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California Department of Education News Release (with no CDE logo)
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #16-75
October 20, 2016
Contact: Cynthia Butler
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Recognizes Expanded Learning Leaders in Honor of National Lights On Afterschool

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today congratulated the California Department of Education (CDE) 2016 California Expanded Learning Award winners.

“Expanded learning programs help students thrive academically and socially,” said Torlakson. “These awards acknowledge the daily work of those who foster environments that nurture, stimulate, challenge, and engage children.”

The awards ceremony is part of Lights On Afterschool, a nationwide event celebrating the role of afterschool programs in keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping working families.

Improving and expanding afterschool and other learning programs outside regular school hours has been a top priority for Torlakson since he entered public service. Torlakson has fought for adequate funding of these programs and created the CDE’s Expanded Learning Division.

The awards are divided into two areas: California Expanded Learning Visionary Leadership and Emerging Leadership, with three winners selected for each category.

The six recipients were chosen based on their outstanding commitment to improving and enriching the lives of young people through their Expanding Learning programs.

The California Expanded Learning Visionary Leadership recipients are professionals who have dedicated their careers to creating innovative expanded learning programs for children and youth:

  • Randy Mehrten, Senior Director, Safe and Healthy Kids, Fresno County Office of Education
    Randy has dedicated his 30-year career to youth in Fresno County. He grew Expanded Learning programs from 30 to 143 and helped to develop a key partnership with the California Teachers Fellows Foundation and California State University, Fresno that today employs approximately 2,000 energetic college students in expanded learning programs.
  • Cindy Adams, Program Director, Lake County Office of Education
    For almost 20 years, Cindy has worked to improve the lives of youth and children in Lake County. Her advocacy was even more apparent after the Lake County fires left many families homeless and students without an afterschool program. Cindy tirelessly and successfully campaigned to secure funding so local kids have a safe place to learn and receive emotional support and nutritious meals.
  • Debe Loxton, Chief Operating Officer, LA’s Best
    Debe has been involved in the expanded learning community for over 30 years. She started as a playground staff person and moved up the ranks to COO of a large public/private partnership that serves close to 200 elementary schools with Los Angeles Unified School District.

The California Expanded Learning Emerging Leadership recipients have found innovative ways to engage and motivate their students and collaborate with the communities they serve.

  • Tiffany Knuckles, Program Coordinator, Oakland Leaf Foundation
    Based at Acension Charter School in Oakland, Tiffany is making a difference in the community where she was born and raised. Tiffany is dedicated to her students, encourages staff participation and ideas, and blends her professionalism with her passion.
  • Nate Houston, Expanded Learning Specialist, Center for Fathers and Families
    Nate is an innovative and dedicated specialist who has over a decade of experience working in expanded learning programs. He is always striving to improve upon processes and practices that will have a lasting impact on the young people he serves.
  • Jessy Tapia, Program Director, Oxnard USD
    In his three years as program director, Jessy has transformed Oxnard USD. His work with the students and engagement with employees has improved staff retention levels. He mentors, supports, and trains his staff with a level of passion for the kids they serve that is contagious.

Expanded learning programs provide afterschool and summer learning to nearly 500,000 California students at almost 5,000 sites. The National Afterschool Network ranked California as the best in the country for the 2014–15 school year.

The CDE Expanded Learning Division oversees all of the expanded learning school sites for the state. The division started the award ceremony in 2013 and receives nominations from county education offices that have expanded learning services.

Lights On Afterschoolwas launched in October 2000 with celebrations in 1,200 communities nationwide. Lights On Afterschool is a project of theAfterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs. For more information, visit the Lights On Afterschool web page External link opens in new window or tab..

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Friday, March 27, 2020
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