Brianna Valesey, Director
Brianna is a hardworking young professional with first-hand experience developing self-advocacy skills as a young person with a disability and experience in the mental health system. Dedicated to amplifying youth voice across the state, she works hard to spread messages of hope and resiliency to those around her. She began her time with YOUTH POWER! serving as a mentor for the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program and after graduating in 2014 from Sage College of Albany, she began working as YOUTH POWER!’s Youth Engagement Consultant. During this time she led the E3: Engage, Educate, Employ initiative in partnership with the NYS Department of Labor. As this initiative came to a close, she then began her work with the NYS Success initiative, ensuring our system of care is youth-guided. As her role in YOUTH POWER! grew and developed, she then went on to serve as the Social Marketing and Events Coordinator, working closely with YP! members, partners, and other stakeholders. Leveraging her years of experience growing through different roles in the youth peer profession and gaining critical expertise in mentoring, youth peer advocacy, program/event coordination, social marketing, and providing trainings and technical assistance, she is excited to serve as the Director of YOUTH POWER! in this new era of leadership.
Bianca Logan, ACHIEVE – Youth Peer Services & Training Manager
Bianca is a passionate young professional who has personal experience in the mental health and special education systems. She has been working professionally in the youth movement for 5 years with 7 years volunteer experience prior. Bianca is passionate about all things youth and determined to make sure youth voice is represented at all levels in her community and beyond. She comes with experience working directly with young people and also supporting young professionals in her community. She serves as a member of the Youth Peer Services Advisory Council working towards the development of a credentialing process, training, and implementation for Youth Peer Advocates in New York State. Bianca has experience serving on both the Families Together in NYS and YOUTHPOWER! board of directors. Bianca’s experience with YOUTHPOWER! has shown her the power and strength of the peer movement. She respects the movement, its history, and its future. Keeping the integrity of the peer movement is important to Bianca as Youth Peer Services are formalized in NYS. Bianca is excited to be working with the ACHIEVE project to implement Youth Peer Advocates into Wraparound in Erie, Rensselaer and Westchester counties over the next several years. She believes this will enhance the wraparound experience for young people.
Bianca wholeheartedly believes that Youth are our future and they deserve to feel empowered to play a role in shaping the next generation, inclusive of Peer professionals. Most of all she encourages young people to have HOPE that the future can be a better place!
Elijah Fagan-Solis, Statewide Emerging Leadership Manager
Elijah Fagan-Solis, a God-fearing Capital Region native, is a highly motivated, young professional with firsthand, lived experienced as a person with a disability. At age 14, Elijah was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure and labeled disabled. Despite the label placed on him, Elijah was determined not to let a disability control his life or future; through all the trials and tribulations he faced with his health, Elijah graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Hudson Valley Community College, and Magna Cum Laude from the Sage College of Albany. While at HVCC, Elijah was honored by the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York for winning the David A. Garfinkel Essay Competition and had his essay published in Judicial Notice, as well as participated in a documentary about his involvement with the contest. Elijah has worked with the NYS Assembly, is a member of two national honor societies, and has received awards for involvement in his community, and for his belief in the ability of people to change, grow, and make a contribution to the world. Elijah participates in charity events and fundraisers such as the National Kidney Foundations Kidney Walk and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital’s Walk in the Park. Elijah also volunteers his time to do community service and is highly active with his church where he serves as a Deacon, the administrative assistant, and heads the youth ministry among other responsibilities.
Alexander Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner
Alexander Frisina is a hardworking and dedicated young professional that was labeled with Special Education needs at an early age. Adopted at a young age by a family located in Eastern Long Island, Alex is the youngest of four siblings, and the only adopted member of his family. Facing issues of self-identity Alex struggled with depression. Throughout the decision-making process of his treatment, he felt voiceless and was made to believe he had no choices. This feeling pushed Alex to seek alternative methods of expression; which lead him down the road of creative writing. Alex used his writing to not only express himself but also escape from the feeling of being powerless and unheard. Since graduating from King’s College located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Alex has been seeking a position that uses his creative background to help make a difference. Learning about the work YOUTH POWER! has done and the goals they are working towards Alex realized his past experience could be used to help others dealing with similar situations. Pulling from past experiences and gaining knowledge every day Alex hopes to push for change and spread the work of YOUTH POWER!
Amanda Davidson, Youth Engagement Specialist
Amanda is a driven, confident young individual who plans on making the world a better place for youth step by step. Her experience in mental health, troubled family situations and her skill to recognize the ability for change has made it so she wants to empower youth of all ages to also recognize their ability to seek change and actively make their voices heard in society. As someone who loves to take care of animals, be a supporter for everyone she comes in contact with and is still growing as a young adult, she desires the world to really hear the stories and experiences of young people all across the globe. Making her move for a Bachelor’s Degree in the Psychology field at the College of Saint Rose has opened so many doors for advocacy for individuals with mental health challenges. She hopes to inspire people to also advocate for youth concerns all over the world.
Azaria Wittekind, Youth Peer Services Training & Credentialing Coordinator
Azaria has a history of working with and for youth and young adults. This stems from the care and support she received while growing up in the foster care system. Azaria was in and out of foster care since the age of 13 and has multiple mental health diagnoses. Azaria has personally experienced the power of love, support, and caring from others who helped her find her voice, drive, and have supported her personal successes. Azaria turned her passion into supporting others to find their voices. Prior to starting this position, she has worked directly with youth to support them in finding their voice at home and in school as a Youth Mentor, Youth Ambassador, and in residential care as a Youth Care Professional. Azaria earned her Bachelors in Social Work from SUNY Brockport in 2013 after aging out of foster care at 21 while studying abroad in Vietnam.
Brennan Williams, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner
Brennan Williams is a passionate activist and member of the mental health, disability, and young adult communities. His personal experiences and work throughout the past 11 years have given him a unique glimpse into some of the many challenges of living as someone who is “labeled.” Brennan’s experiences within these systems have heavily intersected with being transgender. Brennan has mentored homeless and at-risk youth, participated in college disability activist groups, worked to help pass human rights laws for the transgender community, and organized panels and provided training to various community providers. He has also worked with a Youth Court program to educate and encourage youth and young adults to know their rights and how to advocate for them. Brennan brings with him several years of professional work with the disability community, including youth and young adult specific programs. Brennan’s experiences and work have been the driving forces behind his desire to educate, advocate, organize, and push for our communities to value input from all people.
Carly Congilosi, Western Regional Youth Partner
Carly Congilosi finds her identity in being a follower of Christ. She enjoys drinking coffee and eating chocolate, preferably with a book in hand. She considers herself an introvert, but she still spends quality time with the people to whom she is closest. Carly began struggling with mental health challenges in middle school. Her personal experiences led her to earn a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Psychology from Houghton College in 2016. Following graduation, she worked as a Youth Peer Advocate for the Mental Health Association of Erie County, where she grew immensely both as a person and as an advocate. In this role, Carly gained experience providing direct youth peer support services to youth in residential care, in psychiatric hospitals, and in the community. She also had the privilege of presenting on a variety of mental health topics to students, parents, teachers, and community members. Apart from her work as a Youth Peer Advocate, Carly interned with the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center and has served as a volunteer camp counselor for Royal Family Kids’ Camp, which serves youth involved with social services. She also co-facilitated a Christ-centered mental health support group for adults in the Buffalo area. Carly now lives in Rochester and is excited to use her skills and passion in her new role as the Western Regional Youth Partner.
Mica Gonzalez, Central Regional Youth Partner
Mica comes to YOUTH POWER! with much experience working with youth and young adults. She brings knowledge and experience of working with diverse populations, youth-guided care, and youth-guided implementation. Her passion lies in working with youth to find their voice. As a youth, she felt largely silenced and had a difficult time navigating through cross systems. Growing up in a multicultural household, struggling to maintain her mental health was challenging. At a young age she was given a few different labels and through the years those only continued to change. In addition to those struggles, Mica was diagnosed with epilepsy in the 7th grade. Trying to maintain her seizure disorder and mental health posed many challenges. Shortly after this, she came out to her family and friends. The lack of representation and acceptance only further perpetuated her mental health and resulted in many psychiatric hospitalizations. With these struggles in mind, Mica attended an alternative school from grades 10th to 12th where she graduated high school. She graduated Onondaga Community College in 2013 with her Associates in Human Services with a specialization in Social Work. Today, she attends Syracuse University where she is working to get her Bachelors in Social Work. Mica plans on continuing her education to get her Master’s degree in Social Work. When she is not working hard to amplify youth voices, she is enjoying nature, traveling, crafting and playing with her three pugs!
Olivia Fried, Social Marketing and Event Coordinator
Olivia is a passionate and hardworking young professional who advocates for standing up for what you believe in. Her experience in mental health has given her the confidence to remind others to seek the change you want to see in the world. During Olivia’s studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, her passion for advocacy was a principal focus. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Olivia gained the tools she needed to speak out and let her voice be heard when she needed them. As an intern for Families Together in New York State in 2017, Olivia heard about the YOUTH POWER! organization. YP!’s mission statement resonated with Olivia as she is a member of the mental health community. Through this journey she has learned what every person has to share is valuable. She hopes to inspire those around her with her message and that young people in YOUTH POWER! continue to speak up and speak out.
Zack Kilmer, NYISA Coordinator
Zack Kilmer is an autistic LGBTQ+ young adult who has had a passion for activism and civics since he was a child. Raised by a single mother and brought up in special education programs, Zack knows the struggles young people face and wants to change the system to better suit their needs. He is excited and honored to be working with YOUTH POWER! to achieve that goal. Before joining YP!, Zack graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in English & Political Science. Shortly after, he worked on the New York 19th District 2016 Congressional Election in support of Zephyr Teachout. He then used the skills learned in that race to run his own campaign for Town Council in his hometown of East Greenbush.