BOOST Conference Leadership Team
The BOOST Leadership Team is critically important to the success and impact of the BOOST Conference. This amazing team provides big ideas, new connections, practical strategies while adding credibility to the planning and execution process. This comprehensive Leadership Team represents the diversity of after school, expanded learning, and out-of-school time programs and includes representatives serving at all levels of the field. We are a quality conference truly planned by dedicated (and fun) after school, expanded learning, and out-of-school time professionals, adding voice and value to the needs of the field.
Jessica Barajas, Regional Manager (she/her/ella)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego, San Diego, CA
Jessica Barajas was born and raised in Southeast San Diego. She has been a part of the youth development movement for over 15 years, which started when she was in High School, given the opportunity to be a student worker. Jessica has been a part of Before & After School Programs, Juvenile Diversion, Color Guard, as well as Intramural Sports Programs to name a few. She has had many great mentors and hopes to share her passion with many people to come.
Top 5 Strengths: Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Restorative | Command
Top 5 Character Strengths: Bravery | Humor | Love of Learning | Leadership | Spirituality
Monica Garcia, Regional Manager (she/her/hers)
arc, Torrance, CA
Daughter of immigrants, Monica Garcia was born and raised in Pasadena, California, and attended public school her whole life. Aside from working retail during one holiday break, out-of-school time programs are the only thing she knows and what she does best. From working at a camp in the Angeles National Forest with elementary school students to her current position as a Regional Manager for arc working with 12 schools in Los Angeles County, Monica's goal is to provide quality programs to students and help empower staff and students to realize their full potential.
Top 5 Strengths: Competition | Input | Positivity | Communication | Empathy
Top 5 Character Strengths: Fairness, Humor, Spirituality, Bravery, Honesty
Kristen Gonzalez, Program Manager (she/her/hers)
Harmonium, San Diego, CA
Kristen has been in the expanded learning field for over 25 years, what started as a summer job has turned into a passion and career. Her career started at the Boys and Girls Club of Escondido and took her to the YMCA of San Diego County, then to various agencies around San Diego County, and now a Program Director with Harmonium. Kristen has a wide knowledge of licensed programs, ASES program, and 21st Century programs but her true passion is the professional development of expanded learning staff. She is a CalSAC trainer and holds a BA in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University.
Top 5 Strengths: Connectedness | Belief | Developer | Activator | Restorative
Top 5 Character Strengths: Spirituality | Fairness | Kindness | Humor | Teamwork
Carlota Merino, Regional Manager (she/her/hers)
arc, Torrance, CA
Carlota is a driven and dedicated educator with 10+ years of experience inspiring staff, students, families, and the community in the expanded learning field. She has extensive knowledge running after-school programs, managing ASSETs grants, ensuring that the program and staff quality and compliance, supervising and coaching a team 15+ employees, facilitating professional development trainings, and curating lesson plans. Carlota is a forward-thinking educational leader with proven capacity to uphold an organization’s mission and purpose in delivering a quality program to support students and staff from cradle to college to career.
Top 5 Strengths: Significance | Futuristic | Individualization | Focus | Maximizer
Top 5 Character Strengths: Honesty | Kindness | Social Intelligence | Leadership | Teamwork
La Verne, CA
I have been working in the educational field for the past 20+ years. I received my bachelor’s degree in accounting from Cal State Fullerton in 1982. After working as an accountant for 18 years and raising my two daughters, I returned to school and received my single subject math and multiple subject teaching credentials from the University of La Verne, as well as a Master’s degree in Education. In 2005 I received my Administrative Credential from Cal Poly Pomona. From 2009-2021 I oversaw the afterschool program for Pomona Unified School District supporting up to 28 school sites, approximately 150 staff members, and about 2,500 students daily. In June 2021 I retired and am looking forward to consulting, volunteering, vacationing, and spending time with friends and family.
Top 5 Character Strengths: Creativity | Judgment | Teamwork | Fairness | Kindness
Jessica Ochoa, Director of Out-of-School Time Programs (she/her/hers)
Santee School District, Santee, CA
Jessica is a product of the Santa Ana Unified School District, where she started her career in after school programs as a Frontline Staff, Site Coordinator and as a Field Supervisor for the Extended Learning Department, investing 14 years leading K-12 ASES and ASSETs after school programs. Jessica is the Director of Out-of-School Time Programs with the Santee School District and is responsible for leading the organization’s Preschool and School-aged grant-based and fee-based programs: YALE Preschool, Project SAFE Childcare, and ASES PRIDE Academy. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Adolescent Development. In 2012, she earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from California State University, Long Beach. She is seeking to pursue her Doctor of Education from the University of Southern California in Organizational Change and Leadership in the near future.
Top 5 Strengths: Futuristic | Relator | Strategic | Achiever | Deliberative
Top 5 Character Strengths: Honesty | Humor | Spirituality | Creativity | Love of Learning
Melissa Perez, Program Specialist of Communications and Events (she/her/hers)
California AfterSchool Network, Sacramento, CA
Melissa currently serves as the Communications and Events Program Specialist for the California AfterSchool Network (CAN). Previously, she served as the ASES Expanded Learning Supervisor at the Fullerton School District. She has 15+ years of experience in various capacities in Expanded Learning as direct-service, site leadership, and program leadership and development. Melissa studied Child and Adolescent Development and Chicano/a Studies at CSU Fullerton. She is a Google Certified Educator, a CalSAC Trainer, and has served on State and County-wide Expanded Learning Workgroup teams. Melissa is a Mental-Health First-Aider, a Trauma-Informed Advocate, and a passionate advocate for young people.
Top 5 Strengths: Achiever | Strategic | Belief | Discipline | Arranger
Top 5 Character Strengths: Gratitude | Perspective | Curiosity | Fairness | Love
Dr. Michelle R. Perrenoud, Project Coordinator (she/her/hers)
Los Angeles County Office of Education, Downey, CA
Michelle R. Perrenoud has worked in the fields of youth development, organizational leadership, and after school for the past twenty years. She currently works with the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) in the Curriculum and Instructional Services (CIS) Division. She is the Region 11 Project Coordinator for the After School Technical Assistance Unit. Michelle serves as the Regional Facilitator for the 21st CCLC ASSETs Learning Community and provides technical assistance and capacity building for more than 120 21st CCLC ASSETs funded programs throughout Los Angeles County. She is a member of the California Department of Education statewide high school ASSETs Planning Group. Michelle is also the founder and principle of Mindset Solutions: A Leadership Training, Development, and Coaching Firm.
Michelle’s wide-ranging experience and her ability to bring together individuals from different communities to create common solutions together make her a powerful, effective voice. She leads by example, by inspiring a shared vision and demonstrating a commitment to civic engagement and to the goal of making a positive impact in the community. Her experience in developing youth and leading afterschool programs began while working with the YMCA. One of her areas of specialization includes teaching youth leadership and working with older youth to become leaders in their community. Additionally, she is passionate about teaching youth development and building the leadership capacity of afterschool program leaders. Michelle is recognized for her ability as a leader to empower others around her to cultivate their best self and lead from their current position.
Top 5 Strengths: Strategic | Achiever | Learner | Relator | Analytical
Since 1992, Tia Quinn has worked at all levels of programming in the field of after school and expanded learning, supporting out-of-school time programs throughout the nation via training, technical assistance, quality assurance, and program development.
Tia fell in love with after school programs in 1992 while working in Hartford, CT as an art teacher and later the Program Director in the Asylum Hill community. Tia spent the first part of her west coast experience working at an after school program and later as a Program Director, overseeing programming at 65 before and after school programs through Harmonium Children's Services, one of the largest after school providers in California. Tia also served for 5 years as the Co-Lead for Region 9 Technical Assistance Center, After School Programs at the San Diego County Office of Education. In this capacity, she supported over 600 after school program sites in San Diego, Orange, and Imperial Counties, serving over 100,000 students annually. While in this role, Tia managed numerous regional and statewide committees and after school initiatives.
In the regional lead capacity, Tia and her team were the 2005 recipients of the California School Board Association's Golden Bell Award for Partnerships and Collaboratives as well as the Cities, Counties, and Schools (CCS) Partnership Award 2005. Additionally, Tia is the recipient of the 2001 Director of the Year, awarded by Mentor San Diego; the California School-Age Consortium's 2006 Award of Excellence, Program Administrator of the Year; the 2013 STEVIE® Bronze Award for Women In Business, Female Executive of the Year – Business Services; the 2014 STEVIE® Bronze Award for Women In Business, Maverick of the Year; the 2014 STEVIE® Bronze Award for Women In Business, Most Innovative Company under 10 Employees; Finalist for Gamechanger at the 2015 Women of Influence Awards; winner of Eternal Flame Award, San Diego County Office of Education’s Women in Prevention; winner in the Small Education Category, San Diego Business Journal’s 2015 Most Admired CEO Award. BOOST Collaborative recently won 2015 Best in Biz’s Company of the Year, International award.
As an Out-of-School Time Consultant, Tia presents customized workshops and staff development seminars at numerous local, state, and national conferences. Tia works closely with school district administrators, CEO's, non-profit agencies, program directors, supervisors, and line staff to increase student retention, promote academic achievement, and overall student success through quality, engaging staff development opportunities.
Tia is currently the Founder and CEO of the BOOST (Best of Out-of-School Time) Collaborative, a purpose-driven organization supporting global out-of-school time professionals through state-of-the-art professional development opportunities, program and resource development, and community partnership advancement. BOOST advocates for quality out-of-school time programming, offers opportunities to share promising practices, and provides a variety of training and consulting services.
Tia is also the founder of the annual BOOST Conference in Palm Springs, California, the largest global convening for after school, expanded learning, and out-of-school time educators, supporting all levels of key stakeholders to initiate change and inspire quality programming. The BOOST conference includes over 150 workshops, 100 Exhibitors, Film Festival, 5-mile Tour de BOOST charity walk/run, Town Hall meetings, Master Classes, networking opportunities, and special events.
Most recently, Tia founded MARS (Music, Arts, Rhythm, Social Change) Experience bringing together socially responsible organizations, artists, musicians, crafters, filmmakers, authors, and poets to inspire and create action locally and globally.
Tia is passionate about creating positive change for today's youth as well as the people, communities, and partners supporting them in the out-of-school time hours. She mentors several young women, loves driving her electric golf cart around San Diego, and is always seeking new travel and food adventures with friends.
Top 5 Strengths: Responsibility | Relator | Achiever | Belief | Connectedness
Top 5 Character Strengths: Creativity | Honesty | Fairness | Kindness | Leadership
Top 5 Character Strengths: Gratitude | Honesty | Fairness | Kindness | Prudence
Becky Shultz, Director of Expanded Learning (she/her/hers)
Whittier School District-Reach For The Stars, Whittier, CA
Becky Shultz has over 20 years of experience in the after school field. She obtained a Master's degree in counseling and a P.P.S. credential in 2003 from California State University, Long Beach. Job experiences include 20 years as a school counselor and 20 years as the Director of Expanded Learning for Whittier City School District. Committee and board memberships include Helpline Youth Counseling (board member), LACOE Group Advisory Group (GAG) and Region 11 Advisory Committee, WCSD management, and wellness committee, and the Whittier Homeless Student Coalition. Becky has also been a member of the BOOST Leadership Team for 9 years.
Top 5 Strengths: Input | Ideation | Connectedness | Learner | Belief
Top 5 Character Strengths: Gratitude | Kindness | Honesty | Perseverance | Spirituality
Meredith White, Supervisor, Expanded Learning Programs (she/her/hers)
Brea Olinda Unified School District-Child Development Services, Brea, CA
Meredith is a dedicated expanded learning professional who seeks unique and creative opportunities for students in out of school time programs. Working within the Before and Afterschool network for 8 years, Meredith supports staff and students in the Brea Olinda Unified School District Department of Child Development Services through Professional Development for staff and S.T.E.A.M. Curriculum Implementation for students. Believing in the power of expanded learning, Meredith continues to support the building of bridges between in school and out of school time.
Top 5 Strengths: Restorative | Learner | Input | Intellection | Responsibility
Top 5 Character Strengths: Kindness | Leadership | Spirituality | Creativity | Humility
BOOST Conference Implementation Team
Jeanette Cruz, Director of Organizational Development (she/her/hers)
Think Together, Santa Ana, CA
Jeanette has been working in Expanded Learning for 15 years in direct service, training, and development and specifically working for Think Together for the past 11 years. She has a degree in Public Health Education and currently working on a Masters in Non-Profit Management. Jeanette is also a certified practitioner for Insights Discovery and has a certificate in Training and Facilitation for the Association for Talent Development.
Top 5 Strengths: Achiever | Responsibility | Discipline | Restorative | Intellection
Top 5 Character Strengths: Love | Love of Learning | Fairness | Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence | Prudence
Elle Essenmacher manages national partnerships for Harmony SEL, a non-profit program at National University. Elle was the Harmony Interim Director at Long Island University. She and her husband live with their two “Pug-babies” in Northern Colorado. Elle came to Harmony after a long career in education. She worked for Baltimore City Schools and the Maryland State Department of Education, training, and consulting to implement evidence-based programs. Prior to her work in Maryland, she had a long career in Michigan as a Superintendent, Curriculum Director, principal, and teacher. She has a MA and BA in Administration and Bilingual Education.
Top 5 Strengths: Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Relator | Intellection
Top 5 Character Strengths: Spirituality | Creativity | Gratitude | Curiosity | Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
Suzanne Hill, Project Liaison (she/her/hers)
Orange County Department of Education, Costa Mesa, CA
Suzanne Hill has been working in out-of-school time programs for almost 19 years. She has worked as a volunteer, a frontline staff, a Site Coordinator, a Program Manager, and most recently a TA provider. After spending a few years providing TA in STEM specific programming, Suzanne now supports all Expanded Learning programs in Orange County. Suzanne received her B.A. in Global Studies with a minor in Sociology, spending time studying in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Northern Thailand. When Suzanne is not a work; she enjoys traveling, baseball, the beach, and spending lots of time with family and friends.
Top 5 Strengths: Developer | Realtor | Connectedness | Positivity | Learner
Top 5 Character Strengths: Love | Kindness | Prudence | Teamwork | Curiosity
Heather Williams, Program Director of Policy and Outreach (she/her/hers)
California AfterSchool Network, Sacramento, CA
Heather currently serves as the Policy and Outreach Program Director for the California AfterSchool Network (CAN). Previously she served as the Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships Lead for the Expanded Learning Division at CDE. She oversaw strategic plan efforts that reshaped the Division to focus on providing high-quality expanded learning opportunities. Prior to that, Heather worked at the California State Treasury in several capacities including as an Environmental Finance Treasury Analyst, a Public Finance Analyst, and an Executive Fellow in the Executive Office. Heather received her BA in Political Science from CSU Fullerton.
Top 5 Strengths: Achiever | Self-Assurance | Ideation | Strategic | Learner
Top 5 Character Strengths: Love of Learning | Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence | Kindness | Curiosity | Creativity
BOOST Conference On-Site Support Team
Nicole Baitx-Kennedy, Director of Child Development Programs (she/her/hers)
Ocean View School District, Huntington Beach, CA
Celebrating over 30 years working with children! She sees an amazing opportunity to support the development of the total child in out-of-school time programming. BOOST has energized her in her work, BOOST Leadership has given her a wonderful opportunity to support an organization that she believes in wholeheartedly and connect with other wonderful people in this field. Nicole's personal goal in life is to never stop learning and to continually grow. It is a gift to spend time with family and being outdoors centers her. She believes strongly in the work we all do!
Top 5 Strengths: Connectedness | Developer | Individualization | Belief | Responsibility
Top 5 Character Strengths: Love | Spirituality | Gratitude | Honesty | Fairness
Jared Baar, Administrative Director (he/him/his)
Rainbow Rising, Irvine, CA
Jared Baar has worked in the field of after school programs for over 13 years. Throughout his tenure, he has worked at every level of the program. Jared began as a direct-service staff member and spent five years as an Assistant Director/Program Director prior to moving to Administration. He believes after school programs are successful when the children are provided with a variety of options and enriching, relaxing, fun-oriented activities.
Top 5 Strengths: Ideation | Strategic | Competition | Command | Significance
Top 5 Character Strengths: Leadership | Creativity | Bravery | Social Intelligence | Fairness
Eddie Garcia, Director of Student Support Services (he/him/his)
Lennox School District, Lennox, CA
Eddie García has been in the educational field for over 29 years. He is currently the Director of Student Support Services for the Lennox School District. In this capacity, Mr. Garcia coordinates intervention programs and services to support students by addressing the academic, behavioral, social, and emotional needs of children to maximize achievement and growth. Prior to working with the student support services office, Eddie was the Director of the Expanded Learning Program, working to provide a safe environment for students to participate in a quality after school program that included academic enrichment, physical fitness, visual and performing arts, college/career awareness, and provided a strong focus on Youth Development.
Eddie graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1999, where he received his degree in Liberal Arts. After raising his teenage nephew and niece because of the passing of his beloved sister, Eddie pursued a Master's Degree in Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach. He strongly believes that higher education is the key to success and continuously reinforces it with the students of Lennox. While Mr. Garcia has a wide variety of experience and knowledge, what he enjoys most is providing professional development because it allows him time to connect with other educational professionals in the county to enhance the school experience for students in the Southern California area.
Christine Lafontant, Regional Manager (she/her/hers)
County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation, San Diego, CA
Christine Lafontant is a Region Manager for the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation. She is responsible for managing park facilities including Waterfront Park, one of the county’s most significant outdoor event venues, and coordinating major special events such as community festivals and countywide movies in the park series. She was previously responsible for administrative and fiscal functions for all programs and activities targeting all age groups in 3 community centers and 2 teen centers, organizing major special events including health fairs and youth diversion programs such as the Outdoor Adventure Program for at-risk and foster youth. Christine holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and has over 20 years of experience in the field of recreation and youth programming. She has been the program coordinator of after school and summer programs and has served as a consultant and trainer for over 300 after school programs in San Diego County. In addition, she served in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps for two years where she developed a passion for service learning. Christine is a Certified Festival and Events Associate through the International Festivals and Events Association and National Recreation and Parks Association.
Caitlyn Monaco, CARES Program Lead Teacher (she/her/hers)
Orange Unified School District, Orange, CA
Caitlyn Monaco has worked for Orange Unified School District for the past 14 years. Her bubbly personality and commitment to family and children quickly moved her up the ranks and allowed her to attend the BOOST Conference where she fell in love with the positive atmosphere and networking which BOOST provides. Presently, she is working towards her Associate's Degree both in Childhood Education & Biological Sciences. She loves exploring the world, getting messy, great movies, and taking naps. Born in New York and raised in California, Caitlyn has a unique perspective to life: Enjoy it and don’t sweat the small stuff, just “Fugetaboutit Dude.”
Top 5 Strengths: Positivity | Strategic | Communication | Discipline | Includer
Top 5 Character Strengths: Zest | Kindness | Gratitude | Hope | Love
Ezekiel "Zeke" Oliwa, High School Teacher (he/him/his)
St. Augustine High School, San Diego, CA
Zeke, a San Diego native, started in out of school education at a local Rec Center during his summer breaks home from college, learning quickly that he had a passion for working with kids. He built on this at Boston College, where he graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in History and a minor in Education. Moving back to San Diego, he began substitute teaching at various schools across the county. He recently finished the teaching credential program at San Diego State and was just hired at St. Augustine High School for his first year teaching.
Top 5 Strengths: Context | Restorative | Adaptability | Input | Learner
Top 5 Character Strengths: Love of Learning | Fairness | Humor | Kindness | Zest
ElizaBeth Parker Phillips, Vice President of Education (she/her/hers)
Catalyst Kids, Sacramento, CA
Top 5 Character Strengths: Creativity | Humor | Perseverance | Love | Curiosity
My name is Arturo Rivera and I grew up in the neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles, CA. I enjoy working with our youth and teachers that dedicate their time to support them. Growing up, I was an EL student and I know firsthand the struggles and shame that comes with being in a classroom isolated from the rest of the group. My hope is to learn about the conference, network with other leaders, and come back and gain a perspective to provide high-quality programming for our youth and staff supporting them.
Top 5 Strengths: Communication | Restorative | Woo | Arranger | Includer
Top 5 Character Strengths: Creativity | Love of Learning | Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence | Teamwork | Spirituality
James Stephens, Realtor (he/him/his)
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services California Properties, San Diego, CA
James Stephens has worked in the out-of-school time field since 1978. From 1990 to 2015, Jim served as the director of the Child Development Services department in Orange Unified School District. After over 34 years working in the field of education, he has “retired” and is working full-time as a Realtor in San Diego, California. In addition to undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Business, James has a Masters in Education, which allowed him the opportunity to teach human development courses at Cal State Fullerton and several of the local community colleges in Orange County. He has been involved with the BOOST Conference for many years and loves serving on the Leadership Team. James is a proud parent of his daughter Waverly, who was born in 1996, and son Spencer, born in 1999.
Top 5 Strengths: Positivity | Maximizer | Futuristic | Developer | Strategic
Top 5 Character Strengths: Humor | Fairness | Gratitude | Creativity | Forgiveness
Mary Jo Ginty, Region 11 Lead
Los Angeles County Office of Education, Downey, CA
Mary Jo Ginty is the former Regional Lead/Program Coordinator overseeing the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) After School Technical Assistance Unit. This Unit provides staff training and development, consultation, and technical assistance services to the 1300+ school sites providing after school programs funded through the After School Education and Safety Program (ASES) and/or 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. Over 130,000 students participate in these programs which also provide over 10,000 employment opportunities in the county. Ms. Ginty directed and oversaw after school programs at the elementary, middle, and high school level; she has experienced the power of change these programs bring to students and their families. Her professional experiences over the past years include: Owner of a successful consulting firm, high school teacher, high school principal, college professor, lobbyist, and community organizer. She holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from UCLA and a Bachelors's Degree in Business and Social Welfare Administration from Ursuline College. Her spare time is spent enjoying her family, leading a Junior Girl Scout troop, music, and cooking in all forms, and sitting on the Board of Directors of her 10-year-old daughter’s school. Mary Jo Ginty believed that after school programs have the potential to assist youth to gain the skill sets, tools, and knowledge and have the experiences necessary to make a life for themselves and their families.
Interested in joining the BOOST Leadership Team?
We have opportunities to be a part of the BOOST Leadership Team, Implementation Team, or On-site Support Team. Join us as a part of our diverse body of expanded learning and in and out-of-school time program representatives in the field.
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.