Meet the 2016-2017 Board of Directors & Executive Management Team

Board of Directors

Sara Young - President                                                                                                                         

Sara joined JLOCC in 2010 after transferring from the Junior League of Los Angeles.  In preparing for the role of President, Sara's past placements have included Training Council, Community Council, Fund Development Council, Operations Council, and the Board. She is excited to use the 2016-2017 league year to further the mission of JLOCC in the community and support all members as they develop additional leadership skills.

Sara holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education (Education of the Deaf, Education of the Blind) from Peabody College at Vanderbilt, a Master of Science in Education (Education of the Deaf) from University of Kansas, a Law Degree from the J.Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, and a Master of Science in Education from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently finishing her PhD in Educational Policy and Social Context at Universiity of California, Irvine. Sara is a Southern Caliifornia  native, lives in Irvine with her adorable dog, Wilhelm, and  works as an administrator for a large local school district. She enjoys spending her free time working to support the League and building a better Orange County community.

Maria de Vera Suarez – President Elect

 Maria joined the JLOCC in 2009 to serve the local community.  She served on the Strategic Planning and  Opportunity Drawing Committees, was Community Council Director, Treasurer-Elect, Finance Director, and is currently President-Elect.

Maria is a controller at Venture Retail Group, Inc., a real estate development and management company in Aliso Viejo.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from UC Irvine, and a Master of Business Administration from Cal State Long Beach.

In addition to the JLOCC, Maria is a member of the Small World Guild, the Irvine charity guild of CHOC Hospital, and served on its board.  She is very active in her children's schools, where she is currently VP of Technology on the parent school board.  Maria lives in Tustin Ranch with her husband Carlos, and their two children.  She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, in addition to working out, reading, and traveling.

Emma Piacentini– Executive Vice President

Emma joined the Junior League of Orange County, CA in 2009. Her past placements have been heavily operations focused and include: Website & Publications Chair, Treasurer, Vice-President and a PR and Social Media committee member. She values her time with the Junior League as it gives her the opportunity to improve the community, build lasting friendships and grow her leadership skills.

After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Emma escaped the rain to southern California to attend the University of Redlands graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. After graduating, Emma moved to Orange County and started her career in information technology at Pacific Life Insurance Company. She currently resides in North Tustin with her husband and two young daughters. She spends her spare time in the backyard, in the pool and at the beach with her family.

 Laurel Murray - Treasurer/Finance Director

Laurel Murray has been a member of the JLOCC since 2004.  She previously served on the JLOCC Board of Directors as Treasurer/Finance Director, Training Director,  Membership Director and most recently as Executive Vice President.   Other League Leadership roles include Finance Coordinator, Spring Fundraiser Treasurer, Treasurer-Elect, Endowments & Grants Chair, Nominating & Placement Committee Member and Provisional Chair.  

Laurel is an Orange County native currently residing in Newport Beach, CA with her cats Scamp and Lucy.   Laurel has worked as a real estate professional for over 15 years with the last 10 years at The Northern Trust Company as  a Real Estate Trust Asset Manager.    She attended Pepperdine University earning a Master of Business Administration and University of Southern California, earning a Bachelor of Science in General Studies.   She enjoys spending her time working to support the league, spending time with family and friends as well as traveling whenever possible.

Jennifer Gerstner – Secretary

Jennifer joined the Junior League in 2014 after relocating to Orange County, California from Washington DC.  Since joining, Jennifer has served as a Member of Kids in the Kitchen Committee, Programming Committee and Human Trafficking Committee. She is excited to join the 2016-2017 Board as Secretary.

Jennifer holds a Bachelor's in International Business and Spanish from Messiah College in Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from George Mason University in Virginia.  Her professional experience includes over eight years of working with nonprofits, including 6 years for an international profit with a focus on microfinance based in Washington DC and most recently, working with local nonprofits in Orange County.  In her free time, her interests include music,, traveling, reading and spending time with her husband and daughter. 

Erika Brechtel – Nominating Director

bio coming soon

Jennifer Jackson – Director at Large

Jennifer Jackson joined the Junior League of Orange County, CA in 2007 and has enjoyed a variety of roles since then including Strategic Planning & Evaluation Chair, Nominating & Placement Chair, and Vice President.  As a new resident to Orange County in 2006, Jennifer joined the Junior League to make a difference in the community in which she lived, as well as to meet women who shared similar interests.

Jennifer received her Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University and her Master of Business Administration from the University or Arizona.  She has over 20 years of business experience, with the last 10 of those years in the financial services industry focusing on leadership development and human resources strategy and management.  Jennifer lives in Corona del Mar with her husband and two young children. When not taking care of her children, . she enjoys long walks and runs, spending time outside,  reading,, and traveling.  

Sally Lawrence – Director at Large

Sally began her professional fundraising career 14 years ago with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation where she helped raise more than $4.7 million through walks, galas and golf tournaments. Since then she has worked as the Director of Development for the Orange County Council, Boy Scouts of America; Executive Director for the Orange County Division of the March of Dimes; Executive Director for the Orange County Branch of the Arthritis Foundation; Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving for the Girl Scouts of Orange County and Charity Event Guide Coordinator for the first edition of the Charity Event Guide for the Orange County Business Journal. In February of 2013 Sally returned to the Boy Scouts and is once again a member of the Development team.

Sally holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Oriental Studies from the University of Arizona; a certificate in Nonprofit Program Administration from California State University, Long Beach; a certificate from the Nonprofit Management Institute at Stanford University and obtained her CFRE in 2011.  In 2015, Sally was given the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser award from the Orange County chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

As a volunteer, Sally has been the President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Orange County chapter; Co-Chair of National Philanthropy Day; Board Secretary for Art & Creativity for Healing; Sustaining Advisor to The Christmas Company of the Junior League of Orange County CA; held several board positions for the Junior League of Orange County CA and was a member of the Orange County Capacity Building Consortium.  In 2014, Sally was honored to receive the Kathryn Raulston Sustainer of the Year award from the Junior League of Orange County, CA.

Sally and her husband live in San Clemente, have two grown children and five grandchildren.

Nancy Ringman – Director at Large

Nancy has been a member of the Junior League of Orange County for over 25 years and has served as President, Community Director, Communications Director, SPAC, Primetime Literacy Chair, Good Beginnings Conference Chair, and Public Affairs Chair.  In her League career, Nancy served as Community Director during the establishment of the Family Campus for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Garden Grove and Capo Valley, and has been active in the Blue Ribbon Campaign as well as the Garden of Hope at the Santa Ana Zoo.  As the Senior SPAC delegate, she earned the League's annual Leadership Award.  One of her most impactful placements was being a Provisional Intern on the Project Development Committee when the League decided to develop the volunteer organization at C.A.S.T. (Child Abuse Services Team), which led to her serving on the inaugural committee of C.A.S.T. volunteers. Those experiences have made her a strong and committed advocate for abused and neglected children.

Nancy was born and raised in the Glendale/La Canada area, and received her Bachelor's degree from the Unversity of California, Irvine.  She has been an enthusiastic Orange County resident ever since.  She and her husband of 26 years, Tom, live in Costa Mesa and have one son, Erik, who recently graduated from The Ohio State Unversity.

Nancy is the long-time marketing director for Western Exterminator Company.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the Raise Foundation (formerly Prevent Child Abuse Orange County), and served as the Troop Committee Chair for Boy Scout Troop 911 in Huntington Beach for many years.  She spends her free time, when there is some, enjoying sailing, gardening, traveling, and reading for sheer pleasure.  She's an avid movie buff, college football fan, and loves to entertain dear friends.

Anne McNeil – Board Assistant

Anne joined JLOCC in 2014 after moving across the country from New Jersey.  She is currently serving as the Board Assistant and, in her first year as an active member, was previously on the Historian Committee.   Anne holds a Bachelor of Science in Management and Global Business from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, where she was a scholarship athlete on the women's golf team and a member of Detla Gamma sorority.  She is currently working for Johnson & Johnson, supporting their medicall device manufacturing sector as a Quality Engineer.  She was born in Virginia, raised in Florida, and has lived up and down the East Coast before transferring to Irvine for work.  She  enjoys spending her free time golfing, reading, and volunteering in her community with JLOCC, The First Tee of Orange County and the Orange County chapter of JDRF.

Executive Management Team

Kim Christianson – Executive Vice President-Elect 

Kim has been a member of the JLOCC since 2010.  Her past placements have been heavily centered around Fund Development leadership and include: Fund Development VP, JLOCC Golf Classic Chair, TCC Treasurer and Outreach & Recruitment Manager.  Kim joined the League to make an impact on the community by participating in events that directly benefit women and children in Orange County, while also making some new friends along the way.

Kim earned a B.S. degree in Management Science with a concentration in Finance and Economics from the University of California, San Diego and currently holds a career in the field of Business Strategy & Program Management for the Financial Services Industry.  She lives in Laguna Beach with her husband of 5 years and enjoys spending time shopping, traveling, going to the beach, and planning the next annual trip to Opening Day at Del Mar.

Evan Clark– Executive Management Team Assistant

Evan was born and raised in Orange County, California.  She is dedicated to volunteering, with a history of founding and co-founding several organizations and working on various projects within our community.  Evan served as Provisional Advisor and assisted The Christmas Company Silent Auction Committee during the 2015 - 2016 League year.  She is an alumna of the University of California Irvine, and Southwestern Law School.  Evan resides in North Tustin, California.  She is a corporate and business litigation attorney and enjoys going on yoga retreats, gardening, and hosting dinner parties.

 Dr. Sandra Thompson– Communications Vice President                          

Sandra has been an active member of JLOCC for 11 years.  As part of her volunteer work with the  League, she has been Spring Fundraiser Treasurer, Treasurer, The Christmas Company Manager, Fund Development Vice President, and Nominating Director.  She has participated as a member of the Finance Council, Fund Development Council, Board of Directors and Communications Council.  She is honored to volunteer for an organization that creates significant and lasting change in the Orange County community.

Sandra is active in the community, working with and representing several non-profit corporations and groups, among them the American Chemical Society, Delta Gamma Fraternity and Foundation, and Southern California Siamese Rescue.  Sandra has volunteered for Election Protection since its inception after the 2000 election.  She has trained and coordinated legal volunteers in California, North Carolina and Arizona, as part of this non-partisan pro bono work.  Sandra is on the Board of Trustees of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Sandra earned her J.D. at Campbell Unversity, Norman Wiggins School of Law and her B.S. and M.A. in Chemistry at the College of William & Mary,.  She earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Department of Chemistry at North Carolina State University.  As a doctoral candidate, Dr. Thompson worked at both the Envioronmental Protection Agency and the Research Triangle Institute in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.


  Michelle Goldman– Community Vice President

Michelle was born and raised in Orange County and joined JLOCC in October 2014.  She has been involved in the Community programs since she became active and held her first placement on the Impact OC committee.  Last year she chaired the new Junior League Juniors program and has enjoyed watching it grow during its inaugural year.  Michelle is looking forward to continuing her involvement as the 2016-2017 Community Vice President and is excited to help further our local involvement and volunteerism.

Michelle holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Colorado at Boulder and is also a licensed real estate agent in California.  She works for her family's business, Fields Pianos, and represents the thrid generation of family ownership and operation in the company since it began in 1947.  More recently she has also been building her own company to pursue her passion as a luxury travel representative.  She lives in Costa Mesa with her fiance, AJ, and in her free time she enjoys wine tasting, duffy boating, hiking, and cooking.

Nadia Bess – Fund Development Vice President

Nadia  has been a member of the JLOCC since 2013.  Nadia has previously served as The Christmas Company Manager and Manaager-Elect, and has also sat on the Nominating Committee and the Funding Opportunities Committee.  Nadia joined the Junior League to make an impact in the community, meet like-minded women, and develop her leadership skills.  As an engineer, Nadia is especially excited about JLOCC's work with the Academy.

Originally from Northern California, Nadia received a Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace.Engineering with a minor in Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California.  She has worked for the Southern California Gas Company for the past 6 years.  Nadia is also involved with the Society of Women Engineers on a local, regional, and national level, currently chairing the 2017 Regional Conference.  In her spare time, Nadia enjoys traveling (especially internationally), trying new foods, playing kickball, and being in the water.

 Erin Shuman – Member Development Vice President

 Erin joined the Junior League in January of 2011 after relocating to Newport Beach from Los Angeles. This is her first year on the JLOCC Board of Directors. Previously she has served JLOCC in leadership roles as Provisional Chair, Nominating & Placement Committee Member and Provisional Advisor. JLOCC has given Erin the opportunity to give back to the greater Orange County and meet amazing women with similar interests.

She attended the University of Arizona for her undergraduate studies and San Diego State for graduate education – studying Mass Communication at both levels. She has worked in ecommerce and digital marketing since the completion of her graduate studies, currently she is responsible for online merchandising and promotions for a major cell phone provider. Erin resides in Newport Beach and spends her free time learning about wine, photographing sunsets, working out and spending time with friends & family.

Katherine Ahlswede – Public Affairs Vice President 

 Katherine Ahlswede has been an active member since 2007.  Over the years, she has volunteered her time to the following areas:  Community-Grants & Scholarship (2007-2008); Public Affairs - State Public Affairs Committee (2008-2009, 2013-2016); Membership - Membership Advisor (2009-2010), Nominating & Placement (2010-2011), and Provisional Committee (2011-2012): Board of Directors - Secretary (2012-2013), and Public Affairs Vice President (2014-2015 & 2016-2017),  Katherine is mainly proud of the brillant training and varied self-development opportunities that have been presented to her through her experiences in the Junior League.

Katherine has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Arizona State University (ASU) and a Masters of Business Administration with a focus in Finance and Strategy from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California (USC).  She is currently a Senior Financial Analysit at The Boeing Company which serves the Commercial Aircrafts and Defense sides of the company.  She has worrked there for nine years and her career has held a diverse series of experiences from financial forecasting, project management and risk management to staying connected to academia through nationwide university curriculum development and recruitment efforts.  In her spare time, Katherine likes to be with her family and friends and cook new concoctions in the kitchen.

 Sustaining Member Vice President

An almost 20 year member of the JLOCC, Jennifer has served in multiple capacities, currently as the Sustaining Membership VP.  Jennifer's past service includes Communications , Finance, Projects and Training, on all which she held a leadership position.  Jennifer is most excited this year to further navigate sustaining member participation in the new leadership configuration and to find the place of balance for the Sustaining Member Council.

Jennifer is a California native with a MBA from the Merage School of Business who started her education at St. Margaret's Episcopal School iin San Juan Capistrano.  Currently, Jennifer is the Director of Admission at St. Mary's School in Aliso Viejo, but returns to her alma mater every week to serve in her church choir.

Mary Ann Del Fante - Office Manager

Mary Ann began her employment as Office Administrator in 1997, after enjoying a very busy career in the catering and restaurant industry.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University, and has also earned certification in Human Resources Management from UCI.  Inspired by the league and the generous efforts of its members, she served five years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer & mentor for an Orange County foster teen until her recent emancipation.  While supporting the league and its mission, Mary Ann continues to learn, grow and evolve with the JLOCC and is excited about the opportunity to serve with the Executive Management Team.  In her free time she enjoys travel, theater, cooking Sunday dinners for family, and currently stays active with dance classes, and playing with her young niece and nephew.