Kara Ahmanson, a Los Angeles native, is currently obtaining her Masters in Nonprofit Leadership and Management at the University of Southern California. In the past, Kara has worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation, Los Angeles Kings Care Foundation, Children’s Bureau, and Roots & Wings. Her passions lie in creating a better Los Angeles through her nonprofit work, POPS fits perfectly within that category. Kara empathizes with the POPS community, mission, and vision which developed a want to be more involved with the group.
Danny Alvarado, a native of Southern California, has been working in healthcare for 15 years, a journey that began at the age of 18 when, as a Navy Corpsman, he provided emergency medicine during combat operations while on deployment with a Marine Crops unit in Iraq. For the past eight years, he has worked in operations management role and oversees operations and business development for a large outpatient mental healthcare organization in California. When Danny was young, his father was incarcerated, and he remembers the embarrassment and shame of growing up with a father behind bars. His goal is to help break the stigma that comes with having incarcerated loved ones and would like to see programs like POPS the Club throughout the U.S. Danny holds a BS in Business Administration from California State University, Los Angeles and an MBA from Pepperdine University.
Dr. Angela Benveniste currently serves as a Psychology Professor at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Angela has been on the faculty at Mount Saint Mary’s University Los Angeles since 2011 where she was also the Director of The Health & Human Services Associates Program, and a Lecturer for the Sociology and Social Work Department. She has presented at numerous, national and regional conferences on the topics of higher education, human rights, at-risk youth, medical social work and training program development. Angela received her BA in Medical Sociology and Documentary Film at Mount Saint Mary’s University and her Masters in Social Work with an emphasis in Community Organizing, Planning and Administration at University of Southern California. She received her Doctorate in Social Work at University of Southern California, with her focus on Extreme Economic Inequality and Social Mobility within Higher Education. Dr. Benveniste has been an active volunteer and social justice advocate for the past decade in Los Angeles, CA. Her passion is with underserved populations, Foster Care youth, and those who are incarcerated.
Dennis Danziger (Co-Founder) taught English and Sports Literature in the Los Angeles Unified School District for over twenty years. In collaboration with his wife, Amy Friedman, and PEN USA’s Pen in the Classroom program, he had many students publish their first essay in books, magazines and online journals. Since 2013, he served as an instigator, prompter, and editor of POPS the Club’s anthologies and other student writing and as sponsor of the inaugural POPS Club at Venice High. He retired from teaching in 2017 and now volunteers at POPS Venice. Mr. Danziger’s essays have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He is a novelist and playwright who currently works closely with Hollywood’s Stephanie Feury Theater. You can learn more about his work at djdanziger.com.
Shalei Heflin (Secretary), an Arlington, TX native, is a criminal justice advocate currently studying for her Masters in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, as well as a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice. As a previous local titleholder in the Miss America Organization, and as a child of incarcerated parents, Shalei has been given opportunities to share her story nationally, spreading awareness for the population of children of incarcerated parents. She is passionate about bringing justice, mercy, and love to those who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration and is incredibly grateful for all the work POPS does in opening discussions and changing hearts.
Austin Lindsey (Treasurer), is a Manager at Ernst & Young, LLP in the Transaction Advisory Services practice, where he works on valuation engagements for clients in a wide range of industries including technology, hospitality, healthcare, and construction. Previously, Austin was an associate in the Category Management group at National Veterinary Associates, Inc., an owner and operator of animal hospitals and pet resorts, where his work involved planning and executing strategic growth initiatives focused on inventoried products. Austin is passionate about reducing the pain and stigma associated with prison system, which drew him to POPS. Austin holds a BS in Finance from the University of Colorado.
Sonya Lowe, a native of Los Angeles, is a strategic and innovative HR Executive with over 20 years of experience who translates business vision into HR initiatives that improve performance, profitability, growth, and employee engagement. She has proven success in creating cultures of collaboration, and implementing change to achieve workforce excellence. Sonya holds an MBA in Organizational Leadership and Human Resources Management as well as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion certification and currently serves as the Director of Human Resources at Westside Regional Center and Chief People Officer at Hire Strategic HR. Sonya is also an active member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) both on the national and local level and The National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), HR Alliance, National Association of Women MBAs and Professionals in Human Resources Association where she once served as vice-chair of the South Bay Chapter for two consecutive terms. Sonya feels that POPS is vital to shaping healthy space for youth and teens, free of pressure or shame around their particular circumstances; she is excited to support POPS mission.
Hayley Macon has practiced law for the past 18 years, litigating and advising businesses on state and federal employment law. She is originally from Michigan, but has called California home since 2002. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife and son. Hayley became involved with POPs to help remedy the destructive impact of shame on the families of those who are incarcerated. She holds a BA with honors from the University of Michigan and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center.
Nicole Misita , a Biloxi, MS native, is a self-proclaimed motivator, fundraiser, and world changer. Before moving to Los Angeles, Nicole worked as Marketing and Communications Director of Way of South Mississippi specializing in funding for Early Childhood Education. Her life goal is to give future generations the resources, guidance, and love they deserve in order to thrive in their environments, not just survive. She is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing. Nicole is an avid baker, fitness instructor, travel enthusiast, and all-around marketing nerd.
Aaron Palmer, has experience in several different industries including automotive, finance, investment services and healthcare. He has spent the last 10 years of his career leading and developing sales and operation teams in the Market Research Industry. Aaron decided to seek out POPS because it became clear that the world needs more people and organizations that are committed to empathy. Aaron received Bachelor degrees in Business, and Performing Arts from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. He is the Owner and Founder of ASP Investments LLC, which focuses on encouraging financial literacy, specifically with high school students. Aaron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Rodriguez, is a student, writer, and activist. He is a formerly incarcerated juvenile offender who understands the importance of listening to our youth. John is an English major and hopes to teach a public high school, juvenile hall, and prison one day. His writings appear in several of POPS The Club anthologies. He makes an effort to change the popular negative view against the currently and formerly incarcerated. Through writing, storytelling, and advocacy, John aims to eliminate the stigma people carry for loving someone in prison. He is also a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC).
George Soneff is an attorney with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in Los Angeles and leads the firm’s real estate litigation practice. He attended public schools in the Los Angeles area, before graduating from law school at the University of Southern California in 1984. Best Lawyers has named George one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in each of the past 10 years.
When George was growing up in Compton and Bellflower his family was impacted by incarceration, which gave him an understanding of the stigma, pain, and hardships the prison system inflicts on the entire family. He believes strongly that many people can and do grow, change, and redeem themselves after having served time, and that society should not turn its back on people sincerely trying to do so. He looks forward to seeing POPS expand its reach to help more young people as they cope with problems no child should have to face alone.
Shandra Spicer (Board Chair), a Buffalo, NY native grew up in a household where her parents instilled core values of honesty, integrity, loyalty and hard work made her successful in building her own minority woman-owned company. As President and CEO of Spicer Group, a commercial general construction and construction management firm, Ms. Spicer grew the company from a company with an annual revenue of $29,000 in 1999 an annual revenue of over $10 million by 2016. Ms. Spicer currently serves as CII Program Manager for Brilliant Comers, a California nonprofit focused on eradicating homelessness throughout the state. Ms. Spicer is proud to have served as a mentor and has served as a board member for the Buffalo Urban League and Daemen College. She is proud to call the West Coast her adopted new home.
Carol Burton, LMSW, BS and MSW, Former POPS Board Chair, Vice Chair, Co-Chair and Coordinator of Alameda County Children’s Incarcerated Parents Partnership, advisor for NRCCFI at Rutgers University at Camden and CEO and Principal Consultant for Jeweld Legacy Group . In 2013 Burton received The White House Champion of Change Award for her outstanding work on behalf of Children of Incarcerated Parents.
Rachel Davenport, has over 30 years of experience in the securities / financial industry and were Chief Compliance Officer, responsible for SEC compliance as well as corporate and investment bank administration for Iaccocca Capital Group, a boutique investment firm. Rachel was a Board member and Board Chair of New Directions, a residential rehabilitation organization that serves veterans.
Marianna Houston, has worked at Safe Horizon, a New York City service organization for victims of domestic violence and at CASES in Harlem, a service organization for alternatives to incarceration. She consults for the United Palace for Cultural Arts in Washington Heights on effective and sustained arts education programming.
Rita Marmolejo, is a director, manager, trainer/instructor and consultant with expertise in planning, developing, implementing and evaluating programs and services.
Kate Savage is POPS’ Mindfulness Coach. She is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher through the International Mindfulness Teachers Association, and the founder of Open Window Mindfulness. Kate is also an artist and educator who has taught in various settings for decades. She regularly volunteers at POPS Culver City and at POPS events.
Kelly Slattery, a native Canadian and songwriter, works as a consultant in the Film and TV space, developing, packaging and setting up projects and works closely with several nonprofits. She is a longtime volunteer at POPS the Club Venice High.
Lyn Twyman, is a domestic violence and behavioral health advocate, speaker, consultant, producer and activist, an expert in community policing and behavioral health advocacy. In 2013, Lyn established Lasers,a national, progressive program designed to support all domestic violence victims and survivors.
Madge Stein Woods, is involved with several nonprofits working with women prisoners and sits on the board of R.I.S.E. to Empower. Ms. Woods has worked as a court-appointed mediator. Past president of the board for Action Committee for Women in Prison, Ms. Woods is a native Angeleno, graduate of West L.A.’s public schools.
Jonathan Zeichner, is Executive Director of A Place Called Home.