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Our Team

Staff

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Rita Casaverde - Executive Director

ed@diversityslo.org 

Rita Casaverde was born and raised in Lima, Peru and moved to California in 2012. In Peru, Rita received the Green Youth award by the United Nations. This award recognized her conservation work with communities in the Andes of Peru where she helped protect an endemic forest and multiple watersheds.

 

After moving to California, Rita had the opportunity to build a career in the Tech industry as a Product Manager, but after eight years working for local tech companies, she decided to join the office of Congressman Salud Carbajal to streamline her passions. In 2020, Rita and other community leaders helped found SLO County UndocuSupport with the goal of financially supporting immigrant families during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rita joined the Diversity Coalition as Executive Director in 2022.

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Vickie Prothro - Program Director

training@diversityslo.org 

Victoire “Vickie” Prothro is our Program Director for the BIPOC Board Leadership Training Program. Vickie brings her nearly 30 years of experience in community engagement and project management to Diversity Coalition. 

Vickie moved from the Los Angeles area to San Luis Obispo County in 2022. Contracted by the SLO Climate Coalition as its first Interim Executive Director and subsequently as their Equity Advisor. She previously held the position of director of communications and operations for the African American Board Leadership Institute (AABLI). She produced the organization’s first AABLI Board Talks video series. Before joining AABLI, she worked as an independent contractor, performing communications, outreach, and program functions for several local nonprofit institutions. Vickie is a cum laude graduate of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in business management.

Board of Directors

Cornel N. Morton - Board President

Cornel N. Morton, Ph.D. is Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Vice President for Student Affairs, Emeritus. He has served as a consultant to public and private organizations in areas including diversity awareness, student success, inclusivity, strategic planning, team building and conflict mediation. 

 

His community service includes membership on the French Hospital Community Board, Board Member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Committee and Life Long Learners of the Central Coast Advisory Board. Cornel and his wife Regena live in San Luis Obispo County.  

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Jean DeCosta - Board Secretary

Co-Chair of Governance

Jean DeCosta, Ph.D., retired from Cal Poly, Dean of Students, Emeritus.  Jean’s background is as an educator, administrator, organizational consultant and trainer.  Jean has provided consulting to public and private organizations in the areas of conflict resolution, communication, strategic problem solving, and team development.  Jean has worked in private practice as a clinical therapist and trained as a conflict mediator.  Jean holds a doctorate in Organizational Systems, an M.S. in Education, and was a licensed clinical Marriage, Family Therapist. 

 

Jean holds a passion for social justice.  Having been raised in poverty, and the second oldest of a racially blended family, Jean understands some of the challenges individuals and families face regarding discrimination, poverty and hardship.

 

Jean and her wife Kate live in SLO county.  

Trey Duffy - Board Treasurer

Trey Duffy is a disability rights educator and former program administrator with 35 years experience in higher education and social services.

He previously served as the Director of the Disability Resource Centers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cal Poly-SLO. Mr. Duffy has worked as a special education instructor, certified sign language interpreter, expert witness representing colleges and universities, President of an independent living center and is a former President of the Association on Higher Education and Disability. He retired from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2006 and from Cal Poly-SLO in 2015.

Mr. Duffy has an undergraduate degree in the linguistics of American Sign Language and a graduate degree in Educational Administration, both from the California State University system.

 

Currently he serves as Co-Coordinator of Transportation for Finn and Ada, two superstars at CL Smith Elementary School.

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Michael Boyer - Founding Director

Co-Chair of Governance

Michael has been a business and community leader in San Luis Obispo County for over 22 years with continued business involvement in Epic Entertainment, Doc Burnstein's, and Pismo Beach Homes.

Michael is the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast, which serves thousands of children who need us most from Orcutt to San Miguel. Serving kids every day in Atascadero, Creston, Guadalupe, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, and Shandon to three priority outcomes: Academic Success, Good Character & Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.

 

Michael has been committed to the community through many local boards over the years including SLO YMCA, SLO Big Brothers Big Sisters, St. Patrick School Board, South County Chambers, the Exploration Station, Rotary International Zone 26, and the Clark Center Foundation. He currently serves the following organizations: Lumina Alliance as governance committee chair, the Arroyo Grande Community Hospital Foundation as director, the Rotary District 5240 as diversity, equity, and inclusion committee chair, Cuesta College Foundation as director, Leadership SLO as director, Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce as director, SLO Chamber as a committee member on the Economic Development Committee, REACH Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy steering committee member, City Of San Luis Obispo as vice-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force and the Diversity Coalition San Luis Obispo County as founding director.

 

He received both the "Top 40 Under 40" award from the Pacific Coast Business Times and the "Top 20 Under 40" award from the Tribune for his professional excellence and profound commitment to the community.

 

As a self-described “jack of all trades,” Michael loves getting his hands dirty in many different things, from home remodeling projects to jogging a “half” with his wife. He also enjoys Saturday morning business discussions with friends and adventurous hikes in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains. Michael lives in Arroyo Grande, CA with his wife, Ashlea, and son, Jack.

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Sarah Conn - Director

Co-Chair of Educational Programs

 

Sarah Conn, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian, mother of 2 rambunctious boys, and local business owner along with her husband, Joel Conn, at Pismo Beach Veterinary Clinic.  She holds a B.S. in Conservation Biology and achieved her doctorate from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Sarah hopes to strengthen our community by building respect and tolerance for each other and for our Earth. She promotes these values in her business, with her employees, and with her friends and family. She has participated in service projects and educational events with her husband and the Rotary Club of Pismo Beach/Five Cities since they moved to the Central Coast in 2009.  She has sat on the Board of Directors for the SLO County YMCA since 2019, and has been the Events and Programs Chair for the Diversity Coalition since 2017.

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee, traveling, listening to the ocean from her deck, and playing board games with friends and family.

Kathleen Minck - Director

Co-Chair of Educational Program

Kathleen taught at the Lucia Mar school district for 32 years. Promoting an acceptance of diversity and teaching about our different cultural experiences were always passions of hers. She sat on her district’s Wellness Committee and was her school’s Bully Prevention Coordinator. CTA (Cal. Teachers Association) awarded her their Peace and Justice Human Rights award for the work she did at her school and throughout her district, partnering with the Canadian organization, Free the Children, and Heifer International, among others. She continued her passion in her travels as well, helping to build a school in Kenya, studying health and education concerns with Witness for Peace and SOA Watch in Venezuela, Cuba and the Philippines, and doing a Habitat for Humanity build in Thailand. As an advocate for unions, she was her school’s LMUTA union rep and sat on their board, and was the Human Rights contact person for CTA’s local service center. She was also elected to CTA’s State Council, sitting on the Civil Rights in Education committee, and to the NEA National Assembly. She truly believes that public education, both here and around the world, is the key to a peaceful future for our children and grandchildren.

Kathleen retired from teaching in 2015 and currently volunteers for Wilshire Hospice, Human Rights Watch, and SLO4Home (resettling Afghan, Syrian, and Ukranian refugees in our county).  She has 3 grown children, 3 beautiful granddaughters, and a great-grandson, and resides in Arroyo Grande.

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Kendra Paulding - Director

Chair of Fundraising

Kendra Paulding, one of our newest board members, brings a passion for doing good along with a strong set of talents to the board. Kendra, a Cal Poly SLO graduate, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Finance. Formerly a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley, Kendra now manages the office at Paulding Law with her husband, Jimmy Paulding. Kendra’s passion for helping people and making our community a stronger, more resilient, and inclusive community fuels her desire to assist the Diversity Coalition in carrying out its mission. Her hard work to make change is evident in the many volunteer hours she has dedicated to local political campaigns and non-profit organizations. Kendra’s organizational management skills, strong business acumen, and seemingly boundless energy make her strong asset to the team.

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Joy Pedersen - Director

Chair of Coalition Building

Joy M. Pedersen, Ph.D. grew up on the Central Coast, and her experience with social justice is both personal and professional. She serves as the Dean of Students at Cal Poly, teaches multicultural counseling at UMass, and owns a coaching and consulting company. She is also a founding member of the Asian Pacific-Islander Faculty and Staff Association at Cal Poly. In all aspects of her work, she has been deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In addition to her professional experience, she has a B.A. in Psychology from Claremont McKenna, an M.A. in Counseling and Guidance from Cal Poly, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Organization from University of California, Santa Barbara.
 

Joe Whitaker - Director

Chair of Marketing & Communications - joewhitaker@aol.com

Joe Whitaker, a retired businessman, is a former senior marketing executive at Mattel Toys, Columbia Pictures and Lorimar Productions.  During his career, he also acted as an independent marketing consultant to small and mid-size children’s product and entertainment firms.

 

Joe is also a long-time member of SLO SCORE, the local chapter of the national SCORE small business counseling service.

 

He and his wife Myraline Morris Whitaker, Owner/Principal of Central Coast of California Hospitality, LLC, have resided in Cypress Ridge since 2006.

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