Initiative Backbone Team

Sonja Koehler – Director

Cristina De Orta – Program Assistant

Iris Gamez – Community Outreach, Inclusion, and Advocacy Coordinator

Rebeca Zuniga – Communications Coordinator

What is the Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Development Initiative Backbone Team?

The Backbone Team provides strategic management of the countywide early childhood development initiative, ensuring forward movement of the countywide framework by convening partners, engaging in policy change, mobilizing resources, and internal and external communications, and capacity building. The team also offers various types of practical support for strategy-aligned action teams, such as: process design; meeting facilitation; project management support; community inclusion and engagement; and evaluation and monitoring. The term “backbone” comes from the Collective Impact model for social change.

Key Partners to the Backbone Team

The Bright Beginnings Initiative helps to bring together a strong network of support for young children and families. Key partners that help guide the Initiative’s work are: The Monterey County Children’s Council, First 5 Monterey County, the Bright Futures Education Partnership, and the members of the Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Development Advisory Group.

Bright Beginnings is an Initiative of the Monterey County Children’s Council, and as such, is chaired by the Council. 

First 5 Monterey County hosts Bright Beginnings as its fiscal agent.  Within the cradle-to-career initiative Bright Futures Education Partnership, Bright Beginnings leads the goals that fall under its strategic framework. To bridge the initiatives, members of the Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Development Advisory Group also act as Steering Partners within Bright Futures.


Early Childhood Development Advisory Group 

(* also Bright Futures Steering Partner)

Jose Arreola – City of Salinas

Alma Cervantes – Building Healthy Communities

Laura Dunn – Carmel Unified School District 

Dana Edgull – Behavioral Health

Claudia Gomez – Door to Hope

Limary Gutierrez – Greenfield Unified School District

Krista Hanni – Health Department

Niaomi Hrepich – WIC, Health Department

Sonia Jaramillo – Office of Education – Early Learning Program

Caryn Lewis*- Office of Education – Ed Services

Noemy Loveless – North Monterey Unified School District

Josh Madifs*- United Way of Monterey County

Mamas de Salinas Abogan (rotating members)

Sarait Martinez – Centro Binacional 

Megan Matteoni – Office of Education – Quality Matters

Libby McMahone – Read to Me Project 

Edward Moreno – County of Monterey Public Health Officer

Maria Ortiz – MAOF Resource & Referral

Mayra Perez Diaz – United Way of Monterey County

Ginger Pierce – Child Abuse Prevention Council

Angie Ramirez – CAPSLO

Laurie Ramirez – Office of Education – Child Care Planning Council 

Beth Reeves-Fortney – First 5 Monterey County

Mayola Rodriguez – Go Kids, Inc.

Wendy Root Askew – Office of the Supervisor – District 4 

Josh Warburg – Bright Futures Education Partnership

Shannan Watkins*- Early Development Services

(Advisors last updated June 2022)