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About Us 

Leadership Team: 

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Jacob Gardenswartz

Founder

Jacob started ImpACT on Stage with an amazing group of changemakers in 2014, and has helmed the organization as it impacted tens of thousands of San Diego youth — starting conversations about social justice issues and empowering students to make change in their communities. Under Jacob's leadership, ImpACT has been recognized by dozens of local and national philanthropies and for-profit companies for its innovative approach to social justice work. Jacob received his MPA from the University of Pennsylvania, and resides in Washington, D.C., where he works professionally as a political journalist. You can check out his reporting work here

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Allison Gardenswartz

Director of Operations and Educational Programming, Board Member

Allison has worked in the education space for over 20 years.  She currently serves as a private college counselor, private consultant, and parent educator.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in public affairs from the George Washington University’s School of Public and International Affairs, and her teaching credential through GW’s School of Education. She completed the Harvard Graduate School of Education Principals’ Institute in 2011 and continues to utilize that learning in her daily consulting life. Allison has recently added college counseling to her repertoire of skills after completing coursework and certification in this field. She sees private clients full time now in this arena. She has a particular niche in scholarship acquisition. Allison has been married to her husband Dan for over 25 years and has three children, Jacob, Sofia, and Ryan.  In her spare time, Allison enjoys reading, cooking, walking, and being an involved and active mom.

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Luke Babbitt

Artistic Director Emeritus & Chief Program Officer

Luke joined ImpACT as an actor in 2015 and has loved using his passion for theater to promote ImpACT's mission ever since. He is currently attending Stanford University. While he was a member of the San Diego theater community, some of his favorite productions included How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Old Globe, 2011-2014), Kurt in Sound of Music (San Diego Musical Theater), Evan in 13: The Musical (CYC), Jack in Into the Woods (Pickwick Players, STAR Repertory Theater), Artful Dodger in Oliver! (PPJT) as well as many productions with the Highland Players.

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Grace Roche 

Artistic Director Emeritus & Deputy Program Officer  

Grace is a creative and driven student currently pursuing her BA in Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University. She joined ImpACT during her freshman year of high school and performed with the company as an actor for two years. During her junior year, Grace was promoted to Artistic Director of ImpACT on Stage and served in that role until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She is thrilled to be continuing her work with ImpACT and cannot wait to see how the Make Your ImpACT initiative will foster positive change in the San Diego community. In her free time, Grace enjoys drawing, painting, singing, reading, spending time with family, and visiting San Diego's beautiful beaches. 

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Diana Agostini

Board Member

Diana is the Senior Arts and Culture Funding Manager for the City of San Diego. In that role, Diana administers the City’s arts and culture funding program to produce, excellent, inclusive, and relevant arts and culture services for San Diego’s diverse and broad audiences, and serves as lead analyst on technical assistance to incubate and build capacity of arts and culture organizations. She began her work in the arts within the nonprofit education sector in Italy, her native country. After moving to San Diego in 2012, Diana held leadership positions in higher education (University of San Diego) while continuing her work in the arts, most recently serving as the Executive Director of the San Diego Italian Film Festival (SDIFF). 

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Dr. Susannah Stern

Board Member

Susannah teaches communication at the University of San Diego, and currently serves as the Director of USD's Honors Program. Her research interests lie at the intersections of youth, media, culture and identity, and she is centrally concerned with the complex and dynamic relationships young people share with digital technologies. Her work draws attention to the cultural consumption, self-expression, and identity work that accompany young people’s digital participation.
 

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Alexis Neumann

Board Member, Founding Team Member

Velvet Godinez

Board Member

Kalpana Singh Rhodes

Board Member

Alexis joined the ImpACT On Stage team in its grassroots when she helped found and originate the organization. She was inspired by the way she could utilize the thing she loved the most to promote open-mindedness, peace, and respect. Today she serves as Chief Innovations Officer as well as an active board member. She feels immensely fortunate to have had a hand in growing the organization and is so thrilled to see the amazing results that ImpACT continues to generate in the coming years.

Velvet is a purpose-driven entrepreneur who has used her experience straddling two worlds along the U.S.-Mexico border to inform her professional career. Having founded, managed, and grown her own family business for the past 15 years, Velvet has acquired invaluable skills in the customer service industry, focusing specifically on feeding and serving the families of America’s biggest border town. At the age of 22 Velvet was named the 2016 Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by the San Diego County Latino Association, for her work in running her family restaurant. Velvet is also a strong defender of women’s rights, and an advocate for the Latinx community. In her downtime, Velvet enjoys dancing bachata, traveling to new places, and conjuring up her next business venture. 
 

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Marie Raftery 

Board Member

Marie has been active in the healthcare field and philanthropic causes since arriving in San Diego from Boston in 1980. She established a Dental Services Management Corporation and has owned and operated multiple facilities, selling some to a public national dental company. She serves on the Board of Directors of Temple Emanuel in the Del Cerro area and on several committees of the Jewish Community, and is a recent past Chair of the Board of Jewish Family Service and the current Co- Chair of CARS (Charitable Adult Rides Service). She has been active in the founding, funding and direction of the JFS David L. Rubenstein Memorial Scholarship Fund. Philanthropy and community are the foundation of Marie’s lived values. 

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PANCA

Board Member

Born in the USA from Mexican parents, PANCA is an Illustrator-painter-Muralist- Installation Artist that resides in Tijuana, Mexico. She has been working between Mexico and the United States since 2004. Her work has been in Museums, galleries, magazines, Netflix movie sets, on the streets and even on skin. Not to mention a fully published book about her most recent show. This binational, bilingual and bicultural artist feeds her art from real life, raw emotion, isolation and nostalgia as it pours out full of symbolism.

Mentors: 

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Jordan Finley

Kevin Davison

Tara Sampson

Rachel Kolb

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Lucas Goodman

Zoe Sonnenberg

Drew McMullen

Emma Steiner

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Zach Bunshaft

Sofia Gardenswartz

Liam Fay

Review Committee: 

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Dr. Rai Wilson

Sharyn Goodson

Shirley Johnston

Ashley Marlow

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Dr. Dawn Holman

Leslie Murrell Holt

Jodie Graber

Dennis Sharp

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Karen Martin-Spellerberg