Our Staff

Jennifer Singer
Executive Director, CFRE
jennifers@bffyouth.org

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Jennifer helped co-found The Friendship Club in 1995, and became Executive Director in 2004.  The Friendship Club merged with NEO (New Events and Opportunities) in September 2020, and was renamed Bright Futures for Youth. Jennifer is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). She is a Nevada County Relief Fund Community Advisory Committee ex-officio member and serves on the board of the Continuum of Care. Jennifer served as founding board president of Sierra Harvest and is Board Chair of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership. Jennifer serves as a Nevada City School District Board Trustee. She is a graduate of the Nevada County Leadership Institute and the county’s Citizens Academy. Jennifer is a Gallup/CliftonStrengths coach, focusing on building better teams. Jennifer was raised in Nevada County. She received a degree in Communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder and has studied nonprofit administration in a master’s degree program at the University of San Francisco.

Dena Valin Malakian
Associate Director, Ed.D
denam@bffyouth.org

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Dena has worked with nonprofits serving at-risk youth since 2000. She is a Nevada County native. Dena returned to the area in 2004 and became Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County, which she helped grow to serve twice as many children during her eight-year tenure. Dena brings extensive experience in inter-agency collaboration and program development and evaluation. She serves as a commissioner on the Nevada County Adult and Family Services Commission, on the Board of the Nevada County Child Abuse Prevention Council/Community Support Network (CAPC/CSN) and on the membership committee for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership. Dena holds a Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of California, Irvine, where she focused her research on mentoring.

Cassidy Cecil
Youth Resource Coordinator
cassidyc@bffyouth.org

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Cassidy works with youth and their families, connecting them to our programs and community resources. Prior to joining the organization, Cassidy worked part-time as a caretaker with United Cerebral Palsy. While in college, Cassidy served as an intern at Catholic Charities Adoption Program in Florida, where she helped families with the adoption process. Cassidy has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla.

Halli Ellis-Edwards
Youth Development Coordinator
hallie@bffyouth.org

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Halli was raised in Nevada County and co-founded New Events and Opportunities (NEO) in 2008 at age 19. Halli advocated for and raised funds to open the first Youth Center in Nevada County with an emphasis on youth empowerment. She served as NEO’s program director, supervising NEO activities and community outreach and co-leads the GREAT Summer Youth Academy with the Grass Valley Police Department. Halli has more than 15 years of experience working with youth. Halli volunteers at Campus Life. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California-Santa Cruz with a major in Sociology.

Cindy Hintz
Community Relations Manager
cindyh@bffyouth.org

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Cindy brings more than 15 years of project management experience. Cindy worked in Singapore leading a design team effort for a 220,000-square-foot headquarters building for a Silicon Valley company. Cindy relocated to Nevada County in 2007 and became involved in the community through Soroptimist International Nevada City, serving as a volunteer and then on the board of directors for four years. It was that service that ignited Cindy’s passion for nonprofit work, with a special focus on improving the lives of women and girls. Cindy holds degrees in both English and Commercial Interior Design from West Valley College, Saratoga, Calif. She was born and raised in California.

Evan Nielsen
Youth Development Coordinator
evann@bffyouth.org

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Evan fosters relationships with youth at Bright Futures for Youth in this part-time position. She also works for the Center for the Arts as their bar manager, where she oversees up to 40 volunteers at a time. Evan is a certified Doula, providing support and assistance before, during and after childbirth. Her experience working with youth includes serving as a child and adolescent equine riding instructor. She also has experience in the hospitality field. Evan received a California Institute of the Arts degree in Entertainment Technology and Post-production Editing from Santa Monica College.

Cori Ove 
Site Coordinator
corio@bffyouth.org 

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Cori has been working with youth in some capacity for 20 years. Her first experiences as a Girl Scout camp counselor during her teenage years lead to a love of working with children. While working with severely emotionally disturbed teenagers at Charis Youth Center, Cori became interested in how trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can shape a person for life. Cori taught math at Nevada City School of the Arts and worked as a special ed aide. She most recently ran the expanded learning program at Bell Hill Academy. Cori is active in the California Afterschool Network, helping to advocate for funding and recognition of how vital after-school programs are to California youth. Cori earned her Master of Science in Child Development from University of La Verne in California. 

Aurora Packard
SAFE Program Director, MSW

aurorap@bffyouth.org

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Aurora oversees the SAFE (Stability, Access, Foundation, Empowerment) program, which provides academic, social and emotional support, life-skills training to 16-24-year-old young men and women experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity as they transition into adulthood. Aurora graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in community advocacy and social policy from Arizona State University (ASU) and received her Master of Social Work degree from ASU Watts College of Public Service in 2020.

Cassie Robertson
Community Outreach Coordinator
cassier@bffyouth.org

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Cassie spent many years working in hospitality, moved to investment banking and most recently worked in operations at a boutique architecture firm in Portland, Ore. Cassie also lived in cities throughout the United States and abroad. She returned home to Nevada County in 2016 with a commitment to community, particularly the arts and arts education for young people. Cassie serves on the board of the Nevada County Arts Council. Cassie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Literature from San Francisco State University.

Cheryl Rubin
Director, Development and Communications
cherylr@bffyouth.org

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Cheryl has lived in Nevada County for more than 20 years. She most recently served as Chief Communications Officer for Western Sierra Medical Clinic, which tripled its number of health centers during her tenure. Before Western Sierra, Cheryl’s career includes working for the California Forest Products Commission, with an influential Washington, D.C., public policy research institute, for United Way of America and at a major Madison Avenue firm where she received the Silver Anvil Award, the Public Relations Society of America’s highest honor. Early in her career, she worked for ABC TV’s “Good Morning America.” She serves on the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Community Advisory Panel, and previously on the board of directors for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and NCTV. Cheryl is a professional tennis instructor. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

Lynn Skrukrud
Youth Outreach and Events Coordinator
lynns@bffyouth.org

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Lynn grew up in Nevada County and co-founded NEO in 2008 at age 19. She served as the Director of Operations. Lynn is a graduate of the Nevada County Community Leadership Institute and the inaugural Nevada County Citizens Academy. Lynn currently serves on the Nevada County Juvenile Justice Commission and is a founding member of SPARC, the young professionals networking arm of the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce. She graduated from Sierra Nevada College, Incline Village, with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Management Studies.

Chelsy Warmerdam
Youth Development Coordinator
chelsyw@bffyouth.org

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Chelsy is a 2010 alumnus of The Friendship Club who brings that experience to youth to help them through their adolescent years. She joined The Friendship Club staff in 2016 and is one of the facilitators of the after-school meetings. Chelsy’s passion is to teach elementary school students and hopes to become a teacher in Nevada County. Chelsy graduated from Chico State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Child Development. Chelsy also earned a multiple subject teaching credential. Chelsy loves to camp and adventure in the mountains with her husband and two dogs, Shadow and Jeep.

Emma Woods
Organization Assistant
emmaw@bffyouth.org

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Emma supports the Bright Futures for Youth team as the “go-to” person for administrative, program and fund development assistance. Emma grew up in Nevada County. Prior to joining Bright Futures, she worked with NEO assisting with marketing and fund development. Emma graduated from Willamette University with her Bachelor’s degree in English.

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