Bryan Stephen’s passion is teaching students. Whether in the classroom or on the court as a coach, he has the ability to make quick connections and prove that he cares. He is a catalyst for student dreams and goals, always supporting them with a plan for growth. He spends intentional time equipping students with the mental, physical, and social skills they need to grow and succeed, caring for each one holistically. His sense of humor and 6’11” stature is a magnet for mentorship. It is a guarantee you will find his students cracking up at his endless jokes and hanging out with him after class.
Bryan has over 25 years of experience in youth development serving as a Special Education teacher and Behavior Support Specialist for the Palm Springs School District. Prior to his classroom experience, he served as a Senior Probation Correction Officer for the Riverside Probation Office where he managed mental health programs, interventions, and drug treatment programs for youth ages 14-19.
He has a Bachelor of Science from the Art Institute of California, Inland Empire, San Bernardino, and is currently enrolled in the Education Specialist Credential Program through Riverside County Office Of Education. In addition to his passion for education, Bryan is also a talented artist and graphic designer. You can find many of his players and students proudly sporting his various designs.
Damian Maldonado holds a master’s degree in Public Administration and serves as an after school consultant for various regions in the state. Damian’s experience in education spans from serving as teacher in elementary, middle, high school and college faculty. He previously served as Regional Lead for After School Programs in two separate regions in the state and was responsible for providing technical assistance and support to over 700 after school sites in 10 counties. Damian’s most notable accomplishments include: having successfully co-authored legislation to increase funding to 21st CCLC programs; having evaluated the unique challenges of rural programs, presenting this work to the California Department of Education and the California State Legislative Rural Education Summit which led to increase in funding specifically for rural programs; and being appointed to serve on the California Governor’s After School Master Plan Design Team.
Emily Forman joined the kid-grit ambassador team in 2019 after 4 years, as the Regional Program Director for a national afterschool programming nonprofit and 12 years as a teacher and administrator in New York public and charter schools. She taught in Brooklyn as a tenured DOE math teacher and dance teacher, where her master’s degrees focused on supporting the development of the whole child. Emily was instrumental in turnaround initiatives as Director of School Culture in two K-8 schools – the administrator in charge of professional development of new teachers and support staff, school-day and after-school enrichment, school discipline, community culture initiatives, and the creation and oversight of student support systems for those with social and emotional lagging skills. In her School Building/District Leadership master’s, Emily focused her research on the areas in which she is most passionate: project-based experiential learning, community empowerment through enrichment and social-skill building, and systems-thinking staff development to build a growth-mindset adult culture. Throughout the Northeast, Emily led program and operations quality continuous improvement cycles, trained leadership and frontline staff and worked closely with school-building leaders and staff to build strong partnerships in service of community and youth development. She is now involved in heart-centered transformational work, where she infuses mindfulness, spiritual and somatic practices into life-coaching; and is a professor for CUNY, guiding educators through a self-reflective process to incorporate DEI principles in their teaching methods and materials in support of all learners.
Jason Porter has been a research scientist, a university instructor a classroom science teacher, an assistant principal at a high school and a director of professional learning for educators. What connects all these different roles together is a passion for wondering about the world around him and connecting others to the wonderments that spark their curiosity. The great joy in education does not come from giving information to others but connecting with them as a person and learning together through shared experience. This can be a common model of education through our combined efforts.
Jason holds a master’s degree in Teaching, Learning and Instruction from Drexel University and a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Jason loves travelling to new places, hiking, camping, birding and just about any activity that gets him out into nature with his family where he can connect and unwind. Jason is also an experienced volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, giving him an opportunity to share his love of nature with youth and use his background in education to practice positive youth development with the scouts in this program.
For over 20 years, Jennifer Carroll has worked in the field of arts and education as a professional actress, teaching artist, classroom teacher, administrator and program leader. She holds a BFA in Drama Production from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Educational Theatre from New York University. She believes that giving oneself in service is a foundation for full self-expression. She is in her 10th year at Inner-City Arts where she has served as Programs Manager before becoming Associate Director of Education. She also teaches drama to all ages and is committed to creating a space of acceptance, self-expression, and inclusivity where any individual has their place in the collective whole. Jennifer regularly performs her own original material at various venues in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Jennifer is a NYC native, currently living in Orlando, Florida. She comes with 15 years of non-profit experience, with a specific focus on youth development and community service. Prior to moving to Orlando, Jennifer was a Senior Program Manager at CAMBA Inc., where she had oversight of Beacon and Cornerstone programs located in underserved communities of Brooklyn. Jennifers commitment to community and youth advocacy drove her to pursue her Masters in Urban Affairs while holding several positions at CAMBA Inc. After moving to Orlando in 2019, Jennifer pursued a career in teaching. Jennifer taught English Language Arts to both high school and middle school students. One of Jennifer’s biggest drivers throughout her nonprofit and teaching career has been coaching and developing teams of youth practitioners. Jennifer believes in building strong leaders in the field who can then duplicate the work they do by teaching others. She credits her growth to strong mentors; therefore, she pays it forward.
Jodi Miller, like many others, happened across a career in afterschool programs while looking for a teaching job 15 years ago. Prior to this, Jodi was an educational professional in many non-traditional settings, working with delinquent youth in a group home, directing and teaching American Red Cross health and safety programs, assisting in a classroom of special needs students and teaching elementary students in North Carolina. She has combined all these experiences to become a leader in afterschool programming.
For the past 15 years, Jodi has managed a very large multi-site afterschool program for the Sioux Falls School District where she leads a staff of 120 who supervise nearly 1500 students daily. She has seen and experienced many, many issues as the years have gone by, and working through all of them has taught her to be a great leader. She considers her staff’s needs her primary responsibility while she values and teaches them to be better professionals. “While my staff see students learn and grow every day, I get the opportunity to watch my staff grow and learn” is her general response to anyone that asks why she loves what she does every day.
As current board president for the South Dakota School Age Care Alliance, she has also been very active on the state level, serving as a board member for over 10 years. This enables her to be very active in the state’s professional development offerings, influencing afterschool professionals all over the state. On the local level, Jodi has been working with local community development organizations to reach the needs of the thousands of unserved children in her community. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Dakota and has participated in numerous professional development programs over the years.
When she is not spending time working, she is a mom to three almost grown boys and her constant companion, Stella, a mixed breed rescue dog. She also enjoys classic rock and attending live concerts whenever she is able to get away.
Maia Akiva is a professional speaker, trauma-informed trainer, performer, and a writer in Los Angeles. Her unique approach encourages audiences to embrace their relationships with their emotions and feelings as a path to a better mental health, success, happiness, freedom and fulfillment.
Originally from Israel, Maia teaches emotional creative unblocking and stress relief to companies like Hulu, the City of Santa Monica, Vans, Frame, 72 and Sunny, and others. Her unique creative presentations are featured at The Goomi Group, a Corporate Wellness company in the US.
Maia specializes in mental health, social and emotional learning in the arts, self-empowerment, and creativity. She loves creating mental health and motivational programs and content, like her fictional podcast, Interview with Myself —in which she interviews her feelings and emotions as guests on the show. She reimagines mental health healing methods in a dynamic blend of insight and humor for a flourishing everyday life. With outside-the-box mental health learning experiences, training, and stories that personify and realize abstract emotions, Maia guides her audience through the journey of mental health that she is inspired to navigate every day.
Maia trains teachers, therapists, writers, mental health staff, and organizations on her Mental Health, Addiction and Trauma Creative Writing curriculum. Furthermore, she facilitates “Mental Health Tune-Ups and Team Buildings” events for staff, colleges, and groups. She is a Social Emotional Arts Facilitator and Certificate Holder from the Arts & Healing Initiative SEA program, and leads workshops for WriteGirl, Models of Pride, and Caltech upholding her personal mission: Empowering everyone’s mental health by making friends with our emotions.
Viviana’s career has been focused on empowering individuals and collaborating with leaders in communities through advocacy, inclusion, education, and best practices to continue to advance the youth development and inclusion field. Viviana has been a part of the early child and youth development field with deep practice in the disability inclusion community for 20+ years. She has served in afterschool programs as a frontline staff, supervisor, behavior support specialist, coach, camp counselor, preschool teacher, and summer camp director. Viviana had the privilege of working with Military Child and Youth Programs in Spain and Germany for United States Air Force and Army Garrison installations.
In her former Education Training Specialist and Business Development role Viviana had the opportunity to develop curriculum, lead strategic cohort groups and worked with teams to provide high quality services to families and youth. Viviana has facilitated numerous topics such as disability inclusion, staff and youth development trainings in Spanish and English to youth professionals, teachers, administrators, home care providers, boards, and volunteers in the field with 9+ years of experience training adult learners in non-profit organizations, recreation, government, and school district agencies.
Viviana is also passionate about diversity, equity and mental health wellness and bringing these resources and learning opportunities to the Spanish speaking community, as a former dual language learner she knows how important this is for personal and professional competency building.
Viviana received her B.S. in Human Services with an emphasis in Youth Development and Community Leadership from Springfield College, a core curriculum that strengthens the humanics philosophy of educating students in spirit, mind, and body. This background and her lived experiences aligned perfectly with kid-grit’s leadership philosophy and holistic approach to youth development and social emotional learning.
Viviana loves traveling, exploring new hiking paths, teaching, and learning from her two young daughters, eating spicy food, drinking a good Cafecito in the morning and ending the day with a grateful heart, reading to her girls and a catching the days sunset!