Class Notes, Winter 2005

Maresha Johnson is building orphanages for children in Uganda

Johnson travels through Africa.

When Maresha Johnson (MA ’01) started to raise funds to support her outreach work in Africa, she was inspired by the memory of one of her favorite childhood activities—writing to pen pals. With the help of universities and teachers across the globe, she is now building a program that will link children in Africa and the United States and support the care of a population in need.

Ugandan OrphanageWhen she graduated from the MA in Education program, Johnson, a teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, was determined to use the skills she had developed in graduate school to aid the growing population of African orphans. Starting in Uganda, where she has been living since March of this year, Johnson decided to build a series of orphanages and a headquarters in the U.S.

To fund the project, Johnson began to think about her childhood pen pals. In the early 1980s, she was part of the BBC’s “Big Blue Marble,” a program that matched children around the world with writing partners. Johnson had 12 buddies in Malaysia, Australia, and the U.S. to whom she wrote diligently throughout her childhood and into university. “When I was young, I thought I wouldn’t be able to travel. So I saw the world through letters.” From this experience, she has created the Collaborative Storybook Project, which will, in addition to raising funds, create the kind of international friendships for children in the U.S. and abroad that she benefited from as a child.

Maresha Johnson in UgandaThrough the storybook project, schools in the U.S. and Africa will be matched to produce short stories and artwork in collaboration, through Web conferencing and e-mail. In the process of writing, illustrating, and creating artwork, the idea is that friendships will develop and each child will get a glimpse of the reality of life on the other side of the globe. The books, which will be written for children, by children, will be sold internationally to support the orphanages and to raise awareness about Africa’s orphan and HIV crisis.


Cheryl M. Calvano (M.A.) is currently working on her Psy.D. degree at Loma Linda University. She and her husband, Anthony, reside in Redlands, Calif.

Dr. Joan MarquesDr. Joan Marques’ (Ed.D.) first book Empower the Leader in You was recently published by Authorhouse. Dr. Marques’ new book, The Global Village is available at and will be available in bookstores soon.

F. Chapin Marsh (M.A.), alumnus of the master of arts in education program, authored the education book, A Classic Excellence. He has served as headmaster of three Christian schools and has a vision for Christian education, which he is currently carrying out at Calvary Christian Academy in Chula Vista, Calif. The school has grown by 70 percent in the past 18 months under his leadership.

Dr. Brad W. Minnis (Ed.D.) accepted a position as vice president of nursing and patient care services at South Nassau Community Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y.

Jana Marie Mountjoy (M.A.) is currently applying to Psy.D. programs in clinical psychology.


Annie Goldman-Reed (M.A.) was recently named associate dean of extension and outreach at Los Angeles Valley College and elected president of the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.


Vinh-An Nguyen (M.S.) accepted a TOSA-Technology position. He currently serves as head of grant writing and fund implementation for the Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, Calif. Nguyen is also responsible for the coordination of teacher training using educational technology in the 14 district schools.

Dr. Deborah J. SmithDr. Deborah J. Smith (Ed.D.), a contributing writer to Tastes of Italia magazine, will have her short story, “A Tale of Two Churches” included in the book The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2005, published by Traveler’s Tales Guides.

Sydney Marie VermilionAdrianna Marie Vermilion (M.A.) and her husband, David, are happy to announce the birth of their daughter, Sydney Marie on March 2, 2005. They currently reside in Chino Hills, Calif.


Greg Gearn (M.A.) received his MFT license in November 2004 and has opened a private practice in the Coachella Valley. He currently resides in Palm Springs, Calif.

Susanna Furfari (M.S.) passed the LAUSD assistant principal exam.

Julie Ann Kangas is currently serving her third year as principal of Zion Lutheran School in Anaheim, Calif. She and her husband, Sean, also welcomed the birth of their first child, Matthew on January 14 of this year.

Dr. Jordana Faye Muhlmeister (Psy.D.) is employed as a clinical psychologist for the Hudson Valley Center for Cognitive Therapy in Nyack, N.Y. She and her husband, Alex, also keep busy raising their two young children: Marc, 4, and Talia, 2.

Susie Parks-Plant (M.A.) recently gave birth to a daughter, Amanda Christine, born on June 28, 2005. She and her husband, Steve, also have a son, Andrew David, born in December 2003. The family currently resides in Malibu, Calif.

Charlene Patricia Reilly (M.A.) passed the bar exam in Virginia and Washington, D.C. She is currently a practicing attorney with the law firm of Carter, Fullerton & Hayes. Charlene and her fiance reside in Washington, D.C., and are planning a fall wedding.


Dr. Victor C. Thompson (Ed.D.) was recently promoted to director of student support services for the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). He was also featured as a presenter at the National Truancy Summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Dr. Thompson was asked to present at the first Asian and Pacific Islander Education Summit sponsored by the National Education Association in Washington, D.C. Victor and his wife, Marie, currently reside in Lakewood, Calif.


Phyllis E. Young (M.A.) and her husband, William, would like to announce the birth of their son, Harrison. He was born December 6, 2004 and weighed 7 lbs. 6oz. They currently reside in Inglewood, Calif.


Robyn Renee BryantRobyn Renee Bryant, professional trainer, body-mind coach and president / owner of Total Energy Health, has developed a holistic therapy system that allows clients to achieve results more rapidly than conventionally possible. Robyn currently resides in Hidden Hills, Calif.


Dr. Judith Anne Nagib (M.A.) has recently reintegrated oil painting into her career as a psychologist. Her work focuses on forensic and existential themes and is being shown at several juried exhibits.


Chris Button (M.A.), alumnus of the master’s in educational technology, online (OMET) program, was awarded the Maslow Award for teaching excellence from Wyoming Seminary. Presented by the school’s board of trustees as a “Teacher of the Year” award, Button was selected for his effective teaching, support of the program and ideals of the school, and positive influence on the life of the students. Button has been an educator for 13 years. In his 12th year at Wyoming Seminary, Button teaches American history, contemporary American history, and advance placement U.S. history to high school students and postgraduates. Button also serves as the head coach of the varsity ice hockey team.


Merle Ann Branner (M.S.) is now the technology coordinator at Sacred Heart School in Winnetka, IL. Her position involves assisting teachers to implement technology in the classroom. Under her direction, the students recently had a video conference with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as a cultural diversity lesson.


James J. Ingersoll (M.A.) was recently chosen as “Teacher of the Year” at South Tamarind Elementary School. He also received CLAD certification and was designated an “exceptionally qualified teacher” for the Fontana Unified School District.


Dr. Gaydelle M. Lang (M.A.) became the first African-American to be named deputy secretary or acting secretary regional representative in the state of Texas. She and her husband, Judge Willie E. Blackman, currently reside in Meadowlakes, TX.

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