UYP Agenda






 *Classes/activities subject to change.

SA: Systems Advocacy Major
PA: Peer Advocacy Major
RT: Recovery Track

Day 1: Saturday 6/22/19

12:00-1:30pm Registration and Lunch
Centennial Hall, 930 Madison Ave, Albany, NY 12203

1:30pm-3:00pm Orientation- St. Joseph

3:30-5:00pm Classes:

SA: Systems Advocacy 101
Professors: Brad Hansen, Public Policy Coordinator, Families Together in New York State; Imari Wilson, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Description: Drawing from real world examples from the Raise the Age NY campaign, this course will introduce the concept of systems advocacy and lead a discussion on topics such as what systems advocacy is, the function of government agencies, the three branches of government. This course will also explore what it means to be a systems advocate, ways to take action, what being an effective advocate could like, and identifying potential systems advocacy topics to pursue in your community.

PA: Peer Advocacy 101
Professors: Bianca Logan, Youth Peer Services and Training Manager, YOUTH POWER! of FTNYS; Azaria Wittekind, Youth Peer Services Training and Credentialing Coordinator, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Description: Join the Youth Peer Services Training and Credentialing Coordinator to explore the process of becoming a Professionally Credentialed Youth Peer Advocate. Here we will explore the training necessary for the Provisional and Professional Credentials, the applications, the statement of lived experience, and discuss any questions you may have.

RT: Recovery Advocacy 101
Professors:  Rachelle Brown, Carlee Hulsizer, and Lori Teaney; Youth Voices Matter
To kick off the new Recovery Track, join the Youth Voices Matter team to explore how to effectively voice your recovery story through positive recovery messaging. This class will teach individuals how to develop their message to various groups, how to shift their usage of language, and what words to elevate and celebrate! This class will also teach different messaging strategies, the key parts of messaging, and provide ways to practice the use of their recovery message. By learning how to voice your recovery story you can contribute to breaking down stigma, advocate to change policies, and assist in building a strong national recovery movement.

Understanding the New Services Available to Young People and Their Families
Professor: Brianna Gower, Director, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Description: As the state transitions to Medicaid Managed Care, there are a variety of new services available to young people and their families. In this session, we will provide an overview and discussion on the new services, the role Youth Peers play, and how to access them. Those who participate in this session will be provided tools and resources to further support efforts to educate the young people we work with.

5:00-6:00pm Dinner

6:30-8:00pm Stand Up for Mental Health
Creating Recovery One Laugh at a Time!
Join award-winning Vancouver counselor, peer, stand-up comic, and author David Granirer for a night of comedy featuring you very own peers! Leading up to UYP, David will be training a group of young people from the YP! and Youth Voices Matter networks to share their experiences and inspire hope and laughter through their very own stand-up comedy routine to be performed live with David Granirer during this session.

9:00pm-11:00pm Activities:

Paint and Dip
Enjoy some late night snacks while breaking out your inner artist for a night of painting.


Advocacy Film Screening & Discussion
Join the YP! team for an advocacy film screening  and discussion. Film: Generation Found


Day 2: Sunday 6/23/19

8:00-9:15am Breakfast- Main Dining Room

9:30-10:45am Classes:

SA: Legislative Advocacy 101: Effectively Telling Your Story
Blaise Bryant; YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS Network Leadership Council
Description: The course will describe best practices to advocate to elected officials via face-to-face meetings, e-mails, phone calls, social media, etc. Blaise will share his own experiences with each platform, with emphasis on telling your own story. There will be an opportunity for students to play both the roll of an advocate and an elected official/Chief of Staff.

PA: Supports for Transition Age Youth Entering the Workforce that also have a Mental Health Challenge/ Disability
Professor: Kaitlyn Ledzian, Youth Peer Advocate, Mental Health Advocates of WNY
Description: Transition age youth is described as any young person from the ages of 18-28 that are now faced with any struggles with entering the world of the workforce, college/trade school, moving out. These challenges are difficult enough for a young person let alone having a mental health challenge/disability. I plan to provide different tips and resources that can help a young person strive in the “adult” world. Speaking from experience I am a youth peer advocate at the age of 22, who has attended college, has their own apartment and entered the workforce at a very young age so I can speak from experience. I also make follow up calls to transition age youth after they are discharged from a psychiatric hospital in the Buffalo area, so this is something that I am very familiar with.

RT: We Got Your Back
Professor: Stephanie Campbell, NYS Ombudsman Project Director, OASAS; Rob Kent, OASAS General Counselor, OASAS
The Recovery movement has long advocated on reforming the health care system to make health insurance more available to youth and their families. Although young people are at greatest risk to drug overdose and suicide, those with substance use and mental healthcare concerns often have challenges accessing much needed health care. New York State has special programs to help protect young people and get them the care they need and deserve. This course will provide an overview of Patient Advocacy and the Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP) – two programs that help people get access to treatment and resolve complaints. Participants will also look at barriers to treatment – including access to medication, and solutions to how young people can get the most from their insurance for substance use and mental health services. We will look at the range of sensitive health care services that young people may receive and that they are entitled to have those services delivered in a manner that is confidential and addresses their needs. The take-away is the knowledge that there are programs that protect and enforce the health care rights of youth and young adults. We hope this course will provide attendees with a greater awareness that their healthcare choices are in their hands.

11:00-12:15 Electives:

Making Meaningful Connections
Professor: Alex Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Description: Attending events can be stressful and at times feel like a waste of time. In this class we will learn skills to make the best of every opportunity. Learn the importance of being prepared, how to limit anxiety during the event and best practice for follow up with new contacts. Add Networking to your toolbox, to create strong personal and work relationships. 

Healing with Yoga & Meditation
Professors: Robbie Lettieri, Outreach and Training Peer Specialist, Association for Mental Health and Wellness
 During this course, we will dive into the depths of holistic healing. We will look at the common misconceptions surrounding yoga and meditation while also exploring different approaches to an array of mindful practices. Presenter and registered Yoga Therapist, Robbie Lettieri, credits these mindful practices as being a key role in his own road to recovery. Come join the discussion and learn more techniques to support your road to finding peace within.

Adulting 101
Professor: Carly DelVecchio, Central Regional Youth Partner, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Description: Let’s face it – adulting is hard, and transitioning from a teenager to a young adult is even more difficult for those of us who grow up “in the system”. I don’t know about you, but as a teenager with significant mental health challenges, my high school experience definitely wasn’t what you’d call normal. Those of us with disabilities, mental health challenges, or involvement in state systems such as juvenile justice or foster care sometimes missed key opportunities to learn basic skills critical to our success as young adults. If this sounds like you, join us for Adulting 101, where you’ll learn important skills like how to write a check, how to write a professional email, how to do laundry, how to put out a kitchen grease fire, how to compile a resume, how to utilize public transportation services, basic conflict management, and much more! Participation in this class will not only help you succeed in day-to-day life, but also in your academic and professional pursuits!

Speak Up about Sexual Freedom! Information about the Consenting Process
Professor: Andrea Onstot, MSW, PH.D Student, UAlbany
Adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who are supported by non-profit agencies are often forbidden from participating in sexual activities, or taking sex-ed classes, unless they can pass a “consent capacity assessment.” In this class, I will provide a summary of recent scholarly research, which has revealed that this process may be negatively impacting people with disabilities. I will also provide details about the policy that has influenced “consent capacity assessment,” and invite participant opinion on these policies and practices. *This class will contain information about sex and/or sexual abuse which may be triggering to some young people.*

12:30- 1:30pm Lunch- Main Dining Room

2:00- 3:15pm Classes:

SA: Tips, Tricks and Tools for Systems Advocacy Research
 Melanie Hecker, Student, UAlbany
Description: Research is an essential part of any good Systems Advocacy campaign. But how do you know if you’re using good sources in your research? In this class, we will learn what reliable sources are, what they look like, and how to find them. We will learn what sorts of things make a source reliable and good to use, but also what makes a source less reliable and the reasons why it may not be a good idea to use it. Finally, we will discuss the pros and cons of different types of sources like books, newspapers and websites and when these sources are appropriate to use. Great research and great sources make great campaigns!

PA: Where do we go from Peer?
Azaria Georger, Youth Peer Services Training & Credentialing Coordinator, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Youth Peer Advocate That Is! Life is full of transitions and one of those transitions will be from a Youth Peer Advocate to an Adult Peer. Your experience does not expire and there are so many options for peers out there! Join us in exploring peer and other career options in NYS that could benefit from the peer expertise.

RT: The Brain on Drugs, Addiction Science
Professor: Samantha Kawola, Youth/ Young Adult Specialist, OASAS; Shyla Primavera, Addictions Program Specialist, OASAS
An overview of the basics of addiction science as it relates to adolescent brain development. Participants will also leave class with an understanding of OASAS services and supports available to young people, as well as how to access those services.

3:30-4:45pm Electives:

Afro-Caribbean Dance
Professor: Shaahida Samuel, Dance Instructor, NYU; Ashley Rivera, Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator, YOUTH POWER!FTNYS
Description: Shaahida Samuel Graduated with her bachelors in dance education and is now pursuing her Master’s at New York University in Dance Education. This dance class will be an interactive dance workshop that explores Afro-Caribbean dance as a way of Meditation and wellness, and a way to relieve stress. This self-expressive class will leave you feeling new and rejuvenated.

Play It Off
Professor: Joseph Burrows, Peer Advocate, Addiction Center of Broome County
Description: An innovative approach to connecting with youth and young adults 14 and up. What is something that anybody can relate to regardless of race, upbringing, culture, sex or background? Music! What better way to foster growth and promote positive change than to utilize something that anyone can relate to? This interactive workshop is designed to teach YPA’s how to run a group that incorporates evidence based practices with learning a fun new skill. The program was initially designed with teaching guitar as the catalyst but any type of music or instrument can be used. Play to your strengths! In this workshop you will learn the basic structure of the group and how to effectively communicate with your group member. You will learn all of the tools needed to get your group up and running as well as invaluable resources to overcome the barriers of getting your group started. You will learn effective forms of data collection to prove how successful your group is and mostly, you will learn how to make a group comfortable and fun for your participants!”

Narcan Training
Professor: Lawrence Byrne, Project Safe Point
Description: This course will teach students the 8 strategies of Harm Reduction and how this pertains to overdose prevention.  During this course, students will be trained on how to use Naloxone/Narcan.  Students will also be taught an overview on what a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate is.

Electing YOUth: How to Run for Public Office
Professors: Zack Kilmer, NYISA Coordinator, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Have you ever imagined yourself running for office? Many have never seen themselves going so, but it is more plausible than one might think. If you are unhappy with your elected representatives or the status quo, what better way to change it than getting in yourself? In this workshop, we will go through a step-by-step guide for how young people can run their own elections for local office and beyond. Zach Kilmer, previous Town Council candidate, will help you create your own action plan to run for office and help elect more youth to local government.

5:00-6:00pm Dinner- Main Dining Room

6:15-8:00pm Student Fair- Touhey
Network with your peers, gather resources, win prizes, and more! 

8:00-8:30pm YP! Network Leadership Council Open Meeting- Touhey
Join the YP! Network Leadership Council for an open meeting

9:00-11:00pm Activities:

Our Art Class
Hosted by: Aprecia Cabey, Director, Our Art Class
Participants will create self-portraits based on qualities that they recognize about themselves. Participants will choose three qualities and include a discussion on how participants communicate their individual strengths and weaknesses will assist with the reflective component of the activity. Discussion will continue to include how to cope with perceived weaknesses. Participants will use visual art as a medium to express themselves with a self-portrait.


Qigong: Wellness and Martial Arts Workshop
Hosted by: Shawn Fariss, Tai Chi/QiGong Instructor, Chinese Martial Arts Academy
Participants will learn Qigong, a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial arts training. We will learn one basic form called “Eight Pieces of Brocade or Ba Duan Jin”, which can be done either sitting or standing.

Day 3: Monday 6/24/19

8:00am-9:15am Breakfast- Main Dining Room

9:30-10:45am Electives:

Skills and Strategies for Effective Advocacy
Professors: Stephanie Belveg, Advocate w/ Individual and Family Support Services, Justice Center; Crystal Collins, Coordinator; Maeve O’Donnell, Advocate
This class provides individuals with information and skill building exercises to develop and enhance self and peer advocacy skills.
The goal of this course is to teach the skills and strategies necessary to be an effective advocate:
• Skills are techniques for becoming competent in advocacy.
• Strategies are plans for an approach to address an issue or solve a problem through advocacy.
This class will provide the basics; a definition of advocacy and will teach Informal and Formal Advocacy Strategies. Although the course is designed with the self-advocate in mind, peer advocates (including family, friends and service providers) will benefit from the advocacy information and techniques throughout the course. We will also provide a brief overview of the NYS Justice Center and how to make referrals to our Individual and Family Support Services for advocacy.

Building a Powerful Advocacy Photo Campaign from Scratch
Professor: Desiree Moore, Youth Advocate Supervisor, You Gotta Believe
Do you love Photography, Social media, and Advocacy? Join this course and learn how to create a social media campaign that will share your story and help create system change and peer support.

Youth Rights
Professor: Elena Marton, Deputy Director & Counsel, NYS Council on Children & Families
Description: This course will provide an overview of youth rights, from the right to an education, reasonable accommodations, confidentiality with respect to mental health and other health care, LGBT rights, the rights of youth in foster care, the right to vote! Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, this course will help identify how and where to get more information when needed and how to speak up for oneself. Discussion also will focus on effectively communicating ideas and experiences to influence policies. Come ready to share and ask questions!

Political Involvement: Voting Isn’t Your Only Option
Professors: Jessica Pidegeon, Ph.D, SUNY UAlbany
Description: In this course you will learn about three different categories of political participation and involvement that you can participate in to make systems change. Each category discussed, will include several different activities, beyond just voting, that allow you (and others) to influence policy, and share your opinions, concerns, and policy suggestions with policymakers at the community, local, state, and national level. The course will include a discussion of individual experiences of the professor, students, and will conclude with a group activity to get students thinking about and planning different ways to be politically and civically involved going forward.

11:00am-12:15pm Classes:

SA: Strategies for Effective Positive Systemic Change
Professor: Cliff Perez, Systems Advocate, Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley
Description: Advocacy is used to promote an issue in order to influence policy-makers and encourage social change. Are you interested in how the political system works, how you can become an effective Systems Advocate and become a catalyst for Effecting Positive Systemic change? The presentation topic/focuses will involve:
• What the tools and mechanisms and/or strategies are needed to be an effective Systems Advocate
• Learning objectives to learn when and how to utilize Systems Advocacy tools and strategies
• Introduction of what Systems Advocacy is and factors that can influence the outcome of public policy issues: money, votes, exposure in the media (i.e., positive or negative) and coalition building.

PA: Facilitating Peer Support Groups
Professor: Abaigeal Duke, Advocacy Specialist, NYC OMH Field Office
This class will focus on the basics of running peer support groups, hopefully giving attendees the skills to start and comfortably run groups for their peers.  We will go over what makes a good group, elements of a successful group, suggestions for the flow of groups and do an activity around creating group activities!

RT: Understanding NYS Government 101
Professor: Maria L. Morris-Groves, Director Adolescent, Women and Children’s Services, OASAS; Tracey Collins, Government Affairs; Carmelita Cruz, Senior Attorney
The presenters will provide an overview of NYS Government with a focus on the Executive and Legislative Branches; and the operation of state agencies. The course also will cover the state budget process, and how legislation is developed and becomes law.

12:30-1:30pm Lunch

1:45-3:00pm Electives:

Justice Center: Focus on Abuse Prevention
Professor: Kim Affinati, Supervising Review Specialist, Justice Center; Caitlyn Kelley, Review Specialist, Shannon Burns, Review Specialist
 This presentation will provide general information about the Justice Center, with a focus on abuse prevention efforts, including a brief overview of mandated reporting requirements, the Justice Center Code of Conduct for Custodians of People with Special Needs and criminal background checks, and more detailed discussion of tolls developed by the prevention and quality improvement unit aimed at abuse prevention, including professional boundaries and reducing restraints.

Strategic Sharing/ Public Speaking
Professor: Zack Kilmer, NYISA Coordinator, YOUTH POWER!, FTNYS
Description: This class will go over the basics of how to be a good and effective public speaker, and how to use that skill for advocacy purposes. This will also touch on strategic sharing techniques in order to use personal stories for advocacy purposes.

Youth Clubhouse Panel
New York’s youth clubhouses help young people in recovery (or at risk for addiction) develop social skills that promote prevention, long-term health, wellness, recovery, and a drug-free lifestyle.  During this Panel the Youth Voices Matter team will facilitate a discussion with Clubhouse leaders and members about their unique clubhouses and how they engage young people in recovery.

Working on Our Wellness
Karl Shallowhorn, Education Program Coordinator, Community Health Center of Buffalo
Karl Shallowhorn experienced his first psychotic episode at the age of 18, just when he was embarking on a new life as a college student in Michigan. It was this life changing experience that cause him to go into a “tailspin” of despair and pain, which included periods of mania, depression, and even suicide attempts. After many years of cycling through Buffalo area psychiatric settings, Karl had an epiphany during a therapy session in 1988 that would lead to the single most important decision he has ever made. In the years since, Karl has successfully navigated through many transitory experiences that have been both challenging and rewarding. In this presentation, participants will learn about the concept of potential and what it means to go beyond one’s own self perceived limitations. There will be an opportunity for participants to join in on a dialogue to share their own particular struggles and triumphs.

3:00-3:45pm Dress for Leaders’ Dinner

3:45-5:00pm Dinner Prep– Preparation for Leaders’ Dinner- St. Joseph Hall

5:30pm-8:00pm YP!’s 12th Annual Leaders’ Dinner- St. Joseph Hall

Every year our Leaders’ Dinner provides an opportunity for young people and state leaders to speak candidly about real life issues that youth face while in state systems. It is intimidating for young people to speak frankly with government leaders and this dinner gives young people the chance to communicate in a relaxed setting.  We create an atmosphere of sharing and partnership that is comfortable for both young people and adults. This year, we are celebrating the 12th Annual Leaders’ Dinner.

9:00pm-11:00pm Karaoke Pajama Dance Party
8:30-11:30pm Roleplay Game Night

Day 4: Tuesday 6/25/18

8:00am-9:15am Breakfast- Main Dining Hall

9:30am-12:00pm Personal Leadership Planning/Closing Activities- St. Joseph

12:00-12:45pm Lunch- Main Dining Hall

Class Networking: Pictures, Signing of books

1:00-2:30pm Graduation Ceremony- Recital Hall

Elected Class Speakers

2:30-3:30pm Resident Students Check out, Centennial Hall



Brianna Gower, Director

Brianna Gower, Director

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 518-598-2467

Brianna is a hardworking young professional with first-hand experience developing self-advocacy skills as a young person with a disability and experience in the mental health system. Dedicated to amplifying youth voice across the state, she works hard to spread messages of hope and resiliency to those around her. She began her time with YOUTH POWER! serving as a mentor for the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program and after graduating in 2014 from Sage College of Albany, she began working as YOUTH POWER!’s Youth Engagement Consultant. During this time she led the E3: Engage, Educate, Employ initiative in partnership with the NYS Department of Labor. As this initiative came to a close, she then began her work with the NYS Success initiative, ensuring our system of care is youth-guided. As her role in YOUTH POWER! grew and developed, she then went on to serve as the Social Marketing and Events Coordinator, working closely with YP! members, partners, and other stakeholders. Leveraging her years of experience growing through different roles in the youth peer profession and gaining critical expertise in mentoring, youth peer advocacy, program/event coordination, social marketing, and providing trainings and technical assistance, she is excited to serve as the Director of YOUTH POWER! in this new era of leadership.

Bianca Logan, Youth Peer Development & Training Manager

Bianca Logan, Youth Peer Development & Training Manager

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 585-465-8166

Bianca is a passionate young professional who has personal experience in the mental health and special education systems. She has been working professionally in the youth movement since 2012 with 8 years volunteer experience prior. Bianca is passionate about all things youth and determined to make sure youth voice is represented at all levels in her community and beyond. She comes with experience working directly with young people and also supporting young professionals in her community. She serves as a member of the Youth Peer Services Advisory Council working towards the development of the NYS Youth Peer Advocate Credential, training, and the implementation of Youth Peer Advocate workforce in New York State. Bianca has experience serving on both the Families Together in NYS and YOUTH POWER! board of directors. Bianca’s experience with YOUTH POWER! has shown her the power and strength of the peer movement. She respects the movement, its history, and its future. Keeping the integrity of the peer movement is important to Bianca as Youth Peer Services are formalized in NYS. Bianca is excited to be working with the Regional Youth Partners across the state to support communities with their youth involvement and implement Youth Peer Advocates successfully and sustainably. She believes this will enhance the wraparound experience for young people.

Bianca wholeheartedly believes that youth are our future, and they deserve to feel empowered to play a role in shaping the next generation, inclusive of Peer Professionals. Most of all she encourages young people to have HOPE that the future can be a better place!

Elijah Fagan-Solis, Statewide Emerging Leadership Manager

Elijah Fagan-Solis, Statewide Emerging Leadership Manager

Pronoun: He/Him

Phone: 518-432-0333 ext. 19
Cell: 518-949-4617

Elijah Fagan-Solis, a God-fearing Capital Region native, is a highly motivated, young professional with firsthand, lived experienced as a person with a disability. At age 14, Elijah was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure and labeled disabled. Despite the label placed on him, Elijah was determined not to let a disability control his life or future; through all the trials and tribulations he faced with his health, Elijah graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Hudson Valley Community College, and Magna Cum Laude from the Sage College of Albany. While at HVCC, Elijah was honored by the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York for winning the David A. Garfinkel Essay Competition and had his essay published in Judicial Notice, as well as participated in a documentary about his involvement with the contest. Elijah has worked with the NYS Assembly, is a member of two national honor societies, and has received awards for involvement in his community, and for his belief in the ability of people to change, grow, and make a contribution to the world. Elijah participates in charity events and fundraisers such as the National Kidney Foundations Kidney Walk and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital’s Walk in the Park. Elijah also volunteers his time to do community service and is highly active with his church where he serves as a Deacon, the administrative assistant, and heads the youth ministry among other responsibilities.

Alex Carpenter, Western Regional Youth Partner

Alex Carpenter, Western Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: He/Him
Phone: 585-314-2452

Alex started facing mental health issues at a young age that carried on into young adulthood. Without the right support, his unaddressed mental health led him down a troubled path. In his journey, he overcame addiction and involvement in the criminal justice system. After struggling with services, he found recovery in peer led groups and started informally mentoring others in these groups. Alex received an opportunity to be a youth peer advocate, and soon after got involved with YOUTH POWER!. Alex is the newest Regional Youth Partner and is motivated to help everyone as much as he can. Alex tries his best to live a life of recovery now and is a father to a beautiful little girl. His passions in advocacy lie in the criminal justice, drug addiction, and mental health services fields.

Alexander Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner

Alexander Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: He/Him
Phone: 631-245-5289

Alexander Frisina is a hardworking and dedicated young professional that was labeled with Special Education needs at an early age. Adopted at a young age by a family located in Eastern Long Island, Alex is the youngest of four siblings, and the only adopted member of his family. Facing issues of self-identity Alex struggled with depression. Throughout the decision-making process of his treatment, he felt voiceless and was made to believe he had no choices. This feeling pushed Alex to seek alternative methods of expression; which lead him down the road of creative writing. Alex used his writing to not only express himself but also escape from the feeling of being powerless and unheard. Since graduating from King’s College located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Alex has been seeking a position that uses his creative background to help make a difference. Learning about the work YOUTH POWER! has done and the goals they are working towards Alex realized his past experience could be used to help others dealing with similar situations. Pulling from past experiences and gaining knowledge every day Alex hopes to push for change and spread the work of YOUTH POWER!

Amanda Davidson, Youth Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

Amanda Davidson, Youth Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 518-432-0333 ext. 26
Cell Phone: 518-949-4338

Amanda is a driven, confident young individual who plans on making the world a better place for young people step by step. Her experience in mental health, child welfare, has allowed her to grow a new skill to recognize the ability for change. She knows she wants to empower young people of all ages and help them to also recognize their ability to seek change and actively make their voices heard in society. Amanda works state wide to amplify youth voice in systems that involve suicide prevention, school mental health education, child welfare, kinship/foster care and many others. She has shared her story in front of the whole NYS Board of Education including Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, to influence the new mental health education curriculum law passed in July of 2018, the 2018 Suicide Prevention Conference sharing her own personal experience with suicide and what helped or harmed her during that time, the 2018 System of Care Summit explaining her transition from child serving systems to the adult serving systems, 2019 Families Together in NYS Annual Conference, 2019 School Mental Health Resource & Training Center Regional Summit and MANY other conferences, meetings, councils and committees sharing her story and experiences of a troubled past. She also participates with many councils and committee event planning groups to ensure young people are properly represented in the systems that we celebrate.

With all of these opportunities, she has realized her passion is to support young involved in the child welfare systems with whom live mental health challenges. She is deeply passionate about the mental health education law and ensuring students have the best supports and resources when it comes to learning such an important topic! With her story told throughout different outlets, she hopes youth can find power in sharing their own story because Amanda knows our stories matter!

Ashley Rivera, Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator

Ashley Rivera, Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 518-560-9880

Ashley Rivera is a natural born advocate. With years of experience navigating the foster care system, advocating for her siblings and herself became second nature. Throughout her years in foster care, Ashley dealt with anxiety, depression and self-identity. Through self-advocacy and natural supports Ashley was able to find treatment through faith-based interventions. Ashley has been involved with promoting youth advocacy since High School. She worked on Juvenile Justice projects such as, Alternative to Detention programs in NYC, engaging youth to advocate for funding Educational opportunity programs on college campuses. Ashley has a Bachelor’s of Science from SUNY Plattsburgh in Political Science and Latin American Studies. Ashley is currently serving Youth Power as the Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator on the NYS Systems of Care grant. Simultaneously, she works as a community support worker providing skill-building to youth facing their own mental health barriers. Ashley is dedicated to empowering youth and encouraging systems change so youth voice is inclusive and at the forefront of change.

Azaria Georger, Youth Peer Services Training & Credentialing Coordinator

Azaria Georger, Youth Peer Services Training & Credentialing Coordinator

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 585-866-9333

Azaria has a history of working with and for youth and young adults. This stems from the care and support she received while growing up in the foster care system. Azaria was in and out of foster care since the age of 13 and has multiple mental health diagnoses. Azaria has personally experienced the power of love, support, and caring from others who helped her find her voice, drive, and have supported her personal successes. Azaria turned her passion into supporting others to find their voices. Prior to starting this position, she has worked directly with youth to support them in finding their voice at home and in school as a Youth Mentor, Youth Ambassador, and in residential care as a Youth Care Professional. Azaria earned her Bachelors in Social Work from SUNY Brockport in 2013 after aging out of foster care at 21 while studying abroad in Vietnam.

Carly DelVecchio, Central Regional Youth Partner

Carly DelVecchio, Central Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 315-679-1476

Carly DelVecchio’s personal struggles with mental health began in middle school.  This life-altering experience ultimately sparked her passion for supporting others to live abundant lives in spite of their diagnoses.  Carly graduated from Houghton College with her BA in Psychology in December 2016 and soon began working with the Mental Health Advocates of WNY as a Youth Peer Advocate.  In April 2018, she joined the team at YOUTH POWER! of Families Together in New York State as the Western Regional Youth Partner.  One year later, she moved to Syracuse, NY and transitioned into the role of Central Regional Youth Partner. 

In addition to her work with YOUTH POWER!, Carly is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work through Rutgers University.  She is married to her best friend and they are expecting a baby girl in September 2019.  In her free time, Carly enjoys reading, going for walks, visiting local coffee shops, and writing about her faith and the day-to-day challenges of living with a mental health diagnosis on her personal blog, Jesus, Coffee, and Prozac.  (Feel free to check it out at  To connect with Carly, send her a friend request on Facebook, shoot her a quick email or text, or give her a call!

Imari Wilson, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner

Imari Wilson, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: He/Him/They/Them
Phone: 518-322-2096

Imari is no stranger to advocating for others. Since a young age they’ve unconsciously looked to make others around feel included and accepted. Growing up having older siblings in the foster care system, juvenile justice system, and having a serious medical illness, Imari felt they had to minimize their needs to make space for others. This created some unhealthy habits. It wasn’t until experiencing a significant loss in their late teens that they began to positively accept and voice their needs, and address the obstacles that challenged him. Imari has now gained confidence and strength by exploring and identifying their mental health needs, as well as, liberating himself through transition. This self-work and lived experience brought them into the mental health field as a Youth Peer Advocate (YPA). Now in a place where he can make space for himself and others, Imari aims to continue to raise visibility to those that need it and see a more inclusive world than the day before.

Zack Kilmer, NYISA Coordinator

Zack Kilmer, NYISA Coordinator

Pronoun: He/Him
Phone: 518-708-3808

Zack Kilmer is an autistic LGBTQ+ young adult who has had a passion for activism and civics since he was a child. Raised by a single mother and brought up in special education programs, Zack knows the struggles young people face and wants to change the system to better suit their needs. He is excited and honored to be working with YOUTH POWER! to achieve that goal. Before joining YP!, Zack graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in English & Political Science. Shortly after, he worked on the New York 19th District 2016 Congressional Election in support of Zephyr Teachout. He then used the skills learned in that race to run his own campaign for Town Council in his hometown of East Greenbush.

Shainek Edmundson, NYC Regional Youth Partner

Shainek Edmundson, NYC Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: She/Her
Phone: 518-708-3808

Shainek is a resilient, self motivated young adult who has experience with the foster care system. From an early age she has been an advocate for herself along with young people she came across. She helps to provide hope by being a positive example in her community and striving for excellence each day. She identifies herself as creative as she uses the arts as a form of self expression and therapy. Being passionate about justice and systematic change, Shainek is motivated to help educate individuals about various issues to raise awareness. Recently receiving her Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and becoming the newest Regional Youth Partner, Shainek is excited to leave a long lasting impact on her peers through advocacy and exposure.


We pride ourselves on being a peer run network. Families Together in NYS employs youth and young adults with disabilities and/or cross-systems experiences to mentor young leaders and coordinate YP! network activities.


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