WHO WE ARE
Why are we different?
We start with the conviction that all things are possible for homeless children. We provide a holistic approach to solving challenges and address all aspects of life: educational, psychosocial, developmental, financial; because we want to provide the level of care to children experiencing homelessness that we would give to our own children.
ENDING THE CYCLE OF HOMELESSNESS, ONE CHILD AT A TIME
WHY WE DO IT
FOR THE KIDS, ALWAYS
Our primary mandate is to serve homeless children. In everything we do, our goal is to honor the dignity and potential of each child. We strive every day to deliver that level of care.
Project Hope Alliance grew out of a schoolteacher’s passion for assisting local homeless children with their education – with her car serving as the first classroom. This personal outreach program soon became an organized undertaking called Project HOPE, which stood for “Homeless Outreach Program in Education.”
Project HOPE grew to become a county-run school designed to help children without permanent homes transition into the mainstream educational system. The First Presbyterian Church of Orange served as a key partner of the program for 20+ years, providing the facilities and many other invaluable operational services to the school.
Now called Project Hope Alliance, the organization remains committed to providing homeless children and youth from kindergarten through age 24 with the tools and opportunities that they need to learn their way to a better tomorrow. In this work, we have spent the last 28 years developing a unique model of care, which includes effective education and housing stability program models that serve the needs of children experiencing homelessness in Orange County.
A 12-year-old girl sitting on a motel bed, surrounded by homework, siblings, and parents, all crammed into one small room.
A 9-year-old boy entering a classroom with his head down, ashamed about not knowing where he will sleep tonight.
These are the images of children in Orange County who struggle with homelessness — the county’s best-kept secret. Although we may not see these motel kids along the streets or desperately gripping cardboard signs, they exist in overwhelming abundance.
Under the area’s veil of affluence are the faces of almost 30,000 children who experience homelessness and 120,000 children who live in poverty. They say goodnight from motels, shelters and couches. They are forced to focus on where they will sleep instead of what they will learn. Tragically, their educations and futures suffer.
Years ago, I was one of these faces. For decades, I silenced my past as an Orange County motel kid, but in the spring of 2013, I shared my story to spark hope and conversation about childhood homelessness.
As a technology entrepreneur, my father experienced unpredictable lapses in income. Although my mother worked as a preschool teacher, keeping a roof over our family of six proved taxing. While there were periods of financial stability, there were also times of despair.
During my junior high and high school years, my three brothers, our parents and I often packed our lives into 214-square-foot motel rooms. Feelings of shame, lack of privacy, and an economically schizophrenic childhood created an environment where the basic elements of being a kid, like doing homework, were sometimes lost.
Childhood homelessness data from the U.S. Department of Education is shocking. According to the department, 1 in 30 children in the country experience homelessness. Here in Orange County, it’s 1 in 6. California has the largest population of homeless children in America, and Orange County has more homeless students than the state average and neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego counties, per the California Department of Education.
The effects of youth homelessness are devastating, ranging from chronic emotional stress and physical malnourishment to significant academic gaps and difficulty making friends. In comparison with their peers, children experiencing homelessness are nine times more likely to repeat a grade, four times more likely to drop out of school, and three times more likely to be placed in special education programs, according to The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness.
But there is hope.
At Project Hope Alliance, we start with the kids. Our goal is to make sure that every homeless child in Orange County succeeds academically.
Our impactful approach ends the cycle of generational homelessness by empowering our kids with a unique academic program that is lovingly tailored to their skills and strengths to help them achieve financial independence.
Since 2012, we have ended homelessness for more than 1,500 kids and parents by stabilizing families in their own homes and providing their children with an exceptional education.
Take my story as an example of the boundless power of faith, hope and determination. Since graduating from UC Irvine and Whittier Law School, to becoming a partner at a large law firm before age 40, and then leaving the practice of law to proudly serve as Project Hope Alliance’s CEO, I now realize that my story is not about me. I just happen to be the one with a voice right now to communicate that a child’s future should never be determined by their parents’ economic circumstances.
Our team comes from a variety of backgrounds who all have one thing in common: a passion for accomplishing PHA’s mission: to end the cycle of homelessness, one child at a time.
JENNIFER FRIEND, J.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Prior to becoming CEO at Project Hope Alliance (PHA), Jennifer Friend enjoyed a successful career as a partner at a large law firm representing national and international clients throughout the civil courts of California. While practicing law, she became involved in PHA’s board and was actively engaged in the organization’s expansion and strategic growth. In 2013, Jennifer answered her calling, left her partnership, and became Project Hope Alliance’s full-time CEO.
Her personal experience as a homeless child in Orange County, which inspired the Broadway play Nomad Motel, fuels her deep-rooted passion and commitment to homeless children and youth, while her ability to cast vision, think strategically, and lead and direct broader systems change uniquely qualify her to serve as Project Hope Alliance’s CEO.
Jennifer holds a JD from Whittier Law School and a BA in Criminology, Law, and Society from the University of California, Irvine. She currently serves as a Trustee of the UCI Foundation; an Appointed member of the Fiat Lux Alliance; a Member of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute Advisory Board; and is a proud parent volunteer for the Newport Harbor High School Marching Band and Davis Magnet School.CLOSE
TRACY CARMICHAEL, Ph.D.
President and Chief Strategy Officer
Dr. Tracy Carmichael serves as Project Hope Alliance’s President & Chief Strategy Officer. Tracy has spent most of her career working to bridge the gap between research and practice within the educational system, and developing equity-centered programs that produce opportunities for children to reach their full potential. She has a deep comprehension of non-profit management including strategic planning, fundraising, and outcome measurement. Tracy is a valued resource and champion in the development and implementation of the organization’s strategic plans which foster program expansion while maintaining internal efficiency. Tracy holds a B.A. in Criminology from UC Irvine, an M.A. in Educational Research from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Education from UC Irvine.CLOSE
Rachel Cardenas, PSY.D
Director of Behavioral Health
Rachel holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology and has worked with youth and young adults for the majority of her career. Prior to joining Project Hope Alliance, Rachel worked as a therapist in schools with youth experiencing social, emotional, and behavioral issues and in inpatient and outpatient facilities with individuals experiencing severe mental health concerns. While working in the school system, Rachel also worked as a consultant for teachers and school staff regarding mental health, crisis intervention, behavioral interventions, and social skill development. Rachel worked at Gordon Psychology Group where she led their clinical team, developed the training program, and was responsible for training and supervising therapists, case managers, and substance abuse counselors. Rachel specializes in working with individuals who have experienced trauma and has a passion for working with youth. She aims to bring her clinical lens to her work with Project Hope Alliance. Rachel holds a B.A. in Psychology from Dominican University and a Psy.D in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University.CLOSE
JENNIFER MARIN, M.A.
Director of Education
Before joining Project Hope Alliance, Jennifer spent 16 years teaching in the elementary school classrooms of Newport-Mesa Unified School District and serving as a curriculum specialist, teacher trainer, English learner coordinator, Early Intervention for School Success (EISS) coordinator, literacy coach, and grade-level chair. Throughout her impassioned career, she built a stellar reputation as an educator, leader, and advocate for the kids. In recognition of her extraordinary dedication to childhood education, Jennifer was named 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year at Pomona Elementary. As Director of Education at Project Hope Alliance, Jennifer brings to the organization her passion for and expertise in leveraging education as a tool to ending generational poverty. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Spanish from California State University, Northridge, and her Master of Arts in Education/Bilingual Credential and Preliminary Administrative Services Credential from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.CLOSE
Director of Finance & Administration
Bonita Vecchio, M.Ed
Bonita Vecchio joined Team Kid in January of 2020 as the Program Manager for our case management program. She has extensive experience in leading and managing teams that work with youth who have experienced trauma and have academic and/or developmental needs. Prior to joining PHA, she worked for over seven years in special education classrooms to enrich the learning experience of students with learning disabilities and to train parents on how to communicate and advocate for their children. She also worked for three years as a flight attendant and traveled all over the world, but her true passion lies in cultivating teams and supporting students with additional needs. Her favorite part of her role at PHA is when a student has an “aha” moment during their personal growth conversations. She has volunteered with OC Rescue Mission in Tustin and Released Time in Villa Park. Bonita holds a B.A. in Christian Studies, emphasis in Theology, and an M.A. in Education, Special Education from Grand Canyon University.CLOSE
Fatiha joined Project Hope Alliance (PHA) in January 2017 as an Operations Assistant and has since advanced to Program Coordinator. In her role, she serves as the first point of contact for many families enrolling in PHA’s programs, providing a phenomenal level of support and service to every individual who walks through the organization’s doors. Fatiha also supports the day-to-day functions of all programs, including front office support, resource database development, food pantry maintenance, program screenings, procurement of extracurricular activities for children and youth, and facilitation of financial assistance requests and referrals for families. Prior to joining PHA, she served as a Community Leader Liaison for the City of Irvine. Fatiha holds a B.A. in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton.CLOSE
CHRISSIE LEE, MSW PPSC
Since 2013, Chrissie has served as a Case Manager for Project Hope Alliance’s (PHA) core Promotor Pathway Program, providing unsurpassed supportive counseling and advocacy for out-of-school youth. In her role, she conducts comprehensive assessments with young adults experiencing homelessness, develops case plans, provides crisis intervention, links youth to resources, supervises interns, and more. Prior to joining PHA, Chrissie served as a Personal Services Coordinator for the Vietnamese Community of Orange County, and an Educational Case Manager Intern for the Orange County Department of Education, Foster Youth Services. She holds an M.S.W with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential from University of Southern California, and a B.A. in Human Development with a minor in Human Resource from California State University, Long Beach.CLOSE
Lizbeth Loyola, M.A.
Lizbeth joined Project Hope Alliance (PHA) in June 2018 as a bilingual Education Coordinator for the organization’s Bright Start program, offering academic support and school navigation for the families with K-6 students. In her role, she attends parent-teacher conferences and IEP meetings to advocate for students’ needs and educational success. She conducts literacy and math assessments to implement academic interventions to bridge the learning gap; provides social and emotional referrals; and assists families during crisis situations. Prior to joining PHA, Lizbeth served as an Instructional Provider for Santa Ana and Orange Unified School Districts and a Youth Development Professional at Boys & Girls Club of Garden Grove. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from California State University, Fullerton, and recently graduated with her master’s degree in Public Administration from National University.CLOSE
Education Support Specialist
Karla joined the Project Hope Alliance (PHA) team in January 2019 as a bilingual Education Support Specialist for the Bright Start Program. As an Education Support Specialist, she works directly with K-6 children and serves as a direct educational resource for kids and their families. In her role, Karla provides comprehensive case management for kids and their families by establishing educational goals and communicating frequently with the families. Karla’s role also includes the recruiting and intake of our amazing mentors who serve our kids by providing them with a socio-emotional relationship. Prior to joining PHA, Karla served as a tutor for 3 years at two elementary schools and one middle school, held a position at a hospital in the Surgical Care Unit where she worked with the nurse educator and was the Vice President of the Health Professionals Association Club. Karla has a Bachelors in Health Education from Chico State University.CLOSE
Guadalupe joined PHA as a Case Manager for the Promotor Pathway Program in February. Her background includes working with youth & families. Guadalupe attended Cal State Fullerton where she studied Broadcast Journalism & Sociology. Being the first to go to college in her family she understood how important mentoring programs were to students. She went on to work directly with first-generation high-school students by providing academic and mentor support. During her time there she realized there are many layers that involve supporting a student & is proud Project Hope Alliance assesses and supports the multiple layers it takes to help students succeed. She is looking forward to continuing its mission.CLOSE
Jose joined Project Hope Alliance (PHA) in August of 2019 as a Case Manager for the Promotor Pathway program. Before his work with Project Hope Alliance, Jose was working with the Santa Ana Unified School District aiding families in the Santa Ana community. Jose has a passion for working with youth. He has worked in multiple after-school programs and other non-profit organizations such as Thomas House Family Shelter. At Thomas House, Jose had the privilege of working with the youth at the shelter as the Youth Development Coordinator.
Growing up, Jose has always had a thirst for knowledge and the drive to participate in new experiences. He is the first in his family to graduate from college and has always used his education to aid the youth that he works with. Jose has an Associate in Arts Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Golden West College, a Bachelor of Science in Child and Adolescent Development from Cal-State Fullerton, and a Master of Science Degree in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University. He was enlisted in the Army National Guard for 6 years and he completed his contract in January 2017. His most memorable missions were in South Korea and in Northern California where he aided in the fight of the wildfires in 2014.
La Shawn Hye
La Shawn Hye has over 20 years of experience centered around child abuse and trauma, homelessness and domestic violence. La Shawn is a dynamic leader in advocating for equity and full-service partnerships in underserved communities. He has been a team member at Project Hope Alliance for 7 years. He has held many critical roles within the organization and is currently a Case Manager with the Promotor Pathway Program; the program provides a holistic approach to supporting children and youth experiencing homelessness. La Shawn’s resourcefulness and collaborative nature have enabled him to move many children and their families out of homelessness while supporting their academic and social-emotional development. Prior to joining PHA, La Shawn served as a Career Consultant for ResCare Workforce Services, and a Social Worker II for Stark County DJFS. He holds a BA in Psychology from Central State of Ohio University.CLOSE
Foundation Relations Manager
John Eumurian has joined Project Hope Alliance (PHA) as Foundation Relations Manager. John is an experienced grant writer with 19 years as both a proposal writer for the for-profit sector and grant writer for the non-profit sector, understanding the financial workings of both the corporate and nonprofit arenas. He brings local connections and research expertise to the position along with highly skilled grant writing, research, and report writing experience. He has provided services in Orange County, Los Angeles, CA as well as international clients in Croatia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Today, he oversees all aspects of foundational fund development and is tasked with increasing PHA’s family of foundation funders, and building a robust foundational system to support program and overall organizational growth.CLOSE
Manager of Development and Communication
Jennifer Matsuda has joined Project Hope Alliance (PHA) as Manager of Development and Communication. A highly successful relationship builder and professional communicator with 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Jennifer leads communication efforts and delivery with non-profit boards, donors and public officials. Jennifer enjoys creating and aligning systems for streamlining effectiveness and fostering teamwork to support PHA’s mission. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Notre Dame de Namur University.CLOSE
Grants & Development Coordinator
Community Engagement Coordinator
Vanessa joined PHA in the Fall of 2019 as the Community Engagement Coordinator. In her role, she connects volunteers, donors, and community members to PHA’s mission, events and service opportunities. Vanessa is an experienced and passionate nonprofit professional focusing her career on volunteer and donor engagement. After graduating from college, Vanessa served 2 terms as an Americorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program fellow at Jewish Family Service in San Diego. Most recently she was the volunteer coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire. Vanessa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Educational Studies from Chapman University.CLOSE
Israel joined Project Hope Alliance in October of 2020 as Administrative Assistant to the Director of Finance and Administration. Israel brings over 10 years of administrative experience working in the legal field with a focus on technology and correspondence. He is tasked with assisting in billing, IT support and streamlining of procedures and guidelines. Israel is many times the first person that clients and donors meet when visiting PHA headquarters. Israel has worked with children as a club soccer coach within Orange County for the past 10 years. He enjoys bringing structure and sharing his love of the sport to help mold future upstanding citizens through lessons of Dignity, Ambition, Unity and Commitment.CLOSE
LYNN HEMANS, Board Chair Vice President, Consumer Intelligence & Strategy
The Hershey Company
SEAN BOULTON, Director Principal, Newport Harbor High School
PETE DEUTSCHMAN, Treasurer President, The Buddy Group
JOE LEWIS, III, Secretary University of California, Irvine
APRIL NEGRETE, Director HR Technology Consultant, USI Insurance Services
ERIC RANS, Director Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
RAY WESTON, Director Vice President & General Counsel, Taco Bell