We believe in what we do. So, it’s no surprise that many of our staff and board have a personal connection to our mission.
Twenty years after our founding in 1995, our staff and Board continue to be true believers in our model and some would even testify to its efficacy – since many are themselves, permanent parents to youth. Some of our staff and board are also former foster youth; in essence each member of our board and leadership team has a personal connection to our mission which informs their passion and commitment to the agency.
Susan Grundberg, MSW, MPAExecutive Director/CEO
Susan joined You Gotta Believe as the executive director May 1, 2013. She comes to us with nearly 25 years of experience in the major urban child welfare systems of Chicago and New York City. Between 2005 and 2009, she served as the Associate Commissioner for Child Welfare Programs in NYC, where she spent much of her time advocating for permanency and supportive services for older youth. For the past several years, she continued her commitment to youth and families through her work for the Mental Health Association of NYC. Along the way, she also became the mother of two of those young people—two amazing young men who had lived nearly their entire lives in the system. “Our family story is just one of many, but there are still far too many young people aging out alone. They deserve better. We must do better.”
Board of Directors
Gretchen BeidlBoard President
Sales & Marketing Executive/Entrepeneur
Gretchen Beidl began working with kids in care as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in 2011. She then became a mentor to a teenager who eventually came to live with her and her husband, Michael. They now have two young women who have joined their family along with Michael’s two children who are immensely supportive.
“I joined the board of You Gotta Believe because they changed our lives. Their support is what enabled us to be parents of our two remarkable young women. I have seen lives changed as teens are connected to parents through the efforts of You Gotta Believe and I am honored to be a part of the mission.”
Ms. Beidl spent much of her career helping to launch new businesses. She was CEO and founder of a small business, The Wallypop Factory, which made healthy snacks for kids. Prior to launching her own business, Gretchen held various positions in the television industry -- as Executive Vice President, Affiliate Sales & Marketing at Sundance Channel, Senior Vice President, Affiliate Sales at Oxygen Media, Account Manager of Affiliate Sales at Comedy Central and at American Movie Classics where she helped launch the sister network, Romance Classics (WE: Women’s Entertainment).
Gretchen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University. She is a former board member of the New York City Chapter of WICT (Women in Cable & Telecommunications), VIP Community Services and is currently an advisor to Nomi Network - an organization that creates jobs for women who are survivors or at risk of human trafficking. Ms. Beidl is a Betsy Magness fellow and was named one of the “50 People to Watch” by Cable World magazine.
Joan Siegel, Esq.Board Vice President
Child Welfare Professional, Adoptive Parent
Joanie Siegel has worked in child welfare for over 18 years starting with the Administration for Children's Services. She is an expert in Medicaid and access to children's health and mental health, and works on statewide groups to improve the system for children.
Joanie has spoken around the state on child welfare legal, medical and mental health issues. She is currently the Division Director for Health Services for Good Shepherd Services where she oversees policy and practice around medical and mental health services for children in foster care. Joanie has also spoken nationally about adopting a teen from foster care. Her family is part of Nurture: A Traveling Art Gallery Show that tells the stories of women who became mothers after 40. She is also an author and has a piece in the book "The Zen of Midlife Mothering."
Joanie adopted her (then teenaged) daughter in 2007. "I made it through the rough times with an adolescent from care because of the incredible support that I received from You Gotta Believe. I am honored to be part of the Board because it enables me to give back to this amazing and unique organization."
Sabrina Glaser, Esq.Board Secretary
Sabrina is an attorney in the Tax & Benefits department of Ropes & Gray LLP, where she specializes in employee benefits, particularly issues relating to the investment of pension funds. While still a law student, Sabrina acted as co-director of the Nonprofit Organizations Clinic at Yale Law School. At her firm, she has advised various nonprofits on formation and nonprofit governance issues.
"I've seen YGB transform the lives of some of New York's most vulnerable young people. It's such a great feeling to have even a small part in that, and I am so thrilled to be a steward for YGB as it broadens its reach and expands its mission."
Daniel TaitzBoard Treasurer
Media and Technology Executive, Parent
Dan is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Penthera Partners, which licenses technology that enables customers of streaming video services to download TV shows and movies for offline viewing. Previously, Dan spent 15 years in the media industry and before that was an associate and partner at law firms in New York. Dan is known for transformative work with some of the biggest video delivery businesses, including serving as interim CEO for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.; senior vice president of business affairs at Univision Communications Inc.; and general counsel and chief administrative officer at Oxygen Media Corp. where he negotiated the $1 billion sale of Oxygen to NBC Universal and led the company's transition team.
Dan and his wife, Penny, are parents to four children, all in their twenties. They are his inspiration for joining YGB to help as many foster children as possible finding permanent families.
Paul BrownBoard Member
Joe PrestinoBoard Member, Former Board President
Joe Prestino's initial background was in the advertising/marketing/design & production of image/graphics/effects for Madison Avenue clientele. Joe’s real estate experience has come largely from his renting, buying & selling commercial real estate for his former graphics company Louis Bressoud, Inc.
He is currently a sales & leasing agent for Fillmore Commercial Real Estate of Brooklyn, NY.
His area of practice is the Brooklyn/Staten Island Commercial Real Estate Market. Handling mixed use, multi family, office, warehouse, manufacture and retail properties.
Joe joined the board of You Gotta Believe in 1999 and became president of the board in 2008 , during which time he was instrumental in enabling YGB to obtain its own permanent home at 3114 Mermaid Avenue in 2013. Joe stepped down from the role his role as President in July 2014 in order to spend more time with his children and grandchildren based on both East and West coasts.
Jonathan StarkConsultant, Former Foster Youth
Jonathan Stark is currently a Director of Processing for AlixPartners, one of the world’s leading global consulting firms best known for its work in corporate turnarounds. He is a well-respected industry expert with more than 13 years of experience in e-discovery, litigation, and electronic records retention.
Jonathan’s experience includes work on major terrorism investigations, shareholder actions, criminal investigations, bankruptcy matters, and intellectual property disputes. After the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City, Jonathan launched and led the division responsible for retrieving over 10,000 active litigation cases for the New York Port Authority Law Department, otherwise lost or damaged while headquartered at the former World Trade Center.
An adventurer at heart, Mr. Stark has hiked jungles in Central America, the Inca Trail in Peru, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Central America. In addition, he is a voracious marathon runner who has completed over two-dozen half, full, and ultra-marathons.
Jonathan spent two years living with an unconditionally loving foster family in the early 1980s. He is committed to You Gotta Believe because he believes everyone deserves to have a loving family. He is currently writing a memoir based on his foster care experience.
Jonathan is a graduate of Iona College and New York University and completed Harvard University’s Authentic Leadership Program.
Victor VerazainBoard Member
Victor Verazain is a 17 year veteran of General Electric Capital Corporation with experiences across various GE businesses. He has extensive experience in risk management and underwriting complex debt financing. He is currently a Vice President in GE Capital’s commercial lending platform. He has consistently managed over a $1 billion of portfolio assets of commercial loans with a zero loss record over his tenure.
Victor is a graduate of Duke University and General Electric’s Financial Management Program. Victor joined the YGB board in 2015. His desire to join the board of YGB stems from the important and generationally altering work that YGB does. He is a strong believer in family and YGB’s mission that nobody ages out of foster care without a family.
Jim WalkerBoard Member
IT Business Owner / Adoptive Parent
Jim Walker is the owner of Reliable Technology Solutions, an information technology professional with a broad scope of both business and technical expertise. He brings has over 35 years of experience in developing business requirements, technical analysis, functional specifications, and design as well as project management for IT projects in a variety of industry. He is currently engaged as the Director of Professional Services at Gorilla Toolz with responsibility for its EcoSoft partner relationship management application, As an adoptive parent, Jim has a long-standing interest in adoption matters and is deeply committed to the YGB mission of finding permanent families for children of all ages. He joined the board in 1995.
John WeitzerBoard Member
John Weitzer is a Managing Director and the Deputy U.S. Chief Compliance Officer for RBC Capital Markets, LLC. John has approximately 20 years of experience in the securities industry including positions at Barclays Capital Inc., Lehman Brothers, Inc., and NYSE Regulation. John has a BBA in Accounting from Pace University and holds several securities licenses. John joined the Board because he feels strongly that it’s every child’s right to have the unconditional support of a permanent family. He believes that aging out is a serious issue that YGB is well positioned to address.
Board of Believers (Advisory Board)
Emma CooksonBoard of Believers
"Emma is a branding/communication strategist who - as CEO, then Chairman - has helmed the New York office of one of the world's most creative advertising agencies, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH). Her brand experience has stretched from jeans to luxury cars to deodorant to browsers, and along the way she has been recognized as one of the industry's more prominent female leaders: one of AdAge's '100 Most Influential Women in Advertising' and Business Insider's '30 Most Powerful Women in Advertising'. Emma's commitment to YGB! and her enthusiasm for her BOB role stem from witnessing the near-miraculous transformation of the lives of young people that YGB! brings about."
Christine DeKlerkBoard of Believers
IT Professional / Adoptive Parent
Christine worked in Information Technology for 14 years at General Electric. During that time, she held a variety of IT roles including Director of Finance, Risk and Operations Systems. Christine graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Fairfield University and she completed her MBA at the University of Connecticut.
Now Christine is a stay at home mom of two adopted sons. “I am so blessed to have my 2 sons and to be able to be home with them. I miss professional work and YGB allows me to give back to a cause that I am passionate about!”
Jon DeKlerkBoard of Believers
Performance Equity Executive/Adoptive Parent
Mr. DeKlerk is the Chief Operating Officer of Performance Equity. Prior to joining Performance Equity, Mr. DeKlerk was the Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Vice President of General Motors Investment Management (GMIMCo). He previously served General Motors Investment Management as the director of investment, accounting, trade and plan sponsor operations. Prior to joining General Motors Investment Management in 1999, Mr. DeKlerk worked for GE Investments Corporation in a variety of capacities, including as a Structured Equities Program Trader, Manager of Trading Operations, Regulatory Analyst and Mutual Fund Analyst. He attained a GE Master Black Belt and introduced Six Sigma quality control at GE Investments Corporation. He began his career in the financial services sector with State Street Bank & Trust. Mr. DeKlerk received his undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
William ReihlBoard of Believers
William (Bill) Reihl has been positioning, defending and supporting brands for more than 20 years. As managing director of the global brand marketing practice at Ketchum his charge is to drive agency growth by identifying market opportunities and addressing client needs, developing the expertise of the agency’s talent, establishing relationships with key influencers and differentiating Ketchum through innovative products and offerings and thought leadership.
Bill joined Ketchum from Weber Shandwick where he served in a variety of roles including EVP, Global Client Services; EVP, Global Consumer Marketing and EVP and General Manager of the Los Angeles office. Specializing in cross-channel integrated planning, Bill has worked with brands such as Samsung, Nestle, Nespresso, MasterCard, General Motors, Weight Watchers, Excedrin Migraine, Arm & Hammer and Schick Razors, among others.
Diggi ThomsonBoard of Believers/Former Board President
Chief Connector - the Dot Connectors
Diggi is the owner of The Dot Connectors, a training and facilitation consultancy that specializes in marketing communications and client agency collaboration.
Growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland his father and mother were heavily involved in non-profit work in their spare time and so it was only natural that at some point it would play a large role in Diggi's life as well. Initially he got involved with You Gotta Believe in 2010 through a friend of a friend who worked there and was looking for some marketing advice.
It is tremendously rewarding work supporting the staff in the extraordinary and transformational work they do. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a close, loving family that has supported me through my ups and downs in life, so I'm passionate about doing what I can to help You Gotta Believe scale up its operations so that all youth in foster can have the opportunity of experiencing that too.
Pat O'BrienFounder and Former Executive Director
“Our child welfare system is predicated upon Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being. Well there is no Safety or Well-Being without Permanency for those youth discharged from the foster care system without the foundation of at least one lifetime parent who creates the safety net of family around a youth long after their years in foster care are over. The foundation of family that includes at least one unconditionally committed permanent parent who claims the youth as his or her own is where all the answers for every individual youth in foster care springboard from. We must never stop looking for that person or those persons who will make this parental commitment for any aging out youth we know up until, and perhaps even past, every young persons last day in foster care. Young Adults and teens need the same time every other youth in America has. Families with lifetime parents provide them with the time they need to both success in life and to have opportunities at failure until they can succeed in life. That is every child’s birthright and especially those emerging adults who come into our child welfare system because they needed to be protected as children.”
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