Board of Directors

Mat Gradias, President

Associate Architect, Kruger Bensen Ziemer Architects

Mat Gradias is an Associate Architect with Kruger Bensen Ziemer Architects with a focus on educational facilities. Gradias volunteers with the mentorship program for high school students interested in pursuing careers in architecture, construction and engineering. He is also on the advisory committee for Disability Services and Programs for Students department at Santa Barbara City College.

John Ogilvie, Vice President

Financial Consultant, Strategic Planning

After receiving his M.A. in International Economics and Finance from American University in 1968, John Ogilvie has enjoyed an illustrious career in strategic planning, finance, and management. He has assisted a variety of nonprofit organizations and public service projects, including a five-year term as President of Art Without Limits in Santa Barbara. He currently owns a small publishing and photography company, Dare Wright Media, LLC.

Tisha Weber Ford, Secretary

CEO, Weber Logistics

After living in Santa Barbara for over 30 years, Ford is an active member of the community and has had the opportunity to serve many nonprofits as a volunteer, board member, and donor. As a board member, she has experience in development, finance, and governance from her tenure on the Board of Trustees at Marymount School of Santa Barbara. There she chaired the Development Committee, the Committee on Trustees, the Head Search Committee, and served as Board Chair. Ford currently serves as CEO at Weber Logistics.

Diana Ciontea, Treasurer

Director of Finance, ProductPlan

Diana Ciontea leads Financial Planning and Analysis at FastSpring, an eCommerce platform headquartered in downtown Santa Barbara. She has experience guiding financial and strategic efforts across a broad range of corporate environments, including Fortune 500 companies and high-tech startups. As a volunteer for Reading to Kids, Ciontea is dedicated to inspiring underserved children with a love of reading by partnering with schools and parents. Ciontea is a Santa Barbara native and a graduate of San Marcos High School. She holds a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Business from the University of Southern California.

Terri Allison, Immediate Past President

Early Childhood and Non-profit Consultant

Terri Allison founded Storyteller Children’s Center 27 years ago and became its executive director in 2005. Through her work, she acquired funding to support childcare services for homeless children while their parents looked for jobs. She received her teaching credentials from UCSB, and acquired a Post Graduate Certificate in Infant-Parent Mental Health from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Since retiring in 2015, Allison has been working as an early childhood education consultant.

Debbie Arnesen

Retired Fund Development

Debbie Arnesen was a fund development professional for 30 years serving nonprofit organizations and institutions throughout the tri-counties. During that time, she developed and directed many successful annual giving, capital and special project campaigns for a variety of organizations, from educational institutions to social service agencies. Debbie graduated from UCSB with a master’s degree in education. Since retiring from fundraising in 2011, Debbie has been working with her husband in their landscape and contracting business.

Isis Castañeda

Project Coordinator, IV Coalition for Healthy Communities

Castañeda has worked with teens, young adults, and their families in the Santa Barbara area since 1997. A graduate of Santa Barbara High School, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies at Antioch University of Santa Barbara and is certified in Emotional Intelligence, Restorative Justice, Team Building Experiential Education, and as an Instructor for Youth Mental Health First Aid and teen Mental Health First Aid. In 2018, she established her business, Creating Connections, which facilitates teen and parent groups, community outreach, training, public speaking, and organizing events. Castañeda is currently the staff advisor for the Santa Barbara Youth Council and the project coordinator for the Isla Vista Coalition for Healthy Communities.

Jon Clark

President, James S. Bower Foundation

Dedicated to supporting community organizations that promote educational, developmental and health processes, environmental conditions, and social awareness, Clark has lent his time and know-how to groups such as Cottage Health, Community Environmental Council, Storyteller Children’s Center, the Alliance for Living and Dying Well, Direct Relief, Carpinteria Children’s Project, and the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region. While on the Santa Barbara Foundation board, Clark promoted the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Program for Effective Access to College.

Eder Gaona-Macedo

Executive Director, Future Leaders of America

Born in Guerrero, Mexico, Gaona-Macedo migrated to the United States at the age of four and settled in Santa Barbara. He went on to study at UCLA, where he studied Political Science and Chicano/a Studies and continued his studies at Columbia University, where he earned a Masters of Public Administration. In 2014, Gaona-Macedo stepped into the role of Executive Director of Future Leaders of America. He is also the co-founder of the 805UndocuFund, a project aimed at providing financial support to undocumented families due to natural disasters and pandemics.

Larry Harter

President, Pueblo Radiology

Harter serves as President of Pueblo Radiology and California Managed Imaging. He also serves on the executive committee of the California Radiology Society and is a councilor of the American College of Radiology, and has been a radiologist in Santa Barbara for over 35 years. He served on the board of the Santa Barbara County Medical Society, and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation for 12 years.

Victoria Juarez

Community Leader

Victoria Juarez previously served as Associate Director of Storyteller Children’s Center and Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria and the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. She is the first in her family to attend and graduate from college with a B.A. in History from California State University- Long Beach. She also served in the U.S. Peace Corps for two years in Russia, where she decided to dedicate her career to nonprofit work.

Daniel Meisel

Regional Director of ADL Santa Barbara/Tri Counties

Daniel Meisel is the founder of Kapok Pictures, a motion picture development and production company. Formerly an attorney with San Francisco’s Cooper, White, and Cooper, Meisel received a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law before relocating to Santa Barbara. Meisel has written, produced, or provided legal services for multiple award-winning short films with domestic and international festival screenings and airing on IFC and Showtime Networks.

Jeffrey Milem

Dean and Professor, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, UCSB

Milem is the Dean and a Professor at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara. Prior to this position, Milem was on the faculty of the University of Arizona, University of Michigan, University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University. Professor Milem’s research focuses on ways in which colleges and universities can be organized to enhance equity, access, and success for all students, the racial context within higher education, and the relationship between how colleges and universities organize themselves and student outcomes.

Britt Ortiz

Director, Early Academic Outreach Program, UCSB

Britt Ortiz is the Director of Early Academic Outreach Program in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he graduated with degrees in Sociology and Psychology. Previously, he served as the Associate Director of Student Outreach and Recruitment Services at CSU Northridge, and prior to that, he was the Director of the First Generation Student Success Program at the University of La Verne. Ortiz spends his free time traveling, gardening, and swimming.

Felicita Torres

Attorney, Griffith & Thornburgh

Felicita Torres, an attorney at Griffith and Thornburgh, practices primarily in the areas of bankruptcy and education law. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Torres practiced in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office after receiving her degrees from Stanford University and Harvard School of Law. She moved to Santa Barbara in 2002, where she focused on child abuse and dependency issues. She enjoys spending time with her three children, and can often be found at the soccer fields and at the library.

District Representatives

Hilda Maldonado, District Representative

Superintendent, Santa Barbara Unified School District

Maldonado began her career 32 years ago in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a bilingual teacher and rose to the role of Associate Superintendent. Under her leadership, LAUSD expanded dual-language programs, increased Seal of Biliteracy student awards, and improved results for English Learners. Maldonado earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s Degree from California State, Los Angeles. A lifelong learner, Maldonado has been awarded the Stanton Fellowship Award by the Durfee Foundation. She is currently completing her doctorate at Loyola Marymount University in Social Justice Leadership.

Kelly Fresch, District Representative

Principal, Adams Elementary School

Kelly Fresch stepped into the role of principal at Adams Elementary School in 2017. She has dedicated her 24-year career in education to the progress and well-being of her students. Prior to her recent position at Adams Elementary, Fresch was principal at Guin Foss and Benson elementary schools in the Tustin Unified School District. Fresch has also served as a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation for eight years, as well as a Board Member for the Tustin Public Schools Foundation. She holds a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Administrative Services Credential from Azusa Pacific University. She received a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the California State University Fullerton and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from San Diego State University.

Carolyn Ross, District Representative

Teacher, Goleta Valley Junior High School

Ross is an alumnus of Stanford University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in both Music Composition and English. She continued her learning at UC Santa Barbara, where she received a Master’s in Education and a teaching credential. She was immediately hired by the Santa Barbara Unified School District in 2001 as a theatre arts and reading intervention teacher. Since 2008 she has taught theatre arts and honors English at Goleta Junior High School. In 2019, Ross was named Goleta’s Finest Educator of the Year. She also received Goleta Valley Junior High School’s Certificated Employee of the Year in 2016 and Goleta Valley PTA’s Honorary Service Award in 2008.

Wendy Sims-Moten, District Representative

Executive Director, First 5 Santa Barbara County

Wendy Sims-Moten is the current Executive Director of the First 5 Santa Barbara County and serves as the President, Board of Trustees for the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Sims-Moten has worked for the county since 1996 and has been dedicated to the progress, development, and well-being of the community ever since. She is also a Board Member of Gateway Education Services, Board Member of CAUSE Action Fund, Organizer and Chair of the African American Women of Santa Barbara County Luncheon and member of the Santa Barbara Women Political Committee.

SBEF Staff

Margie Yahyavi

Executive Director

Melissa Davenport

Development Officer

Eryn Shugart

Major Gifts Officer

Katie Szopa

Programs Manager

Sammy Lepse

Development Assistant

Honorary Council

  • Ed & Sue Birch
  • Daniel & Mandy Hochman
  • Jim Kearns
  • Sara Miller McCune
  • Joni Meisel
  • Nick Rail
  • Maryan Schall

Past Presidents

  • Terri Allison
  • Marty Blum
  • Phil Bugay
  • Ada Conner
  • Michael Cooney
  • Tony Fischer
  • Mary Gosselin
  • Shirley Ann Hurley
  • Mark Ingalls
  • Elinor Langer
  • Joni Meisel
  • Edwin Moore
  • Al Pizano
  • Craig Price
  • Rob Ramirez
  • Jaqueline Reid, Ph.D.
  • John Robinson
  • Lynn Rodriguez
  • Frank Stevens
  • Claire VanBlaricum
  • Lotte Weinstein