Dreams 33 Founders Erica and Tori met in 2000 and have spent many nights dreaming about ways they could, together, make a difference in the world. Finally, in 2017 Tori read an article in People Magazine about a young woman graduating from USC who had been in the foster care system. The article stated that 3% of foster youth graduated college. Upon reading this, Tori called Erica and said, “I found our nonprofit, 3% is simply not enough.” And from that moment, Dreams33 was born.
Tori graduated from the University of San Diego in 2001, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English and minoring in psychology and sociology. She attended Notre Dame de Namur University to obtain her California teaching credential and a master’s degree in English, with an emphasis in creative writing. She also has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of San Francisco. Post-college, she spent 10 years in education, mostly teaching middle school English and math. She is currently on the board of directors of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. From 2009 to 2019, she served as the President of the Burns Family Foundation, a private foundation which provides financial support to local 501c3 non-profits organizations, typically those that focus on youth education and sports. She previously sat on the board of directors for Palcare Child Care Center.
Erica graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Clinical Psychology. Before co-founding Dreams33, Erica worked for thirteen years developing programs for the homeless, battered women, and low-income. She served as Director of Housing Services working to break the cycle of homelessness. Her focus was to create paths for the underserved to find stability and personal growth. Erica also spent four years as the Executive Director of the Fremont Union High School Foundation, before leaving to raise her three children. Over the last six years, Erica has also served her community as Fundraising Chair for both Redwood City Little League and a local elementary school.
“After my years working with the homeless population, I realized my passion would be better served trying to break the cycle earlier. Many foster youth today are struggling through so much that they can’t imagine having dreams to strive for. Whatever circumstances put them in foster care should not define their worth and their future. Every child needs someone to remind them their dreams are possible. Dreams33 believes a good education is a door to a better independent future and we want to help make that possible for every child.”
Meet the Team
Gina Manion Harder
Scholar Advocate Manager
Gina Manion Harder graduated from UCLA in 2001, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minoring in Business Administration. Prior to joining Dreams33, Gina worked at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Community Relations, developing and managing programs offered to children and families in the community. She went on to work in higher education at Rice University for many years in Development, Special Events, and Alumni Relations. Working closely with administrative and academic leaders as well as students, Gina developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for education and the need for it to be more accessible. As a Dreams33 Scholar Advocate, she is dedicated to supporting the Dreams33 scholars and providing them resources to meet their educational goals.
Katie graduated from the University of Kansas in 2017 with her a bachelors degree in Psychology. Katie has been a volunteer for CASA in San Mateo county for over 3 years. She works as a mentor and support system for many foster youth. She will be graduating with her Masters in Developmental Psychology in December. As a scholar advocate, Katie is excited to use her past experiences to help all Dreams33 youth to achieve their goals and reach their highest potential.
Lori started her career in the financial industry where she worked as an executive assistant and director of public and client relations. She then gained valuable experience as a parent helping her three daughters navigate the education system, including the college admissions process. Two of her daughters have gone on to work in public education, one as a teacher and one as a social worker. Their perspectives have helped her become even more aware of the challenges young people face in education today. Lori is passionate about Dreams 33 and their mission to help foster youth achieve their goals. She is excited to use the practical and administrative skills she has developed throughout the years to contribute to the Dreams33 team.
Our Board Members
Ruth Alexander has over 20 years of Human Resource experience, 15 of which have been in a leadership role. She has worked with a variety of industries including high technology, biotech-non-profit organizations, financial institutions, venture capital firms, law firms, education organizations and public agencies. Ruth is passionate about helping others and finding resources needed to help them succeed. Dreams33 will be the first board that she will sit. She believes that Dreams33 will provide a life-long connection with foster youths, which is essential to their future success. A proud mother of two daughters, Ruth currently lives with her family in Pittsburg, CA.
Steve graduated from San Francisco State University in 2000 with a degree in broadcasting. He currently sits on the board of directors of Unravel Pediatric Cancer Foundation and is a member of the committee on athletics at San Francisco State University. He also previously served as an advisor to the Burns Family Foundation. Steve’s interest in Dreams33 lies in his belief that every child, regardless of circumstance and background, should have every opportunity to further their education and be able to achieve the life they want. He truly believes that Dreams33 will benefit the population of foster youth by providing them with the resources and opportunities that may not otherwise be available to them.
Caitlin is a human resources leader passionate about advocating for the highest levels of fairness and respect in the workplace. Caitlin graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011 with a degree in Conservation of Natural Resources and then graduated from the University of California Hastings, College of the Law. Caitlin’s experience as a human resources leader has granted her a unique perspective regarding how the socioeconomic background of individuals greatly affects the work-related opportunities available to them, starting at the level of education. Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserves an equal opportunity to have a higher education and Caitlin believes that Dreams33 changes foster childrens’ lives forever by providing them with the resources, opportunity and education needed to succeed in their careers.
Jon received his B.A. from Santa Clara University in Economics. In 2011 he founded an Investment Advisory firm (Riley Friedman Asset Management) that primarily serves individual investors. As an active member of the community he volunteers for several organizations. In addition to the Foundation, he serves on the Member Advisory Group of Star One Credit Union, is an officer of ICF Branch 47, and is on the School Advisory Council of Saint Joseph Mountain View. Jon decided to join the Dreams33 board because he was moved by an event he attended a few years ago, held by Pivotal. Hearing the stories of the difficult path many foster children face was truly eye opening for him and after the event he realized he wanted to be part of helping youth in similar positions change their lives. Jon’s goal for Dreams33 is to helping to provide the education and resources foster youth need to reach their full potential.
Samantha graduated from University of San Francisco in 2014 with a degree in kinesiology. After working in schools for three years, she earned an MSW at Fordham University in Spring 2020. Dreams33 Foundation will be the first board on which she sits. Sam wants to serve Dreams33 because, she explains, “As I’ve gained perspective thus far in my life, I have learned how privileged I have been to have stability in my financials, educational experience, and housing. These resources allowed me to transition into adulthood safely and securely. Many youth who transition out of the foster care system into adulthood do not have the support I did, but do have an incredible potential for success. At Dreams 33, I hope to watch this organization work hard to lessen that opportunity gap. I believe Dreams 33 can empower and lift-up the foster care community, not just to serve it, but to work in tandem with those who have insight and understandings that will help build positive programming and support systems for so many young people.”