"Students may join an after school program, but they stay for the people."
There's a tradition in many of our programs. This tradition says that "Students may join an after school program, but they stay for the people." Little did we know that this saying would become one of the underlying principles of our team and a key characteristic in our efforts to build transformative relationships across the state. It's the people.
We aspire to be people who build relationships that not only transform one's self but also the system itself.
I began my career in Expanded Learning (formerly known as After School) in 1994 as a highly idealistic and even more naive college student. Armed with some Egyptian musk, a few packs of incense, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X, I set out on the journey, unbeknownst to me at the time, as a Community Educator. My teachers/trainers were a group 3rd-6th Graders (and by extension their families) from Sherman and Logan Heights in San Diego. The classrooms were Chicano Park in Logan and the “Yellow House” in Sherman. My first lesson: Humility. My teachers were incredibly patient with this poor student. My classmates/cohort were a team of like-minded individuals who were equally idealistic… just not as naive. This team believed. Believed in the work. Believed in the students and families. Believed in me. In 2002, while preparing for an outdoor camping experience with 20 middle school students, I received a call, “Diego, how would you like to move to Los Angeles and help launch [Governor] Schwarzenegger’s after school program, Arnold’s All-Stars.”
Where I trained with one of the best. His experience working with state, federal, and local educational agencies would warrant honorific titles, yet he preferred to be called The Gypsy Scholar. A man who had the ability to teach and inspire with stories. Stories that would travel to heal and transform. Together with a band of unlikely individuals, young and old, we created a tribe. A tribe, a community, that became a statewide and national model for middle school expanded learning programs. Many discussed the ‘secret sauce’ that created these programs… There are no secrets. A team of super-empowered individuals worked intensely and collaboratively to transform first themselves, then all those in their social field to educate, enlighten, and inspire. We stopped looking for role models when we realized we were the Real Models. Simple to say and write. But a lifetime to be and do.
Yet, the stories are legendary. The people even more incredible. When the mindset is “youth come to programs but stay for the people,” what do you expect?
In 2010, the opportunity to join ASAPconnect brought me to the Bay Area. In my decade with ASAPconnect, three core values have shaped and continue to guide my work.
(1) Being one’s true authentic self,
(2) Embracing the beauty of mindful living, and
(3) Connecting people to inspire impact.
These core values are expressed in the various opportunities to facilitate and serve the expanded learning field and other social systems that impact the well-being of our young people. That is very technical language to say my core values are expressed in all that I do, and this expression has found home in all spaces where young people are at the center.
This is me.
A dream or prayer of my ancestors.
A holder of inspiration in my descendants.
One who at times is blinded by love.
One who believes in the nobility of service.
One who believes we will win.
I have always had a passion for the Expanded Learning field. I am a product of “after school” having been raised by a single parent and spending time in both before school and after school programs throughout elementary and middle school. Through many diverse experiences, I have been able to cultivate my leadership skills. I have worked as a site coordinator, direct service provider, regional lead, and now as a statewide contractor to the California Department of Education Expanded Learning Division.
Leveraging my past work as a regional lead, I have developed innovative on-boarding strategies to support new state and regional leads and provide additional strategies to build a positive culture and collaboration within the regional System of Support teams. Those teams are tasked with supporting expanded learning providers throughout the state.
I am a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, as well as a Certified Professional Coach grounded in a transformational coaching approach. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from CSU Stanislaus and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from National University.
Deeply committed to social justice and systems change, I served as a founding member of Sisters Inspiring Change. It was established to support younger women of color through mentoring and leadership development. I previously served on the United Way Women’s Leadership Council and was the co-founder and former president of Murals in Motown.
Currently I live in the Bay Area, however, my heart will always be connected to my roots in California’s Central Valley where I was raised, and where my family continues to reside.
I bring my project management, communications, and analysis experience to ASAPconnect to help the team stay on top of its programs and new developments, oversee convenings and communications with the expanded learning communities, and manage the team’s grants and partnerships.
Prior to joining ASAP in August 2019, I was at Deloitte where I managed learning and community building programs for a large practice of consultants and financial services professionals. Before Deloitte, I led market research for an education company, collecting input from teachers and principals about K-12 online professional development and supplemental classroom products. I started my professional life in high tech market research, despite having planned to be a teacher.
My passion for the power of education to provide opportunity for all has found an amazing home here. I am excited to be working in education again and am lucky to be working with such a fantastic team.
I earned a B.A. from California State University, Chico. I live in San Jose with my husband and our teenage son, just a few miles from where I grew up.
“You never really understand a person
until you consider things from his point of view.”
- Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I am thrilled to be working with ASAPconnect, especially with such an amazing team. I manage information flow, manage the team's calendar, plan and coordinate convenings and events, prepare travel arrangements, financial reports, and accounts payable.
I have worked as an administrative assistant for several years and take pride in what I do. My prior experience in after school and early childhood education programs makes me feel at home with the people and communities we support. The experience I have made me the way I am now: grateful, full of love, with desire to flourish and grow.
I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I love meeting new people who fill my life with new learning experiences. I love to explore the unfamiliar, especially in reading, hiking, and travel. With such adventures comes a lot of coffee, wine, and food!
I am the newest member of ASAPconnect, and I support the team with logistics, project management, and reporting. I am also the liaison for our School of Leadership & Facilitation participants, helping them manage their program milestones and achieve their goals.
I have been an employee of Santa Clara County Office of Education since 2002. I have over 15 years of experience as a paraeducator, working for many years at Osborne School in Juvenile Hall, Chandler Tripp Early Start Program (Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Foothill Annex, and most recently with Opportunity Youth Academy.
My background as a paraeducator has ingrained in me commitment, compassion, and consistency. My experience in school programs has proven to me that youth are “at promised” not “at risk.” My knowledge and skills gained from prior roles give me essential tools and perspectives to help drive ASAPconnect to achieve its mission. I am very happy to still be in education, but in a different form. I’m excited to learn and grow with my new team.
I am a San Jose native. Outside of work I enjoy spending time with family and loved ones, traveling to new cities, cooking, gardening, and being Mom to my two kids – with a side of good me-time.
“Every day is a new adventure, a new beginning…
So just smile, take a deep breath and start again.”