In January 2016, Shana Fox assumed the role as the Executive Director for CARY. While this role was new for Shana, her involvement in nonprofits and with CARY was not. Shana has dedicated 18 years to working with the at-risk students that CARY serves, both in a direct capacity as a CARY Youth Advisor, and serving as CARY’s Deputy Executive Director.
Shana came to CARY after attending Texas State University where she studied Social Work, with a specific focus on vulnerable populations and social justice issues. While Shana was in graduate school she had many life-changing experiences. One of the most influential occurred when she visited a juvenile justice facility and saw, first hand, what happens to our youth when they get “locked up.” She knew then that she wanted to target this trend of at-risk youth becoming involved in the “pipeline to prison.” Shana quickly learned that her passion and profession would align, to allow her to follow her dream of making a positive change in the lives of children and families.
While working directly with thousands of high-risk youth has been the highlight of her career, Shana’s professional pursuits inspired her to seek opportunities for community leadership and administrative stewardship. She returned to the classroom to gain more education in those areas and began to gravitate towards policy, governance, and management. She is humbled to serve CARY in a leadership role and views her work within the community as a privilege.
When Shana is not working, she can be found exploring her community, enjoying live music, and plotting outdoor adventures. She also enjoys traveling, yoga, and climbing.
Nicole Gerard is a Licensed Master Social Worker and has been with CARY since 2012. She earned her Bachelors's degree in Social Work at Abilene Christian University and her Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington. Nicole is married to Kellen Gerard, whom she met working at a Wilderness Therapy Camp in the woods of North Carolina. Nicole and Kellen have 2 daughters; Charlie, 5yo and Lucy, 3yo. As a family, they enjoy traveling and being outdoors.
Tisho has been contracting with CARY since 2005 as the bookkeeper/ accountant. A graduate of UT with a BA in Accounting, she is responsible for all things financial at CARY. Tisho has been married for 22 years and has 3 children.
Randa is a graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos with a Bachelor's degree in Public Relation, minoring in Psychology. She is a native Austinite, having been born and raised in Austin - and proud of it! While searching for a start in her career she came across CARY, falling in love with the message and purpose of the nonprofit. Randa has a passion for learning and education with plans of continuing her college career to obtain a Masters and Ph.D., dreaming to become a college professor. Her motivation to help others stems from her grandmother, who was a social worker in Killeen where she worked with at-risk youth, and her great grandfather, who was the first commissioner of education in Texas. With big shoes to fill, comes a deeper drive to help others find motivation and achieve their goals. In her spare time, she can be found hiking with her beloved pit bulls, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding or with her nose deep in a book.
Ashley is a born and raised Texan, having grown up in the small town of Shiner. She is an avid cyclist, teacher, runner, yogi, dancer, wife, and mama of four precious kids. Ashley studied Dance Education at Kilgore College and Communications and Behavioral Psychology at Concordia University. Amid her academic studies, she became a yoga instructor and a massage therapist. It was with her love of movement, education, and healing arts that she wrote a Creative Movement program adopted by AISD. After 10 years of teaching dance, movement, yoga, and bodywork, Ashley landed a preschool teaching job at St. George’s Episcopal School. Over her 4 years of teaching at St. George’s, Ashley married and had children. Soon she found herself ready for the next venture in life, so Ashley created a small event planning business, leveraging her love of hosting, eye for detail, and passion for helping others. She coordinated weddings, special events, and fundraisers. Ashley’s energy, integrity, and planning skills also landed her the role of St. George’s PTF board President and the St. George’s Episcopal Church Board President. Ashley is thrilled to continue her life adventure here at CARY, continuing to love-on her family, having fun with friends, all the while supporting the noble and generous act of philanthropy.
Bill McKean, Retired, Freescale
Steve Belt, VP of Engineering, Wayne Fuel Systems
Major Henry Opolot, US Army Retired
Kathy Bennett, Vice President, IBM, STG Global ISV Technical Enablement
Sharon Foster, Consulting CF, VCFO
- Sharie Bourbeau, Leadership Consultant, self-employed
- Afton Cavanaugh, Law Offices of Cavanaugh and Quintanilla, PLLC
- Tyler Coleman, Professional Employer Consultant, SOI
- Michelle Deskins, Treasury Management Officer, First United Bank
- Daniel Mennega, Senior UX Writer, eBay Inc.
- Ron Oliveira, Oliveira Public Communications
- Grant Sadowski, Senior Sales Executive, Saratech, Inc.
- Jacob Swaab, Family Violence, Travis County Prosecution
- Celeste Villarreal, Attorney
- Sally Hernandez, Travis County Sheriff
Founding Board Chair:
James Y. Bryce, Attorney at Law
Founder and Executive Director Emeritus:
Lela Thomas PigottBedichek Middle School
Born and raised in Alaska and Washington State, Lela Thomas Pigott recently relocated to Austin, Texas after graduating from Western Washington University. Over the past six years Lela has lived in several different countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Spain; working as a cook and English language learner (ESL) instructor. Lela has a background in chemical dependency, foster care, and working with at-risk youth. She enjoys crafts such as knitting and sewing, as well as reading, and running. Lela has had a passion for the work that she now does professionally since she was thirteen years old.
Myah G. WilliamsLively Middle School
Myah was born in Stuttgart, Germany but spent the majority of her childhood raised in Copperas Cove, Texas. Both of her parents were in the U.S. Army which provided her with many opportunities to interact with a diverse group of people. Myah received her Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Georgia (UGA) in 2015. While completing her Master's program Myah interned for the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) working in the Foster Care department. Myah later worked, professionally, for DFCS in the Investigations department. During that time she also worked as a Tutor at elementary schools in Athens county. Myah also mentored student-athletes at UGA. Myah enjoys working with at-risk youth and families. She also has a passion to help young athletes cope with stressors and find a healthy balance in their life. When Myah’s not working she is playing and cuddling with her partner of 8 years - her dog Meech. She watches Anime every day and proudly considers herself an Otaku,i.e., a Japanese term for a person obsessed with anime and manga. Myah plans to visit Tokyo in the summer of 2020 to totally immerse herself in Anime culture while also supporting Team USA in the Olympics.
James CudjoMendez Middle School
James is a graduate student at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He was born in Oklahoma but has lived all over the world as a “military brat” when his father was in the U.S. Army and then again as a member of the U.S. Air Force. James spent 13 yrs. in the classroom teaching Social Studies/History to 6th graders, 8th graders and high schoolers. James enjoys working with adolescents and young adults. His favorite classes in his programs have been Addictions Counseling and Human Growth & Development. If you don’t find him exploring all of the unique restaurants in town you will find him in the kitchen preparing a wide range of dishes from his travels. James is also a huge music fan and listens to all genres and styles. His long term goals are to pursue a post-graduate degree in Counseling Education and prepare others for the counseling world.
Osvaldo Arzate-BañuelosStony Point Learning Community
Hello, my name is Osvaldo Arzate, I was born in Mexico and migrated to the United States at a young age. I grew up around the Houston Area after I graduated High School I moved to New Mexico. I attended Western New Mexico University and obtain my bachelor’s in social work. I volunteered within the community and help with school events as much as possible. I have four little ones that keep me on my toes with a supporting spouse. I enjoy working with children and families as they can teach us and help us grow as well. I find this career rewarding in so many aspects and I look forward to working with the participants at CARY.
Jody GardnerRound Rock Opportunity Center
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and raised in Southwest Florida, Jody relocated to Austin, Texas in 2015 after graduating from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) with her master's degree in Health Education and Behavior. For the last 5 years, Jody has worked for the local mental health authority working with individuals experiencing homelessness, substance use disorders, and mental illnesses. Jody is currently back in school working towards a dual degree, a master's degree, and a Ph.D. in social work, from the University of Houston. When she isn't working or going to school, Jody enjoys playing soccer, cuddling with her two dogs, and reading.
Deena PerkinsCedar Ridge Learning Community
Deena was born and raised in the Dallas, TX area, but got to Austin as fast as she could. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, a Master’s degree in Social Work, and teaching certification (Social Studies, grades 7-12 and Special Education), all from the University of Texas at Austin. Deena has had a variety of careers, including as a reporter, graphic designer, policy wonk, teacher, and social worker. Having studied macro social work, Deena thought she could change the world through policy. After five years at the Texas Association of Community Development Corporations, she realized she missed working one-on-one and decided to combine her love of history and her passion for social justice to become a teacher. After five years of teaching at an alternative discipline education school, Deena is thrilled to be working to prevent children from getting into the criminal justice system and educating adults on ways to positively work with students who are dealing with issues that may affect their education and behavior. Deena and her husband, Madison, have two incredible grown sons who are working on making the world a better place. In addition to two cats at home, they have four grand-pets: three budgie birds and one cat. In her spare time, Deena enjoys reading books on history, being outdoors, exercising, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.
Leah ArcherGus Garcia Young Mens Leadership Academy
Leah Archer has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and is new with CARY. She earned her Bachelors's degree in Marketing from Texas State University and her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from A&M University at Corpus Christi, TX. Leah has worked with children for over 10 years including her own private practice. Leah has one daughter who just started her college career at TCU. Leah is an empty nester now who loves her only fur child, Cocoa who is a Yorkie Terrier and 13 years old. Leah and her daughter enjoy traveling, good food, music, the lake, and being outdoors.
Camille SmithWestwood Learning Community
Camille Smith hails from East Austin where she was raised and attended public schools. Camille has over 20+ years of experience in the caregiving fields in many capacities, including child development centers, schools, transitional living centers, and more. Camille studied Child Development at Austin Community College and received both an undergraduate degree and a master's degree in Social Work. Camille has also planned and coordinated events focused on community engagement, racial and gendered justice, and supports the efforts of many local organizations doing work in these areas. Camille is passionate about the actualization and embodiment of anti-racist practices and the creation of anti-oppressive systems. She believes all young people are deserving of high quality and holistic educational opportunities and care, wherein the whole child, their families, and cultures are celebrated. Camille believes in possibilities and sees every relationship, personal and “professional”, as a partnership and an opportunity to flex our imaginations collectively in the creation of a better world.
Ayanna EdwardsRound Rock Learning Community
Ayanna Edwards is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Houston. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX in 2017. Ayanna’s passion for helping others sparked at a young age and has always had the desire to help children reach their full potential. Ayanna enjoys spending her time volunteering in the community, lifting, and hanging out with her pet snakes and 3 pups.
Donya ChildersMcNeil Learning Community
Hello. I am new to Texas from Cleveland, Ohio! I have 1 son who is 17. I obtained an Associate of Arts from Cuyahoga Community College and my undergrad in Social Work from Cleveland State University. My toolbox is well equipped with providing service delivery to children with behavioral, social, and emotional challenges. I am motivated and empowered to help our youth in succeeding in living productive lives. A fun fact about me is that I am also a licensed Cosmetologist for over 25 years and I can cook a mean pot of collard greens!!!
Stephanie ZmijaBurnet Middle School
Stephanie grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She went to college in Southern Illinois at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL where she earned her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education/ Children and Family Services. After college, she stayed in Carbondale, IL where she worked at a local Boys and Girls club. There she fell in love with the community and with serving the community. After working there for a couple of years she went back to college to get her Masters Degree in Social Work. She wanted to be able to continue to help her community to the best of her abilities. Over the years Stephanie worked at the Boys and Girls Club building their teen programming, she started her own non-profit REACH618 where teenagers could come and play basketball a couple of nights a week and have positive role models to build relationships with and worked as an MST therapist. Stephanie moved to Texas in 2018 and joined the CARY team. She is excited to continue her work in communities in Texas. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys hanging out with her friends, working on her tan and exploring Texas.
Kirsten StrandDel Valle Middle School
Kirsten, originally from Houston, moved to Austin to attend St. Edward’s University where she studied social work. During her time at St. Edward’s she worked at an emergency shelter for foster youth and became very connected to vulnerable populations who have experienced trauma, particularly youth. Here, she saw firsthand the power that positive relationships and warm connections can have. She continued on to obtain her Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, where she would find more opportunities to serve and support youth who have experienced different forms of trauma, such as drug abuse, physical abuse, and sexual assault. When she’s not working with kids, Kirsten loves to cook, especially for friends and family, traveling, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two dogs.
Yasmin PerezWebb Middle School
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and I have been living in Austin for a little forever two years now. I graduated from Texas State University with my Bachelors in Social Work. In my free time, I enjoy taking my pup, Luna, hiking, and exploring. I also love painting, pottery, weaving, and gardening. I also just started a small business selling handmade earrings! (which I am wearing in my photo). Family is very important to me, which is why I like to maintain a strong bond with my younger brother and sister. I have experience working with at-risk youth with other non-profit organizations in Central Texas. I am passionate about empowering and providing resources to our youth, which is what drew me to social work.
Paul LaBarberaDailey Middle School
Paul grew up in Nacogdoches Texas where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Stephen F Austin State University with a minor in Sociology. He later obtained a Master of Education Counseling degree at the University of Houston in Victoria, Texas. He has always had a passion for working with mental health and the special needs population. He has worked as a counselor for at-risk youth in the schools and with the incarcerated youth at Giddings State School. He has also worked quite extensively for the mental health and mentally challenged population as a counselor, case manager, and direct care staff. He most recently worked for Brain Injury Rehab at Mary Lee foundation before beginning work at CARY. Paul is a current board member of the Brain Injury Association of Austin. Paul has always had a passion for music. He enjoys singing at karaoke bars and has performed with local bands.
Kristy Montes-GuardadoDobie Middle School
Kristy was born and raised in California and recently moved to Austin with her family. She has been married to her husband Franklin for 7 years and they are the proud parents of two kids under two, Ileana and Jayden. Kristy has worked for the Union Rescue Mission’s Hope Gardens Family Center for 9 years as a youth and family case manager and has a strong background working with individuals experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, and drug abuse. Kristy has completed her Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary. It is Kristy’s passion to develop authentic relationships and provide a safe space where students can express themselves and process life’s situations. Kristy enjoys the outdoors, weightlifting, and building relationships. She loves spending time with family and savors the moments she has with her kids.
Alberto CarrascoOjeda Middle School
Originally born and raised in El Paso TX, I have been a long time resident of Austin. I relocated here soon after completing my service with the Marines and have since dedicated much of my professional life to the profession of Social Work in the non-profit community. My personal areas of interest are addressing the complex issues that lead to homelessness and mass incarceration, especially in how it affects our youth. I gained valuable real-world experience when I worked as an outreach case manager in Long Beach CA. where I also lived for about seven and a half years. There I was able to work directly with both adults and youth experiencing homelessness and co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse and mental health issues.
Upon returning to Austin I have completed my studies from Texas State with a BSW in Social Work and a minor in Forensics Psychology. My educational journey was not traditional but it was something that I valued and loved. I am particularly excited to have this opportunity to work with Cary 4kids and to serve our youth and empower them so that they my have a more positive educational experience. My past times are all things simple in Austin; passionate about music, reading, a good long bicycle ride and a swim and hike along the Green Belt.
Clint WilkieDel Valle High School
I grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois known as Marion. I went to college at Southern Illinois University and received my bachelor's degree in fine arts and my focused study was glass blowing. After graduating SIU I went on to gain my Master's degree in Counseling from Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis Missouri. I worked in my local community at a crisis stabilization unit providing services to people who were in need. I have also worked as a child therapist providing services to students in need in the school setting. I love to see students succeed in things they like and find their motivation for success. I worked as an All-Star Cheer Coach for 9 years, I enjoy seeing kids put their minds to a task and accomplish their goals that they have set weather that be in sports, education, or the arts. On my off time, I enjoy anything traveling and being by the water soaking up the sun, I love creating and doing art, painting, glass blowing, and ceramics.