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Leslye Winkelman Lyons
Words Alive Founder, Board Member Emeritus
Leslye Winkelman Lyons has more than 30 years of nonprofit sector experience as a salaried and volunteer professional. As the Words Alive founder, she has served the organization in various capacities including Board Chair and as its pro-bono Executive Director. She is also founder of Fostering Futures Initiative, a cross-sector collaboration supporting transitioning foster youth.
Leslye has facilitated hundreds of book group discussions for adults and youth and served as a consultant to book groups across the country. She currently writes and distributes Literary Lines, a newsletter for readers and book group members, and served as book review editor of the San Diego Heritage Newspaper. She is also the COO of Lyons Accountancy Group, a family owned full service tax and accounting firm.
Leslye earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University and a master’s degree in social work from Yeshiva University.
Jeffrey Goldman has been the publisher at Santa Monica Press, an independent book publishing company, since he founded the press twenty-five years ago. Santa Monica Press publishes an eclectic list of critically acclaimed and award-winning non-fiction books. Prior to Santa Monica Press, Jeffrey spent a decade as an arts and entertainment journalist and editor, working for a variety of newspapers and magazines both nationally and internationally. In addition to chairing the board of Words Alive and volunteering as a writing facilitator at the Monarch School, Jeffrey is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the La Jolla Playhouse, where he serves on the Executive Committee and is the chair of the Education and Outreach Committee. Jeffrey lives in the San Diego area with his wife and two children.
Chair, Event Committee
Andrea MacDonald earned her Bachelor's Degree in Speech and Hearing from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Following school, Andrea worked as a real estate appraiser, earning many professional designations. In 1992, she moved to New Jersey where she started a residential real estate appraising practice for a leading commercial appraising firm. After returning to California, and as her children grew up, volunteering in the community has been very important to her. Andrea served on the Board for the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning for five years, and was an officer for three years. As VP of Site Development, Andrea oversaw the fundraising for the six Solana Beach School District schools. Other organizations that Andrea has been involved with over the years are PTA, Girl Scouts, Miracle League, and National Charity League.
Chair, Marketing & Communication Committee
Kristina Houck came to Words Alive when we folded Rolling Readers into our portfolio of programs in 2014. She is an award-winning journalist and currently works as an editor for Patch, covering San Diego and Marin counties. She previously served as a staff reporter for U-T Community Press, a group of community newspapers in San Diego's North County.
With a background in journalism and public relations, Kristina sits on Words Alive’s Board, serves as Board Secretary, and chairs the Communication & Marketing committee. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science with minors in English and religious studies from San Diego State University.
Kristina lives in the San Diego area with her husband, Jason, and son, Harrison.
Danny joined Christopher Weil & Company, Inc. (CWC), in July of 2004 while working on his undergraduate degree at the University of California, San Diego. After earning his degree in Economics in 2006, Danny joined the CWC team full time. In addition to being a Registered Investment Advisor Representative, Danny earned his Certificate in Personal Financial Planning from San Diego State University and has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner since 2010. In 2017, Danny earned his Certified Investment Management Analyst® certification, administered by the Investment Wealth Institute and taught in conjunction with the Yale School of Management. Currently, Danny serves on CWC’s portfolio management team working to continuously balance clients' evolving needs with the opportunities and obstacles of the markets.
Danny came to Words Alive by way of Rolling Readers, where he was a Board Member/Treasurer. When Rolling Readers merged with Words Alive, it was a natural fit for him to join the Words Alive team. Danny currently serves as the Treasurer. Originally from Los Angeles, Danny lives in San Diego with his wife, Vivian and daughter, Hana. He used to spend his free time playing basketball and traveling with Vivian but he now spends most of his free time chasing Hana around. Danny loves basketball and anyone who knows him will tell you he’s a huge Lakers fan. His love for basketball now comes second to his love of being a father to Hana.
Sharon Bakcht is a San Diego native and has 16+ years of experience in strategic planning, innovation leadership, and marketing strategy in a variety of sectors, in both for-impact and for-profit environments. Sharon holds a Masters of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sharon currently heads up early stage innovation programs at WD-40 Company for the Americas region. Recently, Sharon designed and led a social enterprise accelerator for Mission Edge as their Assistant Director of Programs. She personally coached the ten San Diego-based nonprofits in the accelerator through a 12-week program to launch or grow their social enterprises.
A native of San Diego, Sharon is passionate about fostering positive impact in the local community. Over the past five years, she has volunteered to advise and mentor a number of San Diego non-profit organizations including Words Alive, Second Chance, OG Yoga, the Armed Services YMCA at Camp Pendleton, and Sustainable Surplus Exchange with strategy and marketing plan development, as a Partner with Social Venture Partners. She has also volunteered with ARTS (A Reason to Survive) and Sharp Hospital.
Orville Brown is a Senior Research Scientist at Ferro Corporation. He has 14 patents in the microelectronic field. He received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Chemistry from Hunter College of the City of University of NY and his graduate degree in Chemistry from Columbia University. He is also involved in Habitat for Humanity Global Village.
Chair, Development Committee
Lynne Freeley earned her undergraduate degree at UCLA and her law degree from Southwestern. She is an accomplished litigator in California and Washington State as well as a trained mediator. She presently practices entertainment & real estate law and is the Executive Leader of Amazing Quest, a company she has successfully developed, that specializes in corporate team building. Lynne has enjoyed being an active volunteer in the community taking leadership positions in PTA, CAC, Torrey Pines High School Foundation, Girl Scouts, Miracle League and YMCA Camping Board. Lynne has also been active in strategic planning for multiple school districts and community organizations. She loves volunteering for the Words Alive ABG program in National City.
Kay Levinson Gurtin is a Vice President at Gurtin Municipal Bond Management. In this role, Kay assists with various marketing, business development, and human resources aspects of the firm. Kay was co-founder and President of Executive Options, LTD, a firm specializing in placing professionals in part-time and project consulting positions. Kay's pioneering approach to flexible work arrangements was featured in Crain's Chicago Business, The Wall Street Journal, Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Working Mother, and ABC National News. Kay was awarded Entrpreneurer of the Year Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners in Chicago.
Prior to Executive Options, LTD, Kay was Vice President of Capital Markets for Bankers Trust Company, where she was one of the company's nationally acclaimed money market sales executives. She began her career in advertising at the Leo Burnett Agency. Kay is the founder and inaugural Chairman of CHEER; a volunteer organization dedicated to serving the emotional and physical well being of children for the University of Chicago Children's Hospital. She is actively involved as a Site Chair with Words Alive.
Additionally, she served on the fundraising board and tutored children for the Sudanese Refugee Network in San Diego. She has been involved in fundraising for numerous private and public educational foundations including: North Shore Country Day School, Glencoe Educational Foundation and the La Jolla Country Day School. Kay graduated from Brown University in 1983 with a B.A. in Organizational Behavior and Management. Kay resides in La Jolla, California with her husband Bill and has a son Grant and daughter Liza.
Kim taught First Grade for seven years in Stamford, CT where she was a grade level team leader, bringing an innovative and progressive approach to the classroom. Kim had regional and statewide responsibilities for exploring new educational approaches to advance curriculum and was the recipient of several awards and grants including “Outstanding Prospective Teacher” from a pool of over 200 applicants.
Kim retired from teaching to stay at home raising her two children, Adam and Anna. She taught ESL classes to adults, and was active in school and community non-profit organizations, which included cofounding a statewide Lyme disease task force.
Kim moved from Connecticut to San Diego in 2015 with her husband Douglas and their two children. Adam is currently a senior at Cornell University and Anna is a senior at La Jolla Country Day. Kim enjoys her new southern California lifestyle, spending time playing tennis, hiking and volunteering for Words Alive.
Kim has a BA in Communications and a MA in Elementary Education and a MS in School Counseling.
Jodi Kennedy attended UCSD and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She worked as a television producer, director, and writer for over twenty years. Jodi worked for E! Entertainment Television, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Television in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC. She won two Emmy awards for her work as a senior producer on the nationally syndicated teen news show, "Not Just News." Currently, Jodi serves as a writer and associate producer for KFMB News 8 and remains active in a variety of volunteer roles. She has also worked as a volunteer with Del Mar School's Education Foundation, Children's Hospital, Canyon Crest Academy Dollars for Scholars, and as president of Del Mar TV. Jodi is a proud mom to four amazing children.
Laura is a 25-year leader in the field of education, with a range of experience in policy, government, advocacy, research, program design, nonprofit management, and philanthropy. She currently directs the Center for Local Income MoBility (CLIMB) at the San Diego Workforce Partnership. The Center promotes and executes investments in children and youth to maximize their likelihood of thriving in the workforce as adults. Laura is also the co-host of the Good Schools for All podcast at Voice of San Diego, alongside Scott Lewis, the VOSD editor in chief.
From 2013-2016, Laura was the founding director of the Education Synergy Alliance, a nonprofit organization that aimed to increase the equity and excellence of public education in San Diego County. The organization focused on early education and career education and sparked new partnerships and investments in those areas throughout the region.
Laura has worked across sectors throughout her career, and prior roles reflect this commitment to collective problem solving. These include Director of Education for the city of Seattle, Washington State advocacy lead for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Education Policy Advisor to Washington’s Governor.
Laura has two teens in public schools, and her family enjoys cooking, boogie boarding and hiking together. She has a BA in Economics from Yale University and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Washington.
Sandra brings to the board over 35 years of accounting and business experience in various fields, including 17 years of operating her own accounting business specializing in nonprofit organizations. She began her “relationship” with nonprofits while working at Legal Services of Northern California in Sacramento, where she learned the value of working toward helping others. After moving to San Diego, she worked as the Business Manager for Mainly Mozart for six years before eventually being recruited in 2006 to join the expanding accounting department at Christopher Weil & Company, Inc. (“CWC”). Sandra is now in charge of Contracts and Insurance for CWC and all of the many entities they manage.
Sandra has been serving on the Words Alive Finance Committee for three years and was selected as the Words Alive Volunteer of the Year in 2017. She is married and has one grown daughter, and is a graduate of University of Redlands. Originally from Phoenix, Sandra has been a North County San Diego resident for 20 years. Sandra enjoys music, sports, travel, photography, drawing, spending time with family and friends, and is currently working on improving her golf game.
Christina La Page
Christina La Page is Vice President and District Manager for Wells Fargo’s South Border Market in the San Diego Bank Region. Christina, a 16-year veteran of the company, was appointed her current position in 2011. As a district manager she is responsible for 295 team members within 11 bank branch locations. Before her current role, Christina served as a Business Area Manager, and before that she held multiple branch management and retail banking positions within the Southern California Region. She began her career with Wells Fargo as a teller in 2001.
Christina is a native San Diegan and as the president of Wells Fargo’s San Diego Volunteer Chapter she is an advocate for community involvement. Involved personally she serves on the Board for Words Alive and Junior Achievement of San Diego.
Christina attended California State University San Marcos and earned her B.A. in Liberal Studies. She is a graduate from the 2015 LEAD San Diego program and a 2017 graduate of Pacific Coast Banking School.
Rick is a graduate of Williams College and Columbia Law School. In a rare burst of sanity, he left New York and moved to San Diego in 1973. He is a founder and former managing partner of Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith, one of San Diego's top law firms. Rick also served as a commercial arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. He is now fully retired.
Rick began volunteering for Words Alive at Choice Summit in 2009 and founded the Words Alive creative writing program the next year. He continues to volunteer at Choice year-round. He joined the Words Alive Board in 2013 and has served as Treasurer, Vice Chair, and Board Chair.
Rick has served on the nonprofit boards of Wayword, Inc., San Diego Writers, Ink, Business Counsel and Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. He also does volunteer teaching at Del Sur Elementary School and is a mentor with the Access Youth program.
Mike is currently the Senior Legal Counsel for the Government Technologies Division of Qualcomm Incorporated. Before joining Qualcomm in 2010, Mike spent the previous seventeen years working as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office here in San Diego. Some of his additional responsibilities while a prosecutor; included acting as the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council Coordinator for the Southern District of California, Community Outreach Coordinator, Crisis Management Coordinator, Attorney Hiring Chair, and Human Trafficking Coordinator. Mike has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University, and earned his J.D. from DePaul University in 1995. Mike is originally from Chicago, has a teenage son and daughter, and has lived in San Diego for almost 20 years.
Heidi Weisbaum received her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and her Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles. After working in healthcare for many years, she went to law school and received her law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. For most of her legal career, she was a Deputy Attorney General with the California Attorney General’s Office in San Diego, specializing in administrative prosecutions of physicians and other healthcare licensees. She is the author of a chapter on administrative mandamus practice for a publication of the California Continuing Education of the Bar. In 2012, she retired from the Attorney General’s Office and currently works part-time as an administrative law judge. Heidi has also volunteered with her local elementary, middle and high schools, among other community organizations. She is now a volunteer with the Del Mar Library.