Ken Higginbotham, President
Kenneth D. Higginbotham’s leadership credentials have been crafted by service, refined by crisis, and sustained by visions of limitless potential. Though he has derived personal fulfillment from each of his endeavors, the impact of his work has rippled throughout communities and improved the lives of families around the world.
After serving 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, he now works as an external affairs reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), deploying his organizational leadership skills to clean up one crisis after another. Leading the team that some officials have described as the “face” of FEMA, he manages all aspects of congressional and legislative affairs, international media relations, speechwriting, and key messaging development – all while mitigating the residual damage that can arise in the wake of disaster. Kenneth was called on to manage the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and the devastating attacks on 9/11. His were one of the first sets of boots to walk the rubble of Ground Zero, as he was hand-picked to survey the damage alongside then-Senator Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
Prior to those experiences, Kenneth helped define an era of American television for viewers around the globe, serving as the VP of Operations for StarCom TV Services/The Video Tape Company. There, he used his degree in Radio & TV Broadcasting from The Ohio State University to manage all post-production efforts on syndicated cultural behemoths like The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Soul Train, Hour of Power with The Rev. Dr. Robert Schuller, and more.
Despite this variety of high-profile contributions to the nation and its underlying culture, some of Kenneth’s proudest achievements are connected to the work he’s done to enrich the lives of young people. As a former board member of the Los Angeles Black College Tour, he exposed numerous African-American teenagers to the rich legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which they do not get to see, feel, or experience for themselves on the West Coast. It was on one of these trips that he was given the opportunity to address a crowd from the same pulpit that The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – and his father, The Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. – once spoke from, delivering weekly sermons on equality and justice.
As board president of Eagle Collegiate Academy, Kenneth brings a sense of commitment to the children of Los Angeles county, working to make their lives as full and service centric as his has been. Under his leadership, students gain the motivation, self-confidence, and competitive edge needed to achieve their goals and, in turn, enhance the lives of others.
Amaka Donn, Secretary
Amaka Donn is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Antelope Valley College, Lancaster California where she has been serving the students and community since November 2003 to the present. She is an avid educator who believes that all students can learn and should be provided access to rigorous and equitable education that will enable graduates to successfully navigate our global world in any career that they have chosen.
Amaka was the past Secretary General of the Council of Igbo States in Americans from June 2017 to July 2019. She was the former President of Odinamba Cultural Association of Southern California from 2006 to 2010, organization of women from her home state of Enugu, Nigeria. She graduated from Enugu State University of Science & Technology where she served as the Public Relations officer for the Post Graduate Students’ Association, and the first President of the Political Science Department’s Post Graduate Students’ Association.
Amaka is an active resident of the Antelope Valley, California where she is a member of the Palmdale Women's Club, Quartz Hills Women's Club and Quartz Hills Chamber of Commerce. She is also a member of the Antelope Valley College Faculty Association and a member of the American Association of University Women, Lancaster Branch. Amaka resides in the city of Lancaster, California with her family.
Ben Geronimo, Treasurer
Ben has over 35 years of experience in public and private accounting and in the financial sector in general. Ben has worked in the banking, property management and credit industries in various capacities. Prior to his migration to the United States, he held various junior executive positions in a well known established commercial bank in the Philippines. Ben spent 26 years in various financial positions with Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD, where he retired as a Senior Financial Manager. During his employment with LAUSD, he served as a financial manager for a community adult school, a junior high school and a senior high school. Ben has a BS Degree in Business Administration and Accounting.
Jeffrey Forrest, Director
Jeffrey Forrest serves as Vice-President of Economic Development for College of the Canyons, which focuses on aligning Career and Technical Education programs with the needs of industry, while offering job training for minorities, women, Veterans, and dislocated workers. In addition, Jeffrey oversees a number of business units dedicated to providing companies with training resources for growing their business.
In this role, Jeffrey has created partnerships with hundreds of companies, community-based organizations, government entities throughout Southern California to advance the efforts of the community college in providing workforce development solutions that lead to economic growth and prosperity for the region.
In August 2017, Jeffrey co-founded the Strong Workforce Apprenticeship Group (SWAG). SWAG partners with employers to fill their critical needs through apprenticeship. More than 80% of its current apprentices are minorities, women or Veterans. Because of its success, in March 2018, Jeffrey was invited to testify on Capitol Hill on the benefits of apprenticeship to small business.
Jeffrey believes that providing access to a quality education is critical to creating strong communities, and key to the long-term growth of the nation’s economy. He has a Bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and an MBA from Lindenwood University.
Mark Young, Esq., Director
Mark Young is the co-founder of Donahoe & Young LLP with over 35 years of hands-on legal experience. Mr. Young has structured multi-million dollar business transactions and successfully litigated complex factual and legal issues in State Courts throughout California and in Federal Courts in California, Arizona, Washington, Texas, and Florida. He has represented clients ranging from large multinational corporations to regional medium and small local businesses to individuals across the economic spectrum, in each case seeking positive and cost-effective outcomes for each client.
A native Californian, Mr. Young graduated from UCLA in 1976, and from King Hall School of Law (University of California, Davis) in 1979. In law school, he served on the Honors Moot Court Board and as editor of the King Hall Advocate. Mr. Young has been admitted to practice in California since 1979, and is admitted to practice in all Federal Courts in California and Arizona, as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Young achieved the AV® - Preeminent Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell more than 10 years ago. He has served as a judge pro tempore in Los Angeles County Superior Court and is a past Director of the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association. Mr. Young was one of the founders of Bridge to Home SCV, a non-profit organization that operates homeless services -- including housing assistance, counseling programs, and a shelter -- in Santa Clarita. He has served on the Bridge to Home SCV Board of Directors continuously since 1996, and is a past Board President. Mark is a long time resident of Santa Clarita where he resides with his family.
Rita Zelaya, Parent Director
Rita has been working with the Behavior Education Services Team (B.E.S.T) since 2008. She has been member for six years at the California Consortium for Behavior Analysis (CCBA) and served one year as the Chairperson of the Insurance Education Committee. Rita has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and is pursuing both her Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and BCBA certification from Florida Technology Institute. As VP of Operations, she successfully applies her leadership skills and entrepreneurship experience to lead the company’s daily operation.
At the beginning of her career, Rita identified the need to serve the Hispanic community after attending Parent Orientation in North Los Angeles County Regional Center. She immediately implemented a plan to open a Spanish-speaking division. Presently, this division is successfully serving children and is staffed by Spanish speaking professionals, enabling B.E.S.T to meet the diverse needs in the Hispanic population.Rita’s most recent accomplishments are the negotiation of rates with health insurance plans, the contracting with major health insurance groups, Medi-cal Manage Health plans, and the navigation through complex group plans for families to obtain ABA therapy. In 2014, Rita was promoted to VP of Operations and successfully expanded services to underserved cities by opening virtual administration offices to sustain expansion growth.
Rita’s personal experience supplements her professional credentials. She successfully fought the complicated process in LAUSD for the special education needs of her son. She actively volunteers in non-profit organizations to provide information to the Los Angeles County community, hence, increasing parent awareness about their children’s rights and informing families of the options available that lead to services for children with autism and developmental disabilities. Rita's plan for 2017 is to start an awareness campaign in order to provide information about ABA therapy services: via social media, radio stations, and community resources. Rita and her family are residents of Canyon Country.