Meet more of our Executive Team, Kathy and Joan!

Meet more of our Executive Team, Kathy and Joan!

Meet Kathy Chavez 


Kathy is our 1st Sergeant and the Mom of our SNDP program. She is an Executive Resolutions Specialist at Bank of America and has been on YLA’s Board for three years.

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 the 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 was how personally excited I became. To see teens through these programs gain courage, self-confidence, and develop into future leaders, I knew I wanted to put as much energy and effort into supporting YLA. I wanted to truly make a difference in our teens’ lives and to help sustain these wonderful programs. I have personally witnessed young lives transformed, and have seen the efforts behind the scenes by our Executive Director Marie Tomao in 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 were canceled. If anything has proven to me that our programs with YLA are vital, it has been this year. YLA is a lifeline! Through much planning and pivoting, YLA successfully provided A Safe Place to Land and The Challenge, a phenomenally successful program. We safely hosted and facilitated conversations between community leaders and our teens, and proudly provided our Constitution class, all culminating in the YLA Challenge—a two-day retreat. We provided two days of whole person training: physical, personal, career, and spiritual. In two days, I witnessed great transformations. To have even played a small part in that, and to witness the courage of our teens, it breathed new life into me. Our teens need these programs. They need a safe place to land and a chance to succeed. 

Thank you for all that you do, 
Kathy Chavez

Meet Joan Villanueva

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Joan is a Transformation Specialist and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She has been a Facilitator for one year and is now a Board Member.

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 and 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 have 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 a loving, encouraging environment, was STILL confused, and 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, and 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, and passions are, the God-given greatness they were created for, what their contribution to their family, their community, and this world will be, to 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 a 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 firsthand 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.

Joan Villanueva

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