YouthBuild USA Highlights Dedication to Diversity with New Executive Hire and Addition of Two Board Members

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

SOMERVILLE, Mass., June 26, 2019 — YouthBuild USA today announces the hiring of a chief program officer who will be joining the most diverse executive leadership team in the nonprofit’s history. The organization is also adding two new Board members, rounding out the nonprofit’s leadership and supervisory teams with three new female leaders. YouthBuild USA recently developed a new strategic plan, which includes a commitment to ensure that its staff reflects the population it serves.

Gina Plata has been named chief program officer, and she will be responsible for the overall performance and effectiveness of YouthBuild USA’s programs. Plata will focus on program leadership and management, partnerships and organizational strengthening as she deepens the connections between YouthBuild USA headquarters and its 252 program sites throughout the nation.

Plata joins a seven-member executive leadership team; three are women and the majority are people of color, advancing YouthBuild’s dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion under CEO John Valverde.

“As YouthBuild grows and strengthens, we continue to bolster our team with exceptional professionals who understand the immense strength of our opportunity youth,” said Valverde. “We are moving into a new era, and Gina – along with our new Board members – is uniquely suited to making positive change in our communities and in the lives of our young people. I’m so looking forward to working with them.”

Plata brings more than 15 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and service agencies in diverse communities to her new role at YouthBuild USA. Most recently, she was the director of education and training at Just-A-Start Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., which is one of 11 Massachusetts-based YouthBuild programs. She was also the adult basic education director of the Jackson Mann Community Center in Allston, Mass. Plata’s career has been dedicated to helping individuals break through cycles of poverty and oppression to advance equality. Previous posts include employment services director for Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia; education director at Concilio Hispano; and community interpreter services program manager for Catholic Charities’ refugee and immigration program.

She is a graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico and earned a masters in leadership from Northeastern University. She resides in Medford, Mass.

Additionally, two new members have been added to the Board of Directors, which has overall responsibility for the operations of YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild International. The Board consists of 18 committed individuals, with the majority coming from diverse backgrounds. All have relevant expertise in the fields of public policy, research, financial management, law, advocacy, nonprofit management, corporate management, housing, youth development and community economic development.

Jody Cornish, a social impact and philanthropic advisor, has been elected to the YouthBuild Board of Directors. She currently serves as senior advisor for innovation and investment at City Year in Boston, Mass., and was previously the managing partner of New Profit, a Boston-based venture philanthropy fund.

Kathy Witsil, managing director for Chase Auto Finance Operations in Delaware, has also been elected to the YouthBuild Board of Directors. Witsil’s past roles include leadership positions in other Chase divisions including Card Services, Small Business Banking and Student Loans. She is the executive sponsor for the VETS employee group and the Employee team that promotes community engagement in Delaware. She also holds seven patents in the areas of data, payment devices and card design.

YouthBuild programs across the U.S. help unemployed and out-of-school young people ages 16 to 24 attain their high school diploma or equivalent credential. During that time, they also learn career skills by building affordable housing and other community assets in their neighborhoods while engaging in community service and leadership training. Graduates leave prepared for success in postsecondary education, careers and registered apprenticeships — and as a part of a strong and supportive global community.

YouthBuild USA provides training and technical assistance, leadership development, pass-through grants, quality assurance and advocacy for YouthBuild programs. YouthBuild USA advocates on behalf of YouthBuild programs and students to sustain and expand funding for local YouthBuild programs.

About YouthBuild USA

YouthBuild USA is the nonprofit support center for 300 local YouthBuild programs operating in 21 countries, with 252 programs in 46 U.S. states and 48 programs in 20 other countries. In YouthBuild programs, unemployed, low-income, and out-of-school young people ages 16 to 24 work toward their high school diploma or equivalency, while learning job skills by building affordable housing and other community assets in their neighborhoods and engaging in community service and leadership training. Proven effective by the most rigorous program evaluation research, YouthBuild’s comprehensive model gives graduates the confidence and tools they need to become strong, responsible, and ethical young leaders. For more information, visit