Gary Clemons started at Friends of the Children - Portland in 2008 as a Friend to eight boys. Subsequently, he has risen through the organization through multiple roles from Children Selection and Special Projects Manager to supporting fundraising efforts for the chapter. In 2014 Gary became Friends of the Children - National's Chief Program Officer where he aided the network in growing from 8 to 15 locations by helping to raise seed capital and bringing the program model to new cities.
In 2018 Gary was recruited to serve as Executive Director for Friends of the Children – New York. In an effort to address the stability gap experienced by youth and families affected by systemic racism, Friends of the Children – NY launched a $17 million campaign to double the number of youth served in NYC and advanced the 2gen model, which extends services to parents in addition to the youth. Currently, he is working on a framework to advance the organization’s anti-racist stance and support families as they advocate for policy change.
Gary’s passion for helping marginalized youth and families derives from his own story. Growing up in underserved communities contributed to his experiences with gangs and homelessness; he struggled to find his way and was lucky to be empowered by positive adults. This led him to dedicate his life to social justice, which he has been doing for 25+ years. Gary's past experiences include an initiative at Guide Dogs for the Blind to expand the racial diversity of their donor, employee and visually-impaired client pool across North America. Gary attended Portland State University and has multiple Project Management certificates. He is a Leadership Portland alumnus and will always be an incredible advocate for Friends of the Children.
Program Director Jason has spent the last ten years working with youth and managing youth focused programming in Harlem. He gained supervisory and management experience as the Assistant Director of Harlem Children’s Zone’s Learn to Earn Program and most recently, as the Program Director of the REAL Program at DREAM. Jason completed his masters in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Advocacy from NYU in 2017.
Jacki Kelly is a non-profit leader who has spent 20+ years working to ensure high quality educational access and success for all individuals and especially for people traditionally left behind. Most recently, Jacki served as the founding Executive Director of The Writing Revolution (TWR). In four years, Jacki grew TWR from a four-person startup serving approximately 200 educators with an annual budget of $800,000 to a team of 16 serving thousands of educators worldwide with an annual budget of over $3,000,000. Prior to TWR, Jacki served as Director of Development and in various development and communications roles at several successful educational non-profits including Student Leadership Network (formally called Young Women’s Leadership Network) and READ Alliance. Jacki has taught adult immigrants and children and serves on the board of College and Community Fellowship and the Petey Greene Program. Jacki holds an M.A. in Elementary Inclusive Education from Teachers College Columbia University and a B.S. in Journalism from Northeastern University.
Kevin Watson learned at a young age the importance of helping others while growing up in Dallas, TX. A sense of community was instilled in him while he volunteered with The Bethlehem Foundation, a non-profit organization geared towards assisting families in poverty stricken environments. Experiencing misfortunes of those families while volunteering, Kevin knew that attending college was a must. He received a 4 year music scholarship while matriculating at Morehouse College, where he graduated with a B.A. in 2003. Kevin has worked as a mentor for the youth step team during Youth Invasions at Concord Church and he also worked with youth of single parent homes to ensure their academics and life development skills were progressing positively. Kevin joined Friends of the Children in 2017 with eagerness and willingness to assist the children in all facets.
Adana Wellington joined Friends of the Children NY in June 2015 as a Professional Mentor in the Child Program. Her prior experience at the Administration of Children’s Services as a Child Protective Specialist, contributed to the knowledge and experience she uses to engage diverse families. This experience propelled her passion to work with disconnected youth. Adana continues to volunteer her time as a Youth Leader at Christ Pentecostal Temple Inc. Adana holds a BS from St. John’s University. Currently she is pursuing her Masters of Social Work at Fordham University where she will then continue her work in Youth Development.
Robert Cornish became a professional mentor with Friends of the Children New York in December of 2015. Robert's previous experience includes working as a Young Males Initiative Coordinator for Goodwill; an Athletic Coordinator and Head Youth counselor with the YMCA and a Youth counselor with the Police Athletic League. Robert holds a BA in Children and Youth Studies from Brooklyn College.
Dominique Elie joined Friends of the Children, NY in September 2019 as Program Manager. She brings to her role 28+ years of Child Welfare Experience and expertise in working with families, children and youth. She holds a Masters in Social Work from New York University. Her passion is to positively impact the lives of families, children and youth whom she is serving in her capacity.
Ismael graduated from Rhode Island College in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Ismael moved to NY in 2014 and began working at Pace University’s Development Department from 2014-2015, assisting the Vice President with executive level fundraising. His most notable contribution was facilitating in the strategy and executive of the universities largest solicited gift of $20 million. In 2016 Ismael began working as a grant writer at Urban Dove, a non-profit which helps at-risk youth in high school to become re-engaged in school by using their sports-based youth development program. Ismael’s most notable achievement at Urban Dove was increasing the organization’s fundraising portfolio by 33% over two years. Today, Ismael works as the Grants Manager at Friends of the Children NY and plans to use his talents to grow the organization’s fundraising portfolio to meet the future plans of the organization.