2023 AOI Awards Program Judges

Carolyn Olsen, Fostering Youth Independence (Santa Clarita, CA)

Carolyn serves as the Executive Director at Fostering Youth Independence (FYI). With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and over 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience, Carolyn was introduced to the foster care system in 2016 when she became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Assigned to work with a 17-year-old foster youth, she quickly realized the unique challenges faced by youth transitioning to adulthood without parental support. As Carolyn began finding ways to help the young woman for whom she was advocating, she developed a passion to use what she was learning to help as many foster youth as possible. In 2017, Carolyn joined forces with her friends Gina Stevens and Stacey Anton, and the three founded FYI. Under Carolyn’s leadership, FYI has grown from an idea to a team of 6 staff and over 90 volunteers who have served 150 foster youth to date.

Kate Danielson, Foster Progress (Chicago, IL)

Kate Danielson is the Founder and Executive Director of Foster Progress, whose mission is to empower foster youth to attain a college degree and transition into adulthood successfully by providing mentorship, advocacy, and educational opportunities. Kate’s belief that “education is the great equalizer” has been the cornerstone of her life’s work – first as a public school teacher, later running mentoring programs, and finally culminating in the founding of Foster Progress. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education and English Literature from North Park University and a Master of Science from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. She also loves her role as mom to four kids, two through foster care.

Jana Coleman, Walden Family Services (Little Rock, AR)

Jana Coleman currently serves as the Grant Manager of Immerse Arkansas, a nonprofit organization located in Little Rock, Arkansas that serves youth ages 14-24 including youth in foster care, youth aging out of foster care, youth who have been adopted, homeless and runaway youth, and youth experiencing human trafficking and other forms of abuse. Her role includes grant prospecting, writing and reporting. She also assists with grant and data management. Jana holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications from Arkansas State University.

Ben McBride, I Pour Life (Springfield, MO)

Ben serves as the Executive Director of I Pour Life, whose mission is to assist youth in foster care and at risk of aging out through its LifeStrengths positive youth development program by helping youth identify and apply their unique strengths in order to experience a successful, self-sufficient transition into adulthood.  As an attorney in the criminal justice system, Ben saw the need to intervene in young adults’ lives to break generational cycles and provide a sense of hope and opportunity they may have never experienced before.  After turning the page to a new chapter, Ben joined I Pour Life in 2021 and works diligently to support his staff in accomplishing its mission and providing an environment where anyone can thrive.

Meredith Yuckman, The Hope Center at Pullen (Raleigh, NC)

Meredith is grateful for the opportunity to serve The Hope Center and help light a path toward a safe and stable future for former foster youth.  She is an experienced administrator and has developed and shaped programs that support at-risk youth for nearly 20 years.  She has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master’s of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  Prior to becoming Executive Director in 2019, Meredith served as the Program Coordinator for the Hope Center since 2014, spearheading the development of our Teen Programs that prepare youth in foster care for the transition to adulthood.

Sara Schwartz, Hand2Paw (Philadelphia, PA)

Sara Schwartz is a Licensed Social Worker with 20 years of experience working with adolescents in foster care and who are experiencing housing insecurity, Latino immigrant communities, and survivors of domestic violence. Over the years, Sara also lived and worked in Peru, Costa Rica, India and Puerto Rico in the areas of harm reduction, girls empowerment, sex worker’s rights and student travel. Sara was one of the early leadership team members at C.B. Community Schools, a small, independent high school in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia for young people in the child welfare system. Sara now works in Development at Hand2Paw, a Philadelphia nonprofit that provides healing-centered career readiness internships in animal welfare for youth ages 16-24 who are in foster care and/or experiencing homelessness.

Susan Coyle, The R.J. Leonard Foundation (Doylestown, PA)

Sue Coyle has been with the R.J. Leonard Foundation (RJLF) since 2020, serving as the program director and subsequently the interim executive director. Prior to joining RJLF, Sue worked at Valley Youth House in Montgomery County, PA with young adults who were in or had been in foster care. Now a volunteer with RJLF, Sue is passionate about helping young adults who have aged out of foster care identify, work toward and achieve their long-term goals, recognizing the unique challenges they face. Outside of direct practice, Sue is a freelance writer for several social work magazines.

Justin Tran, Pivotal (San Jose, CA)

Justin Tran has been serving as Pivotal’s Development Operations Manager since 2018. He received his Master’s degree from San Jose State University and has been committed to making a positive impact in the lives of others ever since. Justin found Pivotal’s mission to support foster youth in Silicon Valley close to his heart. Growing up with a strong familial support system, Justin understands the importance of stability in leading a successful life and is committed to making a difference in the lives of those without such support. At Pivotal, Justin’s primary roles include managing the agency’s donor and grant databases, and plays a key role in Pivotal’s marketing and events.