Biographies


Jerry Peterson, Executive Director

Jerry joined the Ruth Ellis Center in June of 2013. Peterson brings more than 30 years of leadership experience in the non-profit sector, including several years dedicated to working with lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

Jerry most recently served as facilitator for the LGBTQ Youth Advocacy Collaborative in Concord, California. He managed an innovative collaboration with six non-profits in Contra Costa County to reduce rejecting behaviors and increase accepting behaviors toward LGBTQ young people in families, schools, service providers, and faith groups. He also spent 14 years with the United Way of Allen County in Fort Wayne  Indiana, where he served as its president and CEO for four years. In this position, Jerry led the $6 million, 30-person organization, nurtured community partnerships and launched a 10-year initiative to improve reading levels of children. Although Peterson was not looking to change careers, upon hearing of the critical work of the Ruth Ellis Center he felt compelled to pursue the opportunity to work and serve the incredible youth at the Center.

Pamela E. Alexander, Deputy Director

Pamela E. Alexander is the Deputy Director at the Ruth Ellis Center, an agency named in the legacy of an African American “Out” Lesbian who passed away at the age of 101.  When the opportunity presented itself for Pamela to work at the Ruth Ellis Center, she expressed her deepest gratitude and honor in serving LGBTQ young people.  Pamela has 30 years of professional experience in working in the human service field and more particularly working with youth and families.  She has an extensive administrative background in program development, policy work, and accreditation compliance.

In addition, Pamela is credentialed in the field of substance use disorders at the state, national and international level.  Pamela has graduate degrees in Business Administration and Urban Planning.  Overall, Pamela feels at home at the Ruth Ellis Center and she is highly optimistic about planning and executing current and future program services.

Mark Erwin-McCormick, CFRM, Director of Development & Advancement

Mark joined the Ruth Ellis Center as Director of Programs in August of 2011 and transitioned to his current position in January of 2013. Erwin is responsible for building strategic relationships within the community, establishing visibility of the Center’s programs and services, providing LGBTQ youth proficiency trainings, and the planning, direction, and coordination of all development activities, including major fundraising events and special projects. Mark is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and is a Good Look Panelist for MTV’s Look Different Campaign.

Erwin-McCormick previously served as the General Manager of the well-known after school program School of Rock in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, serving more than three hundred youth and their families. While at School of Rock, Mark helped to establish a comprehensive scholarship fund on which more than 15% of the youth and families of the School now benefit from.

Erwin-McCormick graduated from Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan and the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mark also holds a Certificate in Fundraising Managment (CFRM) from Indiana University, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Jessie Fullenkamp, LMSW (She/her/hers), Director of Education & Evaluation

Jessie joined the Ruth Ellis Center in 2010.  She led the development and implementation of the first Medicaid billable, LGBTQ specific mental health services in the state of Michigan. Additionally, she directed leadership and advocacy, transgender health and street outreach programs. Recently, she has developed training, education, evaluation and research internally and externally focused on increasing health and safety with diverse SOGIE youth. Fullenkamp has been instrumental in implementing positive youth development, harm reduction, transformative justice and trauma-informed care at the agency.

Jessie studied in Kumasi, Ghana and graduated with a BSW from Xavier University of Cincinnati, Ohio and a MSW from the University of Michigan.  Fullenkamp lived and worked in the Federated States of Micronesia on the island of Weno on education, HIV and women’s issues.  In 2016, Jessie was presented with the “Distinguished Alumni Award” by the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work.

Nicholas Davis-Piotrowski, SHRM-CP, HR Manager

Nick joined the Ruth Ellis Center in 2012 as Office Manager. Davis-Piotrowski manages all human resource functions and ensures the agency has the best staff to provide services for our LGBTQ Youth. His responsibilities include policy development, recruitment and hiring, system development, and enriching the agencies values driven HR philosophy. 

Before joining the Center, Nick was the executive assistant to Slows Bar BQ owner Phillip Cooley, he is a freelance business services consultant, and worked for the University of Detroit Mercy and Detroit Collaborative Design Center. Davis-Piotrowski has a Master’s Degree in Architecture and became a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional in 2016.

Katie Gorney, LMSW, Behavioral Health Director

Katie Gorney, LMSW is a Clinical and Macro Social worker who studied Interpersonal Practice and Management of Human Services at the University of Michigan, where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Katie has experience as a clinical therapist (outreach and outpatient), as well as supervising mental health staff and programs. Katie is nationally certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is passionate about helping youth and families heal after experiencing trauma(s). Katie also has her Addictions Certificate through the University of Michigan to support clients in making desired changes in their lives. Furthermore, Katie and a colleague developed a LGBTQ Group Curriculum to provide a safe space for youth (in CMH services) to connect with peers while promoting resilience.

Katie remains anchored in socially just, strengths-based services and supports and believes she has a duty to advocate and work toward equitable and quality services for all individuals.

Staci Hirsch, Psy.D, Residential Director

Dr. Hirsch has her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and has been in the mental health arena for nearly 33 years.  Dr. Hirsch has worked in a variety of settings – from community mental health to substance abuse treatment – with a wide variety of populations.

Prior to joining Ruth Ellis Center, she served as the Program Supervisor for a permanent supportive housing program within Neighborhood Service Organization.  Dr. Hirsch lives in the Detroit suburbs with her life partner, “Mr. Grumpy”, a whimsical adult daughter, “L.G.” and a neurotic dog named Sadie. 

Lilianna Angle Reyes, Second Stories Drop In Center Director

Lilianna Angel Reyes, trans Latina woman and Public administration graduate from the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School, has extensive history in leading organizations and coalitions focused on reducing social and health disparities of marginalized populations including people of color, trans women of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and HIV positive communities.

Reyes has worked with many state and national civil rights organizations as well as corporate entities including Affirmations, Planned Parenthood, Detroit Police Chief’s LGBT Advisory Council, Transgender Michigan, Consumers Energy, and many others. She has been recognized in USA Today’s 2017 Faces of Pride, Michigan leader. She most recently spoke at the United Nations on the status of trans women of color in the global call for women’s success.

Reyes is a Founding Mother and current Executive Director for a transformative Detroit-metro non-profit, The Trans Sistas of Color Project (TSCOP).