Meet our Team

Lujain Al-Saleh

Project Associate

Lujain serves as the Project Associate for John Burton Advocates for Youth. Prior to joining JBAY, Lujain has collaborated on a wide variety of local environmental justice and public health advocacy campaigns and programs in the Bay Area and Central America. As a recent Health Policy Advocacy Fellow at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Lujain is inspired to address health and educational disparities among foster and homeless youth. She recently received her Masters in Public Health in the Global Health & Environment program from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in Environmental Science & Management.

Melissa Bond

Project Manager

Prior to joining JBAY, Melissa worked on criminal justice reform initiatives at the City of San Diego, women’s empowerment programs at the City of New York, and civil litigation in New York and New Jersey. Melissa has an A.B. in Psychology and American Civilization from Brown University; a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University; and a M.P.A. from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Melissa’s focus is on expanding access to higher education and basic needs security for foster and homeless youth. Her work involves capacity building of institutions of higher education and stakeholder investment in youth through policy advocacy and innovation.

Matt Cherry

Development Director

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

Senior Project Manager of Housing and Health

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

Director of Housing and Health

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.

Amy Lemley

Executive Director

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.

Sarah Pauter

Education Program Manager

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.

Jessica Petrass

Senior Project Manager

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

Director of Education

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 HS

Suzil Sciancalepore

Office Manager

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 Barries


Alexis Barries is an Advocate at John Burton Advocates for Youth. In this role, she advocates for policies to improve the lives of foster youth, homeless youth and youth involved in the juvenile probation system. Alexis was formerly in foster care and was part of the first cohort of youth to participate in extended foster care to age 21. She is a full-time student and a service provider with Uplift Family Services providing behavioral and mental health services. In September 2018, Alexis Barries was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.

Ajanique Dunlap

Youth Advocate

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.

Emmerald Evans

Youth Advocate

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.

Darrian Palmer Gregg

Youth Advocate

Darrian Palmer Gregg is a student attending Sacramento State majoring in nursing. Darrian hopes to graduate with her nursing degree and future her career to get her masters degree. Darrian has experienced foster care and hopes to share her experience to help others. Darrian is new to the JBAY team and is excited to work with us this year.

Kista Holani

Youth Advocate

Kista Holani is a student at Modesto Junior College. Her goal is to transfer to Fresno State, and work towards a masters in Macro-level social work. She is focused on advocacy work that includes seeing state legislation pass and connecting that to local practice amongst those that work in the system. Kista has experienced foster care and homelessness and has a passion to work for youth that have experienced the same.

Christina Torrez

Youth Advocate

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

Youth Advocate

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 Sate 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.