Staff

Los Angeles

Corinne Becker, Los Angeles Account Manager

As the Los Angeles Account Manager, Corinne manages a portfolio of Spark’s corporate partners 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.

Janine Berridge, Managing Director of External Affairs, Los Angeles

As the Los Angeles Managing Director of External Affairs, Janine Berridge is responsible for deepening and expanding Spark’s impact with the LA business community, while 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.

Yoon S. Choi, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President California Regions

Yoon S. Choi is the Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President of the California Regions for Spark. Choi joined Spark as the Executive Director of Spark LA in 2013, turning LA into a top-performing region in terms of fundraising, large-scale corporate partnerships, and fee-for-service contracts with local school districts. In 2015, Choi was promoted to oversee Spark's San Francisco Bay Area region as well, where she expanded the program into new districts and doubled the number of corporate partners. Today, as chief Strategy Office, Choi is leading the national growth and partnership development initiatives set out in Spark's recent ten-year strategic plan, while continuing to oversee the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Prior to joining Spark, Choi was Director of Foundation Relations at Para Los Ninos, a Los Angeles nonprofit that provides educational, family support and mental health services. A sociocultural anthropologist by training, Yoon has worked for several international NGOs throughout East Asia. She transitioned out of academia so she could make a more direct impact on closing the achievement gap in underserved communities. 

Tariq El-Gabalawy, Los Angeles Senior Program Coordinator

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 in the Spark Los Angeles office. He then joined the Spark team as a full-time Program Coordinator for the 2015 - 2016 school year, and this year, as a Senior 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.

Kevin Gardner, Grants Manager for California Regions

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.

Gilma Guerra, Los Angeles Program Coordinator

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 rejoin the Spark LA team (for the 3rd time!) as Program Coordinator. Gilma is an advocate for higher education and is committed to inspiring underserved youth to realize their full potential, despite whatever obstacles may come their way.

Mario Gutierrez, Los Angeles Public Ally Program Associate

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.

Sophia Sanchez Jimenez, Los Angeles Program Director

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.

Melvin Noriega, Los Angeles Program Coordinator

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, in the Program Coordinator role at Spark LA, Melvin aims to continue helping students actualize their own potentials.

Monica Peralta, Los Angeles Public Ally Program Associate

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.

Juan David Rangel, Los Angeles Development and Operations Coordinator

Juan David is a first generation graduate from UC Berkeley (Go Bears!). Before joining Spark, Juan David worked at a local newspaper in San Francisco, a research hospital in Boston, and a leading technology company in Los Angeles. His interdisciplinary background provides him with an eclectic mix of ideas and perspectives and an unrivalled ability to adapt and connect with others. This, coupled with a passion for advocacy storytelling, social justice, and youth empowerment, motivates his work as a Development and Operations coordinator for Spark Los Angeles.

Spark inspires 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to succeed in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors in leading workplaces and supporting their academic journey with skill-building and resources. By engaging working professionals and connecting businesses with local communities, Spark empowers the next generation to perform better in school, graduate on time and lead fulfilling careers and lives.

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