Important Leadership News from Board Chair Jennifer Friedman

Tags: Leadership News

After 12 years with First Place for Youth, CEO Sam Cobbs has announced his departure, effective February 19th. We are so thankful for Sam’s years of passionate, dedicated service and success, as First Place has grown to become California’s largest provider of housing and supportive services for transition-age foster youth.

Sam became CEO of First Place in 2005, at a time when the organization was housing 70 young people, with fewer than 20 staff working out of an office in downtown Oakland. Today, First Place is on track to house more than 620 young people, serving more than 1,600 throughout all our programs. More than 125 dedicated and talented staff across six California counties ensure we continue to set high expectations—for ourselves, for the young people we serve, and for our communities.

Our growth has been matched by strong youth outcomes: last year, 83% of all program participants were working or in school and 96% had obtained their high school diploma or GED certificate, or were on track to finish. Our community of supporters makes all of this incredible impact possible. Thank you.

What’s next for First Place? The life-changing work of First Place continues. We’re making great progress on our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, including having expanded nationally to Boston and Mississippi through our Affiliate Network. Additional growth is planned in California, and as always, our focus will remain on improving outcomes for young people. Our $15 million Growth Campaign, currently at $11 million, is strengthening the organization’s financial sustainability by further diversifying our resources.

The Board of Directors is deeply engaged in charting the next chapter of growth for First Place. We have appointed a Search Committee and will launch a national search for our next CEO. We’ll be sharing the job announcement soon and we’ll ask for your help in identifying candidates whom you know to be dynamic, driven leaders and experts, who would be passionate about leading First Place to even greater heights.

The Board has named our fantastic Chief Regional Officer, Hellen Hong, as Interim CEO. For the last four years, Hellen has overseen large-scale growth of First Place’s Los Angeles programs, including doubling the number of young people served, opening two satellite offices, building strong partnerships with Southern California community organizations, and increasing fundraising for our LA efforts by 100%. Hellen will be supported by our outstanding Leadership Team—a team that’s been together for nearly four years—as well as our highly capable and passionate direct-services staff.

We cannot thank Sam enough for his truly visionary leadership. He will be greatly missed by our staff, our Board, our community partners, and of course, the young people in our programs. We’re sad to say farewell to Sam, but we’re also excited to continue to work closely with him in his new role as the Chief Program Officer at Tipping Point Community.


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