Who Are We?
We are a small group of individuals who came together around a mutual belief that our children and youth deserve to be better supported to achieve their unique life’s potential. Unfortunately the scope and diversity of youth homelessness in Los Angeles make it difficult to understand the challenges that our underserved and at-risk children and youth face every day. Our Children LA is committed to changing this. We believe it should be easy for all of us to become informed about youth homelessness and what we can do to alleviate the barriers and challenges that threaten our young people’s opportunities to grow into successful adults. We believe in empowering homeless youth with effective tools to help themselves. We believe in collaborations, region-building and accessible knowledge. We believe that change is possible and in many cases has already begun - our task is to find better ways to spur dialogue and share models that drive change forward.
Board of Directors
Product Vision and Outreach
WIN Operations and Development
Carla Buck is a partner at Quivira Solutions and a board member of Pathways LA, the Everychild Foundation and Vistamar School. She has served as consultant to Fortune 500 Companies for over 25 years and is a leader in nonprofit efforts to support children and youth in the Los Angeles area. Ms. Buck has donated hundreds of hours to the development of WIN, offering critical management oversight to the design and development process and is a critical member of the WIN leadership team.
2015 Directory of Services for Homeless Youth
Project Director and Content
Outreach and Distribution Support
Melissa Schoonmaker earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California Irvine and went on to obtain a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. She is currently a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Melissa joined the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) as a Consultant II in the Division of School Support Services in 2012 to serve as the Homeless Liaison in order to support the 80 school districts and numerous charter schools to meet the educational needs of more than 67,000 homeless youth identified across the county. Prior to the LACOE, Melissa was employed at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for 16 years in several positions including Pupil Services and Attendance (PSA) Counselor, School Attendance Review Board Chairperson and as a PSA Coordinator over the Homeless Education, Pregnant Minors, Permits and Student Transfers, Foreign Student Admissions and School Court Liaison Programs. The culmination of her professional experiences has enabled her to facilitate outreach and support additional services as a collaborative partner with various district personnel, community organizations and other stakeholders in an effort to make a positive impact upon for the educational goals of these often underserved students and their families.
Outreach and Distribution Support
Jennifer Gomeztrejo is an educational consultant with Student Support Services Solutions, providing training and technical support to school districts, parents, students and community members as it relates to the California Education Code and other laws affecting student services and school administration. Previously, Jennifer served as a Consultant in the Child Welfare and Attendance Unit for the Los Angeles County Office of Education where she coordinated the interdistrict transfer appeal process and served as the County School Attendance Review Board (SARB) Coordinator. Jennifer’s expertise is enhanced by nine years of administrative experience at the school site level which included serving as a site administrator over curriculum and instruction, counseling, specialized programs, and professional development. Jennifer started her career as a high school social studies teacher and activities director.
Jennifer Essen is a graphic designer and principal/owner of Jennifer Essen Design. For the last two years, Jennifer has run the annual giving program at Braille Institute, Los Angeles. Previously, she was the principal designer at the Library Foundation of Los Angeles for over six years. In addition to her professional career, Jennifer has contributed her talents to many causes including Union Station Homeless Services, the Los Angeles Public Library, Friends in Deed, and most recently, creating a directory for homeless youth in Los Angeles in conjunction with Our Children LA and LACOE. Jennifer is a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.
Our Children LA has been fortunate to have received expert guidance from highly regarded professionals who have donated time and expertise in support of our vision. Special acknowledgment must be given to the following individuals who have contributed greatly to OCLA’s existence and program goals.
William Finkelstein, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC- trademark attorney
Maria Hwang de Bravo, Educational Consultant at Student Student Support Services Solutions, Inc., Editor and Graphic Design for OCLA's Newsletter
Sabrina Weill, Weill Media, OCLA Content Communications and Marketing Strategy
Ashley Maxwell, MPH UCLA, WIN communications strategy
Fatinah Darwish, MPH, UCLA, WIN communication strategy
Elizabeth Bluestein, Public Counsel, legal incorporation
Kristina Romero and KR Media & Designs, website creation
Chris Black, founder and CEO of Updopt, a Digital Marketing SaaS company, Technology Advisor. Chris oversaw the initial technological development and build out the WIN API and backend administration prior to the November 2015 launch.
Glenna Roberts, Fall 2014, Research and Clerical Assistant
Megan Shipley, Washington University, St Louis, summer 2015 outreach and data intern
Talia Horrow, Mira Costa High School, summer 2015 intern, website researcher
Greta Devoney, University of Southern California, summer 2016, outreach and data intern