Founder & Executive Director
Sandra Whitley is the Founder and Executive Director of Thrive Youth Center, Inc. Ms. Whitley graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Business. She also obtained a Paralegal certificate, and for ten years worked as a Paralegal with the 2nd largest law firm in Florida. Over the next 20 years, she owned two businesses, but always had the desire to help LGBTQ youth due to her own negative experiences of being a young, “out” lesbian living in the Panhandle of Texas.
After the sale of her second business in 2013, she began researching how she could best serve LGBTQ youth and young adults. She found an epidemic of LGBTQ homeless youth in the United States, with only six shelters in the country specifically addressing this issue. She opened Thrive Youth Center, the first LGBTQ-specific shelter in the southern United States, in San Antonio in February 2015.
Greg Casillas started with Thrive in October of 2017 as the Life Skills Program Manager and this position allowed him to support youth through every avenue of their emerging life off the streets. He created a program for these youth that centers around 7 major areas of life; Daily Living, Self Care, Housing & Money Management, Relationships & Communication, Work & Study Life, Looking Forward, and Permanency.
Now as the Assistant Director, Greg is moving the organization forward through policy development, community engagement, community partnerships, and funding opportunities. Greg is focused on cultivating partnerships with community providers to offer a wide range of services to youth experiencing homelessness.
Greg is active in the community, serving as a resource to San Antonio and the surrounding area. He was a member of the selection committee that appointed San Antonio citizens to Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board. He is the current co-chair for the Ryan White Program and the End Stigma End HIV Alliance of San Antonio. He actively serves on several community based initiatives and university-based student projects.
Prior to living in San Antonio, Greg lived in Costa Rica for 17 years. He is a yoga teacher, a Quaker, sports enthusiast, likes to cook and is looking forward to a long career serving the community. Greg and his husband John are “Dads” to two dogs, 10 cats and an opossum named Mabel.
He often reminds people that “Silence = Permission” and that, “It takes one voice. Let it be yours.”
Director of Case Management
Nicole Cornevin holds an MA in Psychology and obtained her BA from Texas A&M University – San Antonio. She joined Thrive Youth Center as a case manager in 2018, providing case management for both emergency shelter and housing program clients. Prior to joining Thrive, Nicole spent several years as a caseworker for the state investigating abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled individuals. Nicole also has experience in the corporate world, having held positions with American Express and USAA, and has volunteered with Fiesta Youth and Paws for Service in the past.
Nicole’s life experience of having dropped out of school after coming out as a teen shaped her desire to work with LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, with hopes of playing a part in showing them that they are not alone in their own life journey, no matter the circumstances.
When she’s not working, Nicole enjoys traveling, writing, doing creative artsy projects, interior decorating (translation: shopping), and spending time with her beloved dachshund Snoodle (who has her own Instagram and TikTok account).
Housing Program Manager, Continuum of Care
Born and raised in south Texas, David Guajardo-High completed his undergraduate work at Texas A&M University – San Antonio. He attended graduate school at Duquesne University in Pittsburg, where he received his master’s degree in special education community and support.
David has always been driven by helping others, and identifies as a happily married gay male, so working for Thrive Youth Center was a natural and perfect fit. He is one of two housing program managers and has enjoyed his employment with Thrive since July of 2019.
David and his husband eagerly await the day when they can once again travel safely, but for now, love each other’s company as well as the company of their three cats.
Fundraising and Development Manager
Justin Holley is a passionate Servant Leader who built his knowledge and skills in the service industry. Understanding the service side of business is a skill that can lead down many pathways in life. He believes building strong partnerships is key to being able to spread the word about the needs of the community. Now having the opportunity to be part of the team at Thrive allows him to use these skills to share the message of how this vital organization has a positive impact on the community we live in.
Any opportunity he can, Justin can be found exploring. Riding bikes, traveling, gardening and spending time with his dogs, rabbits and chickens.
YHDP Case Manager
Bernard Aleman joined Thrive Youth Center in 2021. Bernard came to Thrive with a background of over 25 years in various case management capacities, group home settings, and agency experience in serving youth and young adults.
Bernard’s philosophy driving his professional case management work is that it isn’t just a job, it’s a mission. Bernard has appreciated the open and accepting environment at Thrive and looks forward to guiding young adults toward being the best version of themselves every day.
Housing Program Manager
Erin Kirby attended a prestigious Catholic school in Seguin, TX, and later studied mass communications and psychology at San Antonio College, after which she planned to pursue her dream of joining a glam rock band in California. Life had a few other plans, and today, Erin is the proud mother to an adult daughter, along with being an important role model to Thrive’s emergency shelter youth. Erin has over 25 years of experience in the retail field working for companies such as Toys R Us and Nordstrom, and also has extensive experience working in school settings, childcare, and nanny positions.
Erin first became interested in joining the Thrive team after hearing about the various ways Thrive staff help the youth they work with. Always up for a challenge, Erin excels in a constantly changing environment, as every day in Thrive’s emergency shelter is different. Erin enjoys knowing that she is working for an organization that is helping to make a difference in youth’s lives, and takes pride in the sense of accomplishment this brings to her work.
While Erin is passionate about the young adults she works with, she is equally passionate about animals. When Erin wins the lottery, she will likely be found in a tropical destination as an exotic animal caretaker. Erin is a big fan of reggaeton, bachata, salsa, and merengue music and enjoys horror movies, criminal minds, cooking, baking, reading, fashion, fast & furious cars, and spending time with her two furbabies.
Emergency Shelter Case Manager
Life Skills Case Manager
Brian Hodges obtained his Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies from Texas Lutheran University.
Previously working in the higher education field at University of Texas at San Antonio, Brian was drawn to Thrive Youth Center for the important advocacy and difference the organization makes in the San Antonio community. In his free time, Brian has studied and performed in local theatre around our city.
Youth Benefit Specialist
Hello, my name is LeLisa Watkins and I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I have 26 years of marriage under my belt, seven children, and four grandchildren. I received my high school diploma from Eldorado High and hold Associate Degrees and Certifications from College of Southern Nevada and St. Mary’s University. I am an Interior Designer by trade and have worked on residential and commercial projects. I have a BS in Psychology and a BA in Anthropology. Both were received from Weber State University in Utah.
In my spare time, I enjoy swimming, reading, working out, volunteering, attending church functions, traveling, playing games, spending time with family and friends, entertaining, DIY, decorating, design, and cooking. I enjoy working in positions where I can assist those in need, positions that are a bit challenging, rewarding and where there is always something new to learn. All companies I have worked with thus far: Thrive, CPS, DCFS, HOPE Adoption Agency, Clearfield Group Home, Applegate Senior Facilities, PRS Youth Programs, PRS Senior Program, and Workforce Services just to name a few have literally kept me on my toes. If I could describe myself and my life in two words, those words would be Blessed and Amazing!
Lynn Gonzalez is a dog mama to Gucci, who just moved here from California. Lynn has worked in child case management for the past few years with an immense care for children and youth. She is quickly settling into her new Thrive home and is excited for her new journey! When not napping/powering up for her nights at Thrive, you can catch watching all things True Crime, at Hobby Lobby or catching a flight with Gucci to Cali!
Weekend Case Manager
Education and Employment Aide
Ashlee is a Georgia native, who has a deep love for chicken wings and naps. Ashlee earned her BA from Georgia State University and her MS from Our Lady of the Lake University. She’s a lover of random facts and useless information, believes that housing is a human right, and will never turn down a night out.
Ashlee is also a proud mother to a jalapeño plant and a turtle name Lamarcus Aldridge. One day she would like to be a senator and own a mini cow farm.
Nora McCollum is the Accountant at Thrive Youth Center, Inc. Nora graduated from the Texas State University-San Marcos with a BBA degree with a major in Accounting. Almost immediately after graduating, she began working at The Center for Health Care Services. Nora started as an Accountant I and steadily moved her way up to Accounting Manager, responsible for the Payroll, Purchasing and Accounts Payable/Receivable departments. After working there for over 8 years, she moved on and began working part-time for the next 14 years working for Pella Windows & Doors as well as a small CPA firm.
Nora is the first Accountant that Thrive Youth Center has employed, and has said, “I’m truly excited to work for such a great organization and an inspiring director!”
Housing Transition Aide
San Antonio native, Natalia Ramon, started with the Thrive Youth Center early August of 2022 as a Housing Aide. She graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2018 with a BA in Psychology. Natalia, has worked in various industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and IT.
Prior to joining Thrive as an employee, Natalia was a Thrive Youth. She entered the program in September 2018, unsure of her future, but with a dream. With Thrives’ assistance she was able to get back on her feet and have a safe place to be herself.
Natalia is passionate about helping others and through her experience with Thrive she wants to help other youth feel as safe as she did and provide the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth with an opportunity to be successful adults.
Natalia and her wife Natalie are fur-moms to one lovable Beagle-mix, Pumpkin, and a rambunctious cat, Luca.
COC Case Manager