President and CEO
Mari was born in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico. Immigrated to Porterville, California at the age of 13. She enrolled at Porterville High School where she attended 9th to 11th grade then did her senior year at Mt. Miguel High School in Spring Valley, Ca. Mari was accepted at San Diego State University, and became the first member of her family to ever attend a 4-year university. She graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Language & Literature and was accepted into the Master’s program where she was able to teach beginning Spanish classes. She got her first job in education at Shafter High School and that changed her life. She then got married with a professor from her own university and had two beautiful babies – Monica and Sebastian. She then decided to go for her Master’s degree in Bilingual Education and traveled to Mexico to complete her program.
At this time a position was offered at the local Telemundo TV station for a community affairs show and her media career began. She worked as a television broadcaster for two years and then took a full time teaching job at Wasco High school. After 4 years of teaching she’s offered a position as Executive Producer and Radio Host at the Radio Campesina Network where she covered three western states in NPR – public radio in Spanish. This job brought her great opportunities to grow professionally such as covering the Democratic Convention in 2008 in Denver, CO; and interviewing first lady Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, First lady Michelle Obama and attending 2008 Obama’s Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC. She then took a new adventure in radio news production and was selected as one of 4 journalists to represent the United States in Peru. Mari worked and covered news from a natural disaster area in the north of Peru and broadcasted daily her radio show “Punto de Vista” live for two weeks. After this experience, she participated in an Environmental Journalism fellowship at Stanford university.
Later, she took a new role in the nonprofit world and developed programs in ESL and Civics for Spanish speakers and farm laborers. A year later, Bright House Networks, a nationwide cable company hired her as their Multicultural Communication Manager representing the Western Region where she was also in charge of her own radio show “Nuestras Voces”. Univision Communication Inc, then offered a position as Director of Community Affairs and Marketing for three local stations; and as host of her own show called “Kern Contigo” and national morning segments of “Despierta Bakersfield”
She joined the United Way of Kern County family in 2017 as Director of Marketing and Development. She was then promoted to Interim President & CEO in April of 2018, and in November 20, 2018 she became the permanent President and CEO of the organization.
As President and CEO of UWKC, Mari has served as Co-Chair of the Public Policy Committee for United Ways of California for 2 years (2018-2020), leading local UW’s to the state Capitol to advocate for bills and issues that benefit local communities.
At the 2018 New CEO Forum at the United Way Headquarters in Virginia, Mari was selected among 81 new U.S. CEO’s to serve as Spokesperson for the National Magazine, Chronicle of Philanthropy.
During her last three years at UW, Mari has transformed her team and greatly impacted the community in the areas of education, health and financial stability. Mari has been very active in the areas of education, from pre-k to higher education. She has presented at several conferences advocating for literacy and quality education for our children and youth.
Mari has been nominated twice for the city’s prestigious Beautiful Bakersfield Humanitarian Award, due to her dedication to advocate for education and bring the best to her community.
In March 15, 2021 Mari was honored by California State Assembly Member Rudy Salas for District 32 with the “Woman Of The Year Award”, due to her long positive influential trajectory in this community and for being the first Latina to hold a CEO position for a local United Way chapter.
Mari is a woman of faith. She believes God has a path and a plan for her, she follows the signs and works with passion, dedication and discipline to help others and make this world a better place for everyone, especially for our children.
Vice-President of D.E.I. and Program Development
Eric Arias proudly serves as the Vice President of Program Development and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for United Way of Kern County. Since 2020, Eric has also served the hard-working families in Southeast Bakersfield on the Bakersfield City Council. Ward 1 includes the culturally diverse communities of Greenfield, Casa Loma, Southgate and amenities like the Valley Plaza. After college, Eric put his education and experience to work by serving the community. Since 2014, Eric has served our community through the offices of County Supervisor Leticia Perez and State Assemblyman Rudy Salas as a field staffer. As a Councilman, Eric has prioritized fighting for the challenges facing hard-working families in Ward 1. Most importantly, Councilmember Arias is proud of serving as an Advisor for Leaders in Life, an organization that he has participated in since he was a sophomore in High School.
IT Manager & Accounting Lead
Don Harris is an invaluable member of the United Way of Kern County team, bringing with him a diverse skill set that has evolved over the years. Joining the organization in 1986 with a background in graphic design and printing, Don’s passion for technology and commitment to delivering excellence led him to take on increasingly vital roles.
With a natural flair for building and optimizing information systems, Don quickly transitioned into the realm of installing networks and programming databases. His expertise in creating robust and efficient financial databases played a pivotal role in streamlining our operations and improving data management.
More recently, Don made a seamless transition into accounting and financial management, where he has displayed remarkable proficiency and dedication. His meticulous approach to financial analysis and reporting has been instrumental in providing valuable insights to the organization and optimizing resource allocation.
As the IT Manager & Accounting Lead, Don now oversees both the Accounting Department and the IT department. This unique combination of skills allows him to provide a holistic approach to managing our financial data while ensuring the smooth functioning of our technology infrastructure.
Don’s adaptability, technical prowess, and dedication make him an indispensable asset to United Way of Kern County. His passion for leveraging technology to enhance financial efficiency and support the organization’s mission embodies the values we cherish. We are proud to have Don on our team, driving innovation and success in both accounting and information technology domains.
Director of Development and Human Resources
Daisy Calso started volunteer at United Way of Kern County in 2009 while working at a local community bank, she then joined as Board Member of UWKC in late 2017-2020. Coming full circle in 2023 joining UWKC as Director of Development and HR. Daisy, obtains a BS in Business Administration and Marketing from Cal State University, Bakersfield. She holds a passion for helping others and making the word a better place for everyone.
Office Manager & Administrative Assistant
Karla Chiquetes joined United Way of Kern County in December of 2019. Karla started as our Family Life Educator, but was quickly promoted to Office Manager and continues learning from this wonderful organization. Karla was born and raised in Sonora, Mexico. She has been living in this country for over 17 years and has been working with non-profit organizations since. “I like working in UWKC family because we are able to improve quality of life for others and have an impact in our community”.
Grant Compliance Administrator/Bookkeeper
Amelia Dias joined the United Way team in 2018. She started her time as a Data Entry Clerk and Administrative Assistant, then was promoted to Office Manager in 2019. As Office Manager she also wore many other hats, including being a Family Life Substitute Instructor. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to move out of Kern County in early 2021 but continued to teach the Family Life curriculum virtually to Bakersfield City School District’s 8th graders. Once schools resumed in-person instruction following the pandemic, she became the Family Life Program Coordinator where she trained and oversaw the Family Life Instructors. Amelia is a mother to her twin 8-year olds- Emma and Owen. On her free time, she is a classically trained violinist and vocalist who also enjoys performing with a mariachi.
Economic Resilience Manager
Sofia recently joined United Way of Kern County in August 2022. She was born and raised in El Salvador. Sofia graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in International Relations and Chicanx Studies and a minor in Human Rights. During her college years, she interned in different professional fields such as health and education, where she found herself wanting to help her community, especially those in need, through the nonprofit world. Sofia also had an opportunity to intern in non-profit organizations while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. As our Economic Resilience Manager, she is excited to work with the community in order to meet their needs.
Esther Peinado joined United Way of Kern County in July of 2022. Esther earned her BS in Liberal Arts from Cal State University of Bakersfield. As our Education Manager, Esther assists in overseeing various education programs for United Way of Kern County. Her passion for education started at an early age with her volunteerism. Esther’s vision is to extend resources to children beyond Kern County.
Fund Development Manager
Alana Reed joined United Way of Kern County in June of 2022. Alana was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. She is currently attending Taft College to obtain a degree in Business Administration. Her previous work involves working with Kern County Superintendent of Schools as a high school mentor at Nueva Continuation High School in Lamont, CA. She has also had the opportunity to participate in volunteer work and offer service through AmeriCorps which works directly with other nonprofits to help serve the community. Her experience through volunteering was able to open her interests not only in education but giving back to the community. Alana is more than grateful to have a role within this organization to become a helping hand for others & to be a part of the continuous support for the residents of Kern County, it’s owed to them.
Marketing and Communications Manager
Karla Garcia joined United Way of Kern County in July of 2022. Karla earned her BA in Communications and Public Relations from Cal State University of Bakersfield. Karla enjoys being involved in her community and giving back. As part of the Marketing Team, she hopes to increase community engagement.
An IT professional with a passion for technology and a strong commitment to making a positive impact on the community. Born and raised in the vibrant landscapes of the Philippines, Edmond’s journey led him to the bustling city of Los Angeles, California.
For over six years, Edmond honed his skills in the IT industry, working tirelessly to ensure smooth operations for various organizations in Los Angeles. His dedication and expertise caught the attention of the United Way of Kern County, which prompted him to embark on a new chapter in his life.
Having honed his skills and expertise in the world of Information Technology, Edmond found his true calling when he joined the United Way of Kern County in January 2022. With a warm welcome to the vibrant community of Bakersfield, he embraced his role as an IT Assistant, working closely with Donald Harris.
Edmond’s role is crucial to the smooth functioning of the organization. His primary responsibilities revolve around device maintenance, installation, and repairs of computer hardware and network infrastructure. No technical challenge is too daunting for him, as he brings his problem-solving skills to ensure that the organization’s systems run seamlessly.
Beyond his technical prowess, Edmond is known for his friendly and approachable demeanor. He takes pride in providing exceptional technical support and assistance to all personnel within the organization, ensuring that everyone can carry out their work efficiently and effectively.
Outside of his professional life, Edmond enjoys exploring the rich cultural tapestry of Bakersfield and is always eager to embrace new experiences. He finds joy in community engagement and is committed to giving back to the local community that has welcomed him with open arms.
With his strong work ethic, dedication, and genuine care for others, Edmond continues to make a positive impact within the United Way of Kern County, empowering the organization to carry out its mission and create meaningful change in the lives of those they serve.
VITA Program Coordinator
Abigail Rivera joined United Way of Kern County in September of 2022. Abigail has a degree in Business Administration from CSUB. She was born and raised amongst struggling communities in Bakersfield. Before obtaining this position, she volunteered for college financial events, education outreach events, and family nights. She started off as a VITA volunteer for United Way of Kern County and found her passion in helping and reaching out to those in need. She hopes to help communities like the communities during her childhood.
Clarissa Levai joined the United Way of Kern County team in September of 2023. Clarissa earned her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Media at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She moved to Bakersfield in 2022 to pursue another creative career supporting the community. As a child of a military member, she believes in supporting local communities and creating an impact wherever she goes. Clarissa hopes to give back to Kern County and provide resources to those who need it.
Health Programs Coordinator
Sophia joined the United Way family in February of 2021. As a VITA assistant, her responsibilities were to assist tax clients with paperwork and documents. She then moved over to the Education department, as an assistant as well. There she assisted with any educational programs, events, and outreach. Currently, she has the position of Admin Assistant for the Health department, where her duties are to assist with programs and clients in the Health department.
Kassandra joined United Way of Kern County in June of 2022 as our Outreach-Navigator Coordinator for the California Mortage Relief Program. A Bakersfield native, Kassandra has had a variety of jobs in retail and community service. Kassandra interned for CAPK Food Bank, where she discovered her passion for helping those in need.
Outreach Coordinator & Grant Writer
Jailene Cortes recently joined United Way of Kern County in August 2022. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Political Science and Ethnic Studies. In college, she collaborated extensively with on and off-campus organizations to recruit students into higher education at all levels and to provide the necessary resources to help retain these students. This is where Jailene discovered her passion for ensuring that communities have access to the resources that are available to them. Jailene is excited to pursue her passion by assisting Kern County residents through outreach and grant writing.
Education Events Coordinator
Paloma Lopez joined United Way of Kern County in July 2023. Paloma was born in Michoacan, Mexico and later migrated to Bakersfield, California. She is a DACA recipient attending Bakersfield College. Paloma has worked in the field of education for 5 years. She has a passion for being involved in her community and providing resources that are available to families in need.
DEI and FLE Coordinator
Jacqueline joined United Way of Kern County in September of 2021. She has a degree from California State University, Northridge in Public Health Promotion. Jacqueline has worked with various non-profit organizations in college as well as a full-time professional. Having recently relocated to Bakersfield, Jacqueline is excited to continue her passion in health promotion by means of Family Life Education throughout Kern County.
Family Life Educator
Monica Ochoa joined United Way of Kern County in September of 2021. Monica has a deep passion for teaching health education to students by raising awareness and building confidence in accessing health and wellness resources. She received a bachelor’s degree in the fields of psychology and sociology. She has been working in the field of education for the past 3 years. Monica’s experience in Applied Behavioral Analysis has allowed her to work as a behavioral interventionist. In addition, she taught health education to students within the special education community. She is currently teaching family life education to 8th-grade middle school students. She also assists the education team with curriculum facilitation and community outreach. Her future goals are to continue growing accessibility to sex ed for all students with various abilities.
Family Life Educator
Sandra joined the United Way team in June of 2023 as a Family Life Educator. She was proud to have interned within the organization through California’s College Corp Program before transitioning into a full-time staff role. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Cal State Bakersfield and hopes to graduate in Fall of 2023. During her internship with United Way of Kern County, Sandra discovered a passion for helping her community and sharing all available resources to those in need. As a Family Life Educator, she is excited to continue along this path and help promote healthy living and sexual education.
Family Life Educator
Misty Kanady joined United Way of Kern County in July 2023. She was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. Misty has recently graduated from Cal State Bakersfield with her BA in History with a focus in Social Science. Along with earning her AA in Political Science, Psychology, and Art from Bakersfield College. During her college years she worked in education with a large range of students, from t-k to seniors in high school, with a goal of helping and educating student of all ages. Misty’s passion has always been learning and education, and has recently become a Family Life Educator for United Way of Kern County seeking to help not only students but the community as well.
(661) 834-2952 Fax
1707 Eye Street, Suite 300
Bakersfield, CA 93301
United Way Worldwide
Members of the:
Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
The Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce
Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce