Life Directions staff 

President and Chief Executive Officer
Rev. John E. Phelps, C.Ss.R.
Rev. John E. Phelps, C.Ss.R.
President and Chief Executive Officer

Father John Phelps is the President and C.E.O. of Life Directions, which he co-founded in 1973 with four other concerned Detroit citizens, Fr. Alex Steinmiller, CP; Sister Rosalie Esquerra, OP; Alexander & Judith MacDonald. He is a Roman Catholic Priest, ordained in 1968, and belonging to a religious community of men called the Redemptorist Congregation. Fr. Phelps’ primary work is among young adults (13-35 years of age). Life Direction has kept the primary focus on those on the verge of dropping out of school and into self-destructive life choices; especially for those who come from families below or near the poverty line. Among his many academic achievements, Fr. Phelps holds a Bachelor's of Philosophy Degree with a minor in Psychology, Master of Arts Degree in Religious Education and a Master of Divinity Degree. In 1999, he completed a four-day Executive Training course offered by the Gallup Organization in Lincoln NE. From 2005-to-2007, Fr. Phelps served as pastor of St. Alphonsus “Rock” Church in St. Louis, MO and President of Nativity-Miguel Middle School in St. Louis, serving 350 pre-school to 8th grade students. In 2009, he returned to Life Directions as full-time CEO. Fr. Phelps is a renowned preacher and lecturer.  He has led hundreds of workshops in cities, colleges, and universities throughout the United States and abroad. In1990, Fr. Phelps was invited to bring Life Directions to Chicago. In partnership with the co-founders, in 1993, he established Life Directions USA as a not for profit organization incorporated in the State of Illinois and doing business in 4 additional states. Additionally, his work had led him to be highly sought after as a consultant on issues concerning at-risk youth.  He has served with many various ecumenical organizations, church groups, corporations and educational institutions that are striving to place a priority on developing inclusive partnerships among people of diverse backgrounds and economic differences. With Fr. Phelps’ leadership, Life Directions has been working for over 40 years to promote the powerful dynamic of Peers Inspiring Peers Through Forgiving.

Danielle Hilliker, MSM
Danielle Hilliker, MSM
Executive Director

Before joining Life Directions, Danielle consulted with and led various nonprofit organizations through strategy and growth. Hilliker served as the VP of Development and Communications at the Center for Success Network, Director for Read to a Child, Area Director of Special Olympics of Michigan and Executive Program Associate for the Michigan Woman’s Foundation. In the role as Area Director, Danielle gained an expertise in strategically forming programs to gain public awareness and increasing program funding. In her time spent with the Michigan Women’s Foundation she was awarded a national fellowship with Cross Generational Women Leaders in Washington D.C., a program that partners young and senior women leaders on key issues within state and national levels. A very prestige accomplishment funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the fellowship only accepts five applicants a year. Danielle also served as a board member for Teen Hype (Helping Youth by Providing Education), an organization targeting educational development, solid peer, and community relationships and on the Diversity and Inclusion Council for Troy School District. With the passion to build strong communities, she stands firm in believing that reaching youth everyday can have a positive impact and build future leaders for generations to come. Danielle holds a Master of Science from Spring Arbor University, concentrating in Management Organizational Development and is currently pursuing her PhD in Public Policy and Administration focusing on international NGO’s.

Bonnie Remenapp, Operation Mgt.
Bonnie Remenapp
Operations Manager

 

Detroit
Annette Howard
Annette Howard
Project director

Annette Howard has worked as Project Director for Life Directions since 2013. She has a deep commitment to and expertise in working with youth. She’s involved with the implementation and delivery of the Peer Motivation and Peer Mentor Programs for Middle and High School Students as well as the Summer Youth Employment Program. As a former, Licensed Foster Care Parent, Annette has compassion for teen survivors of abuse, neglect and human trafficking. As an advocate, Annette is a voice for the voiceless, poor and most abandoned. Annette has over twenty years’ of Criminal Justice experience in both Adult and Juvenile Sectors. She is sensitive to and has worked closely on many occasions with different ethnic, religious, racial groups both via civic and governmental organizations. She is an active member of the Michigan and National After-School Association, Youth Alliance Partnership, Neighborhoods of Hope Steering Committee (convened by State of Michigan and Casey Foundation), and Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care. Annette has over twenty years’ of Criminal Justice experience in both Adult and Juvenile Justice. Annette holds a BA in Social Work from the University of Detroit, and Masters of Art degree in Pastoral Counseling from Ashland University.

Jacqueline Alvarez
Jacqueline Alvarez
Program Associate

I was born and raised in Southwest Detroit, and I am deeply privileged to work for a nonprofit that serves that very same community I grew up in. I graduated from the #1 second to none Cass Technical High School and earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 2016 #GoBlue! As a Program Associate with Life Directions I implement and develop our core programs, coordinate youth-led activities, and continuously work on program expansion. I love my work as it allows me to give back to my community and provides me a front row seat to watch our youth defy all odds in the infamous Motor City.

Laura Olmeda
Laura Olmeda
Administrative Assistant

Fluent in both Spanish and English,my expertise was as a Bilingual advertising professional, with extensive production and customer service experience. Identifying, organizing and managing media assets, metadata and physical storage for both retail and corporate clients has been my expertise. Maintained detailed inventory of media assets for quarterly and annual storage billing which contributed to increased revenue. Problem solving and troubleshooting, client management support, planning and implementing pro-active procedures were daily challenges. Established contact with key personnel within production companies and editorial houses, organize information and provide a detailed record for easy reference on projects for the client. A strong team builder, leader and player. In the last four years I have devoted much more of my time and skills to volunteering in the community. I have always felt the need to give back, or better said, "Give Forward". My commitment to our youth in the community is important to me as a mother, and grandmother. Currently, we are making a difference in the lives of our youth in the local high schools, by partnering young professionals and mentors with Life Directions. As a Tutor in the All Saints Literacy Center it is challenging and extremely rewarding to assist adults with learning how to speak, read, and write the English language.

Fr. Tat T. Hoang, C.Ss.R.
Fr. Tat T. Hoang, C.Ss.R.
Program Associate

Father Tat T. Hoang was born in 1972 in Saigon, Vietnam. He came to the United States in 1993 with his family as political refugees. He entered into the Redemptorists in 1998. He professed as a Redemptorist in 2002 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. He served as an associate priest at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston, TX (2006-2008) and became a co-director of vocation misintry for the Redemptorists of Denver Province (2008-2015). As a songwriter and guitarist, he inspires many young people to discern their purpose of life. He has conducted many retreats for adults and youth/young adults in the country. Currently, Fr. Hoang works with Life Directions nonprofit organization in the West Side and South Side of Chicago to promote and build a strong community of hope, social justice and peace. He helps teenagers at Bowen High School to improve social, emotional and leadership skills to help reduce violence in the society. He preaches vibrantly and creatively a message of hope, peace and mercy. Gratefulness is the key of his true happiness.

Van Bensett
Van Bensett
Chicago Project Director

 

Cailyn Jordan
Community Engagement Associate
Serving as a Public Allies Metro Detroit AmeriCorps member

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, I attended John R. King elementary school, later attending Ludington Magnet Middle School. I then moved to Canton, Michigan where I went to Central Middle School. I graduated from Plymouth High School (also known as P-Cep) in 2014. Immediately following high school, I enrolled at Wayne County Community College and graduated with my Associates in General Studies in 2016

This is my second term serving with Public Allies Metro Detroit. My previous position with Public Allies was at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), where my team and I developed and successfully ran the DSO’s first instrument Drive. This drive was developed for those who were selected to participate in the DSO's Civic Youth Ensembles but could not afford or replace a musical instrument. This position granted me the amazing opportunity to build capacity within the organization and directly impact my community.

In my position at Life Directions I am working alongside the executive director to help rebuild the website and get Life Directions the exposure that it needs to have better outreach in the community. I am beyond honored to be able to have this impactful position with such an amazing organization.

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