We are a passionate, innovative and collaborative team focused on celebrating students and promoting possibility.
Monica Peralta is a first generation college graduate from California State University, Long Beach. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Chicano/a Latino/a Studies and Human Development in 2016. As a member of the Chicano and Latino Studies Student Association at CSULB, Monica became involved in volunteering to provide bilingual tours to Spanish speaking parents and students. The approach to establishing rapport with students was to simply talk about the experiences as a first generation college student. For many of those students, being able to identify with a college student that came from a similar background as them was inspirational. These experiences sparked Monica’s passion to give back to her community. At Spark she is looking forward to continuing that passion. Her goal is to continue her Masters in Education and become a college career counselor. Her long term goal is to become the superintendent of Compton school district.
Melvin’s journey into higher education began at Los Angeles City College. He then transferred to the University of California, Irvine, where he developed an interest for student services. Upon graduation, he received an Outstanding Contribution to the School of Social Ecology award for his commitment to enhancing the Field Study Program which connects more than 900 students to over 225 community partners annually. Melvin went on to serve as a proud City Year AmeriCorps Member mentoring middle school students in his childhood neighborhood of Westlake, Los Angeles. He then joined City Year’s Civic Engagement Team, and helped execute over 20 large-scale beautification events at different schools throughout the city. Now with Spark, Melvin aims to continue helping students actualize their own potentials.
As the Program Director, Sophia Jimenez leads the team in building strong school partnerships, creating effective strategies for student and family engagement, and piloting a new high school transition program. Sophia has a wealth of experience working with communities to ensure access to high quality resources that create opportunities. A proud native of South Los Angeles and graduate of UCLA, Sophia began her nonprofit career as an AmeriCorps Public Ally fellow, where she worked with families in low-income communities to provide college readiness programs. Sophia later managed programs at the Pueblo del Sol Community Service Center located in Boyle Heights where she helped oversee over 20 youth and family programs. Sophia brings her great energy and passion for service as well as her experience in community and school partnerships, project management, and recruitment. She is excited to bring her passion of social justice and enthusiasm for Spark’s mission to the position of Program Director.
Mario Gutierrez graduated from the California State University, Northridge, with a Bachelors of Arts in Child and Adolescent Development. His studies provided him with the psychological and theoretical tools to better communicate with children and people of all ages. From January 2014 to January 2016, Mario worked as a preschool assistant teacher, an experience which allowed him to put into practice the theory he was learning in school. Now through Spark Los Angeles, he is excited to continue advocating for social justice while helping the program grow.
A first generation college graduate born and raised in Southeast LA, Gilma has seen firsthand how low socioeconomic status affects a person’s mental, physical and emotional well-being. While completing her B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Northridge, she focused her studies in better understanding the different cultural and social factors that affect a person’s development. In the spring of 2015, Gilma began her journey with Spark as a Volunteer Program Intern where she assisted with dispatch logistics. Soon after, she became part of the Spark team again, but this time as an AmeriCorps Vista Public Allies Fellow. Gilma is happy to continue with the Spark team in a full-time role. She is an advocate for higher education and is committed to inspiring youth to realize their full potential, despite whatever obstacles may come their way.
Tariq El-Gabalawy graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2013, where he began working with various on campus organizations to coordinate programs aimed at engaging at-risk students in their education. After graduation, Tariq continued advocating for educational equality by completing a yearlong internship with Spark in Los Angeles. He then joined the Spark team as a full-time Program Coordinator. He hopes to build on his experience working with students, schools and mentors to further disrupt the High School dropout rate within the local communities that Spark serves in Los Angeles.
As the Executive Director of Spark in Los Angeles, Janine Berridge is responsible for managing the regional team, deepening and expanding Spark’s impact with the LA business community and overseeing the strategy and execution of fundraising initiatives. Prior to joining Spark, Janine was a Senior Executive in the Major Partnerships Unit at Plan UK, a leading international child development organization operating in 50 countries. Janine was responsible for securing multi-million dollar donations from Fortune 500 companies, and managing the relationships through multi-year, international development programs. Specializing in business development and cross-sector collaboration, Janine’s passion is to contribute to sustainable social change, working strategically across sectors to maximize partnership impact. Janine holds a BA in Journalism from Cardiff University and a Masters in Public Policy from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Corinne manages a portfolio of Spark’s corporate partners in Los Angeles to ensure mutually beneficial mentorship and partnership experiences. Prior to joining Spark, Corinne worked within publicity and public affairs at Lifetime Television. Throughout her career, Corinne has managed a number of social advocacy campaigns, creatively designed to benefit all parties involved, as well as led publicity campaigns for films, television shows and consumer products. Corinne recognized the importance of mentorship while working at an orphanage in Ecuador and is thrilled to continue motivating students through influential mentorship programs at Spark. Corinne hails from the Pacific Northwest and received her Bachelor’s Degree from Willamette University in Political Science and Theatre.
Kevin made his way to Spark after honing his communications and project management skills at two startups: Mission Asset Fund, an economic development nonprofit with a fin-tech twist, and Cribspot, a Y Combinator company that helps renters find housing. His experience ranges from independently spearheading a full overhaul of Cribspot’s web content to managing a team of seven to develop MAF’s 2015 annual report. He recently completed the New Sector RISE Fellowship, an AmeriCorps program designed to cultivate a new generation of nonprofit leaders. With his command of language and knack for storytelling, Kevin lends a fresh voice to Spark’s development team during this exciting time of growth.
Anna received her undergraduate degree from Scripps College in Environmental Analysis, cum laude, with a concentration in environmental education and policy. While studying abroad in Kenya and Tanzania, her passion for analyzing and alleviating socio-economic inequities in under-resourced communities materialized. During college, she worked at male detention camps in the Inland Empire providing lesson planning and teaching assistance in Earth Science and Nutrition. After graduating, she co-directed the Los Angeles office for a nationwide nonprofit focusing on public health and environmental advocacy campaigns. Anna then went on to organize recruitment and strengthen partnerships for Los Angeles’ region of the California Conservation Corps, a youth development program which offers paid opportunities in natural resource management. She developed a strong sense of devotion for the nonprofit sector and connecting youth to meaningful possibilities. As the Los Angeles Account Coordinator, Anna supports Spark’s corporate partner portfolio by bringing experience and enthusiasm to fortify and expand partnerships increasing visibility of Spark’s powerful program. When she’s not at work, you can find her rescuing, rehabilitating and fostering dogs.
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