Angela Weeks, RISE Program Manager
Angela leads a coaching and support network for over 20 partner agencies striving to implement best practices for supporting LGBTQ youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Through this support network, Angela and her team deliver LGBTQ-competency trainings, coaching, consultation, and technical assistance to thousands of social service employees and caregivers at public and private youth serving agencies. Angela provides individual consultation to agency leaders actively integrating professional and legal standards into their policies and practices. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. Prior to joining RISE, she served in the United States Army as a trainer and health care manager.
Lisa Phillips, Director of Clinical and Foster Care Services
Lisa Phillips, M.A., LMFT is the Director of Clinical and Foster Care Services of the Children Youth & Family Services Department (CYFS) at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Lisa joined the Los Angeles LGBT Center in 1998 and has held positions of Mental Health Clinician, Residential Manager, and Associate Director before her current position. She is responsible for the leadership, administration and management of clinical and foster care programs serving LGBTQ youth. This includes the RISE program, a model program to address barriers to permanency and well-being for LGBTQ children and youth in foster care; a 7-day a week drop-in center for homeless and unstably housed LGBTQ youth; a 24 bed emergency shelter for youth struggling with mental health issues; a 24 bed transitional living program; and an 8-bed independent living program. Her responsibilities include developing strategic and evidence based models for LGBTQ youth; short and long term strategic planning; clinical supervision; and training and consultation to county and private foster care and mental health agencies. A particular priority for Lisa is the ongoing development, implementation and evaluation of services that improve the well-being of LGBTQ youth and gender expansive children in child welfare and increasing family and caregiver support for, and affirmation of, their child or youth’s sexual identity and/or gender expression. Lisa has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 15 years and has an extensive clinical and administrative background developing programs for LGBTQ youth. She is part of the leadership team responsible for the procurement, development, implementation and management of the RISE Initiative, a recipient of the Children’s Bureau’s Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII), a 5-year, $100 million initiative designed to create more competent and affirming professional and caregiving environments for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, and questioning children and youth in foster care in Los Angeles County. Lisa holds a BA in Sociology from Mt Saint Mary’s College and her Master’s from Phillips Graduate Institute in Los Angeles, CA.
Avery Irons, Training and Coaching Manager
Avery works with system stakeholders to plan and implement training for their staff. As a trainer she specializes in legal and professional standards and intersectionality. Prior to joining the RISE Project she worked as the Director of Youth Justice Programs at the Children’s Defense Fund - New York and the Associate Director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correctional Association of New York. She received a B.A. in Political Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law.
Andrea Stevens, Research and Evaluation Supervisor
Andrea is the Evaluation Liaison to the RISE Project’s federal partners and assists in the collecting, monitoring, analyzing, and ensuring the quality of all information and data disseminated for the project. In this capacity she also manages all phases of research and data management related the project’s fidelity assessment and program monitoring. Andrea holds a B.A. in Political Science from the California State University, Northridge.
Joann Cerda, Facilitator
Biography coming soon
Ange Castellanos, Training and Coaching Instructor
Ange coordinates permanency plans for youth receiving RISE services and works to ensure that all surrounding adults are LGBTQ-affirming and competent. She coordinates a team of four care professionals to provide support and therapeutic services to LGBTQ youth and their caregivers. She earned her B.A. in Sociology from UC Riverside while participating as a student athlete. Ange has been involved in the social service field since 2008.
Laura Calderoni, Family Advocate
Laura is a Family Advocate for the RISE Project, which is similar to the role of a Parent Partner, who advocates on behalf of family members, and coaches them to successfully negotiate systems like mental health services, schools and juvenile justice. Laura’s primary goal as a Family Advocate is to provide guidance and support as a mentor and coaching to parents, adult figures, and caregivers of LGBTQ foster youth in order to stabilize families and cultivate permanency for LGBTQ youth within the home environment. Laura also assists with implementing strategies to increase family acceptance and to help identify community supports for parents and caregivers who are struggling with their LGBTQ youth’s identity. Laura holds a degree in social work and earned a Multiple Subject teaching credential, where she taught elementary and secondary education prior to her role with RISE. She is also a parent of an adult daughter. Laura has extensive background with the LGBTQ community through both professional and personal experiences.
Arian Gauff, Family Finding Coordinator
Arian focuses on finding a network of supportive relationships (biological and non-biological) for youth receiving RISE services. Prior to joining RISE, Ariane worked for the New Orleans Department of Social Services as a foster care worker, home developer, and adoptions staff member. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from the University of New Orleans.
Jesi Harris, Training and Coaching Instructor
Jesi works directly with county juvenile care staff, assessing need, developing curriculum, and implementing LGBTQ+ competency trainings for Los Angeles County Professionals who work with youth, including DCFS and juvenile probation staff. Before her current position, Jesi ran a harm reduction program focusing on HIV prevention, education, and connection to care among young MSMs (men who sleep with men) of color. She originally hails from North Carolina where she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Psychology and English in 2010.
America Islas, Mental Health Clinician II
America is the RISE Program’s bilingual clinician. She provides services to both youth and families. By developing an understanding of her clients’ underlying needs, she supports them in a process that can result in permanency and long-lasting connections for young people. America also educates and advocates to reduce discrimination and rejection in caregiver settings, while also increasing LGBTQ awareness in systems of care. She received her M.S. in Marriage and Family Child Counseling from San Francisco State University and has been a practicing clinician since 2011. She works with a variety of populations, but specializes in services for the LGBTQI2-S population.
Ariel Bustamante, Training and Coaching Instructors
Ariel Bustamante is a former Liberty Hill Leader to Watch and American Bar Association Panelist with nearly a decade of experience working with social justice non-profits including GSA Network, Liberty Hill Foundation, the ACLU of Southern California, and now the RISE Program at the LA LGBT Center. She attended Green Mountain College, an environmental liberal arts college in the small, rural village of Poultney, Vermont and self-designed her area of study: inequality and oppression studies. As a certified HIV testing and prevention counselor, she worked to increase awareness and access to resources in the small town. For over 6 years, using an intersectional model, she worked to support the leadership development of youth activists and community organizers. As an equity and compliance expert, she has trained thousands of adults in the education sector, service providers, and others across the country at conferences, on panels, and through on-site consultation.
Mike McCormack, Training and Coaching Instructors
Mike works directly with Los Angeles County professionals who work with youth, including DCFS and other agencies in need of LGBTQ+ affirming trainings and technical support. Prior to working at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Mike worked in higher education, helping coordinate large-scale events and trainings for students, staff, and faculty. Mike holds his BA in English and American Literature from New York University and his Ed.M in College Student Affairs from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.