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Meet the Cradle to Career Backbone Team

Melissa Hernandez

Melissa Hernandez

Associate Vice President, Community Development

Meet Melissa

Melissa Hernandez, Ph.D. is the Associate Vice President of the Cradle to Career Partnership at the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Dr. Hernandez leads C2C in aligning organizations and individuals to change systems and improve educational outcomes for over 11,000 youth in Pima County. Additionally, Hernandez teaches college courses, is a For a Brighter Future Foundation member, serves as a board member for her son’s Scout Troop, and is a Soroptimist board member. Dr. Hernandez enjoys working locally and nationally to dismantle barriers to success across the education continuum. Hernandez holds a doctorate from the University of Arizona and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Northern Arizona University. Dr. Hernandez enjoys attending her son’s club soccer games, Saturday night gatherings with family, and hiking.

Amber Schlak

Amber Schlak

Program Director

Meet Amber

Amber Schlak is the Program Director with the Cradle to Career Partnership. Amber oversees all programming within C2C and works with leadership to develop strategies and partnerships that result in changing community conditions. She also works directly with fifteen educator teams across multiple school districts in the Leaders in Literacy Program. Prior to joining C2C, Amber was an elementary school teacher for 21 years. She specialized primarily in early childhood education, English language development, and reading intervention. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Education in Early Childhood with a Reading Endorsement from Northern Arizona University. Amber is an advocate and dedicated supporter for high-quality education, early intervention, inquiry thinking, positive classroom environments, and data-driven results to improve outcomes. She is the proud mother of three who all attend Arizona universities. This Tucson native enjoys reading, being outdoors, spending time with her family, making jewelry, and playing with her dog Daisy.

Miles Chandler

Miles Chandler

Program Manager

Meet Miles

Miles is the Program Manager with the Cradle to Career Partnership overseeing the Empowering STEM Innovators space. He is leading C2C’s new program for middle-grade youth, Up and Atom, to help create STEM pathways for future innovators in Pima County .  Miles comes to us with experience in the K-12 education system as well as experience with AmeriCorps, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Liberty Center for Language and Learning. Miles is a Tucson native with a BA in Elementary Education with an English Second Language Emphasis. He enjoys reading, writing, and hiking.

Paul Braden

Paul Braden

Program Manager

Meet Paul

Paul Braden (They/Them) is a Program Manager with the Cradle to Career (C2C) Partnership. They focus on the Thriving Futures area of the C2C Partnership serving Opportunity Youth aged 16-24 that are currently not in school and are unemployed. Paul works with the Youth on the Rise Community Collaborative as well as the United Youth Leadership Council to provide tools, skills, and connections to Opportunity Youth, to help give them every opportunity to succeed. Paul has worked in Youth and Community Development since 2015, supporting youth in a variety of fields ranging from different forms of education to community awareness and event planning. Paul is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ Community and works to create safe and equitable spaces. They claim the title of former Rock Star and have played bass guitar and several other instruments for 20 years. They enjoy exploring the beautiful nature that surrounds Tucson, finding some live music to dance to, lounging with their cats, and having game nights with their friends.

Laura Haferkamp

Laura Haferkamp

Data Manager

Meet Laura

Laura Haferkamp is the Data Manager with the Cradle to Career Partnership. She is crafting a database to make all C2C’s collected information more insightful and accessible for staff. She also supports Kassondra in interpreting data and creating visuals for all C2C programs. She joined C2C to use her technical skills to help improve education in her community, and she loves the warm workplace culture that United Way cultivates.

Laura is a Tucson native with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona. Her professional background prior to C2C has primarily been with AmeriCorps. She has two cats, several houseplants, and a few house spiders. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, gardening, reading, solving puzzles, spending time with her kitties, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Justin Curry

Justin Curry

Administrative Assistant

Meet Justin

Justin Curry is the Administrative Assistant for the Cradle to Career Partnership. Justin works in proximity with the Vice President and Program Director to help make sure that the department operates like a well-oiled machine. His key role is assisting us manage our relationships with potential and key partners that are committed to systems changes in Southern Arizona. Justin is dedicated to improving communication, anticipating department needs, and developing departmental infrastructures.

Coming to us from the Midwest with a B.A. in Communications from Clarke University. Justin does bring a diverse background when it comes to engaging the community and working with youth and young adults. Outside of work, Justin enjoys being heavily involved with the Hip-Hop dance scene in Tucson. He avidly hosts practices, enters competitions, and organizes events for the community.

Gabe Mendoza

Gabe Mendoza

Collective Impact Specialist

Meet Gabe

Through the AmeriCorps Public Allies Program, Gabe Mendoza has joined the Cradle to Career Partnership as the team’s Collective Impact Specialist, assisting in the development and implementation of the Essential Skills Workshops in Pima County. Growing up between Sonora Mexico and the south side of Tucson, Gabe has dedicated his time to training mixed martial arts, volleyball, and health coaching. Completing his Fitness and Wellness Specialist Certificate via Pima Community College, and a Business Management Certification at The University of Arizona, Gabe hopes to open his own non-profit recreation center here in Pima County for youth. Through United Way, Gabe hopes to build capacity in existing workforce development opportunity youth programs and become a leader for equitable change.

Chyna Davis

Chyna Davis

Team Member

Meet Chyna

Chyna Davis is a Team Member with the Cradle to Career Partnership. She is currently working on the Math Perceptions and Experiences project, which seeks to learn about the experiences and barriers that students, educators, and parents have encountered in high school and post-secondary level math classes. In addition to her work at C2C, she also works as a bookkeeper at Tucson Foundations, where she handles a wide range of financial record-keeping and administrative tasks. She is a Tucson native, graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in Linguistics, and studied abroad in Taiwan while teaching English as a Second Language. She enjoys traveling for good food, studying foreign languages and cultures, and going on early morning walks if the weather is nice.

Tamelia Wright

Tamelia Wright

Administrative Assistant Intern

Meet Tamelia

Tamelia Wright is an Administrative Assistant Intern for the Cradle to Career Partnership. She currently holds an associate’s degree from the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (Jamaica) in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. She comes to us as an administrative guru and works with team members to support them in the various projects. The purpose of this internship is to open a door to cultivate new skills and develop a better appreciation for the role non-profits play in the community. As a pre-dental hygiene student, Tamelia understands the importance of nurturing the community and hopes to contribute to this vision in the facet of healthcare. She enjoys spending time in nature, crochet and reading.

Josseline Nunez

Josseline Nunez

Administrative Assistant Intern

Meet Josseline

My name is Josseline Nunez Gonzalez, and I am currently enrolled at Pima Community College. I am in my second year and plan on transferring to the UofA to get my bachelors. My current major is business administrative, and plan on minoring in Finance once I transfer. My role at C2C is to assist the team members to help make things run nice and smoothly. I am dedicated to my work and am excited to gain more office experience. I was born and raised here in Tucson, AZ and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I of course plan to travel and see the world in the future but Tucson is my home, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

I grew up on the Southside where not everything is perfect. I have a pretty big family and they mean the world to me. They are the ones the push me the most and make me want to overcome every obstacle in my way. My family and I take care of each other and if it wasn’t for them who knows where I would be right now. Since I am one of the youngest in the family, most of my hobbies/interests come from them. Some of my hobbies are cooking, baking, photography, painting, gardening, reading, and thanks to my older and younger brother I dabble in video games. I am very excited to work here at Cradle to Career and acquire experience and knowledge that I will use in the future.