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Vernon Brown

Chief Executive Officer

Vernon earned a Masters of Public Administration at Golden Gate University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and History at the University of Colorado, and a fifth year secondary teaching credential from the School of Education. His interest in human services was ignited while serving on Boulder County’s Youth Service Bureau Board of Directors in the mid-1970’s – a Board comprised of representatives from a full spectrum of human service agencies in order to create a new system of juvenile justice service and intervention. Also, his teaching of high school sparked a lifelong commitment to serve all students in their journey to achieve their greatest potential.

Vernon joined Aspiranet in 1978 and has played a variety of roles during his nearly four decades at the agency, including group home parent, social worker, programs Executive Director, and serving as CEO since 1999. In addition, he has represented children and youth service associations and advocacy groups on a number of national, state and local boards, and is co-founder of Stewards of Change, a national interdisciplinary think tank that proposes strategies and solutions for the most pressing health and human services challenges.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve with so many talented and exceptionally dedicated staff and volunteers during my career. Central to all that we do at Aspiranet is our vision that all children should be loved and cared for. The compassion and tenderness with which we translate this vision into action on a daily basis delivers on our hope that the future will be a better place for the children and families that we serve.”

Grant Lee

Chief Human Resources Officer

Grant joined Aspiranet in October of 2019 bringing over 25 years of Human Resources and leadership experience.  He serves as the agency’s Chief Human Resources Officer responsible for overall talent management, which includes overseeing the recruitment, onboarding, benefits, leaves, workers compensation, learning and development, performance management, and payroll functions.

His career in HR began with private sector companies such as The Harper Group, Arthur Andersen, Levi Strauss & Company, and bebe before transitioning to public sector agencies where he has served in executive HR leadership roles with the California Public Utilities Commission, Santa Clara Valley Water District, AC Transit, and the San Francisco Unified School District.  He is recognized for his expertise with development programs, leveraging technological solutions, and implementing process improvement to optimize performance, HR programs, service delivery and value to organizations.

Grant holds a Master of Business Administration Degree in Management from Golden Gate University as well as a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from San Francisco State University.

Jeannie Imelio

Chief Operating Officer / Foster and Adoptive Families, Residential, and Transitional Aged Youth Services

Jeannie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a Minor in Psychology from CSU Stanislaus and pursued graduate studies in Counseling Psychology at California State University Stanislaus. She was attracted to Aspiranet because of the opportunity to provide individualized services and make a positive difference in the lives of at-risk youth and families. Aspiranet offered a work environment that recognized individual strengths, supported professional growth and promoted creativity, all within a small team environment.

Since joining Aspiranet in 1987, Jeannie has worked in various roles within the agency. Most of her career has been spent in program development, including the Intensive Treatment Foster Care Program, Therapeutic Behavioral Services, Transitional Aged Youth Services, and Wraparound Services. In recent years she has had the pleasure of serving on various statewide implementation and advocacy work groups associated with Continuum of Care Reform and Transitional Age Youth Services.

“Aspiranet is a fulfilling work environment where I am appreciated as an individual, able to balance work and family, and am supported in developing creative solutions that result in positive outcomes for our families. Hope supports everything we want to achieve at Aspiranet, and is what we want our staff and those we serve to see, feel, hear, touch, and move forward with daily.”

Laureen Walsh

 Chief Operating Officer / Behavioral Health, Intensive Home-Based Services, and Family and Community

Sparked by a curiosity in social institutions and a passion for social justice, Laureen earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of California Santa Barbara, a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology, with an emphasis in counseling and guidance, at California State University of Northridge, and then became a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. Each reinforced her desire to support the health and resiliency of two foundational institutions – families and communities.

Laureen joined Aspiranet in 1996 and has served in a variety of roles over the past 20 years, including Ventura District Director, Bay Coastal Regional Director, Executive Director, and now Chief Operating Officer. She was attracted to Aspiranet by its statewide reach and diversity of services, its commitment to quality service provision, and its forward-thinking leadership. What she appreciates most about working at Aspiranet is collectively living out the organizational vision alongside dedicated staff and courageous families.

“The choice of hope as an organizational core value communicates clearly that we work from a place of faith in our clients, staff and our community. Working from a place of possibilities inherently says we respect our client’s abilities to grow and their courage to do what is needed to improve their lives.”

Christopher Essary

Residential Division Director

Christopher earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from California State University, Stanislaus, and began his Aspiranet career in 1987 as an Excell Center House Parent. He was attracted to residential treatment for at-risk youth by the culture of respect and caring established in the group homes, and by the beautiful Turlock campus. During his three decades at Aspiranet, Chris has served in a variety of roles including Regional Director, Group Home Administrator, Director of Operations, House Manager, and Activities Director.

“The core value most important in my daily residential work is respect. I am inspired by our staff’s dedication to helping kids turn their lives around. I like to come to work every day in a job that improves lives. We have great people who work here and I take pride in our contribution to bettering our communities.”

Sharon Lawicki

Intensive Home-Based Services Division Director

Sharon earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology at UC Berkeley and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology at California State University of Stanislaus. She has played a pivotal role in growing Aspiranet’s statewide Wraparound program and Intensive Home-Based Services Division. Since joining the staff in 1997 as a clinician in Aspiranet’s first outpatient mental health clinic for foster youth, Sharon has served in a variety of roles including social worker, Program Supervisor, and District Director. She is thankful to have had competent, compassionate and ethical supervisors throughout her tenure at Aspiranet.

“I am in awe of our passionate and committed staff who work tirelessly to help children and families improve their lives. Staff consistently embody a ‘do whatever it takes’ approach in helping youth and families overcome barriers that at first appear insurmountable. We have hope that our families can overcome anything in their path with the necessary resources and support. It is amazing to see their transformation when they achieve success in their lives and have a renewed sense of hope for their future.”

Mike Derose

Behavioral Health Division Director

Mike earned a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from National University, a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the University of the Pacific, and has over 10 years of experience in private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in addition to over 16 years of experience in the private non-profit sector. Mike was attracted to Aspiranet by its innovative programs and services and the depth of staff commitment to the families served, and he enjoys working with like-minded colleagues who are living out the organization’s core values.

Since joining Aspiranet in 2007, he has worked in a variety of roles in each of the Aspiranet Core Divisions, including serving as a support counselor and social worker for intensive treatment foster youth and transitional aged youth programs, working as a staff trainer in a residential treatment facility, working as a clinician and operating intensive home-based service programs, running a family resource center, and managing various children’s specialty mental health programs.

“It’s great to be part of something larger than yourself. Aspiranet stands up for social justice and supports strategies and innovations that achieve successful and meaningful outcomes. We work every day to instill hope and courage in our children and families who are dealing with loss, trauma, grief, and struggles that are difficult to cope with alone. Our outcomes and positive client feedback speak volumes about the work we do and that others can also be part of.”

Samantha Lagrasse

Transitional Aged Youth Division Director

Samantha earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at California State University, Fresno and a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at National University. She was attracted to Aspiranet because she wanted to work with families in a proactive manner. Samantha joined the agency in 1999 and enjoys learning something new every day. She feels honored to have been part of building and running programs that serve young adults and fortunate to have provided both direct and supervisory services for diverse foster care and transitional housing programs over the past two decades.

“I appreciate the feeling of family among Aspiranet staff and that our core values inform the way in which we approach our work. Respect absolutely has to be present in order to work with our young adults in a way that communicates unconditional positive regard. When there is mutual respect everything else falls into place as needed.”

Diane Warne

Foster and Adoptive Families Division Director

Diane earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University Fresno and a Masters of Arts in Counseling, Marriage, Family and Child from the University of San Francisco. Since joining Aspiranet in 1991 she has helped to develop a variety of foster care and adoption programs, and served as foster care social worker, supervising social worker, District Administrator, and Foster Care Division Director. Over the past 25 years she has often been asked why she has chosen to work at Aspiranet. Her answer has always been the same. Diane believes in the agency’s core values, mission, and vision, and appreciates Aspiranet’s dedication to providing outstanding services on behalf of its families.

“At Aspiranet, we have high hopes for the children and families we work with and our actions are motivated by an unwavering desire to do what’s best on behalf of our families. I witness countless acts of courage among our families on a daily basis – whether it is a foster family opening their home to a child and caring for them, an adoptive family offering a forever family, a relative seeking to keep a family together, or a birth family having the courage to make changes so that their children can be returned to them.”

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