Our Leadership Team of Volunteers
Nonprofit Connection (NPC) Santa Cruz County Team
Rose has been active as an effective, collaborative community builder and advocate in the local nonprofit community since moving to Santa Cruz in 2010. She has over 30 years of experience in the design, management, and governance of nonprofits in the community service, social justice, and education sectors. A former legislative representative, Rose is particularly adept at brokering solutions that cut across the traditional boundaries separating nonprofits, government, and for-profit businesses. Since moving to Santa Cruz, she has served on numerous Board and Committees, including Leadership Santa Cruz County and the UCSC Dreamweavers. She has co-founded several local organizations, Now from Here and Breaking the Glass Ballot. Rose currently serves on Boards that reflect her values of equity, integrity, justice, and connection, the County Board of Education and the founding Board of Digital NEST.
Antonia O. Franco, EdD
Chief Operating Officer
NPC Board President
Digital NEST welcomes Dr. Antonia O. Franco as Chief Operations Officer, a newly created role amid a significant moment of regional expansion for the organization. She brings 25 years of leadership experience and is a trusted advisor of the NEST, having served as president of its board since 2017. Dr. Franco’s trailblazing career spans across nonprofit, philanthropic and government sectors advancing access, equity and a voice for marginalized communities. Most recently, she served as CEO of Callisto, a nonprofit focused on combating sexual assault, supporting survivors and advancing justice through technology. There she laid the groundwork for scale by building the tech infrastructure and organizational capacity to better engage and support college students across the country. Prior to leading Callisto, Antonia was the Executive Director of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), where she led a community of 20,000 students, scientists, and educators including 115 chapters nationwide. Additionally, she served as VP & Program Director for Student, Family and Community Initiatives at Helios Education Foundation, managing a portfolio of community-centered investments to establish local and national partnerships with the purpose of broadening educational success among Latino students. Dr. Franco also held various leadership roles during her 11 years at Arizona State University that focused on expanding access for low-income, first-generation students and families.
Francisco (Paco) Estrada
Watsonville City Council
NPC Board Vice President
Paco was born and raised in Watsonville by his immigrant parents. He spent a decade working for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education providing Watsonville youth with vocational opportunities through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Sueños Program. Paco is an adjunct instructor at Hartnell College and contributes his experience as a person living with type-1 diabetes to his work with the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust, committed to improving the community’s quality of life and safeguarding its health through prevention, upstream medical care, and health equity. Paco was honored to serve as Mayor of his hometown in 2019. He sought public office as a way to contribute his knowledge and experience toward making his community a better place for all.
Suzanne has spent the last 30+ years working on women’s issues such as gender inequality, gender pay gap, and violence against women while co-owning a retail business as the VP of Operations focusing on project management, inventory control, onboarding, training, customer service, and financial management. She has extensive background in public speaking as both a keynote speaker and workshop leader with a focus on women’s economic power, as well as testifying and advocating for change at the county and state level. She has organized and designed conferences on both the state and national level, and is skilled in recruiting and networking.
NPC Board Secretary
Rachel is a coastal environmental advocate and artist with a background in public program development and nonprofit management. As former Executive Director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey and Program Director of Save Our Shores, she utilized her understanding of local environmental education priorities. She gained her knowledge of stormwater program design through her tenure coordinating environmental initiatives at the City of Watsonville. Rachel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from University of Redlands and a Certificate in Strategic Leadership and Nonprofit Management from San Francisco State University. Her graduate research focused on environmental justice education through place- and arts-based curriculum development in primarily agricultural and immigrant communities. Of mixed cultural heritage including Hawaiian, Rachel endeavors to create inclusive educational opportunities for youth that incorporate diverse perspectives and are representative of the dynamic community she serves.
Senior Vice President Managing Director
1st Capital Bank
Development and Communications
Linda entered the field of nonprofit work in Santa Cruz County in 2005 after a career in journalism. She has held elective office, has served on numerous commissions, and maintains an interest in municipal government and public policy. A longtime supporter and volunteer for nonprofits serving children, literacy, and the arts, Linda served as CASA’s Development Director for 8 years before helping to launch Digital NEST, supporting its growth and expansion as Director of Development and Communications during its first four years. Linda now works as a consultant helping nonprofits in all sectors create successful fundraising campaigns, build strong development and communications infrastructure, and increase organizational effectiveness.
United Way of Santa Cruz County
Keisha is an experienced nonprofit executive with a career spanning 20 years in community development, education, youth success, and philanthropy throughout the United States. Keisha was part of the design team that developed the nation’s first citywide afterschool system, replicated in several major U.S. cities. She leads the nation’s longest-serving Community Assessment Project and many of United Way’s initiatives, including Jovenes SANOS and Youth Violence Prevention Network, have earned national recognition for their equity-centered approach to creating cultures of health. Keisha serves on several boards that reflect her values of equity, integrity, compassion, and dignity to create healthy, thriving, and safe communities for all. She also serves on the United Way Worldwide Equity Advisory Council.
Susan managed real estate and construction for a bank headquartered in Seattle, WA for 20 years. She managed projects across 11 West Coast states and Hawaii. Prior to that she worked for a start-up technology firm where she wore many hats with her major focus on real estate, procurement, and expanding the fast growing dotcom. During her career in Seattle she worked on several local Democratic campaigns, and served for 10 years on a non-profit board including serving as VP and President. Susan volunteered from April 2018 to April 2021 as a philanthropy consultant with Ecology Action, a local 50 year old non-profit.
Peggy’s career includes lobbying in Sacramento for technology companies, managing information management and dissemination for start-ups, and 20 years in the nonprofit arena directing federal and state contracts for online resource centers and public health education campaigns. She secured over $500 million in federal and state contracts and from such funders as the Corporation for National and Community Service, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and many state Medicaid departments. Peggy has served on many boards and committees including The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, The Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, United Way of Santa Cruz County, and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. She has traveled to over 60 countries and recently returned from over 3 years in the Peace Corps in Botswana, working on capacity building of community educators involved in HIV/AIDS. She returned home with a Rhodesian ridgeback dog whom she adores.
Public Affairs Manager
Currently serves as the local Public Affairs Manager at Kaiser Permanente. Has previously served as Senior Public Affairs Representative at PG&E, Director of Government Affairs at Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors, and Executive Director of the Santa Cruz County Business Council. Joe has served as a Board Member for many local nonprofits.
Maria Elena de la Garza
Community Action Board of
Santa Cruz County, Inc.
Born and raised in Watsonville, Maria Elena has served for nearly 30 years as a nonprofit service provider and administrator. She is committed to building networks, supporting emerging leaders, being of service, and strengthening advocacy efforts to those impacted by poverty. In addition to her leadership role at CAB, Maria Elena serves on the boards of the Conflict Resolution Center of Santa Cruz County, the Workforce Investment Board of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, and CalCAPA, a statewide association providing training, advocacy, and support in the fight against poverty.
Valéria (“Val”) Miranda
Santa Cruz Art League
and Pajaro Valley Arts
Val is an experienced art, nonprofit, and museum professional. She holds an MBA with a concentration in sustainable management and has 25 years of non-profit and government experience. Val is also skilled in exhibition organization and interpretation. She is committed to excellence and sustainable, efficient use of resources. Val’s areas of expertise include Arts Management and Arts Education, K-12 Education, Sustainability, Strategic Planning, Management & Leadership, Audience Engagement, Cultural Competence and Cultural Humility Training, Positive Discipline, Program Design, Implementation and Evaluation, Development, Exhibitions and Interpretation, and Meeting Facilitation.
A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Matt is an experienced tech professional who has been actively contributing to the wellbeing of the Santa Cruz community for the past ten years. Matt’s volunteerism reflects his commitment to equal access to education and healthy living for all. As a co-founder of the Emerging Leaders Circle of United Way, Matt helps young professionals connect to community-serving organizations. He is also a member and officer of the Board of Directors of Digital NEST and has been involved in Habitat for Humanity, United Way, and Second Harvest Food Bank.
Kelli (Greene) Ryder
Early Talent Program Manager
Kelli is an experienced program manager of global, large-scale, cross collaborative programs in human resources, university recruiting, philanthropy and community relations. Her 30 years of providing engaging employee experiences for global technology and bio-tech companies (Anaplan, ServiceNow, Plantronics, Yahoo!, Google and Clinimetrics) has provided opportunity to expand her community outreach work. Kelli led philanthropy and community relations at Plantronics (Poly), serving Santa Cruz County by engaging business and community leaders, employees, and their families, further deepening community service commitments. Kelli served as a Board member of Your Future is our Business, participates in various volunteer programs, and lives her motto “share what you know” by helping inspire those early in their careers, as a mentor and public speaker.
Program Manager of Health Improvement Partnership
Santa Cruz County
Heather N. Thomsen, PhD has her degree in Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and undergrad in Biopsychology from University California Santa Barbara. After studying Neuroscience and working in an academic laboratory setting through Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University California San Francisco, Department of Neurology, she declared her topical research focus for Maternal Child Health with the desire to improve children’s health outcomes.
She conducted her doctoral research at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford University Medical Center investigating hospital initiation rates and one-month infant feeding methods. This research was in support of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Dr. Thomsen continues to champion the last 15 years for newborns, children, youth and families working on projects and programs which promote protective factors and build resiliency.
Her love for inclusion, children and parenting led to her interest and commitment joining First 5 Santa Cruz as Triple P Positive Parenting practitioner since 2010. These experiences have led to her leadership and commitment in support of care coordination whole-person care and community education.
CHHS Field Training Intern
Former Finance Director
Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks
SBDC Small Business Consultant
Patrick Meyer, LCSW
Chair, Human Services Program
Former Executive Director
National Coalition Building Institute
(NCBI) Monterey County