Who Is Engage UCI's Engaged Alumna? Our CEO!

We are excited to share that our CEO Jennifer Friend has been named Engage UCI's Engaged Alumna! Her commitment to civic and community engagement through her work with Project Hope Alliance and beyond successfully represents University of California, Irvine's dedication to serving as a bridge to the community.

Jennifer graduated from UCI's School of Social Ecology in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, Law, and Society. Since then, she has remained actively engaged in UCI through her service to the university and as the CEO of Project Hope Alliance.

A true social entrepreneur, Jennifer serves as the President-Elect of UCI's Alumni Association Board of Directors; a member of the UCI School of Social Ecology's Field Study Advisory Board; on the Advisory Board of "InSight Magazine," a publication presenting issues of poverty in Orange County and nationally; and co-host and creator of "Our Kids," a monthly vodcast produced and funded by UCI that is bringing national issues facing our children to the local level. In 2016, she was the recipient of UCI Alumni Lauds & Laurels, the university's highest honor bestowed on a UCI alumnus. 

Outside of UCI and Project Hope Alliance, Jennifer serves as chair of the Davis Magnet School Site Council and previously served on the Chancellor's Steering Committee for OC Working Together.

In early 2017, Project Hope Alliance renewed its support of research at UCI School of Social Ecology through an ongoing data partnership that guides our innovative housing and education programming.

In 2016, Jennifer represented Project Hope Alliance at The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., as an expert panelist sharing our groundbreaking work with homeless youth on Newport Harbor High School's campus through our Promotor Pathway Program. This year, Jennifer co-hosted a meeting of the minds, "A Dialogue on Housing and Homelessness in Orange County."

In 2012, UCI's Trevor School of the Arts collaborated with PHA on "214 Sq. Ft.," an immersive life-size motel room model raising awareness of homelessness in Orange County via ethnographic data meets aesthetic experience. The exhibit continues to display.

Jennifer's unique past as a former Orange County "motel kid" and extraordinary passion for helping families experiencing these same hardships motivated her to turn her avocation into her vocation. Under her fearless leadership since 2012, Project Hope Alliance has moved more than 800 children and parents out of homelessness. In 2016 alone, PHA ended homelessness for 18 families—including 47 children and 34 adults. 88% of families achieved financial stability within 12 months of ending homelessness—a number that continues to increase every year. We also launched two new education programs in 2016, serving children and youth from kindergarten through age 24.

Through Jennifer's tireless work, leadership, compassion, dedication, and commitment to collaboration, Project Hope Alliance has grown from serving one school and less than 65 children, to serving nearly 400 children attending 91 schools in 31 cities throughout Orange County. We have partnered with dozens of local and national groups to position our organization as a leader in groundbreaking initiatives for ending homelessness, including OC United Way as a FACE 2024 partner; the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, D.C.; Jamboree Housing; Newport-Mesa Unified School District; St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach; and, of course, UCI. 

Congratulations, Jennifer!