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Announcing The 2022-2023 Early Care, Learning, and Health Fellows

By November 2, 2022November 22nd, 2022No Comments


Rockwood is proud to announce our 2022-23 California Fellowship for Leaders in Early Care, Learning, & Health in partnership with the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. This transformative fellowship is designed to support leaders working in roles that support all children, focusing on birth through age five.  Especially as COVID-19 and contemporary social uprisings highlight the systemic racist inequalities, this fellowship will create networks of support as leaders fight for more equitable systems to support children from birth through age five.

The 2022-23 ECLH Fellows are:

Aimee Walker | Executive Director, Milestones Child Development Centers, Inc.

Aimee is an Infant Toddler Specialist with PITC coaching and training teachers and other caregivers of young children. Additionally, she is the founder and Executive Director of Milestones CDC Inc., providing center-based care in Sacramento. Aimee has worked with families in a wide range of capacities since 1991 including through Social Services and family child care. Aimee is also a volunteer with Girl Scouts, having led a group from kindergarten to high school graduation, and she is a volunteer with the Tourette Association of America. She is passionate about the need for relationship-based care for all that addresses mental health and trauma in young children. Aimee is a direct communicator that values authenticity and the building of relationships in all areas of life. She advocates for mental health for all, and is a daily practitioner of meditation.


Amy Shohet | Clinical Director, One Life Counseling Services

Amy is a mental health therapist who specializes in working with young children and their families. She is trained in Child Parent Psychotherapy and NMT. Amy is also a clinical director invested in training new therapists and helping steer the clinical direction of her agency.



Andrea Cruthird-Mays | Foundation in Early Education Adult ROP Instructor, Merced County of Education

Andrea is a wife, mother and grandmother. Andrea has 25 years of experience in Early Education (EE)where she has served in various roles such as EE instructional aide, lead teacher in a lab school setting, where she taught infants, toddlers and preschool children. For 14-years Andrea worked for Merced County Office of Education: Early Education Department overseeing California workforce development initiatives. She supervised a coaching team; she was a workforce development trainer and provided academic/professional growth advising.  She has 10 years of experience teaching child development coursework as an adjunct professor at Merced Community College and Fresno Pacific University. In July of 2020 she transitioned into the position of Foundations in Early Education Instructor, where she is teaching child development coursework and supporting adult ROP students, navigating higher education systems. She is cultivating the next generation of future leaders and educators.  


Anna Miera | ECE Data & Policy Analyst , First 5 Alameda County

From growing up in her mother’s family child care program to supporting the development of a 226 page Early Care and Education (ECE) Needs Assessment, Anna has enjoyed learning about ECE systems and the importance of helping them work for families, children, and communities. Anna started working with children as a nanny, au pair, child care teacher, and youth dance instructor. After learning more about child development and policies that impact children and families, she began working with the Alameda County ECE program, supporting ECE workforce initiatives, local data analysis, and advocacy efforts. Now Anna works as an ECE Data & Policy Analyst where she continues to support planning for local initiatives while connecting with community partners. She has also had the opportunity to participate in a yearlong doula training and is on the Associate Board for San Francisco Beacon Initiative.


Avita Behari | Director of Family Navigation, Lotus Bloom Family Resource Center

Avita proudly works for Lotus Bloom as a Director of Family Navigation. Lotus Bloom is a family resource center where children aged 0-5 and their parents/caregivers learn, play, gain confidence and find connections to other parents, case management and basic needs. Prior, Avita worked for an after school program at an elementary school as a Program Coordinator Assistant. Working for communities and knowing that she has made a positive impact in a child’s life always puts a smile on her face.



Carolina Quintero | Training Coordinator, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network

Carolina began her career in Early Care and Education as a preschool teacher assistant almost 26 years ago. Since then, she has worked as a teacher (preschool & EHS), bilingual project specialist, researcher for maternal mental health and reflective parenting, QSLA coach and training coordinator. Carolina has worked at school districts, various Resource & Referral (R&R) agencies, UCLA and The CA Child Care Resource & Referral Network. She has also been a part of curriculum development for Family, Friend & Neighbor (FFN) caregivers. In addition to supporting high quality early learning for all children in all learning settings, Carolina enjoys time with her family and considers being a mom to her 19 year old daughter & 14 year old son her greatest & most fulfilling role. She holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and psychology & a master’s degree in early childhood education with a specialization in trauma studies.


Claudia Meza | Senior Program Manager, Exceptional Parents Unlimited, Inc.

Claudia is a Sr. Program Manager for an Early Intervention Program at Exceptional Parents Unlimited Inc. located in the Central Valley. She has worked in multiple settings supporting families and children for over 15 years. Through her work with those families, Claudia has learned the importance of not only becoming an advocate for families but also coaching them to become strong advocates for themselves and their children.  One of her greatest accomplishments has been pursuing her education and being the first in her family to graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Child Development. Claudia hopes to continue inspiring others in her team, in her agency, and in her community to pursue their dreams and never give up, no matter the challenges. 


Eleazar Martinez | Senior Program Manager, Family Connections Center

Eleazar grew up in the Bay Area, holds a BA from UC Davis and MA in Chican@ Studies from SJSU. Eleazar has over 10 years of experience working in the early childhood and education field with nonprofit organizations. He joined Family Connections in 2020, at the start of the pandemic and transitioned to a larger leadership role as the Family Support Director in 2022, overseeing the wide range of programs in the Family Support team and being the lead for Excelsior center. Prior to joining Family Connections, he was the Community School Director at Coronado Elementary in Richmond, working in partnership with the school district and school site to coordinate services for underserved low-income students and families. Additionally, he has extensive experience in case management and supporting parent leadership development through his prior roles with Marin Child Care Council, YMCA of the East Bay, and Bay Area Community Resources.


Elizabeth Krey | Lactation Coordinator, Tulare County Women, Infants, and Children

Liz is a single mother to two boys, aged 5 and 7. She’s been passionate about helping people from a young age, but after having her sons she realized she was being pulled towards the world of breastfeeding and lactation. Liz started attending La Leche League meetings, which is a peer-to-peer support group to help parents navigate breastfeeding; she became a Leader and facilitated those groups. As she developed her professional knowledge, she grew to become an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. This has definitely been her biggest accomplishment. Liz now works at WIC – Women, Infants and Children – as a Lactation Coordinator. She is so excited to bring breastfeeding to the forefront of the organization and help empower the community with knowledge and skills. Liz gets so much satisfaction knowing that she will be helping people who don’t normally get the level of support that they deserve and need.


Eva Chou | Trauma-Informed Care Training and Coaching Manager, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network

Eva is currently the Trauma-Informed Care Training & Coaching Manager at the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network. She has worked in the child care field for over 20 years and 16 of those at her local child care resource and referral agency in both Alternative Payment and Resource and Referral departments. She has managed various projects that included CCIP, FFN, GLC, QRIS and other quality improvement projects promoting the support for children’s wellbeing through training and coaching. Eva also worked at a Head Start funded lab school where she applied trauma-informed practices to support children, families as well as the staff. As a first-generation immigrant and working closely with a diverse community, she values and advocates for diversity and equity in every aspect of her work.


Jessica Gutierrez | Program Manager, Fresno Unified School District

Born and raised in Fresno, CA, Jessica is committed to serving California’s children, families, and early learning and care providers. Throughout her career, Jessica has served in various capacities ranging from classroom paraprofessional and classroom teacher to her current role as a program manager in the Fresno Unified School District Early Learning Department. Her experience lends a unique perspective to her work, much of which centers around supporting early learning and care providers working with diverse populations, with an emphasis on dual language learners. Jessica is a first-generation college graduate of California State University, Fresno, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development. Her passion and dedication for child development remain at the heart of everything she does as she works to support the continuous progress of the early learning and care field. 


Kim Beckwith | Program Manager Early Learning, Fresno Unified School District

Currently, Kim is a Program Manager in the Early Learning Department in the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD).  In this role, she supports all Part Day Preschool Programs in Fresno Unified.  This includes, providing support for our Early Learning Educators, Site Administrators, developing professional learning sessions, supervising the Early Learning Support Specialists, as well as collaborating with various departments within our District. Prior to this position, Kim was the Health and Safety Support Specialist for all FUSD Preschool Sites, an Instructional Coach in the FUSD Early Learning Department, and began her career as a Kindergarten teacher in FUSD.  Kim’s prior positions and the experience and knowledge gained from those positions has led me to where she is today.  She is most proud of our team and the high-quality educational environments and experiences we provide for Fresno’s youngest learners and their families.


Laxmi Gurajada | Education Programs Consultant, California Children and Families Commission (First 5)

Laxmi is an Education Programs Consultant at First 5 California (F5CA). She received her two bachelor’s degrees in India in social sciences and in education, and her master’s degree in special education from National University (US). Laxmi started her career in India as an elementary teacher. In the US, her focus has been working with children as a teacher, or for the children through the various state and federally-funded projects including the RTT-ELC, Quality Counts California, F5CA’s Dual Language Learner pilot, and the Refugee Family Support funding. She has been part of research, program design, evaluation, and implementation of these programs and takes the learnings into consideration for future program development to serve California’s young children and their families. Laxmi believes in working in systems that focus on building from the core, and her work at F5CA has always been grounded with that focus. Being multilingual, she can speak three languages including English.


Leticia Casillas-Sanchez | Associate Director Early Childhood, Children Now

Leticia is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of experience in maternal/child health and early childhood programming in Southern California. Collectively, Mrs. Casillas-Sanchez has worked in the direct service field and philanthropic space to design and implement early childhood programs related to workforce development, countywide implementation of best practices models for Home Visiting, and evidence-based practice models across Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Leticia joined Children Now as of April 2022 as Associate Director of Early Childhood. Prior to joining Children Now, Leticia held leadership roles as Vice President of Programs at First 5 Orange County and Senior Program Officer at First 5 LA. 


Mayra Alvarez | President, The Children’s Partnership

Mayra is President of The Children’s Partnership, an advocacy nonprofit working to advance child health equity through policy, research, and community engagement. In 2021, she was named by President Biden to the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. She serves as a Commissioner on the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission and First 5 California Commission. Previously, she served at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama-Biden administration, including at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Office of Minority Health, and the Office of Health Reform. She also served as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and House of Representatives. She graduated from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California at Berkeley. She is from outside San Diego, CA, and is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants.


Michael Street | Site Director, Go Kids, Inc.

Michael has two sisters, and a brother.  His family is very important to him, and would do most anything, for any one member. Michael has spent most of his adult years attempting to juggle simultaneous employment, (striving for passive income) and higher education here and there. In the most recent years, he has focused on child development as that is where his honest, and real-work-passion is. Michael is currently the Site Director of Galarza-Hammer CDC, where he works directly with his staff and many families. He has recent experiences coaching and working with families within the football programs of Fremont High School, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara Pop Warner, a Specialist Consultant within other local educational and care-service- organizations. He values helping improve outcomes for children and families I have been affiliated with.


Ni McCovery | Professional Development Manager, BANANAS, Inc. 

Ni has been in the Early education field for 20 years. She worked for the City of Emeryville at the Emeryville child development center for 12 years. Ni owned and operated a family daycare called McCovey’s Munchkins for 3 years and she’s worked in Head Start at St. Vincent de Paul. Ni has been a Teacher, a Curriculum Specialist, an Education Coordinator, and a Center Director. She has also worked in Corporate childcare opening Salesforces Little Ohana. Lastly, she has been blessed to participate in the school-aged childcare experience as a Director with the YMCA of the East bay. Ni is now a Professional Development Manager with Bananas and manages Bananas University, CCIP, Quality Counts, and IEEP and ACOE contracts.


Ninoska (Nina) Ayala | WIC Director, Native American Health Center

Ninoska’s name is Yugoslavian, but she was born in Bolivia, South America.  Her dad was an artist and won many 1st prize awards for his many paintings and sculptures, which is why her family came to the United States so that he could advance in his career.  Though art was his passion, he would teach art, was the art director in Bolivia, and taught at the University in Bolivia.  Her mom worked in finance, but when she came to the US, she became a homemaker for many years, raising three daughters.  Ninoska was the oldest.  When her daughters  were settled in their schools and on a good path she went back to school to get a CNA certificate and took care of several elderly folks one of whom was in a coma.  She did this to show her daughters that if she could accomplish this so could they accomplish whatever they set their minds to do.  At work, Ninoska has the privilege to help her team discover their talents, hone in on their strengths, work on areas they wish to improve, and be proud of the very best work they bring to all stakeholders!  Together with her team they discover how to WOW those they serve.  One of her favorite things is connecting with people who are passionate about learning. When Ninoska is not working, she likes to read or listen to Audible while driving; she enjoys watching movies and spending time with her family, good friends, and her fur child, Coco. She feels humbled to be given this opportunity to work on her leadership skills and looks forward to meeting others at the Rockwood Leadership fellowship – Let the adventure begin!


Nora Mendoza | WIC Project Manager & Translator, Lundquist Institute WIC/South Los Angeles Health Projects

A native of Mexico, Nora, at the age of seven, immigrated to Los Angeles with her family. As an immigrant and Angeleno, Nora understands the cultural and diverse complexities of growing up in Los Angeles. She assumes the lead role in the agency’s Child Development Services implementation. In addition, she has the lead role in the ongoing implementation of the Little-by-Little Program. And provides administrative oversight to the Read Baby Read! Program. Nora works to enhance the health and quality of life of families in South Los Angeles by promoting good nutrition, breast/chestfeeding, immunization, child development, and healthy preconception and interconception practices. She is a mother of three adult children. Nora enjoys time at the beach or a chat with a friend over a cup of coffee.


Roselle Loudon | Program Supervisor, South San Francisco Unified School District 


Rita Baker | Program Coordinator, First 5 Yuba County Children and Family Commission

Rita Baker is a wife to Dan, a mom to two adult children, and most importantly a grandmother to four beautiful grandchildren. She enjoys camping, crocheting, meeting people and supporting her community. Rita is an advocate of families and children. She is passionate about creating a safe, positive  interaction with people she meets. Rita provides safe spaces for children and families to come together to learn and play. She has been in the ECE field for 25 years. For 17 of those years she served families and ECE Professionals in a large Head Start program. She invested 5 years as a QRIS Coach supporting ECE professionals in multiple programs of childcare. Rita is a trainer for many ECE topics. For her last two years she has been a Program Coordinator for First 5 Yuba where she works with families and the community at large to ensure all children 0-5 get a developmental screening.


Treasure Nguyen | Library Program Specialist, San Jose Public Library 

In the library’s Early Education Services unit, Treasure focuses on partnering directly with families and community members to co-create accessible early education programs and services that reflect the voices of San José’s diverse communities. Treasure enjoys learning in community, and they currently facilitate the Asian Pacific Islander staff affinity group at the library, as well as the Early Ed unit’s LGBTQ+ Caregiver Advisory Committee. Treasure’s work is guided by the principles of: intersectionality; institutional accountability; culturally sustaining practices; moving at the speed of trust; centering lived experience; and leadership of the most impacted. Outside of work, Treasure is learning to reconnect with their inner child and bring play back into their life, through drawing, singing, or dancing.


Yamileth Manzanarez Jimenez | Education Coordinator, Go Kids, Inc.

Yamileth currently works as an Education Coordinator for Go Kids. Her role primarily focuses on being a support for teachers, children, and families throughout their Early Learning experiences. As a first-generation individual in this country, she had to learn how to navigate the world her parents were still acclimating to. This instilled in her the drive of wanting to learn how everyone learned! This curiosity led Yamileth to obtain an Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education from Santa Barbara City College and a Bachelor of Science in Child Development from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Throughout her own educational journey, she served in many roles in the classroom that range from volunteer to supervisor. Each role shares one commonality, and that is to ensure that children are receiving optimal care, opportunity, and freedom to learn. Yamileth is passionate about providing these opportunities for all children and hopes the world follows her lead one day.

Rockwood Community Call

India Harville

disability justice consultant, public speaker, somatics practitioner, and performance artist

April 25 | 12 PT / 3 ET

India Harville, African American female with long black locs, seated in her manual wheelchair wearing a long sleeveless green dress. Her service dog, Nico, a blond Labrador Retriever, has his front paws on her lap. He is wearing a blue and yellow service dog vest. They are outside with greenery behind them.