SugarWatch Board Members
Brent Walmsley has a background as an educator and child advocate and seeks to take this experience to develop SugarWatch!
Most recently, he taught as a seventh-grade humanities teacher at Gabriella Charter School, a high-performing charter school that integrates high quality education with dance instruction. Gabriella Charter School has been recognized a leader in the charter school movement and is ranked #2 among all California elementary and middle charter schools by USC's prestigious 2013 School Performance Dashboard. In 2012, GCS scored an Academic Performance Index score of 894 (out of 1,000) and was named Charter School of the Year by the California Charter Schools Association.
Prior to teaching at Gabriella Charter School, Brent was an Outreach Director with Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) in Los Angeles, a teacher-led student-focused organization with the goal of elevating the teaching profession through organizing and facilitating teacher-directed policy recommendations. During his time with E4E, the membership grew from 1,000 to over 2,500 teacher members and worked with teachers to write policy recommendations on teacher career paths, quality teacher recruitment, and highlighting strategies for success from schools that increased API scores of 40 points or more.
Brent continues to advocate for children as a Family Trainer with CFY, an organization that seeks to bridge the digital divide by working with low-income families to utilize technology tools aimed at improving educational outcomes. He also volunteers and directs the youth group at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach. As a Teach For America corps member, Brent taught at Webster Middle School and in Compton Unified at the Community Day School. In these settings he became aware of the effects of the achievement gap and the school to prison pipeline and dedicates his life to challenging these issues.
Brent holds an M.A. in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University and a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is also an ordained minister. Brent grew up in Mound, Minnesota and enjoys cycling, travel, playing with his dog, Renzo, and spending time with his wife, Desiree.
During his time teaching he noticed the many students struggling with obesity, sickness, and a general lack of productive energy. He observed the direct link between consistent attendance and improvements in academic achievement, and is seeking to help improve schools through healthier students. He made his own health transformation by losing over 75 pounds through making radical changes in diet and exercise. He wants to help improve schools by making healthy food accessible and desirable to kids and their families.
Melinda Amato,SugarWatch Board President
Melinda Amato, President of the SugarWatch Board, is the Program Coordinator at the Children's Burn Foundation where she helps give children who have suffered severe burns, nationally and internationally, the opportunity to reach their full potential, physically, psychologically and socially.
Melinda is also the Vice President of the LA Chapter of New Leader's Council where she helps progressive leaders learn the skills necessary to best organize their communities.
As a daughter of a Mexican immigrant, she is passionate about organizing the latino community. She is passionate about reversing and preventing obesity and disease through diet and exercise.
Melinda teaches others small, incremental changes they can make to their diets with ingredients available to them and is looking forward to doing this on a larger, more sustainable, scale with SugarWatch.
When she isn't improving access to resources she enjoys cooking and sharing healthy plant based recipes.
Brandon Yu, Associate, Crescent Capital Group
Brandon Yu is an Associate with Crescent Capital Group focusing on Mezzanine debt investing in Los Angeles. Prior to, Brandon spent time as an Investment Banking Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Leveraged Finance in New York City. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Operations Research at Columbia University. Born and raised in Orange County, Brandon devoted much of his time volunteering in local communities through his involvement with Kiwanis International.
Rebecca Harris, Teacher, Compton Unified School District
Rebecca Roundtree Harris grew up as the youngest of 12 children in Iowa. She earned her BA in African-American Studies and Spanish and her MA in African-American Studies. As a graduate student, she designed and taught writing courses for Upward Bound. Rebecca came to Compton Unified School District through Teach For America in 2001, where she has taught 4th and 5th grade, served as a PLC leader, and taught district interns and new teachers. Rebecca also served as deputy director for Teach For America’s Los Angeles institute, where she was responsible for K-12 professional development. Rebecca is currently a literacy specialist supporting teachers and administrators throughout Compton Unified. She enjoys practicing yoga in her spare time.
Claudia Yefremian, Investment Manager
Claudia started her professional life in the Global Investment Management industry in Europe two decades ago and during this time she lived in several countries, and worked and travelled across 46 countries globally (and still counting). Claudia has extensive experience working in fast-paced environments and with teams located in various countries and governed by different laws. She is also a lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability and a Certified Business Coach. Claudia sees herself as a citizen of the world and a permanent student of life. Understanding human behavior and social interactions interest her deeply and she is also passionate about healthy food, healthy living, Pilates and finding ways to contribute to a better world. Claudia holds a MS in Consulting and Coaching for Change from HEC Paris, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, a BS in Management from the Technical University of Lisbon and a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business from the University of Cambridge.
KC Chohan, CFO, The Reconnection
KC Chohan, CFO, Born and raised in England moved out to LA in 2012. KC went to school at Macmillan College and then attended the University of Durham which is ranked 5th in The Times good University guide. KC then went on to study towards the CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants).
KC has several years of experience in running manufacturing facilities ranging from fossil fuel power to nuclear power. As well as running several manufacturing sites KC loves to keep an healthy active lifestyle, he enjoys playing beach volleyball, soccer, golf as well as working out.
KC is also frequently attends at the LA food bank as well as many other charity events.
Chuck Harold, Founder and Host, Security Guy Radio
Chuck Harold has been working in the law enforcement & private security fields for over 33 years. During that time he has worked for three police agencies, three movie studios, three guard companies, numerous celebrities & Fortune 50 executives. In his most recent assignment as VP, he provided and managed over 500 guards a year for five years at the Academy Awards. To Chuck, “Guard” is a verb not a noun!
Chuck has published articles for major security magazines & contributes to online security publications such as SecuritySolutionsWatch.com and JusticeJournals.com. He attends several trade shows a year recording interviews at conferences like ISC West, ASIS International and Secure World. He also manages 9 social media sites for Security Guy Radio.
Deepa Ramdas, Human Capital Consultant, Deloitte
Prior to joining Deloitte's Consulting firm, Deepa served the Strategic Partnerships Team and the Research & Support team at Leadership for Educational Equity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that empowers individuals to grow as policy & advocacy leaders and help move the country towards educational equity. In addition, Deepa served as an Education Technology Consultant and Science Curriculum Developer for Knewton, a global adaptive learning company that works to personalize educational content. Prior to joining these two organizations, Deepa received her Master’s in Urban Education and Policy & Administration from Loyola Marymount University, while simultaneously teaching as an active member of Teach for America and serving as a curator for TEDxLoyolaMarymountU. During her time at Case Western Reserve University, Deepa worked with the Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children to make health education and vital medical treatments more accessible to poverty stricken families, communities, and hospitals of Kodaikanal, India .
Brent Tercero, Council Member, Pico Rivera
Brent Tercero is a City Councilmember in Pico Rivera and as works as the Regional Director for Leadership for Educational Equity in the Los Angeles region. Brent Tercero grew up in Pico Rivera and attended St. Marianne’s Parish School. He then attended Loyola High School of Los Angeles where he learned the value of “being a man for others.” After graduating, he attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he earned his bachelor’s in History and Political Science. Immediately after graduation, he was recruited by Teach for America and taught at Los Angeles Academy Middle School in south Los Angeles while earning a Master’s of Arts in Education from Loyola Marymount University.
While teaching, he gained an appreciation of the importance of public schools and the hardships that many of our nation’s children endure everyday that keep them from attaining a quality education. When Brent was laid off after the 2009 school year due to budget cuts, he realized policy and political decisions could hurt the everyday American. He decided to switch professions and went back to school at the University of Southern California where he earned his Master’s of Public Policy in 2012.
Desiree, Gutierrez, Co-Founder, Impact Media Partners
Working across commercial and non-profit sectors, Desiree has spent the last 15 years honing her skills as an organizational communicator. As a sole-proprietor since 2007, Desiree specialized in developing impact and engagement campaigns for public media entities, which have included partnership development, public relations, marketing and fundraising strategy, event production, and audience expansion for clients such as ITVS, Kartemquin Films, Participant Media, and the Social Justice Learning Institute. Preceding her work as a consultant, Gutierrez was an in-house publicist with ITVS, public media’s largest documentary showcase. She managed the publicity efforts of the Independent Lens television series, with a weekly viewership averaging 1.2 million, and helped to earn an annual ad value equivalent of $125 million. Previously, Desiree worked at the Los Angeles public television station, KCET, coordinating media efforts for the organization, the broadcast line-up, and five original productions, including: Tavis Smiley, California Connected, and A Place of Our Own. Additionally, Desiree's experience includes extensive work with Amnesty International USA, TNT and TBS Broadcasting, American Express, The Craigslist Foundation, The Ginetta Sagan Fund, Outdoor Gear, Oxfam International, and The Pasadena Pops Orchestra.
Joy Turner, Dean of Students, KIPP Philosopher's Academy
Joy Turner is the Dean of students at KIPP Philosophers Academy. She provides academic coaching to the ELA and Humanities teams and leads whole staff professional and curriculum development. Joy taught 6th grade ELA last year and for the 5 years before making the jump to middle school, she taught 3rd grade, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. Joy is has also served as the Early Childhood Education Learning Team Leader for Teach for America Los Angeles, where she lead professional development and workshops for first and second year early childhood education teachers. Joy earned her Master’s Degree in Child Development from Loyola Marymount University where she has since guest lectured in the program. She holds dual bachelor’s degrees in African American Studies and Social Welfare as well as an Education minor from the University of California at Berkeley. Joy is an avid runner and shares this love with students by coaching the running team at her school. When she isn’t teaching or running, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Branden, and two children, Jordan and Sean.
David Govea, Teacher, PUC Schools
David is a life-long resident of the San Fernando Valley and current resident of city of San Fernando. He has nearly a decade of experience in education, most while serving as a High School Social Science teacher. He has also served several terms as the Mid-Town North Hollywood Neighborhood Council schools representative, and was twice appointed as Vice-President, as well as serving as chair for the Elections, Outreach and Planning and Land Use committees. His personal and professional interest includes, environmental justice, arts and humanities, and transportation and ensuring equitable access to all social resources.
Kelli Johnson, Co-Founder, Long Beach Farms
Kelli is the co-founder of Long Beach farms. She has been an urban farmer in the Long Beach area for over a decade and has been a lifelong resident of Long Beach. She is the mother of two children in Long Beach Unified Schools and is a tireless advocate for improved urban farming opportunities.
Shawna Stephens, Chief of Staff, Long Beach Council Member Rex Richardson
Shawna is the chief of staff for Long Beach City Council Member, Rex Richardson. Prior to that she was the Miller Family Health Education Center Coordinator and studied at UCLA. She is a lifelong Long Beach resident and is the mother of two children in Long Beach Unified Schools.
Michael Gearin, LAUSD Teacher
Michael has been a public school teacher in Los Angeles for more than 15 years. He currently teaches 8th grade U.S. history and social-justice elective classes at Harry Bridges Span School in Wilmington, CA.
Michael moved to Los Angeles in 2001 after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he earned two B.A. degrees in history and social-thought & political economy. He later earned a master's degree in multi-cultural education from Cal. State Dominguez Hills.
As an insulin-dependent type 1 diabetic, Michael has had to pay close attention to the nutritional content of the food he eats for over 20 years. This has led him to confront the alarming amount of refined sugar found in the packaged foods we all eat.
He is passionate about his own personal health and enjoys cooking healthy, plant-based meals for himself and others. He grows his own organic veggies at home and sponsors an urban agriculture club at his school.
Michael consistently advocates for issues relating to clean air, organic agriculture, and educational justice, making him a perfect match for the Sugarwatch team.
Erik Winston, LAUSD Teacher
Erik grew up in Los Angeles and has been a special education teacher in Los Angeles Unified School district since 1999. He currently teaches at Community Health Advocates school, a pilot school located at Augustus Hawkins High School. He is a graduate of University of California: Santa Barbara and Loyola Marymount University. Prior to teaching, he was a promoter for EMI music and has been a lifelong advocate for children in Los Angeles.
Christine Jordt, Underwriter Anthem Blue Cross
Born with a passion for knowledge, activism, and creativity Christine completed her Undergraduate degree at Loyola Marymount University in Television Production with a minor in Sociology. Dreaming she could change the world through television and film she set off into the wide world of reality television. After years behind the scenes in reality television, countless indie films, shorts, and web series the drive to dive deeper into education, research, and culture she return to school at Cal State Los Angeles earning a MA in Communication Studies: Telecommunication and Film. With a strong background in production management, event coordinating, and social media marketing, she continues to work on independent film/web series projects to help current and future storytellers reach a larger audience. When she is not working by day as a Large Group Senior Underwriter for Anthem Blue Cross, she has become a novice urban farmer and upcycler of furniture and anything else she can to help create zero waste.
Vadym Budilovskyy,Investment Banking Analyst, Morgan Stanley
Vadym Budilovskyy is an Investment Banking Analyst with Morgan Stanley, focusing on Mergers & Acquisitions. Prior to working in Los Angeles, Vadym spent time with Morgan Stanley in New York City and interned with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Vadym attended The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. During his undergraduate experience, Vadym spent time volunteering at a nearby elementary school and was involved in organizing community charity events. Vadym attended high school in Los Angeles.
Outside of work, Vadym spends time traveling and snow boarding.
Jacqueline Ivy, Executive Team Leader – Human Resources, Target Corporation
Jacqueline is an Executive Team Leader - Human Resources with Target Corporation. Prior to her joining Target, she spent 10 years working with non-profit organizations and government agencies administering college access programming and workforce development training for under-resourced communities in Indiana, Florida, and California. Jacqueline received her Master of Public Administration degree from Baruch College in New York through their National Urban Fellows program. Jacqueline, an Indianapolis native, is also a graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where she received her B.A. in Anthropology. She is a proud alumna of the McNair Scholars research program and AmeriCorps, a national service program that places members at nonprofits, schools, and public agencies to address critical community needs in education, public safety, and health.
Nella McOskar, Associate- High Lantern Group
Nella McOsker earned her B.A. at the University of Notre Dame, studying the intersection of politics, philosophy, and economics. She was the ED of an after-school program run by college students in the low-income school district of South Bend, IN. Nella joined Teach For America in Chicago, teaching 10th grade geometry for two years before moving to New York where she taught 8th grade English at KIPP Academy in the South Bronx for two more years. In addition to loving “light bulb” moments with her students, she particularly enjoyed coaching soccer, basketball, and girl’s rugby over the course of her teaching experience. In New York, she became a school captain through Educators 4 Excellence – an education policy organization dedicated to giving classroom teachers the tools for political action. Nella returned to her hometown as a public affairs Coro Fellow in Los Angeles, working in nonprofit, business, labor, government, and on a political campaign – simultaneously executing projects in various policy areas including transportation, water conservation, and the shared economy. She now works in communications consulting which allows her to practice her love of “finding the right words.” She’s passionate about issues facing public education, one of which is the relationship between health and educational outcomes for students.
Manolo Maddela,Senior Consultant, Farmers Insurance
Manolo is a Senior Consultant at Farmers Insurance. In his current role he is responsible for designing audits and building business solutions compliant with federal and state laws. Prior to Farmers Insurance, Manolo was a Business Systems Analyst with Mercury Insurance. Manolo obtained his J.D. from Southwestern Law School, where he was a member of the Journal of International Law. He also holds an MBA and a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology. Manolo is married to Linda and they have a maltese named Paris. Other causes near and dear to Manolo and Linda include, but are not limited to, Hope for Paws and ASPCA. They also volunteer at the LA Food Bank.
Pegah FaedFirst 5 LA, Healthy Strategy Lead
Pegah is the Healthy Strategy Lead for First 5 LA and has a DrPh from Loma Linda University. Full bio coming soon!
Karla Cienfuegos,Teacher, Citizens of the World Charter School
Karla Cienfuegos is a founding Kindergarten Teacher at KIPP Empower Academy in Los Angeles, California. With 12 years experience in urban education, Karla delivers her curriculum through the lenses of academic rigor, culturally responsive teaching, and mindfulness. Whether it's meditating, discussing community activism, or creating dynamic and interactive units of study, her passionate students love to be in nature, think critically, and communicate with empathy across cultural and demographic boundaries.
Karla grew up in Los Angeles and is the first person in her family to graduate from college. She holds dual Bachelor Degrees in Chicano Studies and Film Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She went on to obtain a Masters in Elementary Education at Loyola Marymount University through the Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education Corps Program. After studying abroad to Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France, Karla decided to start traveling again in her adult life. During her summer breaks Karla has traveled to Peru, Japan, and Thailand.
Karla is a 2016 Grovesnor Fellow through National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions and will be traveling on an expedition to the Galápagos Islands where she will experience the beautiful islands, flora, fauna, and culture.
She is passionate about empowering her community of Los Angeles. After having had a significant transformation of shedding over 65 pounds, Karla became a Health and Fitness Coach who loves to encourage and support people to transform their health.
Karla is committed to researching issues facing public education, one of which is the relationship between health, technology, and environment to educational access for students. Through traveling, networking, and creating content she strives to share access to information that will empower her community and beyond.
Advisory Board Members
Tamika Butler, Executive Director, LACBC
Tamika joined the LACBC staff as the Executive Director in December 2014. Prior to leading LACBC Tamika was the Director of Social Change Strategies at Liberty Hill Foundation, where she oversaw the foundation’s boys and men of color program and the foundation’s LGBTQ grant strategy. Before Liberty Hill, Tamika worked at Young Invincibles as the California Director. As the CA Director, she was responsible for the development of all of Young Invincibles’ programs in California. Tamika was responsible for building out Young Invincibles’ operations on the West Coast and grew the office to the largest regional office outside of their DC headquarters. She transitioned to policy work after litigating for three years as an employment lawyer at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.
She received her J.D. in 2009 from Stanford Law School, and in 2006 received her B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Sociology in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Tamika currently serves as the co-chair of the National Center for Lesbian Rights Board of Directors, serves as the Institute Co-Director of the New Leaders Council - Los Angeles, and is an advisory board member for the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports program.
Rex Richardson, Council Member, Long Beach
In 2014, Rex Richardson, 30, was elected to the Long Beach City Council to represent the neighborhoods of North Long Beach, becoming the youngest councilmember in the City's history and the youngest African American elected official in the region. He is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, Iota Zeta Lambda Chapter.
Prior to his election to the Long Beach City Council, he spent four years serving the people of Long Beach's 9th Council District as Chief-of-Staff to the former Long Beach City Councilmember Steven Neal, where he helped navigate and push through some of the 9th District's most impressive accomplishments, including the formation of the Uptown Property and Business improvement District, the Liquor Store Modernization Program, and the annual "Getting Back to Work" regional jobs summit.
Before his service to the City of Long Beach, Richardson was the Political and Community Coordinator for Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 721, a community organizer in South Los Angeles County, and a leader for numerous Democratic and community campaigns. He attended college and served as Student Body President at CSU-Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), and is a graduate of Leadership Long Beach, and the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy Leadership at CSU-Monterey Bay.
Councilmember Richardson is currently chair of the City of Long Beach's Federal Legislative Committee, Vice-Chair of the 710 Oversight Committee and member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Richardson is an elected Regional Board Member of the Southern California Association of Governments, where he works with leaders from other cities across the region to develop collective approaches to solving the problems that affect transportation and mobility across Southern California.
In his spare time, he has given back by serving on numerous boards and associations, including California Pools for Hope, and the Fairfield Family YMCA.
Rex, his wife Nina, and daughter Alina, are proud homeowners in the Coolidge Triangle neighborhood of Long Beach. He lives by the motto, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." -Albert Einstein