Keyonna Keith is committed to serving under-served and marginalized youth through mentoring and educational programs. As an undergraduate, Keyonna worked with the UCLA Urban Collaborative P.A.L.S. Program to provide high school students in Watts, California, mentorship and guidance with college preparation. Prior to joining EmpowHer Keyonna has worked in the non-profit sector managing and developing engaging after-school programs that provide tutoring and enrichment activities to students in Inglewood and Compton Unified School Districts.
Keyonna earned a Bachelor of Arts in African-American Studies and Political Science from Loyola Marymount University and a Juris Doctor from UC Hastings College of the Law.
Kathryne earned a Masters in Education from Adelphi University. She currently teaches Art at Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena. In addition to teaching Art, Kathryne teaches 7th and 8th grade EmpowHer classes. She is a foodie! If she could have dinner with anyone in the world, she would have dinner with her parents because they are the most inspiring and supportive couple she knows. She is passionate about creativity because it makes her mind think out of the box and enlightens her being.
Outside of work, Kathryne likes to be creative and laugh. Creativity inspires thought. Thought inspires the person. And the person can inspire others. Life is a beautiful gift.
Wendy Fierro is the Social Studies Lead teacher at the UCLA Community School, where she has been teaching history for 5 years. In addition to teaching history, this is her first year teaching EmpowHer to 7th grade girls. She graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in Political Science and received her Masters in teaching from UCLA. Her interests involve traveling and doing outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. She is passionate about empowering youth to be agents of change.
Destinye McGill has worked to bring resources to often overlooked populations in New York City as well as Los Angeles and also serves as an advocate for incarcerated individuals with substance and mental health problems. After graduating from Columbia University in 2016 with a Master of Social Work, Destinye returned to California to serve as a School Social Worker at Alliance Cindy and Bill Simon Technology High School in Watts. She is currently in her second year and is very passionate about normalizing mental health services within communities of color. In addition to serving as the School Social Worker, Destinye teaches the EmpowHer class to a cohort of 9th graders. Destinye also holds a Bachelor’s of Art in Child Development and Family Studies from Long Beach State University in 2012 as well as a PPS Credential in School Social Work.
Michelle Kopacz, also known as Ms. Koko, is the 8th grade EmpowHer teacher at Environmental Charter School – Inglewood. She has been working at ECMS-I since February 2014 as the Games and Movement teacher for all grades. Ms. Koko is a native Californian with a love for teaching. She also has strong interests in dancing, acting, and jewelry-making. Ms. Koko’s family consist of her husband, Jove, and their three kids, Aiden, Sasha, and Xochi. She attended UCLA to study Sociology and is in the process of receiving her teaching credentials and Math masters from National University.
Wintor McNeel is the Counselor at Environmental Charter Middle School Inglewood and current 7th grade EmpowHer teacher. Wintor’s key areas of expertise in this role include social and emotional counseling, academic intervention, behavioral support and the planning of school-wide events. Wintor has over 10 years of experience in education having worked in the non-profit, private, and public sectors. Previously, she served as a Counselor for St. John Bosco High School and Bright Star Charter School. Wintor believes that education is the gateway to your future and the key to achieving your dreams.
Wintor is a member of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the California Association of School Counselors (CASC). She has extensive years of volunteer experience, which includes working with Upward Bound, Skid Row, Habitat for Humanity, and other notable organizations. She is passionate about contributing to the community, and strongly feels that volunteerism can help you find your passion and purpose in life.
Wintor is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and holds a BA in Communication Studies and a MA in Counseling. She is a native of Los Angeles, California. During her free time she enjoys writing poetry, reading, attending live music events, and spending time with her family. She is currently writing her first book of poetry to inspire and uplift young women.
Daniella is currently in her second year as Counselor at Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena. In addition to counseling, Daniella teaches the 8th grade EmpowHer class. Prior to joining Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena, Daniella worked as a counselor at Champs Charter High School. She has five years of experience as a behavioral therapist for children with autism. Daniella received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Child and Adolescent Development in 2011. In 2014, she received a Masters of Science in Counseling.
Michelle Torres is the College Readiness Teacher at Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena. She is passionate about promoting equity in education, social justice, and environmental advocacy. As the College Readiness teacher, her goals span the cultivation of critical reading skills, building strategies to ensure academic, social and emotional success, and the awareness of collegiate opportunities. Michelle also teaches 7th and 8th grade EmpowHer classes.
She earned her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point and her Masters in Education at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Michelle has worked in the education sphere in LA for nearly a decade.
Michelle’s love of nature began growing up in Wisconsin where her favorite place was deep in the North Woods. Outside of teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, reading, hiking, camping, creating, practicing yoga, and meditation.
Jennica Vanderheyden is the College Readiness teacher at Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood. Jennica also teaches the 7th grade EmpowHer class. Jennica is brand new to California, as she recently moved here from Peoria, IL. Although this is her first year at ECMS-I, this is not her first year of teaching. Jennica has previously taught in Peoria where she was an English teacher for three years at an International Baccalaureate Middle School. Through teaching, she has managed to be an expert in forming relationships, keeping the classroom safe and secure, and creating rigorous tasks for her students.
EmpowHer Leaders Academy Facilitator
Lacey is currently a counselor at Environmental Charter High School (ECHS). Prior to working at ECHS, Lacey was the counselor for Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena. While serving as counselor at Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena, Lacey taught the 7th and 8th grade EmpowHer classes.
Initially, Lacey studied and planned to teach elementary education but her college experience as a Resident Advisor and High School Mentor changed her mind. Being able to help students outside the classroom setting for advice and assisting students by providing the resources needed to stay in college became her calling.
Working with middle school population was not necessarily in her plans but somehow the forces have merged and won her over! Being able to be the bridge of communication in a smaller community amongst teachers, students, and parents to foster positive relationships is truly rewarding. Helping to create a school culture that is fun, safe, and promotes the growth of student development is the motivating factor.
Lacey finds it critical to stay current in the field of counseling and teaching as well. By attending various professional development training and national conferences, she is able to deliver services that are supportive to students and teachers. As a second year counselor striving to be the ultimate expert, she surrounds herself among those that can contribute to her overall growth as an educator.
She has also spent much of her time collaborating with local community organizations to create additional programs on campus that empower students through leadership, cultural awareness, and learning life skills.
Lacey earned a BA Liberal Studies, Minor Education Sociology, from UC Riverside and a MA School Counseling, from Loyola Marymount University.
EmpowHer Leaders Academy Co-Facilitator
Upon graduating from USC, Amber Rasberry started her career in music video and commercial production with HSI Productions in Los Angeles, working with such directors as Paul Hunter, Little X, Hype Williams, David LaChapelle, and Sam Bayer. She moved to Naa’ila Entertainment with auteur Hype Williams where she worked on videos for Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog while concurrently developing films through his production deal with New Line Cinema. Amber expanded her base in music video production as a freelance music video rep for A Few Miles North Productions, landing director Erik White’s first video which would lead to dozens more. Always looking for new challenges and opportunities, Amber joined the State St. Pictures team as assistant to the VP of Development and Production, where she worked on the box office hit, BARBERSHOP, BARBERSHOP 2 and ROLL, BOUNCE.
As Production and Development Associate, Rasberry established the film development division of Simmons Lathan Media Group, a multimedia partnership between hip-hop godfather Russell Simmons and legendary television director, Stan Lathan. She also managed music video director Little X and secured his feature film debut as 2nd unit Director/Director’s Consultant for dance film HOW SHE MOVE. Ms. Rasberry was in the film development department at New Line Cinema where she assisted in the development of SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE and RUSH HOUR 3 with Sr. VP Kathy Busby.
As Director of Development at 34th St Films, a subsidiary of Tyler Perry Studios, she identified, lobbied, and secured the acquisition of Academy Award winning film, PRECIOUS, at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. She served as production executive for the iconic feature adaptation of FOR COLORED GIRLS, where she helped assemble a historic cast of Black actresses including Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad. Balancing acclaimed dramas with fun comedies, she worked on PEEPLES with crossover comedian, Craig Robinson. She steered the international strategy of the Tyler Perry brand by facilitating distribution and license of Tyler Perry content in India and Africa. Most recently, Amber executive produced feature film, SEASONS OF LOVE, with Taraji P. Henson, Gladys Knight and Method Man, which aired on Lifetime’s holiday slate for 2014. Amber has received the Uptown Magazine and Grey Goose, “Rising Icons: Tastemakers” Award and HelloBeautiful.com “Top 25 Women To Know In Media”.