Meet Our Educational Advocates

Treehouse Educational Advocates support students in foster care by providing timely, appropriate education supports and interventions tailored to each individual’s academic and developmental needs.

By partnering with a team of existing supports in a youth’s life — caregivers, caseworkers, teachers, school counselors and community providers — Treehouse Educational Advocates help resolve barriers and identify needed resources for the youth to make progress at school.

Region 1

Adams, Asotin, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln, Okanagan, Pend Orville, Spokane, Stevens, Whitman

Lori Gessler

she/her

Contact me:
509.209.4675
[email protected]

Primary Office: Spokane Valley
Secondary Office: Spokane Central and Colfax
Supervisor: Pamela Holmes-Whyte

I have been an Educational Advocate with Treehouse for over 16 years. I have continuously worked in and with school systems since graduating from Eastern Washington University with a BA in Education. My previous work includes classroom teaching in grades K-12, and managing a Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring Program in 18 elementary schools. My hope when working with youth and their support teams is to impart knowledge, skills and confidence so that they may become an active part in their own advocacy. What brings me joy? Listening to children laughing/playing together.

Slade Martin

he/him

Contact me:
425.606.8053
[email protected]

Primary Office: North Spokane
Secondary Office: Newport and Colville
Supervisor: Pamela Holmes-Whyte

Prior to joining Treehouse, I worked as a Behavioral and Special Education Paraeducator for North Thurston Public Schools. I also have 15+ years of foster care advocacy work with Facing Foster Care in Alaska, a group made up of current and former foster youth dedicated to improving the foster care system through sharing their stories and helping to create policy change. In addition, I earned my Bachelor’s in Social Work from Southern New Hampshire University. My passion for this work comes from my own lived experience as a former foster youth. I spent 14 years in care and went to a total of 10 different schools during that time. I know what it is like to have your education impacted as a former foster youth, and I want to make sure that youth now are receiving the most equitable education that they deserve. In my free time I love to play with my two dogs, and travel with my husband.

Currently Hiring - TBD

Primary Office: Moses Lake and Wenatchee
Secondary Office: Omak
Supervisor: Amber Alvarez

Region 2

Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Kittitas, Klickitat, Walla Walla, Yakima

Maisha Cole

she/her

Contact me:
509.975.9505
[email protected]

Primary Office: Tri-Cities
Secondary Office: Sunnyside and Walla Walla
Supervisor: Amber Alvarez

Before joining Treehouse, I worked as a Co-Occurring Disorder Specialist for a community-based mental health program. Prior to that, I earned my Bachelor’s in Psychology from Gonzaga University. While I was in school, I tutored and advised underrepresented students in the Spokane Public School system on track for higher education. I also worked in Gonzaga’s diversity office where I received DEI training and advocated for diverse student populations on campus. I have a passion for education and am honored to aid youth, schools, and caregivers in their fight for equitable education.

Marissa Radford

she/her

Contact me:
509.306.3579
[email protected]

Primary Office: Yakima
Secondary Office: Ellensburg, Goldendale and Toppenish
Supervisor: Amber Alvarez

Prior to joining Treehouse in November of 2023, I worked for the Yakima County Juvenile Justice Center as an office specialist and program coordinator to the probation unit and Family Treatment Court, respectively. I have experience working with judges, attorneys, social workers and other treatment providers to facilitate the completion of court-ordered plans and help young people overcome barriers to success. In March of 2023, I graduated with a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Grand Canyon University. In addition to advocating for youth, I enjoy playing the piano and spending time at my family’s cabin.

Region 3

Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom

Mary Butowicz

she/her

Contact me:
425.606.7867
[email protected]

Primary Office: Bellingham
Secondary Office: Mt. Vernon and Oak Harbor
Supervisor: Heidi Barden

Prior to joining Treehouse, I worked as both Leadership Coordinator and Career Transition Readiness Coordinator with Cascades Job Corps, an employment training school for students 16-24 working to obtain career training and reduce barriers to employment. As CTR Coordinator, I supported graduating students set career goals, obtain housing and connecting with community resources. I earned my B.A in History from the University of Montana and my Master’s in Teaching from the University of Washington. After obtaining my master’s degree I worked with Seattle Public Schools as a long-term substitute teacher. Things that bring me joy include spending time with my loved ones, reading, and exploring the outdoors! I’m excited to work together and be a part of Treehouse!

Angela Delacruz

she/her

Contact me:
425.535.2367
[email protected]

Primary Office: Smokey Point
Secondary Office: Everett and Sky Valley
Supervisor: Heidi Barden

Before I joined Treehouse, I studied psychology and education at the University of Washington. I interned at the UW’s Community Engagement and Leadership Education (CELE) Center as a Dream Project mentor and mentor coordinator, where I led mentorship visits and mentored youth at Seattle Public High Schools who were currently or soon-to-be navigating post-secondary pathways. Working with students and counselors, I found joy in supporting and empowering youth as they carve out their futures, and found myself dedicated to the cause of ensuring that all youth are provided the resources and equitable support necessary for them to flourish and achieve. In my free time, I also find joy in art, with drawing being my main hobby. I love anything related to art and hold great appreciation towards those who contribute color to our world through it.

Region 4

King

Christi Kessler

she/her

Contact me:
206.294.6606
[email protected]

Primary Office: King West and King East
Secondary Office: Lynnwood
Supervisor: Pamela Holmes-Whyte

I have always held close the two driving forces in my life that have been at the heart of any decision I have made: seeking comfort and providing it for others. Learning how to better serve and uplift others is what motivated me to study Psychology at Sonoma State University. It is what passionately propelled me on the path of human service–from initially supporting students with unique needs in schools to championing youth experiencing foster care as an education advocate now. I find joy in comfy things: a good book, a hearty meal and a warm bed. It is, I feel, only right that I spend what life I have supporting others so they will have the opportunity to seek out and enjoy the privilege that is their own comfort as well. 

Currently Hiring - TBD

Primary Office: MLK and Kent
Secondary Office: ICW
Supervisor: Pamela Holmes-Whyte

Region 5

Kitsap, Pierce

Amanda Rogers

she/her

Contact me:
206.391.7165
[email protected]

Primary Office: Puyallup
Secondary Office: Lakewood
Supervisor: Heidi Barden

I studied early childhood education and family studies at North Seattle College where I received my Bachelors. I spent 10 years working with young children and families in the Seattle preschool program and Childhaven. I spent a year working youth in the foster care system while working for the Department of Children, Youth and Families as a Social Service Support Specialist. I am extremely passionate about education and making sure that students of all ages are able given the proper resources to reach their full potential. What brings me joy is exploring the Pacific Northwest in my free time. Finding a new trail or a waterfall to just spend the day with my family.

Debra Flanagan

she/her

Contact me:
253.686.7475
[email protected]

Primary Office: Tacoma
Supervisor: Heidi Barden

I have a BS in Marketing and a Master’s in Organizational Systems. Market research manager and tech sales were my first two careers. Working on behalf of youth is my 3rd career and the one that I have found the most rewarding. I have been a foster parent, CASA, Peer Partner for families with youth that have emotional, behavioral and mental health disorders, a coach for families with truant youth and an adoptive parent of 5 youth out of the foster care system. In addition, I find joy in traveling, dog shows/sports and spending time with my husband, adult children and their families.

Alexandra Howe

she/her

Contact me:
360.689.8735
[email protected]

Primary Office: Bremerton
Secondary Office: Port Angeles and Port Townsend
Supervisor: Heidi Barden

With over 17 years of dedicated youth advocacy, I bring a wealth of experience to my role as an Educational Advocate at Treehouse. Specializing in cultivating trusting, empathetic, and compassionate environments with a focus on trauma-informed care, inclusive education and conflict resolution. I am dedicated to addressing bias, promoting equity and maintaining a strong foundation in child development and anti-bias principles. Engaged in community involvement and civic outreach, my commitment extends to supporting LGBTQ+ individuals and marginalized youth. As a former foster parent and an adoptive mom to two neurodivergent littles, my connection to this cause runs deep. I reside and work on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, particularly the Suquamish Tribe and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Outside of advocacy, my family and I find joy in outdoor activities with our toy Aussie, exploring new music and expressing our creativity through various art forms.

Region 6

Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Skamania, Thurston, Wahkiakum

Crystal Cowles

she/her

Contact me:
564.244.7804
[email protected]

Primary Office: Kelso
Secondary Office: Tumwater and Centralia
Supervisor: Pamela Holmes-Whyte

Greetings! My name is Crystal Cowles, and I have been in the education field for about 19 years. I have been a paraprofessional in special education classrooms, taught English in China and was a 5th and 6th-grade teacher for seven years. Before joining Treehouse, I taught in a program where adults could earn their high school diploma. I also opened my own doula business and helped birthing people welcome their babies into the world. I enjoy all genres of music and play the clarinet and tenor saxophone. Listening to and playing music is a large part of my life and brings me joy daily.

Nichole Ericksen

she/her

Contact me:
360.580.5076
[email protected]

Primary Office: Aberdeen
Secondary Office: Shelton and South Bend
Supervisor: Pamela Holmes-Whyte

My experience working in Special Education, both professionally and personally, combined with experience working closely with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, has uniquely prepared me to do this work. I find joy in helping families succeed because I know how difficult it is to navigate unknown systems without support. In my spare time I enjoy playing video games with my 6 children and spending time in my garden. I look forward to the opportunity to work together to help our youth succeed.

Robbie Orr

he/him

Contact me:
360.913.4114
[email protected]

Primary Office: Vancouver
Secondary Office: Stevenson
Supervisor: Amber Alvarez

I have been working with youth experiencing foster care in various capacities since 2007. I feel honored to be able to support youth who are experiencing foster care and their caregivers to ensure that they are receiving the best education possible. I believe that public education is one of the most important things that a young person goes through in life, and with the proper support, they will receive the skills that are needed to live up to their dreams, whatever they may be. When I am not working to support others, I like to spend my time skateboarding, playing disc golf, going to concerts and spending time with my dogs and family.

Statewide

Molly Milligan

she/her

Contact me:
360.460.1513
[email protected]

Serving highly mobile youth statewide
Supervisor: Amber Alvarez

My background is in education, specifically at the middle school level. I have a Master’s in Education and a BA in History, which I put to good use as a classroom teacher for 13 years prior to working at Treehouse. In addition to supporting youth, I find joy in family games nights and community theatre productions!

Anna McGree

she/her

Contact me:
509.992.0632
[email protected]

Serving highly mobile youth statewide
Supervisor: Amber Alvarez

Prior to starting at Treehouse, I worked with youth in various settings. I worked in a therapeutic group home for young adults ages 12-17, where I was able to help participants overcome significant trauma they have experienced. I have also worked with youth who have experienced a housing crisis, helping them find safe and stable housing. I enjoy the outdoors, spending time with family and friends and traveling. 

Leadership

Andi Ervin

she/her

Director, Educational Advocacy

Contact me:
360.764.9187
[email protected]

Prior to joining Treehouse in 2018, I was the executive director for a small non-profit in North Central Washington, working to increase trauma-informed systems and substance abuse prevention through community organizing. In 2018 I began my Treehouse journey as an educational advocate. I moved into the role of Regional Manager in 2021. In 2022 I transitioned into the role of Director for Educational Advocacy. I live and work on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, specifically the Nisqually and Squaxin Island peoples. My passion is to create positive systems change in a way that elevates and prioritizes equitable access to education. I am a parent of 4 card-carrying young adults. My most valuable lessons and purest joy has come from those four humans. We live with three delightfully silly dogs – two standard poodles and a Chesapeake bay retriever. I find the most joy in spending time with my family, experiencing nature, hiking, kayaking, skiing, listening to live music and playing with our dogs.

Ari McLaren-Simpson

they/them

Program Manager, Dual-System Involved Youth

Contact me:
253.921.7227
[email protected]

I am a black, queer and non-binary social worker committed to racial equity and community care. I currently occupy the traditional lands of the Puyallup, Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples. I received my master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington in 2020. I have experience working as a Behavior Specialist in an alternative classroom setting and as a Child Welfare Social Worker for DCYF. It is my hope to further the fight for all children and youth across the state of Washington to receive equitable education and equitable opportunities to thrive. Spending time in the community, being in nature and participating in community activism brings me joy.

Pamela Holmes-Whyte

she/her

Regional Manager

Contact me:
206.530.6739
[email protected]

I am from Canada where I was a founding faculty member of the Neufeld Institute, a teaching institute forwarding a developmental, attachment-rooted approach to teaching, parenting and treating children. In that role, I provided seminars, courses and consulting to parents, teachers, social workers and other professionals who work with children. I have six children, four of them grown: bio, step and adoptive, including one adopted out of foster care here in Washington state. My passion for equipping the parents and professionals who work with vulnerable youth is long-standing, leaving me well-suited for my role in the Educational Advocacy program.

Amber Alvarez

she/her

Regional Manager

Contact me:
509.440.3679
[email protected]

My name is Amber Alvarez, and I am a Regional Manager for Educational Advocacy. I joined Treehouse in September 2019 and truly believe in Treehouse’s mission to support youth experiencing the foster care system. I hold a Bachelor of Arts (BA), which I attained at the University of Washington Bothell (UWB). While at UWB, I double majored in Law, Economics & Public Policy, and Society, Ethics, & Human Behavior with a minor in Human Rights. I have over six years of professional experience working closely with students and young adults to support their employment and educational needs. My range of experience includes collaborating with the public school system, local colleges and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). I enjoy relationship building within the communities I serve, especially as a means to best support our youth in care. I find the most joy in my family, friends and dogs. They mean the absolute world to me. I also find joy in thrifting, antiquing and spending time near the healing ocean. I look forward to working with you to serve our youth in care.

Heidi Barden

she/her

Regional Manager

Contact me:
425.324.1607
[email protected]

Throughout my working career, I have worked with youth in a variety of settings in some capacity. Through outdoor education, case management and working directly with schools to support creating education opportunities, I strive to make a meaningful impact. The fresh air of being out on a hike, kayaking and swimming in an open lake all bring me great joy.

Blaire Sebren

he/they

Contact me:
306.328.6190
[email protected]

Educational Advocacy Lead

I’ve lived in Washington state my whole life! I attended community college in Yakima to get my associate’s degree. I earned my B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies from Western Washington University years later. In my professional life, I have worked as a body piercer, a fast-food worker, a barista and more. Within the non-profit realm, I’ve held positions in domestic violence shelters, a crisis helpline and worked as a case manager in a permanent supportive housing program. I’ve also been lucky to volunteer facilitating support groups for queer and trans youth. I am passionate about seeing people holistically with humanity, and it’s important to me that people have as much choice and autonomy as possible in their lives as they navigate tough systems. I find joy in going to the beach, painting, laughing with my friends and hanging out with my dog.