Before coming to GrowingGreat in 2014, Jennifer spent seven years as the Director of Science Beyond the Boundaries, a network in which science centers and museums share best practices in hands-on education with their colleagues around the world. Jennifer was the original and only network director, growing it from 12 museums when it was founded to 249 museums reaching over 81 million visitors. She created and directed the Early Learners Collaborative, funded by a federal grant to help museums develop programs that support preschoolers’ readiness for school. She has extensive background in hands-on science programming for underserved audiences. She is the former Executive Director of the Children’s Museum at La Habra where, under her leadership, they won the national Association of Children’s Museums’ Promising Practice Award. Jennifer has greatly expanded GrowingGreat programming in low-income Los Angeles communities and assured that all activities are taught in both Spanish and English with a focus on hands-on STEM education for grades PreK-12. She created and leads GrowingGreat’s national early childhood initiative, now expanded to grades PreK-5, at museums, libraries and zoos through “GrowingGreat Veggies & Fruits: A National STEM Education Program” supported by Del Monte Foods. In 2020, GrowingGreat Veggies & Fruits took a leadership role in informal science institutions, quickly pivoting programming to meet distance-learning needs nationwide. Locally, Jennifer developed a variety of virtual programs to serve GrowingGreat’s community partners, including a Garden Club with the Boys and Girls Club and hands-on nutrition and STEM webinars for families across LAUSD’s Local District Central. Jennifer holds a B.A. from Harvard University.
Director of Education
Jill Coons has worked with GrowingGreat since 2012 and has a background in sustainable gardens, youth nutrition, and volunteer and business coordination. A graduate of the University of Arizona in Agriculture with an emphasis in Landscape Architecture, Jill was the GrowingGreat garden coordinator for a local elementary school for nine years, developing and implementing hands-on activities in the South Bay. She oversees nutrition and garden curriculum development and designs and implements GrowingGreat school programs. She is currently authoring a new series of garden-focused activities. Jill supervises a staff of four, coordinates long-term relationships with administrators, teachers, parents and volunteers throughout Greater Los Angeles, and is always looking for innovative ways to serve our Los Angeles partners. Jill develops and implements GrowingGreat’s programming to meet student, family and teacher needs during distance learning through GrowingGreat-led Zoom classes, Webinars and Virtual Garden Clubs. Jill oversees the development of the GrowingGreat PenPal and Reading Clubs which provide weekly STEM activities, and culturally-relevant stories for children and their families to explore from home.
STEM Program Director
Prior to joining GrowingGreat in 2019, Meghan spent four years as a primary grade teaching assistant at Siskiyou Waldorf School in Ashland, Oregon. She also spent three wonderful years working in a French bakery where she experienced first-hand the joy of eating homegrown and locally-sourced foods. Meghan’s passion for creative, culturally-relevant, accessible education and background in Waldorf teaching and theatre arts have cultivated her interest in both environmental and arts integrative education techniques. Meghan works to incorporate these pedagogies into her work with KIPP Empower Academy’s after-school garden class, and as the Virtual Garden Educator for Leuzinger High School’s Environmental Career Academy. Meghan leads GrowingGreat’s PenPal Club, for which she creates weekly STEM activities and recipe demonstrations, and contributes virtual content to GrowingGreat’s Reading Club. Meghan develops and writes many of the STEM activities for the GrowingGreat Veggies & Fruits Program as well as proposals for GrowingGreat’s distance learning programs. Meghan holds a B.F.A degree in Theater Arts from Southern Oregon University and is passionate about promoting educational equity through innovative garden and nutrition education.
Early Childhood Program Manager
Adriana is very excited to be the newest member of the GrowingGreat Team, joining the staff in 2022. “I love teaching young minds and witnessing them have that Aha! Moment,” she explains. She worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District for over two decades, teaching preschoolers, including students with special needs. At GrowingGreat, she is developing and teaching hands-on activities about eating and growing fruits and vegetables, so children understand that “a bag of hot chips for breakfast might not be the best way to start your day”. Adriana is the lead representative for the NIH SEPA Seeds to STEM national partnership, and one of three GrowingGreat senior staff. She is a California native and first-generation college graduate in her family. Adriana is fluent in Spanish and English, holds an Associates Degree from East Los Angeles College and will soon complete her BA in Early Childhood Education at National University.
Lead STEM Educator
Maxwell’s love of cooking and enthusiasm for supporting nonprofits brought him to GrowingGreat in 2019. Maxwell leads GrowingGreat’s education programs at Variety Boys & Girls Clubs in Boyle Heights, Maple Primary Center in South Los Angeles, Linwood Howe Elementary in Culver City and Brentwood Sunshine Preschool. He has also co-taught our teen cooking program, GrowingGreat Chefs, and written, produced and starred in a wide array of educational STEM and cooking videos, as well as live virtual presentations for LAUSD parents. His “All About Apples” video was chosen by PBS for their CampTV program. Maxwell has presented GrowingGreat programs at NAEYC and CAAEYC conferences. He is a student in Early Childhood Education at West LA City College with an expected graduation date in 2025. Maxwell has found a home at GrowingGreat where he can help accomplish the mission of spreading good nutritional values to our future generations.
Early Childhood Garden Educator
Vermonica is overjoyed to be a part of the GrowingGreat family, joining in 2023. She has a great passion for working with children, including those with special needs, and for teaching others about living a healthy lifestyle. For almost three years she has worked as a Behavioral Therapist doing Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy with children with Autism in the South Bay, Long Beach and Orange County. For two and a half years she worked as Preschool Teacher at a private school in Redondo Beach. She currently has a A.A. in Theatre and Early Childhood Education from El Camino College and a B.A. in Theatre Arts from California State University, Fullerton. She will be starting at California State University, Dominguez Hills in the Fall, working towards her credential in Early Childhood Special Education with the end goal of getting her Masters. She is the first in her family to pursue a degree in higher education. She is also born and raised in Southern California, the oldest of four children, and is fluent in English and Spanish.
Sally Alder came to GrowingGreat in 2017. She has a B.S. degree in Operations Management from Cal Poly, Pomona and previously worked in commercial banking for Union Bank and Comerica. While raising her two children, she was active as a volunteer with several organizations in the South Bay including the Girl Scouts, local schools, the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation, and Odyssey of the Mind. She is the co-chair of the Shared Bread Clothing Closet at First United Methodist Church in Redondo Beach, a program providing meals and clothing items for people experiencing homelessness in the South Bay. She is also an active Sustainer with National Charity League, Inc. Manhattan-Hermosa. Sally has worked to successfully expand GrowingGreat’s social media presence across newsletters and social media platforms.