CHRISTINE SHIAU, program manager

​​Christine Shiau has earned a Master of Social Work with the concentration of Community Organization, Planning, and Administration from the University of Southern California in 2016.  She is passionate about serving disadvantaged youth.  She has mentored underserved students at a nonprofit, Little Lights Urban Ministries, in Washington, District of Columbia along with provided mental-health services to high-risk high-school students at a Green Dot Public School in South Los Angeles.  She is currently the Program Manager of Visionary Youth Center, in which she facilitates the growth of the organization, aids with weekly programming, and helps with the Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Social Work internship programs.  As Program Manager, Christine Shiau utilizes macro-practice skills and knowledge of mental health issues, all in which she has developed through her aforementioned experiences, and her past roles as research assistants within the Psychology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and as an intern at the American Psychological Association.


(323) 454-6221 //

ROBERT HERNANDEZ, founder & executive director
Robert Hernandez received his MSW from the University of Southern California and is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the USC School of Social Work, where he teaches Leadership in the Social Work Profession and Organizations: Theory and Practice; Policy and Practice in Social Service Organizations; Social Work Practice With Families, Groups and Complex Cases; Social Work and Law; and Adolescent Gang Intervention. His areas of interest include vulnerable youth populations, adolescent social issues, adolescent gang intervention, strength-based/resiliency and youth empowerment models of practice. In particular, Hernandez's work examines risk and protective factors within communities that are associated with vulnerable youth populations residing in trauma-exposed communities. He has focused addressing violence-related trauma through violence reduction, prevention and intervention strategies. He also served on the Community Engagement Ad-Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development, headed by then-District 6 Councilman Tony Cardenas. He contributed to the creation of “Two Prong Approach,” the city's community-based gang intervention model. Hernandez serves on the National Juvenile Justice Network, composed of coalitions and organizations that advocate for juvenile reform. Much of his work centers on community violence prevention and intervention. He also is cofounder and executive director of Visionary Youth Center, Inc.

Call Us: (323) 454-6221

I am a full-time student in the Masters of Social Work program at USC. My long term career goal is to work for the Children's Bureau in Washington, DC. My short term career goal is to gain as much experience & knowledge as I can in different child welfare practices so that I may make better, more informed decisions later in my career. I work part-time as a nanny for a company called College Nannies & Tutors. My biggest accomplishment so far has been breaking a cycle that exists in my family: getting married right after high school & not going to college. My hobbies include boxing, working out, traveling, trying new foods & restaurants, watching Spanish soap operas, & playing with my dog. 

I am currently attending USC. I am in their Masters in Social work program. I hope to work in the hospital setting as a clinical therapist. I work at Los Angeles Valley College's Financial aid office as a career guidance counselor assistant. One of my major accomplishments was graduating from UCLA and getting into USC :)  I love hiking, playing the piano, listening to music (French, Spanish, Russian..) I love to dance salsa and bachata and watch comedy movies. 

I am currently attending California State University, Los Angeles, and I am majoring in social work.  I will be graduating on June 2017.   It's going to be my first Bachelor Degree. I'M SO EXCITED.  I have a part time job and I work as IHSS provider (In Home Supporting Services).  Hobbies: If I find some free time, I would like to spend it with my kids. My son is 14 and my daughter is 8. I like music and a fan of David Gilmore and Pink Floyd music. On the weekend my husband and I spend a couple of hours listening to music. My family and I like traveling and we go on one day trips whenever we find time and good deal at a hotel.

Veronica Fajardo is a graduate student at USC.  She is completing an MSW/MPA Dual Masters Degree Program.  Her career goals include being a leader at a non-proit organization either in the US or abroad.  Some of her accomplishments are: becoming a religiosu sister in the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, being a missionary abroad, teaching in special and general education, being a certified legal representative in a non-profit organization, and being able to return to school for more education and training in different fields.  Some of her hobbies inlcude waking, art, meditation, yoga, and spiritual reading and development. 

I graduated from UCLA with a double major in Political Science and History
I currently work for the Los Angeles Superior Court as a Records Management Assistant
I enjoy playing basketball and watching foreign films. I have vast knowledge about sneakers and I cant wait for the new season of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm"

I am a first generation college student at California State University, Los Angeles working on my BSW. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I am looking to give back to my community. I enjoy hiking and sports,in  high school I was part of different clubs and played softball.  After my BSW I plan to continue my education and work toward receiving my MSW.

Currently a Cal State Los Angeles BASW candidate. My future career goal is to work at the Children's Hospital of L.A. as a clinical social worker. I am both passionate about social work and compassionate about being there for others. My version of self-care involves either going to a show or watching a movie.

Lawrence Velo is currently a Political Science Undergrad at Cal Poly Pomona specializing in Public Administration & Public Policy. He has helped contribute to several projects including a program evaluation for the Cal Poly Pomona Parking & Transportation's Structure #2. In the San Gabriel Valley, he helped educate the public about civic issues, assisted in preventing private developers from purchasing public land that hosted biological diversity, and helped run a candidate forum for a City Council race. His hobbies include cooking/baking vegan dishes, hiking in nature, improving human, environmental, and animal welfare. Ultimately, he wants to become a real estate magnet in order to fund the causes he is passionate about. ​

(323) 454-6221 //

FAYE ALTOBARdirector of operations
Faye Altobar holds a MSW from University of Southern California in Community, Organizing, Planning, and Administration (COPA). She graduated with high honors, dean’s list, and a member of Phi Alpha Honors Society. Faye is also member of the National Association of Social Workers. She served in several roles at the following agencies: The Center for Aging Resource; Crystal Stairs; Soledad Enrichment Act (SEA), and St. Barnabas Senior Service in Los Angeles, CA.  She has also been working with the developmental disabled adults for the past 10 years at the Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis.  She served as the Director of Development at Housing Works, serving the homeless community in Los Angeles.  Faye is also the Director of Operations at Visionary Youth Center (VYC), where she is involved in administration and implementation of operations, including fund development and organizational development. She received a recognition award from the Los Angeles Mayor’s office for her work and dedication at VYC. She is co-chair of the Youth and Education Committee for the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. As a Youth and Education Committee member, she is committed to empowering and cultivating youth involvement in their community and reaching for higher education. 

​Rafael Angulo is currently the Families and Children co-coordinator and the Public Child Welfare coordinator along with being the co-advisor of the Latino Social Work Caucus. He teaches an integrative seminar and the Media in Social Work: Documentary Filmmaking as a Praxis for Social Justice class. Outside the university, Angulo facilitates group therapy for Spanish- speaking fathers, provides individual counseling to the immigrant community and is working on numerous documentary projects for national distribution.

​Erika Gonzalez is Director of Operations for School Board Member Ref Rodriguez. She works closely with Dr. Rodriguez in scheduling meetings and events, processing bus requests, creating certificates, responding to constituent cases, and assisting staff in their efforts to support all schools in District 5. Erika will also work closely with the District’s Facilities Services Division in order to best support Board District 5 schools’ needs and requests. Before joining Dr. Rodriguez’s team, Erika worked for former Board Member Tamar Galatzan covering the West San Fernando Valley. 

Born and raised in Board District 5, Erika has a passion for public service and the desire to make a difference. She previously worked for former Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas, spurring his efforts to create lactation rooms for new mothers in City Hall. Erika also helped organize DEAFestival, a family event held annually in Los Angeles in support of the deaf and hard of hearing community. She continues to serve as a volunteer of the festival. In addition, Erika worked with Councilman Cardenas during the time the Community-Based Gang Intervention Model was introduced and passed unanimously in the city. The model was implemented to provide a better understanding of how communities and governments throughout the country should invest in gang intervention as a way to increase peace-building efforts. During her time in the council office, landmark policies were established to fight human trafficking, and legislation was crafted which led to the creation of LAPD’s Animal Cruelty Task Force. 

As the mother of two young children, Erika is motivated and thankful to be part of an organization and a member of a team that values high-quality education. She is proud to serve the students of the city she loves dearly. 

Erika serves schools and families in the communities of Vernon, Cudahy, and parts of City Terrace and East LA.

​Susan Hess serves as a Senior Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work. Previously, she served as an adjunct faculty member at California Lutheran University, where she developed and taught marriage and family therapy graduate curricula in domestic violence and child brain trauma.

Through her private consulting, training and expert witness testimony practice, Hess demonstrates her primary areas of expertise in intimate partner violence and trauma-informed care. She is an avid promoter of cutting-edge research and clinical approaches to trauma-informed practices.

Irene Lim, LCSW began her work with youth at CHLA as a Social Worker Associate on the multidisciplinary Mobile Health Team that provided medical and psychosocial services to homeless and runaway youth in Hollywood.  She received her Master’s degree in Social Work from USC in 2000 and worked as a Children’s Social Worker with the Department of Children and Family Services, Adoption Division. In 2001, she returned to the CHLA’s Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine (DAYAM) and has worked in the Behavioral Health, Risk Reduction, Gang Prevention and Teen Parenting.  In 2008 she led our Drug Free Communities Program, funded by SAMHSA to run the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Hollywood. A major event organized by this coalition was a youth-led conference where youth and law enforcement partnered to improve communication among youth and families and identify appropriate resources. In July 2014, she became the Program Manager for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program at CHLA DAYAM.


Paco Retana has been serving vulnerable youth and marginalized communities in Los Angeles for more than 25 years. As Clinical Supervisor for Green Dot Public Schools, he directly oversees the clinical supervision of school-based mental health services in the inner city schools of South Los Angeles. Previously, he served as the Regional Director of Community Mental Health Services at Children’s Institute, Inc. (CII), and as Director of Outpatient Services at the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic (LACGC), where he provided leadership in delivering outpatient services at both CII and LACGC. This included the oversight of the quantity and quality of outpatient services at both organizations, as well monitoring all mental health activities, staffing, program evaluation and quality improvements. Services included general outpatient services delivered at the clinics and in the community as well as specialized services such as CalWORKs and the walk-in clinic. Paco ensured compliance with all funder requirements for all contracts and grants, most notably, the Department of Mental Health (DMH), United Way-Greater Los Angeles, and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. He also developed and implemented comprehensive culturally sensitive mental health services at both organizations. Paco’s work experience also includes running mental health services for both Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center and Saint. John’s Child and Family Development Center.

Paco is a voting-member of the Department of Mental Health System Leadership Team, which is an advisory body to the Director of DMH. He serves as the Co-Chair of the Service Area Advisory Committee in South LA, Co-Chair of the Latino Underserved Cultural Communities Committee of DMH, Board President of the Visionary Youth Center, Member of the UCLA Structural Racism/Sexism Steering Committee, and Member of the UCLA Alumni Board of Directors Nominations Committee. 

Paco is a well sought-after mental health consultant by social justice organizations, school districts and universities, and foundations, which include the Community Coalition, Liberty Hill, California Endowment’s Sons and Brothers Initiative, Intersegmental Coordinating Committee, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Legacy LA, Santa Ana Unified School, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, Loved Ones of Homicide Victims, Victims of Crime and the former Mac Laren Children’s Center Project. In addition, he serves as a field instructor for both UCLA and USC.

Paco is the recipient of the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and his Masters in Social Welfare from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Jon Simon Sager is a retired Clinical Associate Professor of social work from USC.  He holds a PhD in Social Work and Psychology from the University of Michigan, where he also obtained an MSW and an MS in Community Psychology.  Besides USC, where he was the lead faculty in Leadership, Professor Sager also taught for UCLA, CSU, Northridge, the University of Redlands and The University of Michigan.  Early in his career Sager was a clinician and obtained his LCSW.  But his interests evolved to community practice, administration, managing change, organization development and Leadership.  Dr. Sager also served as regional director of a poverty program, the Executive Director of a vocational rehabilitation facility and as a management consultant.   He has published on a variety of topics, including: planning, leadership, power and organizational change.  He co-authored with Jack Rothman the first evidenced based case management text integrating individual and community practice.

Josephine Sanchez was born and raised in Los Angeles. She attended UCLA where she received her Bachelors degree in History and Political Science. She received her Law degree from the UCLA School of Law. Previously, Ms. Sanchez was Staff Counsel for State Compensation Insurance Fund for eight years where she practiced workers compensation defense and received the 2006 award for Corporate Excellence.  She is currently an associate with the Law Firm of Laughlin Falbo Levy & Moresi.  She served on the board of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association. She is a recipient of the Staples Community Star Award and the Catholic Charities Service Award. She enjoys baking, traveling, Pilates and UCLA football and basketball.

Nicole Shahenian joined the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce as the Vice President of Public Policy in March of 2008, where she additionally acts as Executive Director to the East Hollywood Business Improvement District.  Ms. Shahenian previously served as a senior Field Representative for former Congresswoman Hilda Solis of the 32nd Congressional District (San Gabriel Valley /East Los Angeles).  Nicole received her BA in Political Science and History from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.  She is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Hollywood Central Park, the Los Angeles City College Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, and is a founding Board member of East Hollywood’s Visionary Youth Center.  Nicole has previously served as Secretary of the San Gabriel Valley YWCA Board of Directors. In 2007, Nicole was honored for her work in promoting Health Care for the underserved by the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the NAACP.  Nicole remains an active member of the Hollywood community and is a strong advocate for environmental, education and health issues.  

​Shantel Vachani received both her law degree, with an emphasis in public interest law, and her master's degree in social welfare, with a concentration in macro practice, from UCLA School of Law and UCLA School of Social Welfare, respectively. She currently teaches policy courses for first-year MSW students at the USC School of Social Work. In addition to direct services, she provides stakeholder trainings and works on policy issues related to court-involved youth.