the OAKLAND alumni powerhouse networking conference keynote SPEAKERS!


Sixto Cancel's lived experience in the foster care system fuels his passion for youth development, youth’s well-being and capacity building of systems and people impacting youth. As a commitment maker for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Sixto founded Think of Us, a non-profit dedicated to innovating with data, technology and multi-media to develop tools and services that build capacity and reform practice.

Sixto is one of the executive panel member on the National Evaluation Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent or At-Risk in addition to serving as a consultant for the Children's Bureau via the Center for State Capacity. Sixto has participated in several White House briefings around technology, foster care and LGBTQ issues. He has been recognized by the White House as a White House Champion of Change, a Millennial Maker by BET. and was named as one of the Top 24 Changemakers in government under 24 in the country by the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and Sparkaction. Sixto has served as a Young Fellow at Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative since 2010, where he has worked on youth engagement, asset development and permancy. He currently serves as a member of the integration team at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In the Spring of 2016, Sixto planned and attended the first White House Foster Care and Technology Hackathon. Sixto currently leads a working committee that focuses on the learning of vulnerable youth populations as a member of the Dell Youth Innovation Advisor.

Sixto served as a policy council member, where he provided recommendations to the acting assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also currently serves on the board of directors for the National Foster Care Coalition and The North American Council on Adoptable Children. He has also served as a Youth Thrive Expert Panel at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Sixto has appeared on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Fox News, the Katie Couric show, and the Huffington Post.

Serita Cox, along with husband Reid, launched iFoster in October of 2010. As the visionary and driving force behind iFoster, Serita brings to bear her personal experience with foster care, devoted commitment to a number of youth development initiatives, and over a decade of experience in executive-level management, corporate strategy consulting and non-profit strategy consulting.

Prior to founding iFoster, Serita was a strategy consultant with The Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm that helps nonprofit and philanthropic leaders accelerate social change. Her primary focus area was youth development, with clients including some of the largest philanthropic foundations and non-profits serving at-risk youth. Her previous work experience has been in the for-profit sector where she both worked as the senior executive leading global strategy, business operations, and e-business for 3Com Corporation and as a consultant and senior leadership advisor on strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and e-business.

For her work at iFoster, Serita has been recognized by the White House Office of Social Innovation as a Citizen Innovator, is an Echoing Green Fellow, and an American Leader of Change. Serita has a BSc (Highest Honors) in Biochemistry and Biotechnology from Carleton University in Canada, and an MBA in Strategy and Marketing from the Bronfman School of Business at McGill University in Canada. Serita currently serves on the Board of Directors of GirlTrek, a national non-profit that mobilizes women in Black communities to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives through a habit of daily walking.
Serita can be contacted at serita@ifoster.org.

Haydée Cuza. With many years of professional and educational accomplishments, including a doctorate in education, Haydée has an unwavering passion for eliminating disproportionality in public systems through youth-led advocacy and promoting individual and collective wellness. Her commitment to this work is steered by her lived experiences as a former homeless and foster youth, mother, grandmother, queer, multicultural womyn.

Before serving as Executive Director for California Youth Connection (CYC), Haydée served as the Executive Director for PEERS and Youth In Mind; a Social Scientist and Technical Assistance Specialist working with federally funded workforce development programs, nonprofits, and for profit organizations; the Program Director for Youth Advocate Program in Alameda County; and the Southern Region Policy Coordinator for CYC.

While in foster care, Haydée was a founding member of California Youth Connection (CYC) in Los Angeles county.



Shalita O'Neale graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in criminology and also holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of Maryland Baltimore.

Mrs. O'Neale founded Fostering Change Network LLC in 2012 as a way to use her 13 years of experience in launching, building and sustaining non-profit organizations and non-profit programs to help other Non-profit Visionaries do the same. She has also been heavily involved in child welfare training and advocacy and connecting young professionals with foster care histories, like herself, through local and national professional networking events. Her desire to help adults from foster care secure resources that will allow them to contribute to the economic development in their communities led her to found the Fostering Change Network Foundation- a non-profit organization that will provide Pay It Forward Loans and micro-grants to alumni businesses, non-profits and other professional endeavors of financially distressed alumni.

She is also Founder of Hope Forward, Inc.(formerly the Maryland Foster Youth Resource.); a non-profit organization launched in 2008 to connect transitioning and former foster youth to housing, financial assistance, health care and others who have experienced foster care. Through Shalita’s grant-writing skills and relationships with local Foundation funders and key community figures, she has been able raise over $2 million for this non-profit over the past 8 years.

Charlene Collier, PHR, is an Human Resources professional with over 10-plus years of experience in various areas of human resources management, including employee relations, recruiting, talent management, change management and organizational development.

A native of Washington, D.C., Charlene received her Bachelors degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from the University of Maryland, College Park and obtained a dual Masters degree (HR Management and Business Administration) from the University of Maryland University College. She has held various HR roles in several industries, such as non-profit, entertainment, healthcare, and government contracting.

Charlene is the Founder and President of Capitol Consulting Group (www.capitolconsultinggrp.com), a consulting practice providing Organizational Development, Leadership & Development and Strategic Planning to Fortune 100 business and individuals, alike. In addition, she also serves as a Sr. HR Consultant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and HR Instructor in the Business, Management, and Legal Programs Department at UCLA Extension.

Charlene currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Felicia Fort is a native of New York City. Felicia is a philanthropist dedicated to assisting individuals in gaining a different perspective on the subject of math and teaching them how to actually enjoy it. Felicia is a leader, speaker, entrepreneur and soon to be author; passionate about serving the needs of her community. Felicia is a proud Alumnus of Benedict College, an HBCU in Columbia, South Carolina, where she earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Mathematics in May 2010.

While attending Benedict College, she was a well-rounded and active student leader in several organizations including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Theater Ensemble Performing Arts Program, and the Leadership Development Institute. She was afforded the opportunity to study abroad in the Yunnan Province of China for the summer of 2008 in an effort to support the advancement of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) courses.

In 2014, Felicia received her 2nd degree- a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Trinity Washington University. In May 2012, Felicia started One Step Closer: Finding the Fun in Math Tutoring Company, based in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Committed to helping individuals find the fun and fascination in the study of mathematics, Felicia and her team believes that everyone has the potential to succeed in math.

LaTasha C. Watts is an Award Winning Child Welfare Advocate, Speaker, and Author of “I’m Not Broken Just A Little Twisted.” She spent her entire childhood in the foster care system, until eventually “aging out” of foster care at the age 18. After exiting foster care, LaTasha would find herself struggling to survive, from facing homelessness to battling cancer.

However, despite her adversities she maintained a determination to change the negative outcomes of children in the foster care system and beyond. Currently she has over 10 years experience in working with youth and adults in a variety of settings. She prominently holds the positions of Founder and Executive Director of The Purple Project (www.thepurpleproject.com), a support and resource network dedicated to assisting those who are linked to the foster care and adoption communities. She is also Founder and CEO of Cummings Watts & Associates, LLC a lifestyle management, and child welfare consulting and training firm. She also serves as the Independent Living Coordinator for Beech Brook, one of Ohio’s leading behavioral health agencies.

Jamole Callahan has over 15 years experience in Child Welfare Training, Policy updates ad legislation and mental health and first-aid training. He has served as a Communications Strategist for at-risk populations and has devoted much of his career to leadership development andmotivational speaking. Mr. Callahan sits on various Boards that promote improved outcomes for current and former foster and adoptive youth. Jamole has a vision for empowering resource parents, caseworkers and foster care youth and alumni to succeed.


April Curtis is an alumnus of the Illinois child welfare system. Now a college graduate April works to help youth in care and in her community solve problems, advocate for themselves, and improve their lives. Among the many issues related to foster youth, sibling rights are a cause April promotes most passionately. In August 2002, she sponsored a Sibling Symposium to draw attention to the importance of maintaining sibling connections and gather feedback for a Sibling Bill of Rights. She is a National Consultant on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice, where she works on developing agency reform, strategic planning, youth programs, youth councils, conferences, grants, board development and trainings for agencies across the United States and Puerto Rico.

Mrs. Curtis is one of the founding and current board member of Foster Care Alumni of America National Board and IL Chapter. She is currently a Senior Fellow for CWLA after serving 12 years on the Board of Directors. She is currently on the Quality Improvement Center for Adoption/Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) National Advisory Board. April is on the Board of Directors for two Chicago Humboldt Park Community Organizations, she is on the board for Both Sides of the Park and the Vice President and Coach for the Roberto Clemente Humboldt Park Little League Baseball.


Sokhom Mao is a former foster youth and a founding member of the nationally recognized, Guardian Scholars Program of San Francisco State University. Commissioner Mao has developed and supported the work of the Guardian Scholars Program as an Ambassador to the philanthropic foundations and individual donors for over 5 years.

He served as a Juvenile Justice Commissioner and an Officer of the Courts for the County of Alameda where he served as Vice-Chairman of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission. In his more than 13 years of advocacy experience, he has led successful policy campaigns in higher education and foster care reform across California and the nation. Commissioner Mao was appointed by the California Superior Courts to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's County of Alameda Juvenile Justice Task Force where he developed institutional policies and ushered reforms of the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

In January 2011, Commissioner Mao served as Chairman of the City of Oakland’s Police Board where he oversaw official police officer misconduct cases and administered disciplinary actions of police officers. In 2006, Commissioner Mao was honored for "Changing a Lifetime" as a national recognition for his fierce and strong advocacy on foster care issues at the California State Capitol.

Commissioner Mao was recently named the White House Champion of Change Honoree of Foster Care in Washington, D.C. Commissioner Mao received his Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice from San Francisco State University.