The Board of Directors

The Encuentros Leadership board is comprised of individuals committed to the mission of helping young Latino men in San Diego county maximize their potential. Each members brings years of leadership and experience from their respective fields and contributes to developing the organization.

Joaquin Aganza

Board member at large

Joaquin Aganza is a former bilingual school psychologist for Vista Unified School District and currently teaches in the graduate program for school psychology at San Diego State University. He is an advocate for culturally relevant curriculum and instruction and using cultural assets in the assessment for intervention with diverse children and youth. He helped initiate classes using the Encuentros curriculum in middle schools in Vista.  These classes have been offered for the last 15 years dramatically enhancing GPA and reducing behavior referrals for those participating. He has been a board member of Encuentros Leadership since 2004.

David Espinoza

Vice Chairperson

David first got involved with Encuentros Leadership in 2006 as a college student when he volunteered as a Team Leader at the Leadership Academy. He returned the next five summers in the same role and over the years stayed involved as a volunteer at different events. He has now been on the Board of Directors for five years.

David is a first-generation college student and attended Palomar college for his general education and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development from California State University, San Marcos. He also completed a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Michigan State University. While earning his undergraduate degree, David began working in programs such as GEAR UP, Upward Bound, Encuentros Leadership and CAL-Soap. It was through his work in the field of education that David knew he had found his passion of helping others. For over 15 years David has worked in education and the non-profit sector where he can impact the life of youth in his community of North County San Diego.

His joy of helping youth achieve their academic and personal goals is dear to him because he did not have that type of support from similar programs when he was a youth. He currently works for Project SUPPORT in CSUSM’s School of Education as an Education Career Specialist. His work at CSUSM centers on identifying, recruiting and mentoring Latinx students to become K-12 teachers. Outside of work, David loves to spend time with his four-year old son David, two-year old daughter Isabella, one-year old daughter Sofia , his wife Alicia and his two dogs Xavi and Luna. The five of them like being outdoors and enjoy being out and about in the world. He enjoys reading books, lifting weights, soccer, and watching soccer and football on TV.

Mark Evilsizer

Executive Director

Mark Evilsizer is a founding board member of Encuentros Leadership helping to establish the organization in 2003 and has served in a variety of board leadership roles. He earned his BS degree at the University of Redlands, and his Master’s degree at the Claremont Graduate University, Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management. Mark retired from Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Division in 2017 after a long career in the aerospace/defense industry.

Mr. Evilsizer is a Governing Board Member at the Palomar Community College District. He was first elected to serve in 2002, and was re-elected to serve his 5th term in 2018. Mark also serves on the board of the California Association of Latino Community College Trustees and Administrators (CALCCTA), and presently serves as the Treasurer. Mark also serves the Community College League of California as a member of the Advisory Council of Education Services (ACES), and is an advisor with the San Diego County Office of Education Latino Advisory Council.

Mark lives in Vista, CA with his wife Alicia. They have 2 adult children and 4 grandchildren.

Juan Gaytan

Secretary

Juan first got involved with Encuentros Leadership when he attended their first ever Career Exploration Conference as a middle school student in 2003. He would eventually attend their Leadership Academy in 2008 and has since become a Team Leader at each subsequent summer academy and has also served on the Board of directors for a number of years.

Juan is a first-generation college student and he received his B.A. in Psychology from UC San Diego, his M.S. from San Diego State University in Counseling and is currently completing his PhD in Education.

His current research is on Latino male teachers and understanding why so few are motivated to pursue a career in teaching and why so many choose not to do so. This interest has led to the development of the curriculum for the Encuentros Teacher Academy and his position as the director of the academy. He hopes his curriculum and research helps develop retention and recruitment strategies to help diversify the teacher workforce.

Francisco Gonzalez

Board member at large

Francisco Gonzalez is an Escondido resident and proud husband and father of two young girls who are currently in college. He is a professional with twenty two years of comprehensive experience managing facilities, maintenance, design and construction projects ranging from small to large school campus developments. Francisco currently serves as the Director of Facilities, Operations & Maintenance at Cuyamaca Community College located in El Cajon, California. Francisco is a strong believer in improving and supporting the community by being involved in student educational programs and events that support young people. Francisco has been a board member of Encuentros Leadership for the past six years and has been participating in Encuentros Leadership events for the last ten years where his mission has been empowering and inspiring Latino boys to finish high school and pursue higher education.

Dr. John Halcón

Treasurer

John J. Halcón, past Secretary of the California Faculty Association, retired Professor of Education at CSU San Marcos, specializing in bilingual/multicultural education and program organization, racism in education, and the education of ‘at risk’ kids. He is co-author of ‘The Best for Our Children: Critical Perspectives on Literacy for Latino Students’ (Maria de la Luz Reyes, 2000). Halcón received his PhD in Educational Administration, Program of Organizations and Policy and Bilingual Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He earned his M.Ed. in Inner City Education and B.A. in Chicano Studies/Sociology from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Halcón has published in the Harvard Educational Review, the Urban Review, the Bilingual Review Press, the Journal of The National Association for Bilingual Education, Bordos, Hispanic Outlook, and the Journal of Latinos and Education.

Dr. Renzo Lara

Board member at large

Dr. Renzo Lara was born in San Diego, California and raised in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. At the age of 10, he moved with his mother to the United States and has called Chula Vista,California his home. Dr. Lara’s upbringing between the international border of Mexico and United States provided life experiences related to transborder identities. Additionally, Dr. Lara is a first generation college student and has overcome societal as well collegial barriers. Dr. Lara’s cultural upbringing and life experiences has led to his passion which lies in assisting Latin@/x students and family members achieve holistic success. 
Dr. Lara transferred from Southwestern College and earned his B.A., M.A., and Ed.D. from San Diego State University. Dr. Lara has over a decade of experience in: educational programming, event planning, research and assessment, inclusive excellence curriculum design, multicultural community work and higher education collaborative partnership building. In addition, Dr. Lara is passionate about social justice advocacy and higher educational equity for underrepresented students and marginalized students of color. In his spare time, Dr. Lara likes to spend quality time with his three daughters and partner, enjoys watching soccer games,and loves to engage in dialogue related to the sci-fi genre or star wars.

Francisco Mata

Board member at large

Francisco Mata is an accomplished communications professional with over 26 years experience in the media industry. He began his career with The McClatchy Company’s newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, where he built an impressive record of achievements which included Spanish language media.

Nationally recognized for his pioneering work in Spanish language print media, he conceived and launched The McClatchy Company’s first Spanish language newspaper, Vida en el Valle. He continued his newspaper career at The San Diego Union-Tribune, where he served as a member of the executive committee and publisher of Enlace and mienlace.com, Spanish language newspaper and website.

Following his successful media career, Francisco worked with New York Life Insurance Company as Hispanic Marketing Manager in San Diego county. Currently, he is Coordinator of Public Relations and Community Services for the San Ysidro School District.

Francisco also serves on the Board of the Media Arts Center San Diego as Secretary and is a member of the San Diego Community College District Corporate Council. 

Francisco received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Advertising from California State University, Fresno. He has been married to his wife, Sherri, for 33 years and has three beautiful children, Marissa, 31, Alycia, 27 and Alek, 22. He is blessed with two wonderful granddaughters, Avery, 2, and Rowan, 1. 

Antonio Mora

Board member at large

Antonio Mora is the District Advisor for the Assessment, Accountability, and Evaluation Department & the Multilingual Education and Global Achievement Department within the Learning and Leadership Services Division at the San Diego County Office of Education.  He’s the Title III County Office of Education Regional English Learner Specialist for Region 9 (San Diego, Orange & Imperial Counties).  He is a former a site administrator, district English Learner Resource Teacher, ELD Coordinator, middle school teacher and bilingual RSP teacher. 

Tony as known by many, was born in Tijuana, Baja California Mexico.  His family moved to Encinitas, California when he was 3 ½ years old.  He attended public schools in the Encinitas Union Elementary and San Dieguito Union High School Districts.  The oldest son of agriculture workers, Tony struggled with language barriers, but was able to graduate from high school.

Tony did not take a traditional direct route to the university.  He attended community colleges and then transferred to the university.  He attended CSU San Marcos for his undergraduate and graduate programs. 

Tony has always been active in the community.  He’s been a soccer coach in Vista.  Tony was the administrator that piloted the first Encuentros program at Washington Middle School (Vista Unified) back in 2003.  He eventually was selected to be on the Encuentros Board of Directors.  Additionally, he’s a member for the Vista Community Clinic Board of Directors.

“It’s imperative that we give our youth the necessary tools and support in order for them to finish and graduate from high school and then move on to a technical school, community college or a four- year university.  In the words of Cesar Chavez ‘¡Sí se puede!’  I challenge our community not look down on our youth who are struggling but to find ways they can help them.  We must work together to decrease the high school dropout rate and increase the number of underrepresentative students in higher education.”

Giovanni Ramirez

Board member at large

I am currently a School Social Worker for the Vista Unified School District and I have several years of experience working with young men on probation, living in foster care, group homes, and whose families are homeless. I was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Los Angeles when I was about 1 month old. My father was born and raised in Puerto Rico and my mother was raised from two Salvadorean parents in San Francisco so my roots are  very multi-ethnic. I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in a household with two hard working parents, my mother worked and retired as an elementary teacher for many years, and my father continues working in construction. Strong values, amazing food, and strong family ties is what I grew up with and are just a few examples of what is consistent in so many Latino households. I’ve always had a passion for working with Latino youth and I understand the obstacles and challenges they experience compared to other ethnic backgrounds. 

My goal is to continue to inspire young men and women to follow their dreams despite how societal factors have often shaped who many Latino’s become as adults. Working in education, it is crucial that Latino young men are educating themselves to enter the profession of education either as a teacher, counselor, school social worker, school psychologist, or even administrator. In a profession historically dominated by females, it is important that these young men learn to become future role models in order to help shape and develop future generations of young men to come. It is my privilege to serve on this board with other very knowledgeable and well-rounded individuals and to continue opening up pathways for Latino young men to flourish in a world that discriminates them for being different and for not fitting a specific mold. 

Dr. José Manuel Villarreal

Board Chairperson

As a son of immigrant parents, Dr. José Manuel Villarreal, who worked as field workers picking, cleaning and irrigating crops in California, he established a strong sense of empathy, hard work and resiliency. Being an English Learner and native Spanish speaker, brings a strong sense of biliterate and open-minded to how to empower diverse communities.

In 20 years, valuable experience from Riverside to San Diego County, grounded student success and transformational district and organization leadership. Expertise has been garnered with systems development, Human Resources, Board Development, Strategic Planning, Instruction and Finance. 

As an agent of change to empower communities, the leadership traits have been developed as a Learner, Ideation, Relator, Belief and Restorative (Gallup Strengths Finder). Using a framework of push, pull and nudge maximizes the potential to thrive within high-pressure, deadline-driven environments. Holding steadfast to the principle of Failing Fast to engage our best selves each day.

As a passionate educator challenging audiences for their permission to think bigger, whether in front of principals, board members, teachers, parents, students or workshop attendees will continue to meet the needs of all in our communities. 

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