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.
Alyson Bryant, Program Director (she/her/hers)
YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
Alyson Bryant was raised in Long Beach. Alyson has learned and seen a lot witnessing first-hand gang violence and the effects it had on her friends and fellow classmates– from going to jail to being killed. As a result, she has a strong passion for at-risk youth and her community. She started her work with youth as a Youth Mentor for at the California Conference for Equality and Justice and focuses her work on Long Beach youth in schools and detention centers. Alyson than began her Y career in 2013. She quickly expanded her role with the Y she continues to advocate for urban youth with her mission to Motivate, Inspire, and Empower!
Top 5 Character Strengths: Kindness | Love | Gratitude | Hope | Spirituality
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
Veronica Granados, Senior Manager of School Engagement (she/her/hers)
Woodcraft Rangers, Los Angeles, CA
Veronica Granados, Senior Manager of School Engagement, has been with Woodcraft Rangers for 18 years. She has served the agency in a variety of capacities including site coordinator and program manager at elementary, middle, and high school levels. In her current role, Veronica works with school administrators to bring Woodcraft programs into new schools and ensure the highest level of program delivery and continuity.
Top 5 Strengths: Strategic | Achiever | Relator | Learner| Responsibility
Cindy Lizarraga, Consultant/CEO (she/her/hers)
INSIGHT Youth Program & Event Design, Los Angeles, CA
A native Angeleno and daughter of immigrants with over 25 years of experience in the youth development world. Her programs have encompassed preschool age to high school and centered around project-based learning, real-life application, the elevation of youth voice, and community empowerment. Her intersectional communities and cultures- from her indigenous roots and bilingual upbringing to hip hop and sci-fi influences, shape the lens and values through which she defines her identity and life purpose. Through this lens, she has deduced that access, opportunity, belonging, and the ability to define success for oneself are rights of all youth.
Top 5 Character Strengths: Honesty | Spirituality | Creativity | Hope | Love of Learning
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
Rancho Mirage, 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
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
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 since 2010.
Top 5 Strengths: Input | Ideation | Connectedness | Learner | Belief
Top 5 Character Strengths: Gratitude | Kindness | Honesty | Perseverance | Spirituality
Tracy Ulibarri-Vasquez, Administrative Director (she/her/hers)
Project Life Impact, Inc., San Bernardino, CA
Tracy has been employed at Project Life Impact since its inception in 2002. Tracy assisted in the foundational programmatic implementation, establishment of PLI’s staff recruitment and hiring policies and procedures, and quality assurance expectations. She worked as a youth leader at Roberts Elementary and as the Site Lead at Highland-Pacific Elementary. She has experience and knowledge of the requirements and expectations of operating a program site effectively and efficiently. As the Administrative Director she oversees HR, Staff Development and Training and Quality Assurance for all current Afterschool Program Sites (K-12).
Realizing her passion for Expanding Learning reached further than the students that she directly served and understanding that investing into the adults that invested into the students would make a greater impact, she joined the California School-Aged Consortium in 2018, as a Senior Certified Trainer and an Advocacy Ambassador in 2019.
Understanding that the knowledge and experience gained working in the expanded learning field could be beneficial to others starting in the field, Tracy, joined the California Afterschool Network work group to help establish the Site Coordinator Network. Nominated as a SCN Leadership Team Member, in 2019, Tracy currently serves as the Committee Chair for Promising Practices.
Top 5 Strengths: Activator | Input | Command | Belief | Self-Assurance
Top 5 Character Strengths: Spirituality | Leadership | Love | Gratitude | Love of Learning
BOOST Conference Implementation Team
Erica Cardoso, Program Development Technician (she/her/hers)
Think Together, Santa Ana, CA
Erica has been a part of after school for 17+ years and 15+ years have been at Think Together. She has held various positions from Site Coordinator to Regional Operations Analyst and is currently the Program Development Technician on the Organizational Development Team. She enjoys the variety in her work and being a piece of the puzzle working with multiple teams including Human Capital and Program & Operations Departments. Erica has her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology and Minor in English from California State University, Los Angeles. She also holds a Cosmetology License for 20+ years and has her own small boutique business of 6+ years.
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
Virginia Garcia, Area Program Supervisor (she/her/hers)
Beyond the Bell, Los Angeles, CA
Assist in program management of Community Based Organization afterschool programs 21st Century Afterschool Programs. Performs various technical duties of gradually increasing complexity and responsibility in areas such as data collection, recording and organizing inventory, and program managing of LAUSD Academic Decathlon. Assists in coordinating district-wide competition. Additional tasks include collecting paperwork from coaches, reviewing student transcripts and providing feedback to coaches pertaining to their team, supervising competitions, venue operations/logistics, managing volunteers, student scoring, handling awards, scholarships, and awards banquet.
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
Knisha Nash, Learning & Development Manager (she/her/hers)
Think Together, Riverside, CA
Knisha has worked in Education for nearly 15+ years. She has served students in Elementary, Middle and High School programs before entering her current role as the Learning and Development Manager at Think Together. What she loves about her work is that she has the opportunity to grow, motivate and inspire success in Leaders, Programs and Students and equip them with the skills necessary to serve students in engaging programs that support Academic and Life Skills. With experience as a coach for competitive Cheerleading and Dance, Knisha brings a passion that is disciplined, but at the same time fun and full of spirit.
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
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
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
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.
Click the image below to read some of our BOOST Leadership Team member's accolades.
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.
BOOST Leadership Team Contact
Tia Quinn, Founder & CEO