Generations Program Director & Art Instructor
.Christopher has a 30 year background in arts education in the diverse areas of San Diego and Michigan. He has been the Director of Generations for 4 years, during which he has helped many residents create their own works of art and other items using drawing, photo, silk-screening, ceramics, paint, music and more. His influence has been recognized by United States House of Representatives, California Senate, California State Assembly and Zoo Entertainment Records. Christopher has excelled at electric guitar instruction and music composition and much of his work teaching arts and music since the 1980s has been with homeless youth. Christopher has a diploma from the CAARR Institute as an Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Practitioner and is a volunteer on the Board of Directors for La Maestra Community Health Center and Community Health Imaging Center in San Diego.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time
Youth Program Director
.Norman Paraiso was born in East Los Angeles California. At the age of twelve he Moved to San Diego California and was raised in Logan Heights (Barrio Logan) in San Diego. Growing up in Logan Heights came with many challenges. Norman was first introduced to community service by being referred to the San Diego Street Youth Program by the juvenile justice system to complete his community service hours. It was then that he found his niche.
Norman has been a community activist since 1988 having being employed as a Youth & Family Counselor at agencies such as Barrio Station, Occupational Training Services, Triple Crown Youth Coalition, South Bay Community Services, Chicano Federation, Toltec Media, and Casa Familiar. Norman is a member of the International Longshoreman Warehouse Union Local 29 (ILWU) and is also one of the key members of “Circulo de Hombres,” a cultural-arts mentoring program for adolescent and adult males. This program has been implemented in the San Diego Unified School District and serves to reduce violence while promoting higher education. He has spoken to hundreds of students at schools and community based organizations and has received various awards and commendations such as Outstanding Volunteer work with youth gangs in San Diego, Award recipient from San Diego Mediation for working with youth gangs, Commendation from Mayor Maureen O’Connor as community peacemaker of the year, Certificate of appreciation from San Diego County office of Education, Certificate of appreciation from Family Health Centers of San Diego, Channel 10 leadership award winner and many others.
Norman currently shares his passion and vision with youth at the Center for Youth Advancement program. Being able to provide disadvantaged youth a safe place to learn life skills, discipline and responsibility while giving them a space where they can discuss topics such as family, trust, friendship and the importance of keeping one’s word “Palabra” in order to create pillars they can live by.
Passion: Working with the underserved and disadvantaged communities.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time Norman is an avid Classic Car Restoration Builder and has been featured in Lowrider Magazine, Impalas Magazine, and MiEstilo website.
Favorite Quote: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others for their sakes and for our own” Cesar Chavez
Program Developer & Music Instructor
California State University, San Marcos – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Human Development with an emphasis on Child Services.
Dean’s List 2015-2016
Keliana was born on the island of Oahu. Being transient for the first 18 years of her life, she has had the opportunity to live in a variety of diverse places all over the United States. She has been in San Diego for eight years and has lived in a number of different San Diego towns. Currently, she resides in North Park. Being from a multicultural background, Keliana has had the opportunity to explore a number of different cultural pursuits. Her time in Hawaii has taught her the importance of connecting with her Hawaiian heritage. She strives to bring a piece of that through the music and dance programs that she creates for youth.
Exposed to music and theater most her life, she studied piano theory beginning at age 7. Her high school involvement in theater and choir has given her strong skills in navigating performance production. She has also been involved in 15 community theatre productions. Keliana is of Hawaiian heritage and brings a passion for exploring traditional cultural music and dance. She also plays several musical instruments and enjoys sharing her passion for performing arts with youth of all ages.
She has worked for the Center for Youth Advancement for several years and feels that the thing she cherishes the most about the program are the kids. Not a day goes by that she isn’t thankful to be a part of an organization that truly strives to empower their youth.
Passions: Being a mentor and a source of encouragement to those who need it most and helping them reach their fullest potential.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time Her main passions lie in music and nature. She enjoys going to live music shows and theatre productions. She loves to unplug on the weekends and can often be found climbing a peak or wandering around in the desert.
Favorite Quote: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou
Sheena Rae Dowling
Art Coordinator & Art Instructor
Pratt Institute Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) with an emphasis in sculpture
2012 Honors Distinction Graduate; Excellence in Academic Achievement Award/ Art Valedictorian, Scholarship Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Summer 2011
San Diego State University- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in fine arts with an emphasis in painting and a minor in art history
Deans List 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2008 Honors Distinction Graduate
Sheena was born and raised in San Diego and feels a strong connection to her home town. She lived for 3 years in Brooklyn, New York while earning her masters degree, but returned to San Diego with a desire to help build the arts and culture community. Art has always been a huge part of her life and she has practiced many areas of study including drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation, video, and photography. Her academic achievements include: Pratt Institute-
Sheena works in the community to bring the arts to individuals as an approach to improving their mental health and providing a healthy outlet for creative expression. She has taught children and adults with varying ranges of abilities. As well as working with others Sheena continues her own artistic practice. She has extensively shown her work across the nation. Locally her work has been included in shows at the New Americans Museum, The San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park, and the San Diego International Airport.
Sheena has worked for generations since February 2016. Her favorite part of the program is helping others realize their own creative potential and supporting their emotional growth.
Passion: Art and helping others discover their strength, voice and healing through their own creative expression
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time: yoga, gardening, hiking, swimming, dancing, singing, writing, art history
Favorite Quote: “Tell your own story and you will be interesting. Don’t get the green disease of envy. Don’t be fooled by success and money. Don’t let anything come between you and your work.” Louise Bourgeois, French-American Artist
Gladys (Constanza) Gonzalez
Art & Adult Computer Instructor
Constanza has an international background. She was born in Bogotá, Colombia and moved to this country because her youngest daughter needed medical attention. She was a single mother and raised my daughters who both were excellent students in high school. Her daughter and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Diego (USD). Now, one is taking a Master’s degree course. She is very proud of her daughters.
Constanza has earned a bachelor’s degree in architectural drafting from the University Mayor de Cundinamarca, earning a diploma in Microsoft Office when she came to the United States. In addition, Constanza has received an ESL certification of completion and has recently enrolled in the VESL teaching program class. Her well rounded work experience stems from working in a number of different fields. She has worked as an office assistant and medical records department analyzer for several years, and currently works as an instructional assistant for SDCCD Continuing Education ESL adult school.
The La Maestra youth program gives Constanza the opportunity to share her skills such as art, sculpture, music, singing. She loves helping youth with academics and arts, as well teaching her adult students how to use a computer properly. She utilizes her extensive experience with ESL training by translating documents for the Generations programs.
Passion: Constanza also enjoys being a leader and helping her colleagues generate new programs.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time: Constanza loves swimming, tai chi, traveling, and spending time with her husband.
Favorite Quote: “The only limits in your life are the ones that you create in your mind” Unmukt Chand
Art & Skate Instructor, After School Tutor
San Diego State University (B.S.A. in Art and Political Science)
Tim is a native San Diegan who has had the wonderful opportunity to travel all over California. He is currently in school to further his education in psychology, with an emphasis in art therapy. Tim has a passion for art and nature and shares that passion with CYA youth in a number of different fun and exciting activities and has played a huge part in facilitating CYA’s skate program and implementing engaging activities in La Maestra’s community Garden of Life. His vibrant personality and ability to connect with youth of all ages makes him a great mentor and role model. He has gone through the continuum, starting out as a volunteer during summer camp and has transitioned to being a staff member.
Passion: He really loves to be involved in art in any shape or form. From being the viewer to being an active participant, art in any form helps people and has helped shape his life.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time: Tim really likes to surf and be by the ocean so most of his hobbies involve swimming or being in the water.
Favorite Quote: “Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.” Proverbs
Karla was born and raised in San Diego, CA and has lived in the City Heights community for over 18 years. She moved to Whittier, CA to attend Whittier College for four years before returning to City Heights. Karla would like to attend the University of San Diego to earn an M.A. in their Clinical and Mental Health program, and ultimately earn a Psy.D. to become a Clinical Therapist for children and adolescents. Karla took part in helping to establish the Artemis and Cisneros mentoring programs for Whittier College’s Center for Engagement with Communities. These programs were established to help first generation students become more engaged with academics and the college application process, as well as to encourage young women to pursue studies in science-related fields in post-secondary institutions. Karla also served as the New Member Educator for Whittier College’s Palmer Society where she worked closely with the administration to design a program in which young women thrived academically and socially, fostered communication, and gained skills useful for achieving their future career goals.
Karla enjoys working with a diverse and talented group of children, because she enjoys watching them learn new things from each other every day. Even she learns something new from them every day! She loves that CYA fosters the idea of family and community within its walls; as a family they strive to empower one another and grow together, because together there isn’t anything they can’t accomplish! Karla has gone through the CYA continuum, starting off as a volunteer in June of 2016 and joined the team as a staff member in September 2016.
Passion: Her passion is serving as a mentor to help children and adolescents gain a sense of inner confidence, courage, and strength to successfully overcome whatever life presents. Raising awareness and reducing the stigma about mental health. Giving back to the community that presented her with the opportunity to grow and pursue her dreams.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time: She enjoys being an avid concert-goer, attending musical theatre productions, baking, and can always be found lost in a good book.
Favorite Quote: “We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” – J.K. Rowling
Giselle Serrano Rocha
Hoover High School
Participated in a STEM Program at SDSU (JROTC), Daughters of American Revolution (JROTC), Purple Heart Award (JROTC).
Grossmont College (currently attending)
Bilingual: English & Spanish
Giselle was born in Phoenix, Arizona, but raised in Mexico and San Diego.
One of her favorite about working for La Maestra is
About the Generations program is being able to see the difference in the kid’s attitude when they walk into the program. Giselle has gone through the program’s continuum, starting off as a volunteer during her Spring semester in 2016 and, after showing hard work and dedication to the program, transitioned to staff.
Passion: Giselle enjoys art, music, and reading.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time: Skateboarding, A LOT of reading, drawing and painting, swimming, ice skating and car meets and shows.
Favorite Quote: “You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.” – Rose Tyler
Laura Najera Sanchez
San Diego City College (currently attending)
Multilingual: English, Spanish, Mixteco
Laura is a native San Diegan and has had the opportunity to live in both south and north county. She is currently working on her degree in Psychology and is working with hopes of one day being a therapists for families.
Laura started out as a La Maestra student her senior year in high school. She saw an opportunity to give back to the program and decided to become a volunteer. After seeing her growing potential and dedication to the program and kids, Laura was given an opportunity to become a staff member. Currently, she enjoys working on academics with youth, encouraging them to have fun and knowing, first hand, that this program is a safe environment for them to thrive.
Passion: Laura really enjoys helping the kids understand their homework and to see them grow and change into good kids.
Favorite hobbies or healthy activity/past time: She loves to read all types of books, knit, crochet, color and garden.