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.”

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GySgt. Bricen Hooker
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GySgt. Linwood Hinton
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Gerald Mayes
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.

Your Gift Will Help Build America’s Future Leaders.

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