I would like to say first and for most, I am very proud to say I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada! I was born at Sunrise Hospital, attended John S. Park Elementary, John C. Fremont, Jr. High, and Las Vegas High School. I moved to New York City in my early twenties and relocated back to Las Vegas fourteen years ago.
While living in New York, I received my Associates Degree and found my dream job in the middle of Times Square (the heart of Manhattan); I was working as a Public Relations and Marketing Assistant for The Actors’ Fund of America. During my five years at the company, I was fortunate enough to attend a majority of the performances off and on Broadway. In addition to attending all of these performances, I had the privilege to go backstage and meet the cast and stage crew of each show. Occasionally, I would be asked to stand in as a photographer, which consequently is one of my main hobbies.
Since relocating to Las Vegas, I have found a new dream job, working for the Clark County School District for the last 12 years and loving it. I now have the opportunity to work with the diverse youth population in the Las Vegas Community. I feel being born and raised in Las Vegas, this is my opportunity to give back to my community.
Favorite Quote: “No matter how you feel; get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.”
SPIF at Southeast Career & Technical Academy (SECTA) and East Career & Technical Academy (ECTA)
Bio: I grew up in a military family and have had the pleasure of traveling abroad to places like England, Germany, Paris, and etc. I have also lived in various places in the U.S. I am a graduate of UNLV. Additionally, I am a writer & have done some freelance writing that has been published in magazines that seek to inspire women.I enjoy traveling, theater performances, live music, MMA, and reading great literature. I am driven to succeed in providing opportunities for GEAR UP students to further their academic experience and to be the very best person that they can be! Having been a Youth Program Coordinator before becoming an employee of CCSD, the GEAR UP Program has reconnected me with the pleasure of serving students in a unique way. It is an absolute joy!
Favorite Quote: “What I call ‘self’ now is hardly a person at all. It’s mainly a meeting place for various natural forces, desires, and dreams. Some of which come from my ancestors, and some from my education, some from the unique tapestry of my soul. The self you were really intended to be is something that lives not from nature but from God.” – C. S. Lewis
SPIF at Desert Pines High School & Las Vegas High School
Bio: Stephanie Herzig is a Nevadan resident originally from Lefkada, Greece. Working hard all her life, she recently graduated with her Master’s Degree in Education as an honorable Magna Cum Laude and also has Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Stephanie is a free spirit that believes in the potential of all people, and strives to encourage and inspire others to reach new heights. Her dream is to work with students and adults alike, hoping to improve opportunities for disadvantaged families.
Favorite Quote: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world” – Archimedes
SPIF at Del Sol High School and Desert Pines High School
Bio: Barbara Bonilla has been working for the school district for the last 12 years. She is the Student- Parent Involvement Facilitator (SPIF) for GEAR UP at two of the GEAR UP schools in Las Vegas. She has been working with the GEAR UP program since 2012. She graduated from UNLV with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and continued on to complete her Master’s Degree in Secondary Education at Grand Canyon University. As a SPIF, her role is to work with students and parents, helping them prepare for college by gaining early awareness and readiness for undergraduate programs. Ms. Bonilla is a mother of 4 and highly values education. She strives to get information to parents and students to inform them so they are knowledgeable of their options. She believes all students should be informed along with their parents so that they can make the best choice for themselves. Her saying is; be prepared for opportunity so that when opportunity comes, you will be ready and not getting ready!
Favorite Quote: “There is more to life than to watch other people live it.” – Max, from the movie Hitch
Bio: Michelle came to Jackpot from southern Utah in 2011, and began working as a substitute teacher at Jackpot Combined School in 2015. New to the GEAR UP program, Michelle took the SPIF position in October 2016. Michelle has worked with youth in many capacities, including as a staff member in a youth crisis center, a leader in the Boy Scouts of America’s Cub Scout program, and in Christian children’s ministry programs. Michelle has two adult sons, one of whom is currently attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys walking her dogs, researching interesting topics to learn about, and crocheting.
Favorite Quote: “If you have an opportunity in life, say yes first, even if you don’t know how to do it.”
Bio: David Baker is a son, a father, uncle, brother, lover and friend. From the Shoshone-Paiute Nation of the Tosawihi (white-knife) clan, and born and raised on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. Graduate of Owyhee High School in 1996 Studied Early Childhood Education from 2009 – 2011. Now coordinates and directs the Owyhee School’s after school program and is part of the school’s ‘College Readiness Team’. Loves what he does and most of all. Enjoys traveling and spending time with family.
Favorite Quote: “I’m a lover and a fighter, meaning I fight for what I love and love what I fight for.”
Bio: Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Renata Speir grew up behind the “Iron Curtain.” This was not an easy environment to grow up in. However, she was able to experience her native country as they began to shake off the chains of oppressive government and gain freedom. With freedom came a lot of opportunities for young people. She was able to work for Danish Ministry of Transportation, PIONEER Investment Company, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Wordwide, Inc in their Warsaw offices as part of the Human Resources team. Renata came to the USA in 2001. While living in Owyhee, NV, she was introduced to the GEAR UP program and saw how much the program helped students achieve their potential. In 2012, she joined the Nevada GEAR UP team.
Favorite Quote: “When civilized people were too sensitive to face evil, than evil would bring down civilzation.” E. Lowell
Bio: Terrell lives in a rural community on the border of Oregon and Nevada; his town has one casino, two service stations, a post office, and a library. Mr. T has 28 GEAR UP students and works with a team consisting of former SPIFS to help his young scholars “Dream! Believe! Achieve!”
Bio: Shannon is the SPIF for Lyon County School District and new to this position but very excited for what GEAR-UP has to offer to both Yerington and Silver Springs students and families. Shannon grew up in California and decided to make a life change. With her husband of 12 years and a child at the age of 6 at the time, Yerington was the destination and the best decision to make at the time. She has worked in the school system for 16 years helping students reach their full potential and provide resources that are needed in order for them to accomplish goals they have set. She graduated in 2012 with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and knows first hand how important going to college and getting a degree nowadays is for the working individual. This year is going to be full of providing tutoring, college visits, job shadowing, and making sure every GEAR-UP student knows how important college and career is and how essential it will be in 10 years.
Favorite Quote:“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” -Chinese Proverb
Bio: I started life as an only child, but through close friends, and divorce, I now have 3 sisters, 4 brothers, and 9 nieces and nephews. I graduated from Tonopah High School in 2011. After working with law enforcement and mining, I am finally able to follow my dream of helping high school students realize and achieve their dreams. I am currently a student at Western Nevada College and I am planning to graduate next fall. I love being able to show the students at Mineral County High School that some college paths are not standard and even if it takes 10 years, everyone has the ability to earn a college degree. On my days off, I enjoy watching Steelers Football, completing my mountains of homework, reading, baking, working on my truck, hunting, fishing, or driving through the hills and enjoying the scenery.
Favorite Quote: “The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling” – Fabienne Fredrickson
Bio: I was born and raised in Amargosa Valley to Mexican-American parents. This is where I met my husband who I have known all my life. We have two daughters together; a preschooler who is four years old and a baby who is one. Therefore, my hands are pretty much full all the time. I have one younger brother who just graduated college. We were the first in our family to go to college, but I am still currently attending Great Basin College and will hopefully graduate in the next year. I graduated from Beatty High School in 2010 and now I work there with my former teachers, who are now my colleagues. I love being able to come back to my community and try to help them understand the thing I didn’t in high school. It is also fun working with the students because many of them are siblings to my classmates. Thus, I am cable to connect with them really well. Despite working and having a family, I think it is very important to make time to go attend school. I tell my students all the time that if I can go to school while having two little ones at home, being married and having a job, then they can do do it. Its all about how hard you want to work for it.
Favorite Quote: “All our dream can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney
Bio: I was born and raised in Pahrump with five brothers and sisters. My parents were farmers so I know the true meaning of hard work and good ethics. Growing up, I had a passion for the outdoors as well as sports. I have always love working with children and the elders. It is truly a blessing to be able to work with students and assist them in shaping their futures. I cherish spending time with my daughter who will graduate with honors from Colorado State University in May with a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering. Some of my favorite hobbies are traveling, golf, and spending time with family and friends.
Favorite Quote: “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Shalise was born and raised in Northern Utah, in a little farming community known as Hyrum. When she turned 19 she moved to Flaming Gorge, UT. There, she resided for another 12 years, while raising her 2 children, Savanna and Jax. Flaming Gorge is where she found her love of working in a school setting. She received her degree in Psychology and started working in the Special Ed Department. Some of her favorite hobbies include being outdoors, jeeping, hiking, and 4-wheeling. She also enjoys photography and creating things out of nothing. Recently, she moved to Tonopah, NV with her family, where she and her husband started new jobs. GEAR UP has helped her continue to push herself to reach new heights and limits, and it has helped her realize she can make a difference. GEAR UP has been such an inspiration to her. Her hope is to help students create dreams and lives they never thought were possible.
Favorite Quote: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world”. – Robin Williams
Bio: In addition to my work with GEAR UP, I am in Title I at the middle school, so I know my two cohorts and their parents well. Many of them I also cared for when I was director of the local day care center; Lovelock is a small town with many and varied connections, most of which help to offset the lack of wide experiences for our students. GEAR UP helps with this as well. This is my second go-round with the program–my first cohort are now college seniors; some have even graduated. As the mother of two college graduates who worked their way through school, I know the value of this program and the opportunities it affords.
Favorite Quote: “What if the hokey pokey really is what it’s all about?”
SPIF, Dean’s Future Scholars
University of Nevada, Reno
Bio: I was born in Montana and relocated to Nevada with my family in 1988. I attended the University of Nevada, Reno and graduated with a BS in Elementary Education in 2004. I worked as a teacher and Dean of Students before attending graduate school at Oregon State University and obtaining an MS in Counseling. I returned to Washoe county after graduate school and have worked as an elementary and middle school counselor for the past 8 years. It has been a great pleasure to serve as a counselor and educator over the past 13 years. I am excited to transition into this new position and to use my skill set and knowledge to help contribute to the already amazing things GEAR UP accomplishes. I am looking forward to learning new things as well and to continue working with students and families!
Favorite Quote: “I can’t be everything to everyone at the same time.” -Talib Kweli Working as a counselor and being a mother has helped me understand that quote to the fullest!”
Bio: I grew up in Palmdale, a small city in Southern California. After graduating high school in 2009, I moved to Reno to attend UNR. Once I graduated, I started working as a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Worker with at-risk youth and then became a SPIF at Hug High School. I enjoy being outdoors, baseball, and spending time with my son.
Favorite Quote: “The days are long but the years are short.”
Becky moved to Reno with her family when she was five years old. Learning, working, and playing in the Truckee Meadows has been a pleasure. She began volunteering in the Washoe County School District at the age of eighteen in the Adaptive Physical Education program. Her love of education and her passion for helping children to achieve their goals were the forces driving her decision to begin working for the school district in 2013.
Favorite Quote: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bio: Samuel also known as Sammy, has lived the majority of his life in Reno, NV. He is currently a graduate student working towards his Master’s Degree in School Counseling. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno as well as a minor in Psychology in May 2017. Sammy has been working with K-12 students for four years; he has being involved through the Dean’s Future Scholars (DFS) program as a Mentor as well as working with the Washoe County School District as a Teacher Assistant for the Team Up after school program at Rita Cannan Elementary. He currently works for DFS program as the Graduate Assistant for the GEAR UP Grant and as a clerical aide at Rita Cannan Elementary. In his free time he enjoys eating Cheesecake, spending time with his friends, and going to the movies.
Favorite Quote: “Do It For The Kids” and “#Sammyproblems”
Bio: Ana Villegas was born and raised in Sparks Nevada. Ana currently works as a Student Parent Involvement Facilitator at Wooster High School in Reno, Nevada. After graduating high school Ana attended Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) to pursue a degree in nursing. After receiving an Associates of Arts and Science Ana transferred to the University of Nevada Reno (UNR). After assisting her father through the many hoops of receiving a kidney transplant and working with families in the Washoe County School District Ana decided to change her career goals and become a Social Worker. In the Spring of 2016, Ana graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UNR. Ana has worked with assisting families of Washoe County for 5+ years and has enjoyed it very much. She hopes to one day create a youth center for our community. On her free time Ana enjoys traveling, photography, makeup, and most importantly spending time with her family and friends.
Favorite Quote: “Day by day, step by step I will change the world”