Spotlight on our Volunteers: John Manulis


For CYS volunteer and strategic advisor John Manulis, community involvement is a passion.



As a high school student, he volunteered in hospitals. Throughout his successful career in filmmaking, he was drawn to stories of personal empowerment, producing such films as The Basketball Diaries, Swing Kids, Foxfire, and Tortilla Soup, among others. As John notes, “Each story carried a message of social justice, presenting marginalized characters in their full humanity.”


Seeking more immediate impact, he joined the boards of two foundations committed to social justice, where he learned about CYS. In approaching CYS Executive Director Jessica Ellis, he asked how he could help, and told her he was prepared to learn every CYS program from the ground-up. By training and engaging as a CYS mediator, John came to understand the healing psychology of restorative justice and the profound needs of the community. “It is a wonderful feeling,” he reminds us, “to create an emotionally safe space and guide a conversation where transformative moments in a family take place.”


John’s involvement in CYS programming has led him to appreciate the interconnectedness of departmental teams, volunteers, the board, and referring partners. “CYS and its partners have had a direct effect on the closing of youth prisons, a profound influence on the juvenile justice system, and a lasting impact on the families we serve.”


As Jessica explains, “John has been instrumental to the growth of CYS as he has generously given of his time and talents to a wide range of capacity-building projects, from technology upgrades to communications to Board development to program supports. And all with such heart, that we’ve adopted John as part of our staff team!”


To learn more or to spread the word about volunteer opportunities that are benefitting youth and families every day, please click here.

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