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Announcing the Inaugural 2020 ECLH Fellows

By November 17, 2020No Comments

Photo by Markus Spiske

Rockwood Leadership Institute is pleased to announce the inaugural cohort of the Early Care, Learning, and Health Fellowship!

Rockwood is proud to share that we have partnered with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to offer this transformative fellowship 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 2020 ECLH Fellowship fellows are:

Lilith Assadourian | Interim Director of Early Childhood Service, Exceptional Parents Unlimited (EPU)

When Lilith immigrated to the states at the age of 19, she could barely speak English. Through perseverance, Lilith acquired her undergraduate degree in child development and later completed her masters in counseling with the option in marriage and family therapy. Lilith’s professional journey evolved at First 5 Fresno County where she focused on developing and using effective strategies to build capacity, expand and improve quality of services, and reduce disparities to meet developmental, psycho-social and emotional needs of vulnerable children (0-5) in the context of their families, culture and communities. Lilith is the interim director of Early Childhood Services at Exceptional Parents Unlimited (EPU) where she manages the early intervention and early childhood mental health programs. Lilith is thrilled to be part of the inaugural cohort of California Fellowship for Leaders in Early Care, Learning, and Health and believes that “It takes a deep commitment to change and an even a deeper commitment to grow.”

Luisa Avila | Program Director for Home Visiting Programs, Westside Family Preservation Services Network

Luisa was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S in 2006. She attended California State University, Fresno where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a Master of Science in counseling with an emphasis on student affairs and college counseling. Luisa is the program director for Home Visiting Programs at Westside Family Preservation Services Network located in Huron, CA. This community-based social and human services organization is dedicated to serving the children and families in West Fresno County’s rural communities with dignity and respect. Her position requires her to supervise all home visiting programs for the organization. Two of these programs are focused on the early development of children. She has been working for the organization for the past four years. During her free time, Luisa enjoys listening to music, painting, and baking.


Alisa Burton (she/her), MA | Program Supervisor, City of Oakland Head Start/Early Head Start Program

Alisa was born and raised in Richmond, California and has over 25 years’ experience working at the local, regional, and national levels of Head Start/Early Head Start. Alisa has held senior level positions at ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families where she provided expert consultation and training to federal HS/EHS Head Start staff and newly funded Early Head Start programs. At the national level, Alisa was one of ten individuals selected as a National Head Start Fellow which included a work placement for the federal government executive branch focusing on national policy. Alisa works as a comprehensive services program supervisor for the City of Oakland Head Start/Early Head Start program where she supports management systems; ensures quality control and compliance with federal mandates; and provides supervision and coaching for the content coordinators in areas of child development, health, mental health, family and community engagement, disabilities, and nutrition. Alisa also works as an adjunct faculty member for the ECE department of Contra Costa College, and the Peralta Community College District. Alisa is passionate about educational equality for minority and low-income children, including children with disabilities and special needs. Alisa is a graduate of Spelman College and San Francisco State University with a B.A. in psychology, and a M.A. in early childhood special education.


Jennifer Caban | Management Analyst, Alameda County Social Services Agency & Co-founder, Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory High School

Jennifer is a champion for early childhood education and focused on influencing places and spaces to be ready for ALL children and families. She serves as a management analyst with Alameda County Social Services Agency advancing early care and education and child welfare policies, contracts, performance metrics, and budgets. To this work, Jennifer brings a strong blend of cross-sector experience amassed over 25 years of dedicated service to creating access and equity in education. She is a co-founder of Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory High School in her native Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Binghamton University and a Masters of Public Administration from Baruch College as a National Urban Fellow.


Maria Ceballos | Director, Early Learning Department, Fresno Unified School District

Maria serves as the director of the Fresno Unified School District -Early Learning Department. Prior to transitioning to Fresno Unified School District, Maria dedicated over 15 years in nonprofit organizations in Fresno, California. Maria is driven by her personal passion for serving the community and her belief in creating opportunities for ALL individuals to reach their full potential in life. She is passionate about developing, implementing, and evaluating programs that support children and families. Maria is a first-generation college graduate of California State University, Fresno, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies and a master’s degree in public administration


Andrea Cervantes | Resource and Referral Program Manager, Central Valley Children’s Services Network

Andrea is an early care and education professional in California’s Central Valley. Born and raised in Fresno, she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from Fresno Pacific University. In May 2020, she earned an MA in early childhood education from California State University, Fresno where she graduated with honors and special recognitions. During her graduate studies, she also served as the president of the Early Care and Education Club at Fresno State. Andrea is a passionate advocate for the early care and education field with a special interest in the child care sector. Together with child care providers and community partners, she works on efforts to support the early care and education field and improve the quality of care for children in Fresno County.


Yesenia Chavez | Administrative Coordinator, Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement (BAHIA, Inc.)

Yesenia was born and raised in West Berkeley, CA to immigrant parents from Mexico. As a first generation student, she received her BA in business administration from St. Mary’s College. She is working as the administrative coordinator at the Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement (BAHIA, Inc.), a Latino nonprofit that provides bilingual and culturally diverse child care for low-income, working families and student parents. Since the age of sixteen, Yesenia has dedicated her life to social justice and focuses on working with underserved communities in the Bay Area. In the last few years she has immersed herself in advocating for early care education and has become an executive committee member of the Alameda County Early Care Education Planning Council. She is also an active community leader organizing and promoting cultural and educational events for children and families.


Barbara Daniel | Site Supervisor, Lighthouse Center for Children Child Development Center

Barbara is the site supervisor of the Lighthouse Center for Children Child Development Center (LFC CDC) of the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. Under Barbara’s leadership, the LFC CDC has earned a five-star rating from the local Quality Counts California (QCC) program. She has worked in the field of early care and education for the past 19 years and served in instructional and leadership roles while working with diverse populations, including dual language learners. Her educational background includes a BA in child development and an MA in education with an emphasis in ECE. Before the LFC CDC, Barbara led community-based ECE programs, including the Reading and Beyond Preschool, wherein the program earned a four-star rating from the QCC program and she secured additional funds to expand the program –in addition to Panda’s Environmental Day Care School, wherein she obtained national accreditation via NAEYC.

Araceli Delgado-Ortiz | Early Education Manager, San José Public Library

Araceli has focused the past 15+ years of her career in the areas of early childhood development and community and family engagement. As the San José Public Library’s early education manager, Araceli has led the design and implementation of multiple, high-quality early learning and development programs for infants, toddlers, preschool children, and their caregivers. Providing equitable access to early learning opportunities has long been at the core of her work. In the diverse city of San José, Araceli leads programming that meets children and caregivers where they are at, with the lens that all children are best supported in the context of family, culture, community, and society. Araceli is devoted to delivering programs that not only serve San José residents, but empower them with the ideas, skills, and supports to be leaders within their families and communities.


Clarissa Doutherdis | Executive Director, Parent Voices Oakland

Clarissa is the executive director of Parent Voices Oakland, an East Bay chapter of Parent Voices California. Clarissa has been a strong advocate for mothers like herself who were caught in the crosshairs of ineffective public policy. As a collaborative movement builder, Clarissa has forged deep partnerships with large local government agencies including the Alameda County Social Services Agency, Public Health, and Behavioral Health Services. After stepping into leadership as the co-chair on the Alameda County Early Childhood Policy Committee with First 5 of Alameda County, Clarissa led efforts to refocus the group to become a cross sector collaborative which brings together community based organizations, parents and service providers to advance innovative strategies for County-wide systems change; and works to elevate parent leadership in public policy. Clarissa has received the following honors: Gloria Steinem “Woman of Vision” award; East Bay Women’s Political Alliance’s “Advocate of the Year”; First 5 of Alameda County “Parent of the Year” award, an award for excellence in Human Relations from the Alameda County Human Relations Commission. Clarissa resides in Oakland, California with her son Xavier.


Dawn Edwards (she/her), MPA, M.ED | Director of Program Operations & Citywide Initiatives, Lotus Bloom Family Resource Center

Dawn resides in Oakland, where she’s lived off and on for the past 30 years. She is trained in all three tiers of restorative justice and has worked with young girls of color within OUSD. She spent years working with victims of police misconduct and facilitated Know Your Rights workshops to the community. Dawn is the director of program operations & citywide initiatives at Lotus Bloom Family Resource Center, where she contributed to the development of a statewide playgroup curriculum, program design and implementation, and overall operations. She is very active in the LGBTQ Community and is the founding board vice president for the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center where she actively volunteers as a facilitator of several support groups, in addition to working with the Youth and Family Services programs. She’s also blessed to be the mother of 3 beautiful young black men.


Brenda Gardner | Early Learning Specialist, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning

Brenda is an early learning specialist with Tandem, Partners in Early Learning. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, she established her foundation of what quality education looks like from teaching in China and Colorado. Since relocating to San Francisco in 2014, her work with both Tandem and Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. has deeply solidified her passion for education equity for our youngest people. Brenda creates culturally and linguistically responsive programming for children and the adults who care for them, cultivating relationships with the organizations who tirelessly care for our community in the face of overwhelming adversity. Fluent in English and Spanish, Brenda’s best days are when she gets to share books with children. She holds a BS in sociology from Colorado State University, a certificate of TEFL, and earned a family development credential from the University of Connecticut.


Brooke Giesen | Director, The Community Preschool at Grace Cathedral

Brooke’s passion and love is early childhood education. Brooke has been working in the field for 19 years. She was a teacher for 12 years and has been directing The Community Preschool, Grace Cathedral for 8 years now. The Community Preschool is an intentionally socio-economically diverse, mixed age program. She has been a leader for BANDTEC’s (Bay Area Network Diversity Training Early Childhood) Equity Leadership Project since 2018 providing trainings and participating in a community of practice. She served as a director mentor for The California Consortium for Equity in Early Childhood Education’s Equity Leaders Fellowship in Early Care and Education for a year. She presented at First 5 CA Child Health, Care and Education Summit in 2019 about her experience. Brooke has a BA in Women’s Studies from UCSC. She recently co-Founded a non-profit, The Center for Leadership, Equity and Research in Early Learning


Mitchell Ha | Assistant Program Director of Early Learning, Hayward Unified School District

Mitchell works at Hayward Unified School District as the assistant program director of Early Learning Programs. Mitchell is also a part time faculty at Chabot College and Ohlone College within the ECE Department since 2010. He is very passionate about teaching; both young children as well as college students. He’s thankful for the opportunity to work in a nurturing, loving environment where children can learn and experience new challenges that will help build their confidence while they play. Mitchell is both fortunate and blessed to be with his husband for 22 years and a co-parent of two wonderful boys. As a parent of two handsome young boys, he realizes how important their early years were and the positive impact he has on their growth and development. When he is not working, Mitchell and his family love to travel and see the world.


Tiffany Hopp | Owner, Lead Teacher and Director, Wee Folk PlayGarden

Tiffany has been working with children and families in the Napa Valley for 14 years. From a passionate desire for quality care for her own children, she established Wee Folk PlayGarden in 2009. Wee Folk is an early childhood care and learning program for infants and children ages birth to four years. Wee Folk is an outdoor, nature based program inspired by the Forest School, Reggio and Waldorf education movements, but it is the needs and values of the children and families of Wee Folk that truly drive Tiffany for the program vision and direction. Tiffany dreams to help Wee Folk and other early childhood programs all over the world become nurturing, diverse and inclusive spaces for young children to grow and to empower their parents and communities.


Trena Davis-Hudson | Center Base Operations Director, Go Kids, Inc.

Trena is a life-long Silicon Valley local. She serves full time as the center base operations director for Go Kids, Inc, She is an adjunct instructor for Pacific Oaks College and San Jose City College. Trena is also an elected member of the local early education planning council of Santa Clara County. She received her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from Oklahoma State University and later received her master’s degree in human development and educational leadership from Pacific Oaks College. In addition to having a fulfilling career, Trena is a loving mother and “dance mom” to her 8-year-old tap dancing, hip hopping, ballerina. Together, they are both pretty competitive and you can regularly find them playing board games, racing each other through the house or seeing who can make the other laugh the hardest. As a lifelong learner, she is currently working towards her goal of speaking Spanish fluently.


Eula Idemoto (she/her/hers) |  Assistant Director, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County

Eula has served as an early childhood educator, mentor, and advocate for over 10 years. She has taught in public, private, and non-profit preschools and after school programs, serving many diverse populations. In her role at FIRST 5, she supports the service delivery of whole-child, whole-family at 25 Family Resource Centers across Santa Clara County. She is also a member of the organization’s government alliance on racial equity group to identify, name, and address structural racism and inequalities both internally and externally. Eula serves on the local planning council as co-chair of the workforce development committee. In her spare time, she volunteers with local organizations including San Jose Strong, Family Supportive Housing, and SIREN, and was named Community Advocate of the Year by SIREN in 2019. She enjoys playing ice hockey with her all-Filipina team, Ang Sarap, taking bike tours with her husband, and walks with their corgi, Data.


Cassia Izaac | Early Childhood STEM Specialist, University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science

Cassia has a BA in education from her native country of Brazil. She taught in classrooms at inner city schools in São Paulo, one of the world’s most populous and dynamic urban areas. Her experience volunteering at social service agencies made her aware of how Brazil’s class divisions start hardening in preschools. She believes in early childhood education as a path to work against a system that hasn’t been designed for most to achieve their full potential. At the Lawrence Hall of Science, she designs STEM programs that illustrate culturally responsive teaching and developmentally appropriate practices. The programs inspire adults to participate in guided observation and interactions with the children while they play. Her hope is to join more organizations that are working towards equity and inclusion.


Tony Jordan | Executive Director, Stanislaus County Office of Education, Child & Family Services Division

Tony, a happily married Modesto local and father of 4, has a successful 20-year work history with a variety of child development programs. Advocating the importance of the early years of life and common sense approaches, Tony currently serves his community by leading the awarding-winning CFS Division SCOE. His team educates some 8,200 children, supports over 6,900 families, and develops more than 1,100 professionals throughout an 8-county service region with 14 partner agencies while managing the $84 million program. Tony holds a bachelor’s of social science, a master’s in educational leadership, and a child development director permit. He has served in a number of roles including director, coordinator, and analyst. For 10 years, Tony also proudly served in our nation’s military including time in Germany, Korea, and Afghanistan. Selfless service, duty, honor, respect, and integrity are at his core and guide his daily work and interactions with others both personally and professionally.


Terri Kemper | Director, Mountain View Whisman School District

Terri is a California local. She has worked for the Mountain View Whisman School District’s award-winning preschool program for the past 24 years, first as a teacher and for the past 13 years as director. Terri advocates for equitable access to high-quality early education, especially for students from low-income families and children with special needs. As co-chair of the Santa Clara county local early education planning council and the Title 5 provider’s group, and a member of the joint childcare committee, Terri collaborates with talented and committed colleagues who provide services to children and families throughout the Bay Area. She earned a BA in psychology from UC Davis, a BS in communicative disorders and deaf education from Utah State University, and a MA in child development from SJSU. Terri is also the blessed wife of a fellow educator and proud mother of two teens.


Domenica Marquez | Director of Provider Services, California Child Care Resource & Referral Network

Domenica’s passion for working with and for children and families started at a young age; this has evolved into deep desire to create systems that uplift and genuinely serve BIPOC families with dignity. In her 20 years of experience, she has designed, developed, and implemented multiple local and statewide programs that range from academic support for first generation college students at SFSU to a family literacy and home visiting program in San Rafael’s Canal Community, and in the last 14 years, at the CA Child Care Resource and Referral Network, where she is the director of provider services, a range of capacity building and quality improvement programs that focus on supporting home-based child care providers across California. Most recently, she was a co-author/contributor for Culturally Responsive Self-Care Practices for Early Childhood Educators, which helped her realize her happy place is a solid kitchen dance party with her inspiring daughter.


Michelle Murano | Teacher, Pacific Primary School

Michelle’s influence in early care and education began in 2012 supporting children’s connections, creativity, cognition, and community top her goals as an educator. With an emphasis on anti-bias education, she applies a reflective practice and joy for learning to her current role as a prekindergarten teacher at Pacific Primary School. She enjoys spending time in communities of practice, such as Bandtec’s Equity Leadership Project, whose work provides leadership opportunities with San Francisco’s diverse community of early childhood educators. After attending The Equity Institute, a four-month professional development program, Michelle was invited to present the following two years on Using Books to Teach Anti-Bias. In addition, Michelle collaborates to produce a podcast discussing the dynamics of equity in education. Michelle hopes her experiences as an educator will help her lean against injustice and inequity and serve children and families as an agent of change.


Marvin Patton, MA Ed. | Professor of Child Development, Merced College

Marvin teaches child development at Merced College, whose motto is “Students are our focus and we are known by their success.”Similarly, he is an adjunct instructor for Fresno Pacific University. Marvin participates in professional development that promotes equity and diversity. He has served in various early care and education roles since 1990; ranging from licensed family childcare provider to multi-site program coordinator. Today, he enjoys mentoring teachers-in-training; and is especially pleased to encourage young men to enter the early learning professions. Marvin is thankful and blessed to have collaborated with All Dads Matter of Merced County, to create a new father-friendly math and literacy program that encourages dads in their roles as nurturers and educators of their young children. Marvin seeks to live out his Christian beliefs and values–to promote grace, peace and tolerance–to heal our deeply wounded and divided society


Ericka L. Peterson | Health Services Manager, Merced County Office of Education Head Start

Ericka serves as the health services manager for Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) Head Start. MCOE Head Start promotes school readiness of children under the age of 5 from low-income families through education, health, social, and other support services. Ericka is actively involved in her community serving on various advisory committees including the California Alliance for Health Membership Advisory Committee, Merced Healthy Families of America and Parents as Teachers Advisory Committee, All in for Health Equity Coalition, and Afya (Swahili for health) African American Maternal-Child Health Network. She is a certified health education specialist, instructor of First Aid/CPR, and facilitator of the Effective Black Parenting Program curriculum. She is passionate about public health and is a member of the American Public Health Association and the Society for Public Health Education. Additionally, she is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key International Honor Societies. Ericka holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a doctoral candidate in public health at Walden University.


Rockwood Community Call

Cecily Rose Engelhart

Master Certified Life Coach, Speaker, and Designer

September 28 | 12 PT / 3 ET