Our Staff

Our Staff

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.”

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.

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