Our Team

Jennifer Jovanovic

Executive Director

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.

 

Jill Coons

Jill Coons

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.

Grace Sanchez

Grace Sanchez

Nutrition & Garden Education Specialist

Prior to joining GrowingGreat in 2019, Grace Sanchez spent 14 years as an Educator in San Diego providing Early Intervention services for children with developmental delays. She has an extensive background working with parents and caregivers to develop strategies that focus on a family’s daily routines and activities and promote their child’s growth and development. She has worked with children of various age groups, families of diverse demographics alongside multifaceted teams of therapists and various partner organizations to provide tailored early intervention services that ensure children have a solid foundation for the future. Grace oversees Spanish-language programming for GrowingGreat and is the GrowingGreat librarian, collecting and sharing children’s fiction books about cooking and gardening that feature Communities of Color and making recommendations for our Virtual Reading Club. She leads the Virtual Garden Club in partnership with the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club and is GrowingGreat’s education partner with Torrance Memorial Hospital. Grace has presented a variety of webinars ranging from Hispanic Heritage Month to Healthy Recipe Demonstrations and contributes weekly content in both English and Spanish for the GrowingGreat PenPal and Reading Clubs. She is a passionate advocate for instilling good nutritional habits in children and encouraging career pursuits in STEM fields. Grace holds an M.A. degree in Teaching with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, Orange CA.

Meghan Nealon

Meghan Nealon

STEM Program Manager

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.

Sharon Cohen

Sharon Cohen

Garden Educator

Sharon Cohen has been passionate about gardening since she was a young child in South Africa. After completing college, she moved to Israel and lived on a kibbutz where she managed the grounds. After relocating to the States, she built a successful career in writing and marketing. As marketing director of The Maya Group, Sharon launched and managed several toy brands. In addition to various career roles in writing, editing and marketing, she dedicated time to humanitarian and environmental causes. Living in Israel from 2014 to 2016 she led a volunteer group focused on the wellbeing of children of African asylum seekers. She also directed volunteer efforts for GrowingGreat at Robinson School from 2003 to 2007 where she led nutrition classes and the Cafeteria Healthy Snack program. She returned to GrowingGreat as a Garden Educator in 2019 and spent the year leading the gardening program for Environmental Careers Academy at Leuzinger High School, and completing her certification as a Master Gardener. She has since relocated to a farm in Vermont, from which she serves as an invaluable virtual garden advisor to GrowingGreat. Sharon has a Masters in Journalism from Temple University, Philadelphia PA.

Sally Alder

Sally Alder

Office Manager

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.

Maxwell Watson

Maxwell Watson

STEM Educator

Maxwell’s love of cooking and enthusiasm for supporting nonprofits brought him to GrowingGreat in 2019. Prior to working with GrowingGreat, he spent most of 2018 volunteering at Providence TrinityCare Hospice in Torrance while also working on video editing as a hobby and creative outlet. Max has assisted Grace Sanchez in teaching the GrowingGreat Chefs cooking and nutrition education program for teens and garden/nutrition classes at Maple Primary Center, as well as Meghan Nealon at KIPP Empower Academy’s after-school program. As a result of distance learning, Maxwell has put his filmmaking and editing skills to good use by weaving comedy and special effects into GrowingGreat’s STEM lessons and recipe demonstrations and is a beloved contributor to GrowingGreat’s PenPal Club. He has also taught virtual cooking lessons in partnership with Environmental Charter Middle School’s distance learning program. Maxwell has found a home at GrowingGreat where he can help accomplish the mission of spreading good nutritional values to our future generations. Maxwell is locally grown in Manhattan Beach, CA and graduated from Mira Costa High School where he loved playing on the varsity basketball team.