Meet the OCAEYC Board

The OCAEYC Board is comprised of Executive Board Members and Board Members at Large. Board Meetings are open to the community and if you are interested in volunteering with one of our committees please reach out to that person or contact the Director.

Executive Board Members

Sarah Shawesh, M.A.


Sarah is a founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Building Resilience In Communities and Kids (B.R.I.C.K) Consulting, an adjunct professor, lecturer, early childhood educator, and development specialist. She received a masters degree in Human Development where her graduate studies focused on authentic parent-child relationships. Ms. Shawesh has spent most of her career helping families, educators and children understand development in a way that allows everyone to find joy in the day-to-day. She strives to break down development in a way that makes sense and increases positive outcomes for all!

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Cheryl Sosa, Ed.D


Dr. Cheryl Sosa is currently an Elementary School Principal in the Orange Unified School District. For 9 years prior, Dr. Sosa served as the Early Childhood Education Coordinator for the same District where she was responsible for the district’s Learning Links, State Preschool and Fee for Service child development programs. As a practitioner, Dr. Sosa is committed to impacting social and emotional learning in young children, providing inclusive, high quality education to all children and aligning systems. Dr. Sosa’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Teaching and Learning in a Global Society, and a Doctorate in Education, with a focus on Organizational Leadership. She also holds a Program Director permit, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Clear Administrative Services Credential. In addition to her work with Orange Unified, she continues to grow the early learning workforce by serving on the OCAEYC Board as an interest groups co-chair. In her spare time, Dr. Sosa enjoys watching her daughter play water polo, going to Disneyland and spending quality time with her friends and family.

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Deanna Parga, M. Ed.

Vice President of Membership

Deanna Parga is a Help Me Grow Community Liaison with Help Me Grow, a program of Children’s Hospital of Orange County. She is responsible for providing outreach to families, providers and physicians throughout Orange County. She provides professional development to Early Childhood Educators and helps promote training in developmental screening for all children 0-5. She serves on several collaborative efforts in addressing the needs and concerns of families with young children and community work in improving children’s readiness for school. Deanna is also an appointed member of the Orange County Child Care & Development Planning Council and is an adjunct professor teaching Child Development and Special Education. Previously, Deanna has worked as a preschool teacher, an assistant director of a childcare center, an early intervention teacher, an infant specialist and a religious education teacher. For over 10 years, she was also the Director of Children’s Services, to a department that included overseeing all early intervention programs, therapy services and a childcare center. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development with a minor in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Special Education, both from California State University, Fullerton. Deanna also earned a Teaching Credential in Early Childhood Special Education. Deanna is passionate about supporting Early Childhood professionals and families with young children especially those with special needs.

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Raissa Lee, M.S. Ed


Raissa Lee is a committed early childhood educator who is passionate about honoring and serving the diverse children, families, and early childhood educators of our communities. In addition to teaching and caring for children and families in her dual language (Mandarin & English) STEM family child care program, Raissa also serves as an adjunct human development professor at Irvine Valley College. Raissa earned her multiple subject teaching credential with a BCLAD (Mandarin) emphasis in 2002 and a Master of Science degree in Education with an emphasis in early education in 2020. Raissa holds a California Child Development Site Supervisor Permit and is also a Certified CLASS (Toddler) Observer. Furthermore, Raissa has worked as a Mandarin translator and live interpreter for the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC). She believes that the brief season of early childhood is full of joy and adventure and is honored to journey with children, families, and educators through this spectacular season of life. 

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Yumi Ramirez


Passionate about nurturing young minds, Yumi is a dedicated early childhood educator for 36 years. Originally from Japan she studied ECE and taught toddlers and kindergarten students. In Ontario, Canada Yumi received her child development teaching permit. She has obtained child development director permit in California. Yumi is an experienced administrator for over 20 years with Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove, Early Leaning Programs. She has managed state contracts and federal grants along with developing strategic plans. Yumi also received her BFA in Graphic Design and helps with marketing and advertising for the organization and small business owners. Her recent work has been developing partnerships and collaboration within the ECE community and increasing pubic awareness in the field. Yumi is committed to providing a foundation for lifelong learning and a love for education in the earliest years of life. She enjoys spending time with her new puppy, Angel and being in the nature.

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Board Members At Large

Monique Rico, M.A.Ed.

Board Development Chair

Monique began her career as an ROP student and has over twenty years of experience in the early childhood education field. Her professional experience includes teaching in private faith-based and public early learning programs. Currently, Monique serves as a high school teacher for Coastline ROP, where she imparts her expertise in child development and early childhood education. In her role, she has developed a new pathway for early childhood education at Costa Mesa High School. This innovative program bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world experience by facilitating partnerships with local preschools and transitional kindergarten programs, in collaboration with the Newport Mesa Unified School District. She enjoys sharing her passion and knowledge and guiding aspiring students toward fulfilling careers in the child development and early childhood education fields. She believes in the power of education to inspire and shape the lives of young learners, and she takes pride in nurturing a new generation of professionals dedicated to serving the youngest members of their community. Monique holds a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education, and a Career Technical Education Credential in Education, Child Development, and Family Services. 

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Kristina H. Atler, Ph.D

Professional Development Chair

My name is Kristina H. Atler PhD and I am an Education Specialist working within the dynamic curriculum team for the Learning Care Group. I have been in Early Childhood Education for 25 years and with my company for 10. I have three children who all attended our schools. I have a Masters of Arts in Teaching and a Masters in Educational Administration. I have both my administrative and multiple subjects teaching credentials. Most recently I am a doctoral candidate researching the leaders' experiences as they initiate and maintain nature-based learning programs. I serve as the OCAEYC professional development committee chair and am thrilled to be part of this organization. 

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Marilee Cosgrove, M.A.

Member Services Chair

Marilee started her career at the City of Irvine as a Supervisor in Community Services opening the completed community parks and later as an administrator in the newly established Child Care Coordination Office. The purpose of the office was to increase the number of child care spaces for infants through school age in a high quality environment. With the growth in Irvine and the addition of Irvine Valley College, Marilee became part of the founding Faculty in the Department of Human Development. She has 28 years of experience teaching courses in Child Development and Adolescent studies at Irvine Valley College, other Community Colleges, and the California State University system. Marilee has been a consultant providing professional development and program analysis for public and nonprofit organizations and was a lead researcher in measuring the benefits of recreation and social services programs. Marilee served as a past Chair of the Orange County Planning Council, first President of the Tri-County Chapter of the newly formed California School age Consortium, and has actively participated in other countywide and State committees as well as professional organizations. Marilee is a retired Director of Child Development Services for the Fullerton School District. This was a comprehensive Reggio inspired social constructivist program that encompasses a myriad of services for children and parents, infants through eighth grade. These include tuition and grant funded preschool, after school programs, and Early Learning Studios serving up to 4,000 children and their families daily.

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Maria Isabel Michea

Interest Groups Chair

Maria Isabel Michea graduated from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile where she studied Early Childhood Education. She has been working as an early educator for over thirty years. Maria is currently a student in the Child Development Department of Fullerton College and has completed sixty units in Child Development so far. She currently owns and operates Michy's Reggio Family Childcare, is a member of the organization Educators for Peaceful Classrooms and Communities (EPCC), and serves as secretary to the Concejo Asesor de Educadores y Cuidado Infantil (CAECI). Maria is passionate about collaborating with other educators to share knowledge and experiences that will improve the quality of early learning programs in our county.

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Rakhee Parekh, M.A.Ed.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair

Rakhee holds an M.A.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University, Irvine. She is a Lead Preschool Teacher at the Children’s Center at the University of California, Irvine. Rakhee brings over ten years of experience as an inclusive Early Childhood Educator. Born in Kuwait and raised in India, Rakhee has worked in New York, Mumbai, and Phoenix. She has resided in Irvine, California, with her husband and two daughters since 2004. Rakhee’s vision is grounded in building relationships, a commitment to lifelong learning, academic excellence, and garnering skills for living in a diverse society. She believes her role is to create and foster a caring, nurturing, and stimulating environment for each child. She firmly believes relationships are born when people are personally invested and engaged in the outcomes towards a common goal.

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Brittany Samayoa, B.S.

Advocacy & Public Policy Chair

Brittany holds a B.S. in Child and Adolescent Development from Cal State Fullerton. She has been working in the ECE field for over 7 years, teaching at private, community non-profit, and state funded preschools. During the pandemic, she founded a small consulting business, Little Minds Consulting, to support affected children and families within her community. Currently, she is an ECE Site Supervisor at a state preschool in Sacramento County where she partners with CAAEYC to further advocate for the ECE field. She has been an active OCAEYC member since 2019 and has served on several committees within this organization, community colleges, and district leadership teams. She is passionate about advocating for the state and county needs of our educators, families, children, and all other professionals within the early learning community. 

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Vanessa (Nessie) Sener, B.A.

Social Media Chair

Vanessa holds a BA in Early Childhood Education from Pacific Oaks College. She is the Director of ENC Nature Preschool and brings over twenty years of experience as an inclusive Early Years Educator. Vanessa is an Orange County native who loves traveling and spending time in nature. She is a dedicated and passionate advocate for children who has spent her career teaching sharing her compassion, love, and respect for all living things nurturing a connection with the natural world. Vanessa has constructed lasting, impactful relationships with children by helping them build a strong sense of self and offering unconditional acceptance, inspirational learning experiences, independence, and reflective engagement developed through a play-based, child-led philosophy.

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Irene Harvey, B.A.


Irene has been in Early Childhood Education for 22 years. Her love for the field started when she enrolled in her high school’s ROP class for child development. She started her career as an aide and worked through many titles until becoming a Director. She is currently working on obtaining her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Working in this field is more than a profession for Irene, it’s her passion. Irene holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies, a Career Technical Education Credential in Child Development & Family Services and a Child Development Program Director Permit.

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