Vanna InExecutive Director
In 2020-2021, a months-long nationwide search led Hope Now to our own city and to the very person God has been grooming for years to be our next Executive Director.
Vanna is one of Hope Now’s transformed lives. He’s a role model of what Hope Now can do. He is Hope Now. One of the things Vanna appreciates most is that Hope Now was the only place willing to give him a chance. It was the only organization to contact him, and then give him that one job he needed while seeking a new life outside of prison and gangs. He entered the Hope Now program and earned his Certificate of Completion in 2002.
Vanna never forgot the life-changing chance extended by Hope Now. A chance he now wants to see duplicated many times over in lives he comes across in his new role. Much of what Vanna has overcome will now be used by Christ to help other young men overcome similar obstacles.
“My heart is aligned with the mission and vision of Hope Now. My passion is for those with barriers to employment. We can show them that their dream job is still possible, so that they can be the best person that God has called them to be. That includes helping them to grow in capacity as a follower of Jesus, spouse, parent, friend… and whatever they can envision. That has become my life’s work.”
Before coming onboard and serving as Hope Now’s Executive Director, Vanna worked as a Hope Now vocational placement counselor, a church youth pastor, and the Executive Director/Co-Founder of Jobs of Hope in Colorado (which was based on Hope Now’s model).
Though the job titles change, Vanna’s passion to help young men avoid gang life has never wavered. He has also continued his education, and has a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
Rev. Roger Minassian, Founder of Hope Now states, “I would estimate that he’s helped transform the lives of over 150 gang youth. Vanna always had a heart to give back. God had called him to help other homeless, helpless and hopeless youth get off the path of destruction. His Lord Jesus was not going to waste any of Vanna’s painful past, but was going to use what he had learned to lift others up.”
One of Vanna’s most impressive life experiences was the pardon he received from Governor Jerry Brown in 2018. Under threat of deportation to Cambodia for the 1993 felony he’d committed, Vanna sought help from everyone he knew who was willing to vouch for him. Because of his tireless work helping others, his history with Hope Now, and his unwavering faith being put into action – Vanna attached more than 250 letters of support to his application for a full, unconditional pardon. When Vanna holds that thick folder stuffed with letters, it’s easy to see the hand of God on his life. Vanna is looking forward to meeting you and working with you.
Jesse CastroDirector of Employment Development
Director Of Employment Development
Jesse Castro was born in Fresno and currently lives in Northwest Fresno with his wife and four of seven children.
He went to school in southwest Fresno and Mendota as a child, then attended several high schools and continuation school. He received his G.E.D. from Caesar Chavez Adult School. Jesse also received his Drug and Alcohol Counseling certificate from Fresno City College.
Jesse was introduced to Hope Now For Youth as a youth in our program in 1995. His first job was at Scelzi Enterprise. From there Hope Now placed him in Sinbad Sweets, then Lyons Magnus as a delivery driver for their maintenance department. In 1999 he studied and attained a class “A” driver license and found a job on his own at Waste Management in Fowler, CA.
In October 2001, Jesse was hired to be a counselor for Hope Now. Within a few years he became lead counselor, then program director, director of job development and now director of employment development.
Jesse was recognized by Hope now as outstanding youth in 1998. He has a passion to help young men and young fathers change from a life of destruction and despair to a life of love for Jesus, family, success at work and home.
Johnny TrujilloDirector of Social Enterprise
Director Of Social Enterprise
Johnny Trujillo came to Hope Now in the mid-2000’s and after graduation had a date with the court to fulfill an 18 month prison sentence. Upon his release, Johnny worked in cabinetry and roofing. In 2011 he was hired as a gang youth advocate, to recruit young gang members from the streets.
He loves cycling, and has always enjoyed fishing and camping (although he never catches any fish). He is part of “Like Martin Park” in the Lowell neighborhood and is an Adult Ally for the California Endowment. He has a passion to help others and serve those less fortunate than himself. He is presently attending Penn Foster Online High School and is nearing completion of his diploma.
Johnny is married and has five children.
Paul VarelaDirector Of Discipleship
Director Of Discipleship
Paul is responsible for most of the administrative tasks that supports the ministry of Hope Now. He was born in Fresno, CA and now owns a home in west Fresno. Paul was introduced to Hope Now as a youth while he struggled through life as a gang member, drug dealer and meth user. At Hope Now he found love he never knew existed and love that he thought he didn’t deserve. But God and Hope Now saw it differently.
After graduating from Hope Now in 2009, Paul was placed at the City of Fresno. 2009 was a banner year for Paul. He was baptized in March and made a commitment to marry Yvette, his longtime girlfriend in August of 2009. Paul was then placed at Keiser Sports Corporation, and came on board at Hope Now in 2011. In 2010, Paul was honored as a Co-Youth of the Year.
He graduated from Clovis Adult School in 2013 with a scholarship for outstanding academics. Shortly after graduation he enrolled in Moody Bible Institute where he received his AA degree in Biblical Studies. One of the hobbies that became a lifelong discipline turned out to be martial arts. As a result, in 2015 Paul was the “Student of the Year” in Art of Shotokan Karate. In 2019, Paul received his Shodan (black belt in Shotokan Karate).
Paul and his family currently attend NorthWest Church. On occasions, he has been asked to teach bible classes at his church. He is currently enrolled at Moody Bible Institute, pursuing his BA in Ministry Leadership. Paul regularly uses his gifts and talents to share God’s word with the young men in the program.
Paul and Yvette are proud parents of 5 kids and one growing grandson.
Sam BanSoutheast Fresno Outreach Coordinator
Southeast Fresno Outreach Coordinator
Sam is the Southeast Fresno Outreach Coordinator. He was born in the refugee camp in Chanbory, Thailand. He is the 6th child of 12 children. Two of his siblings passed away during the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields from 1975-1979. His family made their way to the United States in 1986 first in Utah and then Fresno in 1988.
Sam is also an alumnus of Hope Now. After joining a gang at age 11, he was bound for the California Youth Authority at age 14. Upon his release from the youth authority in 2001, Sam went back to the streets in Southeast Fresno. The youth authority did not reform him. In fact, Sam believes he became a smarter, more efficient criminal. Sam’s time in the youth authority taught him how to evade the authorities when he engaged in criminal activity.
In 2002, Hope Now found him a job but he only lasted a week. Even though he graduated the program, the mentality of the streets never left him. He became a father in 2003 and felt that the only way to make it financially and support his new family was to deal drugs.
In 2011, Sam gave up the street life to marry the mother of his children, Sai. 2011 was also the year Sam surrendered his heart to Jesus Christ. Sam came back to Hope Now and took the training and the teachings seriously this time. As a result, Sam was placed at the City of Fresno, then Busseto Foods. From there Sam went to go work at Peoples Church.
In 2019, Sam was honored as the Hope Now “Youth of the Year” award for outstanding display of transformation and leadership.
Sam and Sai are now the proud parents to five boys, ages ranging from 4-18 years of age. Sam and Sai bought a house in Southeast Fresno. They currently serve as the youth pastors of Peoples Church, Southeast United for the past five years. Sam is also received his certification of pastoral ministry from the Southern School of Ministry with the Assembly of God. Sam is also a student at Fresno City College where he actively shows up on the Dean’s List.
Rev. Roger MinassianFounder (Retired)
REV. ROGER MINASSIAN
Rev. Roger Minassian took up the mantle to be the first of many who would help break the cycle of hopelessness in our youth culture. He left his church where he was the pastor and followed Jesus on the streets of the city.
He founded Hope Now, in Fresno, California on February 1, 1993 and became the first executive director. He retired in 2007. He is still actively involved in supporting our organization and encouraging our current executive director.