Our BOOST global street team of advocates and champions.
Juan Alvarado, CEO and Keynote Speaker (he/him/his)
Raize The Bar, LLC, Visalia, CA
Juan is a highly respected expert in leadership and a Gallup CliftonStrengths Coach. He is a U.S. Army war veteran with a wealth of experience training teams of thousands of soldiers in high-stakes situations. Juan has worked with school districts to improve team efficiency and communication, resulting in increased productivity and employee satisfaction. He has helped overcome complacency and prevent burnout with over 2,500 school administrators.
Elena Arias, High School Program Manager (she/her/hers)
After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles, CA
Elena Arias brings over 15 years of experience in the expanded learning field. As a High School Program Manager she has lead a team of individuals who provide a dynamic and supportive program for the youth in the communities of Los Angeles. Elena's passion is to work collaboratively with youth, staff and stakeholders to provide quality services that focus on developing youth and providing them real life experiences. Elena considers herself an everyday learner with a passion to give back.
Sheryl Blessing, Youth Services Recreation Supervisor (she/her/hers)
Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma, WA
Sheryl Blessing is a parks and recreation professional who has 20 years of youth development experience. Sheryl specializes in youth engagement and managing staff to ensure young people have a safe, welcoming and fun space and environment. Developing teams and systems are current focuses for Sheryl who is serving the Tacoma area as a Youth Services Recreation Supervisor.
Brightpoint JAG, Fort Wayne, IN
arc Experience, Burbank, CA
Prior Lake-Savage Kids' Company, Prior Lake, MN
Gabriela Delgado, Senior Manager (she/her/hers)
San Diego County Office of Education, San Diego, CA
Gabriela has served in education for over 22 years. She currently serves as a Senior Manager for the San Diego County Office of Education. She is well versed in trauma-informed practices; group facilitation; restorative practices; student engagement; and grant development/management. Gabriela has an MA in Education/Counseling from Point Loma Nazarene University and a Master of Public Administration with from San Diego State University. She is the co-host of the 2 Counselors & a Mic podcast, which features stories of everyday people changing the world. She enjoys traveling with her husband and playing catch with their dog, Chiquita.
Susie Estrada, Family & Community Engagement Specialist (she/her/hers)
Utah State Board of Education, Salt Lake City, UT
Susie Estrada currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT and works as a Family & Community Engagement Specialist at the Utah State Board of Education. Previously, Susie has worked as a Program Director, Coordinator, and Preschool Teacher. Susie first moved to Utah in 2014 from the San Fernando Valley in California. Susie graduated from California State University of Northridge with a Bachelors and then went on to receive two masters from the University of Utah in Public Administration and Education, Culture, and Society.
Katie Frazier, Social Emotional Learning Trainer Specialist (she/her/hers)
WINGS for Kids, Charleston, SC
Katie Frazier is a Social and Emotional Learning Specialist at WINGS for Kids. Her deep knowledge of social and emotional learning comes from her many years as a practitioner in applying concrete methods, techniques, and approaches with underserved youth. Katie develops and facilitates internal staff trainings and curriculum, presents at national and local youth development conferences, and trains youth development professionals and educators around the country. She has a master’s in psychology.
IAMIMPACT, Sacramento, CA
Nathan is the Founder of #iAmImpact as well as the Director of Youth Development in charge of training and Program Engagement for Mentor CA. Nathan loves facilitating workshops to help individuals become better and believes in the power of connectedness. Top Strengths are Connectedness/Context/Strategic/Ideation Adaptability.
Nathan holds over 18 years of experience with Expanded Learning Programs that serve diverse communities in Sacramento and California. Nathan possesses over 5 years of experience as previous Director of Professional Development at the Center for Fathers and Families. In addition, he worked on numerous committees with the California AftersSchool Network and California Department of Education Expanded Learning Division to increase the quality of youth programs. He has conducted trainings and multiple workshops and seminars that have focused on teaching Expanded Learning Program Quality Standards, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and the After-School Education & Safety (ASES) grant compliance to various organizations throughout California. Nathan now aims to help build the capacity of Mentoring programs throughout the state of California.
“As a former participant of a mentoring program, I recognize the profound impact that mentoring has in the lives of youth and their families. It is my personal mission to bring positivity and optimism to all of my workspaces. As much as it's about me, it's not about me"
– Nathan Houston
Gayle Hui, Elementary School Teacher (he/him/his)
Arvin Union School District, Arvin, CA
Gayle Hui is currently working as a Grade 7 Teacher for the Arvin Union School District. Currently, in his 30th year in education, he has worked as an instructional aide, a classroom teacher, after school coordinator, and a Vice Principal. His personal mission is to use Expanded Learning as a means to close the achievement gap. He enjoys observing young people having personal breakthroughs in their youth development.
Claudine James, NBCT Teacher and Community Liaison (she/her/hers)
@iamthatenglishteacher on TikTok
Over her 13-year teaching career, 8th grade ELA teacher, Claudine James, has won numerous awards as well as being National Board and ESL certified. But recently her success has been on a different level. At the end of 2020, Ms. James, known on TikTok as @iamthatEnglishteacher, started posting grammar lessons on TikTok in order to reach virtual students who weren’t watching her YouTube tutorials. However, her students weren’t the only ones watching her videos. She has now amassed 3.7 million followers from 84 countries and was chosen as ARKTESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Teacher of the Year. Her grammar videos and stories motivate and inspire current/future teachers. Now her classroom expands around the world, plus she’s helping to remind other educators how much they are needed in the education profession. A blog written by College Board, “Five TikTok Famous Teachers Everyone Should Follow”, lists Ms. James as number one. In addition to being the district’s community liaison, Ms. James serves on several advisory boards, the board of directors for the local library, and is a BOOST Ambassador and the 2023 BOOST Conference OSTI Award recipient.
Sheila James, MGM / STEM Specialist (she/her/hers)
Ohio Afterschool Network, Columbus, OH
For 25+ years, Sheila passionately supports OST programming. As a director, STEM Specialist, and Professional Development Trainer, she makes a significant impact. Her leadership enhances site experiences nationwide, including Central Ohio. Sheila, a Master STEM Trainer and instructor in mental health and first aid, equips program staff with tools for success. Through delivering best practices and staying updated on afterschool trends, she actively promotes youth learning and social development.
Asha Levert-McDowell, Program Manager (she/her/hers)
Napa County Office of Education, Napa, CA
Asha began her career as a Special Needs teacher with the Oakland Unified School District in 2004. Currently she oversees 9 sites which serve over 1200 students annually through the Napa County Office of Education as the Program Manager for the Expanded Learning Program. Asha also provides technical assistance and professional development throughout Region 4 by heading up the New and Emerging Site Supervisory Series.
Ben Nash, Policy Associate (he/him/his)
Partnership for Children & Youth, Oakland, CA
As the Policy Associate at the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY), Ben coordinates the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3) and helps implement PCY’s policy, budget, and outreach efforts. Prior to joining PCY, Ben was a Legislative Aide in the California State Assembly, where he advised a budget subcommittee chair on K-12 and higher education issues. Ben earned a B.S. from UC Berkeley in Society & Environment. He was a 2019-2020 Assembly Fellow in the Capital Fellows Program.
Emily Nathan, ELO-P Manager (she/her/hers)
San Leandro Unified School District, San Leandro, CA
Emily is a highly collaborative, mission-driven, results-oriented, and fearless leader with over 20 years of experience in the Bay Area region. She has demonstrated high-impact successes in the areas of program design, and school-day and after-school administration that promote student well-being and success. As a passionate leader and manager, Emily's partnership-driven approach has led to effective working relationships with school and district staff, students and families, and community stakeholders.
Aaron Parker, Site Director (he/him/his)
Boys & Girls Club Western Heights OKC, Oklahoma City, OK
Aaron is the Site Director of John Glenn Elementary in the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County District. He has close to 4 years of experience supporting K-5 programs in the OKC area, scheduling after-school curriculum/activities for BGC, and establishing & maintaining healthy relationships with school & community partners.
Eric Rowles, CEO (he/him/his)
Leading To Change, Huntersville, NC
Eric Rowles is a nationally recognized trainer, speaker, and consultant who has worked with over 200,000 youth, adults, administrators, professionals, and policymakers within the past 20 years. His presentations are legendary - by combining the energy and innovation of a master trainer, while at the same time reaching each of us through his stories, research, and on-the-ground strategies. One part inspirational speaker and published author, one part DJ, and two parts community organizer and parent of 2 daughters, Eric runs a customized consulting and facilitation practice that, through a network of over 20 dynamic and diversely talented trainers, works with for-profit and non-profit organizations to achieve progressive and dynamic change. Additionally, Eric is the founder and current Director of the North Carolina Youth Giving Network – a statewide association of over 1100 youth philanthropists that have granted over $400,000 to North Carolina communities since 2005.
Eric’s previous experience includes his work as Senior Director of Training with the Youth Leadership Institute where he designed a national training institute that provided over 1,000 days of training in five years to community organizations and coalitions throughout the country. Prior to his work with YLI, Eric was the Director of Leadership Development at Rutgers University (NJ), managed his own touring educational theater organization, Leadership Through Motivation Productions, was the Director of International Youth Summer Abroad programs, and spent five years as a substance abuse prevention coordinator in Southern California.
Additionally, Eric through his double bachelors and Master of Science degrees in Ethnic Studies and Educational Leadership, he has served as a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte as well as Rutgers University (NJ) and has over a decade of innovative and cutting edge classroom instruction and facilitation experience. Eric has also been a volunteer trainer and partner for a wide range of social change agencies and organizations including the National Conference on Community and Justice, College Leadership Diversity Conference, and Teaching Tolerance Curriculum Instruction.
In addition to his training experience, Eric has also been a professional DJ and worked with artists throughout the entertainment industry, including Gwen Stefani, Billy Joel, Notorious B.I.G., Cypress Hill, Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, Boyz II Men, Third Eye Blind, The Roots, George Clinton & Parliament, Henry Rollins, Radiohead, Smashmouth, Weezer, Edward James Olmos, Sinbad, George Lopez, Margaret Cho, and Maya Angelou.
Sheneika Simmons, Principal Consultant (she/her/hers)
Simmons Leadership Services, LLC, Wake Forest, NC
Sheneika Simmons is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Simmons Leadership Services. Sheneika earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology from Ferrum College and a Masters of Science in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University. She is a former educator and currently works to support and shape a more equitable afterschool and educational landscape.
Dr. Sonia Toledo, President & CEO (she/her/hers)
Dignity of Children, New York, NY
Dr. Sonia Toledo is a writer, speaker, researcher and social entrepreneur passionate about training educators in self-directed student learning and teaching youth social entrepreneurship. She is the founder & CEO of Dignity of Children, a global professional learning community designed to support forward-thinking educators in bringing positive change to education through training and complete K through 12 PBL curriculums. Dr. Toledo is a creator of iDEAS Empowered by Youth, an innovative teacher training program that equips educators with everything they need to help their youth thrive.
Interested in becoming an ambassador?
We are offering the opportunity to become a BOOST Ambassador. Our Ambassadors serve as a street team of advocates who spread the word about BOOST Conferences, online trainings, PD opportunities, and other initiatives in the field. Becoming a BOOST Ambassador will challenge and inspire you to build capacity in the after school, expanded learning, and in and out-of-school time fields. You are acting not only as a representative of your organization, but also on behalf of BOOST Collaborative.
We are committed to diversity and to equal opportunity and do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, height, weight, physical or mental ability (including HIV status), veteran status, military obligations, or marital status. At BOOST and in all BOOST related activities and events, we affirm the sexual orientation and gender identity of each individual and aim to create LGBTQ-inclusive and affirming environments and learning opportunities. This policy applies to hiring, internal, promotions, training opportunities, advancement opportunities, and terminations. This policy also applies to all employees, Leadership Team members, volunteers, clients, and contractors that present/speak/exhibit at or sponsor BOOST related activities and events.