The Foundation for Tacoma Students is the backbone nonprofit and staff dedicated to ensuring the continuity, stability and growth of the Graduate Tacoma community-wide movement. Serving as the only cradle-to-career intermediary in Tacoma, the Foundation plays the unique role of helping align organizations, institutions and individuals — community partners — around positive outcomes for students.



Every child has the capacity to be successful with the right resources and support.


We are strengthened by diversity and inclusive of all community voices.


We share data and information to influence and improve outcomes for youth.


We test and try new ideas and actions because we believe in innovation.


We trust in collective ownership and shared responsibility.


We believe in collaboration as the best pathway to achieving our goals.


We are ambitious because our students deserve nothing less.


We celebrate Tacoma as a place people choose to live, learn and lead.

Foundation Priorities

We facilitate a sense of belonging and create shared ownership by engaging Tacoma parents, youth and community (indirectly and directly), policy makers and elected officials from across multiple sectors to address equity gaps facing youth cradle to career.

We provide a trusted source of aggregated, disaggregated, and student-level data for Graduate Tacoma Networks and community partners to best impact and influence improved outcomes for youth and families – cradle to career.

We inform, activate, and elevate the Graduate Tacoma community movement in local, regional, and state policy to affect equitable outcomes and dismantle systems of oppression – cradle to career.

We are a resource for community partners to expand and sustain community’s capacity and capability to improve measurable outcomes for youth by supporting and facilitating continuous skills sharing cradle to career.

We serve as a key intermediary, to help align funding and community resources around strategies that positively impact youth achieving success from cradle to career.

Operationalizing Equity

Equity is an approach. Equity recognizes that we do not all start from the same place because advantages and barriers exist. Equity is a process. By acknowledging these varied starting places, FFTS seeks to correct the imbalance for the most marginalized and minoritized populations.

Our Equity Commitments


Focusing on populations furthest from meaningful opportunities.


Disrupting and dismantling structural and institutional racism and systems that result in oppression.


Aligning and directing resources to populations under-resourced.


Representing the community in which FFTS serves, and at all levels.


Redress past systemic and institutional practices by partnering and contracting with women-owned businesses and business owned and operated by people of color.


Dr. Tafona Ervin

Executive Director

Elvin Bucu

Deputy Director

April Shine

Director of Advocacy & Policy

William Towey

Senior Director of Business & Development

Devin Rydel Kelly

Director of Data

Sarah Detweiler

Data Analyst

Ben Mitchell

Project Manager

Emmeline Call

Executive Assistant & Operations Manager

Leigh Butler

Finance Manager

Chanel Hall

STEAM Network Manager

Wendy Holcomb

Early Learning & Reading Network Manager

Rosie Ayala

Associate Director of Collective Impact

Leandra Shelton

Expanded Learning & Community Engagement Manager

Shaima Shamdeen

Associate Director of Communications


Holly Bamford Hunt | Chair

Executive Director, Bamford Family Foundation

Stuart Young | Vice Chair

Managing Principal, BCRA Design

Grant Hosford | Secretary

Retired Principal

Cassandra Mitchell | Treasurer

SVP Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, KeyBank of WA

Ivan Harrell III | At-Large

President, Tacoma Community College

Josh Knudson | At-Large

Vice Chancellor for Advancement, University of WA Tacoma

Lois Bernstein

Chief Community Executive, MultiCare Health System

Shon Sylvia

Executive Director, Metro Parks Tacoma

Sara Irish

Pierce County Engagement Specialist, Molina Healthcare

Lyle Quasim

Community Volunteer, Tacoma-Pierce County

Matt Martinez

Director of Content, KNKX Radio Station

Richard Remmert

Production Engineering Manager, The Boeing Company

Carla Santorno

Superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools

Tanisha Jumper

Director of Media & Communications, City of Tacoma

Patty Rose

Secretary Treasurer, Pierce County Central Labor Council

Brooke Johnson

Managing Attorney, North x Northwest Law Group

Arielle Flesher

Administrative Assistant, City of Tacoma

Victoria Woodards

Mayor, City of Tacoma

Melannie Denise Cunningham

Director of Multicultural Outreach & Engagement, Pacific Lutheran University

Carrie Prudente Holden

President & CEO, Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound

Andrea Cobb

Board President, Tacoma Public Schools