Circles USA Team


“The leadership and staff have a realistic, valid, and practical view of poverty. For instance, the leadership defines poverty and prosperity as the joint responsibility of societies and communities, as well as individuals. ”
— Mary Jane Collier, professor at the University of New Mexico

Circles USA Leadership Team

Kamatara Johnson, Executive Director (Albuquerque, NM)

Kamatara has taken on the ED position formerly supporting CUSA as the Chief Learning Officer. With a master’s degree in organizational leadership, 25 years of experience in secondary education, and a deep connection with our Circles chapters, Kamatara holds the space for collaboration, innovation, and advancement for all the people in our Circles family.

Yvette Trujillo, Chief Integrity Officer (Albuquerque, NM)

As a systems thinker, Yvette focuses on improving the process of what Circles USA offers to its chapter members, maintaining the integrity of the mission, the model, and the work we do to build community to end poverty. Yvette brings 25 years of experience in for-profits and nonprofits, training, management, and systems-building as she supports the inner workings and outer expressions of Circles.

Gena Atcher, Administrative Coordinator (Rapid City, SD)

Gena began working for Circles USA in 2006. She manages general inquiries, materials distribution, contract negotiations, accounting, and events. In addition to fully supporting our national staff, Gena connects our chapters to resources, best practices, and each other to support our thriving network. She can be reached at (505) 225-7991 and

Courtney Cowan, Information Systems and Design Manager (Lowell, AR)

Courtney manages Circles USA’s national data system and trains Circles chapters on how to use it. She also serves as a graphic designer for Circles USA and creates websites, logos, brochures, manuals, guides, and reports for its chapters.

Scott Miller, Founder (Albuquerque, NM)

Since the late 1970s, Scott has initiated numerous projects in North America to help families and communities more effectively address poverty. He has spent decades developing tools and best practices for helping low income people navigate their way out of poverty for good. Scott is the author of several books about poverty reduction. Scott retired from Circles USA in 2021 and still serves as a consultant for select pilot sites working towards building a Poverty Alleviation System in their community.

Circles USA Board of Directors

Joan Kuriansky, Board Chair and former Executive Director of Wider Opportunities for Women (Washington, DC)

Joan Kuriansky, Chair of the Circles USA Board since May 2007, is the creator of our 6-point policy platform addressing six key issues our chapters flagged as high priority for poverty alleviation. She has worked in the social justice field throughout her versatile career as an attorney; executive director of local and national non-profits; and board member or volunteer at local, national, and international levels. As Executive Director of Women Against Abuse (Phil. PA); the Older Women’s League (DC); and Wider Opportunities for Women (DC), she has addressed issues including social security, pension, and health care reform; violence against women; and many issues related to economic self-sufficiency for women and families. Joan brings a Jewish lens to supporting issues of social justice and human rights to the U.S., Israel, and other countries; particularly those in Russia and Ukraine.

Jim Masters, Board Treasurer and President of Center for Community Futures (Berkeley, CA)

James I. Masters is President/Director/Owner of the Center for Community Futures in Berkeley, CA. He has worked with over 500 Community Action Agencies and Head Start programs since 1966. Jim has developed and delivered more than 300 professional development and capacity building seminars, webinars, publications, and other staff development activities for OEO, CSA, NACAA, NASCSP, regional and state associations, and individual agencies, as well as serving on CUSA’s Board (since 2006) and presenting at our national leadership conferences. Jim has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Kansas and a MS in International Business (with Honors), from St. Mary’s Graduate School of Business, Moraga, California.

Jennifer Pelling, Board Member and Director of Tsuha Foundation (San Diego, CA)

Jennifer Pelling is a founding member of the Tsuha Foundation and a documentary film producer. She believes in the power of stories to break down stereotypes, promote constructive dialogue, and engage people in social change. She is particularly interested in narratives related to inequity, Christianity, identity, and connection. Jennifer’s previous experience includes consulting and project management (Accenture), homeschooling her children, and teaching at a charter school. She graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Christy Vines, Board Member and President & CEO of Ideos (Westlake Village, CA)

Christy Vines, a member of the Circles USA Board since October 2020, is an empathy expert, thought leader, and social commentator. After leaving a professional career in national security and global conflict, she leads Ideos Institute’s research in the field of Empathic Intelligence and its application to conflict transformation, social capital, communal resiliency, and servant leadership. You may remember her powerful presentation at our virtual conference in April of 2021, “The Power of EMpathy in Creating Systems Level Change.” Christy is the executive producer of the 2022 documentary film Dialogue Lab: America, a moving take on the current state of division and polarization in America. She is currently working on her first book, titled Empathic Intelligence. Empathic Leadership for our Time. Christy is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School.

Circles USA Consulting and Support Team

Amy Brooks, Content Writer & Editor (Lexington, KY)

Jeannie Chaffin, Poverty Alleviation Systems Consultant (Washington, DC)

Michelle Crawford, West Regional Coach (Salt Lake City, UT)

Sarah Critchlow, Executive Director; Mark Lautman, Founder, CE Lab, Economic Development (Albuquerque, NM)

Lynette Fields, Expansion Advisor, Director of Poverty Solutions Group (Orlando, FL)

Addie Hartnett, Southern Regional Coach with Circles Central Florida (Orlando, FL)

Jenny Lipfert, Graphic Designer (Cornish, NH)

Julie Liske, Midwest Regional Coach and National Facilitator (Oxford, MI)

Lise Porter, Mental Health Specialist (Glendale, CA)

Helen Rai, Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach (Richmond, VA)

Sarah Thornburg, Poverty Alleviation Systems Liaison (Ypsilanti, MI)

Chris Tinney, Sales Ambassador (Las Vegas, NV)

John Wilson, Liaison to Community Action Network (Chalk Hill, PA)