Our Mission

We calibrate: We transform the lives of young people from underserved communities, particularly the descendants of American slavery, by providing safe, equitable, humanitarian spaces where their whole selves are valued, where they can experience engagement, empowerment, and emotional thriving.

What We Know

Taking risks, making mistakes, reflecting, and then holding compassion and self-acceptance for messiness is the foundation of learning. For People of Color (POC), who are in survival mode day-to-day, Calibrate provides a safe place to experience trust and authenticity, and to gain a broader perspective while valuing our individual vantages. We offer a process that normalizes the sharing of personal stories, puts stories of POC at the forefront, and sends the message to participants that all voices are important and that who they are is enough. Here is where we encounter healthy coping mechanisms, increase self-esteem and self-efficacy, and re-learn the different aspects of listening and communication – the foundation for building relationships. Calibrate unlocks the door to inter- and intrapersonal development and makes those skills the norm as opposed to privileges. All of these qualities are essential for healing, advocacy, shaping values, and establishing narrative. 


Systemic change requires calibrating our human ecosystems. For nonprofits working with underserved youth, Calibrate provides Connections, an evidence-based social-emotional learning program that equips young people with the necessary protective and developmental factors to reduce achievement gaps. During Connections, participants are guided by prompts that elicit personal stories, with the primary intentions of listening and speaking from their hearts. In their own words, teenagers say that Connections taught them to...

“Calibrate brought to us the expertise and knowledge around SEL [Social Emotional Learning], particularly in relationship to underserved communities. Calibrate helped us create a curriculum, in addition to a data collection tool, that we can implement into our tutoring/mentoring sessions at MMLA.” 

— Tina Admans, President, Minds Matter Los Angeles (MMLA)

News coverage of our Connections training at Learning by Design:

For more information on Connections or one of our modules,  .

Some nonprofits we've served:

Our Team

  • Marcie Gilbert - Founder / Executive Director
    Marcie Gilbert
    Founder / Executive Director

    Marcie Gilbert, M.Ed, is an Educational Therapist who has been actively involved in various aspects of education since 1994. In addition to managing a private practice where she coaches children with learning disabilities, Ms. Gilbert has contributed to the field of education as a college guidance advisor, classroom teacher, school administrator, researcher (e.g., International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement), and program developer. Additionally, Ms. Gilbert was on the founding teams of New Roads School and Urban Village Charter School, and launched Next Stage Young Artists Conservatory and Librujas Publishing. Her Masters thesis, Hear My Heart: Listening Circles Provide Protective Factors for Underserved Teens, provides an in-depth examination of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and how SEL can shape successful schools in underserved communities. Ms. Gilbert received a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a Masters in Education from Cal State Northridge University.

  • Richard Robinson - Founding Director / Chair
    Richard Robinson
    Founding Director / Chair

    Richard Robinson, M.S., has carried senior level positions for over 20 years in the healthcare industry. Mr. Robinson has collaborated on inter- and intra-organizational cross-functional work groups that focus on regulatory, operational, and insurance compliance. Additionally, he has served on advisory boards whose initiatives focused on educating and championing underserved youth in hygiene, leadership, business communication, relationships, and college entrance and preparation. Mr. Robinson volunteers as a mentor to youth and young adults who either have higher education aspirations or who are looking to launch a career tailored to their strengths that might not include a post-secondary degree. Mr. Robinson holds a B.S. in Public Administration from Cal State Dominguez Hills and an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from California Baptist University. 

  • Charletta (
    Charletta ("Ms. J") Johnson
    Founding Director

    Charletta (“Ms. J”) Johnson, M.S., is a career education leader and community connector. After 16 years of teaching across three districts in Southern California, Ms. Johnson became the Founding Director of New Roads School La Cienega. She went on to start two charter schools, one of which, Community Harvest Charter School (CHCS) in Los Angeles, was named a “Top 10% of Schools” by California Department of Education and received a Bronze Medal for “Best High School” by USA News and World Today, December 2009. A random-sample study of CHCS students 10 years after high school revealed that all participants had completed one or more post-secondary degree programs and had maintained long-term jobs and relationships (Gilbert, M. (2016). Hear my heart: Listening circles provide protective factors for underserved teens. Unpublished manuscript, California State University). Currently, Ms. Johnson consults at Learning by Design Charter School in Los Angeles, conducts tours of African American history in L.A., and transitions homes to solar energy. Ms. Johnson carries a B.A. in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley, a Teaching Credential from LMU, and an M.S. in School Administration from Pepperdine.

  • Marilyn Ross-Cedeño - Director
    Marilyn Ross-Cedeño

    As an educator, it is Ms. Ross-Cedeño’s greatest joy to lift young people to their highest potential. Trained and certified in various Social Emotional Learning programs, she sees the path to greatness as beginning with the ability to have empathy and to make connections that last a lifetime. Ms. Ross-Cedeño is currently Middle School Vice Principal and teacher at St. Teresa of Avila School and a previous Law Clerk for the City of Compton. For nine years she dedicated herself to being a full-time mom. While in college, she was awarded the Edmund G. Pat Brown Institute Fellowship, which allowed her to research, publish, and present on race, ethnic, and voting trends in the San Gabriel Valley from 1900-1990. Ms. Ross-Cedeño received her BA in Political Science, Pre-Law and Public Administration with an English Minor from California State University, Los Angeles and Juris Doctorate in Entertainment Law and Contracts from Southwestern Law School.

  • Greg Kriegler - Director, Growth & Strategy
    Greg Kriegler
    Director, Growth & Strategy

    Mr. Kriegler is a servant-leader, entrepreneur, and intrapreneur. He is driven by core values: people, results, and innovation. Professionally, Mr. Kriegler leads a global team of modern workplace practitioners, mentored 70+ young professionals, and delivered 100+ projects/programs. He led the development of an SEL application for one of the world’s largest software platform companies and is engaged by global, F100 CEOs to refine their C-suite operations. He has served as Director, Client Executive for Avanade; Co-Founder of Dubblebooked, LLC; Founder, Cinevend. In addition to his BSBA from Washington University in St. Louis and MBA from University of Washington, Mr. Kriegler is certified as a Solution Architect (SISA) and Software Integration Delivery Lead (SIDL). Fun facts: Greg was a competitive baseball catcher in high school and college, and has run 24 half-marathons and 8 marathons, including the Boston Marathon.

  • De’Anthoney Jenkins - Director
    De’Anthoney Jenkins

    De’Anthoney Jenkins obtained both his B.S. in Finance and MBA from St. John’s University. While serving in the Marine Corps., Mr. Jenkins was a Maintenance Management Specialist and Using Unit Account Manager for four years, where he managed 200+ personnel and supervised accounts for maintenance of over 10 million dollars of tactical and non-tactical equipment. Currently, he is a Financial Institution Specialist for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. His family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School. Fun fact: De’Anthoney climbed Mount Fuji in 2014.

  • Diana Garcia - Program Coordinator
    Diana Garcia
    Program Coordinator

    Diana Garcia brings expertise in human resources, business development, process improvement, partnership management, compliance, and data analysis. Ms. Garcia possesses a passion for both nonprofits and schools: she held the titles of Assistant to the First Vice President of United Farm Workers; Human Resources Specialist at Urban Village Middle School; Intervention Specialist at View Park Charter High School; and Operations Manager at Learning by Design Charter School. From the University of California, Los Angeles, Ms. Garcia holds a BA in Latin American Studies, as well as Labor and Workplace Studies. She is currently enrolled at USC in their Master of Science in Human Resource Management program. Her family tree with Calibrate started as a student of New Roads, where Marcie and Ms. J were educators, and then at Ms. J’s school, Community Harvest, where Vann was a teacher. Fun fact: She enjoys playing volleyball and exploring the city with her daughter.

  • LaReina Hall - Program Coordinator
    LaReina Hall
    Program Coordinator

    LaReina Hall’s career has followed her passion and skills for account management, financial performance, marketing strategies, human resources, and customer service. Ms. Hall’s career includes being an Accounting Specialist in Procurement for University of Texas (UT) Arlington; Assistant Store Manager, Shipping and Receiving Supervisor, and Customer Service Team Lead for the Follett Corporation at UT Arlington’s Bookstore; and, General Manager of Pizza Hut. Member of Alpha Kappa Mu Honors Society and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Ms. Hall graduated Magna Cum Laude in Accounting from Virginia Union University. Her family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School. Fun fact: One of her favorite things to do is karaoke.

  • Rebecca (
    Rebecca ("Becky") Jones
    Program Coordinator

    Rebecca (“Becky”) Jones is a self-taught digital artist, graphic designer, and painter. A customer service, team building, and content creation specialist, Ms. Jones has fulfilled roles of Program Coordinator, Creative Lead, and Recruiter for tech companies Iconma (Charter Communications), Volt (Apple), and Flink 12. Prior to her career in tech, Ms. Jones was an education administrator, both at Primrose School of Cedar Park West in Texas and for After-School All-Stars in Los Angeles. As a Program Specialist at All-Stars, she led 250+ students and 5 staff members. Ms. Jones majored in Business Management Economics at UC Santa Cruz and Digital Photography at the Art Institute. Her family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School. Fun fact: At one point in her life, Ms. Jones selected a city to live in by drawing names out of a hat.

  • Jonathan Villalta - Program Coordinator
    Jonathan Villalta
    Program Coordinator

    Mr. Jon graduated from UC Irvine (UCI) in 2019 with a degree in Education Sciences, and he is currently pursuing his MA in Teaching at USC. Mr. Jon’s goal is to give back to the city of Los Angeles by becoming an elementary or middle school teacher. He is driven by the concept of social reconstructionism and a passion to inspire young students to engage in their education and to attain a college degree. Currently, he is a SmartStart Teacher at Heart of Los Angeles. While at UCI, Mr. Jon worked with middle school students at an after-school program and interned for the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking, and working out. If the Lakers, Dodgers, or Rams are playing, then he is most likely watching the game.

  • Marcos L. Vann - Connections Specialist
    Marcos L. Vann
    Connections Specialist

    Marcos L. Vann has dedicated his lifework to elevating youth in underserved communities, in the capacity of a teacher, math intervention specialist, after-school director, advisor, athletic coach, and Connections lead facilitator. Mr. Vann was on the founding teams of Community Harvest Charter and Urban Village Middle School. He has devoted his career to both schools and nonprofit communities: View Park Prep High School, Marcus Garvey School, Enterprise Middle School, Partnership for Underserved Communities, Upward Bound USC Summer Residential Institute, UC Irvine S.A.M. Pre-Algebra Academy, YMCA, and the Summer Algebra Institute through Tom Bradley Youth and Family Center. Mr. Vann is a long-standing active member of Rangi Ya Giza, a non-Greek community service and social activist fraternity, and is a GTE Academic All-America recipient (currently sponsored by College Sports Information Directors of America and Google Cloud). Mr. Vann holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Redlands. Fun fact: His guilty pleasure is chili cheese fries with pastrami.

  • Uche Ollawa - Connections Facilitator
    Uche Ollawa
    Connections Facilitator

    Mr. Ollawa’s professional callings balance between education, entertainment, and technology. As an educator, he was a Special Education Intervention Specialist in Los Angeles and Dallas, and a Blended Language Instructor in Shanghai China. Additionally, he presented workshops to the U.S. Embassy in Shanghai, covering topics such as the history and current evolution of Hip-Hop. Along with having been a Project Manager for Dopamine Music in Shanghai, China, Mr. Ollawa has performed as an actor, poet, and event host in LA, NYC, Nigeria, and Shanghai. His podcast, Beyond Original, will launch in 2021. On the technology side, Mr. Ollawa served as Project Manager for Coding Dojo. Mr. Ollawa carries a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and TEFL Certification. His family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School. Fun fact: His guilty pleasure is cheese or ranch dressing on almost everything.

  • Melissa Macias - Connections Facilitator
    Melissa Macias
    Connections Facilitator

    Melissa Macias is an urban developer with a background in nonprofits that promote education equity. Her urban development projects include building a community greenhouse in Guanacaste, Costa Rica and mapping building accessibility routes in Barcelona. Ms. Macias has provided writing remediation and workshops to underserved youth in both Sydney and Los Angeles, through such organizations as Sydney Story Factory and No Youth Left Behind Foundation of America. Since August 2019, she has served as the Programming Manager for Minds Matter of Los Angeles. Ms. Macias is an active alumnus of Hermanas Unidas, and a past scholar alumnus of the All Ways Up Foundation, Minds Matter of Los Angeles, and Scripps College Academy. Ms. Macias holds a State Seal of Biliteracy and received her Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) from University of California, Davis in Community and Regional Planning with a minor in Professional Writing.

  • Kalayla Jordan - Connections Facilitator
    Kalayla Jordan
    Connections Facilitator

    Kalayla Jordan is an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, pursuing a degree in Neuroscience with a pre-Med track. An alumna of Minds Matter Los Angeles (MMLA), Ms. Jordan returned to become a volunteer for MMLA. Ms. Jordan is an active member of the Black Student Union. As a Cedars Sinai Teen Volunteer, she works closely with nurses to improve patient interaction on the Post-Surgery Floor. During recent past summers, Ms. Jordan was an NBCU Media Fellow, attended Vanderbilt Summer Academy and University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine, all highly selective programs. Since 2015, she has worked her way up to becoming the Event Coordinator for Sweet Thing Dessert. During high school, Ms. Jordan was in the top 1% of her graduating class, winning numerous academic and citizenship awards, and holding numerous leadership positions, such as Student Body President.

  • Francis William Atendido - Connections Facilitator
    Francis William Atendido
    Connections Facilitator

    Francis William Atendido is a recent graduate of California State University Northridge with a BA in Art Studies, focus in Animation. While in college, Mr. Atendido was the General Officer of the Animation League of Northridge, where he coordinated both professional and student-led workshops to enhance student knowledge of skills, such as character design, 3D modeling, and background design. In his 9th grade year of high school, Mr. Atendido was admitted to Minds Matter Los Angeles (MMLA), a highly selective and rigorously intensive program. MMLA requires students’ Saturdays and summers, 10th-12th grades. During those summers, Mr. Atendido was accepted to Philips Exeter Summer Academy and Vanderbilt University Summer Academy. One of Mr. Atendido’s many talents and passions is cooking and baking; consequently, he has worked as a Kitchen Assistant for Shiki Japanese Restaurants and a Barista at Four Leaf Cafe.

  • Gladys Garcia - Connections Facilitator
    Gladys Garcia
    Connections Facilitator

    Gladys Garcia was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a B.A. in Chicano/a/x Studies. Through three separate AmeriCorps grants, they have dedicated themselves to education equity nonprofits: Jumpstart, Minds Matter of Los Angeles, and 826LA. As a queer, non-binary, first-generation Chicanx social justice advocate, Ms. Garcia believes that quality education is not a privilege, but a right. Coming from a low-income community themselves, they are aware of how important a quality education is to all children, regardless of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Ms. Garcia looks forward to returning to school, to obtain a teaching credential and Masters in Education. Their favorite book is Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

  • Robert Aguirre - SEL Advisor
    Robert Aguirre
    SEL Advisor

    Robert Aguirre, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Mr. Aguirre currently provides mental health services both in private practice and through the Heredia Therapy Group. Prior, he served as a Mental Health Clinician for San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center, Children’s Full-Service Partnership and at Para Los Niños. As part of LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment, a program that promotes health and fitness, Mr. Aguirre acted as Site Coordinator, Program Supervisor, and Traveling Support Staff. As Youth Squad Supervisor for Imperial Courts, he implemented Summer Night Lights, a recreational program delivered by the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development. Mr. Aguirre obtained a dual BA in Psychology and Chicana/o Studies from California State University Northridge and an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, with an emphasis in LatinX Culture from Pacific Oaks College. His family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School.

  • Michael Leonard - General Advisor
    Michael Leonard
    General Advisor

    Michael Leonard is Senior Vice President of Wealth Management and a Portfolio Manager at UBS since 2013. Prior, he fulfilled the roles of Vice President, Portfolio Manager, and Senior Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch for five years. Mr. Leonard was CEO of a private statistical analytics firm as well as a private financial consulting firm. He served as an advisory board member for Middle Market Investment Bank. A graduate of Stanford University, Mr. Leonard is also a licensed Financial Advisor with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority across 16 states.

  • Additional Calibrators -
    Additional Calibrators

    Behind the scenes, we have a beautiful family of 20+ innovators, magic-makers, volunteers, networkers, media contributors, and additional Connections facilitators.