Leadership Executives

Political Leadership Panel

bullet-pointNatalie Alvarez

Natalie was the first full-time hire at Gen Next, after CEO Michael Davidson, she was brought on to help build the infrastructure we have in place today. In a nutshell there is not an area in Gen Next within Natalie hasn’t worked. As Director of Special Projects and Communications she is responsible for the development and execution of branding and communications strategies for Gen Next—both internal and external. She continues to focus on organizational development, corporate relations, and new program development for members–most recently the creation of Gen Next Forums and more.

Prior to joining Gen Next, Natalie worked as an Associate Strategist for a strategic consultancy, Outside Eyes. She worked with high profile nonprofits, athletes, and celebrities in the areas of message development, media relations, crisis management, and participated on a creative team for a few product launches.

Whether it’s professional or personal, Natalie has always been passionate about involving herself with causes that involve disadvantaged youth. Natalie serves on an Advisory Committee for “Betting by the Bay”, an annual fundraiser that benefits C.A.S.A., a nonprofit that advocates for the interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings.

A lifelong learner, Natalie completed the MBA program at Concordia in December 2012. She has spent the last two years focusing her coursework on management and leadership and applying those lessons learned to Gen Next. Natalie received her undergrad from CSU Fullerton with a degree in Communications and an emphasis in Public Relations. This California native has a passion for the Spanish language. Proceeding college, she lived in Alicante and studied Spanish culture at the University of Miguel Hernandez.

Natalie is a Member of Future Leaders of Our Community and enjoys reading, entertaining, line dancing, traveling or spending time with friends and family.

bullet-pointMike A. Gipson

Mike A. Gipson, first elected to the California State Assembly in November 2014, represents the 64th Assembly District that includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Gardena, Harbor Gateway, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, South Los Angeles, Torrance, Watts/Willowbrook and Wilmington.

In various capacities, Assemblymember Gipson has been serving the people of the 64th District his entire life. As a peace officer, legislative staff, elected official, and labor organizer, Gipson’s dedication to the residents of the South Bay is a testament to his heart and enthusiasm for public service.

Born and raised in Watts, Gipson’s passion for public service was instilled at a young age. The son of a labor activist, Gipson learned the value of hard work, solidarity and leadership. As a youth pastor at the One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism Christian church, Gipson helped teach the importance of community and giving back to others. These lessons have continued to lead him throughout his life.

Eager to serve, Gipson became a police officer for the Maywood Police Department after graduating from the South Bay Police Training Academy. During his time protecting the peace, Gipson gained invaluable experience about local issues. After leaving the police force, Gipson earned his Bachelor of Science in Business/Management from the University of Phoenix and his Associate of Arts degree from the Los Angeles Southwest College.

Gipson’s introduction into politics came as a Field Representative for L.A. Councilmembers Robert Farrell and Mark Ridley-Thomas; he would later work as a Staff Aide to Compton’s Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally and State Senator Bill Greene. Gipson would eventually serve as Chief of Staff to Chairman Jerome E. Horton, the first African-American elected to the Board of Equalization. A reliable problem-solver, Gipson established a reputation as a valuable resource for those he worked for and the constituents they represented.

Serving on the Carson City Council from 2005 to 2014, Gipson was at the helm of several successful endeavours targeting at-risk youth. He established the Midnight Basketball program, which was a highly successful at removing children from the streets during summer nights. Gipson also started two program conferences to mentor at risk youth: S.O.S (Saving our Sons) and R.O.S.E. (Reaching Out to our Sisters Everywhere). These organizations have provided mentorship and job training for hundreds of children over the years.

Passionate about ensuring that those who educate our children are treated with dignity and respect, Gipson has recently applied his leadership skills as an area organizer for the 48,000-strong United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). Prior to working for UTLA, he was the Legislative and Political Director for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 399, the state-wide Political Director for Justice for Janitors 1877 SEIU and a Business Representative for SEIU Local 99.

Gipson is a devoted husband, and still lives in Carson with his wife, Le Cresha. They have two sons, Devon and Jordan.

bullet-pointRob Carpenter

As an educator, executive, and serial entrepreneur, Rob started his first business when he was 9–he would pick people’s flowers from their yard and sell them back to them. Since then, he has co-founded other ventures in education, technology, and art, and has developed an obsession for helping to improve the world. Rob’s latest venture, Jemae, creates designer products that fund humanitarian projects throughout the world. Rob has worked with organizations like Google, Disney, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the White House, and his writings and ventures have appeared in the New York Times, People Magazine, CNN, Fox, and more. He is recognized as an authority on Leadership, Strategy, and Communications, and his dream is to help others realize their dreams.

bullet-pointArdena Joy Clark

Ardena Joy Clark is an American born Writer, Entertainer, Activist and former Elected Official, (43rd district. (LA County Democratic Central Committee). In addition, Ardena Joy is also part of the award winning, gold selling R&B group ISYSS, which hails from Cudahy and South Central Los Angeles, California.

Although Ardena has had many opportunities afforded her, she never lost touch with where she came from. After deciding that navigating the vicissitudes of the Entertainment Industry wasn’t the life for her, she decided to devote a significant portion of her time and life to public service. As a leader within public service, Ms. Clark not only speaks, writes, and organizes on causes such as social and economic injustices, but she has produced a variety of videos on police brutality and economic injustice.

Ms. Clark is also currently working in human resources where she employs hundreds of people in the Non Profit sector and helps raise funds on behalf of Left Leaning Non-Profit organizations.

Educational Leadership Panel

bullet-pointSharaud Moore

Sharaud Moore often says that if there were a recipe for failure, he had all the right ingredients. He was born to a sixteen year old homeless single mother. At six years old he began to be placed in a series of foster homes. By the time he was 13 he had been to 14 different schools. Once he returned to his mother’s home, he continued to get into trouble because of his mother’s demanding work schedule and his need to care for his younger siblings. Sharaud was once living out of a car. He joined a gang in the eighth grade because he felt the need for protection.

In the tenth grade, Sharaud was expelled from school for carrying a gun to class, and sent to Wilson High School where he was enrolled in Erin Gruwell’s English class. Sharaud hated school, and only attended because he enjoyed playing football there. Sharaud continued to be a constant burden in the classroom, until he became the victim of a vicious prank in which a classmate drew a racist caricature of him. The experience sparked the Freedom Writers movement and changed Sharaud’s views on education and the world around him.

Sharaud has traveled across the country speaking to audiences about the power of education and his triumph overcoming obstacles. Sharaud earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa in 2000. In 2007 Sharaud’s story was highlighted in Paramount Studios’ film, Freedom Writers. Sharaud is currently a coach and educator working with students who are performing far below average. In recent years he worked as an algebra teacher at one of the schools he was expelled from in his youth.

bullet-pointDr. Joy Hoffman

Dr. Joy Hoffman serves as the Director of Diversity Initiatives and Resource Centers at California State University, Fullerton. She oversees the Titan Dreamers Resource Center, African American Resource Center, Chicano/a Resource Center, and the Asian Pacific American Resource Center. She is also responsible for diversity initiatives on campus, including trainings, workshops, campus climate evaluation, contributing to conversations around policies and processes, and establishing a bias incident response protocol. Her higher education experience includes new student orientation, student activities, clubs and organizations, sexual violence, drug and alcohol education, student leadership development, and positions specific to advancing diversity and inclusion. She has worked in multicultural affairs for over 14 years of her 20+ year career. Joy has published in areas related to ethnic identity development; culture; religion and spirituality; and counseling in student affairs. After working a majority of her career in the trenches with students, her new role at CSUF allows her to apply skills as a thought-leader as she builds a new department and hires/trains/develops new professionals and graduate students. Moreover she contributes to the institution’s strategic plan through intentional goal setting and assessment. Joy earned an Ed.D. from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership.

bullet-pointMarcus Hughes

Marcus Hughes is a Manager of Teacher and Leadership Development (MTLD) for Teach for America Los Angeles. Upon graduating from Morehouse College in 2003 with a B.A. in Business Marketing, he joined TFA as a corps member where he taught six years as an elementary teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. He eventually left the classroom to serve as the Executive Director of a non-profit organization that focused on mentorship and leadership development for urban youth. He and his team were able to mentor hundreds of kids, helping many gain access to college and career opportunities. Marcus returned to school to earn an M.A. in Theology from Regent University while also serving as a youth pastor and church planter. Marcus returned to the field of education when he joined TFA staff in 2013 as a Corp Member Advisor (CMA) at the Los Angeles Summer Institute, which ultimately led to his current role as an MTLD, where he trains and coaches ECE-12th grade educators in praxis, pedagogy, and personal and professional leadership. In addition to his work with TFA, Marcus served as the Board Chairman for Long Beach Unified School District’s BELIEVE Academy, which is the district’s initiative for helping students of color take and pass high school AP courses. During the summer of 2014, Marcus served as a TFA/LAUSD Fellow, working for Superintendent Tommy Chang. He is also currently pursuing his Ed. D. in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from Loyola Marymount University.

bullet-pointDr. Tracy Pascua Dea

Dr. Tracy Pascua Dea is the Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success and Co-Director of the High Potential First Generation to College Program at Saint Mary’s College of California. Tracy has 16 years progressive experience in corporate and higher education settings specializing in student success, diversity and social justice, career management, and training and development. Tracy has worked with diverse individuals and groups and with internationally recognized programs. Tracy was the Associate Director at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies working with on-ground and on-line, domestic and international graduate and undergraduate programs. At Saint Louis University, she was the Director of the John Cook School of Business Career Resources Center working with Fortune 500 and non-profit companies and graduate and undergraduate level students. She has also worked at Washington University School of Law, Boston College, Boston University and EMC Corporation. In her career, she has been active in service to the community and with professional organizations. She holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration, a M.A. in Counseling Psychology, and B.A. in Psychology.

Entrepreneur Leadership Panel

bullet-pointJohn Howard

John Howard grew up in Compton, CA and subsequently moved to Long Beach, CA at age 13. While attending Brethren Christian High School, John was blessed with several opportunities of which he took full advantage: Junior Class Vice-President; then Student Body President; three-sport Letterman; choir all four years; excelled on the school Academic Decathlon Team; held a job in a fast food restaurant; was very active in his local church; and at age 17, graduated as Valedictorian of his high school class with a 4.1 GPA. All of this preparation in high school led him to receive an Air Force ROTC College Scholarship to any college of his choice; he applied to one university and was accepted: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL.

John always dreamed of piloting airplanes and at Embry-Riddle, John learned to fly many different aircraft: Cessna 172s, Piper Cadets, Mooney M20Js, twin-engine Cessna Crusaders, and twin-turboprop engine Beechcraft King Airs. During his four-year course of study at Embry-Riddle, John attained his Commercial Pilot’s License with Single and Multiple-Engine, Instrument ratings. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation, he simultaneously completed Air Force ROTC as a Distinguished Graduate (top 10% of his class) and received his commission as an officer in the United States Air Force, receiving the rank of Second Lieutenant.

During his time in the Air Force, John held several key positions. His ultimate dream was attained when he began the 52-week Air Force Pilot Training in Columbus, MS, where he, again, graduated as Distinguished Graduate (top 10% of his class). This flying course is very selective and challenging and it costs the American government $2+ million to train just one pilot for the duration of this course. In the Air Force, John flew T-37s, T-1s, and ultimately the large, four-engine C-130 transport aircraft, flying personnel, equipment and other precious cargo, such as Army troops, Navy SEALs, and the President’s limousines, all over the world.

The highlight of his flying career came on September 11, 2001 when all aircraft were grounded from flying due to the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorists’ attacks. Only a couple of hours after those attacks, John, another pilot, and an entire flight crew flew a humanitarian mission from Nashville, TN to Houston, TX, carrying a transplanted liver for a baby who needed the liver in Houston. Their plane was the only plane allowed into the air that afternoon, a flight which John recalls was “very quiet.” The flight made local and national news. The entire flight crew for that flight has been featured on ABC’s “20/20” and NBC’s “The Jane Pauley Show.”

After ten outstanding years in the US Air Force, John honorably separated from the military at the rank of Captain to open his own business back in his hometown of Long Beach, CA. John is currently the Owner/Operator of a $4+ million Chick-fil-A restaurant, the first stand alone Chick-fil-A in all of Los Angeles County, complete with dining for almost 200 guests, an indoor play area, and a drive-thru. John employs a staff of approximately 70 wonderful people, which includes a leadership team of twelve, who embody the vision that he has set in place for such a high-quality, high-caliber restaurant.

bullet-pointEddy Millis

Eddy Millis is currently President of Invincible live events company, A tenured business advisor for marketing for over 4 years, Eddy has produced over 24 live events from professional MMA shows, to concerts and mud runs. Eddy has also brought to market a top level protein supplement and appeared as a feature guest on Bravo TV’s “Thintervention” Eddy in his spare time is a contributing writer for 2 magazines and a consultant to several companies.

bullet-pointBri Seeley

Bri Seeley is a multi-talented and passionate entrepreneur. Whether designing, coaching, or writing, Bri is dedicated to inspiring women to BE women.

Bri Seeley mentors women to create inspirational lives – from achieving clarity in their visions to making an impact with their gifts, she works with them to live life on their terms. She is also the author of The Inspirational Women Project, as well as the leader of the eponymous movement.

bullet-pointAaruni Thakur

Aaruni Thakur graduated from UCLA and the USD School of Law. In college he drove as a volunteer in a presidential motorcade. That experience sparked a deep interest in politics and legislation. After interning in a campaign for California Governor, Aaruni went to law school and spent a semester in Sacramento with the Senate Majority Leader. He has had leadership roles in campaigns for State Senate and US Congress. He ran unsuccessfully for school board in Fullerton in 2010.

Aaruni is married to his high school sweetheart and has 2 sons.

bullet-pointVincent Smith

Vincent Smith is the Founder and creator of Vintertainmint, an entertainment media company that specializes in production and social media services.

Smith got his start in the entertainment business in 2007 with his first internship at a production company the summer before he started college. He continued to expand his industry knowledge by interning at top radio and television companies while earning his BA in Communications from Washington DC’s historic Howard University (2011).

Upon Graduation, Smith moved to Los Angeles and worked at various entertainment companies including ones owned by award-winning actress Tasha Smith and most recently, Robert Townsend.

At 24 years old (2014), Smith Founded Vintertainmint and subsequently launched both V Shades (www.buyVshades.com) and V Social Media (www.Vsocial.media) as a way to establish himself and further his career as a business owner.