Rick joined the team at Friends of the Children – Tampa Bay in April of 2021 and considers it the ideal opportunity to be part of an organization that truly changes lives. He comes on board after a 30+ year career in the Financial Technology industry, having held Sales, Sales Management and Product Management roles with several leading companies, including JP Morgan Chase, Vantiv and US Bank. During his career he has consulted with and developed partnerships and client relationships with hundreds of private and public companies across North America, including many Fortune 500 firms.
He has extensive volunteer experience across Tampa Bay, including Coaching, Fundraising, Management and Hospitality roles with non-profits such as Tampa Bay Little League, Jesuit High School, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, Robinson High School and Feeding Tampa Bay. Rick is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and an avid guitar enthusiast; he and his wife Maggie have two children.
Byron Pressley Sr., a native of Tampa, Florida, worked for over 20 years for the State of Florida in various human services roles. Byron has worked as a Felony Probation Officer, a Drug Counselor and Middle School Teacher prior to joining Friends of the Children. At Friends of the Children – Tampa Bay, Byron served initially as a Friend and now serves as the Program Director for the chapter. Byron has been a licensed minister since 2001 and is currently the Pastor of Turner Chapel A.M.E Church in Palmetto, Fl. Byron enjoys spending time with his wife and three children as well as his granddaughter in his spare time. Byron is an active member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Hillsboro Lodge #242 F&AM, PHA and FAMU Alumni Association.
Jessica has worked in the nonprofit sector for the last 15 years and is passionate about youth and community. Like many, Jessica stumbled upon the nonprofit world in her first job as an Office Manager for Hadassah and then as a Camp Counselor for the YMCA. She recognized that she was destined to work for nonprofits and loved the community feel and empowering people. She returned to the University of Central Florida to receive her Master's in Nonprofit Management.
California born, and Florida raised, In 2012, Jessica relocated to Wisconsin and began working for the Boys and Girls Club. She spent 5 years there creating a safe and nurturing environment for the children she served. She found her true passion for working with youth who had trauma and mental health backgrounds. Through her work at the Boys and Girls Club, she created unique programs and engaged staff to help each individual child be successful.
In 2017, Jessica moved back to Florida with her daughter to be closer to family and the ocean. She spent the last 3 years working for the YMCA as a Membership Director. Jessica is excited to join the Friends of the Children-Tampa Chapter and reignite her passion for youth.
In her freetime, Jessica enjoys fishing, trips to Disney, loving on her two dogs, spending time with her family, traveling, going to the beach and trying new food.
Eleni Sakis is the Resource Development Manager and has been a part of several key non-profit movements for kids over the last 13 years. Eleni has always had a passion for behavioral health in youth and a strong interest in opportunities that will increase their rate of success. Friends of the Children's ability to offer uninterrupted mentorship services and intentional quality time with community youth is what drew her to this organization. Outside of work Eleni can be found dining with family, enjoying friends, or walking her dog, Louie!
Ken Baker is a professional mentor with Friends of the Children with over 15 years of experience in child welfare. After experience working within the local foster care system, the proactive approach of the Friends of the Children program was a refreshing change. His several years as a Licensing Specialist, teaching professional parenting courses, provides a solid foundation for his position as a mentor for a variety of circumstances that may arise. He is currently the father of a 3 year old and a 5 year old and his desire to help all youth in their endeavors to navigate life are evident by his enthusiastic style and passion for his role. Ken was also a personal trainer for over a decade as well as a bodybuilding coach and competitor. He often shares his love for fitness and sports performance to the youth he mentors.
Greg Harvey is a professional mentor with 7 years of successful experience in mentoring high at risk youth in the counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco. Greg specializes in promoting life skills such as scholastic success, social and emotional development, physical and mental health, making good daily choices and planning skills for the future with his mentees. Greg is a strong believer in the term “health is wealth” working out 5 days a week and eating healthy which he incorporates into his work he performs while with his mentees. Greg loves to travel and see new places of the world but, oddly enough Greg is also terrified of airplanes, so he prefers cruises ships or cars with airplanes being the absolute last result.
Tre Lawson is youth advocate
with over 20 years of youth mentoring experience. Tre has mentored youth in
both, Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties. Tre has worked in juvenile
delinquency and child welfare settings for over 15 years. Tre focuses on mental
wellness, scholastic achievement, social progression, and individual goals. Tre
encourages strong family participation in the construction of a positive
mentoring relationship. Tre enjoys spending time with his family and listening
to various audiobooks to expand his knowledge on numerous topics. Tre is
currently studying to be a Clinical Mental Health Counselor.
Leslie joined the Friends of the Children program as a professional mentor in August 2014. Prior to joining our team, Leslie graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, with a minor in Sociology, from the University of South Florida. Following graduation, she spent several years working within the school system as a tutor who worked with at-risk youth at AmeriCorps, a paraprofessional with 6th-8th grade youth in the exceptional student education (ESE) program, an elementary school substitute teacher and a first-grade teacher.
Being a part of the school realm, surrounded by children of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures has strengthened Leslie's pedagogic style and culture competence. She is an advocate for differentiated instruction, teaching the same material in different forms to accommodate the individual learning needs of her students. The quote, "A person's a person, no matter how small" from Dr. Seuss is especially close to Leslie's heart because it embodies the reality that every child deserves to know how truly unique they are, no matter their challenges.
Since joining Friends of the Children, Leslie has immersed herself in the field of encouraging each child to discover their identity, empowering them to reach their highest potential and ultimately become the best person they are meant to be!
Leslie has called Tampa, Fla., her home for the past thirteen years and loves to discover life with her husband, Carlo, son, Jesse, daughter, Carlie and Shihtzu, Teddy.
Briana Robinson is a Professional Mentor/Friend with a love for youth and teaching. Briana loves to see her youth thrive academically, socially, and behaviorally and aspires to help them continue to succeed in life by pushing them to their full potential, providing cultural experiences to help them expand their imagination and dreams, and being there for them. Briana is a part of Friends of the Children because she wants to see not only the youth thrive but their family as well, so that life for the youth will be made better and she loves the 12 and a half years no matter what to see her youth develop. Briana loves to read, teach, and dance (ballet, lyrical, modern, hip-hop, and jazz).
April Schmit is a Friend based in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Graduating with a degree in Social Work, April has taken on different roles to partner with people to see change or assist through transitions. From working with court-ordered anger management groups to adults with developmental disabilities, people diagnosed with a mental illness seeking employment, those facing possible houselessness, to teens in foster care transitioning to adulthood, April has learned she prefers developing a long-term partnership with people to see change and growth. Friends of the Children, as an organization, combines values that are important to April and some of what she enjoys in Social Work. April is grateful for how Friends of the Children works to build trusting partnerships through consistent relationships, focuses on prevention to some big issues, provides time to create change and witness growth, aims to empower youth and families, and allows for flexibility and creativity. In addition to working with our youth, April enjoys photography and other arts, spending time in nature, and being active outdoors. If she had a yard, she would have a garden and a dog.
Markus-Derek White was adopted and raised by the Late Roy and Betty White. He is a product of Hillsborough County Public Schools and Post-Secondary Schooling at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. He Holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary in Dayton. He is currently a PhD student at Anderson University-Anderson, South Carolina.
Markus-Derek has had the joy of being a Middle School History and Science teacher in the inner city of Tampa as well as he serves as a Pastor.
His greatest joy is education and being an impact towards youth and young adults.
Shambria Young began her career in 2014. She obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies with a minor in Religion and Philosophy from Bethune Cookman University. She currently works for Friends of the Children as a Professional Mentor and has worked with the program since its launch of the Tampa Bay Chapter in 2014. She has also spent many years volunteering and working with at-risk youth with a local non-profit organization called Girls that Rock in Plant City, Florida. Shambria has also been an active member of the Junior Women’s Club of Plant City. Influencing and improving Plant City by bringing “Unity to the community; through a volunteer spirit.” Shambria thrives off the idea of sowing seeds back into the community. This deep passion is backed by the concept of redirecting the lives of youth that are at-risk, and it is catapulted by her belief that “It takes a village to raise a child.”
January of 2018 Shambria returned to Nova South Eastern University to further her Studies in Human Services as a Child Behavior Analyst. It is her determination that has led her to apply her leadership skills through passion and consistency to ensure that “No Child is Left Behind.”
Shambria has a strong background within the Child Welfare system and has experienced assisting children and families in a personal and professional capacity. It is her commitment to provide services that will make a positive impact in the lives of others. She will not stop until “The World is a Better Place.”