2021 BOOST Conference Speakers & Presenters
Christina Aanenson has been working in the OST field for over 12 years. She has a BAS degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Outside of her career, she loves to spend her time running, being outdoors with family, and snuggling with her kitties.
Rafael Acosta is the Regional Director for the LAUSD-Beyond the Bell Middle School Unit. Since 2002, Rafa has served in a variety of roles & duties while also earning both his B.A. in History and a Masters in Public Administration from CSUN. As a proud product of the Los Angeles Unified School District, he has experienced similar circumstances as the students in the Beyond the Bell Middle School Programs & continues to strive to ensure these students are provided with quality student-centered and meaningful learning opportunities during the out of school hours. Lastly, Rafa is the proud father of Alyssa and Samantha Acosta.
Omar Aguiar began his career at Think Together for over nine years. In his time here, he has been a Site Coordinator, Regional Operations Analyst, and is now the Data Operations Manager. Currently, he supports the development of data collection processes, state compliance reporting, and the Data Management Team. Omar believes in the impact our programs have on the lives of the kids we serve, and he loves that we can tell that story through the data we collect. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English from the University of California, Riverside.
Bibi joined Amizade after spending over a decade working in Ecuador. She first traveled to Ecuador in 2003 as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After completing a Masters of Public Health, Bibi returned to Ecuador as the Director for Manna Project International, a community development and volunteer organization. In 2011, she returned to the Peace Corps as a Program and Training Specialist in community health and completed her tenure as the Training Manager.
Be it community development and volunteering, or service learning, Bibi deeply believes in the immersive travel experience's power to affect positive transformation for individuals and communities.
Born and raised in Santa Ana, California, Gloria left her hometown to attend Yale University and graduated with a degree in American Studies. While at Yale, she was an active student organizer, raising awareness around financial aid issues. For the past ten years, Gloria has been working for Think Together supporting older youth to attain their higher education goals. Gloria has helped develop and run after-school programs, providing academic and enrichment opportunities for high school students and workforce readiness programs that provide employability skills for teens. As the Director of Older Youth Programs, she oversees high school programming and works to increase university and college acceptance of local students across multiple districts and regions.
David E. Alexander, BS, M.Ed.
David Alexander, BS, M.Ed. is a nationally recognized NASA STEM specialist with a proven track record in project management, technical expertise in aeronautics research education, and specialized knowledge in STEM education and Instructional Design. With a technical background in neurology research and over 12 years of experience in education he has been an advocate for inspiring students with lessons emphasizing engineering, human exploration, robotics, and Earth/planetary sciences. He participates and leads the development and implementation of major educational programs on a national scope which are designed to inspire the nation students.
G. Jinger Alvarez, LCSW
G. Jinger Alvarez is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has 20 years of experience working in the field of mental health. She has provided professional development training in areas of Trauma-Informed Care Practice, Self-Care and Secondary Trauma, Conducting Psychosocial Assessment, Crisis Assessment, and Intervention, and is a certified Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) Trainer. She is currently the Mental Health Consultant for LA’s BEST providing staff development training to address Trauma-Informed Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, Psychological First Aid, resilience and self-care, and suicide assessment.
Pilar began her career as an actress but committed herself to education after seeing the positive effects of arts education on her theater students. Pilar previously was the After School Program Arts Coordinator at LA’s Best where she created successful partnerships between teaching artists and LAUSD elementary schools, and has taught theater arts at various organizations across the country, including in Compton, San Francisco, LA, and Atlanta. Pilar is currently the Education Director at Young Storytellers and holds a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance from The College of Santa Fe and a M.A. in Theatre for Youth from C.S.U. San Bernardino.
Carmen Alvarez-Esparza has been an Out-of-School Traveling Program Supervisor with LAUSD/Beyond the Bell Branch’s Ready Set Go! Before School Program for the last 5 years. She is experienced in running successful before-school programs during the regular school year and summer. She currently oversees school sites in the Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles area where she hires and trains staff and evaluates programs.
Scott Amick, M.A.
Scott Amick, M.A. is a self care expert, wildfire survivor, and experiential education enthusiast. Facilitating programs for Odyssey Teams Inc., Mr. Amick has traveled the nation engaging audiences with philanthropic team building programs that include the construction of prosthetic hands, bicycles, and skateboards that are donated at the end of the programs. Currently living in Chico, CA, Mr. Amick is passionate about helping students, teachers, and administrators create sustainable self care routines that focus on building self esteem through introspective journaling.
A Tulsa native, Amy serves as the Senior Manager for Experiential Learning at The Opportunity Project. In this role, she engages schools and community partners in providing high-quality expanded learning opportunities to middle-schoolers through a program called AfterOpp. Amy has served in roles in both programs and research in the non-profit and academic sectors. She is an advocate for her community and especially for its youngest members. Her passion for building meaningful connections between service providers and families fuels her work at The Opp.
Majanaye Anderson lives to build opportunity and access for marginalized groups. Majanaye serves as a Program Coordinator for the second-largest school district in the nation - Los Angeles Unified School District's Beyond the Bell Youth Development Program Unit. Majanaye is a dedicated leader who has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and their families. Majanaye brings both lived experiences, education, and professional skills, which generates passion and commitment to the communities she serves. Majanaye Anderson takes the initiative to build her leadership capacity through local and statewide advocacy and community volunteerism in the public service and expanded-learning field.
Melissa has been working in the field of after school for over ten years both running community and school-based programs. Currently, she is the Family and Community Coordinator for Think Together's Shalimar Teen Center. Melissa graduated from UCSD with a degree in Molecular Biology before earning her Master's in School Counseling.
Robb Armstrong is the Program Manager for Dylan’s Wings of Change and a Master Trainer for the Wingman Program. Robb has been facilitating social-emotional learning, team building, leadership and staff development, and teacher trainings for the last 15+ years.
Erica strives to share her love of science and engineering to empower youth and adults to create and to think critically. It is a passion of hers to inspire the same spark in educators across the world, and in all areas of STEM and reflective practice. Erica has a B.S. in molecular and cell biology from U.C. Berkeley. At The Tech, Erica leads efforts to support educators as they develop the next generation of problem solvers via Design Challenge Learning. This work includes the development of educator resources and establishing partnerships with like-minded organizations around the world.
Rhonda Beasley is currently the MTSS Coordinator at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Prior to joining the SCCOEas the Elementary ELA/ELD Coordinator in 2012, Rhonda served as an elementary classroom teacher, a Reading First Coach, and a Teacher on Special Assignment for English Language Arts supporting 29 elementary schools. As the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator, she supports district teams with the alignment of their academic and behavior systems in order to more comprehensively support students, teachers, and families. Rhonda earned her B.A. from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction in Multicultural Contexts from Azusa Pacific University, and is currently pursuing her Ed.D in Organizational Change and Leadership at the University of Southern California.
Meghan Bender has been with Sanford Harmony going on 3 years. She was an elementary school classroom teacher for 23 years and is now a Sanford Harmony Implementation Specialist and Trainer.
Lauren Bergh is excited to share her passion and tools for connecting students with the natural world as an informal environmental educator for over 15 years. As the Education Specialist for the Santa Ana Zoo and the Southern California Project WILD Coordinator, Lauren loves using the outdoors as a classroom to explore natural phenomena and build discovery, understanding, and capacity to share experiences with others for all ages. Project WILD provides a wealth of activities for formal and informal educators to bring their students outside and teach them "how to think, not what to think."
Named one of “Pittsburgh’s 40 under 40” in 2012 and a “Rising Education Leader” in 2017, Brandon has over fifteen years of experience in the nonprofit, service-learning, and international education sectors. In that time, he helped to create life-changing global experiences for over 10,000 young people. In addition to his work with Amizade, Blache-Cohen was a US delegate to the One Young World Summit, has published several articles on responsible global service-learning and is the President of the Pennsylvania Council on International Education (PACIE). To date, Blache-Cohen has worked, studied, or traveled in around 85 countries.
Irene oversees programs and operations for the San Gabriel Valley Region. She joined Think Together in 2007 as a Site Coordinator and has held many roles with the organization. Irene holds a dual bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine in Political Science and Chicano/Latino Studies and a Master’s degree in Leadership and Management from the University of La Verne.
Katie Brackenridge is a Partnership Director at Turnaround for Children. Katie has worked in schools, school districts, and community organizations for her entire career. Most recently, she was an independent consultant focused on improving learning conditions and social-emotional supports for young people through public school systems. Before becoming a consultant, Katie worked at the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY), where she led local and statewide initiatives to improve program practice and promote policies to make after-school and summer programs more accessible and effective.
Phil joined the High 5 team in May 2015 having previously worked in Adventure and Outdoor education for 7 years. Phil brings high energy and devotion to the Adventure field and has presented at the NEYCC, ACA New England, ACCT, Northeast and International AEE, BOOST, several regional Physical Ed conferences and at the High 5 Symposium. He is also one of the co-authors of the book “Tinker: Building Purposeful Experiences from Classic Adventure Activities” and the producer/host of “High 5 Adventure – The Podcast”.
Rebecca Brown is a creative youth development professional, committed to providing a positive arts culture to youth. She graduated in 2011 from Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Art History. Rebecca found her passion serving the youth of Hilton Head Island at the Boys & Girls Club of the Lowcountry as Director of Education & Enrichment, and now holds the position of Director, Youth Development Programs with Boys & Girls Clubs of America providing programmatic resources and support to Youth Development Professionals and Teaching Artists in Clubs across the nation.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, MD, MPH, FAAP
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is an award-winning physician, researcher, and advocate dedicated to changing the way our society responds to one of the most serious, expensive and widespread public health crises of our time: childhood trauma. She was appointed as California’s first-ever Surgeon General by Governor Gavin Newsom in January 2019. Her career has been dedicated to serving vulnerable communities and combating the root causes of health disparities. She is the Founder of the Center for Youth Wellness, an organization leading the effort to advance pediatric medicine, raise public awareness, and transform the way society responds to children exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress. Dr. Burke Harris’ TED Talk, “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across the Lifetime” has been viewed more than 6 million times. Her book “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” was called “indispensable” by The New York Times. She is the recipient of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Heinz Award for the Human Condition.
Dr. Sandra Cano
Dr. Cano is a bilingual, seasoned educator with an emphasis on English learners and students with special needs. Born of immigrant parents, raised in various impoverished communities throughout Los Angeles. UCLA and UCSB graduate, with a doctorate in Education from the Education Leadership Doctoral Program at UCLA.
Erica has been a Think Together team member for over 12 years. She has held various positions 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 across multiple teams within the Program & Operations Department. Erica has a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Minor in English from California State University, Los Angeles.
As a long-time education professional Jasmine Castleberry has led multiple youths and staff development efforts in many organizations across the nation and has developed performance-based, goal-oriented solutions through effective staff management and program planning workshops. Her ability to connect with any audience and specialty in workshop facilitation has allowed her to serve as a presenter locally and nationally. Jasmine’s performance-driven passion for the out-of-school time comes from the thousands of students she has seen this work serve–and the many more who could be impacted by high-quality programming.
Ricardo "Rick" Castro
Rick Castro is a Regional Director with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond the Bell He has been working in the after school field since 2000. He has worked closely with a variety of Community-Based Organizations in helping provide an outstanding recreational component. Rick gets his motivation from when he was a child and not having the luxury of playing sports along with being a father to a set of twin boys that are currently active in an after school program. He treats all of his programs as if his twins were attending that program. If learning is something you want to do, Rick has a way to teach you.
Dr. Alexander Chan
Dr. Chan is the tenure-track 4-H Agent for Prince George’s County, and is responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating youth-focused extension programming in Prince George’s County. He also has practiced marriage and family therapy for 8 years and is currently licensed (and practices) in the District of Columbia. He has 5 years of experience implementing and evaluating relationship education programming and has had his work in that area featured at national conferences, published in academic journals, and in national press outlets.
Sherry Colgan Stone, Ed.D.
Dr. Sherry Colgan Stone has worked 29 years in education and mental health, spending the last 20 years focusing on safety, security and emergency management. She enjoys serving as Chula Vista Elementary School District’s first full-time Emergency Preparedness & Security Manager, meeting the of the largest elementary school district in CA. Dr. Stone serves on the Board of Directors and Education Sector Chief for the San Diego InfraGard, Advisory Board for the Joyful Child Foundation and on the Board of Directors of the Chula Vista Police Activities League. She is a volunteer employee with the Riverside County Sheriff Emergency Response Team.
Jenn Conner is Director of the Center for Afterschool and Expanded Learning, supporting out-of-school time programs through the design and delivery of professional development. Jenn also collaborates and consults with national organizations on the creation of afterschool content. Before coming to Foundations, Jenn worked with Philadelphia-area youth both in school day and out-of-school time settings. She holds a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from Chestnut Hill College and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Temple University.
Mashona Council is a seasoned youth development professional with over 15 years of experience working with youth-serving nonprofits throughout the country and internationally. She established her own consulting firm, Council Consulting, to help youth development organizations grow by providing leadership training and coaching, strategic planning and visioning, program design, evaluation, and management. She has facilitated professional development training at Boys and Girls Club Keystone Conferences, Association of C5 Youth Programs Annual Summit, and Crossroads for Kids summer staff training.
Jason Crawford is the superintendent of the Elk Valley School District, located in Longton, Kansas. The school is located in southeast Kansas in an area with high poverty and a lack of economic sustainability. Seeing the challenges and a community that loved their school, his team embarked on leveraging community resources on developing destination secondary schools for students to have hands-on opportunities in agriculture while obtaining high school credits. This vision launched after several years of preparation and is known as The Ag Experience.
Garry Creel has worked in the Azusa USD for 24 years. He has served as a teacher, counselor and in his current position as the Director of Child Welfare and Attendance. He is passionate about working with at-risk youth and their families and helping bridge the academic achievement gap while addressing their social-emotional needs.
Ella Crenshaw is a Sophomore at Sonoma Academy (SA) in Santa Rosa, CA. She is a member of SA Sustainability Student Leaders and a volunteer with Schools 4 Climate Action. She is proud to have worked on a campaign transitioning her school campus to 100% local renewable energy in 2018. In her work with S4CA, Ella traveled to Washington DC as a part of Schools 4 Climate Action and met with members of congress and allied educational organizations to urge climate action. Her love for wild spaces comes from growing up backpacking in parks near her home in California. Through her experiences outside, she can see first hand the effects of climate change in natural environments, but she strongly believes that anyone can be a climate activist regardless of if they love being outdoors.
Jim Crittenden has nearly 30 years of experience working in substance abuse prevention, intervention services, and youth development. The majority of Jim’s experience has been in the field of substance abuse prevention. For the last 19 years, Jim has worked as a Program Specialist for the San Diego County Office of Education. Jim assists school districts in developing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug comprehensive prevention plans to include prevention curriculum and activities, intervention services, and resources for treatment/cessation. Prior experience also includes managing community coalitions and juvenile diversion programs.
Valentina D’Alessandro is the OUT for Safe Schools® Coordinator at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. She has 14+ years of experience in education and is a former Preschool Principal and Community Center Coordinator. Valentina was the project manager for a school-based anti-bully campaign in Italy and worked with social justice organizations like Arcigay, Italy's foremost national LGBT rights organization, the GAY LEX Law Firm and other agencies. Valentina was on the research team of the Dept of Educational Sciences of the University of Bologna and the Concordia University College of Alberta, focusing on Independent Living for special needs Youth.
Clint works for the Missouri Afterschool Network providing coaching, training, and technical support, as well as laughter, to out of school time programs throughout Missouri. He is a highly qualified educator possessing extensive experience teaching in the classroom and in the out of school time environment. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in education. He is passionate about the importance of quality afterschool programming, with a particular interest in STEM and in laughter. Clint has presented at several state and national conferences and is a certified Laughter Yoga Instructor.
Jeff has worked with CAN since its inception in 2006. He has played an integral role in creating quality frameworks, organizing diverse stakeholders to support older youth programs, advance after school nutrition and physical activity, address unique rural program needs, and provide effective supports for English learners. He has helped to shape statewide expanded learning technical assistance and workforce development efforts. Jeff’s most recent work has centered around supporting CAN’s transition of fiscal sponsors and procuring funds to support CAN’s future work in support of the field.
Jen is the Director of Policy at the Partnership for Children & Youth, a statewide nonprofit focusing on high-quality learning opportunities for under-resourced communities. Jen coordinates the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3) to improve the quality of and access to expanded learning programs. Jen joined PCY in 2012 with several years of legislative experience at the state and federal levels. She was a 2018-19 White-Riley- Peterson Afterschool & Expanded Learning Policy Fellow.
Eloi Delmonico has been working in the field of Emotional intelligence for many years. He first worked as a teacher and then as a school principal in Switzerland. After several years of research and experiences, he decided to devote his life to conceiving and deploying a new program about emotional intelligence, in collaboration with a team of doctors, psychologists, and teachers. He is now the General Manager of The +|- Code, a fantastic new Program about Emotional intelligence that is diffused in Canada, the USA, France, Switzerland, India, and Vietnam.
Tyler Downey has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Education. Devoting himself to education for the last 20 years, he has worked as an elementary classroom teacher, full-time gifted education instructor, and librarian. During that time, he also runs numerous science camps and clubs in both summer and after-school contexts, emphasizing hands-on experiential learning. He is a lifelong learner who continually seeks to expand his knowledge in both his personal and professional life and since joining the PCS team has become obsessed with all things drone.
Dr. Vincent Pompei
Dr. Vincent Pompei is the Director of the Youth Well-Being Project at the Human Rights Campaign. One of his primary roles at HRC is to direct Time to THRIVE, an annual national conference for educators to promote safety, inclusion, and well-being for LGBTQ youth. Previously, Pompei served as President for the California Association of School Counselors and spent over ten years as a teacher and school counselor. He was also an LGBTQ cadre trainer for the National Education Association and authored the LGBTQ section of the American School Counselor Association’s National Model.
Jeff M. Poulin
Jeff M. Poulin is the founder of Creative Generation, working to inspire, connect, and amplify the work of organizations and individuals committed to cultivating the creative capacities of young people. As a recognized leader, he previously led a national program, where he advanced local, state, and federal policies supportive of equitable access to arts learning throughout the U.S. A seasoned educator, Jeff teaches at several universities and trains 10,000+ people annually around the globe. Jeff is a tap dancer by trade and continues to mentor young dancers in the U.S. and in the U.K.
Vereaux Reynolds is an Entrepreneur and Operations leader. She combines her passion for empowering youth with her business acumen and experience working in a large school system to operate Rising Tide Professional Services LLC helping young people overcome barriers to professional success while authentically living with passion and in purpose through transformational workshop series. Vereaux studied Mechanical Engineering at the Univ. of Southern California, earned an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership through a 2-year full-time residency program with the Broad Center.
Fatima Rojas Nuñez
Fatima Rojas Nuñez is a Sophomore at Sonoma Academy (SA) in Santa Rosa. She is a member of SA Sustainability Leaders and a volunteer with Schools For Climate Action. One of the reasons she decided to become a climate activist was because of the wild fires in her northern California community and how they affected everyone around her. Fatima wants to focus on how race, class, and gender play a role when it comes to climate change. She looks forward to continuing working with S4CA and making change possible.
Kate Roney is a senior at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa, CA. She is part of the Student Sustainability Leaders team at her school and accredits this program to kickstarting her climate action. She is also the Co-Director of Schools For Climate Action and Director of Climate Action for the National Children’s Campaign. Recently, Kate was named one of Sonoma County’s 30 inspiring individuals under 30 and she looks forward to working closely with her school, community, and country to create a safe and equitable future for all throughout her education and career.
Aleah Rosario leads the Expanded Learning project for the Workforce Development team of the Foundation for California Community Colleges. Previously, Aleah oversaw the country’s first year-long leadership development fellowship for emerging leaders of color in the out-of-school time field, various professional development initiatives to build the capacity of youth workers, and grassroots advocacy efforts in support of afterschool policies and funding. She is an alum of CalSAC’s Leadership Development Institute and is a White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellow.
Eric Rowles is a BOOST Ambassador and one of the country's most sought after experts on generational diversity, millennial culture, substance abuse prevention, and workforce development. He is a nationally recognized trainer, speaker, and consultant who has worked with over 150,000 youth, adults, administrators, professionals, and policymakers within the past 15 years. Previously, Eric served as the Director of Training for the Youth Leadership Institute, Director of International Summer Programs for ELS Language Services, and Prevention Coordinator for Riverside County Friday Night Live.
Stacy Ruff is a youth workforce development consultant who is passionate about equipping youth with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st-century workplace. She is an experienced facilitator, advisor, and program developer who combines her passion and experience to help youth organizations design high-quality learning experiences that promote workforce readiness. Stacy began her career as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching youth entrepreneurship and co-authoring a teaching manual for Peace Corps Nicaragua. She gained additional experience through her work with Junior Achievement of Georgia, the City of Atlanta 21stCCLC, The National Center for Global Engagement, YouthBuild Atlanta, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Carlos will be managing our team focused on supporting all chapters around programs and evaluations. Previously, Carlos was part of the team that helped launch the Los Angeles chapter of After-School All-Stars in 2002, spending close to 13 years working with Ana Campos and others in helping establish ASAS LA as one of the largest, leading after school programs in California. Most recently Carlos served as the Associate Director for ASAS-LA and focused on securing program partners, establishing organizational infrastructure, leading the organization’s professional development agenda, designing program quality initiatives and metrics and assisted the executive leadership in raising program revenue. Before ASAS, Carlos spent three years working for various public relations firms in the tech industry. Carlos is a graduate of UCLA where he majored in history and worked for various youth programs including UCLA UniCamp, UCLA’s Youth and Family Programs, and Skyhawks Sports during the summers. Carlos is a native of Honduras in Central America and is married. He and his wife have two little girls.
Harlyn believes that education is the foundation for a child’s success in work and life. As a mother, she wants her child to experience the world as a place with endless possibilities. She is passionate about playing a role in providing similar experiences for the students we serve. In her 18 years working in the afterschool world, she has seen that quality expanded-learning programs are essential for helping students gain confidence, improve academically and expand their horizons. In her role as Director of Program and Operations, she finds joy in empowering and developing her direct reports so that they cultivate the innate talents of the staff and students they work with through quality programming. She believes that through the collective efforts of our organization, our district partners and stakeholders, we will change the odds for the students in the communities that need it the most.
Sarita Sashington is the Strategic Relationship Manager responsible for the growth, management and nurturing of Be Strong Families Café Community of Practice & International Relationships. Sarita believes in nurturing the spirit of family, creating safe spaces for transformational conversations, and the power of cultural humility.
Angie Scott, Director of Youth Protection for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has worked in partnership with the Vice President of Youth Protection, to support the research and advancement of effective child protection strategies across BBBS’ nationwide network. Previously, Scott provided direct service to children and families for four years through BBBS of Tampa Bay. She has experience working with child and adult sexual assault and trauma survivors, and has received training in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Advocacy Core Training through the Florida Council of Against Sexual Violence.
Troy joined CAN in August 2017. Prior he worked at the El Dorado County of Education as an Instructional Assistant in the Special Needs classroom. He was also Head Basketball Coach at Ponderosa High School. Troy also worked with Star Education and Boys and Girls Club. Troy grew up attending expanded learning programs. He knows they helped make him the person he is today and hopes to continue to pass on the gift he received as a child to the youth of today. Troy received his BA in Organization Communications from CSU Sacramento and his Master’s in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University of Irvine.
Stu has more than thirty years of experience as an educator, developing and facilitating training programs for youth and adults in educational settings worldwide. He has trained thousands of youth, professionals, educators, and parents in leadership development, dropout prevention, conflict resolution, violence prevention, team building, self-esteem, and service-learning programs. Mr. Semigran holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential and a Master’s Degrees in Theology and Psychology. Mr. Semigran has developed an education curriculum, including Making the Best of Me: A Handbook for Student Excellence and Self-Esteem. From 1995-2000, in his position as EduCare’s President, Stu was instrumental in implementing school reform at over 70 schools and children’s centers through the Annenberg Project; LEARN Reform of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Mr. Semigran also currently serves on LAUSD Beyond The Bell’s Take Action Campaign steering committee. Under his leadership, EduCare has grown to serve over 25,000 students each year. Stu was a 2012 Humanitarian Award recipient, recognized by the David Chow Humanitarian Award Foundation for his service to youth.
Khariyyah Shabazz obtained her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Cal State East Bay. After dipping her toes into the corporate life, she immediately chose to seek a job with purpose. Khariyyah has worked in youth development for the past 10 years with the organization's Higher Ground. Six of those years she spent facilitating after school programs at Madison Park Academy and New Highland Academy. Khariyyah is currently responsible for running the entire organization which includes managing all outside partnerships and contracts, managing our peer leadership workforce development program, and training all after school program sites.
With over 25 years of experience with coaching and sports-based youth development, Suzanne is Coaching Corps’ resident expert on curriculum development and training. Her focus is to ensure all coaches are trained and supported effectively in order to provide youth with quality coaching. She has coached at several colleges, clubs and high schools and represented the U.S. Soccer Foundation as a national trainer. In 2018, she participated in The Aspen Institute’s strategic advisory group, Coaching SEL in Youth Sports. Suzanne earned her MS from San Francisco State University and her BA at the University of California, Davis.
Basketball phenom, Sandy Spin Slade entertained thousands at NBA half-times and special events around the globe. She revolutionized the educational market by introducing Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Sandy is also known for being one of the premier session speakers/presenters at Physical Education & After School Conferences throughout the country, inspiring thousands to enjoy all the benefits physical activity provides.”
Valerie Sloane is the creative lead on Students Rebuild, helping craft the art education experiences offered to K-12 students. She also re-envisions and reimagines student art created in the program into large, public art exhibits with trusted and mission-aligned partners. Valerie holds a degree in Art History and Education from the University of Washington, and a master’s in Art Education from Boston University. She is devoted to student art, expression, and facilitating connection and meaning between young artists, thinkers, and their communities.
Kristin Stayer is the Manager of Curriculum Development at After-School All-Stars, working with the National Program Team to provide engaging and comprehensive after-school programs that empower students to become 21st Century ready. Prior to serving at After-School All-Stars, Kristin was the Executive Director of Park Place Community Center, where she worked with the local neighborhood to create opportunities for individual and community transformation. In addition to leading the start-up and development of the community center, Kristin has worked with the Center for Students organization to provide students an immersive opportunity to experience urban cities. She has also managed the BOOST Collaborative blog and served alongside the BOOST Conference Team. Kristin holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Anderson University and a Masters of Urban Studies with a concentration in Community Development from Eastern University. She and her husband Eric live in Indianapolis, Indiana and have five beautiful children.
As the Senior Director of Field Outreach, Alexis Steines serves as the liaison between the Afterschool Alliance and its growing network of afterschool providers. She keeps the field up-to-date on the ever-changing afterschool policy landscape and mobilizes them to affect the development of afterschool-related public policy. Alexis directs the Afterschool Alliance’s national AmeriCorps VISTA project focused on creating sustainable afterschool programs, increasing participation in the afterschool and summer meal programs and expanding access to STEM education afterschool.
Angela Strickland is a Program Director for the YMCA of Western North Carolina. She has an Early Childhood Degree, along with Administrative Credentials in Early Childhood and Childcare Business Basics. She has worked with the YMCA for 10 years as well as the local school district, directing their afterschool programs and as a teaching assistant. She loves the outdoors, singing, camping, travel, and helping with service programs. Angela has a true passion for working with youth and families.
Devin Swift currently works as the Team Specialist for Chicago Youth Center (CYC)- Rebecca K. Crown in South Shore. In his former role as the Maker Lab Specialist at CYC, Devin used his knowledge of Web Graphic Design to spearhead programs such as Robotics, Film Making, Coding, and Game Design. These programs continue to enhance CYC's youths' creative drive and interest in STEAM.
Tim Taggart is a well respected National Presenter with over 22 years of experience in Physical Education and has been conducting professional development workshops for the past 10 years. Tim has traveled internationally from coast to coast to present games and equipment that meet state and national standards.
Emily Tay is a Project Coordinator at the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). She provides technical assistance and support to expanded learning programs in Los Angeles County that are funded by the After School Education and Safety program and the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. Prior to her time at LACOE, Emily served as a Supervisory Program Specialist for the United States Army’s after school program in Heidelberg, Germany. Emily earned a degree in psychology from Harvard University, and a Master’s in Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach.
Valerie Tomici is the Manager of Community Partnerships and Outreach at Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit that works to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. As a passionate advocate of educational access and equity, Valerie works to foster strong community partnerships with school districts, library networks, and community-based organizations so that every girl has the opportunity to gain the confidence and skills she needs to succeed in the 21st century.
David Tong is the Director of TGR EDU: Create, TGR Foundation’s educator training program dedicated to broadening access to high-quality learning environments and unlocking student potential. Our educator opportunities incorporate interdisciplinary approaches with content focused on STEM, college access and career connections. Continuous learning through in-person training and a collaborative online digital community will allow educators to adapt effective inquiry-based, student-centered pedagogy to emphasize positive youth development and student empowerment.
Jimena has worked in the before and after school field for over 15 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District. She has hands-on experience managing programs from site level to district-wide, coordinating District and City events, training and evaluating staff, and managing grants for before and after school programs. She currently oversees the LAUSD/Beyond the Bell Branch’s Ready-Set-Go! Before School Program/Beyond the Bell Branch’s Ready-Set-Go! Before School Program.
David has worked in the before and after school field for over 25 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is currently the administrator for the LAUSD/Beyond the Bell Branch’s Ready-Set-Go! Before School Program.
Andy is the West Regional Sales Manager for Gopher, a nationwide vendor for Physical Education, Athletics, Fitness, Recreation and Health. Over the past 13 years at Gopher, Andy has lead over 100 activity sessions all over the nation including internationally. Some include the state PE conventions in New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, California, Alaska, and Hawaii. Recently, Andy had started presenting at international conferences in Barcelona and Hong Kong.
Dr. Kathleen Van Antwerp
Dr. Van Antwerp is a leader in juvenile justice, youth outreach, and educational reform. For over 30 years she has been at the forefront of developing effective educational and youth outreach programs for at-risk children and adolescents in public schools, court and community schools, emergency care shelters, foster care, and juvenile hall.
Catherine Van Ness
Catherine Van Ness joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in 2015, and serves as Associate Director for State Operations & Policy. In this role, she leads the organization's state policy work in New Jersey and New York, supports our nine-state offices, and manages the organization's afterschool campaign. Catherine has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, previously with direct programming, providing educational and leadership opportunities to minority middle school students and facilitating international dance exchange programming. Catherine is currently completing her Masters in Education Policy Studies at George Washington University.
Dr. Femi Vance
Dr. Femi Vance is a researcher at American Institutes for Research where she researches and evaluates out-of-school time programs and provides technical assistance to youth development professionals. She has expertise in youth program quality, social and emotional learning, evaluation capacity building, and skill-building in youth programs. She strives to translate her research into practice. She is currently a National Summer Learning Field Consultant, and she serves on the board of the California School-Age Consortium. Dr. Vance holds a Master’s in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy from UC Irvine.
Leo is a passionate, high energy facilitator known by his peers as a game master! His creativity expands beyond games as he has been customizing experiential programs for hundreds of organizations over the past 15 years. Growing up on a dairy farm near Sacramento, CA he brings a salt of the earth energy as a dynamic and highly intentional facilitator. From youth programs to staff and professional development experiences Leo is committed to creating fun and engaging experiences with equal importance on authentic takeaways and lasting impact. Leo lives in Venice, CA and the past five years has also worked on the CBS hit show SURVIVOR!
Brooke Wheeldon-Reece, MBA
Brooke Wheeldon-Reece, MBA, is the President/CEO of The SPARK Initiative, Inc. - a non-profit organization in Tampa, FL. She is the founder and co-author of the evidence-based S.P.A.R.K. Mentoring Programs which are currently being taught to 1000’s of children in Hillsborough County and 12 countries internationally. Brooke and her co-host Ashley Hunt work with youth in rehabilitation centers, jails, sex-trafficking survivor safe houses, and many other alternative settings with one objective - teach them a simple understanding of how their mind works, so they can tap into their own potential and thrive.
Jenny is a self-care specialist, owner of MoonRise Self Care, a yoga teacher, and DJ. She has been practicing and teaching movement through dance and yoga for nearly 30 years. She combines her advanced education in hot yoga, Vinyasa, yin, restorative, aerial trapeze yoga, pranayama, classical ballet, and modern dance into her sessions to create community and weave self-care into your life.
As a DJ, J|Adore, is dynamic in crafting her own unique sound whether she is focusing in the studio or adrenalizing a dance floor and is known for flawlessly creating a strong experiential vibe and energetic experience. Jenny lives in Denver with her husband, son, and two fur babies.
Heather joined the CAN team in December 2018. Prior she worked in the Expanded Learning Division at the California Department of Education, overseeing the development and implementation of strategic plan efforts that reshaped the Division to focus on providing high quality expanded learning opportunities for California’s youth. Before her work in Expanded Learning Heather worked at the California Treasury focusing on Public Bonds and Environmental Finance. She began her public service through here selection for the Executive Fellowship Program. Heather received her BA in Political Science from CSU Fullerton.
Steven L. Willis
Steven Willis is the STEAM Program Manager at Chicago Youth Centers (CYC). His experience is mainly with informal STEAM teaching and learning, college/career readiness, and leadership/character development. Steven has presented at national and international conferences and sat on various committees. In 2019, Steven accepted the STEAM Program Manager role with the charge of developing hands-on STEAM programs to be practiced across all CYC. Steven is a key player in designing and transforming teaching spaces at Chicago Youth Centers into Maker Labs.
Kelly Wise currently serves as a Technical Advisor for YMCA of the USA. She trains, consults and supports local YMCA’s youth development program and organizational strategies and practices across the nation. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Purdue University. Her expertise ranges from youth and teen development, family engagement, social enterprising, social and health prevention and organizational capacity building. Kelly’s personal and professional mission statement is “Live with a purpose to support with purpose.”
Nikki works to coordinate and implement annual research activities, design surveys in the field and analyze research findings, and communicate the need for and successes of afterschool programs to stakeholders. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Nikki served as Policy Advisor at Third Way, where she handled domestic policy issues, and as a legislative assistant to former Rep. Hilda L. Solis, where she handled education and youth issues. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from UC San Diego and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.