Our Team

Coming together from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, our skilled team of professionals is the backbone of Life Decisions. Their ideas help shape the direction and mission of our organization as it continues to develop. Read on to learn more about some of our incredible team members.

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JAKE ROGERS

Chief Visionary Officer

It began as a dream. For the past three years, I have been a Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM) Director, working with youth inside, and out, of our local Juvenile Detention Center. I've become increasingly burdened by the number of youth, who were highly motivated to change, yet continued to return to lockup in just a few weeks or months of their release. The level of care they need to sustain lasting change simply is not available to them in our county.

Recently, by God’s divine providence, I began to sense my call to launch Life Decisions, focusing on providing that higher level of care, while working alongside existing likeminded ministries. The vision has been refined and influenced by experts in the field of Juvenile Justice, my previous observations and experiences working as a County Detention Officer, Recovery Home Specialist, and the last three years with YFC as a JJM mentor, Director, and the development of the Next-Steps Aftercare Site.  Most important of all has been the direct input from the young people I've had the privilege of getting to know, particularly Jadarius, who began co-launching Life Decisions with me in October of 2020.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20)

ALI BARNETT

Chief Development Officer

After spending 10+ serving in student ministry within the church, I remember having an honest conversation with God about feeling like a fish out of water. I was not a ‘church’ kid growing up and it wasn’t until I started serving at-risk teens in 2014, when I was overcome with the feeling, “This is home.”

 

My heart is burdened for the young person that has lost all hope because I have been there.

I used to dream of being a world-changer; making a big difference in a mighty way, until I realized that the most profound way to change the world is one life at a time; free one prisoner from darkness, and their entire world is flooded with light. If I can help just one person know Jesus through a consistent lifelong friendship, I will have made a difference.

 My life has been forever changed by seeing firsthand the gospel lived out in mentoring relationships and one of my favorite things to witness, as a mom, is when the youth that I am working with, take my own two daughters under their wings and share Christ's love with them, also. My dream for this tribe of mentors is to see lives changed in our community; people who used to  feel lost and alone, now seen, known, loved and purpose-filled.

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JADARIUS HARDY

Founding Mentee

Hey, I’m Jadarius. I grew up not having the best of life.  Eventually, something broke inside of me. I stopped caring; I stopped being kind & I respected no one. This led to violence. When I was just 15 years old I served eight hard months in the JDC (Juvenile Detention Center). This is where I met Jake.

 

My life has changed drastically. Today, I have hope & my faith is growing. I went from doing drugs to doing stuff I never thought of- like visiting Colorado to see a group helping kids, like I was, to meet their God-given potential.

 

I feel my life, my story, and everything I’ve been through is pushing me to help others. I want to help those who are in the same predicament as I was to give them the help & hope to change and better their lives.

AMAYA CASTANON

Program Coordinator Assistant/ Office Manager

Hi, My name is Amaya and I am 20. I have served on the Youth Leadership Council. Prior to that, Ali was my mentor and introduced me to Life Decisions back when it was just an idea on paper and now I have had the wonderful opportunity to contribute to it and see it coming to fruition. 

My dream for this tribe of mentors is to build a better and stronger community. To empower youth minorities to help them find their voice and power now, So later they can lead Rockford.

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CANDICE ROKUSEK

Director of Education

Graduated from Regent University in 2020 with a Masters in Education and became a professionally certified Educational Therapist with the National Institute of Learning Development (NILD)

Prior to working at Life Decisions I worked at Lydia Learning Academy for three years as an Educational Therapist and Reading Teacher.  I was really excited to learn about Life Decisions and the educational aspect of the program because like Lydia it combines two of my passions, teaching and mentoring at risk or undervalued youth. 

My dream for this tribe of mentors is that they too realize that God has a plan for them, that they have hope, they thrive in the future and in turn their is a ripple effect as they become mentors themselves and as this tribe continues to grow we not only transform Rockford but many, many lives of youth who felt lost but through Life Decisions’ relationships and Jesus they are found. 

CAMERON HENDERSON

Board of Directors

Secretary

Rev. Cameron Henderson

 

Auburn High School Class of 2015 CAPA Graduate, City First Leadership College Alumni; Middle School & Community Engagement Pastor at City First Church

Born in Chicago, Cameron moved to Rockford at the age of 6 with his family, eventually becoming more curious with God and the Calling on his life he moved from home while finishing Jr High. Along his journey, he met his mentor and dear friend, Garret. Coaching him throughout the years, he was able to become the first child of his parents to graduate high school.

 

Shortly after college, he began a career as a local youth pastor. Now, serving on the board of Life Decisions as the Secretary, he is thrilled and excited to see how God wishes to use him next. 

"My dream for this tribe of mentors is to see people of all backgrounds find unity in the life giving experience of community Mentorship."  

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JEFF NELSON

Board of Directors

Treasurer

I am a pilot and Aircraft Maintenance Technician by training which included Bible and theology, and preparation for cross-cultural development work.  I worked with two ministries over a period of 30 years while raising a family, in Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala.  I later served on the board of these organizations, a school board, and a church elder board.  Joining Life Decisions as a board member is a welcome opportunity for me to serve our community with this dedicated team of younger people who are investing their lives that our Rockford youth may also invest themselves in this world’s greatest asset, one another. 

 

My dream for this tribe of mentors is that we embrace God’s way to make Life Decisions a channel of His transforming grace.