Meet The Dream Team!
Youth Dream Team Committee Coordinator
Cassandra Ramirez is a 23yr old Certified Peer Specialist who works for Hill Country MHDD Centers In Del Rio Tx. She serves as a core member to A.C.C.E.P.T. A Texas based Chapter of the Youth Move National Organization. She serves as Co-Chair of the Via Hope CPS Advisory Council. She serves in the Via Hope Recovery Stakeholders Committee as a Representative of the Age Transition Youth. Cassandra is passionate and dedicated to sharing her lived with experiences to create positive transformations within systems and organizations to promote de-stigmatization and spread mental health awareness.
Youth Dream Team Committee Coordinator
Desire Johnson-Forte is a high-opportunity youth native to Oakland -- ancestry based Southern California and Arkansas. She is a first generation college graduate of the Mills College Class of 2013, acquiring her Bachelors in English (Creative Writing) and minor in Ethnic Studies; along with several awards for scholarship and student leadership. Two years later she founded the Black Intergenerational Zeal (BIZ) Stoop as a budding innovator of pilot-program participatory implementation and monitoring; utilizing passion:power-oriented consulting & creative process to shift boundaries of isolation and divestment. The BIZ Stoop’s vision is to exponentially increase the life expectancy of Black youth beyond the age of 25 years – by way of access.
Something to know about Desire is that she is home-grown. She is from the communities that she works with, and her programs stem from the authentic understanding of inter-community connection. That being said, she wasn’t always running multiple community organizations. She started off as a participating volunteering, working closely with her teachers and small group of friends; eventually becoming a student leader and esteemed administrative assistant. As a survivor of trauma, she found poetry and painting to be highly effective in healing, and started a support group for other women who were survivors of trauma or fatalism.
Desire's long term career goal is to develop transformative-healing curriculum; publish written/oratorical work; and share motivational speaking across the globe. She holds several active certifications for peer mHealth support, social entrepreneurship, and advises a small grant(s) fund that seeds community-led projects.
Youth Dream Team, Fundraising Coordinator
Kelly Davis is the Director of Peer Advocacy, Supports and Services at Mental Health America (MHA) in Alexandria, VA. A strong advocate in college mental health, she was president of Active Minds at American University and leads MHA's Collegiate Mental Health Innovation Council, dedicated to filling gaps in supports on campuses. She also works on the expansion of peer support throughout all healthcare and speaks and writes frequently about the importance of youth advocates, peer support, trauma-informed services, empowerment, and recovery. She has created multiple curricula around mental health topics for young people and has spoken across the US, including at a number of SAMHSA events and the Obama White House. “I believe that young people have the potential to transform mental health services, making them more person-centered, trauma-informed, culturally informed, and empowering. I want to be involved in any way I can to promote tools and opportunities for young people to live the lives they want.”
Youth Dream Team, Volunteer Coordinator
Donao Cousar,is a Washington D.C Native and Youth Ambassador. Fresh from out of High school, Donao joined the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) Youth Council when he was 18, unknowingly but willingly, he later discovered that he had the gift to connect to Peers and Adults alike. At 19 Donao graduated the Youth Council and because of the hard work and commitment he had; contributed to the Youth Council as a Youth Peer Advocate and Subject Matter Expert. He was given the opportunity to help lead the council amongst 5 other fellow graduates/friends that were also a part of the council as a Youth Ambassador. This Opportunity came to no question when given to Donao as he accepted it without hesitation. Donao still leads the Council to this very day and is optimistic about the change and progression that he, his Peers and Adult Allies have brought to the Council.
Donao is from Southeast Washington D.C and Graduated from WMSTPCHS. He believes he can make a strong impact on the city and inspire youth of all ages to stand up and make a change from within the community. Also a chance to integrate Peer to Peer Support within the communities to stand as a beacon for youth who are lost and do not know how or who to turn to when in times of a crisis. Donao feels strongly that Youth to Youth Aid is effective in all forms as youth share culture, commonalities and neighboring communities among themselves.
Youth Dream Team, Logistics Coordinator
Ryan Tempesco, CPS and Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, is a transgender individual who has found peace and wellness through community support, connection and understanding. He is currently the Program Support Coordinator for Doors to Wellbeing National Consumer Technical Assistance Center. He is an advocate for wellness, as well as equal rights in his community, and always brings optimism with him wherever he goes. Ryan is a youth trailblazer, having served on multiple boards and councils in various different arenas. He currently brings his experience as a board member of a consumer operated organization in VA, VOCAL, and his continued involvement in the development of the Peer Generation Youth Empowerment Training curriculum.
Meet The Dream Team Mentors!
Dream Team Mentor
Damie is a member of the Youth MOVE National Board of Directors and serves on the Youth Peer Support Committee and Best Practices Committee. She is a dedicated advocate and mentor to emerging leaders; as well as; partners with organizations who desire to implement strategies for including youth and young adult as peers and partners in policy and in planning. Damie is the 2015 Marlene Matarese Advocate for Youth of the Year Voice Award sponsored by the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) for outstanding and continued support and facilitation of youth and young adult voice. In 2017, she worked collaboratively to established the first “One Community in Recovery” Youth/Young Adult Award in North Carolina recognizing individuals under the age of 22 in North Carolina who have dedicated their individual talents, whether through sharing their story, advocacy or volunteering, to successfully promote mental health and/or substance use recovery and resilience. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, learning the practice of mindfulness and spending as much time at the beach as possible!!
Dream Team Mentor
Jenah Cason, MSW is the Executive Director of the Federation of Families of South Carolina (FFSC). She became connected with FFSC ten years ago due to her own lived experience and a desire to help create a safe place for other youth in their recovery journey. Her passion is to ensure that youth receive the help they need, when they need it and a workforce of individuals with lived experience is available to support and empower youth and their caregivers as they navigate services, supports and recovery. Jenah has served on committees charged with effecting systems change in mental health, education, child welfare and juvenile justice and substance use. She works closely with young people to strengthen their leadership skills through supporting them in maximizing their talents and pursuing their passions.
Dream Team Mentor
Johanna Bergan, (Youth MOVE National) is an advocate for youth with lived experience in the mental health system who is now working in the field of youth engagement to promote and encourage the inclusion of youth voice in policy change. Johanna has nine years of experience advocating for important changes in the mental health system. Her voice has been heard on several national platforms including advising technical assistance and research and training centers which support and promote the value of youth voice. As the Executive Director for Youth MOVE National, Johanna assists chapters of the Youth MOVE network in creating and promoting successful youth driven organizations working to unite the voices and causes of youth at the local, state, and national level. Johanna intentionally provides ongoing support, coaching, and mentoring to emerging youth leaders and the leaders of youth driven organizations to further strengthen the national youth movement.
Dream Team Mentor
Letty Elenes is a pioneer in the national youth consumer movement, a multi-award-winning program Director. She has a strong record of identifying, creating and executing successful programs to address youth and adult mental health needs. Participants in these programs have included people from the criminal justice, foster care, and mental health systems as well as those in addiction recovery. Letty developed and co-authored WRAP® for Youth and the first to run youth-to-youth groups in the nation. She is a founding member of copious local and national youth/ young adult committees/ boards for behavior healthcare systems/ organizations/ programs. As the Director for the Copeland Center’s, National Technical Assistance Center, Doors To Wellbeing, Letty supports SAMHSA regions, reg. 3: DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV. reg. 7: IA, KS, MO, NE. Creating statewide partnerships and strengthening mental health peer-run organizations and programs. Providing technical assistance, implementing EBP and best practice trainings, strengthening youth/ young adult leadership skills and development, supporting mental health peer specialist nationally. Letty is passionate about community health and has been involved with efforts for systems transformation since age 14. In her spare time, she is a devoted wife and mother to her son and two fur babies.
Dream Team Mentor
Raphaelle Richardson currently serves as the Director of Consumer and Family Affairs Administration at the DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH). In her current role Ms. Richardson strives to engage consumers, family members and young adults, as partners in wellness, resiliency and recovery in a manner that inclusive, trauma-informed and consistent with best practices. She is responsible for leadership and direction in planning, developing and coordinating ways to promote the involvement of consumers across the Behavioral Health System. Ms. Richardson oversees the peer support certification program; protection of consumer legal and civil rights; initiatives that build awareness among community members and providers; and projects to monitor consumer satisfaction and perceived quality of care to improve behavioral health services for the more than 22,000 adults, children and youth DBH serves each year.
Her areas of expertise include sustainability of organizations, development of youth-driven models, leadership training and development of adult peer advocates. Since 2005, Ms. Richardson has mentored inner city youth and peer advocates with mental health challenges, while providing leadership and direction to Chicago Public Schools, Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health, Shelby County Division of Community Services, University of Maryland TAN Network and community mental health agencies.
Over the past 13 years, Ms. Richardson has impacted well over 20,000 young adults across the United States, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa through her work as a Founding Board Member and Staff Member of Youth Motivating Others through Voices of Experience (MOVE) National. She has served on several boards addressing mental health issues, positive youth development and inclusion of faith-based organizations, including a governor appointment to the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership. Her experience in systems change, partnerships, leadership development and sustainability of organizations were instrumental in both the planning and execution of the 2014 Georgetown University Training Institutes, a national Youth Leadership Academy curriculum, in partnership with Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development; and author of SAMHSA-funded Rocking Your Youth MOVEment: A Guide to RockStar Sustainability.
Some of her most recent projects include the design, development and implementation of recovery events such as the Purple Wave Festival, reaching over 1,000 individuals with 70+ vendors. Additionally, programs such as the DC Peer Academy aim to build the capacity of peer-run organizations and establish a peer-operated learning platform to strengthen behavioral health consumers, providers and community members.
Ms. Richardson’s unique ability to activate her faith and think strategically have afforded her an invitation to the White House, deliver a keynote addressing mental health on the floor of the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya, and work with celebrities such as Dwayne Wade and Common. Past experience as an Executive Director and Co-Founder of a multi-million dollar center and Director of a statewide organization have provided Ms. Richardson with an in-depth understanding of the intricacies that exist between consumers, programming and organizational development.
Ms. Richardson obtained her BA in Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana and currently works toward obtaining her Master’s in Business Administration. Ms. Richardson’s life mission is to make certain that consumers, family members and young adults are afforded the opportunity to grow beyond their current circumstance.
Dream Team Mentor
Bio coming soon.