Board and Advisory Members

Board of Directors

Marie Tomao
Marie Tomao

Founder/Executive Director

Marie Tomao

I am an authentic, fun loving, determined, values-driven woman of faith. My life motivation is based on the Starfish Story and my experiences as a mother, friend, professional, community leader, teacher, and mentor.

I am a 48-year resident of Clark County with a strong love and loyalty to God, family, and community. I am looking to leave a legacy for my kids, and yours, to glean from for many years to come. I give my praise to God for His many blessings. I credit my family: Sam, Siboney, Dillon, and 4 grandchildren (who are my little slice of absolute heaven) for the many successes and piles of happiness that we have created and experienced together.

I have a diverse background ranging from construction management; to nonprofit management; to running 2 Congressional District offices in Clark County for former Congressmen Jon Porter and Joe Heck; and to now, the Founder, President, and Executive Director of Youth Leadership Authority (YLA)!

Alongside my extensive career above, God called me to fulfill my passion as a Starfish, to serve as a volunteer for the past 17 years as a Liaison Representative to the Southern Nevada Devil Pups Program. This volunteer service program became so great, I was moved to expand the already thriving organization, and to create my own nonprofit to help teens in even more ways. YLA was born in 2017 and proudly boasts 9 leadership programs within 3 series.

From my perspective, helping teens is not a choice; it is an honor and a responsibility. With one life to live, spend it wisely! I have always said: I did not pick my passion, my passion picked me. And I have one sentence and catchphrase that has carried me through the days when decision-making was not always easy; that is, “You can never lose by being kind and #EattheWatermelon.”

Ron Mosner headshot
Ron Mosner

Honorary Board Member

Sam Miklosko
Sam Miklosko
Warehouse Supervisor, Kelly Paper
Sam Miklosko

As a Marine I learned the value of hard work, strength through tough times, and commitment to mission and team. Through this experience I met a wide array of personalities from all around the world. Despite the diverse background of all of those who I met, we shared a desire to give back to a nation that has given so much to us and to protect her interests. Today’s teens need options, and they want more. They want to be leaders; they hunger for a sense of belonging; and they desire to challenge themselves in safe environments. We at YLA provide this!

Personally, YLA has given my daughter, nephew, and son each an experience that has pulled the best of who they are out of them for the rest of the world to see. What’s more, we have a special connection rooted in respect for one another’s accomplishments. How special is that?

Something else happens through YLA – teens learn more about God & Country. To many this means different things, but at its core it is a belief in a higher power and the Constitution of the United States. Where are your kids learning about these two topics? YLA has evolved over the years and its mission is just as important as ever. Growth through challenge, and respect and kindness are just the beginning. Where we go from here, only God knows! But we have faith that it will be some place amazing.

Youth Leadership Authority- Svetlana Carter
Svetlana Carter

Manager, Fair, Anderson & Langerman

Svetlana Carter

I have known the Executive Director of Youth Leadership Authority (YLA), Marie Tomao, since 2011, and I have had the pleasure of witnessing her passion for helping youth. I watched YLA grow and develop over the years and was honored to join the Board in 2019. Having two teenage kids myself, I see the struggles they go through. YLA helps youth gain confidence and purpose, and facilitates the development of morals and values that will benefit them throughout their entire lives. They are taught skills that they might not get at school or at home. I have seen firsthand the personal and physical growth of teenagers who have gone through the YLA programs, and it keeps me motivated to continue volunteering with YLA and support its mission!

Col. Blum
Colonel Ray Blum
USMC Retired
Colonel Ray Blum

I was a teacher from 1968 to 2006 and in the Marine Corps from 1969 to 2000. As a Teacher I was mostly a P.E. Teacher/Coach/ Athletic Director working with High School students. In 1975 I was involved with the Devil Pups, Inc.–Youth Program for America. As a Liaison Representative (LR) I was able to send young men to the program. I was also the Commandant of Cadets in the California Cadet Corps and a member of the Marine Training Unit (MTU)–Devil Pups. It was the best of both worlds. It provided immediate improvement/development of the cadets that became Devil Pups. Through the years, I became Officer in Charge of all the LR’s (13 years); Encampment Commander (11 years); a Trustee of the organization (45 Years).

Twenty years ago I was working with the Liaison Representatives from Las Vegas /Henderson–Nancy Kearny and her assistant Marie Tomao. Nancy moved away with her husband and her two Marine sons. Marie Tomao took over the program and Blossomed. She developed/created the Youth Leadership Authority which includes the Devil Pups program and created multi-facet programs for Young Americans ages 8 to 21. I joined the YLA Board from its inception to present and will continue as well as I can serve.

Kathy Chavez

Executive Resolutions Specialist, Bank of America

Kathy Chavez

I have been actively involved with YLA since 2018 when my son attended the 12 week Southern Nevada Devil Pups training and community service program. After the 12 week program, he was able to attend Devil Pups 10 day encampment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. That  decision to become involved with YLA and SNDP set my son on a path to success. Through the many Leadership programs that YLA has offered, he will no doubt have a successful future and career as a United States Marine. What was unexpected, is how personally excited I became, to see teens through these programs gain courage, self-confidence and develop into future leaders. For me, I knew I wanted to put as much energy and effort to support YLA, to truly make a difference in our teens lives and help to sustain these programs. I have personally witnessed young lives transformed, the efforts behind the scenes of our Executive Director Marie Tomao and her lifelong work to create and develop future leaders, truly, there is nothing like it. As a parent, I have been in the trenches with my kids in 2020, when all sports and school was canceled. If anything has proven to me that our programs with YLA are vital, it has been this year. It-is-a-lifeline! Through much planning and pivoting, YLA was able to successfully provide A Safe Place to Land, YLA challenge. We were able to safely host conversations with community leaders and our teens, proudly provide our Constitution class and culminated with YLA Challenge two day retreat. We were able to provide two days of whole person training. Physical, personal, career and spiritual. In two days, to see transformations take place. For me, to have even a small part of that, and to witness the courage of our teens, it breathed new life into me. Our teens need these programs, our teen’s need a safe place to land and a chance to succeed.

Youth Leadership - Dr. Carrie Buck
Senator Carrie Buck

Nevada State Senator

Senator Carrie Buck

My Why has always come from my God who guides me to my purpose and destiny every day. I go where He tells me and I do what He says. When the opportunity presented itself to become involved with an organization that helps guide teens into their future of service to country and others, I felt led to be in service myself and to get involved in something so positively impacting our next generation. God is good and I am so grateful for His words and for His guidance. I only hope to help others get to where He wants them to be.

Scott A. Vivier
Deputy Fire Chief of Support, City of Henderson Fire Department
Scott A. Vivier

For the past 26 years, I have had the privilege to serve as an emergency responder in Las Vegas and Henderson. Through my work as a paramedic and member of the Henderson Fire Department, I have come to understand that all emergency response organizations exist for one simple reason–because people matter. Otherwise, there would be no emergency response organizations and people would be on their own. The existence of public service organizations is based on the universal belief that human beings have inherent value. That is why people throughout this community, state, and nation are willing to pool their resources together to ensure somebody will show up when tragedy strikes their home or family. I now understand that emergency service professionals are given the honor to protect the most important things in the lives of people–the relationships between those who love and care for each other. We stand guard to ensure people have another day together. At the Henderson Fire Department, “People Matter” is not a hyperbole; it’s at the center of this profession, and I believe it is what drives our successes and failures as a society. This is why I choose to be a part of the Youth Leadership Authority (YLA). YLA also believes that “People Matter”; that our youth deserve to be given the skills and tools needed to become the future leaders of our communities, so that they too can serve others. As I come to the final chapters of my career, the thought of what happens next, and how I can continue to contribute to society in a meaningful way, are questions that both excite and frighten me simultaneously, but I know that my involvement with YLA will allow me to continue to live my “why.” I believe that people matter and that YLA is an organization that lives out this value in their actions. This is why I am involved with YLA

Equilla Hicks
Pastor Equilla Hicks

Founder, Lift One Up

Equilla Hicks

I am honored to be in partnership with the Youth Leadership Authority (YLA) as a community leader and non-profit business owner. As an Associate Pastor at ChurchLV in Las Vegas, I have the opportunity to invest in the youth in our church community and see the benefits that the role of faith plays in their daily lives and decision making. Our youth are experiencing a myriad of life challenges and they need our help in making the right decisions. Having a leadership role in our faith-based community has given me the opportunity to share spiritual wisdom, knowledge and my life experiences proving beneficial to them as they make choices that determine their present and future.

I understand that the role of faith in each person’s life is personal, however, I believe it is vital. As YLA’s Founder, Marie Tomao, discussed with me the myriad of training programs within YLA, she knew that there was a missing component – faith. Marie recognizes that a foundation of faith will keep our young people grounded and hopeful as they pursue their dreams and goals.

As the Founder of Lift One Up, a nonprofit organization providing spiritual mentoring and a variety of programs, I understand the power of investing in not just women, but today’s youth. When our youth know there are leaders available to provide encouragement, resources, and spiritual guidance it can make an incredible difference in how they see their future.

Having the opportunity to come alongside YLA as a Board Member and community leader is a tremendous honor! I have an opportunity to impact the leaders of today and tomorrow and for that I am grateful!

Mark Schick
Mark Schick

Owner, Master Mechanical

Mark Schick

I have been following YLA since 2019 when Executive Director Marie Tamao promoted YLA though a Marketplace Event I was MC’ing/attending. I was so compelled by the YLA story and its history that I knew it was an organization I wanted to sow into. I immediately saw the fruit of my seeds in the programs and posts Marie would put out on social media, and I knew we would continue to support this life changing organization moving forward. I always want to associate myself with excellence- whether it be personally, professionally, or those I align myself with. YLA is just that by all observations- excellentin every way, from the people associated with it, its fearless and tenacious leader, and most profoundly its model: Professional/Personal, Physical, and Spiritual development. I was beyond humbled and honored to be asked to be a board member of YLA not long before getting invited to participate in “A Safe Place to Land- The Retreat”. To be afforded the opportunity to be involved at mentor/Board Member level exceeded all of my expectations, and it was an experience I will not soon forget. The retreat really galvanized my heart for, and future intentions as to my involvement in the young leaders we were pouring into, getting to see what a dramatic difference just 2 days could make in their lives. From the heart of the young leaders shown during the physical training, to the passion exhibited during the Constitutional debates, and further still to see the development segments from all of the YLA model that keyed in and promoted often times lost stalwarts like respect, manners, & honor, it was truly something to behold. To further observe these young leaders transform in front of me, and to see even the seasoned participants grow made me so proud and honored to be associated with YLA in any capacity. Through the programs and leadership of YLA our young leaders have such a bright future. I’m not only a believer in YLA and what it does, I’m a HUGE fan…

Youth Leadership Authority - Joan Villanueva
Joan Villanueva
Joan Villanueva

Growing up in a small town with a large family, I felt very loved and supported, but I still had SO many questions about how to do this thing called “life.” I made many mistakes, made a lot of not-so-smart choices that cost me in consequences that, unbeknownst to me at the time, sometimes reappear in adult life. Despite these mistakes, I am thankful that I had loving, caring parents, adults and mentors throughout my life that helped me to navigate through the good, the bad, the difficult and the joyful times. My parents, as I’ve come to appreciate years later, allowed and even encouraged me to dream, dream big, risk big and that it was even okay to fail big! They taught me how to get up again and again! Once again, unbeknownst to me at the time, one of the many great lessons any parent could instill in their child, the lesson of resiliency and having an attitude of learning, always learning and being grateful for the lessons learned, proved to be a lesson that I’ve had to draw upon time and time again.

The reason why I love YLA and volunteer with YLA is because I was once a teen who, despite growing up in an loving, encouraging environment, was STILL confused, sometimes even afraid of the unknown. And as exciting as taking risks and discovering new frontier about oneself and this world was, I know what it feels like to doubt, to have fear, to not feel good enough, to not feel capable or able, even as a talented, straight A student! I want to help other teens to feel and to know that it is perfectly okay to not feel “okay” or to know everything, to have all the answers, to know how to do everything. That is not your job. I believe the “job” of a teen is to simply discover – discover who they are, what their gifts, talents, callings, skills, passions are, the God-given greatness they were created for, what their contribution to their family, their community, this world will be, learn how to be the best human being they can be in service to others, and to grow in confidence with each mistake that has been overcome and made right, every lesson learned and every discovery made. What I love about YLA is that the various programs offered allows for the youth of our community to experience such learning and discovery. The programs provide a safe space for learning ideas, processes and skills that are vital to being a contributing member to our families, friends and community. The programs provide an environment for making mistakes, and learning to clean them up in a way that is positive and helpful. They provide place for being challenged and learning outside of a classroom all while being supported, encouraged and loved. Many children do not grow up in an environment that fosters such growth. I know and have seen first hand as a volunteer with at-risk teens for over 20 years. YLA fills that very gap. It is because of these reasons and so much more that I am proud to be a YLA volunteer and am humbled to serve on the Advisory board. I hope that my own life experiences and learning, along with the knowledge that they are supported, believed in and loved will help to encourage, motivate and inspire the youth of today.

Felicia Ricafort

Student Board of Trustees

Advisory Board

Youth Leadership Authority- Jay Young
Jay Young
Jay Young, Esq., Partner at Howard & Howard
Youth Leadership Authority- Eric Love
Eric Love
Co-Founder, LARYM DESIGN
Youth Leadership Authority- Myra Love
Myra Love
Co-Founder, LARYM DESIGN
Youth Leadership Authority- Stan Olsen
Stan Olsen
President, Olsen Strategic Group
Youth Leadership Authority- Rich Linsday
Rich Linsday
Youth Leadership Authority- Scott McKenzie
Scott McKenzie
Youth Leadership Authority- Jan Von Herburt Hewell
Jan Von Herburt-Hewell
Investment Management Specialist, Wells Fargo
Youth Leadership Authority- Deborah Pierce
Deborah Pierce
Retired CFO
YLA - Daniel Hernandez
Daniel Hernandez
Daniel Hernandez

I grew up in a home that taught me about self-reliance and a good work ethic. I have immigrant parents and grandparents that gave up their life dreams to raise me and my siblings in America. I saw the sacrifice needed for survival in this world. My parents’ example pushed me to never feel sorry for myself and to get things done. I developed the tools needed to be successful. I struggled immensely in academics growing up. My mother told me I had teachers claim I would never measure up to anything and to keep me behind. Knowing this was a struggle, and I fought diligently to dedicate myself as a student throughout my life to be accepted in physical therapy school and obtain my doctorate degree. I was resilient and persevered among raising a family. While raising a family I also served in the United Sates Marine Corps Reserve.

I developed a sense of duty and service over my ten years in the Marines. I continually found myself placed in leadership positions in all that I did professionally and personally. I learned to reshape my perspective over the years in leadership positions whether large or small. I was not a manager that managed, but a leader that inspired. As I decided to go into physical therapy, I realized how this position was no different than leadership because it inspires and empowers others to improve themselves through movement.

Having served in a variety of capacities, I have seen too many times how youth were lost simply because they had no one to look to for guidance. This is why I am here to give back. I want to be the mentor and hope for youth that struggle to find their way. I want to empower, enhance, and uplift others around me so we can be successful and thrive, not just survive.

Luis Martinez
Luis Martinez
Luis Martinez

Though it’s only been 8 years since I graduated from high school, I feel like it’s a lifetime ago. I had great mentors and teachers whose teachings still impact me today. I’m not sure you can under estimate the value of the years when you get out of high school. Even the most prepared young person will encounter the great hill of leaving what you know and finding your own place in life. That is why I come back every year with Youth Leadership Authority. YLA is one of few organizations that gives not only the most prestigious leadership training, but follows through even after to ensure our teens successfully launch into life.

I have been working with teens from various backgrounds for over 7 years. I am currently a school social worker with Clark County School District and work as a clinical social work intern after hours providing individual and couples therapy to adolescents and adults.

I have come to learn that the difference between wanting to help people and being able to help people comes from becoming educated. I have lead with that example as I completed both undergraduate and graduate studies in social work. Although my formal education is completed, learning can never stop. My goal with every teen is to help them become a lifelong learner. My success with them isn’t defined by their completing the various programs, but by their being able to go farther than I ever could.

America the Beautiful Event Committee

Sandy Roche
Sandra Roche

Events Chair
Vice President/General Counsel at Roche Constructors, Inc

Marie Tomao
Marie Tomao

Co-Chair
Founder/Executive Director

Marie Tomao

I am an authentic, fun loving, determined, values-driven woman of faith. My life motivation is based on the Starfish Story and my experiences as a mother, friend, professional, community leader, teacher, and mentor.

I am a 48-year resident of Clark County with a strong love and loyalty to God, family, and community. I am looking to leave a legacy for my kids, and yours, to glean from for many years to come. I give my praise to God for His many blessings. I credit my family: Sam, Siboney, Dillon, and 4 grandchildren (who are my little slice of absolute heaven) for the many successes and piles of happiness that we have created and experienced together.

I have a diverse background ranging from construction management; to nonprofit management; to running 2 Congressional District offices in Clark County for former Congressmen Jon Porter and Joe Heck; and to now, the Founder, President, and Executive Director of Youth Leadership Authority (YLA)!

Alongside my extensive career above, God called me to fulfill my passion as a Starfish, to serve as a volunteer for the past 17 years as a Liaison Representative to the Southern Nevada Devil Pups Program. This volunteer service program became so great, I was moved to expand the already thriving organization, and to create my own nonprofit to help teens in even more ways. YLA was born in 2017 and proudly boasts 9 leadership programs within 3 series.

From my perspective, helping teens is not a choice; it is an honor and a responsibility. With one life to live, spend it wisely! I have always said: I did not pick my passion, my passion picked me. And I have one sentence and catchphrase that has carried me through the days when decision-making was not always easy; that is, “You can never lose by being kind and #EattheWatermelon.”

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Carole Hanley

Volunteer Co-Chair
Administrative Assistant for Aging and Disability Services Division

Kathy Chavez

Volunteer Chair
Executive Resolutions Specialist, Bank of America

Kathy Chavez

I have been actively involved with YLA since 2018 when my son attended the 12 week Southern Nevada Devil Pups training and community service program. After the 12 week program, he was able to attend Devil Pups 10 day encampment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. That  decision to become involved with YLA and SNDP set my son on a path to success. Through the many Leadership programs that YLA has offered, he will no doubt have a successful future and career as a United States Marine. What was unexpected, is how personally excited I became, to see teens through these programs gain courage, self-confidence and develop into future leaders. For me, I knew I wanted to put as much energy and effort to support YLA, to truly make a difference in our teens lives and help to sustain these programs. I have personally witnessed young lives transformed, the efforts behind the scenes of our Executive Director Marie Tomao and her lifelong work to create and develop future leaders, truly, there is nothing like it. As a parent, I have been in the trenches with my kids in 2020, when all sports and school was canceled. If anything has proven to me that our programs with YLA are vital, it has been this year. It-is-a-lifeline! Through much planning and pivoting, YLA was able to successfully provide A Safe Place to Land, YLA challenge. We were able to safely host conversations with community leaders and our teens, proudly provide our Constitution class and culminated with YLA Challenge two day retreat. We were able to provide two days of whole person training. Physical, personal, career and spiritual. In two days, to see transformations take place. For me, to have even a small part of that, and to witness the courage of our teens, it breathed new life into me. Our teens need these programs, our teen’s need a safe place to land and a chance to succeed.

Tina Schick
Tina Schick

Committee Member

Anna Billings
Anna Billings
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Tammy Gatski
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Betsy Dickinson
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Torey Hodges

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