice of foster youth so they can transform foster care into the caring system it is meant to be. I am so very proud to join this effort.”
  • He’s motivated. We asked Michael what motivated him to join FYA, and he said, “Through youth organizing, FYA lifts up the skillful and passionate foster youth leaders who can lead the way for the child welfare field – in policy-setting that is youth-driven, practices that are youth-focused, and programs that promote healthy youth development.”

With the addition of Michael, Pamela, and Jamie, our board continues to draw from a rich array of disciplines: nonprofit leadership, business modeling, social entrepreneurship, executive coaching, nonprofit legal, executive communications, academia, and personal foster care history. Matt Rosen points out, “What’s paramount to me is how committed our board is. They are resourceful, hard working, and go above and beyond expectations when sharing their skills. I’ve learned that it’s important to have board members who hustle for you and see their roles as being champions.”

As FYA expands its footprint, one common conviction continues to unite the entire network: with a little guidance, the collectively unfiltered voice of foster youth will stir meaningful action; boards engage, youth memberships grow, policy makers listen, laws improve, wounds heal, and dreams manifest.