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40 Over 40, Pepperdine Magazine

40 Over 40

See how extraordinary Pepperdine alumni are making a difference in their communities and careers

Long after they have left the hallowed halls of their alma mater, Pepperdine graduates continue to pioneer groundbreaking advancements in their careers, promote goodwill and fellowship within their communities, and inspire the ever-growing global community of alumni to follow these same traditions while creating new ones of their own. Selected from hundreds of nominations, these 40 alumni over the age of 40 are distinctly and successfully demonstrating the University’s mission of purpose, service, and leadership through their personal passions and professional accomplishments.

The following excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

See each honoree’s full responses: pepperdine.edu/40over40


Marisa Ala, Pepperdine Alumna1. Marisa Ala (95, JD 98)

Owner, The Ala Firm

Highlands Ranch, CO

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I had the opportunity to argue a residential construction case before the Colorado Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of my client—a significant victory for builders and developers in the state of Colorado that may stimulate the growth of new residential multi-family home construction.

Who or what inspires you?

My 12-year-old daughter, Ariel, who entered the foster care system at only two months old. She fights her history every day. She gets up and tries again, tries to be good, tries to do the right thing and still has empathy for others.

What’s next for you?

I plan to grow my estate planning practice. After living through my own family’s struggles with the passing of my grandparents, I have developed a passion to help people protect the wealth they have worked so hard to build.


Tiffany Baker, Pepperdine Alumna2. Tiffany Baker (MBA 09)

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Oracle

Denver, CO

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I traveled around the world to market Oracle Cloud to top business leaders and IT influencers at events including Oracle OpenWorld—the premier annual event attracting over 50,000 attendees in the IT industry from over 123 countries.

Are you where you thought you would be in life when you were in college?

Beyond my marketing career at different Fortune 500 companies, I am also an entrepreneur, which is something I fantasized about in the Entrepreneur 101 class. I own and operate a medical service business on the side that generates a six-figure revenue annually.

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

The Girl with Gumption. As a teenager, I interned for a local county judge in Montgomery, Alabama, and had to own up to a mistake. Instead of firing me, the judge said, “You’ve got a lot of gumption. Don’t screw up again.” From that moment on, I’ve never been afraid to admit when I’ve made a mistake.


James J. Balla, Pepperdine Alumnus3. James J. Balla (BSM 84, MBA 94)

President/CEO, Pacific Clinics

Los Angeles, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I have had the opportunity to both share and lead in the development of Pacific Clinics—a behavioral healthcare nonprofit organization that provides life-changing services to approximately 25,000 clients annually. This has been accomplished through implementing critical business strategies, adapting to a healthcare delivery system in transformation, and ensuring access to quality care for underserved populations.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

My service in the US Marine Corps was profoundly meaningful. I would have enjoyed a continuing role in the military. The character and spirit of my fellow Marines was uplifting, and the purpose of defending our country and its principles is awe-inspiring.

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

Making a Difference Takes Responsibility


Tamalani Barnett, Pepperdine Alumna4. Tamalani Barnett (99, JD 02)

Founder/Executive Director, RaisingHOPE, Inc.

Thousand Oaks, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

As a lawyer, I had the opportunity to advocate for children who were vulnerable to continued abuse and bring to light the abuse that nobody else noticed. Helping children feel less alone and afraid is one of the greatest privileges I have ever had.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Pepperdine set a standard for the person I wanted to be and helped me move toward being that person. I was inspired to serve others and show the love of Christ to others through my career.

Who or what inspires you?

Teamwork. Any time I see a group of people, especially unlikely allies, working together for a common good, I am completely moved. There is so much division in our world that seeing people put their differences aside to help others stands out as a beacon of light.


Alan Beard, Pepperdine Alumnus5. Alan Beard (94, MPP 99)

Chief Marketing Officer, Fullscreen

Thousand Oaks, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I founded social media agency McBeard along with fellow alumnus Alec McNayr (‘00) and hired dozens of amazing Pepperdine alumni.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Pepperdine has brought great people into my life—at home, at work, and at church. Every day my life is made better by my fellow alumni, especially my wife, Sharon. Everything I’ve accomplished has been in partnership with her. Meeting her was the best moment of my Pepperdine experience.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

I would have enjoyed being a banjo musician.


Stephan Beher, Pepperdine Alumnus6. Stiphan Beher (84)

Advisor on FDI, President’s Office of the Kyrgyz Republic

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

As advisor to the president of the Kyrgyz Republic, I have secured projects supporting the sustainable economic development of the country totaling $170 million USD in the past year and a half. As CEO of a new space start-up, SpaceTek, I have also successfully entered into key partnerships in the spheres of space manufacturing, microgravity research, and space tourism.

Who or what inspires you?

Elon Musk and Jeffrey Manber have faced failure yet continue to open space to commercial enterprise.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” —Winston Churchill

How do you unplug?

Being in central Asia, going to the regional provinces helps me appreciate what we take for granted. I enjoy the isolation from lack of technology.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

I always envisioned a career as a diplomat, bridging cultures and societies.


7. Dain Blanton (94)

Broadcaster/Speaker/Coach

Santa Monica, CA

Dain Blanton, Pepperdine Alumnus

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

Olympicgoldmedalist,beachvolleyball(2000)

First African American to win a major beach volleyball title (1997)

First US male two-time beach volleyball Olympian (2000, 2004)

NCAA champion, men’s volleyball (1992)

Three-time National Championship assistant

Coach (beach volleyball) at USC (2015, 2016, 2017)

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

While at Pepperdine, I won a national championship in volleyball, earned my teaching credential, and received my degree in communications. Men’s volleyball head coach Marv Dunphy (‘74) was the biggest inspiration, as he helped me develop the character and skills that I have used throughout my life.

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

Getting to Gold: the Life and Times of Dain Blanton

What’s one idea you think could change the world?

Help one person each day get closer to realizing their goals.


Kim Carlton Bonner, Pepperdine Alumna8. Kim Carlton Bonner (JD 90)

Circuit Court Judge

Sarasota, FL

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I have taught new judges at their mandatory training for many years and served as dean for an intensive education program focusing on DUI and traffic court cases. Helping new judges learn the ropes and navigate difficult situations while offering support and advice has been the most rewarding way to pay it forward in my career.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

I always do my best to uphold the values of integrity and professionalism that Pepperdine instilled in me as a law student. I am so grateful to the faculty and staff for their support and outreach, especially as a struggling first-year student who needed some guidance and very nearly quit.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

“If you can’t laugh at yourself, someone else will just do it for you.”

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

Books and Naps: A Love Story


Scott Bowling, Pepperdine Alumnus9. Scott Bowling (MA 90)

President/CEO, Exceptional Children’s Foundation

Los Angeles, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

My biggest accomplishment thus far has been expanding the Exceptional Children’s Foundation’s mission impact and creating a unique service continuum with the statutory merger of the Kayne Eras Center into the Exceptional Children’s Foundation in 2007/2008.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Pepperdine’s education, as well as its values, reputation, and influence, helped to strengthen my commitment to service while preparing me for exceptional professional opportunities.

Who or what inspires you?

Leaders who make decisions and take action based on solid values.


Lorraine Hill Brinton, Pepperdine Alumna10. Lorraine Hill Brinton (60)

Semi-Retired Volunteer

Palm Desert, CA, and Glenbrook, NV

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I was president of the Pepperdine Alumni Board for two years and spent 18 years producing a flag-raising ceremony to teach patriotism to our Glenbrook community.

Who or what inspires you?

My mother; a softball coach who taught me to be a good third baseman for our church team; the man who gave me my first job at age 15; Clara Marble, our Zeta Kappa mentor; and Helen Young, who was at Pepperdine for three of my years.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

I would have enjoyed being an event planner. I’ve had the pleasure of planning many special events for the organizations I’ve been associated with.


Dechele M. Byrd, Pepperdine Alumna11. Dechele M. Byrd (MS 01)

Principal, George Washington Preparatory High School

Gardena, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

One of the most significant outcomes of my career is the growth in the number of my students (24 percent) accepted to UCLA in 2016. Having any student accepted into the colleges and careers of their choice each year upon graduation is the ultimate goal.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

“Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.” —Barack Obama

What’s next?

Upon the completion of my doctoral degree, I would like to become a consultant to school districts with at-risk youth or youth who reside in crime-infested communities.


Ray Chips, Pepperdine Alumnus12. Ray Chips (EdD 99)

Program Specialist, Irvine Police Department

Irvine, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

Having a positive impact on the academic success, social maturation, and citizenship responsibility of thousands of students as a high school administrator. In my law enforcement career, providing violent intruder response skills to hundreds of community members.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by teachers and administrators who give so much of themselves daily for the benefit of their students. I am equally inspired by similar sacrifices made by police officers who sacrifice their personal safety and well-being for the benefit of our community daily.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” —Publilius Syrus

How do you unplug?

Fussing over two classic cars, reading historical nonfiction, and working crossword puzzles.


Morgan Christen, Pepperdine Alumnus13. Morgan Christen (MBA 06)

CEO/CIO Spinnaker Investment Group, LLC

Mission Viejo, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

My greatest accomplishment has been launching Spinnaker Investment Group in May 2016. We started with no assets under management and now have over $200 million.

How has Pepperdine impacted your personal/ professional success?

The education from my professors and interaction with my classmates has helped me with managing a firm and personnel. I learned to take a much more global approach to planning and problem solving.

In five words or fewer, what career or life advice would you give a new college graduate?

Learn to pivot.


114. Lance Christensen (MPP 04)

Chief of Staff, California State Senator John Moorlach

Sacramento, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

It’s an honor of a lifetime to work as chief of staff to state senator John Moorlach, the man who saved Orange County from the largest bankruptcy in the nation’s history (until that point). I have been blessed to be a trusted confidant, manager, and leader at the forefront in the many debates on the state’s $265 billion budget, transportation issues, pension reform, and religious liberty.

How do you unplug?

I mow the lawn.

What three things could you not live without?

My wife, Oreo cookies, and Brian Wilson’s music.

What’s one idea you think could change the world?

I’ve rediscovered the prescient aphorism that, in a time of serious need, we need to light a candle rather than simply shout in the dark. At a minimum, light drives out darkness and leads to clarity and understanding.


Stephanie Frame Cupp, Pepperdine Alumna15. Stephanie Frahme Cupp (94)

Program Coordinator, Pepperdine Center for Faith and Learning

Malibu, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

January 2018 will mark my 15th anniversary working for Pepperdine. It has been my privilege to help welcome new faculty into the Pepperdine culture and encourage them to bring their life experiences and faith into the classroom to benefit our students.

How has Pepperdine impacted your personal/ professional success?

From my undergraduate years to being a faculty spouse to working at Pepperdine and now being a Pepperdine parent, Pepperdine has shaped who I am in each of my roles and how I have chosen to live out my story.

Who or what inspires you? Tell us why.

I take daily encouragement from Mother Teresa, who taught deep lessons about being faithful in the small things, treating each person I meet as if they were Jesus, and learning first to love those closest to me before trying to tackle the world.

Are you where you thought you would be in life when you were in college?

Definitely not! I thought I’d be a nurse out in the jungle somewhere in South America.

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

The Goat Girl: From Ranch to University, Lessons I’ve Learned About Community


Andy Dunbar, Pepperdine Alumnus16. Andy Dunbar (JD 99)

General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer, Bel Air Investment Advisors LLC

La Cañada Flintridge, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

One of the very first investigations I led as an enforcement lawyer at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) turned out to be one of the largest Ponzi schemes in US history at that time. Heading up that case opened the door to more high-profile cases while at the SEC and ultimately gave me the experience that helped me succeed as a partner at a big firm.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

I try to live simply, be grateful, practice mindfulness, and be present.

Are you where you thought you would be in life when you were in college?

I graduated college without any clue of a career. I was a blackjack dealer in Lake Tahoe for a while, and I knew it wasn’t a long-term career option. My oldest brother is a lawyer, and I figured having a law background would open additional career options and provide a bit more job security.


Marv Dunphy, Pepperdine Alumnus17. Marv Dunphy (74)

Retired Men's Volleyball Coach Teacher, Pepperdine University

Malibu, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

Helping the Pepperdine men’s volleyball program develop good players and good people.

Who or what inspires you?

The great young people who have allowed me to coach them over the years.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

“Individuals never lose the desire to be treated as individuals.” —John Wooden

What three things could you not live without?

Family, good health, and great friends—and, of course, great players!

What’s one idea you think could change the world?

Take care of your own front porch.


Jim Freitas, Pepperdine Alumnus18. Jim Freitas (MBA 14, PKE 132)

Managing Director, Product Marketing and Analysis, Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Snohomish, WA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I have been fortunate to be in leadership roles developing, testing, and supporting some of Boeing’s most successful airplanes. My most significant accomplishment is seeing the career growth of young people that I have been able to mentor. Knowing they will mentor others makes it almost eternal.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

My great-great-grandfather immigrated to California from the Azores Islands in the 1860s. He bought land in central California and raised cows, sheep, and chickens. Every now and then I wonder what it would be like to be a rancher.

What’s one idea you think could change the world?

Hydroponic biofuels (algae grown in salt water that consumes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen while growing) providing a nearly carbon-neutral energy source for cars, trucks, and airplanes.


Seth Gamradt, Pepperdine Alumnus19. Seth Gamradt (96)

Director of Orthopaedic Athletic Medicine, Gamradt Orthopaedics

Associate Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery, USC Keck School of Medicine

Los Angeles, CA

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Professors within the Natural Science Division provided a scholastic foundation to continue my education at an Ivy League medical school and fostered my confidence to succeed in a highly competitive field.

Who or what inspires you?

It seems like our students and trainees are smarter and more impressive every year, which challenges me to be the best surgeon, mentor, and educator I can be.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

“Your opponent is still training.” It motivated me in high school, and it still motivates me to never rest on past accomplishments.


Stacey A. Gordon, Pepperdine Alumna20. Stacey A. Gordon (MBA 07)

Founder/CEO, Rework Work

Los Angeles, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

One of the most significant accomplishments of my career is having had the opportunity to impact people’s lives by creating strategies to overcome unconscious bias. I receive messages every day from people who have taken my course and hear stories of how they have changed their behaviors.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Pepperdine has been instrumental in helping me make the impact I have had the opportunity to make. I have contributed as a speaker to Pepperdine’s women’s events, diversity events, and career-related events—all of which align directly to my work as a career strategist and diversity educator.

In five words or fewer, what career or life advice would you give a new college graduate?

Be humble enough to learn.


George Goubran, Pepperdine Alumnus21. George Goubran (MBA 16, PKE 135)

Cofounder/Chief Technology Officer, Built On Vision

Ladera Ranch, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

Owning my own companies, being an involved father of five, and trying to be there for my wife, friends, and family while maintaining the workload of an MBA was a challenge, to say the least. When graduation day came, all those challenges simply faded into a proud moment as we all walked that Pepperdine stage together.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

The PKE program gave me a greater understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. Being in a class with highly successful yet extremely different personalities and strengths gifted me the ability to realize that one way of doing something didn’t mean it was the only way.

Which quote, mantra, or philosophy motivates you?

One that I always say to the soccer teams I coach is, “You’ll win plays with your muscles, you’ll win games with your mind, but if you play with your heart, you’ll win championships.”


Peggy Grande, Pepperdine Alumna22. Peggy Grande (89)

Author/Keynote Speaker/Specialty Project Consultant

La Cañada Flintridge, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

Working for President Ronald Reagan was the honor and opportunity of a lifetime. To sit right outside the office door of this iconic man for over a decade and serve as his executive assistant left a lasting impact on me. The timeless leadership principles and political civility that he embodied changed my life forever and has the power and potential
to change other lives for the better still today.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

I may have missed my true calling as a trauma doctor. As the mother of four, I have seen many injuries and situations requiring quick analysis, a calm demeanor, and a swift course of action.

What’s one idea you think could change the world?

Live as if your legacy depends on it because it does. Your legacy is not something that is written after you are gone, but is written with every day of your life.


Kimberly (Herman) Hassett, Pepperdine Alumna23. Kimberly (Herman) Hassett (JD 94)

Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

Los Angeles, CA

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

Alternative Sentencing Court programs are designed to reduce recidivism by assisting defendants with their underlying problems that can contribute to criminal conduct. As the alternative sentencing court coordinator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, I am most proud of the people whose lives were changed and the paths that were altered because they were given a chance to participate in treatment rather than incarceration.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Pepperdine gave me a strong foundation for a career in public service and instilled in me the ideals of serving my community and treating others as I would want to be treated.

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

Friends and Chocolate


Zack Hicks, Pepperdine Alumnus24. Zack Hicks (BSM 97)

CEO, Toyota Connected, and SVP, Toyota Motor North America

Dallas, TX

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I’m passionate about driving innovation and unleashing the talent that exists in our company. I’ve been given the opportunity to do so through technology, innovation fairs, and creating a culture of innovation creation. We’ve invented new big data mining capabilities that led to Toyota launching a new start-up.

What career or life advice would you give a new college graduate?

Learn as much IT as you can because it’s needed in every role in every industry. Make lateral moves and don’t always be focused on upward mobility.

What’s next?

I’m leading a new division called Connected Technologies that will build the next-generation in-vehicle connected experience that will help keep you safe and entertained while you’re in and out of our vehicles.


Adam Housley, Pepperdine Alumnus25. Adam Housley (94)

Senior Correspondent, Fox News

Northern and Southern California

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I have met people from around the world and covered some of the most prolific news stories of our time, from the Chilean miners to war zones, tsunamis to the World Series. I am an Emmy, AP, and RTDNA award winner.

How do you unplug?

Working in my yards while listening to music. Traveling anywhere in the world with my family. Working at our winery in Northern California. Rebuilding homes. Watching sports.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

I always wanted to be a professional baseball player and got that opportunity for a few years. Outside of that, an ambassador would be an amazing experience. I’ve also always wanted to develop new businesses and write articles and books.


Jacki Kelley, Pepperdine Alumna26. Jacki Kelley (88)

Chief Operating Officer, Bloomberg Media

New Canaan, CT

Describe your most significant career accomplishment.

I left USA TODAY after 18 years to jump into the deep end of digital. It required me to uproot my family, leave a team I loved, forfeit equity in a brand I helped build, and become a beginner again. It ended up changing the trajectory of my career, but I am glad I felt the fear and did it anyway.

How has Pepperdine impacted your success?

Pepperdine gave me both roots and wings. I gained confidence
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Fall 2017
Accepting Applications
https://www.pepperdine.edu/magazine/2017/11/accepting-applications
11/02/2017 12:30:00 PM
After losing his company in the economic downturn, a chance encounter transforms an entrepreneur’s hunt for a second career
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Dylan Hood - Pepperdine Magazine
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Sara Alamdar
Spotlight
When his lucrative real estate brokerage company suddenly folded during the housing market’s colossal collapse in 2010, Dylan Hood (MPP ’17) became despondent and was desperate for something to cling to. Overwhelmed by thoughts of an uncertain future, his psyche was flooded with competing emotions, the most serious of which engendered suicidal thoughts. One night in his upscale Chicago apartment, Hood was confronted with two options: end it all or spend the remainder of his life making a meaningful contribution to the world.

Inspired by the notion of making a positive difference in people’s lives, Hood began to explore a second career as a substance abuse counselor in an effort to help others battling the same demons he once faced.

“I believe that everyone deserves a second chance,” he expresses. “There were plenty of ways that I could have wound up behind bars, but the grace of God helped me.”

While receiving his training at a small community college, he met a classmate who shared his desire to support those who had become detached from society due to drug use, involvement in crime, incarceration, and other factors. This notion planted a new seed in Hood’s mind—that the ideal profession for him would utilize his real estate expertise in specific ways to help individuals overcome life-altering personal struggles.

Over the next couple years, as part of an independent project, Hood spent countless hours interviewing staff members at numerous prisons throughout the United States, asking each one the same two questions: why are recidivism rates so high and how can they be reduced? After speaking with hundreds of subjects, he found that none of them could offer a satisfactory answer.

What he eventually learned was that availability of mentorship and resources can reduce recidivism by 27 percent, a concept he refers to as “the 800-pound telephone.” Hood has a personal understanding of the strength it takes to seek help and reinforces that the phone can suddenly seem too heavy to lift during times of trouble.

“In our minds, we think that if we call people to ask for help, they’ll think we’re weak and they won’t respect us. We feel like we’ll be bothering them,” he shares, adding that calls for help are rarely ever made.

In 2013, with deeper knowledge of what formerly incarcerated individuals experience after leaving prison, Hood founded Freedom House Reentry, Education and Employment Corporation (FREE), a Chicago-based organization that assists recently released inmates transition back into society.

Between July 1 and December 31 of this year, in partnership with Verizon Wireless, FREE has offered the Get Help AppTM Phone Program (GHAPP) to a test group of 1,200 individuals exiting Illinois prisons. The mobile phone application, which provides formerly incarcerated individuals with mentorship and employment opportunities, mental health and medical counseling, and a direct link to resources for successful and sustained reentry back into their communities, has been pre-downloaded on iPhone 6 devices and is free of charge for all participants.

Specifically designed to respond to this population’s unique 24/7 on-demand needs, GHAPP offers three ways to access help: “Speak” (to call mentors), “Text Message” (to write to mentors), and “Refer a Resource” (managed by trained operators to locate any resource—from hair salons to grocery stores to shopping centers—based on the phone’s GPS settings).

“Our mentors are peer mentors,” Hood points out, “which means they were formerly incarcerated. We are employing them and paying them a living wage.” A training module is also being developed through a partnership with Adler University, a Chicago-based institution offering degrees in psychology, couples and family therapy, rehabilitation counseling, and community health.

In the event that mentors interact with users who require a more advanced level of counseling than they are trained to provide, calls may be transferred at any time to a dedicated on-duty clinician. Several usage restrictions have also been strategically imposed on the phones to flag inappropriate behaviors and illegal activities, and communications will be tracked to ensure ethical boundaries are not crossed.

“We want the mentors to listen and to share their own experiences because they have gone through the same processes as the people they are speaking with. But we are really stressing that we do not want them to give advice to anyone,” Hood reveals.

Once GHAPP becomes available in nine additional states after January 2018, FREE plans to introduce a similar application for veterans involved in the criminal justice system—the Vet Help App Phone Program— with test programs scheduled to launch in California and New York in late 2017.

FREE’s next partnership will be with Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC), to build drop-in centers for children with incarcerated parents in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York—a natural collaboration given CPNYC offers after- school and summer day camp programs that uniquely and attentively address the welfare of this specific group. Once open, the drop-in centers will coordinate bonding visits, “which means we will take a busload of children to a correctional facility so they can visit their parents and keep those family bonds alive,” Hood explains.

While traveling nonstop between Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York to raise awareness of FREE’s cause, Hood recalls how his time at the School of Public Policy and School of Law (where he is currently a student) have equipped him with the necessary tools to secure such substantial partnerships with government-operated entities and international corporations.

“When I originally wanted to gain a better understanding of policy, I was specifically interested in identifying how to get things done,” he notes.

“Through all of the [course-required] reading, I learned that making changes in policy is really about influence. Money has a lot to do with it, but you don’t have to have money. What you have to have is persistence and drive, and to not feel intimidated. I persist until I get results.”