Meet our Team
Amy Lemley is the Executive Director of John Burton Advocates for Youth. Her areas of special interest are child welfare policy and services, affordable housing, the special needs of transition-age youth, public benefits and youth homelessness.
Ms. Lemley co-founded and served as the Executive Director of First Place for Youth, a nationally-recognized nonprofit organization providing affordable housing and supportive services to current and former foster youth. In her role at John Burton Advocates for Youth, she has led the organization’s policy advocacy, resulting in the passage of key reforms, including extending foster care to age 21, increasing financial aid for foster youth and improved access to affordable housing.
Ms. Lemley was awarded an Ashoka Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship, the Peter Hass Public Service Award, the Do Something Brick Award and named the UC Berkeley Goldman School Alumnus of the Decade. She received a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Matt Cherry has been building movements for social change for nearly three decades, working in the UK, The Netherlands and the US. His experiences have shown him the power of effective fundraising to leverage all the passion, talent and hard work within those movements, multiplying their impact on society.
Matt spent 13 years as an executive director in the humanist movement, developing successful organizations and programs to increase the influence of humanists, atheists, and other freethinkers. He also served three terms as president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or belief, the first non-religious person ever elected to that post.
In 2013, Matt moved to the SF Bay Area to become executive director of Death Penalty Focus. In that role, he raised more than $7 million for a ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty in California.
Matt has spoken at hundreds of meetings, interviewed extensively for print, radio and TV; and his writings have appeared all over the world, including in The Guardian, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post. He is the co-author of four books, including one Amazon bestseller.
Anna Johnson is a Senior Project Manager working on housing and health policy for John Burton Advocates for Youth. Previously, Anna focused on reducing over medication and hyper-incarceration of youth and improving access to community and therapeutic services. Anna works with young adults and current youth in care to ensure their voices influence policies that affect them. Providing services, care, and attention to youth who live under the daily stress of violence, poverty, and other forms of abuse can help young people build resiliency and thrive in the short and long term. Anna holds degrees from UC-Berkeley (MPP), UW-Madison (BA-Social Work) and U-Penn (Urban Ed). Follow @AnnaMaureen83 on Twitter.
Passion for this work originated from 6 years of classroom experience in public schools. Prior to working in policy, Anna taught at Urban Promise Academy in Oakland Unified School District, at Potter Thomas Bilingual Academy in Philadelphia, and in Madison, Wisconsin serving youth and families experiencing homelessness in the CASPER program. As a teacher, Anna witnessed how traumatic experiences, stress, poverty, and environmental factors impact children’s development and relationships. Creating and maintaining a safe, supportive classroom environment was the primary focus of their work as an educator. Anna remains proud of her students’ accomplishments and leadership in their communities.
Simone Tureck Lee
Simone Tureck Lee is a Bay Area native with a Master’s Degree in Social Welfare in the Management and Planning Concentration from UC Berkeley. Simone spent a decade doing direct practice in the foster care, mental health and youth development fields before transitioning into advocacy and systems-improvement work. Simone worked for John Burton Advocates for Youth from 2009 to 2014, where she supported AB 12/Extended Foster Care implementation, the Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project and the THP-Plus Statewide Implementation Project. Simone was the Executive Director of the Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance from 2014 to 2016, before returning to John Burton Advocates for Youth where she currently serves as the Director of Housing and Health.
Sarah Pauter is the Education Manager with John Burton Advocates for Youth where she works to improve the college retention and graduation of rates of foster youth through policy implementation, technical assistance, and training. After spending 17 years in the child welfare system before ultimately emancipating or “aging out,” Sarah earned a Bachelor’s in Social Work from San Diego State University and a Master’s in Public Policy from Northwestern University.
Sarah has dedicated her life and career to improving outcomes for vulnerable children and young adults. Prior to joining John Burton Advocates for Youth, Sarah was the Founder and CEO of Phenomenal Families, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that serves expectant and parenting youth involved in the foster care and juvenile probation systems. Her special interests include trauma-informed system improvement, youth organizing, and child abuse prevention.
Prior to joining John Burton Advocates for Youth, Jessica worked as a Program Manager at Hillsides Youth Moving On, serving transitional age youth (TAY). Jessica joined Hillsides in 2010 as a therapist in the Full-Service Partnership program where she provided intensive community-based mental health services to children and TAY. In 2012, Jessica transitioned to the YMO department where she could continue to fulfill her passion and commitment to serving young adults. Jessica received her Masters in Social Welfare from UCLA and her bachelor’s degree from the University of San Diego in Psychology and Communication Studies.
Debbie Raucher has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and currently serves as John Burton Advocates for Youth’s Project Director, providing leadership and strategic visioning for our Education initiatives. In this role, Ms. Raucher provides technical assistance and training designed to improve post-secondary educational outcomes for foster youth along with implementation of a statewide advocacy agenda crafted to better address the needs of foster youth attending college.
Ms. Raucher has worked in the social services field for over 20 years including extensive work in the areas of implementation of Extended Foster Care and developing solutions to homelessness. Prior to her role developing the post-secondary education program California College Pathways, she worked with the John Burton Advocates for Youth’s Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project. Her previous positions include serving as the Deputy Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic where she oversaw all program operations for over 1500 units of supportive housing in San Francisco.
Suzil serves as the Office Manager for John Burton Advocates for Youth. A bay area native, she has spent the past four years exploring other parts of the US, living in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, and is happy to be home and working with JBAY. Her background is in Event Production, Bookkeeping, and the Performing Arts. She has experience helping produce and execute a large variety of events throughout the USA including WE RISE in Los Angeles, Thinx in Chicago, and a wide variety of Immersive Theatrical Productions.
Alexis is a full time employee with Uplift Family Services, where she provides clinical services to families and youth involved in the Child Welfare System. As a former foster youth who spent over 18 years in care, Alexis has become a lead advocate with JBAY working on various policy issues that directly affect our young people in care today.
Since 2012, Alexis has advocated and supported policy passing’s and implementation alongside JBAY such as SB 89 and SB 918, as well as other bills representing higher education for our foster youth population.
Alexis’ advocacy work led Governor Jerry Brown to appoint her to California’s Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council in 2018, making her the first formerly homeless youth to sit on the council.
Elizabeth is a student at Ventura County Community College. Her goal is to transfer to the University of California at Santa Cruz where she will pursue a degree in history as well as a teaching credential. After graduation, Elizabeth will be pursuing a career in teaching. Elizabeth is a certified educational rights holder for at risk youth in the community and co-facilitates trauma informed trainings throughout the county. She is the single parent to two young children and an orange tabby. Elizabeth is a former foster youth that is dedicated to advocating for policies that will improve the lives of current and former foster youth.
Ajanique Dunlap is a student at California State University, Sacramento. Ajanique’s goal is to major in Criminal justice. After graduation Ajanique will be pursuing a career in the criminal justice field. Ajanique has experienced foster care and homelessness and has a passion to work for youth and on behalf of youth who have experienced the same.
Patrick Gem Gabbett
Patrick Gem Gabbett is a student at Sacramento City College. A former journalism major, he is now pursuing a degree in library science. He hopes to pursue a career in the library field, while continuing to use his communication skills for advocacy however he can.
Patrick, a former foster and homeless youth himself, specializes in the intersectional experiences of foster and homeless youth who are also disabled and/or LGBT+. He was a 2019 FosterClub All-Star Intern, travelling across the country advocating for the rights of foster youth.
Emmerald Evans is a student at California State University, Sacramento. Her goal is to obtain her Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice then proceed to law school to pursue her JD. Emmerald has experienced foster care, mental health services and extended foster care and has a passion to work for youth on behalf of youth who have experienced the same.
Rose Johnasen is a student at Humboldt State University. She is currently acquiring her bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a concentration in ecological restoration. After graduation she will be pursuing a career as an environmental scientist/restoration ecologist. Rose has experienced foster care and has a passion to work on behalf of youth who have experienced the same. Rose has supported former and current foster youth through her work with Inspiring Scholars at Butte College where she mentored students with experience in foster care.
Christina Torrez is a student at Bakersfield College. Her goal is to become a Social worker or an advocate for foster youth. After graduation, she will be pursuing a career in child welfare and advocacy work. Christina has experienced foster care and homelessness and has a passion to work for youth on behalf of youth who have experienced the same.
Cody Van Felden
Cody Van Felden is a student attending Cosumnes River College and is on her way to graduate in Spring of 2020. Her goal is to transfer to Sacramento State in the Fall of 2020, and work towards a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She has experienced foster care and adoption and has a passion to work with youth, using her experiences to advocate for ways of prevention of similar experiences for other youth.