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.

Our Origin Story

Our Program: Connections®

Calibrate.earth circle

Connections is a data-driven, social-emotional learning (SEL) program. It is a structured process designed to create a protective space, so that participants can listen and speak from their hearts. For Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPOC), who are in survival mode day-to-day, Connections provides a safe place to cultivate intra-personal growth and interpersonal bonds. Connections normalizes the sharing of personal stories and conveys to participants that all voices are important and that each individual is appreciated for their authentic self. Connections is not psychotherapy, but it has a therapeutic effect. Participants are guided by prompts that elicit imagination, reflection, and critical thinking. During Connections, participants encounter healthy coping mechanisms, increase self-esteem and self-efficacy, and practice aspects of productive/constructive listening and communication. All of these qualities are essential for healing, advocacy, sharing values, and establishing narrative.

In their own words, teenagers say that Connections taught them to...



“Calibrate brought us expertise and knowledge around SEL [Social Emotional Learning], particularly in relation to underserved communities. Calibrate created a curriculum, implemented it into our tutoring/mentoring sessions, trained and coached new facilitators, helped us adapt to a virtual environment, and collected data to measure student growth/progress. Calibrate is composed of a wonderful team, led by Marcie Gilbert, who has been in the education space for years and is steeped in Connections.” 

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

“Calibrate has helped us deliver on our mission to provide a setting that fosters community and confidence. Calibrate has been leading our 5th through 8th students through a social-emotional learning program that allows our students to experience engagement, empowerment, and emotional thriving. Marcie and the Calibrate team are doing amazing work! We are so grateful to have them join and become such a vital part of our community, adding such a positive and transformative experience to PFS!” 

— José Melgoza, Executive Director, Partnership for Success!

“Being a low-income student, we're told that success is having extrinsic valuable things, whether that's money, cars, house – things that we never grew up with. It took me a while to get away from that mentality and say that what I value is legacy and leaving a mark in my community. Connections is a place where students can build confidence in their values because they get their feet wet with what it's like to reflect. Self-discovery is the start of having goals. I came from a school that didn't have a college counselor or a real counselor, so what really were my opportunities to open up? Connections makes it okay for students to open up, to find out who we really are.” 

Jonathan Villalta, Connections Facilitator and Program Coordinator

For news coverage of Calibrate and Connections, check out Calibrate’s social media

For more information on Connections,  


OUR PARTNERS


Our Team

Calibrate’s team consists of alumni – either of Connections or of our partnering nonprofits – who grew up in South L.A. and witnessed the transformational benefits of Connections within themselves and their communities. In addition, our trainers and half of our board members are veteran educators. We “Calibrate” training and job opportunities, as our Connections facilitators receive free training and are paid to facilitate.

  • 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 Special Education: Educational Therapy 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
    Director

    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
    Director

    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.

  • 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.

  • LaReina Hall - Bookkeeper
    LaReina Hall
    Bookkeeper

    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.

  • Diana Garcia - HR
    Diana Garcia
    HR

    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.

  • 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.

  • Alanna Hernandez - Program Coordinator
    Alanna Hernandez
    Program Coordinator

    Alanna Hernandez is a Connections alum, graduating with a B.S. in Business Administration – Management and Human Resources from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Alanna brings to Calibrate extensive experience with managing, as Manager of both Customer Service and Warehouse departments at Wild Attire LLC; as Front Office Medical Receptionist for California Orthopaedic Specialists; and as Executive Assistant to the CEO at All Pro-Environmental Solutions. Alanna is a career volunteer, having dedicated 700+ hours to advocating for 30+ nonprofits. Alanna is a foodie, loves nature, and possesses an innate passion for philanthropy, international travel, crafting, and soccer. She/they lives by Maya Angelou’s quote, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

  • Francis William Atendido - Program Coordinator
    Francis William Atendido
    Program Coordinator

    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.

  • Kelly Murray - Connections Mentor and Facilitator
    Kelly Murray
    Connections Mentor and Facilitator

    More about Kelly soon!

  • Jonathan Villalta - Curriculum Development
    Jonathan Villalta
    Curriculum Development

    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.

  • Johmel Holt-Bradley - Curriculum Development
    Johmel Holt-Bradley
    Curriculum Development

    Passionate about people and advancing their care, Johmel Holt-Bradley has dedicated himself to providing In-Home Support Services (IHSS) for elderly clients and one-on-one interventions for students with learning disabilities since 2017. At Vista Del Mar School, Mr. Holt-Bradley works with his students on their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals surrounding behavior and motor skills. Prior to 2017 for several years, Mr. Holt-Bradley patrolled the Queen Mary and Dodgers Stadium for Black Hawk Security. Mr. Holt-Bradley holds a BA in Psychology from California State University Dominguez Hills. His family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School. Fun facts: He loves basketball and old-school cars.

  • 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, and he is currently pursuing a Masters in Education for Instructional Design and Learning Technologies. 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 Development with a minor in Professional Writing.

  • Ray Ruano - Connections Facilitator
    Ray Ruano
    Connections Facilitator

    Ray Ruano graduated with a B.A. in Cognitive Science from UC Davis. While at Davis, Mr. Ruano worked for the departments of Undergraduate Education and Information Education Technology. He provided student support services surrounding academic exams, assisting students, professors, and administration with scheduling and processing. In addition, Mr. Ruano maintained technology for over 100 campus classrooms and lecture halls, assisting with tech support, repairs and rewiring machinery. Since graduating college, Mr. Ruano has been a behavior interventionist for students with learning differences and obtained his certification as a Registered Behavior Technician. Mr. Ruano is bilingual (English/Spanish). Fun fact: He is an avid roller skater.

  • Brandon Smith - Connections Facilitator
    Brandon Smith
    Connections Facilitator

    Brandon Smith comes to Calibrate with extensive experience in maintaining the spiritual and physical safety of communities. With certifications in CPR and as a California Guard Card and D.O.J. Chemical Agent, Mr. Smith has served as a Security / Public Safety Officer for UCLA Health, Olympia Medical Center, Providence St. John’s Medical Center, and Healthcare and High-Risk Security Services. Prior to public safety, Mr. Smith was a Teacher’s Assistant in LAUSD for 7 years. A self-defense artist (e.g., Qigong, wrestling, boxing) and Fitness Coach, Mr. Smith is finishing certification at the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Since 2018, Mr. Smith has dedicated community service to Leimert Park, beautifying spaces and uplifting visitors’ experiences; in addition, he has been a Vibe Curator for Elefante Creative LLC. His family tree with Calibrate started as a student of Ms. J (Charletta) and Vann at Community Harvest Charter School. Fun facts: Mr. Smith has acted as an extra and in roles in music videos and is a self-learner of African History and Self-Improvement.

  • Stephanie Naranjo-Rodriguez - Connections Facilitator
    Stephanie Naranjo-Rodriguez
    Connections Facilitator

    Passionate about influencing policy-making, Stephanie Naranjo-Rodriguez is currently a full-time college student pursuing a BA in Sociology. Ms. Naranjo-Rodriguez has served both as an administrative assistant and volunteer at Minds Matter Los Angeles, an academic extracurricular program that she was selected to attend while in high school. Additionally, Ms. Naranjo-Rodriguez worked as an Office Administrator and volunteered as a Youth Council Coordinator at Girls Today Women Tomorrow, which provides intensive mentorship for youth in underserved communities. Ms. Naranjo-Rodriguez is bilingual (English/Spanish). Fun facts: She is an avid reader and has completed 4 marathons.

  • 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.

  • Jose
    Jose "JJ" Lopez
    Connections Facilitator

    Jose “JJ” Lopez is an accomplished military veteran with extensive experience in organizational management, training and security. During his time in the Navy, JJ received a Navy Achievement Medal (NAM) for successful completion of over 2,000 travel arrangements in a 2-month span, evidence of his strong organizational skills and dedication to whatever project or challenge he encounters. Following his time in the Navy, JJ achieved a B.S. in Business Administration from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona (CPP), with special emphasis in Management and Human Resources. Problem-solving is an area of excitement for JJ, as is working with people and teams. JJ is a Connections alumnus, having participated in Calibrate’s CPP Connections program in partnership with Dr. Sharonda Bishop. His fun fact: Watching anime is like a religion for him.

  • Ann Wong - Connections Facilitator
    Ann Wong
    Connections Facilitator

    More about Ann soon!

  • Avantre Lesley - Connections Facilitator
    Avantre Lesley
    Connections Facilitator

    More about Avantre soon!

  • Cristina Ferreira - Connections Facilitator
    Cristina Ferreira
    Connections Facilitator

    More about Cristina soon!

  • Rocio Moreno - Connections Facilitator
    Rocio Moreno
    Connections Facilitator

    More about Rocio soon!

  • Berenice Melgoza - Connections Facilitator
    Berenice Melgoza
    Connections Facilitator

    More about Berenice soon!

  • Joseph Sanchez - Connections Facilitator
    Joseph Sanchez
    Connections Facilitator

    More about Joseph soon!

  • 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.